The Urban Tribe leader flexes his turntable talents on this week's RA podcast.
Sherard Ingram has been an active member in Detroit's electronic music community for nearly 25 years now, stretching back all the way to his first release as NASA on cult Detroit imprint Express Records alongside Scan 7's Trackmaster Lou. Never shy of a collaboration, Ingram spent much of the '90s teaming up with Carl Craig, Anthony 'Shake' Shakir and Kenny Dixon Jr. to create a rich downtempo sound as Urban Tribe on James Lavelle's Mo Wax label, with culminated in the release of 1998's much-lauded The Collapse of Modern Culture album. He was then recruited to be the tour DJ for Drexciya in their final days, taking to the decks as DJ Stingray and masking his face from the audience, something he continues to do for all of his DJ appearances.
In recent years, his production work—as DJ Stingray, Mystic Tribe A.I., and Urban Tribe—has focused much more on his solo talents, and is now grounded in the futuristic electro style that is associated with his DJ sets. If anything, Ingram's skills behind the desk are improving with age, as demonstrated by last year's Social Engineering EP, which contained "tracks that transcend genre and time" according to RA's Richard Brophy. 2009 also saw Ingram launch his Micron Audio label with the digitally released First Wave collection of tracks from Annie Hall, Mariska, Kon and himself amongst others, and it looks like 2010 will be a busy year for the imprint, what with the vinyl release of First Wave along with a multitude of additional 12-inches. We caught up with Sherard by e-mail to ask him about the mix, his thoughts about the electro genre and his collaborations with Drexciyan compadre Gerald Donald, AKA Heinrich Mueller.
What have you been working on recently?
In the last few months or so I've been working on a new Urban Tribe LP, an Urban Tribe project with Heinrich Mueller and a DJ Stingray EP that will be released on Naked Lunch records, as well as mixing releases for Micron Audio by Mariska and Stephanie Mueller.
How and where did you record the mix?
I used vinyl and two 1200s courtesy of Mr Rick Wilhite at his home in Detroit.
Can you tell us a little about the idea behind the mix?
The idea for this mix was to play a diverse selection of tracks at a moderate pace. I didn't focus on creating a seamless soundtrack where every song fits into the next one. Sometimes a DJ's blends can be so smooth, and the records so similar, that a mix can wind up sounding like a one hour song. With this is in mind I just tried to crisscross Europe and America in terms of style and along a timeline. There are quite a few older songs in the mix that I think highlight some of the forward thinking nature of the artists that made them, in the sense that they could stand up with the current productions of today.
How did the hook-up with DJ Glow's TRUST label come about?
My initial interest was fueled by a record that I loved named "Whoami" that was released on his label few years back. I can't quite remember how we got each other's contact info, but we got around to talking about releasing material on his label. Of course, I was more than happy to work with him and things progressed from there. DJ Glow is very serious and deliberate about the sonic and aesthetic quality of the music he releases, which of course commands my respect. We are looking at some things for release down the road, so to all those interested. Stay tuned!
It seems as if electro has been unfairly ignored by a lot of electronic music fans over the past few years. Does this concern you at all?
The problem starts with the term "electro," which in my view is used far too loosely. It seems like almost anything that doesn't have a 4/4 kick is relegated to this category without much thought being put into it. In this day and age there appears to be an obsession with classifying tracks along lines of genre. Every other day someone is inventing a new term—polyurethane hybrid house, gaseous quasi downtempo klang, semi-permeable jungle 3-step, etc.—when in my view the overwhelming majority of tracks are just slight variations on rightly named genres that have survived the test of time chiefly (house, drum & bass and techno). I think extensive research should be done before a DJ, producer, listener, magazine or distributor buys into listing a track(s) under a brand new genre.
But to address the initial question, I think DJs have more to do with this than fans ignoring the so-called "electro" genre. I think it's easier to mix 4/4 beats, so a lot of electronic music DJs will gravitate towards those types of records in their purchasing habits. Naturally when they (DJ) play a club or party this is what people will hear all night and become comfortable with it. If one does decide to play a non 4/4 track, it will sound alien and awkward to the listener because almost every club, party, festival, a person attends is a 4/4 fest. I mean are you going to call Sound Of Stereo electro? In my view what people call "electro" is really just techno. Maybe younger and upcoming DJs who have been influenced by hip-hop, but decide to play electronic music will finally destroy what I think are artificial categories and reunify the art of making music with machines.
Last year you and Gerald teamed up for a split 12-inch under the banner of Drexciyan Connection. Are there any plans for a collaborative Dreciyan Connection release?
The "Drexciyan Connection" nomer was the result of some miscommunication between us and WéMè, and will not be used again, but yes there are certainly plans for future collaborations. It's funny how we have known each other for years but only recently began working together. I really appreciate his work ethic, approach to composition and focus on sonic textures.
What are you up to next?
As far as the future is concerned, there is an Urban Tribe EP on Planet E coming up, an Urban Tribe LP after that, and an Urban Tribe 2010 live show is being put together. My label Micron Audio will be releasing a lot of material very soon, and hopefully I can finally get some collabs with Cylob and Alex Cortex. Also, another DJ Stingray 313 LP will be coming as well.