We were 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 we asked was simple, are you going to come back to the USA to tour the project?
There was a brief pause, and Jeff Mills said rather sadly
There was a brief awkward silence as we 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 have 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)
Who Pioneered House Music?
Derrick Carter (Chicago, Illinois)
Regarded as one of the best underground DJs still currently touring, Derrick Carter has tour, produced, and worked with some of the biggest players and on the biggest stages of the world.
But you might not know it.
Because Derrick rarely gives extensive interviews, preferring to keep a low profile since his early rise to fam in the Chicago house scene in the 80s.
Larry Heard (Atlanta, Georgia)
Larry Heard has recorded and performed under more aliases than one might care to admit, most notably under the pseudonym Mr. Fingers.
Having grown up hearing the classical sounds of jazz and Motown in the South Side of Atlanta, by an early age, Heard could play multiple instruments. These early influences soon transferred into the electric music and dance world when he bought his first synth and drum machine in 1984.
Since then, his career has grown to be one the biggest underground house DJs in the United States.
Farley Jackmaster Funk (Chicago, Illinois)
Most well recognized for producing someo f the most iconic house tracks throughout the 80s, Farley Funk was a pioneer of both the classic Chicago house sound alongside the Acid House genre.
Having got his start in the early 80s in Chicago, his career has spanned over three decades and he is still actively playing and touring, championing the classic sounds of the genre he helped build.
Steve "Silk" Hurley (Chicago, Illinois)
Steve Hurley put the sounds of house on his back and took it to new heights, accruing four nominations for Grammy Awards throughout his prodigious career.
catapulting the sounds into the limelight, especially between 1985-1988, Hurley gained even more notoriety by producing four top-10 singles that landed themselves on the US Dance charts.
Working in such a people-driven industry over such a long stretch of time, it can be impossible not to rustle a few feathers. And Steve Hurley certainly had a few brushes with controversy, most notably with none other than the previously mentioned Farley Jack which you can read all about here.
Joe Claussell (Brooklyn, New York)
Joe Claussell made a name for himself throughout the early 80s by throwing some fo the most popular parties in Brooklyn and bringing the sounds popularized in cities such as Detroit and Chicago, and introducing them to the New York City masses.
Still actively touring and performing, Claussell continues to push the boundaries of his classic sound throughout his studio work and live sets.
The video below is an absolute must watch, if not for Claussell's impeccable DJing than to watch one of the most unique crowds I've ever seen in a Boiler Room Set.
Francois K. (Rodez, Midi-Pyrénées, France[)
Cutting his teeth in the early days of disco and house in some of the biggest commercial clubs in New York City, Francois's unique talent and ability to control a dance floor soon earned him premier spots at some of the biggest dance clubs in the world.
During this time, he started working on his production chops as well which took him to new heights and allowed him to work with such groups as Depeche Mode and Diana Ross.
In 2005, he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame, both as a remix artist and live performing DJ.
Danny Krivit (New York City, New York)
Having grown up in the cultural hub of Greenwich Village, New York City, Danny's lifeblood was the music of the big city.
Leveraging his wealth of musical connections from a young age (his father was Chet Baker's manager), he was already an accomplished DJ by the time he was a young teenager.
Cutting his teeth alongside many of the other NYC DJs mentioned in this list, Danny soon rose with the tide and become one of the best DJs in the world's most competitive cities throughout much of the 80s.
Still to this day, Danny reports to heavy-hitting industry players such as Billboard, Cash Box, and others and continues to be held in high regard across many avenues of the dance music industry.
Louie Vega (The Bronx, New York)
Having been born into a musical family, it's no wonder how Luis Vega's career took such a meteoric rise got him to where he is today.
Having got his start relatively late, compared to the rest of the masters on the list, in the mid-80's, he quickly found himself playing house and block parties throughout his neighborhoods fairly early on in his career. This quickly evolved into playing the hottest local clubs, and eventually the meccas of the New York City club scene; such as The Palladium and Studio 54.
He is still actively touring and performing to this date, with heavy involvement with heavy-hitting house labels like Defected Records.
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 remain an important reference point, while today's music dissolves like an Alka Seltzer tablet.
Where Did Dance Music Start?
Americans 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 a kid that wants to make dance 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 (60,000 more a week hit the market accordingly to recent Spotify metrics in 2022). It's almost like graffiti; it's there and then it's forgotten. That's excusable on some level, but ultimately we have an important history that we should try to preserve and respect.
Studying The History Of Dance Music
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 of 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 leads to a game-changing future. A future that you are now enjoying as electronic music fans, and where a crop of new talent is standing on the shoulders of giants. We are ready for the giants to start making some noise again; it's about time we took another look and listen to our illustrious history in this genre.
A great reference guide is a book called The Underground Is Massive by Michaelangelo Matos
This is a detailed account of the 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 us.