Wednesday, September 06, 2006

James Stinson

A few days late but through one thing and another I never got to post anything to note the fourth anniversary of James Stinson's death but it's still well worth marking it with something here.

I've no doubt that whatever I and his fans may be feeling at this time about such a talented and loved human being departing this life at such a young age in such a sudden and unresolved fashion it can bear no relation to what his wife, seven children, family and friends must be experiencing, not only at this time but all the time. While life goes on, his absence for them becomes a part of their lives. To channel that sense of loss into something positive can only be done through their memories of him. As he is in their thoughts they are in ours.

With the re-issue of 'Neptune's Lair' this year it seems that at least one more of the labels which worked with Drexciya will not allow their records to go out of press entirely. I'm quite confidant that as long as there is a demand then it will be met by all of them from time to time in one way or another. As his music goes on, so will his memory.

James Stinson 14th September 1969 - 3rd September 2002 R.I.P.

In keeping with the archival side of DRL I thought it about time I included three appreciations written at the time to mark James Stinson's death. The first is by Tom Magic Feet, the second by UR's Mad Mike Banks, the third by Andrew Duke.

James Stinson, founder member of electro-techno outfit Drexciya, died on September 3rd in Newnan, near Atlanta, Georgia, from what have been described as 'heart complications'. Stinson, who was 32, had been ill for some time, even instructing record labels with whom he had deals to go ahead and release his music should he not live. Prior to his death he had been working as a truck driver, a job he said he enjoyed because of the time it gave him to think.

As a youth growing up on Detroit's East Side, James Stinson first encountered electro music through Cybotron's 'Alleys Of Your Mind' and became a regular listener to radio DJ The Electrifyin' Mojo. In 1989 he founded Drexciya (he claimed the idea came to him in a dream) with Gerald Donald, although it was several years before any Drexciya music was released. (The duo's first actual records were released under the names Glass Domain and L.A.M. in the early 90s.)

Drexciya's releases proper began in 1993 with 'Deep Sea Dweller' on Shockwave, which also established the mythological underwater theme which would characterise all their subsequent releases in the '90s through the UR, Warp, Rephlex, S.I.D., Submerge and Tresor labels. 1997's double CD 'best of ' collection, 'The Quest', was heralded as Drexciya's 'farewell release', but 1999's all-new 'Neptune's Lair' LP on Tresor proved that talk of the group's demise had been premature.

By shunning the usual means of promotion - interviews, publicity photos, live performances etc. - and working on a strictly need-to-know basis, Drexciya inadvertently cultivated a mystique that only added to their appeal and they became renowned as one of the classic 'faceless techno' acts. Yet this approach allowed Drexciya a level of artistic freedom - not to mention career longevity - that many would envy.

Instead of media overload, Drexciya created a fantasy world of slaves-turned-fishmen and underwater landscapes around their music, building on Stinson's fascination with the oceans and African-American history and his vivid imagination. Recently, however, his gaze seems to have turned outerwards: the last Drexciya release proper before his death was the 'Grava 4' LP earlier this year on Clone, named after a star Drexciya had 'adopted'.

Although a jazz and hip-hop listener, Stinson also deliberately isolated himself from other electronic music, especially when recording, for the simple reason that he didn't want to be unduly influenced by other peoples' ideas. He was a notorious perfectionist too, and earlier this year told Detroit Free Press writer Tim Pratt, "I'll never reach the point where I can say this is the best I can do." Yet his music was hugely influential. Futuristic, dark, textured and compelling, Drexciya were one of the keys to the resurgence of electro music in the '90s and one of the bedrocks of the Detroit electrobass style.

Although Drexciyan releases throughout the '90s had been few and far between, the last couple of years had witnessed an unprecedented level of activity. Stinson had finally begun to give occasional interviews, speaking of his concept of seven 'storms' - seven albums created in the same year to be released on different labels around the world. The first was Drexciya's 'Harnessed The Storm' album, the second and third were solo releases under the pseudonyms Transllusion and The Other People Place. More material is known to be forthcoming on Tresor and Kombination Research and Rephlex recently released the second Transllusion LP, 'L.I.F.E'. It's as if he was just hitting his stride when he died.

He is survived by his parents, his wife Andrea, a brother and seven children.

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Born in 1969, James Stinson grew up on Detroit's east side and graduated from Kettering in 1989. His name may not share the familiarity of his Detroit techno peers, yet James Marcel Stinson anonymously produced some of the city's most celebrated recordings during the '90s as the primary member of Drexciya. For nearly a decade, he quietly produced numerous recordings as a loose affiliate of the Underground Resistance collective and also as part of the Tresor roster before succumbing to a heart complication in late 2002 and passing away on September 3. Stinson never sought personal fame or glory despite the international recognition of his music, instead emphasizing the music itself and shrouding his identity in fantastic and subtle ideology that further accentuated the wondrous nature of his work and earned him incredible respect among those who knew him personally.
Now there's a whole resurgence of electro, and James was the life force of it. He had a fascination with the ocean, and aquatic things, and African-American history, and the voyage African people had to make. He was fascinated with the strength and endurance you have to have to make a voyage. His best feature was that good enough wasn't enough. He always pushed the envelope. Even at UR, where pushing the envelope is the norm, he pushed it harder than any artist on the label. He would expect us to keep living on the edge.

James Marcel Stinson, musician, born September 14 1969; died September 3 2002. 'Negative evolution cycle completed. Now in sonic infinitum mode.' - UR

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September 3 marks a sad anniversary--the passing of Detroit's James Stinson at the age of 32 from heart complications.

I remember clearly the day I heard the news; I ended up spending the day listening to my Drexciya records over and over. The raw power and passion of "Positron Island" has been not just one of my favourite Drexciya songs, not just one of my favourite electronic music songs, but one of my favourite songs of any genre since the first time I heard it; just as Drexciya remains one of my favourite bands--regardless of genre. Though I have been very lucky and have had the privilege of interviewing many of my electronic music "heroes" over the years, my interview with James stood out to me right after I spoke with him--and continues to resonate even more so since his passing. After hearing the news, I re-listened to the tape of that interview from December 13, 1999 and was reminded of how many plans Stinson had--to tour, to release even more material, to build relationships with those who connected with his music. Stinson's music continues to be released even after his death, such was his level of quality productivity. And we know from the Submerge mail outs that the spawn of Drexciya are hitting vinyl. But what struck me most about my interview with Stinson was that, despite the incredible focus he obviously had on music, more importantly, he was always able to achieve a balance. James told me that music was the *third* most important thing in his life. I asked him what was ahead of music; "My family and God," he replied. I am not a religious person, but I do understand the importance of family, and today, as I did the day I heard the news, I thought of James' family and wished them peace and strength.

We now have only James' music to remember him by. He was only here on earth for 33 years, but he managed to give us so much joy in the time he was here, and we can continue to keep his memory alive by thinking of him whenever we play and enjoy the music of Drexciya in the future. I am sure James is now in that calm and tranquil place he fondly spoke of--somewhere over the Red Hills. Rest in peace, James Stinson. Take care.

Andrew Duke

9 Comments:

Anonymous drâ„¢ said...

James' memory lives on while his influence is still particularly evident throughout the world of electro music.

A host of other artists continue his legacy:
Gerald Donald/Heinrich Mueller
Tyree Stinson (The Aquanauts)
Martin Matiske/Blackploid
Ultradyne
Urban Tribe
Dynarec
The Consumer
Microthol
Gosub
UHU

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the happier moments of my life took place after purchasing a drexciya cd at the UR stand during the first DEMF. This happened after stumbling across a few of his tracks on napster months prior.

Thank you for the blog, more importantly God bless Mr. Stinton and his family.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with all those names you forgot luke eargoggle with aliases. True drexciyans style in many releases!

RIP

11:08 PM  
Blogger Al Bleek said...

Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe is in my top 5 albums of all time.I hope that the music im writing will touch at least 1 person in the way that that album touched me.That would make it all worth while.

Genius

RIP

Al Bleek

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such beautiful music. Bless!

12:55 AM  
Anonymous NJA said...

Love Drexciya

1:34 AM  
Blogger pafufta816 said...

listening to grava 4 today. ran into this article. RIP james! ur music is out of this world, or deep inside it.

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Beoboab said...

Thank you Drexciya for all the wonderfull music....reaches my soul everytime.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Gustavo Orca said...

Thanks James Stinson for the music, passion and and creativity. I love your music!!! Rest in pace, brother!

1:52 PM  

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