You don’t need us to tell you how pivotal that the Motor City of Detroit has been in the evolution of electronic music. Techno music’s pioneers Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May first formed the sound in the late ‘80s while studying at college there. But if those three characters tinkering with their electronic boxes were the first wave of electronic musicians from Detroit, then Carl Craig came through in the second generation. In fact he was mentored by Derrick May until he felt the time was right for him to take his own path.
That music that first emerged from Detroit has now developed an astronomical profile, growing from a collective of college kids goofing around to an internationally established and respected network of DJs, producers, nightclubs and festivals. Techno’s blossomed into an industry all of its own making and whilst we will always pay the D it’s dues, Carl Craig still feels a fervent need to spread the city’s gospel. Hence his series of Detroit Love events.
They’ve proven to be the perfect platform for Craig to unite the different generations of artists from Detroit together to play on the same bill and, in a sense, pass on the torch of mentoring and support to some of the most promising talents from his home town. But the Detroit Love parties also deliver something that’s much more important than such an inferred concept of talent transfer; they educate crowds about the origins of the genre but ultimately it’s a party that revels in that magic that got us so hooked on the sound in the first place. And this is exactly why we’re amped for Craig to be bringing Detroit Love to Farringdon at the end of this month…
Obviously we’re talking today to discuss your Detroit Love events… why do you think it’s important to carry the banner of Detroit instead of just gigging on your own as Carl Craig?
Carl Craig: They raised me just like my family did so it’s important to recognise that. Also, Detroit is always the underdog so it’s my quest to make sure that people can appreciate the ‘underdoggedness’ of Detroit.
Do you still feel like that’s the case today?
It’s always going to be like that.
Do you think there’s still a need to keep pushing the good name of Detroit and drawing the focus back to its founding roots?
Well, Detroit was mentioned a lot when Motown was quite big, but when Motown decided to go to LA, Detroit kind of lost that thing that kept a positive light on it. The automobile industry was going down and the crack rate was going up… it’s like Detroit needs a constant for people to really appreciate it – not just it being something that’s hot at the moment. Of course Eminem made it hot, Dilla made it hot, Jack White made it hot, Derek, Kevin and Juan made it hot but these are just times and Jack White doesn’t live in Detroit anymore! Unfortunately Dilla passed and Eminem never really lived in Detroit.
I was born and raised in Detroit. I went to high school in Detroit. Like, when Jay Z starts a rap and he says ‘Brooklyn’… it’s the same thing for me with Detroit. Jay Z doesn’t have to talk about Brooklyn but he’s still representing. I think that’s probably something that’s really more rooted in the American way of dealing with things maybe, you represent your home town to the core.
“…you almost have to make sure that it is possible that people can be exposed to your music and to the history of the whole thing [at the same time]”
And it feels like, with Detroit Love, you’re adopting a mentor like role, helping the next generation come through by supporting them at events…
In some cases I am raising a new generation; there’s not only my kids, who are the next generation, but there’s always going to be new generations of people who discover music in the way that I discovered music from people way after they were gone – for instance people like John Coltrane or Sun Ra. In the same way people are learning about my music and learning about the music of Detroit, so you almost have to make sure that it is possible that people can be exposed to your music and to the history of the whole thing [at the same time].
It’s funny that you mentioned your biological family as a new generation… I mean Kevin Saunderson’s son Dantiez is joining us (and you) for the Detroit Love event here at the end of November…
Dantiez is really exciting. He’s really excited to do what he’s doing. He’s grown up in it because when Dantiez and DaMarii (Kevin’s other son) were pre-teens they were on stage with his dad, watching him DJ. And of course it’s important not only because I’ve known those kids for a long time but because the excitement that’s gone into Dantiez. He’s like a machine right now. He’s really doing a lot of great stuff and working really hard.
Would you recommend music as a viable path to young people?
Yes, of course. I think it’s important to always have new generations that can adopt and take over, creatively, because if it wasn’t for me then maybe a lot of people wouldn’t have known about what people like Juan were doing, or without MK a lot of people may not have known about what Kevin was doing. One thing that’s important for people to know about the music is that the younger generation always need come in and put their spin on it.
I’m always curious about what other younger artists that you’re aware of in Detroit that you think are showing a lot of promise…?
I mean the main two are Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall that are already around. And definitely Dantiez and DaMarii Saunderson, they are looking really hot.
“Most Detroiters that come out to play are proud to play music that we’ve been working on and testing out.”
And knowing that you’ve done a lot of Detroit Love events in Ibiza, do you feel that Europe is still better at supporting Detroit techno artists than the USA is?
On the whole Europe is still the strongest because all the countries are really close to each other and the information gets around very quickly. Asia’s different because it’s mainly Japan but Japan can’t handle all the interest in Asia. It seems that South America is becoming more of an emerging market, which I’m really quite happy about, but in the US it’s still very trend based. Now that people have been ridiculing EDM so bad I think there might be another lull in the dance music community until people jump onto the next big thing.
I think a lot of people had kind of hoped that there would eventually be a trickledown effect from all these kids getting into EDM, that they’d be actively looking for and discovering more and more underground music. Have you seen any evidence of that actually happening in the US of yet?
It only really happens in big cities… so New York, LA, San Francisco, Miami… but you have to remember that it’s 300,000 million people and 3000 miles from east to west, so it’s a lot of territory. If New York was kind of the centre of the country in the same way that London is and it was a lot smaller country I think we would be able to see that trickledown more obviously.
So what is the actual experience of a Detroit Love event like? What we can expect?
Detroit Love has always been about playing good music and presenting it in a way that’s very Detroit-centric – you don’t necessarily have to play all Detroit records but it’s just that mind of how you play it. Plus there’s a Detroit way of playing it. Most Detroiters that come out to play are proud to play music that we’ve been working on and testing out, they’re giving people treats whether they expect it or not. We do our best to try to make sure that we give out treats every time we play. The treat is in the music.