Sunday, December 16, 2007

1997 Drexciya Muzik interview

I have great pleasure to bring you, at last, the so called last Drexciya interview from the September 1997 issue of Muzik Magazine. It was done by Tim Barr and transcribed very kindly for me by one of my readers, John C. As you will see it was done to publicise 'The Quest' compilation which was at the time announced as the last Drexciya release.
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I recently heard there was a James Stinson interview in Groovesmag #8 who don't seem to have archives at their site so I am now putting the word out for this one as well. Also if anyone has the 1994 interview Tim barr mentions in this text I would like to get that up here for posterity as well.
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WAVE GOODBYE
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Since their arrival on the scene, DREXCIYA have charted a unique course through Detroit techno. But in a shock announcement, they recently declared their intention to cease all recording activities after the release of their new album, "The Quest." This rare and exclusive interview is their final transmission.
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"People find it hard to take a fighter seriously. They don't know that I'm using boxing for the sake of getting over certain points you couldn't get over without it. Being a fighter enables me to attain certain ends. I'm not doing this for the glory of fighting, but to change a lot of things." - Muhammed Ali
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THE Motor City is in the middle of a heatwave. Out on the Grand River Avenue , the sun is cracking open the sidewalk, blistering the paintwork on an otherwise unremarkable building which announces itself simply as the Detroit Engineering Institute. Inside, on the ground floor, the temperature is inching its way off the scale, but nobody seems to mind, even though every breath sucks in a lungful of fiery, cauldron-hot air. The people in this building just continue working because, as ever, there is work to be done.
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It reminds me that, just a few blocks away, at the bottom of Woodward Avenue., there’s a symbol of this city’s determination to keep going, even when the odds say otherwise. This symbol is the Joe Louis Monument, a huge bronze fist punching the sky in defiance. In boxing terms, it declares a simple truth. Down, but not out.
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Crowding out the searing heat in the Detroit Engineering Institute (a cover of an organization of a different kind) is another source of excitement. Drexciya have chosen this afternoon to resurface after a long period of self-imposed isolation. “Sometimes we like to get away from people for a while,” they tell me. “Just to gather our thoughts and find a best way forward.” It’s a kind of purification right which has occurred throughout their careers, a way of excluding the outside world and focusing on new ideas. “We don’t want to pick up anybody else’s vibe, so we cut off all communications.”
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THE first time I interviewed Drexciya was in the winter of 1994. No names, no pack drill. That’s the way they always preferred it. “It’s unnecessary,” they said. “Drexciya is a statement.”
And of course, they’re right. Since their 1991 debut, the hardcore electronic futurism of “Deep Sea Dweller”, they’ve blazed a unique trail through modern music, fusing speaker-shredding grooves and deep spiritual energy with essential releases like the “Molecular Enhancement” EP (recently reissued on Submerge) and the “Unknown Aquazone” double-pack. Drexciya records are about originality, about doing things your own way, about taking off into the wild blue spaces of the imagination. “We’ve always been wide open to extreme levels of ideas and concepts,” they declare. “It’s important to have no limitations.”
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Drexciya’s approach is based a single, fundamental principle, experiment at all costs. It’s this precept which has taken them to the frontline of underground techno. “There are people out there who change what they’re doing to chase trends,” they say. “Those people don’t follow their own path. But we don’t like stepping in other people’s footsteps. We wanted to follow our own instincts. We believe in searching for our own truth. WE hate following what’s supposed to be conventional of fashionable. There’s so much unexplored territory out there.”
“Experimentation is important. You have to constantly put ideas together; you have to constantly reinforce what’s different from the norm. And love doing it. That’s where the real excitement comes from.”
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And that’s partly why Drexciya have never subscribed to the spaced-out Afronaut metaphors employed by other Detroit artists. Instead, their shorthand for the realm of imagination is an underwater world peopled by different races. Throughout their brief catalogue, you’ll find references to Drexciyans, Lardossens, and of course, Darthouven Fishmen reinforcing the concept. “If you think about it, water is the most powerful element,” they told me back in 1994. “The sea is full of uncharted territories.” It’s here that Drexciya locate their counter-culture images of a wide-open dream-terrain, free from the prejudice, preconceptions of the pre-programming of modern life. “It’s a mental thing,” they confirmed. “But when the polar cap melts, everybody’s gonna live in Drexciya. . .”
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“In music it’s very important to walk your own line,” maintains Derrick May. That’s exactly what Drexciya have done since their inception. Inspired by the fluid mix of proto-rap, electro, European electronica and funk which soundtracked Detroit’s “progressive” scene. The duo have been together since the early Eighties, though they didn’t release a record until 1991. Instead, they spent their time experimenting and perfecting their sound. “Just because you can push a few buttons and make a few noises doesn’t make you Stevie Wonder or something,” they assert. “You’ve got to think, be patient, take your time. You have to have a reason to exist. You’ve got to find your identity and be true to yourself. There was a long thought process behind this group, a lot of different ideas and principles. It’s a very complex machine. We’re not making music just to be making music, we went to bring some kind of freshness into it. Before we even started putting stuff together, we used to spend night after night talking about all kinds of outrageous situations and deep concepts. We’ve still got a lot of material from that time which we haven’t even used. But that kind of dialogue is where the energy comes from.”
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Growing up on Detroit’s east side, Drexciya were exposed to a lot of different music. George Clinton’s P-Funk adventures were one notable influence. Jimi Hendrix another. “Hendrix was very experimental,” they consider. “He was doing tracks back in the day which sound like the music being made now, only he was using an electric guitar. And George Clinton was just a master at making music. He put things in a different perspective. He took life and reality and made them a little more colourful, a little more enjoyable. He didn’t follow trends, he cut his own pathways.”
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There was another tradition in Detroit back then, too, the metal-machine industrial rage of bands like The Stooges and MC5, who drew inspiration for their bruising rhythms from the constant pulse of the steel presses and heavy plants in the city’s auto factories. It’s not accident that Kraftwerk eventually hit hard in Detroit, as Dusseldorf, their hometown, is one of the Ruhr’s major industrial cities, and the rhythms from the surrounding steel and iron foundries have had a similar impact on their music.
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In some ways, Drexciya’s records are a collision between each of these diverse strands, fused with the raw electro stylings of Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Patrol, and Cybotron. But like The Stooge’s “Funhouse” and MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams”, there’s a sense in which Drexciya’s music draws on nothing except the intensity of the Motor City itself. “Detroit is very important to our music,” they confirm. “It’s full of the emotions which come out of this city. There’s a certain kind of lifestyle you have to have to life here and certain experiences which go to make the music what it is. Not all of them are sad. This is not a dark, gloomy place, it never had been. There’s a lot of sunshine and a lot of happiness. The people have this thing about making something out of nothing, especially when times are hard, and they know how to have fun. Right now, there’s nowhere else in the world we can experience what we experience here.”
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It’s significant that, despite their huge success in Europe, Drexciya have remained faithful to the sound of inner city Detroit. Their records combine the hard rush of 4am techno with heavyweight bass and tough, speed-drill funk. But tracks like the “Aquabahn” (from “Unknown Aquazone”) and “The Countdown Has Begun” (from the “Aquatic Invasion” EP) also flirt with the quirky, crowd-pleasing shift of classic electro.
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Like Underground Resistance and Aux 88, their allegiance lies with the wild fusion of these elements which has sountracked Detroit since the days when DJs like the Electrifying Mojo and The Wizard ruled the airwaves. “People try to put our music into categories, but it’s always different,” they maintain. “Every track is way off into its own place. We go over hundreds and hundreds of different angles to put together once piece. That’s what the world needs. You’ve got to work very, very hard, you throw a whole lot of ideas together and throw a whole lot away. You don’t settle for less. You have to open up the floodgates of the imagination. A lot of electronic music is straightforward, it doesn’t take you on an adventure. Too many records just go from point A to point A. Our material zig-zags. We want to take you from point A to infinity. The music is there to implant in your imagination and let your psyche take over and run wild.”
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This is just part of what makes Drexciya’s records so special. They talk about how the music industry is “polluted and diseased with garbage,” how the dance scene has been devalued by “track-makers” who spend little time and less effort on their music. “There are too many of those fools,” they spit. “What’s needed is a little bit of weedkiller. If you love this music and love the people who listen to it, you have to take your time and make sure what you’re doing is good. We’re not taking prisoners of coming out short, we’re gonna go all out and do the best we can. People have to put some pressure on and stop giving in to the garbage.”
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Which is why Drexciya have become such a crucial part of the modern dance landscape. At a time when it’s cheap and easy to be cynical, they’ve chosen to take the tough route, to play the game according to their own rules. For them dance music isn’t about drugs, (“Drexciya is a very pure world, no drugs, no alcohol, no casualties”) or easy money. It’s about making life a whole lot more enjoyable and making some kind of sense of it all. For Drexciya , dance music is about the people who listen to it. A lot of artists have overlooked that. It’ not about how we’re feeling, it’s about how you’re feeling. The thing is about you, the way you feel. What do you get out of it? A lot of times in the studio, we’ve been out there on the vibe of the music, but it’s not essential. Where does the music take you? How does it stimulate you? That’s what’s important.”
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It’s for this reason that Drexciya command more respect than all the “track-makers” in the world put together. They don’t make music for the sake of it, or to expand their own sense of self-importance. They do it to change things. “We’re trying to get some soul back in the music,” they admit, but it’s clear that this is only part of their mission.
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So where to now? A few weeks ago, a fax arrived from Drexciya’s HQ. It announced the forthcoming release of their first album, “The Quest”. It was to be their last, too. The final Drexciya record.
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“It’s time to prepare for the year 2000,” they said. “It’s time to move up to the next level.” “The Quest” is a 28-track double album which included previously unreleased cuts such as “Dehydration,” and “Dead Man’s Reef” alongside some of Drexciya’s most classic moments. It’s an essential reminder of why the rushing sequences and jitterbug rhythms of their music have stretched out around the world. This is music built for dancing. And dreaming. A rollercoaster ride through wild ideas, wild concepts, and deep, speaker-punching basslines. “We couldn’t find a better way to give Drexciya’s last statement,” they declare. “This album gives the best description possible of what it was all about.”
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If, as the album title suggests, Drexciya’s career has been some kind of quest, then it’s been one which has connected to music that’s been honest and wild and experimental all at the same time. “An action-packed vibe,” is how they describe it. “If we gave just one person in the whole world a new outlook or perspective, then we did our job. The music we made came from the heart. Every record was a moment in time. None of them can be reproduced. There are no programs left, none of the sounds are left. After we used them, we dumped them. That was our belief. You have to go out on a limb and make the extra effort. Drexciya was an experience. An experiment. You’ve just got to keep changing things in order to progress.”
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If that’s the case, “The Quest” is a perfect epitaph. In the six years since their debut, Drexciya have consistently explored the outer reaches of techno, fusing fierce conceptuals, with hard, street-level grooves. Alongside Underground Resistance, they have provided us with grit and excitement.
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Those qualities alone make “The Quest” an essential addition to any record collection. But it may not be quite the final chapter in this story.
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“One way or another, Drexciya will always be around,” they maintain. “The end is always the beginning…”
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Drexciya out.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for it. great reading for drexciya fans. by the way, it should be great if you would put all the interviews & articles of drexciya, including the questions. Because its a bit different thing to read the answers without the questions.
merry Xmas,
P/

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.discogs.com/image/A-1172-1101399812.jpg

I know this image is of James Stinson alongside several other members of UR but where did the image originally appear? Does anyone know?

9:51 PM  
Anonymous karl said...

thanks john!

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I actually have the original copy of the Grooves Issue Number Eight if you are still interested in getting this interview let know.

email me @ shoestring.undertakings@gmail.com

thanks for posting up this interview by the way too, and big ups to the other contributors.

-junior

7:38 AM  

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