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KF Signing

[Failure performing with Pink Reason]

There is a street in the SUMMIT.3 sector called smt.1 that lies just off the main thoroughfare of our city. It runs parallel to the streams of people, transportation devices, and popular notions that populate the safety of GRID 1. However, spatially and socially, the sector of SUMMIT.3 could not be more far removed from GRID.1. Its boulevard smt.1 may run to the heart of the city just like the roads of GRID.1, but as one walks down the smt.1 it feels like the segregated zone that the cloud has labeled it to be. There is a quiet to the sector that comes from its social isolation. However, despite the tension that hangs in the air like the humidity on a hot summer day, the sector at least has fewer heat-lock cameras and you don’t have to deal with the pretensions of the folks out on GRID.1.

One thing is for sure, the people who have found there way to SUMMIT.3 don’t seek out the comfort of the orthodoxy. These folks may have found themselves in this sector by ascription or by choice, but the fact remains you can search for ideas, sounds, or object here. That’s why I live in SUMMIT.3. The sorts of things I am searching for aren’t found to be profitable for consumption by the nebulous cloud of global capital that controls 95% of what is produced and sold in GRID.1. If you ask me, things started going down hill when we let an A.I. decide what we needed to produce based on the aggregated yearnings of our social media ramblings. The cloud has created a mainstream culture that has become an endless mirror of itself. A cascading descent into simulation from which there is nothing but slight tweaks on past ideas. For many folks in SUMMIT.3, this is the reason we call this sector home. We are deep-sea divers dwelling in the heeps and mounds of “out-moded” styles, philosophies, and objects that have been cast off as the fat of the empire. We don’t need the cloud to produce for us and tell us what to consume. We don’t need to be spoonfed culture. We will decide what to produce and consume for themselves from the remains of the mainstream. Sure things ain’t as shiny as they are in GRID.1, but at least we have our own path to explore.  At least we have our autonomy from the cloud.

Future Maudit September Poster

[Flyer from September Future Maudit Show]

One of the most exciting developments to happen musically in the SUMMIT.3 sector recently is the work of Kevin Failure and his Future Maudit shows. With some of his contemporaries like Tyrant Manque, they have thrown out the manual on how to throw shows centered on synthesized sound. He and his associates have embraced an inclusivity and no-boundaries approach to shows that is celebrated widely around SUMMIT.3.  It makes sense his approach would resound with the locals. They don’t just give the audience what GRID.1 promoters and performers would give them. There is no polish or packaging. There is no pretense.  He gives them art. He gives them an experience that approximates the reality we all live. He gives them noise, experimental electronics, techno, improvised improvisation. He gives them the musical equivalent to the philosophy that guides their lives. He gives them a rough, unpackaged pieces of art that allows them to explore their own autonomy in a not-so-perfect world. This is all anyone in the SUMMIT.3 sector ever wanted: A haven where they could experience a soundscape that spoke to their lives. A place where all the bullshit of the manufactured simulation of GRID.1 fell away and we were left with the skeleton of human experience.

Savage Quality

In addition to the Future Maudit shows, Failure runs a record label called Savage Quality that releases EPs and LPs from his past band Pink Reason and other assorted projects of industrial and experimental music. Failure kindly passed on one of these records to me and it oozes that same boundary-defying qualities that all of his Future Maudit shows push. It is a sound born of another sector, but it is of and about the SUMMIT.3 sector all the same. It doesn’t try to fit into a niche. It boldly steps out of the niche and begs you to turn it off. It pushes your buttons and makes you bend your ears to understand what it is all about. It features a glitchy sound of technology gone haywire that forces you to confront the inevitable decay of that shiny GRID.1 reality. It forces one to confront the reality that in the age of the cloud all is not made to last.

Future Maudit Poster

Luckily, Failure, Tyrant Manque, and my compatriots THE FALLEN will be throwing another Future Maudit Show in the tonight in the  SUMMIT.3 Sector with glacial23, Kaptin Kirk, and Jacoti Sommes at Cafe Bourbon Street (DETAILS HERE). Next Door at the Summit the comrades CC & Dustin Knell will be playing with Nosferatu, Ethan Eschelon, and Shirtless Midnight at NIGHT MODE (DETAILS HERE). The SUMMIT.3 Sector will be bopping tonight with both of these crews exploring the far reaches of sound that we all want to hear. Hell, maybe even a portion of the GRID.1 element will explore these sonic outposts and convert to the teachings of our rhythmic bible. In the mean time, enjoy this interview I did with Failure in advance of the show:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: You have been in a band for over ten years, program music at Cafe Bourbon Street, and study the history of certain strains of music. What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Kevin Failure: Music is like oxygen, or language. It’s how I live and communicate. It’s my hustle. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the band I’m in now over a decade, but I’ve been playing in bands for over twenty years now, and have been booking shows for eighteen.
Everything positive that’s ever happened to me has come from music, and music has literally saved my life many times over the years. It’s also probably indirectly responsible for plenty of the bad shit I’ve experienced too, but, what’re you gonna do?

Local Autonomy: What does the future maudit event mean to you (i.e. what is the name supposed to capture in the experience you are trying to create)?
Kevin Failure: Our policy makers, scientists and technology producers are inspired by the same dystopian science fiction that inspires us in the counter culture. While we largely read these books as warnings or prophecies, they read them as instruction manuals. We’re holding a shattered mirror up to our contemporary reality.

Local Autonomy: One of the most interesting parts of the future maudit parties is the open format approach to programming with diverse genres being represented. Why do you think its important to have spaces where noise, techno, experimental, industrial, and punk can be heard side to side?

Kevin Failure: With the exception of punk, I think that the boundaries between the other forms you mentioned were probably defined by media and marketing teams with no real connection or loyalty to the underground. During the 90’s, I’d read about Merzbow in Massive magazine, the midwest rave bible. I’ve seen plenty of Skinny Puppy references in the techno community, in interviews, on records, and a large percentage of the people I know who ended up into electronic dance music and going to parties fell into that through industrial dance music. Techno is an experimental musical form. Some of my favorite tracks are all of those things mentioned at once, and maybe that’s where the punk comes in, is in the attitude and the presentation – not giving a fuck about arbitrary rules and definitions. 

Local Autonomy: I really enjoyed thinking out loud with you about if it was still possible to create new paradigms of music in our world where many people say everything has been done or is a re-hashing of something old. Do you think creating new music, new revolutions in how music is heard and experienced is still possible today? How do you think we do it?
Kevin Failure: These things will happen organically, whether we appreciate the results or not. I just like to keep things fun and challenging, for the artists as well as the audience.

Local Autonomy: We talked at length about the role of dance in communities and cultures across the world. What role do you think dancing and music broadly defined as “dance music” plays for our communities?
Kevin Failure: It’s obviously a primal need shared by humans of all backgrounds. It’s simple: Free your ass… and your mind will follow.

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Blue Fallen

[Photo by Dezi Magby]

There is something magical about going to see live music. There is a buzz in the air and a sort of excitement for what is to come. Whether I was going to see a rock, punk, experimental, jazz, or dance music show, I still felt that same excitement. That feeling was always waiting for me as the date of the show came closer. I would sit throughout the week and daydream about what I would hear, what the crowd would be like, and what I would learn about myself and the world around me by going to the show. This excitement became in those moments a close friend that I came to know well. It amplified and rendered meaningful my love of live music.

The shows I have always been most excited about and learned the most from are those where improvised instrumentation is going to occur. I spent a good part of my teenage years following and listening to bands that fused jazz, progressive rock, dub, hip hop, and psychedelia into dynamic live and studio performances. When experiencing this music live, I often had no idea where it would go and what boundaries would be crossed. This performances became a space where genre’s became nothing but toolboxes to tell stories and to take the listener on a journey. I gravitated toward dance music, because it has much those same qualities.

Much like free jazz, experimental, or “fusion” music of different types, I feel dance music performances have the power to re-write the vocabularies of genres. The vocabularies of House, Techno, Ambient, Trip Hop, Jungle, Drum & Bass, Dubstep, Glitch, IDM, Industrial, and Hardcore were made by people to render that section of the musical universe knowable and understandable. These genre are not mythical giants in far away dark mountains. We do not need to make offerings before the genre gods. Genre’s are false idols. They are sets of rules and norms we forgot we created to streamline listening and creating. Dance music performers that recognize this are able to wield these vocabularies as a starting point for crafting their own voice. They see these vocabularies not as a box they have to fit themselves in, but as the blueprint for breaking down the box and fashioning their own house out of it.  In such instances, records and a mixer or a live P.A. set up become the instruments through which we advance our dance music culture and express what it means to be a living, breathing artist in Columbus.

I feel the live P.A. work of THE FALLEN (And FBK & Plural Individually) has attained this level of genre bending and subversion. When Plural & FBK started playing sets of fully improvised material about a year and half ago, I really did not know what to expect. I came to understand the only way to approach these performances was to expect the unexpected. Every time I saw them play live, all my preconceptions of what I thought would happen were broken. I was slapped across the head, knocked on my face, and then picked up again by the beat.  Little prepared me for when FBK used a clandestine recording of a friend discussing women earlier in the day as a perfect vocal sample to accompany a performance of dark, funky dance music (WHILE THE FRIEND WAS IN THE ROOM). I was also not ready to see Plural craft and unleash crystalline gems of pulsing, beeping techno in just a few moments; his creations materializing out of the ether as sophisticated pieces of some futuristic dance floor armory.

Fallen at blur

My favorite moment of seeing them live was when they played together at my BLUR show last November. For 45 minutes, they took us down a cascading staircase into the heart of the molten core of their sound universe. They poured over their instruments creating walls of sound that flowed out of the speakers as hot, molten magma. It was like we were watching them crafting their own tectonic plates of sound that would be used as the crust of a sound world upon which we would all stand. The old brick walls of that former factory space melted away, and we were left exposed in the cavernous expanse of sound; standing on the ground that had been crafting for us.  We truly were on some sort of frontier.

In this moment, THE FALLEN had subverted the rules of genre and created music that told a story rather than fulfilled a checklist. In this moment, THE FALLEN crafted their own code and shared it with us as a cipher to work through the morass of commodified sounds pushed on us everyday. In this moment, THE FALLEN found those mythical genre giants cowering together out in those dark mountains and told them that they have their own way of creating sound and won’t be needing their services any longer. In this moment, THE FALLEN set out on their own, without the comfort of the crowd, to burrow deeper into their own sound world to tweak the tectonic plates of a sound universe of their own making.

Luckily, they will be playing live again next Friday as THE FALLEN at Future Maudit at Cafe Burboun Street. You can get more details about that event HERE and read about one of the other performers Tyrant Manque in an interview I posted up last week HEREFor now, enjoy the interview I did with FBK & Plural, as they discuss broadly what lived improvised sound means to them and why they think it is important for people in our community to appreciate the Live P.A. performance.

Fallen

Interview:

Local Autonomy: Both of you have been playing live P.A. sets individually and together as The Fallen around the city for the last year and half. What is it about performing live that you both enjoy so much?

FBK: I always enjoyed playing live because of the serious disaster that can happen when everything doesn’t go as planned. There is a thrill that cannot be replaced when ANYTHING can happen. I’ve spent 25 years on stage now, and the randomness, fear, excitement and overwhelming joy cannot be replaced. DJing is similar for both me and James (only because we’re both risk takers whilst playing with records)…but playing live adds in so many elements that something can go wrong in a near instant.
If I knew that our live set would sound exactly a certain way, I don’t think I’d have any fun.

Plural: Performing live is fun because you have that element of disaster that could happen. You could loose sync or a piece of equipment could freeze up.(Just to name a few things that could go wrong) I have to say Kevin and I are quiet the risk takers even when we DJ. Everything relies on timing as well so we have to pay attention when things are going on because one mistake equals off time and a clashing of sounds we don’t want to hear. We don’t really practice much either which my shock some people, we go on pure feeling. So yes usually when you hear us and your like damn thats dope! We are right there thinking the same thing lol.

Local Autonomy: How does playing live differ from DJ’ing? Are there unique challenges and rewards that come with making stuff up on the fly?

FBK: When I play records (or CD, Mp3s, Edison Cylinders…whatever)…there’s far too often a knowledge that I have built over time-for instance, beatmatching as a skill is now like a base element. I know most of my music inside and out (only because I make it), my memory of tracks borders sometimes on obsession. I know while playing music for a crowd (pre-recorded music mind you) what is going to happen (though I pick my tracks at random, go into sets without any plan what so ever, and barely ever ‘organize’ my music…this keeps me interested in what I’m doing).
Live performances are more fun because…oddly, I do LESS planning for live shows than anything else. I love to create on-the-fly, working without a net on a tightrope…it’s an old analogy, but it works here. James and I rarely practice-we’ll talk about what equipment we’ll use, talk about routing, setup, things we’d like to hear…but we don’t usually do a ton of ‘run-through’ sessions or ‘practice because this one’s important’ (shit, they are ALL important!!!!)
Every show we do is different. The week or two before, I usually figure out what 3-6 preconceived things I’ll do…but I leave myself so much room for add-ons later. The last show we did @ Social room? We improvised the last hour or so…and it was the best part of the show!

Plural: Djing is different than Live because when your DJing you are not creating anything new, these are prerecorded tracks you are playing with and you are mixing them an a way to make it continuous. While as Live you are making the tracks right then and there tweaking and freaking the whole sound at your command. They are all new material that know one has heard yet until that moment.

Local Autonomy: How does playing together live as the fallen change the dynamic of your live performances from when you play solo?

FBK: James and I have some common ground, but we go about doing music rather differently…we both have parts of music production that we think one is better at in some way shape or form (actually, I take that back-I suck at most parts of this production thing…I’m the extra set of hands;)
Ok…seriously? If you mix a Plural track and an FBK track together-they tend to fill in the spaces that one leaves by itself. That’s the reason for The Fallen.

Plural: When we perform as The Fallen you are getting basically Plural and FBK just Meshed together our tracks fit so well together its weird, but it works.

Local Autonomy: There is a rich history of people playing live P.A. sets in dance music. Why do each of you think its important for people in our community to consider playing live themselves or appreciate those who do?

FBK: (Soapbox and rant time): For this crowd now, who are getting into this music mostly from being deluged by the glossy, polished giant marketing game called EDM (WHICH IS A TERM I FU#K!NG DESPISE)…There is a gap in the understanding of how this music not only came to be, but what the process of creating this music we love REALLY is. I have been asked several times about a DJ and his music…and many believe that we all just buy or steal music from somewhere and then bring out a computer and the computer does all the ‘hard work’ (unless there are records-then the DJ is ‘doing something’)…because many fans of this ‘new’ (old) form of music come from watching traditional instruments being played (rock, country, folk, what have you), there is a disconnect between what is REALLY happening with a DJ set, and what constitutes a LIVE PERFORMANCE.
Many have been tricked into believing that there is no difference, and that electronic music should be free (because the DJs and Producers don’t have to pay for the music, buy guitar strings or amplifiers, y’know…they just all have computers and the computer just creates what they want to play-because internet!)
Part of it is a sign of the times. Technology is FANTASTIC and it allows me to do things that I’d never be able to do when I had my old studio (which took up a 25 X 25 room and was filled with literally 1 mile of cable). My laptop has the ability to replicate all of that gear times two now with only two cables or so being needed.
I say all of that to explain this: A live performance should, and I say SHOULD, be an experience that isn’t pre-recorded, pre-determined or just mailed in by someone who spends the entire set looking at his computer and simultaneously checking their Facebook account. The crowd should be able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the process, warts and all. This to me means allowing for mistakes. I believe that so many people now hear live performance and expect that they’ll hear something akin to everything they’ve heard before, performed by someone else. That’s not what you’ll get with FBK, Plural or The Fallen. If we don’t know ‘exactly’ what it’s going to sound like…you shouldn’t either.
Last point and I’ll end my rant…To all the crowds and fans of dance music in Columbus-IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT-DEMAND DIFFERENT! If you keep showing up to the same event with the same 4 people each and every time, the promoter has no need to change what he’s doing. McDonald’s doesn’t change the Big Mac for this very same reason. If you continue to go out and hear the same music over and over, let the same rotation of DJs occur and do the very same thing-you’ll get no more than that. Comfort is BORING. SAFETY IS BORING. Adventure awaits…but you have to find the adventurous ones-VOTE WITH YOUR FEET AND YOUR WALLET. If you want bigger acts to come to town, PAY FOR THEM WHEN THEY COME! If you want different DJs to play, TAKE A RISK AND SPEND $5-10 on seeing something DIFFERENT!
Most of you reading this will pay $20 to go to a movie based on a TV show that you watched as a kid, or a rehashed version of a movie that was done a decade earlier….yet you’ll not spend even $5 to see a DJ or performer who comes from 3 hours away to play in our fine city. It wasn’t always like this-Many of the ‘old guard’ remember a time when there were events every weekend filled with local talent playing alongside international DJs and producers-some who are legendary now. It can happen, but the CROWD has to support it! If not, you’ll never see anything but locals on the stages, playing the same things you heard them play a month or a week before. SHAKE THINGS UP FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!!

Plural:Good question,There are people out there like ourselves who would rather be the reason people have music to play that just be the DJ whos playing these tracks. Lets face it anyone can DJ but not everyone has the creativity or the push to make tracks. So yes I think there should be a level of appreciation that should go out to the people that make records and mp3s.You know? Without the producers making the music there would be no DJ.

Local Autonomy: Thinking broadly to the history of music, do you see your live performances as connected to the work of improvising jazz, blues, noise, or rock musicians?

FBK: Live performances are a bridge to understanding that this music does NOT exist in a vacuum. Neither does DJing…but during a live show, everything you’re hearing isn’t something that you can just buy or download on an mp3-it’s something much more organic-and it’s happening in front of you! It’s like going to see a Jazz concert in this way: You may even know the song the band is playing, but every night it sounds different. Live performances should be the same way…they aren’t always-but for us? They are!
Many people speak ill of the Greatful Dead (because of their fans?)…As musicians, they were all very gifted and talented. Dance music producers broadly have some of the same talents as well…some are great drum programmers, some create great atmospheres with samples, some are great at composition and structure. Doing anything that is free-form is a nod to all styles of performed music…not just jazz, rock, blues or noise. Dance music (Disco) was played on instruments at one time by groups of people (like 16 people on one stage!)…every part of the performance was organic in this way..because each had an independent mind and could find new ways to express themselves. This tradition is still around even in the computer age-you just have to realize the computer is an instrument if used correctly-it’s not just a crutch.
Recently, both of us have been getting away from the computer and beginning to focus on ‘hardware’ or ‘things outside of the box’…and the results have been fantastic. We sound different and we’re even MORE engaged than we were before. There’s no one way. And doing a Live PA is far more interesting when you have several boxes to control…with two hands…we’re both going to be busy as hell on Sept. 27th…

Plural: My homie FBK said it all in his rant at the end of his interview.Thats just how we see it read it and learn.

THE FALLEN

Musuem

“If you can talk you can sing
If you can walk you can dance
I believe that rhythm and movement is natural in our bodies
Dance is a primal form of communciation and its very deeply rooted in us
Singing and dancing together is what binds a community together
It is a way of expressing joy, sorrow, and passion

It has been recorded since before the dawn of time
that spiritual leaders and healers were first dancers
And in many cases the dances of Africa are thousands of years old
And I pay homage to the ancestors and elders of this tradition
Traditionally certain dances were used specifically for healing body, mind, or spirit
These dances come from a people that did not separate spirituality from everyday life
African dances were performed for any significant event or rite of passage from birth to death”

“African Healing Dance” — At One Ft Atjazz from his Mix: “If You Can Walk, You Can Dance” (Make Sure To Click the Link Below and Listen While Reading For Best Results)

It was a cold, blustery afternoon a month or two ago when I first got to talk to Seth “Dedikate” Carter, one of the key people behind the forward-thinking Columbus dance and music force Musicality. Strangely, before I even met Dedikate in person, I thought he and I would get along.  I had been listening to his mixes and following the remnants of his Musicality events through pictures and stories. I was truly moved by his music-first approach and his desire to bring our community an event dedicated to giving us a safe space for listeners, dancers, and artists to explore the rhythm of life without pretense or hype.  As I learned more about him, it seemed that he and I walked along a similar path in life and I felt an intense desire to share his story and worldview with our community.

Musicality

I came to our lunch meeting with my regular blinders that were keyed into what I hoped to hear from Dedikate, but, as always, the universe had different plans for the conversation. I had hoped to learn about Dedikate’s historical story and how he has been able to quietly bring world-class talent to our city. Quickly though, the conversation turned away from Dedikate’s historical narrative and his accomplishments toward his spiritual approach to sound, energy, and the rhythm of life:  “I believe there is a spirit and energy in everything. That’s why the trees make noise with the wind blows, we have personalities, and you can hear somebody walking. I am trying to say that energy is just energy. All energy falls into a rhythm if you let it. That’s what makes music so beautiful. It’s an expression of energy.” As that conversation turned toward his deep passion for sharing beautiful, inspiring music with people in our community, it became expressly obvious that the story of Dedikate and Musicality isn’t one of individual striving or accomplishment. The story is explicitly about erecting a Church Of Soul in our city that inspires people to think positively, embrace the person next to them, and keep on walking confidently in the direction of their dreams. Its a story that cuts to the heart of the ideas, values, and morals that we all share in our common endeavors. It cuts to the heart of our Collective Soul.

spoonful

Dedikate’s message has resounded within my daily life to the extent now that I see the Soul of our community and the music everywhere. Looking back on all the people who I have interacted with in our community,  I see the Soul seeping out of every action we have undertaken to share music and collaborate on common events.  From exploring new venues and sounds to reaching out to new audiences, I see Soul. From the creation of flyers and events to the production of music and mixes, I see Soul. From the desire to break out of formulaic rules and the drive to write those rules anew, I see Soul. Through this collective soul we all share, I see the good will, passion, and pure desire of people in our city to connect to and create something bigger than themselves.

Viewed within Dedikate’s powerful perspective, Soul becomes more than just a word. Soul becomes more than just a genre of music. It becomes a philosophy, a way of life, an animating energy of rhythm:  Soul. That immovable force. That power that flows through us and around us and is expressed in our movements. Soul. That unexplainable interconnectedness. That common frequency we all vibrate to on this solar powered jukebox. Soul. That most divine inspiration. That revealer of the path to your dreams. Soul. What we all share. What we all strive to find in our lives. Soul. Meaning. Found right in the place you least expected it. In your next step, word, or thought.

Poster

We are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to directly experience an event curated by Dedikate tonight (Friday, May 31st) at Double Happiness (482 S. Front Street, Columbus, OH) when he spins with Trueskills, DJ Nimbus, & Malik Alston with live percussion accompaniment from Craig Huckaby. (EVENT DETAILS CLICK HERE) Make sure to check out the sounds of this wonderful musician and get in touch more deeply with this monthly event. Until then, check out his interview to step deeper into his world:

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

Dedikate: That is a deep question. My life fits in a rhythm to begin with; it’s always been that way, even before I started dancing. You can ask anyone who is close to me and they will tell you that music is involved in anything I do. I don’t even have a television in my house. The minute I come home I start playing music or searching for music or whatever. That is in the physical world, meaning what I see and hear outside of myself. Inside my mind I find myself constantly playing a song (loud) in my head regardless if it is one I have just made up or someone else’s.  My wife tells people the strands of my DNA are made up of musical notes, lol.

A lot of it has to do with my spiritual background. I believe there is a spirit and energy in everything. That’s why the trees make noise with the wind blows, we have personalities, and you can hear somebody walking. I am trying to say that energy is just energy. All energy falls into a rhythm if you let it. That’s what makes music so beautiful. It’s an expression of energy. It’s even better when it’s live and there are four members, for example. Then that makes four elements of energy. The best thing is that we have learned how to record that and replay it over and over again. Because music will say things differently to you over time, depending on where you are at in your life. That’s the best part about it. It’s a way of being able to express to the world what is happening in the moment of now.

dj

LA: We spoke about our common love of the very diverse sounds of Motor City Soul. What is this music and what does it mean to you?

D: Detroit in itself has its own rhythm. I feel like there is just an essence (soul) of the city itself. Also, the music history, in all its genres has been so thick. If you are a native, it’s impossible for that not to have an effect on you. I know people from Detroit who aren’t even musicians and know the same information about music that I do. It is just part of life out there. That’s why I always love learning new stuff that comes out of there. A lot of time I really try to not judge it or classify it as a genre because there is something new coming out there all the time, its just music.

Virtually everyone that has made music in that City has inspired me in some way or another. Aretha Franklin, Jeff Mills, Moodymann, Al Hudson, Donald Byrd, Iggy Pop, Dennis Coffee, Rick Wilhite, Theo Parrish, Marcellus Pittman, Mike and Craig Huckaby, Dilla, Royce, Andres, Kevin Saunderson, David Ruffin, to name a few. That’s not even the half when you consider the people that came through there to record on Motown, Ashford, Birdie, Submerge, Metroplex, Tamla, Sound Signature, Mahogani, Temple, Tribe, Transmat, etc. The craziest part about Detroit is that even after all I’ve mentioned, it still doesn’t scratch the surface of all of the music that has come out of there. I really have a humbling gratitude for that place when I play there.

LA: You came to house, techno, etc. by way of hip-hop and bboying. Walk me through the process of what got you into (for lack of a better term) dance music genres.

D: Well, I have always listened to electronic music. I started going to ELEmental parties when I was 14. They were a group of people that pushed the boundaries for music in Columbus. They threw awesome parties and got people together in the name of music. I grew up going to those parties and I also followed rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish from state to state for years. I learned a lot about all types of music from that experience alone.

Breaking

I started listening to hip-hop when I was about six years old. Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Beastie Boys, Run DMC and later on Ice T, BDP, Slick Rick, etc. Hip Hop always remained a constant in my life all throughout my endeavors and I started attempting to bboy in 1996 but never took it seriously until 1999. I’ve pretty much been dancing ever since. Give or take injuries here and there. Through that I learned several other types of dance like house, salsa and freestyle. I would just go to the club and dance forever. During that process I would dig for all the music I heard at bboy jams or house clubs, etc. I travelled a lot so I was always hearing what was brand new and during the time there was a lot of stuff coming out. I would dig in whatever way I could, whether I was at the record store, online, through people and mixtapes, record shows, flea markets, etc. Just to be able to find that music, and when I began taking djing seriously around 2005, everything just fell into place. I began djing bboy battles and people liked what I played so I decided to get more involved and do it somewhat professionally for some time.

Dancing

LA: What does the art of DJing and music production mean to you?

D: Djing to me is like telling a story or giving a description of your experiences in life. All of the music I play I have found a deep personal connection with and I want to share that with the listener. I approach djing also from the standpoint of educating the listener as well. A lot of music was never made popular due to many reasons like poor advertisement, lack of financial backing, etc. A lot of times those artists were truly gifted and had a lot to give to the world. I believe people deserve a chance to hear that. I dig for records to be able to share that music with other people.

Records

I am still trying to find my sound with music production. I also haven’t been able to fully set up my studio as well and it’s killing me. I think music is a universal language and if you come at it with an honest approach, people will relate to you. It has to happen freely, otherwise it doesn’t come out honest, and frankly I haven’t had the time to commit to it, although I plan to a lot in the future. I also think using actual instruments is essential. There is something about how you approach an instrument in the first place that makes your sound unique to you and you only. I have a few instruments I can play mediocrely like a bass, piano, conga, and harmonica. When I get my studio situated I definitely plan on giving a piece of myself to the world, musically.

LA: Your Musicality project has really pushed a Music first approach to shows in our town and has been hosting some of the best talent from around the Midwest–Gerald Mitchell, Rahaan, Terrance Parker, and Rick Wilhite. What is the philosophy behind the project?

D: My goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for everyone to be able to relax and come experience music they may have never heard before. It is very centered in dancing because of my background, but if you come its not a requirement to dance. I really just wanted to create a night that people know that will be a solid stream of feel good music. Music that is undeniably good and expose people to it in a way that is not too “in your face”. My goal isn’t even to make money off of the night, its more so to be able to bring people here that would normally never come and play in Columbus on a regular tour. So far it has really worked out and I have a lot of surprises in store. I plan on throwing special events with some fairly big names in the future. I also would like to expand and bring more people from Ohio in general to my nights. It’s always a good time and I have gotten a lot of good feedback from people. Im definitely not going anywhere and plan on throwing larger events in the future! Hope to see everyone out. 

Check out the rest of Dedikate’s extensive mix back catalogue at his Mixcloudfollow Musicality Columbus on Facebook for updates on their next shows, check out their websiteAND go to Musicality tonight!

In the moment

Dezi Magby, aka DJ Psycho, is a prolific DJ and producer from Flint, MI. He has been honing his craft  ever since he was 11 years old and picked up the turntable as his instrument of choice and started wielding records like sonic weapons. He is affiliated with the all-important Detroit Techno Militia, which has helped carry the banner of Techno music for that city and for all of North America for some time. He is a part of a new collective of artists called Convergent, which focus on sound production and DJing that pushes the boundaries of arbitrary music rules. They also just found out that their releases will be distributed by Underground Resistance/Submerge. Even with this techno pedigree, he is not one that can be so easily put in a box labeled “techno” and placed to gather dust in this genre classification in your brain. He spins EVERYTHING. I do not exaggerate here. In my short time immersing myself in this form of music, he finds connections in beat and sound that I have heard few people even consider. Take this recent mix he put together called “Scenes From The Closed Doors”:

Or take his appearance on Detroit’s Fox2 where he found an innovative new way to introduce people to his sound through the use of the Charlie Brown Theme Song and another very interesting track I will let you hear for yourself:

His sets for dance floors are no different. One listen to his extensive set of mixes on his mixcloud demonstrates he is adept at taking the listener back to a place where disco, house,  jungle, techno, and Drum & Bass were all part of the same musical language not distinct, unrecognizable vernaculars.   Listen to those mixes HERE. ]

Nebula

Entering DJ Psycho’s world of sound is like stepping into an interplanetary portal and being thrown at light speed into an alternate dimension. A dimension that looks, smells, tastes, and feels like the world we are so accustomed to, but where the development of music took a left instead of a right turn. One might say going left wouldn’t have made much a difference than going right, but in DJ Psycho’s universe the result was dramatic. Gone is narrow minded listening according to the limiting rules of genre classification and the hype machine. Gone is defining oneself according to arbitrary definitions of “the cool” created to push product. Gone is that empty motivation of self-aggrandizement and party culture. What remains is the pursuit of art. The pursuit of self-expression and finding ways to link the power of the music in vast interconnected networks via the turntable device. What remains is Soul; that irresistible force that propels us to Live, Create, and “Point Ourselves in the Direction of Our Dreams”. Seems to me that going left is the only way any of us make it out of this existence with any sort of experience of really getting in touch with the human condition.

Flyer

Luckily, this saturday (May 11) you got a chance to take that left hand turn and enter this alternate universe for yourself with a night of sound curated by Squared. Dezi will be playing alongside like-minded local musicians: The Fallen, Lower Frequency, and Beckett. As excited as I am to see Magby spin live, I am equally excited to see how this night of music unfolds with our local support. I am a huge fan of the live PA sets of The Fallen (We are talking creating music on the spot here and not just spinning), the smooth roller coaster ride of Lower Frequency, and the downtempo sounds of Beckett. All the fun starts at 9 pm at Victory’s and there is no cover. Event Details HERE. In the mean time check out the interview with Dezi below to learn more about his art and approach to music:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?
Dezi: I was taught at an early age that everything around U influences U. Good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant. The oddest things influence me. Watching Looney Tunes. Talking 2 my kids. The news. It all has 2 go somewhere…and it locks its way in 2 my subconscious until it gets pulled out 4 some reason or another. Luckily, I keep my headphones on most of the time, so the thing that gets me going the most is what’s in them. I try 2 take in as much as I can in the course of a day and most times at night, because U never know when something will strike U. I’ve woken out of a cold sleep and made things. Still do.

LA: 2.) It took a lot of courage to end the Irrational outfit and start Convergent. What drove you to start a crew that was more like a family?
D: Irrational HAD 2 end. It had no choice. It reached the end of its course by not having a course 2 begin with. The ideas were there, but there was something holding it back. I kinda had this personal dustup over the winter, and when things like that happen, U naturally want 2 take a different course in life just 2 keep U from going insane. I decided at that point 2 ‘dead’ Irrational, since its purpose was muddy anyway, and true irrationality is just an ugly thing 2 witness, and I didn’t want that connotation anymore with what I was doing creatively. Luckily, as the lineup goes, it was already there. Nano Too Hype has been one of my best friends 4 over 15 years. I’ve had his back since he was 17, and I always accepted him 4 being him. Ryan Start and I are as close as it gets. Our philosophies are in sync. We’re both Geminis – he’s a G II, I’m a G III – so there’s an understanding that goes beyond just simple friendship. Dustin Alexander aka Dayda….he and I have been friends forever as well. We like a lot of the same forward thinking music. Kevin’s my best friend on the planet – we have a 26 year history of bashing clubs 2gether on a cerebral level. Me and Kevin bought records from Jeffrey Woodward when we met in ’87, and Jeff was also the first person I heard play house music in my city – outside of me. It goes on and on throughout the entire lineup. All of us have some sort of long LOYAL history 2gether….so when the idea of putting Convergent 2gether came around, the family unit was the BIG thing that I wanted 2 put forth. The name was thought up by family, voted on by family and perpetuated by family. That’s the key. No one man can take on this all alone. Your team is everything. The name says it all. Convergent. All of us individuals coming 2gether and making something that represents our relationship 2 each other.
What’s beautiful about Convergent is that I don’t dare hold any of the members back from doing whatever they want 2 do – any avenue they wanna explore, I say “go 4 it”. Learn something, get good at it. That just means that the next time we come 2gether, no one is afraid 2 say “I got this” or “I think so-and-so has a hot record” or “I think I wanna put this out”. Our lack of fear combined with our respect of each other makes us all better as musicians and DJs and FRIENDS in the long run….and that’s what it should be about anyway, right?

LA: I loved hearing you share some of your philosophy on music creation and group building when you said at the end of a recent interview: “Forward motion. Don’t settle. Try Anything and Everything.” How does this open-minded, present moment centered approach influence your music?
D: If U take a look at my record collection, U realize that I have very few limits on things. I think of music as a gift, regardless of the source. I get as much feeling from a Public Enemy record as I do a Billy Squier record, or a P-Funk record, or a YMO record, or whatever. People take 2 much time worrying about genres and where things are supposed 2 fit and categories and all that dumb stuff. I don’t have time 4 that. When I go 2 a record store, I’m all through the room. My friend Herm that runs Vertigo Music in Grand Rapids, MI kinda makes a game of what ends up in my pile at the end of my trip. Most times, he is flat surprised. Other times, he’s like “I expected 2 see U pick that up.” That’s my philosophy. That’s what makes me tick. If I stayed in one lane, the people who know me best would think I was sick or something.

LA: I loved working through your back mix catalogue. Everytime I thought, “Oh, I get Dezi.” I was thrown a curve ball and you were spinning late 70s prog rock or you would throw in some disco, D N’ B, etc. How do you fit all these musical pieces together into a mosaic? Where do you see the connections?
D: Musically, everything has a pulse….the trick is 2 find it and make it relate 2 U. My influences are so freakin’ scattershot that writing it down kinda confuses even me. U never think of an inner city Black kid with a good set knowledge on The Beatles or Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren….or could talk 2 U about bands like Strapping Young Lad or Santo and Johnny or what have U. All of those things have a pulse that I can relate 2. I’ve always worked on the theory that the only thing that separates good music from working 2gether perfectly is BPM.

LA: Finally, what are some of the place, moments, people, or practices that inspire you to create?
D: I wish I could say that there was an individual time or place. It’s more like this running series of events. Seeing P-Funk at the height of their musical powers at age 9 at the IMA Sports Arena. Seeing Prince as many times as I have (16 and counting). Again…the cartoons. U have NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO idea how much Looney Tunes inspires me. It’s the whole warped sense of humour that I believe that people have lost touch with, especially in electronic music. The history of that music is so vast and so deep, yet people are happy 2 put them in their little categories, shut off their minds and pay attention only 2 that point in time. I have pre-dubstep records in my bedroom that the hardest anti-dubstep dude would lose his mind over. I can pull out Underground Resistance records that would make the nearest electrohouse fan drop a load of bricks in her pants. It’s all relative…and people need 2 see that. Maybe I’m the bridge. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I’m the furthest thing from being done.
As far as people, my family comes first. My moms, she was all blues, old Stax and Hot Wax stuff, Sam Cooke, Motown and Atlantic sides, James Cleveland…music that spoke 2 the soul. My dad….man!! His taste was wide. Doo-wop, early rock and roll, anything funky, anything DETROIT, fusion jazz. He would bring back records and tapes from his friends at the shop all the time. He introduced me 2 Chicago “IX”, Bonnie Raitt’s first 2 albums and Stevie’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” in the same day. He and I discovered a lot of stuff 2gether – Frampton, Pablo Cruise, Steely Dan. My uncles gifted me with deep jazz, all the funk stuff that was coming out of Atlanta and Florida, Heatwave, Brothers Johnson. My brother and me were all about Funkadelic and Parliament and Kiss and stuff like that. Both parents sung in the choir, as did I and my siblings. I hated my own singing, so I picked up instruments. Of course mom and dad indulged me there. Drum sets, guitars, build-it-yourself keyboards. I got records 4 Christmas all the time. I didn’t care much 4 anything else anyway. The trips 2 my grandparents were big. Dad would flip the radio and keep driving. That brought me pop and rock. My cousin Jessie in Detroit put me on 2 the B-52s and whatever crazy stuff Mojo was playing. My aunt’s now ex-husband was a cabaret DJ in Pontiac, so whatever was hot, I was on be4 my classmates. He gave me lots and lots of records. Ugh. That’s only the first 10 years of my life….
I could go on forever, really, but again, it’s the whole thing about everything U hear, good or bad, or from whatever source U get it from, there’s an effect…and if U look close enough, there’s a tie. There’s a funk in early Andrews Sisters records that’s as hard as any James Brown jawn or in any of DJ Premier’s scratches. The middle finger that’s strong in Dead Kennedys records is united in spirit with Johnny Cash’s Sun Records output. I see as much syncopation in a Derrick May record as I do listening 2 George Shearing’s piano solos….and if U are listening 2 Kraftwerk and don’t hear Parliament’s playfulness, U gotta listen harder and looser, man. The uniting point of all of this great music is right there.

live

Sam Harmon, aka glacial23, is a electronic music producer, instrument builder, noise explorer, record label head honcho, etc. from that sprawling settlement on the southern reaches of Lake Erie, Cleveland. I have not delved much into the people and sounds coming from this city, but I have been continually impressed by the quality of the events and forward-thinking folks that are up there. Whether it is the spiritual melodicism of Forest Management, the open format deconstructionism of TEXTBEAK, my favorite record store Experimedia (run by the amazing sound artist Jeremy Bible), or the 500 other amazing folks and venues up there (That radio station up at Oberlin seems to just churn out amazing events). Like his contemporaries, Harmon has pushed his own singular music vision and has explored the beats, sounds, and musical ideas that interest him most by splicing together elements of noise, house, techno into his productions. However, he is more than just a musician. He also runs a label called Glacial Communications releasing his own and other artists work digitally and in limited run special format releases that would interest any collector of hand made physical releases.

Acetic

I have been following the work of glacial23, ever since his amazing release Acetic in March of last year (Which is available for free for a limited time right now on his Glacial Communications Bandcamp). On that release, he deployed a menagerie of drum machines, synths, and other hardware to explore the sounds of acid. Yet, these experiments weren’t necessarily your run of the mill “acid trax”. His tracks on Acetic took you down the dark, claustrophobic hallways of our existence with the sort of menacing sounds you would envision accompanying a film rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.” The type of sounds that bring to life the sonic environment of the labyrinths that we all navigate in our complex, bureaucratic societies where we are at the whim of authorities and rules we vaguely know and never consented to. I feel this is perfectly captured in “The End Track” where you seem to be penned in on all sides by the methodical machinations of the drum machine and synth, as it chugs on and on creating a whole world before your ears.

Prior to listen to this release, I had only really connected elements of the acid sound with the club tracks of the 1990s acid house. On Acetic, glacial23 still retained some of the dance floor sensibility, but also brought in his penchant for damaged/deconstructed techno/experimental music. I guess thats what drew me to his sound, as he finds much creative fodder by playing sets of formulaic “genre” rules up against one another. Though not as abrasive in his embracing of deconstruction as say Pete Swanson’s recent work, glacial23 brings in just amount of the “damaged” sound and the dance sensibility to bring us to a new place with these sort of acid sounds. This is directly evident in his track “Sense” from the 9/09 EP where he utilizes these sort of crystalline sounds that  jut up against and fight for attention with the infectious acid melody he plays over the top of the track:

His two most recent releases, a compilation of noise-influence techno “Four on the Noise Floor” and “Chute”, explore similar territory and showcase the work of contemporaries up in Cleveland that orbit in similar musical territory. Such work highlights not only Harmon’s approach, but the vibrant creators he is surrounded by in Cleveland.

glacial23 was nice enough to answer some questions for me in advance of his performance at Frequency Friday this Friday, May 3 at Wild Goose Creative. He will be performing alongside Yanktronics, Jazz improv group Brett Burleson/Ryan Jewell/Aaron Quinn, and Sam Hoar. Should be a burner. Event details can be found by clicking HERE.

Interview:

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

glacial23: It’s pretty important. I’ve probably been fascinated by sound as long as I can remember, and interested in finding ways to reproduce what I hear, whether exactly through sampling, or in some kind of approximative way through synthesis.

set upLA: How did you get into making music and building your own instruments? Did one come before the other?

g: In school I played trumpet and euphonium from 5th-9th grade. By the time I got to college in 1993 I had a definite interest in electronic music, and had a friend in my freshman dorm who had a “real” synthesizer (a DX7) and drum machine he let me borrow for a little while. By the summer of 1995 I had started acquiring my first couple of pieces of gear- a Yamaha DX27, Realistic MG-1 (the so-called “Radio Shack Moog”, which I still own), and a Roland TR505 drum machine.

Building instruments happened a little later and followed a convoluted path- I tried building a little mixer in high school, but really had no idea what I was doing at the time and it didn’t work. After I had taken a real circuits class I decided I’d try my hand at putting some kits together. The first was a little bass drum synth called the ADV-Bass in 1998. By some miracle it worked correctly on the first try, so I got cocky and bought a couple more – a snare drum synth and a MIDI-CV converter. The snare synth never worked very well, and the MIDI-CV converter didn’t work at all (I finally fixed that a couple of years ago!). Frustrated by these second attempts, I put DIY gear on the backburner except for some very small projects (modding a morse code practice oscillator into a light theremin, for example)

At some point in the 2000s I received a Theremin kit as a gift which I eventually got working, and then in late 2006 I first read about this wondrous-looking microcontroller board called the Arduino(via this article: http://todbot.com/blog/spookyarduino/). By 2008 I knew enough of this electronics stuff to give introductory talks on it at the Notacon and Penguicon conferences. At Notacon that year, I met Pete Edwards (a well-known circuit bender and synth-DIY guy) who provided encouragement and chided me to up my game when he saw the terrible soldering iron I was using at the time.

Also in the summer of 2008, Bob Drake (aka Fluxmonkey, who has been doing this kind of stuff far longer than I have) did a summer workshop on building simple electronic music devices (you can find notes from those at http://fluxplayshop.blogspot.com and http://fluxmonkey.com/electronoize/). Some of the output from that workshop led to Ryan Kuehn offering to put out what became “DIY Volume I” on his label (Everyone Else Has A Record Label, So Why Can’t I?). I decided that the premise of that album should be a release where every instrument used would be either built, modified or repaired by me in order to be used (the “repaired” clause allowed for use of the MG-1 and my 4-track cassette recorder for multitracking), so I had to build the equipment I needed to make the sounds I wanted.

LA: When did you start Glacial Communications? Were you releasing music before this?

g: The label officially started around 2002. Before that I had put out a few things with The Button, a band/collective that had emerged out the radio show I did on WRUW from 1997-2010. Our first CDR came out in 1998- that group was more of the Negativland/ECC sample-heavy collage variety, so I decided to start my own little imprint for my solo synth-oriented material.

My earliest unreleased (or barely released- some were on mp3.com for a while but are now not online) date from late 1995/early 1996. At some point I’ll probably reissue some of them.

doodling

LA: Being an engineer and a musician, What does it mean to you to be able to make music on instruments you have built yourself?

g: Initially, some of the reason was cost- I wanted synths capable of certain things, but the commercial version was prohibitively expensive, and after trying software synths for a while(I really did!) those interfaces weren’t what I was looking for. DIY just seemed like the right way to go. It also provided me with a reason to use some of the hardware end of the Computer Engineering degree I have.

Nowadays, my day job doesn’t allow me to write code or things like that as much I’d like, so some of that creative urge to build has to come out in other ways such as building synths or working on projects at the hackerspace.

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LA: I was drawn to your work, because it trudges across the terrain of noise, experimental, and more traditional dance forms (like acid) and shows how they are all connected. What has prompted you to explore the interconnections between these music forms people often try to separate?

g: That’s been a weird journey. Some of that has come from being influenced by the intersection of the “industrial dance” scene and the techno scene of the early 90s, and by my own research into the history of what came before those (i.e. learning about the industrial scene of the 1970s, or the history of techno & house in the 1980s)

I started off making sort of off-kilter techno & industrial, as that was what I wanted to make and was sort of dictated by the gear I could afford at the time.

Since I was friends with a lot of people in the Cleveland experimental/noise scene, I decided I’d give “the noise thing” a try for a little while and put the more straight-ahead dance stuff on the backburner- so I’d be doing things like playing a x0xb0x (TB-303 clone) and modular synth together in an odd way- sort of acid house without beats. In November of 2010 I went to see Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo at a house show here, and was utterly blown away by Laurel Halo’s performance, which was straight-ahead techno, and the crowd seemed to at least be digging it a little bit. I had a show of my own a week or so later on a noise night at the now-gone Bela Dubby and whatever I had been planning wasn’t working in my head, so I decided to try adding the drums back in. It got kind of a mixed response at the time, but it did lead to my getting suggested to open for a huge show at the Grog Shop a few months later.

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LA: You, like myself, have been an Ohioan for some time and have picked through many of the same bins in record stores I now go through, gone to the same venues, etc.. I am incredibly inspired by our state. Does the landscape, architecture, and terrain of Cleveland and Ohio more broadly influence your work? How?

g:  I’ve been a lifelong Ohioan- the first half or so in greater Columbus, and then I came to Cleveland for college and liked it here enough to stay.

There are definitely some Cleveland landmarks I consider influential- some of the interesting terrain you pass by when taking the RTA trains, the Sidaway Avenue suspension footbridge (it’s been closed since the 60s, but you can still see it as you’re driving down Kinsman), the area underneath the Detroit-Superior bridge where the Ingenuity Festival was held for a couple of years, and certainly some of the terrain just on either side of the Cuyahoga River- the so-called “Industrial Flats”. There is something about the look of decayed infrastructure- not necessarily the “ruin porn” you see in stories about Detroit, but more of a mild unkemptness with just a little rust on the girders.

 

Glacial Communications & glacial23 on the Web:

Glacial Communications Facebook

Glacial Communications Bandcamp

Glacial Communications Website

glacial23 Soundcloud

I have been getting a great response from a lot of people around the scene from my posts concerning what’s going on in the scene today. All I can say is thanks. Thanks for doing what you do, so we can all have a community and I can help tell stories. This project does not exist without the energy expended by all of you in our community.

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Today, I am continuing these contemporary community-centered posts by shedding some light on the past and present of Mister Shifter. Mister Shifter is an artist that cut his teeth in our scene in the 1990s when the underground and club scene was thriving. He is an accomplished DJ and producer whom made up half of the critically acclaimed Drum and Bass duo Random Movement. Listening to the Random Movement back catalogue, one is catapulted back to the late 90s and early 2000s when the D & B sound was at the cutting edge of dance music and Mister Shifter himself was a key contributor (alongside Mike Richards) to pushing these new bass sounds in our city and abroad. Not only does his story help detail some of the back history of bass music in our city, but also provides a lesson on how an artist changes over time. Over the last few years, Mister Shifter has adopted an open format approach to sound, which has enabled him to continually change up and incorporate new styles and sounds into his sets. This has proved incredibly useful for him, as he has been able to reinvigorate his love of DJ’ing even as he grew bored of past sounds he immersed himself in so heavily. For me, it also makes for better art, as Mister Shifter is able to draw on diverse musical influences to craft soundscapes for dance floors that aren’t pigeonholed to any one tempo or mood.

mowgli Sheets

Mister Shifter will be playing a free show this Friday, February 22nd at Victory’s Live hosted by Squared headman Scott Litch (Event Details Here). Squared has been one of the gold standards of Columbus dance music for over ten years, as Litch has continually tried to innovate conceptually and graphically to push Columbus dance music to the next level. Within the last year, he has brought in new resident DJs to his Future Fridays event like Lower Frequency, Kevin Parrish, Tony Fairchild, and others and collaborated extensively with Quality, Run614, and Push Productions. Together these actions have increased the cohesiveness of our scene and provided artists in our scene a platform to play sounds not often heard. The show this friday is no different. Scott has carefully curated a stellar line up of artists like Mowgli, Mister Shifter, Ill Atmospherics, Lights Out!, and Doctah X that have expertise across the spectrum of bass sounds from Drum & Bass to Dub. In order to get you ready for that show, I provide for you a broad ranging interview with Mister Shifter that delves into his love of music, his time with Random Movement, and what he is up to now.

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

Mister Shifer: It may sound cliché, but I’ve been a music junkie since I was a young child. Ever since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with music. I feel honored to have grown up in momentous times like the golden era of hip-hop, and the grunge movement of rock, even the 80’s (for better or worse). Being engaged and in love with music during those times of my youth really helped shape my life, and how much I appreciate music.

I’ve always enjoyed sharing music that I love with friends, from making mixtapes before there were CD’s or MP3’s, to modern day methods . Eventually becoming a DJ was a very logical progression, and that desire to share music with others has always been the driving force. DJ’ing, for me, was never about ego or because it was a cool thing to do, it was always about sharing what I loved. There’s almost no better feeling than playing the music that I’m passionate about, for tens, hundreds or thousands of people at at time, and watching them experience the same joy that it brought me. It’s a really amazing feeling that makes me never want to stop doing it.

LA: How did you get into dance music? Was Drum & Bass your first love, or did you get into later?

MS: In the early nineties I really started to gravitate towards the hardcore-breakbeat stuff that was emerging out of the UK. Artists like 2 Bad Mice, Underworld, Omni Trio, and Hyper On Experience loosened the grip that hip-hop, industrial, and some other genres had on me at the time.

Soon after, I was full-on obsessed and going to clubs and raves every single weekend, experiencing the full gamut of electronic music at the time. I think most importantly I have the ele_mental guys to thank for exposing me to such quality music, from their core artists, to the amazing local and international artists that they were bringing into Columbus on a regular basis. I’m eternally grateful for people like Ed Luna & Titonton.

Oddly enough, I didn’t gravitate towards drum & bass right off the bat, and primarily favored techno & house music for quite some time. That all changed, and I’ll never forget when drum & bass just “clicked” for me. I was at a rave at the Valley Dale Ballroom in 1997, and Titonton was playing a drum & bass set in the main area. Grooverider’s remix of ‘Share The Fall’ came on and it honestly turned my entire world upside down.

1997 was a pivotal year for drum & bass, so in my mind it’s easy to see how I got taken so hard by it. Artists such as Ed Rush & Optical, Dillinja, Photek and Adam F were putting out some of the best music the genre has seen to this day. Drum & Bass was taking the electronic music scene by storm, and I surely got pulled into the frenzy.

In a way I guess I could consider drum & bass my “first love” as I’d never been full-on consumed by any single type of music like that before. I soon bought my first set of turntables and a mixer, and started buying vinyl in massive amounts. I basically did nothing but practice DJ’ing in my spare time for the next few years.

LA: What were your experiences like in the late 1990s and early 2000s when you were DJing huge dance music events and pushing the Drum & Bass sound?

MS: I was a great experience to be a part of drum & bass in what I consider it’s golden age, the late 1990’s. Playing raves in warehouses before those type of events dried up is something that I’m so thankful to have been a part of.

Once everything started to move into the clubs in the early 2000’s I had made a bigger name for myself by getting into production. Getting signed to an iconic drum & bass label like Breakbeat Science was huge. That really opened doors for me, and allowed me to play some of the biggest drum & bass shows that would come through Columbus. It was a treat to play alongside some of my idols such as LTJ Bukem and Bad Company during those times.

LA: What prompted Mike Richards & yourself to start the Drum and Bass duo Random Movement?

MS: I managed the DJ department at Sam Ash Music Store a long time ago. One of my co-workers who I went to high school with used to have a friend that would visit often and blow my mind while toying around on the synths in the keyboard department. His name was Mike Richards, a classically-trained musician with a background in Jazz. He was somewhat unfamiliar with drum & bass and DJ culture at the time, but was very interested in knowing more. I basically fed him all of my favorite drum & bass tracks to get him initiated with certain artists and labels, and got him instantly hooked.

It didn’t take long before we started making tracks together and within about a year we had an offer from DJ Dara to release a 12″ on Breakbeat Science’s sister label Orgone Recordings. That single, “What a Woman” sold all of it’s pressings and got us out there in the international spotlight.

The success of that release gained us enough exposure to secure a release on Ireland’s Bassbin Recordings. That release contained our biggest hit to this day, “Stars in the Dark.”

Drum & Bass icon DJ Marky fell in love with “Stars in the Dark”, as he famously played the track three times in one set at The End nightclub in London. He later said he was extremely upset for not being able to sign the track to his own label, Innerground, but we worked out a deal and our next release came out on his label.

At the time, Bassbin and Innerground were two of the most popular drum & bass imprints in the world, and we were the first American artists to be signed to each of them. It was a huge accomplishment, and I’m still shocked and humbled by it.

LA: Its crazy to think that you were still releasing vinyl records with Random Movement in the mid 2000s when vinyl was arguably at its lowest popularity. Though vinyl releases have always been a benchmark for success for producers, What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl within the last 5 years?

MS: Yeah, at that time the vinyl market was declining pretty heavily with the emergence of CD decks and hardware like Final Scratch and Serato. Releasing tracks on respected labels were enormous accomplishments for us. At that time, releasing a 12″ was basically what you needed to do to earn the respect of your peers in the DJ community.

I’m not surprised that vinyl is still popular today, albeit more so amongst purists. There is nothing that compares to the warm sound and tactile feedback it provides. I prefer DJ’ing on vinyl wholeheartedly, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love taking advantage of some of the innovations that later came along, like Serato and Ableton Live.

I used to pull my back out lugging over a hundred records to each gig for years, and then all of a sudden I could show up to a venue with thousands of tracks to choose from, and instantly sort by artist or label. It made playing shows a lot of fun, especially since I never had set lists in mind, and would always read the crowd to figure out what songs to play next. Being able to pull out a classic from ’95 because it just felt right at the moment was really gratifying. It’s not surprising to me that the vinyl market took such a hit when these technologies became ubiquitous in the DJ community. That said, I’ll always treasure vinyl, as I loved the many years I played on it exclusively.

LA: Within the past few years you have transitioned into a more multi-genre DJ’ing approach. What led to that shift?

MS: I had always appreciated all styles of music. I would have loved to DJ other genres over the years, but during a large portion of my career DJ’s strictly used vinyl, and it would’ve cost me a fortune to buy enough wax to support that type of endeavor. I reached a point where I had honestly grown a bit tired of drum & bass. That scene was starting to crumble due to a lack of innovation, and tracks were becoming quite samey and cookie-cutter.

Around 2007 the dance rock scene was really starting to blow up. Labels like Ed Banger, and artists such as MSTRKRFT, Diplo, and Hot Chip were surging in popularity. I made a DJ mix called “Selections for Love Making” around that time which ended up getting a lot of buzz, and surprised a lot of my friends who knew me only as a drum & bass DJ. I started playing shows and had a blast enjoying the freedom of not being pigeonholed into one style of music. I loved dipping into techno, french house, 80’s… you name it. It was fun being able to pull from different genres, yet striving to keep a cohesive vibe during the course of the night.

Around that time, Squared and I started a dance rock night called “The Fix”, and soon after I became a resident DJ at places like Bristol Bar and Spice Bar. Things took off pretty fast, and before I knew it I was playing sold-out shows alongside heavyweights like MSTRKRFT, Benny Benassi, and Steve Aoki.

LA: What is next on tap for you musically?

MS: There’s nothing I love more than DJ’ing. I’ll continue to play shows as long as there are people on dance floors.

I just always try to keep an open mind musically, as my tastes tend to change over time. I’ve never tried to jump on any bandwagons, even though my identity as a DJ has altered over years. I like to keep up with what’s new and emerging, but still incorporate it with the sounds of the past. DJ sets only consisting of the top tracks of the moment tend to bore me, so I’m always looking to diversify.

If I like a new song that I hear, there’s a good chance I’ll try to somehow work it into a set. I’m currently enjoying a lot of the future garage/post-dubstep stuff that’s coming out of the UK at the moment, and I’m really starting to come back to drum & bass. I’m glad to see a lot of artists over the last few years break out of molds and experiment with different sounds and tempos. That’s surely what I’ll continue to do myself. You’ll rarely hear me play the same type of set twice, and I find that to be very exciting and rewarding.

See you on the dance floor.

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

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