Norm Talley, Delano Smith and Mike Clark come together for a special triple-header on this week's RA podcast.
Detroit is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of techno. But often lost amid the mythologizing of the Belleville Three is the enduring hold that house music has also held on the city. The trio of Delano Smith, Norm Talley and Mike "Agent X" Clark, AKA Detroit Beatdown, have nonetheless flown the flag high for a unique, slowed down and raw take on the genre that could have only come from the Motor City. Supported by the unflagging efforts of Third Ear Recordings' Guy McCreery and their own tenacious DIY spirit, the trio has pushed the sound in an official capacity for more than a decade. With this week's special three part mix, we asked them to further present a vision of what Detroit Beatdown means to them.
What have you been up to recently?
Mike Clark: Touring Europe. I did a few parties in Switzerland last week, in Bournemouth now as I'm writing this and heading to London next week!
Norm Talley: Working on a few projects due out for release.
Delano Smith: Hard at work in the lab, and preparing for a November European tour.
How and where was the mix recorded?
Mike Clark: In my backyard! I like to set up my studio there in the summer. Laptop, Traktor, BCD3000 mixer, my garden.
Norm Talley: My part of the mix was recorded here in Detroit on two Technics 1200 and two Pioneer CDJs.
Delano Smith: Recorded at home on Pioneer CDJs, a Technics 1200 and Vestax mixer.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your part of the mix?
Mike Clark: My mixes reflect my mood, and when I was mixing in a yard full of trees, grass and flowers, it is my personal paradise. I started my new label recently (Strictly Beatdown) and wanted to play the new upcoming trax. It is the newest extended family of our Beatdown projects embracing the global effect of our sound! That was what I wanted to contribute to the mix!
Norm Talley: My mix is mainly Detroit tracks released and unreleased, along with some Jus-Ed and Wbeeza.
Delano Smith: Recorded off the hip. I don't like planning DJ mixes. I just go with what I'm feeling at the moment.
Explain what the concept of Detroit Beatdown means to you.
Mike Clark: It will always be the outlet of the Detroit underground dance movement that was not offered in the house/techno genre! When the opportunity came about where I/we were able to get people who did not know the REAL DETROIT, where we came from and what we were about instead of the fictional version (Detroit being a hardcore desolate place where there are broken down buildings filled with fast paced, hardcore techno artists). I was able to get them to see that we are a community spawned from Motown, funk, jazz and even blues! Even to this day when I tour, people come up to me and ask me to play real Detroit music to them, meaning super hard techno!
Because techno came out of Detroit people assume that is what Detroit techno is. In truth the style of techno that is now famous is the global techno that everyone plays out, but Detroit never went that route. We were always into deep, funky and soulful grooves. That is how we were raised and to this day if you play anywhere in Detroit, if it ain't funky it ain't from there. Third Ear was gracious enough to understand this confusion and fully supported the true Detroit cause! With our partnership, Third Ear really looked into the Detroit artists that played and stayed in Detroit. It's been nearly a decade and with Third Ear's contribution, our people are more active in the global dance community making and spinning house and techno around the world. That is what Detroit Beatdown means to me!
Norm Talley: To me, it was a group effort of Detroit artists making good dance music!!
Delano Smith: Raw, minimal deep house. To me, it's more of a groove than a genre. "Behind the green light" if you will.
What are you up to next?
Mike Clark: I just finished my new EP for my label Strctly Beatdown (still working on different versions of the songs). Did a few remixes for Luis Baro
and Mark Quail to be released soon (some were featured in this mix). Finishing my EP and album for Third Ear (long awaited) as well as my artists (look out for releases from Kym Wright, Jackie Green, Diamond Dancer and the legendary Carolyn Harding).
Norm Talley: Got a couple projects due out on Thema, MixMode, Third Ear and Sushitech as well as a few remixes for Ziam and PirahnaHead.
Delano Smith: EPs in the works for Mixmode and Sushitech. Preparing tracks for my album in 2011.
Photo credits: Matt Cohen