A Detroit-based newcomer steps up.
As cities gentrify and newcomers arrive, long-established local customs risk being subsumed by a homogeneous, airbrushed monoculture. Nicole Misha arrived in Detroit in the midst of a much-touted renaissance, but as she indicates in the following interview, she was attracted to the city not by cheap real estate or some romantic idea of urban homesteading, but by the city's unparalleled musical history.
As a DJ, producer, staffer at Peoples Records and employee of Theo Parrish's Sound Signature label, Misha is poised to add to that legacy. RA.695 is pure Detroit, from the way it seamlessly toggles between house, Italo and disco to the telltale vinyl crackle that starts things off. The selections span from the established (Gerald Donald's classic 1991 production "Interlock") to the emerging (she's laced in a couple of intriguing unreleased tracks).
As she puts down roots in Detroit, Misha takes in the lessons of the city's masters while working tirelessly to have an impact on its future. She's part of a new generation of Motor City artists aiming to "create beautiful spaces, physically and sonically, for release and joy" in a place that's as full of inspiration as it is struggle.
What have you been up to recently?
Hustling! I've been working a bunch and spending time with family and old and new friends.
How and where was the mix recorded?
This mix was recorded in my home on the east side of Detroit. It was recorded with a CDS mixer (Compact Disco Soundsystem) and two Technics SL-1200s.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
There wasn't much of an idea behind the mix to be honest. I was just groovin' and let it flow. Upon listening back I realize that it lifts up a lot of folks who I'm inspired by, like Larry Heard, Specter and Arthur Russell. I probably always have at least one record from each of these three in my bag at all times. The mix is just full of music that creates space for me and propels me in all different directions.
When did you relocate to Detroit and from where? Has the city served as a point of inspiration over the years? What makes you excited for the Detroit scene's future?
I relocated to Detroit in 2016 from Durham, North Carolina. Huge shout out to all of my people in North Carolina or who I've spent time with there. So much of where I am and where I'm going is because of that place and the people I know from there; truly a special energy. I moved to Detroit for a plethora of reasons, but one of the biggest was my appreciation for the city's musical history. When I was working at my old college radio station, WXYC, I was listening to a ton of James Stinson and Gerald Donald's work. I later learned that these were Black folks from Detroit! Along with a gang of other people I had been listening to at the time, Theo, Omar, Marcellus, etc. That really changed my perspective. And really made me feel like I could be a part of something. As a young Black girl growing up listening to "weird music" I really thought I was just buying into a lot of white music. And I was low-key ashamed. But then learning that this music was Black Music just switched things up for me. I started making more music and DJing more. It really helped me open up a part of myself.
Now I live in Detroit and am in the place that I was inspired by for so long. I wish I could say I was only excited for the future of creativity in Detroit, but who has time to fake it. James Baldwin said that the question of the 20th century would be the color line, and the question of the 21st century would be what is to become of our cities. And that question is very much playing out in Detroit. Places with strong musical programming are few and far between. Black joy is policed. And young rich white gentrifiers use the city as their playground without much regard for native Detroiters. I'm originally from Brooklyn, so I'm familiar with the sensation of going back home to find that it's not you or your people's home anymore. Or that it's not being treated that way. It's clear that Detroit is in the thick of this struggle.
With all of my frustrations I am still extremely grateful to have found family in Detroit. There are so many elders all over willing to share knowledge, and there are also incredible musicians here like Sterling Toles, Marcus Elliot, Rafael Statin and Ian Finkelstein; all who keep the vibration of the city inspiring and motivating. My Sound Signature family holds me down. Together, we have created and will continue to create beautiful spaces, physically and sonically, for release and joy. The energy of Detroiters is one that I'm ill-equipped to put into words, but is just one of a kind. It emboldens me! I'm committed to cross-pollinating here for the foreseeable future.
Walk us through your day-to-day. Are you still working at Peoples Records? What's your role at Sound Signature?
OK so on an ideal day, I wake up, write in my journal, listen to music, eat breakfast. Some days I go to Sound Signature and meet with the guys. Other days I go to Peoples Records (yes I do still work there). After work, I'll come home, listen to music, read, or veg out on TV. My weekends allow me to be more creative. I might work on music, collage, go to Belle Isle, or chill with friends.
Because the team is so small at Sound Signature, my role is a little bit of everything. I'd say my most prominent role is communications. If you're reaching out to the label, I'm most likely the one you speak with. I also help with the manufacturing process, distribution and general visioning for releases and parties.
What are you up to next?
Well, I have the pleasure of traveling to Berlin in October to be a part of J.A.W.'s Family Reunion. I'll be playing with Theo before the illustrious Doug and Jean Carn (insert starstruck eyes!), and a couple days later alongside the eternally electrifying Julion De'Angelo. Peep his record Stand On Your Square if you haven't already. So yes, that upcoming trip is a huge highlight!
But more generally speaking: Keepin' on keepin' on! I'll continue working on music, writing, reading, making visuals. I'll continue maintaining and growing friendships and family relationships. I'll continue learning more about Detroit.
I'm an eternal student. I want to keep traveling, keep learning, keep growing love, keep growing myself, keep struggling so long as the world struggles. Gonna keep moving forward with the duty to share my life with nature and music. That's the work and the gift.