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We can all see the patchwork of floorboards above our heads, as we carry on our lives outside and underneath of the mainsteam monoculture. Those rickety oak 2×4’s arrayed in a weathered blanket over our heads have become our only separation from that poisonous barrage of noise and inconsequential fears that so accompany life on the surface now. Used to be that we didn’t fear being on the surface at all, but that changed some time ago. The incessant ramblings of the decaying, post-industrial society obsessed with inconsequential simulation used to stay out on the edges of our community in Columbus. It was as if those sentient swarms of ideas, sounds, and desires were fearful of entering into a space in our city where its constituent knowledge had been rejected and left for dead. We did not have to hide as much then. The noise remained much like the white noise of electricity; a sort of comforting hum of harnessed power. On the fringes of the city, we did not see this cultural cloud unleash its power on the Columbus metropolitan area with its full force. We mistook that low hum as apprehension and fear when the cloud was just leaving our isolated space for later.

However, like all sentient beings in the age of speed, this swarm of commodified simulations used its intelligence and the vast information tools at its disposal to overrun the barricades of our community. No, it wasn’t the robots or artificial intelligence. It was the very culture we have created to entertain ourselves to death that overran our free zones and made commodities out of our every thought and mode of musical expression.  Its was an ugly swarm of noise and ideas. A yellow, spectral cloud that fed off our need to be visible and be heard. Like a jackal, it stalked across our bombed out backwater seeking the diffuse strivings of human emotion it needed to survive. Unable to move in the presence of this entity, we turned subterranean. We turned to the underground.

Sitting in the fractured light in a dirty, dark space, the sounds of this culture were no longer like white noise. They became a deafening drone of diffuse status updates. Never letting up, the wood ceiling above our heads shook with the information of the 24 hour cycle of self-expression. It was in this hopeless place that we found our remedy to the digital tidal wave. Seeking to clean out our new hallow, we came across a box of unknown records. The only information we had on the music was a strange, earthly iconography shown below, an email address for Labelless Records, and a statement that the label was based in Columbus, OH.

Labelless Logo

What was this unlabeled music from our community? Who was it from? How did it get here?  It was in those initial moments of curiosity that we learned the power of those records. We started to play the records on a tired tech 1200. The music gave us the power to drown out the noise of the information cycle and got us in touch with authentic artistic creation. The music helped us forget about the lost world above our tiny hollow. The music sent us messages about babylon and the promise of tomorrow. The music gave us the power to push back and fight for our space free of speed, noise, and fear. The music called itself jungle. IT WAS JUNGLE THAT CHANGED IT ALL.

Day and night, we played the records. We let the sounds that flowed from the needle of our old Tech 1200 wash over us. Finding a safe space outside of the droning monoculture, we were able to rest in the jungle. With each revolution, we grew more brave as the records sang directly into our hearts and minds. Pretty soon, we no longer felt the vibrations of the monoculture of the surface on the floorboard above. It was a special moment when we all placed our hands on the boards and didn’t feel the unique vibration signature of the spectral cloud. We had replaced it with a rhythm of our own–with the Jungle Rhythm. We found a way out of our nightmare, and wanted to reach out to the members of our Columbus community that helped deliver us from the menace of the cloud; the Labelless Records Crew.  We sent the labelless e-mail address a string of questions to learn more about the music they release in Columbus and its power for our community. Late one night, we received a powerful, inspiring transmission back from them. The answers taught us about jungle music, the labelless records ethos, and the power of vinyl. It spoke of the history of the label runners, their ties to the music, and its importance for Columbus.  I wanted to share this transmission in the hopes that these ideas too can help set you free from the speed, noise, and fear of the times we live in.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Labelless: Music is a big center for me personally. I have been spinning jungle/ dnb since 1998 and that has encompassed half of my life now. Before I got turntables at the age of 14, I had an Aleis drum machine, a Boss Dr. Groove sequencer, a bass guitar and some foot-pedal effects… I eventually sold all of that for turntables and was forever on the path into the “dj” culture, especially Hip Hop influenced breaks and jungle primarily… Turntablism was a huge impact on me as well, and scratching became a passion I perfected for myself, and continue to push myself with up into this day. Around 2005-2006, I bought an MPC 2500 and began producing again. I haven’t looked back since. Now I own two more samplers, synths etc and try all the time to learn new methods to produce breakbeat dominated tunes ranging from hiphop, triphop/downtempo, jungle, dnb, hardcore breaks etc…. Music is very much a part of me, as well as my lovely fiancee and label mate Jah Killin, who also touches down on the production tip and has been spinning jungle/dnb for a decade plus as well. We even try to get our kids interested. Music is a core to our structure as a family.

Local Autonomy: I cannot help but be attracted to the legacy and continued relevance of jungle. Why do you think jungle is still important?

Labelless: I feel jungle is important and holds such a legacy worldwide and historically in EDM culture, because it is one of the purest forms of old school, loop oriented music. By this I refer especially to the fact it encompasses all of the same exact breaks made famous in early hiphop culture. Jungle just double times them to be faster paced, so as to be geared towards the hardcore raver heads. Therefore, I feel jungle’s affinity to hiphop culture is nearly unparalleled from one sub-genre to another. Not only all the old soul, funk, and jazz breaks made famous by hiphop, but huge amounts of riddims and vocals made big by Dancehall, Reggae, Dub etc. all are just as much a part of jungle as all other elements (and not to mention ALL the countless samples from R&B and HipHop included that jungle works in so extraordinarily well). BUT- this does not stop here, nor does it hardly even begin to elaborate either… The core behind jungle in my mind is essentially old skool UK hardcore breakbeats. This sound is what eventually emerged into Happy Hardcore / Gabber and early jungle / dnb in the early 1990’s. Without those hyper, pitched-up, female vocal tracks, the hardcore techno synth lines, and mentazm stabs, then the earliest sound of Darkside / Darkcore jungle would of never emerged (or whatever names people have referred to the earliest jungle sounds to when it was still in its prototype phases).

All of these factors combines to form the legacy that is Jungle. Because all of these forms of music touched and molded so many different people globally. And years later when they hear it all mashed so seamlessly and sporadically perfect in the form of syncopated beats and bass that is the sound of jungle, they remember that feeling they felt from the original vibes. And so the snake eats itself and the circle continues. Jungle is the natural recycling unit of ALL music! Just like hiphop and house before it.

And this is not to say jungle is reliant on other songs, and doesn’t have its slew of great and original tunes out there. On the contrary however. Because, in my opinion ALL of the best jungle tunes are original creations not reliant on a riddim or hiphop loop; just a phat chopped up break and some vision, style and precision. It is an unstoppable force and a culture that I envision will forever be followed,for I believe it produces a frequency that elevates the mind.

Logo Graf

Local Autonomy: You recently started a record label called Labelless Records devoted to jungle. What does Labelless stand for and what is your vision for the label?

Labelless: When one thinks of labels, it automatically puts a containment on a concept. To me, the jungle sound and culture is something that can never be contained. its constantly expanding, evolving, and recreating itself, synonymous with the ever changing universe. As well, Labels in society cause nothing but segregation, and to me Jungle has always stood for a unification. Its one of the only Genres that call the people who represent themselves in the jungle culture as “Junglists”…for example, you dont see people who rep house music call themselves “housers”…or trance ,trancers…lol… but junglists transcend from a ‘certain sound’ into a way of thinking…. So, in a way, my concept of a music label for the coveted jungle sound and culture surpasses that of just a music ‘label’- but a statement that it needs no label– it grows wild and roughly unconfined just like the depths of any natural jungle…

Labelless doesn’t necessarily stand for anything in the literal sense; it’s not even a legitimate word to be honest. It is a name I have been thinking up for quite some years, and it just sounded very catchy as a label name so it stuck. And after Jah started making all her designs that were so phat, I def had to keep with the name! Because, I know I couldn’t do the caliber of artwork she does, and her designs and creative ideas were so sound and cohesive with the concept of the all jungle label I was envisioning, that the name Labelless just fit. The anonymity of the things I liked about jungle music were all present in her designs, and more things I hadn’t even thought about, that the word Labelless really fit that meaning for jungle music as a whole in my mind. Then, she just went with it and like 20 different designs just poured out of her photoshop files and I gave all creative control of the labels designs up to her. Now I just sort of look over them and give any general ideas I may think of at that time. So, really it all came together like Voltron or something.. Haha, my Wu-Tang joke.. But Labelless is ultimately designed as a label to help ANYONE who makes dope jungle beats get heard. If you make phat jungle tunes that deserve to be on wax, then I would def be interested to hear that music. So, if an artist were to be “label-less”, per say, in the terms that they had good jungle music with seemingly no outlet for it to be distributed, then I suppose that would serve as a good meaning for the word!

Local Autonomy: Though vinyl has enjoyed a little bit of a resurgence of late, it seems that so much of music sales have gone digital. Why did you want your releases only pressed on vinyl?

Labelless: Labelless is a means for all the dope producers of jungle music to get heard and to have their music documented in the proper format. To me that is vinyl format. Music, good music anyhow, should always be cataloged and saved on shelves like books are in a library. Musical history owes a lot to the vinyl record. So, I feel jungle should never go away from that format, as that was its birth format and what made it nostalgic and appealing to begin with.
Back in the day, a dj was a labels proper outlet for the music to be heard. And djs back in the day were not a dime a dozen like they are today. I feel the digital era really opened the door for just anyone to be a “dj” (and in return it now also seems that most “dj”s nowadays have never touched vinyl to mix it, thus not technically being a Disc Jockey as the term DJ states). Therefore, labels that once ran the industry go defunct. It’s a shame in my opinion, as I owe much of my youth and happiness to jungle / drum and bass music; vinyl especially. In light of all that had came before me, and the similar path I was beginning to tread, I wanted to do it right and proper like all the great jungle labels of the golden era, so I had to keep Labelless all vinyl and no digital. For if no real definitive reason but nostalgia and respect for my cultures roots. I don’t verge towards vinyl because I feel this “outdated” vibe about it nowadays is catchy, more so, because I feel the best sound quality to be heard is on a vinyl record. It cannot be duplicated in my opinion, and many music connoisseurs feel the same in regards to this. Of course formats like DAT, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and being heard straight from the source equipment are both formats that parallel, and even excel vinyl a bit in terms of sound quality and that warm, analog feel; yet, those formats are not accessible by everyone and quite expensive. Lastly, and most importantly for this question, I am just here doing this with Labelless to prove that vinyl is important for jungle, and all dance music for that matter. Even if it falls on deaf ears.

Local Autonomy:Your label has been going for some time now. What has the experience been like? Do you have any favorite moments?

Labelless: Wow. Great question. So many different experiences and answers to give. Where to begin? Firstly, being able to get into contact and personally meeting some of the artists featured has been an experience in itself. That to me is one of the most satisfying feelings. I realize everyone is a person just the same as anyone else, but to be understood and even feel akin to some of these guys, people I have personally looked up to on a musical front, is a feeling of self-assurance that what i am doing is being done correctly, and how it is expected to be done. To a big degree I am certain there is much to be learned still as is a trait with any business, yet I still feel that my concept and dream for this music is also the same feeling, even up to the dudes who really run this scene with the music they are making. A big experience that stemmed from these contacts with certain artists was a trip that Jah Killin and I took to Toronto to meet up with sixteenarmedjack/16AJ to celebrate he and I’s birthdays, and all 3 of us played a show as well. It was a really fun trip and he took us in as fam and cooked for us, and showed us a nice time altogether. Big up Odie, one love bro. 😉 Also a big shout out to all the artists I’ve met / talked with / become friends with along the way: Bay B Kane, Default, Dub-Liner, Nickynutz, Dj L.A.B. and Junglord all you guys are my homies for sure. More shouts to the boys of Tactical Aspect, Vinny (Pastaman) @ Satta, Warped Dynamics/ Beat Lab Recs., Vocoda, RickyForce, and all others that I have crossed paths or talked with.

Another moment that has stood out among it all is just before everything was produced onto vinyl I had contacted one of my favorite mastering engineers and made my order. A few days later he personally called my telephone and we had a talk for quite a bit and for me it was like meeting/ talking to a rock star to a degree. He said he was interested in the label and thought the direction and the music involved was quite intriguing to him as he has mastered for the jungle/dnb culture since it has been mastered for vinyl. Those were definitely words of encouragement for the momentum of the label. It has really shaped the way I will approach getting my music manufactured. I will never cut corners, and will always opt for the quality over the quantity philosophy. Especially in terms of mastering.

And to add to this phone call experiences as well, I literally today, was just called by the new engineer whom I am a HUGE fan of his jungle work he used to do in the early nineties under some of the guises such as Intense & Babylon Timewarp. His wife and he run the new mastering studio 1087, and both say they are really interested and happy to hear the music on Labelless I just had mastered there. They called me personally to talk over a few details as well as let me know what they thought etc of the label. It is a great feeling to be reached out to in such ways by people that one admires so much. So i had to let it be known how much of a HUGE fan of his I am. For all others looking for vinyl mastering needs 1087 is a great place to start your search.

More experiences definitely include all the support through bookings, record sales, distribution companies , and especially all the positive feedback from an otherwise unknown fan base. And for that we thank all those people immensely, as they are on a worldwide front, and that means a lot in terms of why Jah & I want to pursue this. In my opinion without the worldwide jungle massive’s approval, interest and support, then a meaning of something like Labelless Records to the jungle community would be moot. That acceptance is key and I feel a sense of pride in knowing that. I am definitely a Junglist for life.

And as I mentioned before, the contacts made between the artists, to the supportive junglist massive as a whole, are all the defining moments as well as the continuing momentum to pursue this endeavor. But the people I have came up with in Columbus are who have intrigued me to go this far in the first place. 614 MASSIVE, we all have the same strive and go for the same feel. I appreciate that; and Columbus has an extraordinary underground scene. Its vibrant, has an extensive history, and tons of talented people within it. I say that humbly and with awe for the city that has bred me. Dj’s like Verge, Caedo, Hawstyle, Shinma, Arkova, Carma, Alina, Gl!tch, Aria, Titonton, Monochrome , Konkey Dong, R-Type, my old school retiree partner ADizzle my nizzle 😉 You helped me learn the scratch tactics for sure bro :), Drastic, Jeff Trasin, John Hammond, and Cliff LeFevre of TGP, Jed, KGB, Baynes, Revolver (or just old school Jimmy Gates as I recall it!!!), Shapeshifter/ Wraith/ or Mister Shifter you still killin it Jack, Rumble, Spastik, What the Bleep , foi oi oi, ALL the mid-late 90’s DNB / house party kids of the ‘BUS, that shit was unforgettable and will never be the same…. Be thankful we were there for it all. Fidgit, Cathexis, Andrew, Brian and the rest of the URU kids, you all keep a constant going, that is quality in its most underground sense. And all others in my hometown, Big up and keep it going for sure! 9Star & DX3 you two gave me and my homies our first taste of playing underground parties, as well as the rest of the Malfunction crew Ryan & Rory. Khaki and Sunnydaze @ All City Beats, you guys were the very first people to book me for an actual show / club event in Columbus and support me as resident for your weekly. And you also paid me for these gigs!!! Every time! In either merchandise from the record store or cash… great way to make the proper impression on how a performing dj should be treated. Dingo 8 & Aurora as well with the Restart night that has been on for a grip. And last but certainly not least… my lovely Jah Killin, I absolutely love rockin’ the decks with you at the shows, clubs, and home especially. I admire you infinitely and am beyond lucky to have you beside me.

Local Autonomy: It seems to me that having local record labels like yours is really important for our scene. What do you think your record label adds to our community?

Labelless: I suppose I am not sure what a record label adds to my community here in Columbus, Ohio. Labelless is certainly not the first or only vinyl jungle label to emerge from Columbus. First on the vinyl label front was the label 21/22 Corp. which had its first two releases in 1994 by Fuzzy Logic aka Monochrome from Columbus and part of the original CBUS raver crew, ELEMENTAL. Both releases were all jungle and the label later verged towards minimal techno, house, acid sounds. Then, for several years local DNB/Jungle – dj’s / producers, Aria & Makku-Da-Kutta operated Clandestine Audio Agents Records with 3 or 4 vinyl releases still available. All productions were by them, which is stellar in my opinion and deserves all sorts of recognition. This was nearly a decade ago. Random Movement is also from Columbus, and as a producer he is pretty huge in the liquid DNB scene worldwide, with releases on a ton of different labels. Also, around the same time as I began with Labelless in late 2011, early 2012, another local vinyl jungle label was starting called Dublinquents, which is operated/owned by local junglist, and a personal friend of mine, Arkova. I think he has an outstanding eye and ear for quality so I am a huge fan and supporter of all that Rick is currently doing! Big up Arkova!!!

As for Labelless’s impact locally, I would really have to say ask the general 614 public, especially the junglists of CBUS, I can only judge myself on how I am judged by my peers. As for the importance of Labelless to our scene as a whole, in terms of worldwide jungle music, then I sincerely hope the Labelless message has been received and accepted. Because like I said, that acceptance is what this is all about. I feel that my intentions are to make people (fans, supporters, customers) satisfied, and for the artists to feel respect from the massive they represent. Its all about the massive, that is what ALL of this EDM music has been about since its inception. A collective of people unified and uplifted by a love for music. I hope all who run record labels devoted to a sound like jungle feel a similar way in the way their label is absorbed by the general public. Just bring a quality sound and approach towards the music you endorse and I feel that is the right path. Thanks also to you Local Autonomy for this chance to express the labels stance.

Also, Labelless is due to release 7 more vinyls by Christmas 2013- New Years 2014 timeframe so be on the lookout for round 2!!! We are having them mastered as we speak by a new engineer to work with the label as well!!! I am extremely excited to announce that I went to Ten Eight Seven Mastering, and am having Beau Thomas engineer these cuts!!! He is a LEGEND in the jungle scene to anyone that cares and I am greatly anticipating to hear the recorded wavs of the masters off each lacquer !!!

Lastly ,if anyone is interested in ordering vinyl we have 7 Labelless vinyls for sale and the entire catalog of Jungle Cat Recordings as well. Also available soon will be a limited edition series of slip mats for all the junglist vinyl junkies!!! There are also stickers, patches, t-shirts, and even more hoodies in the works for the future in the Labelless sales department.

E-Mail contact@labellessrecords.com for orders.

and for my personal productions & dj mixes visit my soundcloud

and for mixes and productions from Jah Killin go to her Soundcloud

Thanks to all, and big love to all the junglists and junglettes worldwide! BOH!

 Labelless Soundcloud

Labelless Bandcamp

Labelless Facebook

There has been much written about the boom and bust cycles of dance music ( i.e. when is the edm bubble going to burst?). The boom happens when certain strands of dance music attract wider “pop” audiences and bring new listeners into dance communities. During this time, audiences swell, more records are sold, and it is “cool” to be associated with that music community. Much like other “pop” fads, these boom-time periods always come to an end. The bust of a cycle results when the luster of dance music fades and many of those new listeners abandoning dance communities. We are entering what appears to be the tail end of one of these boom periods (Its debatable I suppose), and a lot of keystrokes have been spent trying to decide what is going to happen. The resounding answer people give is that it is natural that dance scenes ebb and flow in popularity, but their survival is not in jeopardy.  The problem is that writers often stop there and don’t explain why dance scenes will survive. Looking to how our Columbus scene has weathered these boom/bust cycles in the past provides one way to provide an answer to this question. By drawing on my conversations about our local scene’s recent history, I want to argue that dance music persists in columbus because there is an underlying infrastructure that is kept alive by the people who continue to use the music, ideas, and traditions we all share even when dance music culture is not popular.

Rewind 6-8 years ago. The underground ele_mental parties had ended, other crews associated with the underground had slowed their activities, and many of the clubs across the city had closed. Both the underground and more obvious club oriented activities had slowed from their once feverish pace. Local dance and experimental record labels like 21/22 and Exoteque Music went into disuse. A whole generation of fans seemed to disengage from dance music as its popularity reached a low point in Columbus and across the nation.  At the surface, it appeared as if the scene in Columbus had died.

Yet, I question whether the scene actually “died”. Did all the people so instrumental to dance music flourishing in our city in the 90s and early 00s leave the scene?  Did all the fans “grow up” and stop liking dance music? Sure some people did leave and others “grew up”, but the vast majority of people that held dance music so central to their lives never left. Consequently, all the know-how of how to build record labels, dance music crews, clubs, and build a scene from the ground up was still in the city. The rich traditions of how a scene is supposed to operate were not lost. The love of the music and the artists need to express themselves never waned.

The scene didn’t die in the early 2000s. The infrastructure of the scene just went into a period of dormancy. Dormancy is very different from death. A state of dormancy is characterized by re-grouping and contemplation that naturally comes about after a common routine has resulted in stagnancy. Activities continue, but in a much less pronounced way.  Death is, well, its death. An end of a form of expression or life. Culture doesn’t die. It carries on in the cracks of the system. After some 10-15 years of doing dance hard in Columbus, it was natural for the scene to shift into a slower, more underground phase as the popularity of dance music waned. However, expressing oneself through dance music did not die. The most visible organizations throwing parties became less active and many of the recognized venues had closed, but the infrastructure of the scene was still intact.  All the rhythms, know-how, and traditions were still used by people, but the scene had receded back into the cracks of the city.

Quickly after the disbanding of many of the most visible crews and clubs, other events and crews took their place. By 2006, Sweatin’, Squared nights at Bristol, Restart House, and other underground parties were regular events that gave DJs and fans a space to express themselves. The scene wasn’t filling the newport, Skully’s, or BOMA, but it certainly couldn’t be pronounced dead. A core group of new and older scene members took the lead and brought dance music back to a prominent place in Columbus nightlife. In the short period of 5 years, the Columbus scene went from dormancy to again having 5-10 dance events a week. Our scene is again pushing out in a multitude of directions. New routines have replaced the old. New crews have replaced the old. The dance and experimental electronic music community is again thriving and sharing their music with Columbus and the rest of the world. We have new events, radio shows, record labels that offer you the opportunity to get exposed to new sounds. We have a multitude of innovative, dedicated people still pushing the scene forward into new spaces and concepts. (Check out the links on sidebar to see all the different people working to make our scene great with video projects, record labels, record stores, and events).

What we can take away from this short history?

1.) Well, It is quite evident that dance music persists in Columbus because it matters to us and we want to share it with one another. We are the core elements of the infrastructure that give life to something bigger than our selves: a dance music community.  The boom/bust cycle may affect how many people show up, how many records one sells, or how cool someone may think you are, but there will always be a scene as long as people come together and use the music, ideas, and traditions we share.

2.) Having a scene go into a state of dormancy is not necessarily a bad thing.  Dormancy is vital for weathering those periods when dance music is unpopular in the mainstream and growth is hard to come by.  By receding back into the cracks of the city, we can regroup and find a ways to keep our community together when there is less support in the mainstream. Gauging back the frequency of events can also be really healthy and important for a scene to shed old routines and think about new ways to innovate. It can also help foster community and build the type of committment that is needed to push the scene out of dormancy and back into a prominent part in a cities night life.

I feel these two lessons are important, because they remind us that the scene is in our hands. Its not in the hands of abstract economic, political, and cultural forces. Sure, these influences shape what our scene looks like, but in the end its all on us. These lessons also prod us to have a more realistic assessment of our scene’s development. We do not need to be New York, LA, Las Vegas, Berlin, or London. We need to be the best version of Columbus that our city has ever scene. I for one feel lucky to be a part of our scene. Our community is constructed of a teflon-tough DIY fabric that has endured the tests of the Boom/Bust cycle.  We have done more with nothing than all those many market cities have done with immense financial resources.  Just look at all the dance music related record labels, radio shows, events, and organizations that are now active in our city. If that doesn’t give you faith in our community then I do not know what will.

Well, I am back. The day job had to take precedent for a minute, but you know I would never disappear on you. I enjoy the conversations, music, and camaraderie too much. Today, I want to continue my interview series that delves into the lives and experiences of some of the individuals behind the web and promotional group Ohio Stand Up–that made a lot of waves over the last 1-2 years. FreeWater, aka Frankie S, was there with James Castrillo,  Scott Singerman, and others in the beginning and helped push the web-based concept that inspired me to start my project. This project also inspired many other people to go to the web and write about their experiences in our scene. My more sustained contemplation of Ohio Stand Up can be found in the lead up to James Castrillo’s eloquent interview on his experiences with the group HERE in my post “Kingpin Discusses His Craft & Ohio Stand Up History”

Instead of just asking Frankie about his experiences with the Ohio Stand Up project, I gave him the platform to delve deeply into why he is interested in dance music, putting on shows, and educating individuals about music. This obviously includes discussion of his experiences with Ohio Stand Up, but also provides a way of seeing his motivations and drive behind wanting to make an impact in the world and wanting to share his passion for music. I hope you enjoy his story.

LA: How did you get into dance music? Was there a track or event that changed it all for you?

F: Ultra Music Festival 2010 Spring Break 2010 – totally changed my entire existence. I have never been to a music festival before this one and it gave me a true appreciation for how dense the dance music scene is. Going to UMF as your first music festival ever… is somewhat of a mind-funk – I kept asking myself “How do they let this many people, take this many drugs… someone needs to study these people”. I quickly became one of those “people” and will love dance music until the day I die. Ultra music festival is a powerful experience not just an amphetamine infused dance party… it’s about the people, the music, the culture of one hundred and twenty something beats per minute. I think that going to ULTRA for my first music festival ever really laid down a foundation for the music and culture I will go on loving forever. Another important detail about attending UMF 2010 was that I had “visions” of myself becoming a DJ – when I had no clue about DJing at all then. Truly a life-altering experience… something that I will never forget, with friends and memories that I will never leave behind. In addition to UMF2010 seeing Major Lazer + Rusko in Columbus and experiencing “the lights” of Pretty Lights New Years Eve Chicago — really locked in my love and passion for dance music.

LA: What was it about the Ultra Music festival in 2010 that forever changed you and got you into electronic music?
F: The scale of things – the size of the buildings surrounding you in downtown Miami, the endless sea of ravers, hippies, party-peoples, fist pumpers and music lovers, the lights, the bass, the incredible production (especially if you’ve never been to a music festival before in your life), the way ULTRA makes their festival feel like one amazing ULTRA party event – because after all it’s one of the biggest parties to ever take place on the planet. The weirder “things” you see on South Beach really open your eyes to the culture behind dance music; furries, rave boots, go-go girls, creepy blueman suits, the list goes on and on.  Ohh – and seeing LMFAO live and Lil Jon jumped out on stage for a live collabo I turned to my psychedelic friends and said “Is that Lil Jon on stage..? what the fuck is going on…?” Unable to comprehend what was happening at the biggest party on the planet.

LA: How did you get your start DJ’in?
F: Well after having “visions” at Ultra Music Festival I decided to start mixing some tracks on my laptop with Virtual DJ until I strolled into Guitar center like many novice DJs and bought my first DJ controller, and god-damn did I think that was the coolest little musical tool ever. It was a Numark Stealth Pro or something like that (currently tagged in all sorts of CO-Way and Ohio Stand Up stickers) I used to sit in my room for hours on end jamming out to tunes and mixing basic house tracks thinking I was some revolutionary house DJ hitting sync and mashing up old Deadmau5 with old Tiёsto. Eventually I moved my laptop-numark setup upstairs into my (at the time abroad in Asia) roommates room so that I could use his 12” tops and really test out my house mixing abilities. I would invite Scott (from Ohio Stand Up) over and an entire entourage of people and we would sit up in my music den baking it out and messing around for countless hours; everyone would just jump on the “nummie” and try to mash up some tracks or spin some knobs/push some EQs… those were some very experimental, important times where I learned a lot since I was doing it so often and it really helped break the ice of playing music in front of people.

From experimental bedroom DJing to a few random small house parties to my first gig ever at Circus Wednesdays via My Best Friend’s Party. I have tons of respect for Nick Reed and Chad Smith of MBFP – a lot of the DJs out in Columbus owe it to these guys, for giving them a place to start, or a first chance to play out, including myself. I will never forget how nervous I was the first time I played that first show up on a real stage on a semi-REAL sound system – my palms are sweating just thinking about it.  That’s how I got my start DJing – but from the very beginning I always wanted to be more than “just another DJ” I started the DJing to learn/discover new genres and styles of music – educating myself to be able to successfully produce quality music myself one day; which is where I am at now… music production.

LA:What was the first set you spun? How did you feel?
F: The first set I spun was really different (Pretty Lights to electro to dubstep)… me and Scott (of Ohio Stand Up) pre-made the entire set in ableton, sort of pre mixing everything and created some loops and a bunch of different styled tracks that we both picked out. It all sounded sweet when we pre-spun it and ran through it over and over again – I still play some of those tracks such as Coma Cat (TenSnake, Round Table Knights), KNAS and Tarantula (Pleasurekraft). I was nervous of course; like the first time you do something in front of a crowd of people, but I just tried to let loose and get into it. Sometimes I black/brown out on stage and can’t remember exactly how I feel about my sets – this was one of those instances. I think it sounded alright, I was just glad I didn’t train wreck the first time spinning at Circus.

LA:What does the act of DJ’in mean to you? Why do you do it?
F:The act of DJing to me means an opportunity to create a memory, touch people’s inner beat, expose people to new sounds/genres, make an entire room move to the same rhythm – Djing means a lot to me, most importantly I want people to walk away talking about their memory, talking about how great the music was and how exciting the night became solely because of the energy of the DJ & pounding beats.

Why do I do it… I do it for the love of the music, and the ability to share my musical knowledge & skill with those that will listen and dance along. I’m not in this for fame or tons of money – is that the end goal – sure at the end of the day I would love to have a million fans & play in front of tens of thousands… but to me DJing is about connecting everyone to the same beat on the dance floor and watching people turn to each other, glance up to the booth and just vibe to the same energy that your putting out through the speakers. That’s why I do what I do and love doing it… throwing events, DJing new parties out in the Vail Valley, CO… exposing people to the FreeWater vibes.

LA: How and when did you become a part of the Columbus dance music scene?
F: The summer after attending UMF2010 is when we (myself, Scott Singerman, James Castrillo, and a few others) really started to kick things off with then-titled CO-Way which is now know as Ohio Stand Up. We just started going to shows, posting new music, promoting shows, throwing parties, basically filling this gap that exist on the scene – someone needed to capture the growth and momentum behind the dance music movement in Columbus, Ohio. We forcefully inserted ourselves onto the scene – we started collaborating with My Best Friend’s Party and other promo groups to throw events, shows and even co-partnered in a festival at Miami University (in which we learned a lot).
We just started being apart of the scene… learning who was who, snapping photos at events, discovering who seemed to “control” much of the Columbus scene and also discovering who was willing to work with us, and who wasn’t willing to work with us. We always stressed something at Ohio Stand Up…[ Collaboration over Competition ] which is something Ill go into more detail about in another answer… we wanted to work with those who wanted to forward the advancement of dance music & we were passionate about making sure we helped evolve the culture of EDM in Columbus – somehow.

LA: How did Ohio Stand Up come about? Who was involved?
F: Scott Singerman and I worked together downtown at Park Street Patio outdoor grill and we used to bullshit about a ton of ideas. We discussed ideas of music all day, what we thought the Columbus scene was missing, what we thought we could do to change it and impact it. We joined forces with James Castrillo (Kingpin) and decided that starting a dance music blog was really important for the scene in Columbus. For a number of reasons: a place to discover whats happening in Columbus night life, a place to read reviews of music and shows, a resource to educate those less familiar with 128 beats per minute. So we started writing, tons and tons of content – pumping out music releases, show reviews/promotion, photo essays, artist interviews and exposing Columbus webravers to an assortment of new musical genres that they had never even heard of. We had some part to do with the dubstep / moombahton wave sweeping over the Columbus and Midwest scene – we helped push that shit and hard… we all knew that dance music was about to explode.
Shout-out to all these people involved in helping kick off Ohio Stand Up: Scott Singerman & James Castrillo (master minds behind the site), Dave Dixon (photographer), Roshni Hundel, Bobby Armstrong (art designer for Co-Way and OhioStandUp), Adam Singh (MC and swagger), Adam Ziggy (I cant spell ur last name dog), Paul Bono and the DaveRave guys, Allie Dorsky (most supportive girlfriend ever), Max Nelson, Vince (Magua), Cristina & Alisa, Nick and Chad of MBFP, … I know there are authors, DJs & other contributors I am forgetting so I apologize if I left you out – I appreciate everyone in Columbus’s help for kicking this off with US – we are all Ohio Stand Up… thank-you Columbus!

LA: Why was Ohio Stand Up Started? Was there something missing in the scene you wanted to highlight?
F: I started describing above what we thought was missing… basically quality media coverage. We took photos, wrote educated & researched articles, interviewed artists and much more – what was missing on the scene was a multi-media blog/website to expose and capture the amazing growth behind the culture of dance music in Columbus and the Midwest. I (and also the OhioStandUp crew) personally wanted to highlight the memories, energy and passion driving the people of Columbus rave scene. Columbus has been a rave-city for years before this explosion in dubstep & rise in popularity of dance music. There’s a lot of un-captured history here… such as Nick and Chad of MBFP bringing in Rusko to Bristol Bar (on 5th and summit) back in January of 2010… people of the Columbus didn’t really know who Rusko was at that point, I personally did not (now have seen Rusko 10 times live). Columbus used to host crazy underground rave parties in warehouses – techno, house and indie dance all have a deep rooted history in Columbus dance music scene, a history that many “new age Skrillex ravers” may not have a clue about. That’s something that was definitely missing and still kind of is missing but there’s a new author on the scene from Local Anatomy and he seems to know what’s going on with capturing the history and deep rooted culture of the Columbus scene – properly.
Like I said there’s some serious history of how dance music has evolved in this Midwestern cap-city – and it will be really exciting to see where it is headed in the next 10 years.

LA: Why was going to the web so important for you guys?
F: The web and dance music culture seem to go together like cookies and milk. Everyday we log on to Tweetbook or FacetaGram – to check statuses, check in with the world, post photos, look at stupid YouTubes, every single day. The internet is polluted with some serious garbage (ill stop myself before I go on a serious rant) but there is also some quality content on the web – worth spending your attention deficit disordered time on. We wanted OhioStandUp to be quality, entertaining content and being on the web was the most viral way to “spread the love” of dance music culture. So Scott bought us a website domain and the rest is history. I’ve always wanted to say that

LA:Ohio Stand Up’s dominant credo “Collaboration Not Competition” has been proliferating widely around our scene. Where did this ethos come from? What does it mean to you?
F: Wow what a great question. This ethos is credited to Scott mainly but definitely something that was felt throughout the blogs philosophy and ideals of the CO-Way & OhioStandUp. Electronic music is nothing without the passionate people who make that shit come together – the fans, promoters, event planners, producers, DJs, musicians, the photographers, videographers, dancers, VJs, etc – without working together we wouldn’t have a music scene at all. Collaboration is an essential piece of making this movement grow… we really stressed that and although competition exists every where we tried to keep a really open mind about just spreading the love. The biggest way we would promote involvement from the party peoples is by offering everyone the potential chance to volunteer/help at events. We wanted people to help with their talents; snapping photos, taking quality videos, spinning poi, go-go dancing, VJing, live art. We quickly learned that Columbus loved being involved – and it was really amazing to watch the talent just come forward, for dance music enthusiasts seem to be artsy, like-minded, creative individuals. It’s cool to still see a lot of involvement at events that people like MBFP are throwing — Columbus is talented.

Some closing thoughts about OhioStandUp:
Currently the state of OhioStandUp is strange and her future is unforeseen. We currently don’t have the website up and running and very rarely are blog posts coming out. I would hope that our dreams, ideals and mission at OhioStandUp dont just fade to black – if you’re a creative writer and avid dance music culture enthusiast that wants to blog, contribute and help reubilud / relaunch our powerful cause contact me and I will get you into touch with the right people. I would really like to still help and grow the movement in Columbus, now that I am settling in a new state it may be possible that I can help to rebuild the project a bit. It would be cool to launch a StandUp! in every state… Colorado Stand Up… Florida Stand Up… California Stand Up… you name it – the possibilities are endless with a media site like this! I am excited for the future. I hope to somehow guide OhioStandUp’s attention/following towards Local Autonomy because I feel strongly about what your doing with Local Aut!

LA: What drove you and Magua to build the ColumBASS parties?
F: Vince (Magua) approached me at the first water park party if I’m remembering correctly and we immediately began collaborating our ideas, DJ styles and musical tastes. Big shout-out to Vince (Magua) he’s a talented DJ and an ideas dude – we without delay sorted out details to throw our first ColumBASS New Year’s Eve banger. I can recall practicing a DJ set in Vince’s living room – we both had a passion for deep dub… he turned to me and goes “What if we call it Colum-BASS?!” half-smirking… I replied with a “Hell-yeah that’s really dope… we shall call it ColumBASS!” he was half-joking with the name but we decided to take it and run with it. Little did we know that ColumBASS would turn into 5 womp-stomping, bass-banging, dubstep slaying, energy-raging, champagne spraying underground parties. The first one went off on New Years Eve.. they handed Vince and I an envelope of money and we decided that throwing parties at Bernie’s could actually turn out to be somewhat (minimally) profitable… nonetheless we were excited by an envelope of hard earned, party-throwing cash. I mean seriously – if you can make money off of throwing parties… what’s not to like? We decided to go bigger and badder every time – we built the DJ cage, brought in lazers, lights and energy. During our New Year’s Eve rager we decided that my APC40 didn’t like champagne, and beer soaking it all night long – we needed a barrier from these party-animals. Cue: the DJ cage
Vince at the time lived in a frat house which had some chain linked fences behind it = solution to drink splashing animals.

Every ColumBASS that had fences — which were hand carried to the venue a few blocks away… but it was totally worth it. DJing behind a cage turned out to be one of the most creative production aspects of our ColumBASS parties — it added a really organic feel to the entire dubstep element… grimey Bernie’s basement, DJ cage, lights, lazers, strobes… with all these elements combined together those parties at Bernie’s turned out to be some of my favorite shows in Columbus. The photos, and videos we took away from these events turned out really well; the party was unique and different something we were definitely trying to give Columbus.

LA: Why did you think it is important to have underground parties like this one? In your opinion, Why is it important to throw your own parties?
F: It was important to the growth of the music and at the time the genre being pushed the hardest was dubstep — underground bass parties just gained a lot of quick attention… it was a new venue and we were going for “different” style party, it was fun and entertaining… we gave Columbus something new to do. We even made the lantern with the title “Dubstep invading club scene” the photo depicting a black lit, glowing ColumBASS party.

IMO it’s important to throw your own parties because I honestly felt like at the time certain promotional groups believed that they could essentially “run” every night of the weekend. I felt otherwise… I believed that there were enough bass-loving party animals for every show, every event in town. I got a lot of enjoyment out of throwing those parties with Vince — it was fun, met some amazing people, spun along side some really talented DJs. Most importantly we created memories… I can walk up to many of my friends and say “Remember that time at Bernie’s those ColumBASS shows” they will all smile and respond with a “Hell yeah, damn good time!”

LA: Why were you driven to be so involved building the scene in town? Why do you do it?
F: That’s a damn good question… I can’t exactly answer Why — I can try with this…
We all have a need to “belong” to something… to feel apart of a group or culture… Dance music is my culture, is my passion, it’s my love. I felt that I could really impact people’s lives by helping to forward the music scene in Columbus and I think me and my co-contributors at OhioStandUp really made an impact on the scene. I really felt apart of the electronic music scene before I peace-ed out of Columbus — it was a really unique “thing” to feel apart of. Many of the people I worked / partied alongside of are often looked at as more of my “music family” than just friends. I’m involved in building the scene because I am passionate about exposing those uneducated to my expansive knowledge of musical culture.

LA: What are you currently up too? Tell us a little bit about whiteraverrafting.com
F: Currently I am writing music, taking tons of photos, working hard with a new entertainment/production company called Pink Monkey, blogging for WRR.com, planning tons of upcoming events with my new entertainment event called SnowDance and enjoying my new life in Colorado. White Raver Rafting is a project I joined maybe 10 months ago… and it’s amazing. Our crew of bloggers, music enthusiast, media, party people are spread around the nation covering all things EDM. The creator is a marketing genius, which is why I am loyal to this blog/website I have a feeling we are really going to take off into something big! From newest music releases, to show reviews, show promotions, artist interviews, etc. it’s basically a bigger, more main stream version of OhioStandUp — we cover some of the biggest news to pop off in the dance music realm. It’s gained me a lot of media credentials in Colorado — I am now apart of a media contact list… basically means promoters reach out to me to blog/shoot photos at their shows, providing me with the new music being released and upcoming events in return I get to attend shows and festivals for free as a media personnel. It’s very exciting for me to be able to meet my favorite DJs, and producers and also photography is my new found love — as I have begun shooting photos for our blog’s photo essays. It feels as though I am already apart of the music scene in Colorado because of my involvement at WRR.com.
I get exclusive access to pre-released music and also artist interviews as well… keep an eye out for a Boombox interview from my blog in the near future. Check us out here
The growth of this project has been outstanding and exponentially fast — keep an eye out for festivals collaborations from our blog as well as shows, tons of fresh music releases and much much more coming in the future!

LA:Plans for the future? Tell us a little bit about SnowDance and moving to Colorado’s Vail Valley.
F: I am working on releasing my first group of tracks… I would start telling you about the tracks and project name but it’s still coming together and I want it to be released when it’s finished instead of just being talked about. It’s very experimental and different using both Ableton and Reason… I create all my own synth patches, and love synths. It’s somewhere in between Moombahton / dubstep / and Pretty Lights — I am very excited to get these tracks finished and release them soon… music production takes so much time and energy. Also, I am working on a fresh moombahton / electro house Doctor P remix which I hope to have finished by the end of next month for a remix competition!  Photography is my new creative outlet — keep an eye out for photos from Colorado’s scenery and the music scene as well! Since I have moved to the Vail Valley the opportunities out here have been endless… from Djing in an entirely new region of the country, attending SnowBall music festival and Levitate with a media pass, snowboarding endless waves of powdery snow — this move has been a dream come true.

SnowDance is my new entertainment, event throwing company + event that I am trying to launch out in Colorado (I love start ups) — I have spun and organized about 12 different events/parties since moving here 6 months ago including a massive after party to SnowBall music festival in sponsorship with 3 seperate companies. This Spring, Summer, Fall will be huge for SnowDance as we are planning pool parties, outdoor pavilion jam-band parties, BBQ get downs, kick ball and much more. I will also be organizing and developing concepts to hopefully throw my own music festival soon — in addition to partnering with SnowBall music festival for their next event.

There’s so much going on I can’t even describe it all… so get at me in person for more details about the future! And keep in touch with me… DJs / producers that want shows in Colorado or anyone that wants opportunities out west — my connections have grown faster than I could have ever imagined.

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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!

As promised, I follow up on Wednesdays Track that Started it All feature (Get at that HEREwith Jason Lyman’s full interview. The story Jason tells about the 1990’s and what happened at the height and decline of the scene as we moved into the early 2000’s suggests how the club culture persisted into the early 2000’s downtown. He also provides wonderful background on Quality, his experiences, and where he thinks we are all going. But let me get out of the way and let you hear from the man himself!

LA: How did you get into dance music?

JL: Man, I have always been into dance type music ever since I can remember. As a kid in the early 80’s I was huge into rap and electro. I loved to breakdance. A lot of the kids at my school did. As I got into high school, I dj’d a lot of school dances and would play remixes and b-sides to popular songs. I also started getting into some industrial music as well. Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Front 242, etc. When I went to Ohio University in 1992, I was introduced to groups like The Prodigy and went to a electronic Dance music night where the dj played mostly industrial and Depeche Mode type stuff. In 1994 I had started hearing about Raves that were happening back in Dayton where I was from, and really wanted to go. I had met some people in Athens who were going, and in 1995 I went to my first rave called Harmony in Akron, OH. Moby played there, along with Derrick Carter. I was in awe. My eyes were probably wide open all night, just taking everything in. After that night I was hooked.

LA: What is it about House Music that captures your artistic imagination so much?

JL: I think that house music just captures everything I love about music in general. House music can be so many different things and elicit so many different moods. It can be jazzy (I love Jazz), it can be funky (I love funk), it can be techy (I love techno)… It can be very musical OR very electronic sounding. And I love it all. I have always had a way of being able to sense what the crowd would like. And when I am listening to new music, that is what I think about. I always wonder how the crowd will react, and honestly I always wonder how my DJ friends and peers will react. House can just be so many different things.

LA: How did you become a part of the Columbus dance music scene?

JL: Back in College at OU, my friends and I had a crew that would travel pretty much every weekend to raves all over Ohio. We mostly identified with the Cleveland/Akron scene as that is where a lot of my friends were from, but we did come to Columbus quite a bit because it was close, and they were doing some great parties here. We really liked what ele_mental was doing with their events and labels and artists, we liked what Collective Intelligence was doing with their parties, and it was always just a good time here. When I graduated from OU in 1997, I decided I wanted to move to Columbus. I did not want to go back to Dayton, although I did have friends there as well. I still wanted to remain close to Athens, but wanted to be in a bigger place. I had dj’ed a few times in Columbus and knew a lot of people here so it just seemed like a good fit. Soon after I moved, I was offered the chance to take over a Wednesday night weekly at a place called Maxwells with my friend James Temple. We renamed the night “Middle” and featured mostly local Columbus djs playing house and techno. Occasionally we’d have a drum n bass guy play as well. Once a month Residual Records (Titonton and Tj’s label) would host one of the Wednesday nights and bring in bigger names. It was a great night full of dancing smiling people. A place where we could try out new tunes and get cheap drinks. We would also host after-parties at this spot for different parties that took place in Town. One of the best was for Tilt. It was during this time that I really got to know Doug Holmes (Dj Doughboy) Jeff Pons, and Mike Poe. These guys were getting ready to become residents at a new club in town, Red Zone. I started playing there with them after a bit and it just kind of grew from there.

LA: How did you get your start DJ’ing?

JL: Well I had mentioned that I dj’d in high school, but that was mostly playing pop remixes with the occasional scratch thrown in. But I always loved being able to drop a song that got people to dance or put their hands in the air. But after I started getting into underground parties, I wanted to really learn how to dj, so that I could play at these parties. I loved the music I would get exposed to every single weekend on these massive sound systems with 1000’s of other people. A friend of mine had turntables and a mixer, and we all just started learning. Initially it was really hard. Not like today where the computer will tell you and show you if you aren’t matching the beats right. My friend James gave me one single dj tip that made everything just click for me. After that we would just have dj jam sessions all of the time. We would have a lot of house parties as well. In Athens there wasn’t really anywhere to play our music at the time. So after a little while, we started hosting a weekly, and a few monthlies there.

LA: Do you remember the first set you spun? What was it like?

JL: I remember the first set I spun at an underground event on the main stage in front of a room full of people. It was in Akron at a place called The Attic. Anyone who went to parties back then knew about the attic. The place was crazy. I was opening for Dj Dmitri of Dee-Lite. I was EXTREMELY nervous. I remember when it was my turn to go on, I put the first record on the turntable and went to put the needle on it. My hands were shaking SO bad I literally had to just drop the needle on the record and then cue it up. My heart was pounding. I told myself I just needed to get through the first mix. Once I did I started to settle in. The crowd was dancing, which was good. At the time I was playing this sort of west coast, San Francisco style breaks and house. Not a lot of people were playing it just yet but it was getting bigger. About half way through my set I look over and see Dj Dmitri standing in front of a speaker dancing and pumping his fist. After that the rest was easy!

LA: What does the act of DJ’in mean to you? How does it make you feel?

JL: Djing to me is more than just playing music. Anybody can play music, especially today with the software and equipment out there. But to me, Djing is about taking the crowd on a journey. There are not many things out there I like as much as djing. Being able to read a crowd and watching them react to what I am trying to do musically. This is why I absolutely LOVE to play for longer than an hour. To really be able to capture a crowd and take them on your musical journey and be able to react to what they do and have them react to what you do is an amazing feeling. Exposing people to new and amazing music, giving them something they didn’t even know they wanted… It’s a huge rush for me. That is why when I am djing, I always have a huge smile on my face, and I am ALWAYS dancing around behind the decks. My favorite djs are the ones who do this… Richie Hawtin, Magda, Josh Wink, etc. These people really know how to capture a floor and hold them where they want them for hours.

LA: You have been DJ’ing in Columbus for a long while. What is it about this city that keeps you here and artistically engaged?

JL: You know that is a tough question. Columbus has always had GREAT people. I have so many friends here and I have been fortunate to always be able to dj. I have a great group of friends whom I consider my family. We have had some world class events in Columbus over the years. I have watched the music I love draw 1000’s of people, and draw 100 people. It’s gone up and down. But the people who have remained are just as in love with the music as I am. I have been to other cities and seen the same thing we have here. Sure it may be on a bigger scale, but it’s the same type of people. I even lived in San Francisco for a year. But I came back and don’t regret it one bit. Right now there is an amazing group of younger guys and girls who are very educated in the history of this music and it is so refreshing! I love seeing these folks out at our nights and digging what we do.

LA: What were the main influences behind creating quality? What made you start your own promotions crew?

JL: I started Quality with a good friend of mine, Doug Black, back around 2004. The main influence was that I was tired of there being no music I liked being played at clubs around town. The bigger clubs had all started to close down a bit as Park Street opened up. Most of what was being played was trance or progressive house. Just not the stuff I was really into. I was still playing here and there, and people seemed to be digging what I was playing, so I wanted to bring those types of artists to town. I had the opportunity to bring Kaskade to Columbus on a Friday night after my a friend of mine who was supposed to host him in Dayton had his venue fall through. Kaskade was nearly as well known as he is now, but he was starting to make a name for himself in the deep house world with the OM Label. The cost was cheap, so I approached Mike Gallichio about possibly hosting the show at Global, in the Long Street district. Mike agreed so we did it. The show was crazy. WAY more people than I thought would show up. We needed about 200 people to cover the costs of the show, and I want to say we have close to 800. After that Doug and I were approached to start doing monthlies at Global, and Quality was born. We had acts that djs knew, but were not really that big at the time. JT Donaldson and Lance Desardi, brett Johnson, Diz to name a few. We had a few bigger names as well like Josh Wink, Doc Martin, Ian Pooley, and Kaskade a second time. It was a great run there. After a while that night sort of faded out and Long St closed. Doug moved to Chicago for work, and I teamed up with Mike Poe and did a series of Quality’s at the Carlile Club (now Mynt). Same concept, different club. Dj’s like Johnny Fiasco, Joshua IZ, and The Sound Republic. I really liked that club. Great layout and incredible sound. After that we did a few events at Spice Bar that went well, a few at Lotus (now Double Happiness) that went well, and a few at Bristol Bar that went well… We took a little time off, and then about 15 months ago Jeff Pons and I got together with Scott Litch and started this most recent incarnation at Basil. The basil thing has just exceeded all of our expectations and is probably my favorite night to promote and dj. It’s just a blast.

LA: How do you see quality? What does Quality Stand for? What do you guys hope to bring to our scene?

JL: Right now, I think Quality is in a really good place. The last year or so has been really exciting for us. The night at Basil has just grown and grown. Every month I see new faces, which is so exciting. We honestly wondered at the start if people would come out to hear this music, because of the rise and popularity of DubStep ad Electro. Those nights were really taking off, which was good for them. But what we found was that people were really yearning for a low-key place to go and hear deep sexy music. We figured out that the people who were coming out to our night didn’t care who the dj was, but they knew the music would be good. So that’s how we’ve done it. We focus less on who is djing, and more on providing a great atmosphere with really good music. And people have responded well. Basil has just made a great venue for this. It doesn’t take a million people to make it feel packed. With the new expansion, it really allows us to grow as well. This next year we are going to try out a few new ideas, but won’t stray too far from what has worked for us. We will be bringing in some new folks to play with us, as we love adding in other dj’s vibes to what we do. As far as what we hope to bring to the scene… Honestly I just want to provide a place where people, including myself, can go and hear the music we play. And I want a place to be able to expose people to this new amazing music. That is what I have always done with Quality. It hasn’t changed. The venues may not be as big as when we started, but the vibe is still the same. There aren’t a lot of nights in town that play what we play. I think that is what makes us unique.

LA: 1990’s Columbus dance music is always talked about as a mythical time in our scenes history. What was it like back then? Why do you think we were so huge?

JL: Honestly, it wasn’t just Columbus. Back in the mid 90’s, the Rave scene in the US just exploded from coast to coast. However, I always felt that the Midwest was a very special place to be during that time period, and that Ohio in particular had a lot going for it. During that time, Chicago House and Detroit Techno were the 2 powerhouses in the EDM scene. Drum and Bass played a part as well later on. But Ohio was so great because we got the best of both of those worlds. So on any given weekend, you had world class dj’s playing to 1000’s of kids from both Chicago and Detroit. I really think this is why I play the stuff that I do. It’s a great mix. I really like very techy sounding things, but at the same time, I love that discoy Chicago type of sound. Getting to Columbus specifically during that time, It was just the fact that we had really good people here, and a lot of them. The university certainly helped that. The early club scene here also helped that. Clubs like Mekka spawned a lot of the early ravers in this city. Then you also had the ele_mental crew that were really into exposing Columbus to this new sound that was coming out of Detroit. But they weren’t just playing records, they were actually making the music too. Columbus just had a big combination of all the right things to produce a very healthy, and varied scene. From smaller house parties to giant raves with 1000’s of people. If I had to pick one party that I felt defined the Columbus scene during that period, it would have to be Metamorphosis. This was the result of different crews coming together to showcase the very best of what Columbus was capable of at that time. There were big parties before that, and even bigger parties after that, but THAT party I felt was the calling card for the Columbus Rave scene. It was right downtown, inside and out, a great line-up of who’s who in Electronic Music at that time, and with the different crews coming together, it was just really really special.

LA: Why do you think dance music in Columbus lost popularity in the late 1990’s?

JL: I wouldn’t say that dance music lost popularity in the late 90’s. Actually, just the opposite happened. I will say that UNDERGROUND parties lost popularity, but that was because of a huge law enforcement crackdown that took place. You just simply could not throw all night warehouse parties in Columbus anymore without getting busted. There were some exceptions of course, but in general the police put the squash on that. But in terms of popularity… We were pulling in 800-1100 people into Red Zone every single Friday night. And we had dj’s like Josh Wink, Stacey Pullen, Derrick Carter, Kevin Yost, Halo, etc who would come and play. The very late 90’s and early 2000’s were great for Electronic Dance music’s popularity in Columbus. It had really just changed venues. Some people didn’t really like going to the club, but I didn’t mind it. I certainly didn’t mind playing there for all of those people on that massive sound system. I was still playing a lot of the same music I was playing before so nothing had really changed for me. Plus, you could buy drinks. I think the music and the scene just grew into something a little different. Some people liked it, some didn’t. Pitch Control Productions also put on the Clockwork Sunday’s parties which allowed us to go until 4:00am instead of the normal 2:30. So these parties were as close as it got to the old warehouse parties. And they were PACKED.

LA: What was it like in those times where dance music wasn’t very big? Were there still events going on?

JL: What happened after a while was that the club scene started to grow. People saw the success that the red zone, and later fabric, had and wanted a piece of it. SO you had all of these other clubs opening up downtown doing the same kind of thing. That was both good and bad. Obviously having a selection of places to go is a good thing; however the crowd didn’t really grow. So you had everyone trying to pull from the same group of people. All this did was cause attendance to decline. Some places remained open, and some did not. I also think that Electronic music in general was declining in popularity. So there weren’t any younger kids getting into it like we had when we were younger, and all of the people who had been in it for a while did other things. So because of that there was a gap. You could only get large amounts of people to come out when there was very large acts in town. Like Tiesto, or Oakenfold, or Sasha, etc. There were always smaller events that went on. There was a group of people who still very much loved the music and did whatever they could do to keep things going. There was a lot of eb and flow for while. Sometimes you’d catch a good wave, like we did at Global with the first incarnation of quality, and then that would go away. For me, I just played whenever and wherever someone would have me. I never changed what I played just to be able to dj somewhere. I just couldn’t. If that meant I didn’t dj for a while, then that is what happened. I still dj’d enough, and was still fortunate to be able to play in other cities as well. Having all of those connections from the early days… I just met some really great people and made some really good friends.

LA: What has it been like being part of the group of people helping to bring Columbus dance music back?

JL: That is a good question. I never really thought about myself, or what we do, as helping to bring anything back to Columbus. I’m just really glad that people are enjoying what we do. I feel like Columbus is in a really good place right now, with a lot of very diverse things to do in terms of nightlife. I have to think that the Sweatin crew played a huge part in bringing dance music back. The MBFP guys have always been around and have really become huge in bringing out massive crowds again, Then you have the Get Right and O-Gee parties, The Juicy parites, roeVy, etc… There is really a lot of different things going on, and everyone is able to be successful to a degree, which is fantastic. Look at what the What’s next Ohio party did… That is fantastic! There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’m just happy to see it all work. I’m glad to be a part of that with our night as well.

LA: With your deep knowledge of our scene’s history and contemporary landscape where do you think our scene is right now?

JL: As I mentioned, I think Columbus is at a very good place. You have a lot of younger people involved again, which is key. We didn’t have that for a long time, and it suffered because of it. There was a period of time where if your bar or club didn’t play hip-hop or banging electro remixes of pop songs, nobody was going to come. You now have a very educated group of younger people who have varied musical interests and help to support ALL of these parties. Most of all, I think the FUN has come back to our nightlife. All of these events are about just having fun and having a good time.

LA: What would you deem the ideal future for the Columbus EDM community?

JL: Just continue to grow and continue to try and get new people interested in what we do. That is important. We are all doing a good job of that right now.

LA: What do you think has to happen for us to get there?

JL: The key is to WORK TOGETHER. Columbus isn’t that big of a city in terms of EDM crowds. When you work against each other, it only means less attendance for everyone. Be inclusive, and work together, and everybody does better.

LA: Do you think it is possible for us to create one cohesive Columbus EDM community?

JL: I think it is already happening in some respects.

LA: What are your goals for the next five years musically?

JL: Honestly, I don’t really look that far ahead. Things can change so fast around here. I just want to keep playing the music I love for as long as I can. If that means putting on events, then I will do that. If it means just being able to dj once every few months, then I will do that. I am really happy with where we are right now. Both the Quality night, and our latest endeavor, GROOVE at Exile. This is quickly becoming my favorite night to play music because I get to play whatever I want and people eat it up. I would say look for that night to get really big over the next year. I am really exited about it.

LA: If you could share any lesson from your experience in our scene to share with the younger generation what would it be?

JL: Just do what you like to do. Play the music you like to play, not the music you think other people want you to play. Put on events that you want to put on, and have fun with it. I do this because its part of who I am. This music is a huge piece of my life. I can’t change what I love. I have been doing this for close to 18 years now… I’ve seen it all. I am most happy when I see people getting down and enjoying what I am trying to do with the music and my events.

Are you excited to hold down your city tomorrow at Quality? Are you ready to explore a new sonic universe that you may have not listened to in a while or haven’t heard at all? Well you best be dancing next to me on the floor at Basil tomorrow at 9:30 when Jason Lyman, Michael Poe, and Jeff Pons start off Qualities infamous after Gallery Hop Party. You know I am gonna go HARD. Event Details are available by clicking the Quality Logo Below. Can’t wait until then? Well hit up their party Groove at Exile Tonight (Event Details Here)

Well after a month of interviews, mixes, and features, I need to reload. I got some great stuff coming your way from the likes of Jason Lyman, Midislut, TEXTBEAK, FreeWater, & Magua. I am going to continue to let the people in our scene education us on our distant and not so distant past. For some, you may know all this, but for others still needing education (like me) you will be given the ability to continue to learn the importance of Columbus in Dance music history.

Pointedly, the goal of this continued interview project is to take people’s oral histories and make them available for everyone to learn from. This is obviously very important, as we have a huge influx of new fans coming to our shows. For me, I feel its important for all of to know our history so that these new fans can broadly appreciate everything we have to offer in town. Furthermore, I want them to believe, like we do, how special we are and they don’t need to go anywhere else to be part of the avant garde of dance music. Its going on right here, right now.

Beyond that, I am actively trying to compile our history so the world knows our special place in dance music history and we don’t ever have to prove to anyone again that we aren’t some random city in the middle of fields. A lot has been written on Chicago and Detroit, but there was obviously something special going on in our city as well. Thus, I think this story needs to be written so our place in history cannot be denied. At this point, I have some general questions I am trying to wrap my mind around through my interviews and great discussions with all you out there in our scene. You can think of these as my basic research questions.

How important was Columbus to Dance music scenes around the country and world?

What is the continuity between the Columbus dance music scene from 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s? What ideas, venues, people, music has always existed here?

What specific music advancements did we make throughout our history? In short, where did we advance dance music?

Who were the main crews across this time period and how did these individual crews pop up? How did ele_mental, Ohio Stand Up, My Best Friends Party, Quality, Push Productions, Winter Sun, Synduced nightlight, prime social group start? How do they interact?

What were the main moments of progression and decline in columbus dance music since the 1980’s?

Where did the columbus dance music scene start?

What were the genres that really blew up here and how did that relate to a core sound that has always permeated through Columbus?

But for a minute I am gonna take a breath and back off the feverish pace. You might think this means I am going dormant. Quite the contrary, behind the scenes I am reading about our history, talking to people, and listening to the artists that make up our sonic landscape. Nope, you are not getting rid of me yet. I will just be focusing more on highlighting the wealth of originals/ mixes and events we got going on until my coffer of interviews and mixes gets filled back up and ready for mass release.

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