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Post 90--Tactil Vision

I was talking to the person behind tactil vision, Stevey7, last night at a show. We were having the type of conversation that him and I usually have. One that explores the oddities of being a human being enmeshed in a society, in vast complex systems, that one got enrolled in upon birth.  I have really grown to love these random conversations I have with him.  They have given me a viewpoint into his perspective on life. Not surprisingly, him and I both seem to be observers of the world and are quite interested in paying attention to the vast amounts of data that seem to flow by everyday and how technology has changed the world we live in. These conversations have greatly enhanced my appreciation of his art and his approach to sound and visual media. I can tell his art really allows him to work out his place in these system just as much as my sociology work and this media project help me find my place.

When one sits down to take in the music and art of tactil vision, bentwithlight, or any of his other names he releases under, you are stepping into his universe, his thought process, his interrogation with sound. This is obviously true with any artist whose work you pay attention too, but with stevey7 that world you to step into has been carefully and meticulously set out for you. He has an attention to detail in his music and packaging that shows his deep engagement with the post-industrial world we live in.  As in most of his work, his recent tremors live mix features an array of his original productions that demonstrate his characteristic glitched, multi-layered sound that drives forward, sputters, and always keeps moving into the horizon like the machine-like society that we are all a part of.

TV2

One of my favorite parts of the trermors live mix is the last track “kemwar” where he allows some of the distorted, ghost-like voices that hang in the background of his tracks to come forward.  These voices speak like a choir of crisis, as the cacophony of voices lists the numerous population, political, climate, and economic problems we all face today. I really appreciate how the drum and synth play off of these vocal samples. Sometimes stevey7 allows the drums and keys to wash over the voices and obstruct them from audibility, but there are moments when the voices cry out from the track and overtake your sensory perception.  Just like in life, sometimes the crisis comes to a fever pitch and no amount of “noise” can prevent us from seeing it clearly.

TV5

This one mix is just the tip of the iceberg. The back catalogue of 5am Conductions (stevey7’s label for tactil vision, bentwithlight, and other side projects) is extensive and impressive. Like his music and artwork, the catalogue reveals the multiple layers and explorations of stevey7. I highly suggest you step into his world and walk around for a bit. It is replete with physical, sonic, and video media for you to experience the vision that Stevey has of the world around him. Make sure to check out his mixcloudbandcamp, Youtube Channel, and facebook to stay up to date with all the releases and art work. I hope you enjoy this really in-depth interview with him, as it is full of interesting ideas.

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

TV: Recently i have been trying to get into more of the subconscious; i was just watching a movie recently and noted the soundtrack is most effective when you don’t notice it. Of course, there is the power of the story/filmmaking itself, but the idea, anyway….So i guess i see music as a soundtrack and i suppose that goes well with the name “Tactil Vision”, (ha ha). Also, as a producer i have learned to not take popularity or unpopularity too personally- it really has to do with timing when we experience art regarding how we perceive it, i suppose. Like reading a book- you may have read it a thousand times but pick it up once more and notice something for the first time. When was young, i noticed a sort-of inner clock in my brain that either sped up or slowed down, so i first became naturally attuned to percussion. I actually used to clack my teeth together, (not long ago i found out i wasn’t the only one), maybe it was a nervous disorder, but it has to do with the pulse of “being”- like the heart, or the solar cycles. Music is very primal to me and as they say, the Universal Language.

TV Eres

LA: How did you get into making music?

TV: Well, i dabbled as a kid, the first thing i really was excited about was drums, but didn’t really pursue an instrument until i was really inspired by what i had been listening to and was in early adulthood. It actually started from cassette recordings of noise and whatever i sounds could dub and then overdub them as much as i could without the layers getting lost, through a Radio Shack mixer. I believe it was Einsteurzende Neubauten that really hooked me. A person could just bang on some metal or whatever and make music with it. It was liberating. Eventually, several pawn shop visits later, it was get an old keyboard here, buy a drum machine, hook up a cheap mic…

LA: I know your output has ranged between more instrumental works and ones with vocals, but can you think of a common set of music and and ideas that helped shape your music?

TV: Well, i didn’t come from a musical background, and as a kid you think the only relevant music is pop music- with Baby Boomer parents that grew up with American Bandstand and records and such…i think culture has really shaped my music, actually..looking back in a hundred or so years, i am sure i would probably be a fairly common example of the times; where technology, commerce, culture is all fusing at a rapid pace and that anything has an audience, you just need to connect. I actually had a crisis with my own duality for a time and i suppose that explains some of it. Now, i learned a bit more balance, but the opposites are always there- between doing and thinking, or speaking or listening. So things with vocals seemed more related to outward, the yang- and instrumental is more yin, where the left-brained (words) are gone, meter and whatnot is open and is more observant, i guess. But this duality is only at the surface- both interchange, where the further i go in one direction, the elements of the other are more apparent. So what shapes it is really letting go as much as possible of control, or for me, being centered- doing, but still being aware and receptive. Observing, but still interacting. Mostly, it a need for some kind of beauty, as in Nature, i guess. Like some mad painter working feverishly on the “perfect” still, never ceasing, because they are all flawed; “flaws being the essential requirement for beauty.”

LA: You spoke to me about feeling like you are at a cross-roads in terms of your music. Where do you think you have been with your music and where do you think you will go next?

TV: Well, at first, a person thinks that the work is going through change, when in fact, it is the worker. I guess that is what that is about. The internet has it’s advantages, with the ability to reach across time or space, but inversely, the need to engage and effect those closest to me is coming about. I guess it’s like that digital versus physical argument-most people need balance in their lives…like the saying, “Live locally, think globally”. Giving something that you have made with your own hands carries with it all the energies- conversing face to face, with the nuances involved. It has to do with experience and expression of the self. I have not consciously made the decision, but overall, the music i buy and experience fully more often than not, is live performances. I get to meet the person behind the art. I learn about them and not just some image they are projecting for a time. It means a great deal to meet in person those whose work i admire. Usually, that image i project dissolves into the reality that they are human, too and perhaps ordinary, yet doing extraordinary things. So for me, that reminds me people are more similar than different. That it’s okay to be “ordinary”, one person among many, simply trying to create something with the time they have…

TV3

LA: What sorts of equipment do you use to make your music? Do you feel as though you have built a relationship with these machines?

TV: A chuckle there, James…”relationship” is a good word! Never been too good at those, ha ha…but yes, they certainly are. Each piece has it’s own character and quirks…basically, i have used the same gear for the last 15 years or so. Some stuff, actually, abandoned children i guess. But if you know how to utilize them….a lot of stuff that records- basically everything that records. Everything is put together on the ASR10 sampler. It took me a long time to master that one. I still use MIDI, outboard keys, effects, and the same 1202. Basically, it is a lot of pre-production -finding/editing/making the sounds. When things get strung out, you go back to the basics and build up again. But for a time, your process gets down and you’re at the factory. Whatever goes down, if you weren’t all there that night, you can always resample and rework it into something else…so everything basically is a remix, as they say. You use limits to your advantage.

LA: I like your focus on physical items. Is there a reason you have been going back to mail order limited editions?

TV: For most of my time producing, i didn’t have a web presence, so the only way people heard what i was doing was if i gave them a CD, which usually were burnt in real time and had different tracks on them. I like putting things together, painting/assembling stuff.. it’s a way to sort of capitalize on the roughness of handmade releases as opposed to pre-packaged. It seems to work design-wise, since the art is abstract and usually there is left-field sense to the music ..the latest is cut-up art, which i put together for performance swag. The runs are only as large as the material available. In this case, i had some large paintings done on corrugated plastic cigarette and soda signs lifted from a carry-out. These work well since they are water-resistant and basically indestructible. The large paintings came out too busy, but cut into smaller CD-sized they worked. So if i can attach a CD to it somehow and paint it…I much rather prefer individual pieces, so even if they don’t care too much for the music at least they have something interesting to put with all their other collections! So every one has a character of it’s own- it has a sense of honesty, maybe: so the image fits with the process and attitude. Things are so transient now and the production is constant, so an item is sort of a snapshot in time.

TV4

LA: A lot of your thought pieces on your 5AM Conductions blog find you analyzing the musical and societal systems that you are trying to inhabit/navigate as one person. I myself, also find myself continually trying to navigate these systems as a writer. What difficulties do you see artists having in our age of post-industrial media saturation?

TV: It’s pretty scary you subjected yourself to that…mostly, it’s the demands or duality (again) of the individual and the whole. I am not trying to critique as much as work things out- where do i put up limits? Where should i be more flexible? I started out writing poetry, so things are in that context- where i am trying to resolve a conflict, or just see things as they are. It’s more of “this is my thought process”. Usually things work out and i realize where the errors in perception are and if i am just owning more than i should. As in my reply, you get older and more discerning. You realize every scream and holler isn’t for you. I can’t even watch the news anymore- everything has become entertainment. It seems the average person would rather die of anything than boredom. Whatever happened to that television commercial volume legislation? So, we’re forced on the internet- not only that, but to be hooked into it all the time. People don’t want to know what color underpants i am wearing, or if i am at the coffee shop…because everyone already knows i don’t wear underpants and home-brew anyway. They Googled it. I hope people really don’t do background checks as much as i hear, because people with shady histories are a lot more fun, anyway. So i’ll just let it all hang out on the interwebs, kind of play with it, like everyone else sometimes. I suppose it’s like that prophecy: “Shouted from the rooftops.” Everyone is going to know everything about everyone and when it’s all finished, wished they hadn’t. In short: Me? crazy- yes, dangerous? You got to be kidding. And we have already bought everything, sometimes, the same things over and over again- i am personally really perturbed about all the car commercials you see- like we need 9 billion cars on the planet, all humming 24 hours a day. So, don’t get me too far off an a tangent; it’s a program, like it always was, but now it’s like everyone buying a bottle for the village drunk and not expecting him to misbehave.

LA: When listening to your catalogue and reading your discussions of your work, I keep thinking about ideas of freedom and power. Do you think music and art has a freeing capacity or the ability to empower individuals and groups of people?

TV: Oh, certainly- without getting political, although politics is everywhere, i am most interested in the individual’s personal freedom- not just in the context of their society, but the inner psychic life-breaking down barriers in themselves first before “wanting to change the world”. One person changes, the whole world can change. It may sound idealistic, but i am convinced of the inter-connectivity..much of the world’s problems, individual’s problems, after all, can be distilled down and attributed to lack of love. Now, me, i am not some old hippie, but i do have a strong sense of self-preservation. Primary mission: survival. Not just the basic needs being or not being met, but the way it is set up that an organism has to evolve or die. This does not mean just physical death, but powerlessness. To evolve, to an extent, one has to face adversity. So we do not demonize adversity, necessarily- but we do see that when people fear change, when they cut themselves off from opportunity and each other, decay ensues. So, in my past of being quite isolated, i realize the fact that man is a social creature- even that one’s personality may not be self-created, but a product of experience and those he/she experienced. This opens up a new way of seeing things, that, especially in the West, individualism has sort of run amuck, that instincts have become distorted and things are swinging back to more social-centered programs. Like the self-centered program insisted in a way that if we build a modern and successful society, the individual would prosper; now, it seems, for me the focus on individual progress can also build a society from the bottom-up. And we see this with break downs in institutions and paradigm shifts from sex to drug use and so on. If the United States, as a prototype for the rest of the world, was founded on the philosophy of self-governing- that change cannot be legislated from the top down, then individuals need to develop themselves; which is only personal responsibility. But individuals cannot develop themselves when their basic needs are not being met. We cannot say “it is progress” if we have 30 different brands of soda to choose from, but not altogether sure what’s in the water. I do not call myself an “environmentalist”, because that suggests i am separate from my environment. I just love Nature. It is simply self-preservation.

In my post on the infrastructure of the Columbus scene I posted 2 weeks ago (Read That Here), I delved into how people bring our music to life through their interactions with one another and the use of the music and traditions we love. This is an important point to make when you are talking about a music community, because our scene is only the sum of all the individuals that are spinning, producing, listening, or dancing to the music. The problem with this approach is it makes scene analysis a much more complex matter that defies easy categorization.

As humans, we do not like complexity. It makes us feel uncomfortable. We like to feel like we have a handle on the world around us. Psychological research has shown that we seek to try and streamline our interpretation of the world around us by placing things in simple categories. This is an essential coping mechanism for living in our highly mediated, complex world, as we have to be able to put blinders on and easily categorize things in order to carry on the basic tasks of being human. I see this happen in our scene. Its much easier to place the trajectory of our scene in the Right or Wrong box by saying, “Oh, the scene is going in the right directions, because of X, Y, & Z” or “The scene is going in the wrong directions because of X, Y, & Z”. Just as it is also easier categorize the crews that populate our scene in different boxes, “Oh that click’s sets and shows are played out, commercial, and this crew over here is authentic and underground”. (Genres also work in a similar way).  We all fall into this trap since we are taught from a very young age to put things neatly into categories (Race ,Gender, Sexuality operate the same way). By becoming active in the scene, you quickly learn the relevant categorizations you need to be a member of the community.

The problem with these categorizations is that they do violence to the rich complexity of the practices, rhythms, and art we make on an everyday basis.  Our scene is never going in a right or wrong direction. Crews are not commercial or underground. We always exist somewhere in the middle. The scene shifts and evolves as the people in different crews enter,  exit, and re-enter the scene, change their tastes in music, or try to adapt different artistic concepts to their practices in a scene. For this reason, no one person could give an accurate assessment of what the state of the scene is at any one moment, because you just don’t know what everyone is doing at all times.  There will always be another pocket of people working with the same ideas and rhythms in a different way that you didn’t even know existed or have been forgotten.

I seem to gravitate towards these people on the fringe, because I think it helps us understand our scene in a much richer fashion. For instance, there is a rich history of improvisation and experimentation in our music community. Did you know that the individual first credited with creating the mash-up lives in our city? (Trademark Gunderson of the ECC) Did you know our city has housed multiple experimental/electronic tape labels that have released almost over 150 distinct pieces of music over the last 20 years? (GMBY, Exoteque Music). Just as shocked as most people are that their was and still is a thriving dance scene in Columbus, it may be shock to people in the dance community that there is still a thriving experimental scene working with beat-driven and beatless electronic music. I have already delved into this part of our community with interviews with Alison Coleman (director of The Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab), Mike Shiflet (Noise/Sound/Electronic Musician), & Jeff Chenault (Ten-Speed Guillotine/ Noise/Sound/ Electronic Musician). Yet, that was just skimming the surface.

One of the most interesting developments I have been following over the past 2 months is Jeff Chenault’s work to restart his Exoteque Music Label.  When I got to the Blur show in November, Chenault handed me a piece of paper announcing the re-emergence of the label and a list of releases forthcoming in 2013.

Release List

To say I am excited about the re-surfacing of this label is a gross understatement. I think local record labels are such an integral part of the infrastructure of our music scene. Not only do they give local musicians the ability to understand the creative process of putting together cohesive pieces of music and sharing it with the world, but they also send a beacon to the rest of the world that creativity is streaming out of our city. It furthers our artistic dialogue, and enables all people in the scene to have a file or physical object they can hold on to and enjoy. I sent Jeff a few questions, and he was gracious enough to provide me some insight behind the history of the label and where it is going now:

LA: When and how did the Exoteque Label first get started?

JC: Exoteque Music originally started as a DIY cassette label in 1983. It was a release platform for my own music that gradually expanded to include other artists as well.  The label was originally known as the International Terrorist Network, or ITN, but wisely decided to change the name.  Exoteque Music was chosen because it represents my dual interest in exotica and technology.

LA: What is propelling you to bring it back now? Is there something brewing in Columbus and across the country that is inspiring you?

JC: Since getting back into music a couple years ago I have been doing a serious amount of recording, both live and in the studio.  I’ve also joined the Fuse Factory organization to help bring artists to Columbus for their Frequency Friday events.  Exoteque Music allows me to showcase not only my own work but other people’s work that I highly respect and admire.  Columbus has a huge electronic and underground music scene.  It is a virtual hub of creative sound artists.  People like Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Mark Gunderson, Mike Textbeak, Steve Wymer, John M. Bennett and Kevin Kennedy are doing incredible work.  These are the people that inspire me.

LA: Your release note that you recently passed out at BLUR notified the world that you already have a full schedule for releases for the upcoming year. It also said that the releases will be available in various formats. What drove your choice of release format for each of the releases?

JC: I love physical objects.  Records, cassettes, and CD’s were formats that I grew up with.  I loathe the digital download but do see its advantage for people who want portability.  It also helps to preserve these recordings as well.  When I decided to re-launch the Exoteque Music label I wanted to make available any and all formats that I could afford.  Everything released will be in some kind of physical format as well as having a digital download.  

LA: I think it’s a great idea to also bring back past releases from the initial run of the label from the 80s and 90s. How did you make the choices what to bring back?

JC: Over the years I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my favorite releases.  A few things like the Stimulus and Response compilations are simply amazing.  The choices were simple.  If I loved it and deemed it worthy of re-mastering then I’m going to reissue it.  This stuff is too good to let sit in the basement collecting dust.  My most anticipated reissue is a cassette that I never even released.  It was a privately pressed cassette, released in the 80’s, by Paul Steinborn aka/Shame, Exposure.   Paul lost all his master tapes and all that remains are the cassettes that he sold locally and a few tracks he did for the S/M Operations label.   I owned one of these cassettes so we meticulously re-mastered it and gave it new life, all with Paul’s permission of course.  The CD will contain all his known recordings and come with original artwork made by Paul specifically for this release.  

LA: What are your hopes for this run of the label?

JC: Exposing people to new music has always been my hopes for the label.  Some of the best music I have ever heard comes from independent artists.  If I can turn people on to this music, and preserve some of these vintage recordings at the same time, I have fulfilled my goal.

Below is a list of scheduled releases for 2013…..

1)     Shame, Exposure; Werkshau – CD and download

2)     Circuitry Room; Tuned to Tomorrow – CD and download

3)     Best of Frequency Friday Vol. 1 (various artists) – CD

4)     Jeff Central; Primativa – 25th Anniversary Edition – CD and download

5)     The Escargonauts; same, Vinyl LP, CD and download

6)     Jeff Central and Friends – Multi Collaborative LP and download

7)     ZOA / ZOA Mike Textbeak/Paul Von Aphid collaboration – CD and download

8)     Highly Funktioning Kult – CD and download

9)     Jeff Central solo – cassette

10)  Dan Rockwell solo – CD and download

11)  Circuitry Room collaboration with poet John M. Bennett – CD and download

12)  Jeff Central and Hal McGee collaboration – CD and download

“And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws….”

“Till max said BE STILL and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things”

Is this weekend really just about raging? If not, what other meaning could our attendance at shows have? Taken at surface value, it would be easy to accept that dance music culture exists as a diversion of frivolous fun. Many have made this argument in dance music literature. Yet, social scientists are very skeptical of anyone who says that any act which requires such a heavy investment of time, money, and energy is inconsequential to the larger ways they live their lives or make communities.

True to this point, Clifford Gertz coined the concept deep play to make sense of such events and actions that may seem to be unimportant at first glance, but in fact are essential to people and communities sense of identity and connectedness. One look to the religious devotion of fans associated with OSU athletics offers a perfect alternative case to see how this works in other places. I argue that when we go to shows together it is true that we are all there to have fun, but there is something much deeper at stake in our play. Discussing the deeper significance of Sendak’s “Where the Wild things Are” offers a way to understand what happens on these magical nights When we all come together.

Reading the above passage from Sendak’s famous Illustrated story, “Where the Wild Things Are” it is evident that lead character Max is confronted with terrifying demons on his journey (Interview). How often in our lives are we brow beaten by larger forces, people, or ideas that act as demons continually haunting our every step. Wild eyed and hungry, these demons push and prod us to stay in the box of what is socially acceptable.  They ROAR, terrorize, and trample on our dreams and hopes and tell us to be reasonable, responsible, and above all normal. Never receding into the distance, we carry these demons with us at all times.

You are probably asking yourself: what demons? Well, just think for a moment how difficult it is to take the less beaten path with your career, lifestyle, eating habits, fashion, who you love, etc etc.  For most of you, I do not need to explain much farther, because those very demons are the ones telling you to stay in line and not to deviate. They could be people. They could be institutions. They could be you.

How difficult it must have been for Max to stare those Demons in the eye without blinking and tell them they had no place in his life.  Are we able to stare at these demons in the face and become master of them? Maybe not alone, but when we get together for these shows we are able to look all those demons squarely in the eye without hesitation. For a few short hours, we have the courage as a community to do and be better than we ever knew was possible. This is the deeper significance I see in our shows. Sure, we say its about scene building and reppin’ our city. No doubt, its about artistic expression of all sorts as well. Underlying it all, these shows are a sign that we are still living and breathing human beings and we want to feel something. Its a shining beacon relying a simple message over and over to the rest of society: We refuse to be calmer, happier, more efficient, productive, and to settle for the cage of mediocrity. It is at this point that, like Max, we feel like the kings and queens of the world.  There is no doubt that others look on at us as Kings and Queens as they are envious of our ability to soak the true marrow out of life through our dancing, playing, and living free from the confines of the norm.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain (via Ed Luna)

Luckily, you have three amazing opportunities to explore, dream, and discover with everyone else in your community. No doubt, it is vital to go to Where the Wild Things Rage at the Bluestone on Friday Night for three stages of all local talent, but also make sure to check out DOAP tomorrow night at Rumba Cafe to revel in all the glories the dark night can bring. Then end your weekend by checking out Juicy: Time to Get ill at Circus where scene mainstays Kevy Kev and Kingpin will curate a night of their favorites in dance music. Event Details for each show are available by clicking the link on the show name.

There are a handful of people in the Columbus dance music scene that have been around since the days of Mean Mr. Mustards in the early 80s that are still involved in the scene. These individuals have been indispensable in shaping the terrain of where we dance, what we listen to, and the types of parties we hold (Thats a whole other story I suppose that I will save for another day). Kevy Kev was there in those beginning days and has stayed intimately connected to our scene since. Whether it was playing DJ sets, promoting his Juicy or Church parties, creating event flyers or stickers with Hot Cards Columbus, running Melt magazine, or starting Spin Cycle DJ Academy, Kevy Kev has been always been in some way involved in the artistic conversation in our city through its many ebs and flows. This makes an interview with him an extremely worthwhile endeavor. We certainly can learn a lot about where we have been and where we are going by drawing on his insights. Hope you enjoy.

LA: You have been involved in the Columbus Dance Music Scene and dance music in general since 1984. Was there a track, show, or experience that started it all for you?
KK: Hmmmmm, probably the first time I stepped foot into Mean Mr Mustard’s (one of the ORIGINAL campus bars where the Gateway lives now). I’d always been into ALL kinds of music (Progressive/Alternative, Disco, Rock/Metal, Rap, Pop and pretty much ANYthing/band/song that used a synth). MTV was THE source for new music back then and did NOT differentiate genres at the time. Mean Mr Mustard’s was the first place on campus the open it’s doors playing MTV on the screens inside (which seems like no big deal today, but was HUGE back then), then they made the transition into a REAL nightclub playing stuff you couldnt hear ANYwhere else. The first time i walked the the doors I was hooked.

LA: Having such a depth of year after year commitment to the scene is truly commendable. What is it about this music and this community that keeps you coming back and wanting to put your time and energy into it?
KK: Truthfully it’s the energy that a well-tuned crowd gives back when you’ve really got a hold on them. It’s VERY addictive. Further truth is – it doesn’t really matter WHAT kind of music you’re playing (I mean as long as it’s not making you personally MISERABLE to play it), the feeling is the same when you control the feeling in the room. ‚that being said, it doesn’t hurt if you’re getting off on what you’re playing just as much as the crowd, and they’ll CAN tell if you’re bullshitting or not. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been allowed to play music I love (which is A LOT) for people that dig it as much as I do. Doing this for a JOB can work, but anyone that stays in the game long enough will tell you that it’s the love of rocking a floor, like the FIRST time it ever happens, that keeps them in it.

LA: You discussed the importance of that first phase of DJs that arose in the mid to late 70s to Columbus Dance Music History to teach you and your contemporaries. What is the importance of people Like Mike Swaggerty and the rest of the members of that first school of DJing to the development of dance music in Columbus?
KK: Welp, As far as the FIRST school of DJs on Columbus, and the people that I’ve known personally, Mike was IT. He dj’ed at a place called Streamers back in the day (like late-70s back-in-the-day) that I never even WENT to, but had MAJOR influence in club culture around here. Seems like when I was starting out almost every club owner (straight, gay, campus, downtown, suburban, whatEVER) I became involved with used to hang out there. I didn’t actually meet Mike until a couple of years after I got started (mostly because I was living in the campus/Mean Mr Mustard’s bubble). I’d heard of him and his name was always orbiting around me, but it wasn’t until he threw the first ever Columbus DJ competition, around 1989-90 or so that I met him. You’d never meet a cooler, more-supportive and less-egotistical guy in your life, and his musical knowledge was BIBLICAL. He dj’ed all over the place and was ALWAYS an influential presence on me just because of how all-around awesome he was. But his having started the FIRST on-air radio show of dance music (All Mixed Up on the original CD101), truly cemented him as a legend. There was no internet radio, no do-it-yourself podcasts and streaming soundcloud pages, he did it ALL himself. He busted his butt to strike a deal that had him on the airwaves, doing what we do in the clubs, EVERY week. VERY Sadly, Mike got ill and passed a few months back, but he’s kept his showing going this WHOLE time – and it carries on today on WCBE, now headed up by my buddy James Brown. Not the Godfather of soul, but just as funktastic 😉

LA: What about clubs like Mean Mr. Mustards and Maxwells? What was there importance in the development of dance music in Columbus?
KK: Well like I said before, Mustard’s was the place that started it all for me. Earl “Skully” Webb (yeah THAT Skully) was the head DJ and Music Director there and really SHAPED the dance club sound that everyone around us tried to emulate. Mustard’s was the club that leaned a little more alternative playing everything from Prince and Madonna to New Order and Depeche Mode. But Skully kept things constantly fresh you never knew when he’d drop in an AC/DC track or Run DMC or something darker like Sisters Of Mercy or something straight from the NYC dancefloors like Magazine 60. “Nobody EVER complained about “oh god, this music doesn’t fit the night” or “This doesnt go together” because it ALL went together. The club was TRULY a melting pot of musical styles and a complete cross-section of people.” The only thing we really DIDN’T play there was totally poppy bubblegum stuff like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. Skully was REALLY on top of what was going on GLOBALLY on the dancefloor, not an easy task in an age of no internet and being landlocked in the midwest – think about it. Maxwells’ was also important because we really started showcasing the NEXT groups of jocks that came up after us there. It was owned by the same guys as Mustard’s, and my old roomie and Mustard’s co-DJ Chuck Fay (DJ Chuckstar – the guy that DJs for Skully at Ladies 80s to this day) and myself headed up some Sunday night showcases of rotating local/regional DJ talent that usually included several of the ele_mental crew (ie Titonton, Todd Sines, Charles Noel (aka Monochrome), Doughboy and others). It was the beginning of things like that taking place in Columbus.

LA: The more I learn about the development of Columbus Dance Music the more I see how the Underground and Club Scenes speak to one another. How would you define “the underground” and “the club” scenes and how have they interacted with one another?
KK: Well, in MY experience they’re really one and the same. I worked at the “underground” club and everything started THERE for me. I suppose if you look at the history of another campus-club DJ from that time it might be a different story though. For instance – Mike Gallicchio (aka Mike G), now an owner of the Park Street and Long Street Complex group of clubs ALSO came from those same bars on High St back-in-the-day. His history was firmly rooted in the New York house music and early hip-hop scene and the club he played at back then had a different vibe AND group of people that went to it, albeit STILL underground in it’s own right. He and I BOTH went on to play the major Columbus clubs in the 90s, and then he eventually took the ownership route – but it’s the similar passion for what made music you couldn’t hear ANYwhere else but the clubs that shaped where we’ve both gone. Ya know it’s funny, back then (and when we were all competing in that first DJ competition that Mike Swaggerty threw), we made up shirts that said “No Weak Beats” on one side and “Fuck You We’re From DOWNTOWN” on the back‚ partially because we were smug motherfuckers, but MOSTLY because we KNEW everyone Djing on the outskirts WANTED to be US. Truthfully – we we’re the ONLY ones keepin’ it real.

LA: You are firm believer in teaching aspiring djs the importance of programming in your Spin Cycle DJ Academy. What is programming and why do you think it is the most important skill for a DJ to have?
KK: The first Dj lesson I ever got was from Skully. I bugged the CRAP out of him until he invited me into the booth at Mustard’s at like 8pm on a Tuesday night and showed me the BASICS of cueing, volume control, track-end anticipation and how to work the lights (LOL) He was a master. But it wasn’t until the 2nd-in-command-DJ at Mustard’s, a guy name Bryant Johnson let me sit in the booth ALL NIGHT and allowed me to learn – if by no other means than osmosis, HOW TO CONTROL A CROWD, that things REALLY started to become more clear to me. When you get in front of a crowd, and I mean ANY crowd, you’d better know what to play. Mixing, scratching, looping, effects, mashing and whatever other trick you want to learn will ALWAYS be secondary to programming (WHAT you play). It’s soooo much easier today than it was back then because by-and-large you don’t have to really pay a bunch for music. It’s easier (and cheaper) to try stuff out. But remember when (I) learned, 12″ singles were $5.99/piece and imports were $12.99/piece. I’ve got the wasted student loans and a sky-high stack of vinyl to prove it. So mastering your craft meant FIRST being able to afford your own copies of the records to play with at home. If you were a bedroom DJ that learned how to mix these 20-50 records that you owned and couldn’t vary from those selections if you started clearing a dancefloor you were SUNK. You needed to make SURE you owned what was going to rock the crowd. After THAT point blending different styles and sounds becomes more important. You have to have skills (and the playlist) to recover in case the crowd isn’t in tune with what you’re doing.

LA: You are a firm believer in “Violent Format Shifts” in mix work and live sets. What is it about presenting an expansive, diverse sonic palette that is so important to you?
KK: Hmmm, well it’s partially because of the initial environment (Mustard’s) that I learned to love dance music being so cross-genre oriented and partially because I suffer from a pretty vicious case of musical ADHD I guess. I’ve always LIKED so many different things that I get up in front of people and want to play them ALL at once. But thankfully I’m not alone. There are plenty of DJs and music-makers out there that have always done a great job of mixing genres. Take BT or Celdweller and you have guys doing SUCH a great job of integrating awesome electronics with a sometime heavy rock vibe. That stuff is incredible! But I’ve always loved shaking up the crowd a bit. Whether is dropping in some industrial on an electro crowd, or old-school hip-hop in the middle of a jungle set, it just FEELS right to throw ’em a curve ball every once in a while‚ My partner in my industrial night Travis Boggs (aka broken boy) drops in a dubsteppy version of Katy Perry’s E.T. on the goth kids every once in a while, and at FIRST they used to stare at the booth like, “huh?!”‚ now they just keep on goin’ – i love that.

LA: You have played the role of promoter and DJ in our scene. Over the last few years, you have increasingly played the role of promoting shows like Juicy and Church. What are some of the lessons you have learned over the last few years as you been doing more of the behind the scenes work to put on a show?
KK: Biggest thing I’ve learned is that if the promoters cant coordinate and cooperate with each that you’re starting off in a sinking ship. Anytime ANYone sees something successful going off they ALWAYS think they can do it and it’d be easy to pull it off. Because of that you end up having WAAAAAY too many events (some of them fully professional and some of them half-assed) trying to pop off at the same time. it ends up splitting the crowds and hurting all the events involved. I’ve ALWAYS been a champion of trying to make things gel TOGETHER.

LA: We spoke about the differences in dance music crowds and goth/industrial crowds. What are the differences between the two crowds and how does that impact how you play or who you choose to play your shows?
KK: It’s not really JUST the goth/industrial crowd vs the EDM crowd. It’s actually almost ANY other crowd vs. the EDM crowd when it comes down to it. Basically, the dance music/dj culture explosion has created a new subsection of club patrons that get off on a sound more than they do being able to sing-along to their favorite tracks. This probably started around the time of disco, but has been constantly evolving ever since. This is HEAVILY where my placing an extra importance on programming comes into play. I mean unless you’re Skrillex or Rusko or Paul Van Dyk, if you’re approaching a crowd you MUST do your homework on what goes down in that club. The thing is that indigenously, people like to dance to stuff that they know. There are ways of getting them to go to stuff that they don’t, but they STILL need to be sprinkled with the dust of familiarity or they’ll loose interest. That is EXCEPT for the EDM crowd. As long as you’re dropping something that SOUNDS like they want it to, is produced well enough to push the system to the limits, and can be manipulated in a way to which they are accustomed , you’re golden. So much of that music doesn’t have lyrics anyway that the familiarity-factor doesn’t hold as much weight.

LA: We discussed your desire to stay alternative and always connect with the younger generation. What drives you to embrace the alternative and new in dance music?
KK: I’d like to steal a line as quoted recently in Columbus Alive by my buddy Adrain “X” Spillman, “I like bad music”. I mean – that’s kinda true I guess. I’ve always been kind of an “alt” kid, I like punk-rock, metal, industrial, heavy beats, almost all rap music pre-DMX, electroclash, mash-ups, wearing black, being juvenile and stupid‚ Anything dirty is always good – what did Blank 182 say in their liner notes from Dude Ranch?‚ “masturbate everyday and anything with poop is funny”. I’m all in. Once club kids reach the age of say 27 (they magic age where ALL the coolest people have died ya know), they still go to clubs‚ but they’re, enh‚ more “adult”. it’s hard to describe but jazzy-house? – not a fan. I’d rather bathe in the insanity of a raging room of dubstep ANY day over that crap. Once you’ve hung up the Adidas in favor of some “Fluevogs for men” and start hanging out at Eleven – I just see it as you’ve cashed in. I live in the dark.

LA: You are instrumental in putting out a free music publication called MELT that has released 72 editions and running HotCards Columbus. I feel it harkens back to an age when flyers and printed zines were incredibly important for show promotion. In our age of social media, what is the importance of the printed press, stickers, and show flyers to scene building?
KK: Still super important. Let’s answer that in 2 parts‚ 1) Event flyer printing: A few years back when Facebook really blew up and Myspace staring feeling like a deflated balloon, if your party wasn’t online, it’s likely it was going to be empty. The social media sites changed party promotion FORever, and the good ‘ol print standbys sat idly by waiting to return. We’re seeing more and more back out there now, mostly because there are so many event invites online that people almost see them as white-noise. And where a passive-aggressive invite to a stockpile of Facebook friends worked for like a few months, to get the job done now you got to sew it ALL together. It’s like you STILL have to keep up the online presence, and in some cases almost to an annoying level to really stand out at all. But you’ve GOT to back it up with the old school methods of not JUST getting flyers made, but being OUT, being SOCIAL (like in-person social) and glad handing (genuinely) your potential attendees. With my Juicy parties it’s a MAJOR reason I teamed up with James Castrillo (DJ Kingpin). On top of being a MAJOR dude, he’s completely amped-into the current EDM social scene which is AWESOME. I still try and make it out in-person as often as possible for the stuff all through the week that goes on, but with having to be up at the buttcrack of dawn to get to HotcardsColumbus coupled with the fact I’m old and crusty plus have a DVR full of Storage Wars episodes, it can be tough. He is almost completely the in-person promotional arm of our night, an AWESOME DJ in his own right, and a super-suave dresser ‚and I love him VERY dearly for all of those things. AND‚ 2) As far as Melt goes, welp – people just seem to like it. I’m not sure if it’s the compact size, or the massive graphic feel, the over-the-top opinionated writing or the never-ending typos we leave in the copy, but we never get ANY back. We produced the magazine EVERY month for seven years straight and people just dig it. But it’s a HUGE undertaking, make no mistake. From rounding up writers to getting ad space filled to punching out mind-blowing layouts, the entire staff has never been more than 4-5 people strong at a time including interns, and usually just 2-3. THAT being said, in November 2011 The mag went on temporary hiatus as I’ve committed fully to my business-partner that I’d focus completely on getting the hotcardscolumbus.com website updated and redesigned before I’d TOUCH the keyboard for Melt again. But don’t despair! We’re coming out of the weeds here soon and we should return to full production later this summer/autumn sometime, and Melt will be back to annoy and amuse everyone once again.

LA: You are in a unique position to offer a retrospective on the ebs and flows of the scene historically. How would you assess the impact you and your contemporaries have had on the dance music scene in scene over the last almost thirty years?
KK: Hmmmm‚ well as we’ve gone along each DJ has effected the next, and hopefully in a positive way. I mean as long has you’re staying in touch with what’s going on DJing is something you can do as long as it still holds your interest. I found early inspiration in what Skully and BJ were doing at Mustard’s, then new inspiration the first time I walked into Nine Of Clubs in Cleveland and heard Angela play there and then later at Aquilon with Rob Sherwood. Hearing Pat Finn at the old Garage downtown for the first time blew me away‚ and I never stop having new heroes. I believe thoroughly as soon as you think you’re the shit, you stop developing your craft. Each of us has been inspired by another at one time or another and I for one still find inspiration in the guys coming up today. Matt and Bryan from networkEDM BLOW IT UP – there might not be more bangin BANGERS out here. Basillio Santiago (DJ Egotronic) freaks me out with his diversity (sometimes daily as he constantly drops new stuff on my Facebook inbox). Watching Greg and Zach from Digiraatii work the mixer and decks is like watching some open heart surgery show on the Discovery Channel!‚ and roeVy?!‚ it’s almost like they are not even in the same category as all of us! Their shows are a meticulously woven web of sound and visuals that EASILY rival the biggest production rock tours I’ve EVER seen. These ARE the music makers‚ These are the dreamers of dreams 😉

LA: We discussed our common belief in the specialness of Columbus. Do you think Columbus could be the austin, TX or Seattle Washington of DJ’ing?
KK: I think without question that we kind of already are. There is such a massive pool of performing talent here in Columbus that it’s easy to take it for granted, but all you’ve got to do is look around. And I think that part of it is the city itself – the fact that Columbus is kind of like a large “SMALL city”. Because we have such an enormous school here, everything that goes on is kind of centralized in and around the campus area, and goes out in concentric waves from there (Campus, Short North, Downtown, Clintonville, Grandview, Old Town, etc). Sure there are things going on out on the perimeter of the city, but by-and-large our enormous pool of talent, and the events that they all carry are right on top of each other. It forces us to all KNOW each other, be aware of one another, and be inspired by one another. Sometimes it gets a little incestuous and sparks some uncomfortable competition – but it leaves us with an open create environment we can all draw from – and it shows. You can go to other bigger cities that also have great DJs and electronic producers, but you’ll find the bigger the place, the more fragmented the scene(s). It’s almost like we’re living in a hippy commune for DJs, it’s REALLY cool and I think SIGNIFICANTLY important to our place in the advancement of dance music culture. You can find guys that play ANYthing here – Hip Hop, Electro, Goth, Disco, 80s, Techno, Breaks, Minimal, Funk – you name it. It’s awesome and I’d put us up against ANYwhere else that thinks they do it better.

Written Cooperatively with Ed Luna–all mistakes are my own, but all stylistic grace and nuance in the argument is owed to Ed

Ed Luna was one of the founding members of the ele_mental crew in Columbus. He and his colleagues Chris Jones, Titonton Duvante, Charles Noel, Todd Sines, Doug Holmes, Anthony Dandrea (formerly Ramos), and others all saw the capacity for dance music to change the script and raise the level of dialogue in Columbus Dance Music. Due to this, their events weren’t just parties, but expansive, immersive experiences in sound and mixed media collage. It was not uncommon at these events to have art installations backed by DJ or live music accompaniment. Exploring the capacities that both new and obsolete technology held, this group of artists looked to push the boundaries of what a dance music event could be by drawing on avant-garde music and performance events. They tried to take the mold of a dance music event in Central Ohio and reshape it to fit what they wanted with different experiences, sounds, and spaces taken from a variety of sources outside the city (mainly Detroit, New York, and London, as we shall see). This made their underground parties in art spaces, warehouses, meeting houses, and other sites around the city a must-see experience.

For some ten years, ele_mental held down their spot as one of the innovators in events and music in Central Ohio. They played the role of tastemaker for many individuals and forged the path for many of the current event planners and DJs to explore the boundaries of dance music. Yet Ed himself would be the first person to call into question the impact they had in the grander scheme of dance music history. According to him, ele_mental’s events were not particularly unusual or revolutionary, from the point of view of contemporary art, or as compared to the contemporary electronic music scenes of say, London, Berlin, or Detroit. Their impact certainly didn’t reach much beyond their immediate regional confines. But they did make connections all over the country, continent, and globe that remain intact today.

It’s also true that the innovations they instituted were almost singular in the US scene. ele_mental was almost alone among promoters in the Midwest to push electronic music events in the direction of high or conceptual art, while keeping its events rooted in dance music culture. Others, like Richie Hawtin’s Plus-8 in Detroit/Windsor, and the Illuminators in Dayton, did some mind-blowing events with more generous budgets, while Drop Bass Network and Massive in Milwaukee presented some of the most extreme and memorable events ever presented in the area. But ele_mental’s approach was uniquely diverse, minimalist, and often extremely low-budget. It also depended on the vision that each person brought to the collective. Sometimes, this meant presenting a mega-rave with thousands of attendees, but more often than not, it meant creating smaller, more intimate events in unusual spaces. It meant designing events that could question the very idea of an underground event, while remaining fun and affordable to attend. At its heart, then, ele_mental was really about “doing something with nothing” (to paraphrase a phrase that interviewer Stephen Slaybaugh used to describe them in 2003), while making its events both challenging and accessible. It therefore wasn’t so much about making a big splash, it was more about bringing people in Central Ohio the opportunity to experience something different in their lives. This impact Ed and his colleagues had on people in our city makes them and other members active in the 80s/90s incredibly interesting to talk to and learn from.

One of the main lessons we can cull from talking to Ed is the cyclical nature of music scenes. Though there is a new generation of people coming up into the scene, many of the same fundamental ideas that guide music creation, event production, and tastemaking are still largely the same, despite much technological evolution. This invites us to look at what’s come before as a treasure to draw from, a partially buried Rosetta Stone of electronic music forms and tropes that can help us decode the past and build a new scene. But Ed doesn’t want anyone to fetishize or petrify the past. Rather, he’d prefer it if people just enjoyed the process of “reinventing the wheel” one more time, just as ele_mental did, knowing something similar has been done before, in different, unique, and interesting ways. Ed also points out that even though today’s scene is just another round in scene-building, that doesn’t mean that there really is nothing new or novel under the sun (to paraphrase Ecclesiastes). Instead, we are in a constant state of remixing and indexing that difference with a new title, twisting the classic “genres” and events into new forms that are being experienced by new ears, for new purposes, in a new time.

This is why I want to facilitate the sharing of Ed Luna’s story (and so many others), because it provides us a key tool to understand where we have come from and where we are going in a clearer fashion. If nothing else, I hope you at least enjoy Ed Luna’s story. This is the first of a few installments where Ed discusses his experiences. Today, Ed will discuss his love of music and why dancing has been important to him. In such a discussion are amazing gems of knowledge that not only teach you about Ed, but also about our scene’s history.

So much of what has driven you in life seems to be music centered. What is it about music that impacts you so deeply? How do you view the role of music in your life?

I’ve thought about this question a lot. Ironically, I’d say that music, or sound, is not as centrally important to me as I once believed. I think it has more to do with something bigger, like immersive aesthetic experiences in general.

The most relevant thing that comes to mind at the moment is my first exposure to true “industrial” music, around 1990–91. Before that time, I had heard it here and there, either in the background, or in bits and pieces. A good friend’s older brother—a former punk—played me a snippet of a band called Foetus (Jim Thurwell), that was an utterly jarring experience. Another time, I heard some really dank, noisy stuff (it might have been Psychic T.V. or Severed Heads, I don’t quite remember) while visiting a friend’s dorm room at CCAD in 1990 (before the widespread use of the internet, dorms were the primary place to trade life-changing music and ideas). I also had a couple of older acquaintances (Mark Gunderson being one of them) who made industrial music themselves, so I was aware of it on some level, early on. I found something about it unsettling and compelling.

So even though I only had a vague idea what industrial music really was, I felt an instinctive attraction to it. Maybe it’s because I had grown up with a shortwave radio in the house, and had watched a few post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies in my youth (like Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Road Warrior, RoboCop, Brazil, The Quiet Earth, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and A Boy and His Dog). It also likely had something to do with the fact that I had become a huge fan of Depeche Mode, a band that generously infused their pop music with industrial, ambient, and electronic textures. Either way, it was almost as if industrial music was an inner impulse waiting for me to tap.

When my ears were finally assaulted by the clangy junkyard music of Einstürzende Neubauten, it was a real revelation. There weren’t many places that sold their music, and their releases were always expensive import CDs/LPs from the UK or Germany, so whenever I managed to find one, I treated it like a precious tome waiting to be deciphered. The first one I got is probably their best—their rawest, but also most sophisticated piece of work, called Drawings of Patient O.T. (1983).

Einstürzende Neubauten – “Die genaue Zeit” – From Drawings of Patient O.T. (1983) – audio only

Einstürzende Neubauten – “Armenia” – From Drawings of Patient O.T. (1983) – excerpt from the film Halber Mensch (Sogo Ishii, 1985)

Once I had time to listen to that album on a good system, I became completely engulfed. It was music unlike anything else that was out there. It somehow managed to be environmental, drastic, urgent, hungry, primitive, literate, abstract, epic, and deeply wounded. It was also very European, picking up where older traditions had left off; mainly German currents such as Radio-Activity-era Kraftwerk, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the 1920s Bauhaus, and the free-wheeling, experimental, cabaret-like spirit of Berlin during the Weimar republic. Even the very name of the band, which is German for “Collapsing New Buildings,” spoke to this. It also said everything to me.

And then there was Blixa Bargeld, their singer—clad in leather, wild-eyed and gaunt beyond reckoning, with spiky hair and a voice like knives scraping on a chalkboard, singing about his soul being on fire and interrogating volcanoes with a Nietzschian fervor. He was clearly someone who put himself on the line with every performance.

Indeed, everything about the band was a coherent package, inviting you into a world where music somehow lurched into existence out of what was left after the collapse of civilization. As you can see for yourself in their 1985 film Halber Mensch (Half-Man, directed by Sogo Ishii), their music was like a live power line buzzing in a field of rubble, where the only human-like scrawl left is the cyclops-man symbol that they took as their logo, seared into concrete by some long-lost, Germanic tribe (dressed in leather and spikes, of course).

Although I spoke next-to-no German back then (and I didn’t get to visit Germany until the 2000s), I took their world as if I belonged there. And for a while, I got lost in it, to whatever small extent I could in middle-of-the-road Columbus, Ohio.

My friend (the filmmaker,  Jennifer Reeder) told me of their legendary 1986 appearance at the Newport Music Hall. This was way before my time, but it’s a story that ought to be told again more thoroughly. Before arriving in Columbus, Neubauten had asked runners to visit the local scrapyard so they could make their own instruments before the show. They played, and then gave all the instruments away after the show. This inspired me to start visiting a junkyard on the Whittier peninsula, near the present-day Scioto Audubon Metro Park, to buy whatever pieces of scrap I could make noise with. I didn’t have the welding or electrical know-how to really make instruments that were as sophisticated or cool as Neubauten’s, but just having all those pieces of rusting metal sheets, springs, boxes, rods, grates, and other junk laying around really made me feel like I was exploring similar territory.

This also made me more susceptible to other bands of that period, most of whom were almost completely unlike Neubauten, but shared some of their ability to weave their own immersive worlds. We’re talking about bands like Cocteau Twins, Cindytalk, The Durutti Column, The Young Gods, Skinny Puppy, Brian Eno (primarily his 1970s rock and ambient albums), Aphex Twin (especially his early electro and ambient material), Seefeel, Autechre, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Swans (in their 90s dark folk period), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (featuring Blixa himself on guitar), My Bloody Valentine, and a few Ohio bands such as My Dad Is Dead (a long-time Cleveland cult band) and the Columbus trash rock scene.

The Young Gods – “Nous de la Lune” (We of the Moon) – From The Young Gods (1987) – audio only

Durutti Column – “Smile in the Crowd” – From Another Setting (1983) – audio only

Aphex Twin – “Xtal” – From Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (1992) – audio only

Cindytalk – “Memories of Skin and Snow” – From Camouflage Heart (1984) – fan-made stills film

Seefeel – “Time to Find Me” (AFX Slow Mix) – From Time to Find Me EP (1993)

Somewhere in there, I also got into other essential Ohio bands like Vertical Slit (aka V3), Scrawl, and Gaunt; as well as the earlier grunt-and-drums period of Swans, the weird chamber pop of Tuxedomoon, the Spanish electro-industrial music of Esplendor Geométrico, the wildly experimental noise music of NON (Boyd Rice), the almost-unknown musique concrète of Étant Donnés, and much later, the vastly underrated electro-punk of the New York No Wave/electronic duo Suicide. (Some of these artists are better known now, while others have faded into relative obscurity, but the surprising thing to me is that most of them are still active on some level, even thirty years later in some cases!) From about 1994–1998, I was also a member of GaGa, a sort of tribal-industrial noise band featuring Mark Gunderson and a rotating roster of other musicians, where I got to use lots of those metal instruments I had collected.

Esplendor Geométrico – “Muerte a escala industrial” – From Eg1 (1982) – audio only

NON (Boyd Rice) – Locked groove – From Pagan Muzak (1978) – fan film

Suicide – “Ghost Rider” (Live c. 1977–78) – concert footage

Anyway, I’ve obviously moved on from that initial impact of Neubauten, but I still follow them here and there and find new layers of meaning in their older work. They and their side projects in theater, experimental ambient music, and fan-sourced composition have continued to influence me, in some obvious but also subtle ways. For example, one thing that strikes me after all these years of educating my ears, is that they were somewhat more “conventional” than I realized. Yes, their music was extreme, and often very skeletal; but structurally, it was just punk rock music, filtered through German avant-garde traditions, and broken into its constituent parts. The band didn’t so much destroy the pop-rock music format it as they reduced and rebuilt it. This is quite unlike the folks in the COUM Transmissions group (some of whom became Throbbing Gristle), whose torrid performances in the early 70s really pushed the envelope into blasphemy and incoherence; or the noise/tape work of John Cage and the musique concrète of the 1940s–60s, which often sounded like utter chaos but was in fact highly composed. Even so, the textures that Neubauten seared into my soul back then remain like permanent aural scars, in a way. There’s no coming back from that. I’ve mostly replaced their music with more atmospheric noise music (such as Tim Hecker, Daniel Menche, Aube, and the recent Cindytalk noise releases), in part, because that type of music echoes Neubauten’s world to some extent, with a bit less of their white-hot intensity.

I realize I’ve spent an inordinate amount of words discussing a single band, but maybe I’m just giving myself the chance to trace their influence on me, and secondarily, on ele_mental. This suddenly seems correct, because the one other thing that stayed with me about EN was how they brought all the elements together into a cohesive, ear-, eye-, and mind-splitting whole. I loved how imposing and post-apocalyptic their sound was, and how that was mirrored in their distressed sense of design, and most of all, in their extreme style of performance (which actually involved destroying a number of venues with a stolen jackhammer, and even fire on one or two occasions!). All of this was also informed by the seething, anarchistic politics of then-isolated West Berlin, which made their entire existence even more meaningful. By the time I started listening to them, the wall had fallen, but I knew their music was drawn from some deep political schisms and cultural currents. It came from a very real place, a contested territory. When ele_mental started coming together, much of this was in the background, and became even more potent when we saw what impact Detroit’s ruined spaces had on techno music.

It should therefore be no surprise that I was attracted to the techno music of Detroit and Berlin. It seems like an obvious connection now: here were two cities that had once been thought of as gleaming exemplars of industry and commerce; both had experienced downfalls and hard times; both were scarred by history, and left with unprecedented levels of neglect; both had deep traditions of arts and music that were given the impossible task of providing a shaft of light in the sulphur-laden gloom. It hadn’t really occurred to me to connect industrial with techno in quite this way until I wrote all of this down, but I’m delighted by the discovery! I suppose that’s as close to an answer to the original question as you’re going to get: I love making connections.

You obviously place a lot of importance on the act of dancing as well. What is it about dancing that is so special to you?

Honestly, dancing didn’t make much sense to me until I started going out to clubs in the late 1980s, in my late teenage years. I grew up under a Mexican mom who loved to dance, and an Ohioan dad who just didn’t. I remember sulking in the corner whenever there was a “Latin” dance party at a family gathering, pretending I didn’t want to get “involved.” But the reality was, I didn’t know how to do the salsa, or the cumbia, or even the meringue (the easiest one!), so I was terribly embarrassed. I always make the joke now that one of my biggest regrets was not embracing that side of dance culture back then. It would have made my two subsequent decades of miserable and almost nonexistent dating so much better. Ah well…haha.

In my early teens, I became totally enamored by breakdancing. This was when the fad was at its peak in the middle of the 1980s, so it didn’t last more than a couple of years, but if nothing else, it exposed me to some phenomenal music (which will surely come up later).

Otherwise, I really didn’t really see myself as a “dancer” until I found my release in the music of late-80s clubs. Back then, there weren’t many places in Columbus that played what we called “progressive” music back then (meaning, alternative or non-mainstream music), but once I found out where I could hear The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, OMD, INXS, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the like, I was ecstatic. I realize it’s ironic to think of bands who were pretty much considered mainstream pop-rock acts in the UK as “underground,” but for those of us who didn’t know better, theirs was a wondrous world of musical experimentation that just wasn’t available on mainstream radio in the US. Listening back, it’s obvious to me that what attracted us to these pop bands (and what keeps me listening to most of them today) was their ongoing exploration of the wide territories of “post-punk,” some ten years after the fact. Even though none of us were around for that first explosion of 1970s punk, there was still some of its direct echo in the music we came of age with in the late 80s.

I could list all the dance clubs in Columbus that mattered to me back then—Flamingo’s, Mean Mr. Mustard’s, 700 High, Purity/The Pit, The Garage, Crazy Mama’s, Wall Street, and others I may be forgetting—but I’ll focus on just a couple of them (plus an influential moment I had elsewhere).

Wall Street was—and remains—a lesbian bar that hosted a “mixed” night every Wednesday throughout the 1990s. The night featured DJ Kevy Kev playing a mix of “progressive” hits alongside techno-industrial stuff like Front 242 and Ministry, and pop-house like Deee-Lite and the B-52’s. Incidentally, it’s funny to mention both Wall Street and Kevy Kev in the same sentence, realizing that even a full twenty-two years later, both the venue and the DJ are still quite active elements in the scene. (How’s that for an illusion of stability?) Anyway, the reason Wall Street mattered to me was because it was the place where I learned to let go and dance. It also taught me what a night club should look and feel like. There were also some hot girls there, including one in particular who looked like a cross between Audrey Tatou and Louise Brooks. I don’t remember her name (Andrea, maybe?), and I never managed to charm her enough to get her out on a date with me, but hers is the face I imagine when I think of Wall Street’s Wednesday nights.

The other place that mattered in those years was called Crazy Mama’s, on the corner of 9th Ave and North High St. Like the rest of old south campus, it was torn down in the early 2000s to make way for the current Gateway. In the 80s–90s, Crazy Mama’s was the second floor bar above a middle-eastern restaurant called Firdou’s (still a legendary joint). Their hottest nights were Thursdays and Fridays. I still remember the dark, narrow stairway to get into the bar, and how small the place really was. There were mirrors all over the black walls (which supposedly inspired Daniel Ash of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets to pen the song “Mirror People”), and a linoleum dance floor surrounded on three sides by black carpet. The music was always hot—a mix of anything from dark electro-industrial to punkabilly to house to full-on disco (keep in mind that this was a time in which disco was still very much maligned, so playing disco was a subversive act). Mama’s attracted every freak in a multi-colored outfit that Columbus could conjure up.

I was always a step removed from the garishness and debauchery of the place, so I didn’t dance as openly there as I did at Wall Street. I often stood off to the side, with a more critical eye, just watching the freak show unfold. But I did recognize that it was probably the most special club in Columbus for a very long time, and nothing has come even close to replacing it (the only place I would even vaguely compare it to is CaraBar, which is a different animal entirely).

Another thing that no one can avoid mentioning in any discussion about Crazy Mama’s was the ludicrously skinny fire escape on the side of the building that somehow served as the main exit point at the end of the night. Imagine a steady stream of drunken freaks in all kinds of getups (goth-leather jackets, chains, platform shoes, feather boas, bell-bottom pants, whatever), attempting to negotiate these precarious black metal steps after being rushed out at closing time. It’s a wonder no one died. Once they were out, people were also fond of milling around in the small parking lot (about the size of that lot behind what used to be Larry’s up at Woodruff/High) for up to an hour, or until the CPD would ask us to move along. This was such a reliable “after-hours” that I often showed up even if I was working my pizza delivery job until close, around 2:15 am. I would rush to get down there and more often than not, people would still be hanging around by the time I arrived around 2:30.

Going slightly out of chronology for a moment, Mama’s also happened to give me my start as a DJ. In late 1993, me and the Body Release boys (more on them later) were given Monday nights (Mama’s slowest night), to do our thing. It never became much, so it only lasted a few months, but it gave us all a chance to practice DJing in a “live” setting. (As a funny aside, my first-ever live mix set the tone for pretty much everything I’ve done since: on one table, I played a drum-and-bass track by Johnny Jungle slowed down from 45 to 33 rpm, and on the other, it was Brian Eno’s Discreet Music. Drumbeats and ambience, mashed together.)

The third place I’ll mention was a party I experienced in Toronto in 1990 or 91 (my dates are fuzzy on this one). On a weekend trip there with my friend Monica Carroll, we listened to Kraftwerk’s Electric Café album over and over. Oddly, this was my first real conscious exposure to Kraftwerk, and my first trip to a larger Canadian city (I had been to Niagra Falls when I was a teenager). One night, we found a bad dance club, and made the most of it. This being Canada, they did play a handful of those “progressive” songs, and I danced wildly, but otherwise the place was just lame. It was the stereotype of what you might imagine a boring club in Canada to be.

The next night, however, was a real awakening. I don’t remember exactly how we ended up there, but we found our way to an after-hours event that was the exact opposite of the other club. At first, I was sort of annoyed at the needless obscurity of the experience. We were in line, about to pay something like $10 (Canadian, which back then was probably more like $7), and I kept wondering what we were supposed to “get” for that. It just seemed like the basement of a department store with some primitive walls, not a proper venue! But as soon as we entered, the first thing we noticed was that the bass physically hurt. With each beat, it was like someone was pounding the soft part of their fist into our sternums. It was fascinating, and the music was minimal and repetitive. Of course, if I heard the exact same songs today, I’d probably recognize a lot of them, but at that time they just seemed like thunderous, anonymous beats coming from nowhere and everywhere. The only song I recognized was a b-side to Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart” EP, called “What Is Love?”

Deee Lite – “What Is Love (Holographic Goatee Mix)” – (1990) – audio only

This song remains one of my favorites, not only because it is a prototypical New York house track—cavernous and gorgeous and minimalist—but because it takes me back to my very first moment of hearing electronic dance music at its loudest and rawest. After maybe twenty minutes, we couldn’t take the pounding bass any longer, so we left. But the impact had been made.

It took a couple more years of clubbing at Mama’s and Wall Street and all the other Columbus nightlife spots (and here I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my few visits to the Garage, a gay club where one night, I confirmed my love of Erasure and the fact that I am a straight man in a vogue dancer’s body), but eventually I started hearing about another kind of electronic dance music party that people were calling “raves.” I was skeptical at first, like I had been at the door of that after-hours in Toronto. I remember asking myself: “So, what’s the difference between this and a club? I don’t get it!” But thanks to the prodding of my friends in Body Release (whose names will inevitably get mentioned over and over in any history of electronic music in Columbus: Titonton Duvante, Todd Sines, Charles Noel, and Mike Szewczyk), I finally went to my first rave in early 1993. I danced. I was immersed. I wasn’t terribly impressed, but I more or less understood. A new form of event, and a new opportunity to dance in an open environment, had arrived.

The rest is probably better discussed in another context, but let’s just say that after about eight years associated with the rave and underground party scenes, I gained a lot of experience as a dancer.

One person I refer to a lot these days is a Detroit native named Gehrik Mohr. I wasn’t very close with him back in the early days, probably because he was too busy dancing his ass off. But he was friends with most of our other Detroit contacts and colleagues, so he was part of the family. The reason I bring him up is because I remember watching him dance a few times, and being utterly impressed by how raw and animalistic his style was.

His dancing, along with a few others, also helped me understand something that I hadn’t perceived before. Back when I was a breakdancer (or the after-school special version of it) in 1983–84, I had fallen in love with the sounds of electro music. I barely knew the difference between Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” let alone other artists, but I sure as hell knew who the Art of Noise was. I picked up a 7-inch of “Beat Box” (which I still own today, by the way) at a local department store, and it became perhaps the most influential dance record of my entire life.

Kraftwerk – Numbers – Computer World

Art of Noise – “Beat Box” Version 1 (1984) – official video

It was abstract, electronic, mysterious, and most of all, funky. Now I can describe it more accurately as a playful art-pop record with musique-concrète tendencies, filtered through a hip-hop/sampling sensibility with lots of rhythmic syncopation, but back then, I just thought it was a damn cool record (comparable to other electro nuggets I heard back then, such as “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock, “Yum Yum (Eat ‘Em Up)” by Beat Box Boys, and “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)” by Hashim—all essential electro classics).

Beat Box Boys (Bobby Orlando) – “Yum Yum (Eat ‘Em Up)” – (1984) – audio only

Hashim – “Al Naafiysh (The Soul)”

Anyway, the problem was, after about 1985, I didn’t hear that kind of music anywhere. The message, which had taken over my system so thoroughly, did not get reinforced. It took me another nine years before I was able to put two and two together and realize that only 200 miles away from me in Detroit, electro had never died (and indeed, STILL hasn’t died). Some of it had turned into techno. (All you need to do to confirm this progression is listen to “Alleys of Your Mind” by Juan Atkins/Cybotron from 1981, and then skip to his “No UFO’s,” as Model 500 in 1985. Techno IS electro, in a sense.)

Cybotron – “Alleys of Your Mind” (1981) – audio only

Model 500 – “No UFO’s” (1985) – excerpt from The Scene television show, Detroit

Once I made the connection, I saw a similar evolution in Gehrik’s dancing, which had gone from breaking to…something else. It was like he was inviting people to take up space in a similar way to breaking, with footwork and spins and shoulder movements, but he stayed mostly on his feet. The space was also different. Dancing took place in a more diffused, decentralized way, as opposed to a centralized circle (or “cipher”). In other words, unlike me, Gehrik had been lucky enough to live in a city where there had been a continuity of electronic dance music, and he was the living embodiment of it. In Detroit, breaking, electro, and dance music had become a way of life; whereas in a middling town like Columbus, it had just been a fad, doomed to fade.

Looking at it from the vantage point of today, I was actually at the cusp of something even deeper which I wasn’t yet equipped to see. Luckily, Gehrik was there to catch it as it happened: the evolution of Detroit “footwork” dance styles (most notably, the Jit), which have become better known in the 2000s.

Detroit Jit – Jitting Jesus (Jittin Genius) – (2011)

Gehrik Mohr – Detroit House Dance: – Poseidon (Cymatic Soles) – Session (2010)

By the late 1990s, as ele_mental was winding down, I had one of the strangest moments of my life, when I was offered an invitation into the world of academic dance at Ohio State. The story behind that is a funny one, but I’ll jump right to the part that seems most relevant to our discussion. I remember one of the first things I had to contend with in this world was to tell my dancer friends (and later, my dance professors) that I had no formal dance training—none at all. Sure, I had spent the better part of ten years involved in club and rave culture, and it was because of that experience that the department felt justified in taking me on. But I didn’t feel like that gave me any kind of qualification as a mover.

Yet, instead of the blanks stares I expected, I got nods and smiles of understanding. It hadn’t occurred to me that they would see the worth of my “untrained” experience in their world, but I didn’t yet realize that most of my classmates and professors had done jazz, tap, musical theater, or some other form of popular dance at some point in their careers. To them, therefore, it was perfectly legitimate to “merely” be a club/party dancer. Indeed, they were excited to see what I would bring to their world, which has always found ways to bring various forms of “street dance” into the academic fold.

Indeed, by the late 90s, hip-hop was well on the way to becoming a codified, studio-bound form, so it didn’t take long for me to overhear the term “house dance” being used to describe club dancing (perhaps around 2002–2003). That’s when it all came together in my mind: I may not have had any formal studio training in dance, but I had spent since 1989 dancing in clubs and dedicating a lot of energy to dance and underground music culture, on every conceivable level. That was when I finally felt like I could claim the official title of House Dancer, whether it was strictly accurate or not. And that’s a title I’ve more or less worn proudly ever since.

Thanks to the experience I gained in the university setting, I am now much better at articulating what I do as a dancer—not just in terms of labels, but also in terms of the actual movement itself. At one point, I was pretty heavily invested in learning the terms of movement analysis, an observational system that offers a rich vocabulary to describe and examine bodily movement. I’ve lost most of that jargon to lack of use, but I still embody many of those ideas when I dance in a dark corner somewhere, doing my thing. I think of it as live experimentation, exploring shapes and dynamic ranges on various levels. This is probably why I often prefer to be left alone, to have my own experience of the music and my own movement. (It’s also why I really can’t STAND it when girls try to come up and grind on me. Ladies, please…haha.)

This brings me to say something about the underground music dance style as I’ve observed it over the years. The first thing I noticed about underground parties was a shift in attention. Unlike clubs, where the DJ booth is usually on a stage or an isolated area away from the dance floor, at raves, the DJ was often on ground level, with the dancers. This lent the event a more diffused sense of space, where dancers would spread out more or less evenly across the floor. Some people liked to hug the enormous speakers (which were, at times, up to 10–12 feet tall), while others preferred to watch the DJ closely, and the rest moved around freely on and off the floor. It was a very fluid experience, and the dancing often reflected this. In fact, the East-coast dance style known as “fluid” was itself a sort of extension of this decentralized experience. I never took to that kind of dancing, probably because I was more influenced by the percussive style of electro and breakdancing, but I appreciated the ability to lose myself in a mass of people while (usually) still having room to move.

This is the scenario I tend to prefer the most, even now. That’s why it’s remained somewhat of a foreign concept to have the breakers or “house dancers” (who, in Columbus, are more just breakers in disguise) take over a large section of the floor to make their circle/cipher, as has often occurred in recent years. Dance circles were not really an aspect originally associated with the underground electronic scene, so it can seem intrusive. Lately, however, it seems that a younger generation of dancers has figured out a good compromise, by keeping the circle on the edge of the dance floor rather than in the center. I don’t know if this parallels the development of dance in other electronic scenes, but it seems like a sensible progression. In Columbus, it seemed that sometime in the early 2000s, when the scene was on the wane, the breakers came to house music thinking they would liven things up, but then ended up realizing that house music has its own tradition in dance. As the scene has revived, the party dancers are also less willing to have their floor taken up by the “specialists.” And frankly, at many parties these days, there’s just no room!

I feel it was really courageous to take the step and seek out training in capoeira dance. Why did you take up the training and What did you take away from that experience?

The story of my involvement in capoeira is sort of separate from my time in the underground dance scene, but the parallels are somewhat obvious to me now. The period during which I got more heavily into the form also corresponded with the waning of the underground scene in Columbus, and the time I became a more devoted graduate student in dance.

I got into capoeira as part of my long phase of “dabbling” into various styles of movement that the dance world offered. As a new person in the field of dance, I was surprised to learn about the variety of movement forms that were used to complement many dancers’ training, that weren’t really a part of traditional modern dance technique.

First, I got heavily into Contact Improvisation (CI), an egalitarian form that involves lots of weight sharing and trust between partners, but has no specific choreographic form or “destination.” This introduced me to a sense of play that is also essential to capoeira. I also got into various other forms of dance improvisation, which has quite a number of sophisticated techniques available to it (on par with classical avant-garde or jazz music). Because I saw club dancing as an improvisational form, it was a natural fit. I also experimented with a more “organic” form called Butoh, which is a post-war Japanese style often performed by bald dancers moving excruciatingly slowly, like a gradual force of erosion (incidentally, that Neubauten film I mentioned earlier features some Butoh dancers in it). I also took some classes in aikido, which taught me something about the value of tradition and notions of flow and redirecting aggression.

All of this prepared me for capoeira, but nothing prepared me for how difficult it would actually be. The difficulty was not so much on the physical level, which was hard enough, but more in terms of its psychological aspects, which I have barely begun to unravel even eleven years later. Earlier, I felt like downplaying your use of the word “courageous,” because it really wasn’t like that, but in some ways I guess it truly was.

I’ll summarize it this way. I started training without a formal teacher, and was quickly put in a position to teach others. In that position, it’s tempting to try to be all things to all people, and I made the mistake of mixing and matching too many different approaches. I was a DJ, after all, so I was used to taking bits of music from a wide range of sources. Why not approach capoeira from the same point of view? More is better, right?

Upon finding a solid teacher to follow, a traditionalist Brazilian “mestre” (master teacher) named Mestre Caboquinho (who was ironically based out of Detroit), I was suddenly faced with an unwelcome choice.

Mestre caboquinho Clad in White With Tonho Matéria, one of the original singers/songwriters of the band Olodum

Olodum – Olodum florente na natureza (1987)

I would either have to respect what the Mestre was giving me by giving it continuity unto itself, or I could keep trying the piecemeal approach, taken from a variety of teachers and teachings (who would inevitably only end up giving me their scraps, because I was not formally following their school). After a few months of following Mestre Caboquinho more seriously, which meant driving up to Detroit numerous times, I continued to dabble on the side. This is when the Mestre told me he would no longer allow me to mix his teachings with that of other teachers. I had to follow him completely, or not at all. I resisted this all-or-nothing approach as being too “militant,” but little by little, I came around to his way of thinking. Unfortunately, many of my less-disciplined students in Columbus did not want to be “limited” to just one approach, so there was an awkward transition during which many people left and formed another group. Meanwhile, I was left in a position to start a new group under the formal auspices of a very adept Mestre. It felt right.

I see the wisdom of his approach even more clearly now, because the traditionalist mentality gives its students a real basis in Afro-Brazilian philosophy, upon which one can play in infinite ways. It’s akin to teaching both from the “outside-in” (from technique to philosophy) while also teaching from the “inside-out” (philosophy to technique). The more mixed, modernized styles tend confuse their students by trying to be all things to all people. It’s taught as a genuine, competitive martial art; it’s taught as a fast, acrobatic choreography; and it’s taught as a game, but the philosophy is underdeveloped. The emphasis in modernized capoeira is on competition, performance, and school hierarchy—things that are often actually quite antithetical to the form. (For example: if capoeira was, at its root, a disguised martial art, why is it that latter-day schools place so much emphasis on belt/cord rankings? This is like loudly announcing your level of expertise when whole point is to be ambivalent and secretive about what you know.)

I began to understand much of this far more deeply when I went to Brazil for the first time in 2004. I ended up going three times (twice with the entire group) and staying a total of six months, always in the Northeast city of Salvador, Bahia. Bahia is considered the “mecca” of capoeira, and it’s where there is still a genuinely secretive energy about it. It’s not handed out to just anyone, and having a teacher like Mestre Caboquinho be my guide, opened many doors to me. Very quickly, I learned how hollow the modern styles of capoeira really were. I still worried about some of the cult-like aspects of the traditional style, and even became somewhat affected by its “sorcery” myself. It should be clear by now that I wasn’t very successful at being a “dispassionate” observer of the form, as an academic is supposed to be. But by investing myself more deeply into the form, I believe I came away with a very real, down-to-earth understanding of it that few Westerners—even those who have followed the form for decades—have achieved.

Click here to watch Ed in a Filhos de Angola 9th Annual International Capoeira Angola Encounter, July 2009, Berlin

The main thing I learned was that I had mistaken something very practical about Afro-Brazilian culture for supposedly cultish or voodoo-like behavior. Somehow, in the midst of the depredations of slavery and its chaotic aftermath in urban Brazil, an illiterate, impoverished, and marginalized community of Afro-Brazilian men had come together to create an entire ethical system designed to diffuse and contain aggression. They did this while teaching themselves (and each other) some valuable lessons about the real stakes involved in fighting. They created an entire set of movements, rituals, and rules that are designed to prevent conflict, while also appearing to be a harmless pastime. And they did this under the iron grip of oppression and legal persecution. My teacher, as a person who is directly in the line of this deeper philosophy, was uniquely equipped to give us this reality.

Somehow all of this resonated with the story of dance music in Detroit, setting aside that I was driving up there a few times a month just to take a single capoeira class. Usually, I just turned around and came back home, but by the late 2000s, when I finally felt like I understood something deeper about capoeira, and had absorbed that sorcery into a deeper, less disturbed place in my psyche, I also began to go seek Detroit music again. That’s when I ran into Gehrik one night, dancing to immersive techno music at a tiny club in Hamtramck. There he was, fifteen years after I had first met him, dancing far harder and far better than I had ever seen before. It suddenly felt like I had come full circle. This prepared me to take another look at the scene.

Looking back at my capoeira period (about which I’m just grazing the surface), one thing that always seemed clear to me was that there was some subliminal connection between what I had done with ele_mental, and what Africans in Brazil had created centuries before. It wasn’t just the iconography of the circle—it also had a lot to do with that willingness to make the best out of whatever you have in front of you. I resonated with that immediately, and I still do.

Look out for the second installment in this interview series with Ed Luna that will come out sometime in the next few months!

Section 1.1: Exploring the Nu-School of Techno

Life is very cyclical. Events, like music scenes, seem to ebb and flow through periods of intense popularity and participation and periods of abeyance (A state of suspension; a holding pattern) with devoted, loyal underground following. As you all can tell from my recent discussions, our Columbus dance music scene is coming out of a period of abeyance and ampin’ up to a period of widescale participation and growth. Such an outward focus and movement to grow the scene has not been seen since the 90s in Columbus. We definitely have something percolating, but there are still strong links to the past.

The funny thing is I don’t even know if these links were explicit or intentional. For instance, I see a strong link between the strength of the techno movement in Columbus historically with the cats of ele_mental and the pushing of nu-techno today. Yet, were our contemporary guys listening to Titonton Duvante, FBK, Plural, Todd Sines,  or Archtyp? I just don’t know whether there was this explicit connection or not between the past and today. Regardless, the people of the past paved the way for the exploration of menacing, dark creative currents in Columbus dance floors. This Saturday we are carrying on that tradition when My Best Friends Party curates a fine selection of DJs to help us explore this nu-techno terrain at LeBoom 2.3 at Skully’s. Most notably, this promotion outfit has called on the talents of Italian heavyweights Blatta and Inesha to highlight the strengths of this newer approach to techno music.

Yet, it is not as if we are not familiar with the sounds of this new school of techno. Our scene is deeply interested in the developments and creation of this music. Dunjinz, roeVy, FUNERALS, Dirty Current, and countless others are all pushing the boundaries of what you can do with techno and other electronic music. Whether we are interested explicitly in the merging of electro and techno (as the nu-techno movement is), is not that primary matter. The integral fact to take away from this is that we too are pushing the boundaries of these sounds along with the interational heavyweights and people are starting to see that. When we all converge on Skully’s this weekend it will not be just to see a world renowned act like Blatta & Inesha. This is certainly one of the benefits of the show. Yet, no doubt it will also be possible to see our artists enter into a 5-6 hour musical conversation with one another and one of the leaders in the production and spinning of this musical genre. This is why I get so excited for this show, because I know artistically that it is something special. I know that it will also be a crazy party as well, but the art. Seriously, the musical exploration that will happen will be as artistic as any event you have seen.

Section 1.2: The Run Down

For those of you not familiar with the Blatta & Inesha or the other local cats on the bill, I got your run down right here.  All the Interview and streaming audio you need to wrap your head around this show and get you amp’d to throw down. I start with Blatta & Inesha who were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me.

I. Blatta & Inesha

LA: How did each of you get into dance music when you were both working with different genres of music in the 90s?

B & I: I guess it was just the natural evolution of the music we were playing and making in the 90’s…we both have a strong funk background which in a way brought us to listen and produce new school breaks in early 2000, but also we already had Kraftwerk, Chemical Brothers and Prodigy in our music background, not to mention the early 90’s italian dance music…producers like Digital Boy and that early 90’s rave sound have always been a huge influence for us…
Even if i started as a hip hop dj and Blatta played in many different bands (from experimental jazz to noise rock) i like to think that it’s all part of one big picture…at the end of the day it has been and it’s still today all about the groove and the bass.

LA: How did you decide to collaborate together? Was it love at first sight? What was the story?

B & I: It was pretty random, when i bought my first sampler i was looking for some musicians to make some weird music with, which in my mind was a combination of all the genres i mentioned before and Dario and I immediately had a great musical feeling in the studio and we kept going…

LA: What were the elements of the techno and electro sound that inspired you to try and synthesize the two genres?

B & I: I think the idea is to bring a new drive and groove into the techno sound almost as it was in its early days before the minimal techno wave a few years back. Also when minimal techno came out we kinda liked elements of that sound or at least we were looking at it as an intelligent inspiration but it didn’t have enough “balls” to fit into our sets…so basically what we are trying to do today is to combine that awesome old school techno feeling, intelligent swing elements of minimal, “balls” of electro with B&I bassline and articulate beats.

LA: What do you hope to achieve by pushing the Techno Nouveau sound in your mix and production work?

B & I: Make ladies sweat and becoming billionaires! LOL

LA: What do you have in store for us at LeBoom 2.3? What can we expect from your set?

B & I: We are actually working on our album right now, so the next American tour will be a good testing field for our new tracks…For now in general we love to play our unreleased tunes and unknown joints from other producers in our set, we like to surprise the crowd and see the reaction to something that they might not know…i can’t stand when djs play 2 hours of hits, it’s pointless and anyone can do it, it’s a challenge to keep people dancing to your own creative productions and the story you are telling…it’s taking a risk instead of playing the “go to” standard hits that everyone has heard a million times.

This nu-techno sound is exemplified in their The Sound of Techno Nouveau Mix Tape:

Yet, there originals are so on point too. Take their preview of their track “Anatomy”:

Or their work on the Track “Senegal”:

No doubt, these titans of techno will rock the party.

II.The Locals

a. roeVy

I scarcely need to introduce these guys to my readers. Dark, exploratory music that will grip you from the first drop. Just listen to their Demons EP. It speaks for itself.

Demons EP

b. Dunjinz

Glitchy, innovative approach to what can broadly be conceived as techno. Guy Is poppin’ off with remix and original releases. Check these Tracks for an introduction:

First, his works in progress, which really highlight where his sound is going:

Now, his tracks Anowara and Albion just for a little taste of what he has released in the past:

He is even starting a record label called Silver Wave, so go like his facebook page for this new project for all the up-to-date details.

c. Attak & Carma

The lead men behind My Best Friends Party would leave their event with something missing if they did not lay down their catastrophic skills on the LeBoom 2.3 crowd. No doubt, they have been leave Columbus dance floors in sweat and shambles for some time now. Saturday will be no different.

Check this mix work out if you don’t believe me:

Attak’s mix with his Project Dub Terrorists-Future Mayhem

Carma’s “Down For Whatever Mix”

d. NetworkEDM

Now, these guys are gonna come at you with some tech house. This is a set not to be missed. For real, when these two lay down a tech house set you best be there to here it. This DJ duo has definitely been on the rise for some time and stands pressed to lay down something special for us saturday.

Don’t believe me? Check out this exclusive mixtape these Push Productions crew members made for me:

Section 1.3 Event Details

If this didn’t get you excited for the event then nothing short of a video from Mike Harmon Ent. from the 1 year anniversary show of LeBoom! may be able to induce excitement.

Now you are definitely coming. I know you are. I can see you texting, tweeting, tumblr, facebooking your friends now. Well, I am glad I could help you make your decisions. Here are the vitals:

Where: Skully’s (Short North, CBUS)
When: 9pm-2am

Click here for more details or to RSVP on Facebook 

Do you like what I am doing? Do you want to collaborate or talk about Columbus Dance Music? Let me know by going over to my Local Autonomy Facebook Page and letting me know or Like my page. You could also follow me on Twitter.

Another Great week of Radio over at WCRS has me feeling the need to share these shows on a weekly basis. I mean these individuals are providing some Quality local programming that is at the cutting edge of selections from a wide gamut of artists around the world. I mean these three shows are only a small slice of the programming that I am exploring at the moment. Future areas of research include Doctah X’s Prescriptions show and The Fury’s industrial music hour.

Bus Bass Show

First, we have the Bus Bass show curated by Chris “Hawstyle” Haws with the best in jungle, DnB, and Dubstep. The show airs on Tuesday nights at 10 pm on WCRS 98.3 FM and can be streamed on the web Here. This weeks show features a Liquid funk/DnB guest mix by DJ DeutscheMark and a jungle/DnB mix by Hawstyle.

Listen and Download Here

Q Factor

Second, we have Sybling Q‘s hour devoted to his genre bending tastes in Moombahton, Electro, House, & Techno. The show airs on Thursday nights at 11 pm on WCRS 98.3 FM and can be streamed on the web Here. This week features a mix Sybling Q threw down at Bristol in 2008 (R.I.P. Bristol).

Listen and Download Here

The Beat Oracle

This is a show I just discovered friday night as I was driving around town. There was some craziness going on and I loved it. The show feature the best in “future music” and highlights selections from techno, dub, experimental, hip-hop, etc. It draws from everywhere to give you a crazy experience. The show airs on Saturday nights from 6-8 pm on WCRS 98.3 FM and can be streamed on the web Here.

Listen Here

 

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