Electronic Directory (re)presents Subject Detroit – featuring interview with Rennie Foster.
Rennie Foster Biography
Rennie "Dubnut" Foster has been a well respected figure in the Canadian music and art community since he was just a teenager. He influenced many as an early pioneer of the Hip-Hop / B-Boy movement and later the House Music and Techno / Rave scene with his uncomprimising underground spirit and dedication to breaking ground with everything he puts his mind to whether he was making music for the local CHUM television network, judging the DMC dj contest or fighting for the right to dance at City Hall. Known for his talent on the dancefloor aswell as with a mic or a can of paint it was behind the turntables and in the studio that Rennie would bring his relentless fusion of Hi-Tech Funk and Soul to a global audience.
After visiting Japan several times to play, Rennie fell in love with the techno oriented Tokyo club scene and has since relocated to Tokyo where he now resides with his 7 year old Japanese twin daughters, the main source of inspiration for this dedicated single father and full time vinyl pilot.
Rennie has been making himself heard the last few years with a well recieved string of vinyl singles and remixes as both a solo artist with labels such as Subject-Detroit, Monoid, Synewave, Rewired, Soiree, F… U ! Com etc. aswell as with partner Kan Shinomura as Futago Technologies. The Japanese word Futago means twins and Kan is also a father of twins, born only hours apart from Rennie’s children… its this kind of fate that has guided the Futago Tech. project to great success so far including the creation of thier own "Futago Traxx" imprint releasing thier original Fusion of Detroit and Tribal influenced sounds alongside artists such as Jamie Anderson, Ben Sims, Mark Williams, Damon Wild, Rue East and Oliver Ho aka Raudive. The Futago Technologies unit has also released on labels like IngomA and Teknotika including the heavily played Samedi remixes championed by Derrick May and so many others.
Now, with the rise in popularity of digital DJ technology and changes in the way music is being played and purchased Rennie has launched another label, "Dirty Works", dedicated to bringing the spirit of vinyl and roots of underground dance music into the digital age. Fusing the refined "minimal" elements of modern club sounds with the R.A.W. (Rock Any Warehouse) vibe of filthy Chicago House, Detroit Techno and early rave records. Dirty Works is truly the NEW WAY TO JACK !!! Rennie is also sponsored by RANE and Serato Scratch Live.
Rennie’s many releases have recieved stellar reviews in magazines and websites such as DJ, XLR8R, Loud, Traxx, Mixer, littledetroit.net, DJ Times, and Mixmag plus get regular charting and support from major figures such as Dave Clarke, Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, DJ Bone and Kevin Saunderson. Even if you havn’t yet heard Rennie’s name, chances are you have danced to one of his records. Rennie has showcased his unique and highly technical DJ style in clubs and venues all over North America, Europe and Asia holding his own alongside a diverse range of top players from Frankie Knuckles to Daniel Bell to Grandmaster Flash and a long list of other big names.
All in all Rennie Foster is a hard working purveyor of high quality techno and house based music, a dedicated student of dance music’s rich history and a steadfast believer in the bright future of electronic music.
Interview with Rennie Foster by Kazuumi Ishii
What’s new in the world of Rennie Foster ?
Always somethin’ new… more remixes, more singles, workin’ on a new album. I got a sponsorship through RANE, Serato Scratch Live… so thats new. They flowed me this new RANE mixer with Serato built right in… so I am figuring that out, pretty intense effects processor with firmware in the mixer and stuff… Put out this track called "Devil’s Water" on Rebirth Records out of Italy that’s catching a lot of attention, getting played by a whole bunch of unlikely DJs like Sasha, James Holden etc. I’m a bit surprised by that as I am usually off that sort of radar but whatever, I am happy to reach new people with my music.
Describe your relationship with Subject Detroit/Real Booking Artist Agency ?
While I have been in touch with Subject for a minute now. When the first Subject Records started coming out, a guy out here in Japan flowed me those and right away I knew that Bone and I had some common tastes… so i contacted him and sent some promos and a demo. That demo eventually became the Subject:Tokyo EP.
The Subject camp is not your usual label roster, the relationship has built slowly and strongly. Bone and I are both intense underdog type characters, so we vibe on that I think. Now that Ahnne Araza is more involved and Real Booking is happening it’s getting even tighter and more refined. At one time, Subject was just one of the many labels I am working with but now it’s more than that; my main crew, the label that is most important to me personally, a family affair with a small roster of deep individuals who are really down with each other and presenting something truly underground and independent to the techno world. Those my peoples.
Among some of your counterparts – guys like Stephen Brown and Orlando Voorn – Detroit is a great influence upon their music. What are your musical influences ?
I love Detroit techno and of course Detroit techno has always been a big influence on me, but definitely not the only important influence. My man Derrick Thompson aka Drivetrain put out one of my first records on Soiree, a label out of Detroit, and since that record I have made records and remixes for quite a lot of Detroit labels and artists. Also, some of my main mentors are Detroit artists, like DJ Bone, Gary Martin and Derrick Thompson, so I guess it’s natural that people tend to group me in with what is happening with Detroit techno. But really I have never purposely tried to make Detroit techno or even "techno" really, my music is just my music and the influences and references within reflect all kinds of things, jazz, new wave, classic rave stuff, and of course all kinds of techno and house music. I love Pat Methany, Herbie Hancock, Sun Ra. David Byrne and Eno’s "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts" album was a big influence. Todd Terry, Cybotron, Soul Sonic, Kraftwerk even Rock stuff like Fugazi, Led Zeppelin, Joy Division and Bad Brains influenced me. Hip Hop like Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Diamond D, Low Profile, Native Tongues… the list goes on forever. I think my biggest influences are non-musical, like everyday folks, city life, my kids, struggle, nature, skateboarding, love. I am like an anti-purist, which goes against what a lot of "Detroit techno" heads are all about, so it surprises me sometimes that my music fits in that category. I will just make the music that I want and let other people put genre names and such on that because it is really of no interest to me what people call it. It’s not intended to be anything else than "Rennie’s music". The only genre name I really embrace is A.B.M…. and if you don’t know what that means you should ask Bone about it.
What direction have you taken for your forthcoming second single on Subject Detroit ?
The "Good Time Charlie" project is a bit tongue in cheek, less "serious" than my usual work. It has elements of classic house, Detroit techno and modern minimal combined in a way I think is quite different than usual and the whole thing is completely dancefloor, good times type music. The remixes are hot too, Bone and Aux 88, definately check that. I am really hoping it does some big damage this summer/fall.
You’ve recently released your first album called ‘THE WAR OF ART’. What does that mean for you and where do you see parallels to that ‘War’ in real life ?
Now THAT is a loaded question my man. I could write a whole essay on the meaning of that album title. I will try to give you the short answer. The "War" of course is the artist’s struggle in the current state of the music business. It is really hard right now with mp3 downloads, torrents, ultra commercially oriented download sites, shops, labels and distributors going out of business left and right. It’s like a war zone and it`s a constant battle of strategy trying to make a living and get your music heard. The artists that are most successful are not necessarily the most talented or prolific but rather the most strategic and marketing saavy… and that’s a heavy situation. It seems like new digital DJ technology and digital file distribution becoming more and more prevalent there would be so much more potential for independent and underground artists but in many cases the reality is more commercial than before and some very important music is going unoticed, lost in a vast crowd of over-hyped "name recognition" and such. I am no expert on these issues, I am just an artist trying to survive and do the best I can for my music and the music I love, so this is not some kind of manifesto or something, just a personal account. The title really refers more to what I was going through while making these tracks, not so much the tracks themselves I think… AND of course it’s a play on words from the ancient Chinese text "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, a book that deals with deep psycological war strategy and military tactics.
I think, it is good that the tracks don’t only work as tools. You don’t have to necessarily be a DJ to buy your album, for many tracks have some kind of song character, just because of the house-tinged tracks like ‘The Go Down’ and ‘City Of Gold’, for example.
Thanks alot for saying that, I am glad you could get that from it. Especially with this album I was interested in reaching people in a variety of situations, talking with them on their turf not just mine (in the club), for example, in the car, iPod, while they are cleaning their house, whatever. So I designed the songs with that in mind, but the tricky part was making the tracks also functional on a dancefloor besides that, because I am first and foremost a DJ and DJ music is my element, I wanted to design an artist album that was relevant in everyday life yet still within my element of expertise.
Pretty loco that one. Can you now please walk us through each track on the album ?
- 01. The War Of Art
- This is the Introduction to the rest of the album, the entrance. The viola and violin are played by a very talented musician, Bethany Brown, from Vancouver. There is alot of tenion being expressed here, alot of struggle and hope.
- 02. Passive Avenger
- This is something like the Brand New Heavies doing techno, lots of live instrumentation, driving funk, again with Bethany on the strings.
- 03. Turning Seven
- I made this for my kids on their 7th birthday. Lot’s of beauty and hope and absolutely real love in this one… feel it.
- 04. Stun Gun One
- Sort of a commentary on the pretentious psuedo "sophistication" so prevalent in modern "minimal" techno, it’s starts in that vein, sort of as a trick, and then goes way over the top. Lot’s of people hate this track and those that get it, love it.
- 05. The Go Down
- There is Subject:Detroit 45 called "No Heroes" that was given out to those that participated in the "Parts Unknown" CD project, the B-side contains a speech by Bone that sums up a great deal of how I feel sentimentally about the state of dance music. Kan Shinomura translated it into Japanese, the translation was never released but I played it alot around Tokyo, over top of tracks and such. Since this album was mainly intended for Japanese CD release I decided to lay it over a groove I was working on… and there it is.
- 06. Her Dirty White Pumps
- Inspired by a dream I had about a homeless woman on a bus wearing some high heels, perhaps sho got them from the trash, or perhaps from a more glamorous past ? When I woke I saw it as a metaphor for a few people in the industry, with both a positive and negative meaning.
- 07. Tapioca
- This track was licensed by Kevin Saunderson for his "Ekspozicija 07. The Detroit Connection". It vaguely references Detroit style minimal sounds like Rob Hood or Sterac but in a really twisted sort of way, again messing with preconceptions of purism. Also, i really like tapioca pudding.
- 08. Falling Skyward
- This was released as a vinyl single on Gary Martin’s Teknotika label, another Detroit label that I care deeply about. The record did very well and and Gary and I decided it should be on the album. Gary also mastered this whole album by the way.
- 09. Starchild
- This is deep space exploration type music. There is alot of things being said in this but I can’t begin to find words for them. Please listen… what do you feel ?
- 10. Skyliner
- This track is about living in Tokyo. It’s about being part of the life blood of the city, which is people moving from place to place. People moving down train tracks like blood through veins. Seeing the Tokyo skyline like a silouette of a living being.
- 11. City Of Gold
- This is a track I made several years ago at the original Futago studio in Canada. It was released on Futago Traxx in 2004 as part of the "Family Units" EP. It has remained one of my favourite songs I have made since then and I always thought that when I make an album I should include "City Of Gold", so I did.
- 12. Dishiki
- This track sort of references Todd Terry, a big influence on me, but of course is completely different, lot’s of references here actually. I included this one at the last moment, but it fits well I think.
and of course the HIDDEN TRACK…
This one doesn’t have a title, but that’s me rapping on there. Alot of people don’t know that part of me, the Hip Hop part. I am a long time member of the Universal Zulu Nation and have been active as a Graffitti writer, B-Boy and MC as well as a DJ of course. I have also judged the DMC competitions in western Canada and things like that. I used to be in a rap group called "Sound Advice" in the late 80′s early 90′s that did quite well in our area and included Moka Only and Prevail of the famous Canadian rap group "Swollen Members". Nelly Furtado was around our circle aswell back then. It was the Fast Eddie track "Hip House" that really started me on the path toward house and techno music and I still take a part of all those experiences with me in what I today. Expect more tracks with vocals from me in the future.
You have remixed for the likes of DJ 3000, Gary Martin and Infiniti. Who would be on your wish list of people you would like to remix ?
Well I think the tracks I would really love to remix are classic tunes, and that’s a tricky situation. Although I would really want to do it, I think alot of "modern" remixes of classics are completely un-neccesary and self indulgent and really take away from the timelessness of the song that made it so special in the first place. Not all of course, I have heard some good ones, but few comparatively. I would like to remix one of the Inner City classics like "Let It Reign", "Pennies From Heaven" or "Big Fun". I havn’t yet heard a modern remix that does justice to the originals, all respect due, I know its a hard task but anyway I would like a shot to see what I can do. Also I would love to remix The Cranberries, since I am a big fan Dolores O’Riordan’s voice. Or Sigur Ros. Or MF Doom.
You do producing, remixing and your own artist albums, how did you get to be such a jack of all trades and what do you like best ?
I am just a DIY sort of person. I do what I have to do to get my music and other artist’s music who I think need to be heard, heard. It’s all one job for me really, a series of tasks with the same goal, and what I like best is reaching those goals i set out for myself. It’s all an extension of the same thing for me.
What do you think about today’s music in general and electronic music in specific ?
Well, personally I am still just trying to make sense of it all. I think that people who claim to know the "right way" or how it "should be" are mistaken. It’s a crazy situation with the terrain changing everyday. One thing I can tell you for sure is I am not into any of the "vs." sort of arguments, like vinyl vs. digital or whatever. There are a number of different ways to go about creating music, DJing, distributing and selling music, etc. and they all work differently for different people. I think both vinyl and digital approaches have very strong points and very weak points, BOTH. So for me personally it is vital to learn all I can about everything and do everything in my power using all means at my disposal to do the best I can for my music. I am loyal to music, not to any specific genre or format or brand. Also I really don’t want to comment too much on what I think is "wrong" with dance music or the industry, I just do my best to do and create what I think is "right", for me and for the people who support my music.
You have been based in Tokyo for years. How is living in Tokyo influencing and inspiring you musically ?
Living in Japan is a trip, I can’t front. It’s a very complicated culture with a lot of really amazing and beautiful elements and a lot of extremely dark and negative elements as well. I get inspired by both. It’s really hard to put my feelings into words about this subject but let’s just say that living here has had a profound impact on my music and I will let the listener interpret that how they may. One big thing about Japan is that it is quite a deeply conservative culture, not on the outside, but at its roots and I am a single father raising two half-Japanese twin girls on my own, it’s almost unheard of over here, so I encounter a lot of cultural challenges in that regard.
So, how are you finding the language difference ?
It’s a difficult language, no doubt. My Japanese is not as good as it should be but I get by. Lot’s of music people here speak English as well. My kids are totally bilingual.
What are your favourite phrases ?
My favourite Japanese word is "Ganbate" which means something like "Do your best" or "Go for it" or "Try hard" but is sort of like "Fight" to get to your goal… it can’t really be translated exactly into English.
Finally, what does the future hold for Futago Traxx ? And Dirty Works ? Especially in terms of future releases.
While, Futago Traxx has been on the backburner for a while now… I have been putting out some things here and there, mostly music that was slated for vinyl release before our distributor went out of business, music I didn’t want to see go to waste. Futago was really a group project and sadly as things became harder alot of that group has gone on to other things outside of music, so it’s been a one man show for a while now. I plan to re-launch Futago Traxx properly in the near future with some exciting new approaches to organic-electronic fusion. Honestly my efforts have been focused more recently on Dirty Works, which is a label absolutely dedicated to non-formula. Fusing and embracing all sorts of reference points to create exciting music that is within the scope of house and techno, and hints at many things, but is something else entirely… something like that… hahaha. Also, lots of other releases coming, some vinyl only, some digital only, and some both…
Rennie Foster Recent / Future Releases
- Rennie Foster – Good Time Charlie EP [Subject:Detroit, US]
- Rennie Foster – Beings Of Sound [Subject:Detroit, US]
- Rennie Foster – Music (remixes) [Subject:Detroit, US]
- Rennie Foster – The Lost Tribe Of Techno [SD/REAL Booking, US]
- The Future and The Foster Kidz – They Call Me / Butterscotch [Sect, UK]
- Rennie Foster – The War Of Art remixes [Dirty Works, JP]
- Rennie Foster – Soul Music For The Damned [Rebirth, IT]
- Rennie Foster – Devil’s Water remixes [Rebirth, IT]
- Rennie Foster – Chicken Little EP [NightVision, US]
- Rennie Foster – A Commitment To Transit EP [Gemini, JP]
- Rennie Foster – Love Jackin’ [Communique, US]
- Futago Technologies – Bishamon JP remixes [Futago Traxx, JP]
- Nemo – One Last Glance (Rennie Foster remix) [Restructured, CAN]
- Pedro Cali – Distant Brother (Rennie Foster remix) [Fine Art, UK]
- Orlando Voorn – Bite ! (Rennie Foster remix) [Gemini, JP]
- Angel Alanis – Run Away (Rennie Foster remix) [A Squared, US]
- Roberto Bosco – Hong Kong (Rennie Foster remix) [Snapshot, UK]
- Paul Mac – Breeze (Rennie Foster remix) [Stimulus, UK]
Subject Tokyo comes back here
Rennie Foster – Good Time Charlie [Subject Detroit]
More excellent quality stuff from Subject Detroit; GTC itself is a slow-burner and breathes old-school deep house and new-school minimal techno with incredible musicianship and immaculate production. Aux 88 have given it a ludicrous ghetto techno interpretation. DJ Bone’s deep concentration is one to get well and truly lost in only to re-emerge 12 minutes later to wonder where exactly the time went.
- A1. GTC – Original
- A2. Aux 88’s Zoom mix
- B1. DJ Bone’s Deep Concentration mix
You can pre-order your copy of this here: