The Detroit house don offers up a vintage mixtape from '93 for this week's RA podcast.
If there was an accolade celebrating the most underrated artist to come from Detroit's rich electronic music stable, one person who'd surely be up for nomination is Scott Grooves. Not only has he collaborated with the likes of Roy Ayers, Alton Miller and P-Funk pioneer George Clinton, but Grooves—real name Patrick Scott—also has a rich seam of solo material, most of which has seen the light of day via his own labels.
Growing up with a heavy musical influence from his jazz guitarist father, Grooves ended up studying the keyboard, going on to play as part of Kevin Saunderson's Inner City outfit before crafting his debut album for Soma. Loose, funky and soulful, Pieces Of A Dream stands the test of time as a great house music full-length, but the recent material on his Natural Midi label has shown that he's more than capable of crafting techier but equally refined dance floor cuts.
During our interview with fellow Detroit artist Patrice Scott, Grooves' DJing was described as "phenomenal," so it's difficult to fathom why it took until last year for him to play his first gig in Germany. As with many of his contemporaries, he grew up on a diet of the Electrifying Mojo and Jeff Mills' sets as The Wizard, and it's this combination of eclecticism and technical skill that he brings to his own sets. In a break from the usual RA podcast action, this week's helping is actually from a double-sided mixtape that Scott recorded all the way back in '93, and should give some insight into why he is such a highly regarded DJ in his home city.
What have you been up to recently?
I've decided to start another production moniker. Panther is its name, and it consists of myself and a guy called Kataconda. We've come together, and it was also an opportunity to work with someone else in a capacity that I like, and it was an opportunity to work with other labels and other people. It started out because I was getting ready to play out last year, I think on a tour in Germany, and I wanted to have some special mixes of records. I told him "listen to this, and let's see what we can do to make it special for me to play."
We re-edited the tracks and I overdubbed some live percussion, and we built a Panther soundsystem, kind of like the Jamaicans did, with effects and guitar effects pedals, just to warp the sound. I didn't want to start making total remixes, like getting the multi-tracks from the label and doing plastic surgery—I just wanted to make a cool interpretation from my perspective. That's what I did with Norm Talley's "The Journey," and it really went over. It sounded good, and Guy McCreery from Third Ear heard it, and he expressed an interest in putting it out. I've never put my own private mixes out. I just did them for my own listening pleasure, and just to have for my portfolio, so I agreed and it will be coming out sometime in the future.
How and where did you record the mix?
My setup at that time was two Technics... I think that I had just got a cassette player that had an automatic reverse function on it—it would flip over by itself. Back then, that was a cool feature, because if it didn't have it, you really had to monitor the cassette and see when the end was so you could flip over and do the other side, but this was automatic so it'd just flip over and just start recording the other side. I can't remember what brand it was, but I had a Pyramid mixer... I think it was a GLI, and I recorded it in my bedroom. TJ Johnson from Cave 9 studios did the job of cleaning the cassette and getting the sound quality up, so many thanks to him for that.
Can you tell us a little more about the mix?
For the podcast, I wanted to do something that shows a reference to time, and I think that this mix shows a reference to us in time. I mean, it's 2010, and I was just like... "What can I do to reference how long I've been doing this, and how long this music's been around?"
Last year I was in London, and I was talking to Judy from fabric while we were having dinner, and she mentioned she worked at Strictly Rhythm during that time period—the '90s—that's like our golden era! And we started talking about the different tunes that were out and at the time I had just stopped working at a record shop, but I was still very much affiliated with the buying end of things, and I knew what was selling, and what DJs were buying, and we started talking about the records on Strictly Rhythm and all the tons of labels that were around, so it stuck into my mind.
I went home and started to go through my cassettes. I would always do this—I don't know why—but I would always make a cassette and put the date on it... And I found one for June 21st/June 23rd 1993, and it instantly took me back like Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future! Back in time instantly, you know? I was thinking, "What was going on with me in 1993?" I was getting ready to put out my first release on KMS, which I was excited about, because KMS was like the label in Detroit. I was only paying $1 or $1.10 for gas, Michael Jackson had just performed at the Super Bowl, and Jurassic Park was the big movie!
Were you making quite a lot of tapes at the time?
Cassette making back then was like the thing. Most DJs, when they came into a record shop and they bought a record, if they bought dance music, they would basically go home and make a mixtape. You just made a mixtape so that when you rode around in the car, you weren't just restricted to listening to the radio. You could pop your tape in, critique yourself, and share your tape with other DJs, and they'd give you their tape, and you all got together and made a tape together. The next week you could come in and buy another ten or fifteen records and do the whole thing again, because you never really put the same records on the same cassette, so it actually promoted a lot of vinyl buying in the city. Most DJs back then, they didn't have a residency. That wasn't even a word that we knew, but most people had a cassette deck and a basement. That was our residency! So I made a lot of cassettes, man. That was your residency.
One profound thing that I remember when making those cassettes was that my mother came into my room one day and she just asked me, "Why do you need two record players going at the same time?" That really sticks out in my mind from those cassette making days. I had to try and make her understand the concept of mixing! I made a lot of cassettes because when you bought the records, that's what you did with the records. I wasn't travelling overseas and playing in nightclubs, so cassette making was the climax of a lot of what I bought.
When you were picking out this cassette, were there any particular tracks that stood out for you?
I don't know if that was the case with any particular tune, but I know when I listen to it... Because I was excited too, when I finally got it transferred to CD and got in sounding good and I was able to listen to it. I was thinking that this was at a time where guys like Mark Kinchen, he was really holding his own with his productions and remixes. I have a few Mark Kinchen productions on there. Of course, Masters At Work, and CJ Macintosh—I've always liked his work. Victor Simonelli too. Not so much a particular record, but just the overall fact that these guys were making a lot of the records the records that everyone was buying.
What are you up to next?
The Panther stuff has been taking up a lot of space in my head at the moment, but as far as the Scott Grooves stuff, I did start a sub-label—Modified Suede—so I'm going to release some music on that label which is a bit more organic. I already did one release which was the Riddum Collection, so I'm going to focus a little bit more on that. A tune called "Crash" is going to the next release. My new website—scottgrooves.com—is also going to be ready soon, so people can check out what I'm up to on there.