As we process the news of the Detroit icon's passing, we revisit some of our favourites from his catalog.
Huckaby made it his mission to help other artists make music. In 2009, he released a CD with 128 samples from his record My Life With The Wave, then went out of his way to highlight tracks that used it. "I think another reason I have developed a strong following or have gained the respect of so many is due to the amount of information I am willing to share," he told Little White Earbuds at the time. "I just have a sense of compassion to help others not to be stuck regarding the music making process like I was in the past."
Then, of course, there was Youthville, the school where Huckaby showed kids the fundamentals of music production, including a young Kyle Hall. By his own telling, the goal with Youthville was not just to teach production technique, but to instill in the students a sense of self-determination, to help them understand they could do something well if they worked on it hard enough. He inspired similar classes around the world, including one hosted by Native Instruments in Berlin, where he occasionally popped in as a guest teacher.
"The impact of shaping and changing kids' life is far greater than playing a festival in Europe," he told us in our film Real Scenes: Detroit. "I think this work here is highly needed, is highly necessary." Every scene around the world would be lucky to have someone with that attitude.
Huckaby died over the weekend in Detroit. He'd been hospitalized in early March following a stroke, and later tested positive for COVID-19.
"What did Mike leave us all?," Tresor founder Dimitri Hegemann mused over email. "Sure, his music! But he also shared his music in a very special, wonderful way, namely as a mentor... This is how we got to know Mike here: as an enthusiastic, patient mentor. So there is a completely different legacy besides his music, which Mike left here in Berlin. In a short period of time he has encouraged and inspired numerous kids, who were not aware of their talents until then, to make music."
The tributes that poured in since Saturday tell the same story. Mike Servito called Huckaby "my mentor, my teacher... an irreplaceable Detroit enigma." Derek Plaslaiko called him "the one DJ who I have never, ever heard play a bad record," and said he owed Huckaby "everything." When John Collins wrote that Huckaby "truly saved our lives," it didn't feel like he was exaggerating. As K-HAND wrote in her own tribute, "This is not a goodbye, dear Michael, this is a thank you."
Like many people around the world, we're thinking about Mike Huckaby today and revisiting the music he gave us over the years. Here are ten tracks and a mix we're remembering him by.
Mike Huckaby - Luv Time
In Huckaby's first two records, released on his friend Rick Wade's label, he'd already mastered a warm and laid-back style of deep house that would remain a staple of his sound for decades.
Mike Huckaby - Dance
On "Dance," of his second EP for Harmonie Park, Huckaby first unleashed the walloping kick drum that would drive many of his best productions.
Roland King - Flashbacks From The M1 (The Ferox Treatment)
Huckaby's techno side in full effect with this flawless, atmospheric thumper.
Delano Smith - What I Do (Reconstructed By Mike Huckaby)
Huckaby loved the Basic Channel school of dub techno, but he put his own soulful spin on it, exemplified here in this remix of his friend Delano Smith.
Mike Huckaby - The Tresor Track
Huckaby was a vital cog in the Detroit-Berlin connection. As well as mixing Tresor's 20th anniversary compilation, he produced this stomper named after Dimitri Hegemann's iconic nightclub.
Mike Huckaby - Baseline 89
A subtle and addictive groove with the best bassline Huckaby ever laid down.
DeepChord & Mike Huckaby - All It Takes (Mike Huckaby Synth Remix)
Dense, warm, rich and hypnotic—with this near-flawless cut of dub techno, Huckaby outshone DeepChord, arguably Detroit's leading specialist in the sound, who appeared on the A-side.
Mike Huckaby - Wavetable No 9
"Often I will limit myself to use one synthesizer just to see if I could create an entire track using one piece of gear," Huckaby told Little White Earbuds. This mesmerizing roller, made entirely with the Waldof Wave, shows the magic of that minimalist approach.
Mike Huckaby - Jazz Delirium
A sunny, laid-back, deep house groove you could let roll on forever.
Sun Ra - UFO (Mike Huckaby Reel-To-Reel Edits)
Huckaby knew Sun Ra so well that he could play reel to reel sets entirely of the experimental jazz icon's music. He also produced a series of killer Sun Ra edits for the Amsterdam label Kindred Spirits.
Mike Huckaby - Kiss FM, London, 1995
Huckaby early in his career as a DJ, busting out 90 minutes of jacking house for Kiss FM in London.