Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Drexciya interview, Etronik (Oct 1999)

After literally years of searching online and asking the writer Richard Brophy about it more than once I can finally bring you the James Stinson interview from Ireland's now defunct Etronik, an online electronic music magazine. It dates from 29th October 1999 and focuses on their current album of the time Neptune's Lair. Richard Brophy interviewed James Stinson twice and his second interview dates from 2001 and can be read here. You can read the original Etronik text here on the always useful Wayback Machine (up to now it could not open the link for some unknown reason). I've added the quotes to my master post of all James Stinson's known quotes here. In 2017 Richard and I were in conversation about all things Drexciya at Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery, audio here. I'd also like to thank him for allowing me to archive it here. 

Drexciya by Richard Brophy (Etronik #10 29th Oct 1999)   

Its been two years since we last heard from mysterious Detroit techno-electro outfit Drexciya. The Quest double album, released at the tail end of 1997 was their parting shot to an industry they clearly wanted no part of. Refusing to do interviews, have their photos taken or indulge in any part of the media circus, Drexciya believed that The Quest was the final chapter in a story which began when the act were spawned from African slaves brought to America hundreds of years ago. The act had found their own “Atlantean utopia”, and there they would rest for time immemorial.

However, in true renegade fashion, the act has returned, with a new album, Neptune’s Lair on the German Tresor label. Surfing effortlessly between experimental gurgles, gritty G-funk, clinical electro and classic Detroit dancefloor depth, Lair stands tall, proud and polished above all the second-rate electronic muck currently clamouring for our attention. It’s a bold, adventurous and clinically futuristic return to form from Motor City’s original purveyors of hi-tech funk.

Strangely, a ‘spokesperson’ for the group admits that the healthy state of modern music that has heralded their return. “The music scene has started to pick up again,” he confirms. “There’s some really good ‘pieces of music’ out there at the moment, stuff we’ve heard in clubs or on the radio that has impressed us and made us go wow! We always hoped people would listen to Drexciya and become influenced to make their own music, and now it’s happening. We try and keep away from everyone else in Detroit, avoid picking up on other people’s energies and do our own thing. At the same time, we’ve come to realise that we’re all into this, we’re one big family. Drexciya are as guilty as anyone of putting people down back in the day. Now we try and encourage people to do what they do best.”

It sounds like Drexciya have mellowed out considerably in their old age. That they even consented to be interviewed, albeit without any names or photographs, shows signs that they’ve dropped their guard slightly, and a willingness to even mention the ‘D’ word further proves that they’ve shed their legendary reticence. So, what do they make about all this so-called nu-electro?

"The music we make is electro,” answers the spokesperson. “Others tried to make it because it was deemed ‘hot’, but electro comes in so many different flavours." he continues. “Electronic music, whatever you want to call it needs this kind of music to give it variety, instead of just hearing a 4/4 beat, instead of just having potatoes, we’re saying why not have a steak as well?

In their absence, the rest of the underground finally caught up with the act. Producers who swore by house and techno doctrines started making electro, and the sound has permeated into and become an integral part of other genres, witness its influence on the nu-breaks scene. More a development on their existing game plan than the creation of a whole new rulebook, Neptune’s Lair is still puts the original breakers way ahead of the opposition. So did it take the full two years to make?

”Yeah, it took two years on and off to make it,” comes the reply. “Some of the tracks were old, and there’s a track on the album called ‘Draining Of the Tanks’, which represents Drexciya shedding our old ideas and injecting new sounds and experiments. That’s the whole foundation of what we do: making things people don’t think will work work. We also had some personal stuff we had to deal with, but the album was done at our pace. In the future we’re going to be more steady with our releases instead of taking long breaks. There is a reason why the album took so long which we’ll reveal at a later date. As always, we’re gonna go with the water, whatever way the tide flows. It’s the way we work, but we certainly ain’t gonna be cranking out a record every month.”

The mention of water and the tides brings us neatly onto that other Drexciya topic, their fascination with water, mythology and tracing their heritage back to some long lost water bound race. All Drexciya releases including the artwork, sleeves and track titles – Neptune’s Lair boasts gems like ‘Oxyplasmic Gyration Beam’ and ‘Quantum Hydrodynamics’ - refer to the act’s background and their struggle in an ongoing struggle against an unknown enemy. Do they still believe they are “Drexciyan Warriors”?

"It’s just an ongoing situation, we’re just trying to bring a new perspective to our music," the spokesperson somewhat cryptically offers. “It’s not radical or political, more of a history lesson, and the whole fantasy goes with it. The intelligent listener will weed out the real meanings though. Our music works on the same principle. We’re trying to give something to all our listeners, that’s why we chose not to put any vocals on the album, to let the music give people the vibes. Think about it, humans don’t even use half their brainpower, let’s see where we can bring them. Who knows, if you keep on knocking on our door you might even develop telepathic powers! We’re all about making people happy through our music, and not painting ourselves into one corner. We want to remain as free as the water and the wind.”

More than the sometimes goofy talk about their relationship with the ocean, it’s this independent, underground spirit that’s central to Drexciya. Still holding down regular day jobs so they can retain 100% control of their music, the act still equate the lure of the big buck with a cessation of all creativity. Let’s pass the mic to their spokesperson for the final word.

"It's never been about the money,” he confirms. “We could have signed a deal with Sony no problem, but that’s not the foundation or priority with us. Sure, you need funds to keep operations going, but even if you have money you still have to stay on ground level. If you believe that the money makes you, then you’re in big trouble. There are things we do that make us money, our jobs, but that helps us stay ahead, remaining at the cutting edge. We have very high standards, and are never satisfied with our music. We’re always trying to come up with something new, we’re never content with what we do. The day that happens is the day we all die."


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