Twelve years after his untimely death, it is clear when he discusses his roots that Delano Smith's reverence for Collier is undimmed. The influence of his former mentor plays a significant role in everything Smith does, including a return to DJing (Smith took an extended break from the decks for much of the 1990s) and a move into music production in the early '00s—the latter of which led to the establishment of his own label, Mixmode Recordings.
As well as running Mixmode, Smith holds down a weekly residency in Detroit and regularly embarks on tours of Europe and Japan alongside Mike "Agent X" Clark and Norm Talley in order to spread the gospel of "Detroit Beatdown." Beatdown is more of an aesthetic than a rigidly defined style but the trio's sets take deep, soulful house as a base before branching off into disco, techno and broken beat. Much of their recorded output—including Delano's recent Sunrise EP—is showcased on the Third Ear label.
RA caught up with Smith in London ahead of Detroit Beatdown's most recent Fabric appearance to discover which of the records in his bag have been most consistently hitting the spot.
Delano Smith - Trans [Third Ear Recordings]
"I made 'Trans' about three or four years ago and I really like the energy in it; it's a little bit more minimal than my usual style. I produced it in Detroit right before the first Beatdown tour of Europe and then dropped it in the Sub Club in Glasgow and also in Berlin. It kept the people on the floor but it certainly didn't get the response it's been getting since the official release."
Alton Miller - Abstract Messages (Dub) [Seasons Limited]
"This one kinda reminds me of old Chez Damier. But he's taken it to another level. I like the energy in it, particularly the bassline. It's beating at about 122/123, but it still has real energy in it. I hadn't played one of Alton's tracks in [my sets for] a while but I've been rolling this one a lot and I also like another recent production of his, 'Seed in the City.'"
Peven Everett - We Gotcha Goin' [CDr]
"I heard Theo Parrish playing this on a mix show on YouTube and had to track it down. I love Peven Everett's stuff. You have to mix up your sets with some vocals. I guess that's maybe me being a bit older but you gotta hear some kinda message in something and I like to hear a brother, or a sister, crooning."
Pirahnahead - Come 2Gether [Whasdat Music]
"Pirahnahead's an excellent producer. I love all his stuff. On this track he's taken a bunch of samples from a speech that Barack Obama gave in Detroit and put them together so, so well. The message is: 'When we come together, we can't be stopped—and we're going to start right here in Detroit.' I got a preview copy of this, which I played at my Wednesday night residency in Detroit, and the first time I played it, it just took off. And that was back when Obama was still campaigning. The track itself is pretty simple but very Detroit sounding: very techy, just a bassline, stabs and a real wicked drum track."
Caress - Catch The Rhythm [RFC Records]
"This was produced by Boris Midney back in the '70s. It's an old disco track that I used to hear on the radio when I was a kid and Ken Collier used to bang it relentlessly. It starts off really disco-ey but the bit that people really picked up on was the break. Nowadays I play the Danny Krivit edit, which is all break; it's just beautiful. Part of the appeal is nostalgic: you can hear how, when it was originally recorded, it didn't loop perfectly—although I think Danny's tightened it up—but the energy, the string sounds, the stab sounds, the percussion are all so great. It's also very long and builds to a very climactic crescendo and then has a really DJ-friendly 'outro' at the end that sits well with deep house tracks."
Patrice Scott - Visions of Mantada [Aesthetic Audio]
"I like simple stuff. And this is really simple. It just builds and builds. Patrice is really coming into his own: we used to talk a lot before he put out his first tracks but, now he's big time, we don't talk so much [laughs]. Patrice is a great DJ, too."
Tony Lionni - Free Your Mind [Aesthetic Audio]
"I got this as a CD promo. It reminds me a lot of Theo Parrish's 'Falling Up.' It's just bassline and drums; gritty, dirty; you know, real Detroit. It's four-on-the-floor but he trips up the kick in it and there's a lot of energy behind it. It's such a cool track. It has Detroit written all over it, which is the way I like it."
Nina Simone - See Line Woman (Casamena Basement Remix) [Palm Sugar Records]
"This beats at about 122; which is typical Beatdown [tempo]. They've taken snippets of a live performance of 'See Line Woman' and then put them over another drum track. It's slower than some of the other remixes; there's a lot of percussion. And you can hear the crowd chants in the background. It's just sick. And it has this real long build-up: you can hear her talking about the song in the background before it actually starts, then they echo out her voice, and then the drum track creeps in and the 'See line, see line woman' refrain. It's just sick, man."
Mr V – Breakers Theme [Sole Channel Music]
"This uses a sample of Martin Circus' 'Disco Circus,' which is my all-time favourite disco record ever. He also puts keys and a bassline behind it and it's just so deep and funky and an instant floor-packer for me. There's also a lot of clever EQ work and isolation with the sample in the middle of the track, which I really like."
Sergio Mendez – Waters of March (DJ Spinna Remix) [Concord Records]
"It's kinda old but I love this track. Spinna's put a very nice drum track beneath the original and there's a lot of additional production on the vocal. It's an early part of the night tune for me. It's just so well produced and gets such a good response from the older sections of a crowd and it allows you to break off into a very adult vibe right after because, you know, I can't just run instrumental and minimal all night. I like to break it up with vocals and this is generally how I start off doing that; it's just a great way to kick-start a dance floor."
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