• This new film looks at the “true origins” of Detroit techno

    By | November 14, 2018

    The real grandfathers of electronic music.

    A new documentary exploring the roots of techno – as told by its originators – is on the way.

    Read more: The world’s best record shops: #116 Submerge, Detroit

    God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno examines how the city became the epicentre of techno in the 1980s, its global rise in popularity and how the music business has since betrayed these black artists.

    Producers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes, and Santonio Echols may be known in Europe, but – especially in the US – these electronic pioneers are still largely unrecognised on an international scale.

    Directed by Kristian Hill and produced by Jennifer Washington, the duo “came together to document what (they) believe is Detroit’s most natural resource – dance music,” explains Hill.

    Today, the EDM industry rake sin over $7.1 billion worldwide, however not a single black musician is listed as a top earning electronic artist in 2018.

    God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, to raise money for music clearance and finishing costs.

    Head here for more info.

  • Rescuing Charles Mingus’ lost Detroit concert

    By | November 9, 2018

    How the near-mythical live recording was saved from obscurity.

    In early 2013, we spoke to DJ and producer Amir Abdullah about his new label 180 Proof, which is dedicated to breathing new life into the lost catalogue of independent Detroit label Strata Records.

    Founded by pianist Kenny Cox in 1969, Strata was one of a handful of black-owned independent labels that emerged in the early ’70s to put the power and control back into the hands of musicians. It may have released fewer than ten records in its lifetime, but Strata’s role within the community ran deep. Founded off the back of the riots of 1967 and 1968, Strata began by running food drives and workshops for local people, advocating for jazz musicians frozen out when Motown headed west.

    A popular figure on the jazz circuit, Cox would also leverage his influence by bringing heavyweights to the label’s gallery space at 46 Selden, where they would play for a fraction of their going rates. Performances would be recorded live and broadcast on local radio station WDET for the enjoyment of those who were either unable to attend or pay for a ticket to the show.

    Back in 2013, Abdullah told us that he had it on good authority that somewhere among the piles of unlabelled master tapes, multi-tracks and live recordings he’d acquired was original material by the likes of Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock, recorded at these concerts. The programme for early 1973 was tantalising enough: Charles Mingus, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and others all appearing within weeks of one another.

    Five years on from that interview, Abdullah has finally overseen the release of some of this material in the form of Jazz In Detroit, a 5xLP recording of Charles Mingus, released in partnership with BBE. Abdullah tells us about how it came to be.


    This story begins in a fortuitous manner, doesn’t it? You received an email from Cox’s widow and Strata owner Barabra Cox…

    Yeah, she just said, “hey, my friend Hermine Brooks has the Charles Mingus Strata concert in her possession and I’ve told her to give it to you to put it out, do you want to do that?” I was like, hell yeah! Why wouldn’t I want to do that? I didn’t even know what songs were on it!

    How did Hermine Brooks come into possession of the tapes?

    Her husband was Roy Brooks who played drums with Mingus. I assume he acquired a copy the night of the concert. I couldn’t wait to hear them. No one had heard it unless you were there on that night in 1973. It’s like 4 and a half hours of music!

    That must have been extraordinarily exciting.

    Yeah, and there wasn’t only music on there, you could also hear the audience, Mingus talking to the band, the band talking to Mingus. On top of that there was a 15-minute interview with Roy Brooks, the drummer, just in the middle of the thing! He’s talking about the politics of jazz and Keith Jarrett. I don’t remember exactly, but I think they say Jarrett had been dropped by a label and they go on about how it’s a sad thing and that people are trying to whitewash jazz. This is ’73 and people are going on about this.

    I guess that feeds into the bigger question of representation and creative control that Strata was advocating for. What about the music itself?

    The whole thing is special, but there are two very special songs. I think this is the earliest known recording of ‘Noddin’ Ya Head Blues’, and ‘Dizzy Profile’ has never been on record before. It definitely has a lot of the band communicating and one guy in the audience is clearly drunk! He calls Charles Mingus, Chuck: “Chuck man, you’re the greatest!” He got really comfortable by calling him Chuck. I’m not sure if Mingus liked that or not, but that’s how intimate and small the concert gallery was. You could reach out and touch these people easily. It makes for a special part of the recording.

    Another great thing is that John Stubblefield who plays the tenor sax on the recording was only with Mingus for like six months – they got into a big disagreement and John left the group. This is the only recording of them together. Later on, after Mingus passed away, Sue Mingus invited him to become part of the Mingus Big Band and he was the only one who had played with Mingus. It added a great quality and means he could mentor the others in the group. There are a lot of special things about this recording. It is a historical document, both visually and aurally.

    You’re right, it adds pieces to the story that you wouldn’t necessarily hear on a more polished recording.

    Exactly. People have already asked me, “Is the sound quality good? Does it sound OK?” First of all, it’s a live recording and we’re a small operation. We don’t have a huge budget like Sony or Universal where we can go in and really just desensitise the recording until it is so sterile. I don’t want that. You pick up some of the microphone feedback on some of the recordings, and I think it adds a special quality to it because it is real. You are hearing something from history and sometimes history is not pretty. History is sometimes not the cleanest thing in the world, but it is history and we all need to learn from or enjoy it.

    I wanted to do this right, so part of the process was finding out that Mingus’s widow, Sue Mingus, was still alive. I did a Google search, found the website and called a few times and one time she picked up. She told me to send her the music. I didn’t want to spend any money mastering this until we got her permission. I’m glad I did that because she is super psyched and she contributed notes to the project.

    When we first spoke about the Strata/180 Proof project a few years ago, you mentioned that it was Kenny’s connection to these musicians that made the difference – that they would visit the space and play under more informal circumstances.

    Exactly. I’m sure that more well-known jazz clubs were wondering how they got Mingus, Herbie [Hancock] and Ornette Coleman, to come to this small, intimate gallery. But they had a vision and were doing something that was really good for the city of Detroit.

    Right – it was bigger than a musical enterprise.

    In ’67 and ’68, Detroit had two riots which really devastated the city, and which they are still really affected by. You had all these turbulent things going on in the early ’70s, with Nixon and Vietnam, and it was just a cauldron of chaos. Throughout that chaos, you had places like the Strata gallery and Tribe Records in Detroit who were trying to make some sense of the chaos and give people a relief through art, music and culture. What better way to do it if you have a relationship with the likes of Charles Mingus? I’m sure it wasn’t a great money maker for him, but he was able to come and do it and put on a great show.

    They also went further and broadcast these shows on local radio, right?

    Yeah, you’ll hear it on the recording. Robert “Bud” Spangler says, “this is brought to you live by WDET, Detroit and also by the Michigan Council for the Arts. WDET probably has all the recordings in its possession too. Five dollars probably wasn’t that much money to go and see Mingus or Herbie. If you were going to a big stadium at the time, you were probably playing $20-$30 or more to see them.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t a packed house, because you can hear them say, “although we don’t have lot of people down here, we’re encouraging people to come.” You’d think that as it’s Mingus, people would be there. Despite all of that, they gave an amazing show.

    Photo by Hans Kumpf

    How has the process of releasing it been in comparison with other releases you’ve put out?

    It’s taken me about a year to get it to this point. Although the quality of the masters was relatively good, it took over 7 months to get it to what it sounds like. There was definitely a bit of distortion and microphone feedback. Also, on some songs, whoever was recording it must have accidentally pressed ‘stop’, so bits were choppy and we had to figure out how to get around that. Most of the songs were 20-25 minutes long, with a few closer to 30, so for vinyl, you’ve got to figure out how to split up songs that were never made to be split because they’re just one song, because you can’t do 30 minutes on a side.

    We also had to do a lot of research. It was extremely hard to get photos of everyone in the band. I didn’t think it would be that hard. We almost had to go without a photo of John Stubblefield before someone came to us with one at the last second. Also with Joe Gardner, the reason we only have his death [date] is because we couldn’t find any information about his birthday. Sue corrected us on a lot of things, which I’m glad she was able to do. I had to rely on the people who were there and who knew Mingus the most. It was quite a challenge.

    Have you made any curatorial decisions on what goes into the release?

    The whole performance is only available digitally. The vinyl is only 5xLPs. There are a bunch of alternate takes that also had to go onto the digital release. The vinyl doesn’t have the Roy Brooks interview because that’s about 38-minutes long.

    You touched on it a few times implicitly, but there are more Strata Gallery concert recordings out there. What’s next?

    I’m trying to secure the Herbie Hancock concert, and I’d love to hear the Weather Report show. Then there’s Keith Jarrett, Elvin Jones, and Ornette Coleman. It had to be a regular thing to afford to keep a roof over that place.

    Charles Mingus’ Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden is out now via Strata / 180 Proof / BBE Records. Order a copy here.

  • Le Stim’s coveted 1980 Detroit disco tribute to Muhammad Ali gets first vinyl reissue

    By | October 16, 2018

    A knock-out record.

    Le Stim’s ‘A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (We Crown The King)’ is being reissued on vinyl for the first time, this November via Melodies International.

    The 12″ follows Melodies’ reissue of Trio Ternura’s ‘A Gira’ – one of our favourite dance records in September, as well Frankie Knuckles’ shimmering Womack & Womack ‘M.P.B.’ edits – one of our favourite dance records in May.

    Le Stim was a Detroit band fronted by Donald Jennings, who was largely a gospel singer. However, in the late ’70s the writer of ‘We Crown The King’, Herbert Andrei Duncan, spent five years convincing Jennings to lend his vocals to the funky track, who was concerned the singing was out of his range.

    Jennings acquiesced and recorded the tune in 1980 – it later became a became a disco party anthem, fuelled by its anthemic “Muhammad Ali, woo yeah!” exultations.

    As Melodies shares: “According to Jennings, Ali did hear the track back then and liked it! Le Stim were in touch with Ali’s management and were about to meet him on a number of occasions which unfortunately didn’t work out.”

    ‘A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (We Crown The King)’ has been remastered from its original tapes – cut at half speed “to bring the shine out the top end” – for this 12″ reissue, and comes with exclusive Melodies Stickers.

    Pre-order a copy here ahead of its November release and check out the cover art in full below.

  • Listen to Ruby Savage’s London x Chicago x Detroit mixtape

    By | October 4, 2018

    From Quincy Jones to Moodymann, via Chaka Khan.

    “When music is from the heart it becomes a universal language that surpasses the barriers of genre,” London-based DJ and label boss Ruby Savage told Stamp The Wax earlier this year.

    Read next: How Amp Fiddler helped put Detroit on the map

    Holding down a shows on Worldwide FM and NTS, and with experience behind the counter at Honest Jon’s and as manager of Sounds Signature with Theo Parrish, Savage has applied this philosophy to this new mixtape, exploring the kindred spirits of Detroit, Chicago and London, ahead of upcoming party The 108 Sessions, at Mick’s Garage in Hackney Wick this Sunday.

    Listen to the mix now and find out more about the event below.

    Track list:

    01. Quincy Jones- One Track Mind
    02. Audire & Jay Daniel – 6 & Woodward
    03. Noname feat. Adam Ness – Prayer Song
    04. Tall Black Guy feat. Yusef Rumperfield – Come With Me And Fly Away
    05. Common feat Jill Scott – I Am Music
    06. Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler – Lost Without You
    07. Chaka Khan – I Know You, I Live You
    08. Parliament – Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication (The Bumps Bump)
    09. Makaya McCraven feat. Quiet Dawn – Drums&Bruk&FeelTheVibe
    10. Moodymann – Shades Of Jae
    11. Donald Byrd – Lansana’s Priestess
    12. Rotary Connection – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun


    With a line-up that will include Detroit alumni Amp Fiddler (Live), Chicago royalty Roy Davis Jr and Ruby Savage, Aaron L, Andy Lemay and BinKs representing London, The 108 Sessions kicks off at 2pm on Sunday 7th October and is free.

  • “Don’t play it safe”: Detroit legend DJ Bone on innovation and creativity

    By | September 5, 2018

    An afternoon in Berlin with the veteran producer and DJ.

    As a fierce champion of independence in music, DJ Bone has spent over 30 years forging sounds through the underground, releasing music via his Subject Detroit and Encounter labels. As technically experimental as he is creatively expressive, Bone has also built a reputation as one of the world’s most skilful DJs.

    On the heels of the release of his latest album, A Piece of Beyond, we caught up with DJ Bone at The Store Berlin. During the afternoon, Bone waxed lyrical about his inspirations (from the club to his love of Prince and classical music), dissected his craft (and why you should take risks) and shared advice for young producers trying to forge a career in music.

    Watch the film above, and check out Bone’s A Piece Of Beyond, out now on Subject Detroit.

  • Lost Charles Mingus live performance set for 5xLP vinyl release

    By | September 3, 2018

    Recorded during the jazz bassist and composer’s week-long residency at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery in 1973.

    A lost recording of jazz iconoclast Charles Mingus performing with a quintet at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery in 1973 is set to be released by BBE and 180 Proof this November.

    Read next: The story of independent jazz label Strata Records

    Recorded at a short-lived performance space run by independent label Strata Records on Seldon Avenue during the early ’70s, the sessions were transmitted live by producer and broadcaster Robert “Bud” Spangler for WDET-FM radio, and feature Mingus alongside drummer Roy Brooks and trumpeter Joe Gardner (both Detroit natives), pianist Don Pullen, and the saxophonist John Stubblefield.

    The “lost tapes” were uncovered by DJ Amir Abdullah, who has reissued much of the succinct yet iconic Strata archive in recent years years.

    In an interview with The Vinyl Factory in 2013, he described the role of Strata boss Kenny Cox in the community: “Kenny was a well known composer in Detroit, so if you had Miles Davis, Charles Mingus or anybody else coming to town, they knew who that was. Let’s say if Herbie Hancock came to town and he’s playing wherever, Strata would record that and broadcast it live on the radio for the people who couldn’t afford to go to the shows”.

    Tha track list for Mingus’ stint at the space in February 1973 includes classics like ‘Pithecanthropus Erectus’, released on an album of the same name in 1956, alongside newer compositions like ‘Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk’, which would appear on Mingus Two in 1975. It also includes ‘Dizzy Profile’, a waltz never officially recorded by Mingus for studio release.

    It’s been a bumper year for “lost” jazz records, with John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk receiving previously unheard archival releases in 2018.

    Charles Mingus – Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Seldon will be released on 2nd November via BBE and 180 Proof. Pre-order your copy here and check out the artwork and tracklist below.

    Tracklist:

    A1 – Pithecanthropus Erectus
    B1 – Pithecanthropus Erectus (continued)
    C1 – The Man Who Never Sleeps
    D1 – Peggy’s Blue Skylight
    E1 – Introduction by Bud Spangler / Celia
    F1 – Celia (continued)
    G1 – C Jam Blues
    H1 – C Jam Blues (continued)
    I1 – Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk
    J1 – Dizzy Profile

  • The world’s best record shops #116: Submerge, Detroit

    By | July 21, 2018

    Underground Resistance HQ.

    Every week, we pick out one must-visit spot from a different city around the world with photos and a little bit of history. Think of it as a kind of 1000 places to see before you die for record shops.

    Returning to the Motor City after a trip to People’s Records, we drop in on the subterranean space for a dose of pure Detroit history. Home to Detroit’s game-changing techno collective and label Underground resistance, Sumberge takes you down to get high.


    Submerge

    Website

    Location: 3000 E Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

    Go for: Detroit techno and electro direct from the source

    What’s the story?

    Take a walk to the snug, slightly dilapidated, yet glorious rave bunker that is Detroit’s Submerge, and you’ll find a record shop that embodies the Motor City’s techno heritage. As HQ for the pivotal techno collective Underground Resistance, Submerge is dedicated to the tectonic rhythms that have been shaped by Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Juan Atkins and countless others.

    As you’d expect, Submerge specialise in 4 to the floor and sci-fi influenced electro of the highest order. Collectors travel from across the world to find rare cuts from Detroit’s big hitters and unknowns alike, but it’s just being in the company of the city’s greats is arguably its greatest appeal.

    On any given day, you’re likely to bump into Rolando or Mad Mike propping up the racks and sharing stories, so when you’re in town make sure to get down.

  • Legendary Detroit club Heaven to restore original sound system

    By | July 11, 2018

    The storied after-hours venue that helped birth house and techno.

    Detroit Sound Conservancy has launched a campaign to resurrect the original sound system from Club Heaven.

    Open from 1984 through 1994, the venue became an epicentre for Detroit’s burgeoning house and techno scene, and a haven for the LGBTQ community.

    “If the speakers could tell stories, when you walked into the building you felt the sound in your body. Your shirt, bra, hair follicles, everything,” explains longtime Heaven attendee Damon “Magic” Percy.

    “As soon as you walked into that room you were encapsulated by a wall of sound.”

    After sitting unused in a basement for 20 years, the set-up was gifted to DSC by legendary Detroit producers Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.

    “Heaven’s sound system was remarkable and Ken Collier worked it. The treble speakers jutted from the club’s ceiling and the bass bins — the famous “earthquakes” — were situated at floor level,” shares the Metro Times in an article about the storied club.

    “The results, according to longtime Detroit DJ Norm Talley, were “ferocious,” as Collier would tweak the highs, and drop the bass out completely before kicking them in at peak moments.”

    The Kickstarter campaign funding will go toward restoring damage caused by flooding and mould.

    Head here for more info on DSC’s Club Heaven Kickstarter which runs through 9th August.

    (Photos by Christopher Cushman.)

  • Jack White’s Third Man Records to release Supremes rarities on vinyl for the first time

    By | March 22, 2018

    Featuring little-heard studio material, outtakes and live recordings.

    Third Man Records has announced the release of a new 4xLP vinyl box set collecting the Supremes’ rarest recordings.

    Read next: 10 ultra-rare Motown records

    The box set charts the trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard’s rise from their beginnings as the Primettes to becoming one of the world’s premiere soul groups and darlings of the Motown empire.

    Originally released on CD in 2008 as part of Motown’s “Lost & Found” series, the 4xLP set will bring 45 of these recordings to vinyl for the first time, also stressing that these might be the first time Motown records have ever been pressed in Detroit, given that the label often sent their work to plants in other cities.

    Released on 6th April, you can pre-order a copy of Supreme Rarities: Motown Lost & Found here and take a tour of the pressing plant where they are being made above.

  • Theo Parrish goes back to church for new Sound Signature 12″

    By | December 29, 2017

    Happy New Year from Detroit.

    Theo Parrish will kick off 2018 with a new 12″ release on his Sound Signature label.

    Festive salvation arrives in bucket loads on the ragtime gospel house banger ‘Preacher’s Comin’ on the a-side, which rattles through eight minutes of boogie woogie piano, and sampled incantations, fused by Parrish’s unique abiity to turn the dancefloor into a place of worship.

    On the flip, ‘Gullah Geechee’ strips things back even further for a percussive tribute to the African traditions of Gullah and Geechee cultures on the sea islands of Georgia.

    Parrish’s first new music since 2016’s A Gentrified Love and triple album American Intelligence before that, ‘Preacher’s Comin’ / ‘Gullah Geechee’ will be available in early 2018, but there are currently no pre-order links yet.

    Check out the artwork and tracklist below.

    Side A:
    Preacher’s Comin
    Produced by Theo Parrish

    Side B:
    B1: Gullah Geechee
    Produced by Theo Parrish

    B2: Gullah Geechee (Original)
    Gullah Geechee Personell:
    Jovia Armstrong, Keith Beber, Carolyn Ferrari, Craig Huckaby

  • Moodymann’s third album Forevernevermore reissued for the first time

    By | October 19, 2017

    An essential album from one of Detroit’s finest.

    Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann’s Forevernevermore LP is being repressed for the first time, by Peacefrog Records this November

    Read more: From P-Funk to J Dilla: How Amp Fiddler helped put Detroit on the map

    Originally released in 2000, the 9-track, 2×12″ features his signature soul sampling wizardry on classics like ‘Don’t You Want My Love’ and ‘The Thief That Stole My Sad Days [Ya Blessin Me]’.

    Forevernevermores reissue follows Moodymann’s recent Parliament Funkadelic reworks which saw him reimagining a selection of songs for the compilation album.

    Pre-order a copy here ahead of its 3rd November release, listen to don’t you want my love and check out the track list below.

    Tracklist

    1. Meanwhile Back At Home
    2. Wednesday Night People
    3. The Set Up
    4. Don’t You Want My Love
    5. (Logo)
    6. Your Sweet Lovin
    7. The Thief That Stole My Sad Days (Ya Blessin Me)
    8. Forevernevermore
    9. Tribute

     

  • Parliament Funkadelic remixed by Detroit’s finest for new album of reworks

    By | September 11, 2017

    Featuring Moodymann, Underground Resistance, Amp Fiddler and more.

    Iconic Motor City producers are reimagining the songs of Parliament, in new album Funkadelic Reworked by Detroiters, from Ace Records.

    Read more: An introduction to Parliament Funkadelic in 10 records

    The 17-track album, which spans funk, rock, disco, techno and house edits, includes reimaginings from Detroit legends Moodymann (as well as his Kenny Dixon Jr. alias), Amp Fiddler, and Underground Resistance, amongst others.

    Highlights include Anthony “Shake” Shakir and T Dancer giving ‘Standing on the Verge’ a touch of techno grit, while Gay Marvine puts his boogie-filled, magic dance floor touch on ‘Undisco Kidd’.

    There were a selection of legendary Detroit producers who didn’t make the cut though, “Theo Parrish, Carl Craig and Wajeed all worked on remixes but felt their mixes just didn’t hold up to Funkadelic’s legacy – that is truly a rare kind of respect, and shows you just how much this music still means in Detroit,” says album curator Brendan M. Gillen, of Interdimensional Transmissions.

    Pre-order a copy here, listen to ‘Cosmic Slop (Moodymann Mix) Funkadelic’ and checkout the track list below.

    Tracklist:

    Side 1

    1. Sexy Ways (Recloose Disco Flip)
    2. You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure (Alton Miller Mix)
    3. Get Your Ass Off And Jam (Marcellus Pittman Remix)

    Side 2

    1. Cosmic Slop (Moodyman Mix)
    2. Music For My Mother (Andres Wo Ahh Ay Vocal Mix)
    
3. Super Stupid (Dirtbombs Version)

    Side 3

    1. Music 4 My Mother (Underground Resistance Mix)
    2. Undisco Kidd (Gay Marvine Edit)
    3. Take Your Dead Ass Home (The Fantasy Version)

    Side 4

    1. Let’s Take It To The Stage (Amp Fiddler Laughin @Ya Mix)
    2. Standing On The Verge (Anthony Shake Shakir & T Dancer Remix)
    3. You And Your Folks (Claude Young Jr Club Mix)

    Side 5

    1. Be My Beach (Mophono & Tom Thump)
    2. You And Your Folks (Claude Young Jr Dub)
    3. Let’s Make It Last (Kenny Dixon Jr Edit)

    Side 6

    1. Looking Back At You (Ectomorph Stripped And Dubbed)
    2. Maggot Brain (BMG Dub)

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