An ode to Chicago and Detroit.
On a normal year, today would be a big date on the North American techno calendar: the final stretch of Movement in Detroit, and, from 10 PM till noon or so the next day, the annual ritual of No Way Back, a party that delivers the unique spirit of Midwest rave better than any other. Mike Servito is one of the DJs who plays No Way Back every year, and his sound is central to that vibe: hard, funky, drenched in acid. (His 2014 set from the party was one of our favourites of the last decade.)
Like the other DJs at No Way Back, Servito was there for the heyday of American raves, attending mythical events like Richie Hawtin's Plastikman parties at Packard Plant. His taste was deeply influenced by the musical legacies of Detroit and Chicago. Over the last 20 years, he's distilled those influences into a sound that's utterly his, and brought that sound with him around the world, from his residency at The Bunker New York to the international gigs that kept him busy the past few years.
RA.730 catches Servito in a challenging moment. Beyond the obvious circumstances we all find ourselves in, it was recorded weeks after the death of Mike Huckaby, his mentor, and just before what should have been the beginning of Movement, the biggest weekend of the year for him and so many others from Detroit. Maybe that explains its tender disposition. Far from the "massive bitch slap" he's best known for, it's an ode to Midwest club sounds, shot through with a bit of melancholy.
What have you been up to recently?
We are living in extremely troubled times as you know. So, I've been up to worrying about our future, trying to survive, self introspection, stress, boredom, mourning, bike rides, cooking, Netflix/HBO binge watching, streaming, playing a lot of records, disengaging from twitter, and trying to get my stimulus check. You know, all that good stuff. It's a real mixed bag. Trying to figure out this life while wondering how long this pandemic is going to ride out.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded a few weeks ago at home in Ridgewood, NY. A Xone:92 mixer, two very temperamental Technics 1200s, Genelec monitors, and a stack of records.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
It's a strongly rooted one. I feel very grounded in my Detroit DNA and being exposed to all this music emanating from the Midwest most of my life. Detroit and Chicago laid down a serious foundation. So, it's a nod to those late nights out dancing all those years and growing infatuated with the music and the art of DJing. It's about bridging house and techno influences and paying respects. I wanted it to be representative of that. I always want a mix to take a journey, be cohesive in its story, and have an identity. This was born out of my admiration for Detroit, the midwest and its rich, stimulating DJ history.
It's your first Memorial Day Weekend in however long not in Detroit for Movement. What are you thinking and feeling about that right now?
I am thinking it is a surreal and strange position to be in for everyone. So many people affected on so many levels. I was feeling not so great about it all. A lot of feelings, emotions, and flashbacks. It's been an extra tough month, but this is our bizarro, limbo reality right now. I am optimistic we will get back to the spirit and essence of a Movement Detroit weekend eventually. I've been through every single variation of this festival since its inception in 2000. I've never missed a year. So, it's a really tough pill to swallow. Thankfully, the No Way Back stream this weekend was a positive reinforcement.
What was it like doing a remote No Way Back? Generally speaking, have you found the DJ streams helpful during this time?
It was a bit strange as a concept at first. But, considering the circumstances, we knew we had to do it. I signed up without hesitation. Everything had to be pre-recorded. We had a deadline. I was working on the RA mix and the No Way Back stream the same week so I was going a bit mental. By the time I got to recording the stream, I was limited on time and just trying to get in that zone and focus. There was no real plan. My only objective was to feel it out and play as well as I know. My only consideration was that I would not be closing at 10 AM per usual, so I can play a bit different. That No Way Back morning is intense for me. I tried to keep it separate from that energy.
I think Streaming From Beyond went well. Interdimensional Transmissions and The Bunker New York are my family and the lineup was stacked with a creative, capable force with so much talent and compassion. I went the distance watching the stream. It felt necessary but effortless. This RA Mix on the other hand was a real challenge. Maybe it was just nerves. Who knows. But, I had to put up a fight to work this mix out. Glad I accomplished something this month.
In regards to streaming, it's been extremely helpful. I knew it was something I needed to do for my own sanity and well-being. I don't particularly like being on camera. But, it's fine. People have been tremendously generous and supportive and I am very grateful for that. I've been able to donate money to Mike Huckaby's family and to various organizations and charities. I've been able to pay my bills. This is about helping others, giving back, and ultimately survival here in the US. I think being optimistic and realistic about it all is key. This is uncharted territory for us all. I'm just trying to have my heart and mind in the right place.
What are you up to next?
No real plans. It's a one day at a time kind of moment. I am currently keeping preoccupied with doing streams. I'm really enjoying that outlet right now. I have some streaming options lined up for Pride. I'd like to do a proper eight-hour set for The Bunker again. I have plans to work on a remix for Love Letters and another project with Matrixxman. Time shall tell, but hopefully something beautiful and wicked will come of it all. DJing will always be first for me though. I just wanna get back to a dance floor, a DJ booth, and an engaging crowd. I know we will return to the source.