Electronic Directory (re)presents Subject Detroit – the first one with Stephen Brown, here !
Stephen Brown Biography
Stephen was born in Edinburgh in 1972 and has a long history of involvement in electronic music. He started listening to the original electro sound of the early eighties while breakdancing. His inspiration to make music comes from artist like Bobby Orlando, Heaven 17 and early Human League. Then in 1988 Stephen discovered House music at the Hoochie Coochie Club in Edinburgh. Local DJ Yogi Haughton would play anything from jazz to the first early Chicago and Detroit releases. It was these records that converted him from a music listener to a music maker. He started playing live with Roland drum machines and basslines emulating the acid sound of Chicago under the name of MD3 and would continue to do this for another two years.
Stephen recalls when things started to get out of control around the early nineties. A time when real Detroit techno and Chicago house music was hard to find and Rave music was on the increase. After numerous live shows throughout 1989/1991, Stephen retired to his bedroom to make music for the next three years. He spent his time wisely perfecting a sound that is uniquely his. All this paid of in 1995 when Stephen released his first EP on Djax up Beats (Holland). Label owner and DJ Saskia Slegers liked Stephens’s music so much that his first release would be an album. Stephen stayed loyal to the label and covered 8 releases between 1995 to 2000.
Soon after the first Djax releases Stephen was recording for other labels such as Soma, T&B, Drought, Scandinavia, to name a few. Stephen released an EP under the name Earl Brown called the cornucopia EP in 1996, the lead track "how I feel" made number 20 in Music magazines top 100 of 1996, where his talent was compared to that of Chicago innovator LIL’ LOUIS. Not a bad achievement for his second release.
Around the same time he contributed a track to Glasgow’s label Soma under the same name Earl Brown for their 50th release. He also collaborated with Envoy for two trax on his album Shoulder to shoulder.
Stephen decided to start his own label in 2000 called Realtime Records. The purpose of this project was to release all his own material that had been rejected from other labels. The reason was because Stephen believed they had missed something. After five very successful releases Stephen decided to put the label on hold.
All his early releases were getting Stephen a lot of attention so he started playing in the clubs again mostly playing live sets. Enjoying playing in Belgium, Germany, France, Copenhagen, and Oslo he would always return to play at his local club PURE in Edinburgh.
Here Stephen’s career would take another turning point when he was playing live before Derrick May one night. As soon as Derrick entered the club he approached Stephen to talk to him about his music. This was the beginning of a friendship that still lasts today. A deal was struck after long negotiations and Stephen released two EPs on the Legendary Detroit label Transmat in 2002.
Recently Stephen approached DJ Bone after purchasing the first release on Subject Detroit and the conversation led to him contributing trax for Bones mix CD. Soon after he was given the opportunity to record an EP called Subject Scotland as part of the Subject Detroit global series.
Stephen’s inspiration lies firmly in Detroit techno, his releases and live performances are proof of this. He chooses to give his music to labels that he respects, rather than make a certain style of music for a particular type of label. "That for me is fashion and music is not fashion Music is Music".
Future projects include a new EP on Transmat. A remix for Mark Williams and to work with Mark on a joint release. Material for Arne Weinberg and Paul Mac should be available this year. To stay loyal to the subject family and release more material through Subject Detroit.
Interview with Stephen Brown by Kazuumi Ishii
We hear that you’re into breakdancing. What else do you get up to when you’re not Djing ?
I also like to ride my BMX. I try to do as much Thai Boxing as I can although I end up eating more Thai food ahh green curry.
Describe your relationship with Subject Detroit/Real Booking Artist Agency ?
My relationship with Subject is cool. I bought the first Subject release and phoned DJ Bone to express my interest and he was very friendly and supported my music too. As a result, he released one of my tracks as the intro to one of his mix CDs and later he released Subject Scotland EP1 as part of the global series. Bone is an inspiration to me, his music and dj sets make me want to make music and this kind of inspiration is hard to find these days.
Ahnne at REAL Bookings is also an inspiration; she is pushing me as no other booking agent has ever done. In the past if I got bookings, it was because a club or promoter would contact the agents. REAL Bookings is more than just an agency, it is a family of djs artists and promoters who all share the same ideas and although some of us have never met in person, our music speaks for itself. I am honored to be part of that family.
How did you approach the making of your new single "Subject Scotland 2" in comparison to your previous Subject Detroit efforts ?
I was listening to some new music which contained digital sounds from the 80s being played in a 80s style but much worse and thought, what the fuck’ is this the next new thing ? I love music from the 80s but I aint going to start making that kind of music just because it’s in fashion. So, I decided to go back to my roots and sample some sounds and use them as instruments in much the same way as Todd Terry did. The end result was something a bit dirtier than the first release because of the use of samples rather than synth sounds.
What is the scene like in Edinburgh ?
The scene in Edinburgh is really bad. Nobody cares what you have done or where you have been or what you are doing and sadly, this attitude has rubbed of on me. There are not many clubs and even a less Techno night, which is why, I stay at home and make music.
And what do you think about Glasgow, which has a really strong and diverse electronic music scene ? It’s home to the T In The Park Festival, the Pressure parties, Slam’s Soma label and rated techno clubs like Sub Club. Do you check out what’s happening in dance music in the city? Has it influenced your music in any way ?
Glasgow is the complete opposite of Edinburgh. The people get together more and the club scene is the best in Scotland. It is only one hour on the train from Edinburgh and it is where I go to buy records (RUB A DUB) the whole scene is much stronger there.
So, are you happy with the second release ?
Yes, I am very happy with the second release. It shows another side of music I make from time to time. The feedback on myspace.com/realtimerecords has been very positive too.
You’ve released on a lot of quality labels, for example Djax-Up-Beats, Soma Records, Subject Detroit, Transmat. How did you Touch base with these labels? Is it generally through meeting people ?
It is all to do with meeting people. I met Miss DJax in Pressure in Glasgow after sending her a demo tape in 1995 and we signed a contract for three eps that year. About two years later, I was playing live at a club called pure in Edinburgh before Derrick May and he enjoyed the music so he came back to my house and met my mum. Signing that contract took a little longer but it was worth it in the end. Derrick and I are still friends and there is a white label of my last release in circulation at the moment (MS 33).
There is a big connection between you and Detroit. Who are your musical influences both as a DJ and producer ?
Obviously, I have to say early Derrick May and Juan Atkins. But I did listen to Carl Craig and Kenny Larkin in more depth. I would play Kenny Larkin’s albums repeatedly because they were unique. Kenny does not make beats and grooves, he makes songs. He kept me going when rave music was at its peak and good techno was being reinterpreted and relabeled. If I needed reminding of what real Detroit Techno should sound like I would put on a Kenny Larkin album to sooth the pain of rave music. If you listen to one kind of music so many times its bound to have an effect on you. Thanks Kenny.
Your tracks often get the top jocks raving and salivating which I imagine is very satisfying for a producer. Is it overwhelming when you approach the production of new Brown tracks ?
No not really, it is nice to get feedback and hear the top Jocks play your material but I don’t think of that when I am writing trax. I don’t make music with a club or a crowd in mind because Detroit Techno is more than club music
Finally what can we expect next ?
Well more releases on Subject Scotland and maybe Transmat. Also a new live performance. I am trying to develop a live set with hardware so that I don’t look like I am checking e-mails live on stage.
Stephen Brown – Subject Scotland 2 [Subject Detroit]
Stephen Brown returns to Subject Detroit with a fantastic four tracker of raw and jacking techno funk music.
Absolutely stunning A side – I have been hammering both tracks for a while now. Our Soul has been remade and improved for the dancefloor, deep, emotional techno with a twist of Detroit influenced soul. Keygroups grooves like a mutha ! On the flip both tracks are as nice – delicious yet dark, dubbed out house with Chicago licks, swirling techno synths and relentless driving basslines. All in all this is a great package from a great producer.
- A1. Our Soul
- A2. Keygroups
- B1. Music Is
- B2. Jackin’ Off
You can pre-order your copy of this here:
Stephen Brown Selected Discography
- EP #1, 12"
- EP #2, 12"
- Jacks Trax EP, 12"
Affected Music (2004)
- Sonic Soul, 12"
New Level (2006)
Subject Scotland, 12"
Subject Detroit (2006)
- Shed – Stronghold
Remixes In Four Parts, Soloaction (2007)