Just a couple weeks ago, we had a moment to catch up with a well-known name here in Detroit—Eddie Fowlkes. Both a producer and a DJ, Fowlkes has been steadily making a name for himself for the past 40 years. He is considered one of the Founding Fathers of Techno and his career is truly intermingled with the history of the scene.
Fowlkes has been a staple in the city for years. He made his debut back in the late 70s after receiving his first mixer for Christmas. Since developing his skill behind a pair of turntables, he's played an integral role in the development of Detroit’s Techno scene ever since.
While on site for Movement Electronic Music Festival, we took the time to link up with Fowlkes to talk about his history with the festival, the Detroit Techno scene and how those two things have evolved over the years.
Fowlkes recalls how the music scene in Detroit was definitely different than it is today.
“Believe it or not, the DJing thing… That culture came from the black, gay kids. They were doing that shit. So, the black, straight kids went to the gay clubs. They were brining their skills to us. It was really them who started the whole culture.
"I wouldn’t say I was an innovator or creator. I just happened to be born at a certain time. You know? I think that the kids before us, they carved out the scene.”
That history is what Movement was founded on and has served as a showcase for Detroit artists. That being said, Fowlkes is as humble as he is talented and he's been a major highlight at the festival over the past few years.
This year, however, was different for him.
“I’ll be honest with you. I had a heart attack the first week of May. So, they put some stints in my heart. I’ve been walking, trying to get my health back together. So I really didn’t practice. It was more like, all the years I’ve been playing… If I ain’t ready by now, I’ll never be ready. I had to get my ears acclimated to this again. It wasn’t practice or nothing; just years of playing.”
For being in the midst of the recovery process, Fowlkes looked great. And his set was fantastic.
Over the years however, he has seen some major changes in the festival. What was once a truly Detroit showcase has now come to encompass artists from across the country and the world.
“I would say there are less Detroit artists. You don’t necessarily start to notice until you start traveling the world. Then you don’t want to come to Detroit to see a cat you can see in Europe. People want to come and see Detroit!”
This change, from a primarily Detroit line up to one that includes artists from various cities across the globe, is abundantly clear when you take a look at the Made In Detroit Stage.
“Yesterday [that Sunday at Movement], I was one of the only people from Detroit playing on the Made In Detroit Stage! From the beginning, you had old school DJs coming out. You don’t always see that anymore. They used to cater to a lot of old school people. The origins were truly there.”
While recounting this, Folwkes seemed more nostalgic than anything else—remembering the days when it truly was a Detroit party.
"It's a business, though. I understand it. But it’s no longer an entire Detroit line up. Just not like that anymore.”
Now, having been in and around the Detroit scene for so long, Fowlkes has noticed a truly striking difference between the Techno scene here in Detroit and those around the world.
“The cats from Detroit that make Techno and play it, they are more funky. Basically, Detroit cats are simply more funky with their beats. Other places call their music Techno too, but it's their Techno, not Detroit Techno.”
His assessment? Spot on. There is a unique quality that sets Detroit Techno, as well as Detroit Techno artists, apart. Perhaps it is the funk. Perhaps it is the spirit of the city and the people living in it.
Either way, Detroit Techno is something to be celebrated. And having artists who were true proponents of the Detroit Techno scene coming together, playing together at one festival in the city—now that is truly something special.