I was interviewing Jeff Mills a while back from Berlin about his new project Exhibitionist 2 and during the interview we got to the topic of Detroit. The question that I asked was simple, are you going to come back to the USA to tour the project?
There was a brief pause, and he said rather sadly, "no one has invited me out to perform in quite some time."
"America just isn't interested in what I'm doing," and then there was a brief awkward silence as I thought, how can that be?
Here we have a musical movement that globally has had just as much or more cultural impact as Motown and its foundations and founders are being forgotten. Almost no one in the United States has any idea about the significance of the music that we brought to the rest of the world, and that includes the huge crop of new fans that are driving it forward today.
How is it that Electronic Music has not been recognized in the history books like Jazz, it's had the same impact? Detroit Techno and Chicago house music has had an enormous effect on the entire world yet the guys that created it had to move away to Europe to make a living. As Disco died, house and techno flourished and Europe embraced our forgotten culture as Americans turned our ears to rock and hip hop.
Pioneers like Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Carl Craig, Stacy Pullen, Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, Joe Claussell, Derrick Carter, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, Steve "Silk" Hurley, Larry Heard, etc. are forgotten? (+ MANY more)
Some of the Pioneers of House Music
Electronic Dance Music today, unfortunately, is a genre that suffers from a "here today, gone tomorrow" syndrome and has become disposable to most new fans. There is so much EDM / Electronic Music being released that it's impossible to keep up, and sub-genres are born and die within months, a blip in the ever changing landscape. It's kind of ironic that technology is now partially responsible for helping to erase the very music that it helped create. Electronic music wasn't always that way, and the stories and music of the past remains and important reference point, while today's music dissolves like an Alka Seltzer tablet.
American's invented techno and house and yet 90% of new fans have no clue about our rich history in helping bring this music to the world? Most kids that pick up a guitar or other musical instrument tend to at least have some sort of historical reference point in relation to the music that they are learning to play, even it's not that far back in time... there is some historical reference even if it's from the last fifteen years.
Why is it that a kid that wants to make electronic music couldn't care less about the roots? Even more importantly, what are we losing from a historical perspective as new fans and artists pave over this incredible piece of America's musical history?
Maybe it's just the nature of the genre; it moves so quickly, and much of it is only temporary before being forgotten in a flurry of new tracks (30,000K more a week hit the market). It's almost like graffiti; it's there and then it's forgotten. That's excusable on some level, but ultimately we have a important history that we should try to preserve and respect.
We will do our best to preserve the history of electronic music with Magnetic Magazine because talk is cheap and forgetting these stories is tragic.
If you are a new fan of this genre, you owe it to yourself to dig a couple levels deeper. The history of the music that we can indeed call "American Music" in many respects is fascinating.
Forward thinking future music was evolving from the inner cities of Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Much like Hip Hop, there is a troubled past that lead to a game-changing future. A future that you are now enjoying as EDM fans, and where a crop of new talent is standing on the shoulders of giants. I for one am ready for the giants to start making some noise again; it's about time we set the record straight.
A great reference guide is a book called The Underground Is Massive by Michaelangelo Matos
This is a detailed account of beginning of it all and the key figures that helped make electronic music what it is today
You can score it here. If you are even remotely interested in the history of electronic music, this book is a key starting point.
Dig deeper, you will be rewarded. Trust me.