Electronic Directory (re)presents Subject Detroit – the last one with DJ Bone, here.
The summer edition of our podcast – featuring mixes from Subject Detroit, will be available shortly !
DJ Bone Biography
To some he is the champion of the underground. Others see him for the first time and ask the person dancing like crazy next to them, "Where did THIS guy come from ?"
Think of Detroit Techno and DJ Bone might not be high on your list of luminaries because he is 100% independent and does things on his terms and on his terms only. He won’t tap dance or bend to fit the "popular" dj mold. Those who recognize Bone know him for his uncompromising and innovative ways.
It’s no accident that two letters always precede Bone’s name whenever he’s on the bill. First and foremost, Bone is a DJ—in the truest sense. When he spins, it’s as if the turntables and the mixer become a physical extension of his body. He employs every possible technique in the disc jockey arsenal masterfully: blending, scratching, backspinning, no monitors or headphones; unrivaled in his use of the fader switch and he incorporates them all into every set. From his standing room only residency performances to after-hours spots, he rocks every show as if it’s his last.
What the general public and far too many DJs don’t realize is that Bone spins as much for his own enjoyment as he does for the audience. It’s a compulsion that only those who live for what they do possess and those who don’t can never understand: Bone lives to spin-it’s a necessary part of his existence. His dedication to the art of dance music and DJing is so untainted and intense that the tales of his confrontational encounters with flashy booking agents and "big name" djs are already the stuff of legend. No hype or trends, just a relentless drive and passion to take the party to another level. That’s why he’s one of the few spin masters other DJs hate to follow.
DJ Bone is one of Detroit’s most coveted underground vinyl technicians. This very talented and highly sought after artist plays events and clubs worldwide, has held a residency at four of Detroit’s top clubs and produces music inspired by the city in which he hales from, Detroit. His record label Subject Detroit is futuristic and unearthly while still displaying the true essence of Detroit’s Techno Soul.
Bone experienced the emotion, passion and energy of Detroit Techno first hand at the infamous Music Institute. What he witnessed there, along with the eclectic mix of music filling Detroit’s airwaves by the legendary Electrifyin’ Mojo and The Wizard, would serve to be Bone’s main influences.
Bone began his DJ career spinning groundbreaking sets weekly at The Love Club (The Shelter). From there he gained a dedicated following which eventually led to him playing at three different clubs five nights a week, as well as several underground parties in Detroit. An invitation to provide fortnightly, live mixes for the Deep Space Radio show on 107.5 in Detroit was also extended.
After hearing Bone in Detroit (1996 Love Club Anniversary Party), Laurent Garnier booked him to headline at the Rex Club in Paris. Soon after word spread and Bone was invited to play events all over Europe.
A lack of electronic music which fit his style led Bone to produce his own original songs to incorporate into his funky and eclectic sets. He took it a step further and started his label Subject Detroit focusing on true Sonic Soul.
In late 1997, Bone began his residency at the Motor Lounge in Hamtramck (bordering Detroit on all sides) pioneering an underground Detroit Techno night. Within a month, the number of Bone’s weekly session attendees topped 1,000 as well as tens of thousands of others tuning in to his live set broadcast on the radio every Friday from midnight until 2 am (87.9 FM). Always looking to expand minds and move bodies, Bone took on the challenge avoided by so many DJs before him familiar with Detroit by name only. For nearly three years, he amazed his crowds, which included out-of-towners from as far as Japan and Australia alongside his Detroit faithful. Unfortunately, due to Motor’s attempt to exploit what Bone had founded and loved, he decided to depart from the club and his residency.
Bone’s observation of the trend to book producers to spin, as opposed to actual DJs, prompted him to go against the grain and establish himself as a DJ first and foremost. He believes that an individual’s talent should speak for itself and not be overshadowed or misconstrued by hype.
DJ Bone describes himself as "an uncompromising, hype hating, 100% independent, real Detroit native come auditory striker and soul controller that cannot be bought".
"If the gig is set-up with the music as the main focus (as it should be), then I have total control over the vibe. That’s my duty. I’m not worried about having a Hollywood production going on or special effects with video images, smoke, etc. Just playing the best possible music as well as I can. I feel the need to constantly progress skill-wise and I feel my 3 deck sets are truly unique. Many DJs have 3 decks in front of them but how often do they actually have 3 records playing all at once (with the levels up) ?" – DJ Bone
Interview with DJ Bone by Kazuumi Ishii
First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to Electronic Directory. I’ve done a host of interesting interviews with your Subject Detroit/Real Booking artists and am proud to get involved with them.
I really want to thank you and your Electronic Directory for representing us well. Much respect !
Rennie Foster mentioned that "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…" So I have to ask about A.B.M. – what does it mean for both of you ?
A.B.M. stands for Advanced Black Music, referring to the origins of Detroit Techno. Over the years many European labels and producers studied Detroit music and its makers. A few sad souls took it upon themselves to rip-off many of the Detroit guys and make an effort to take control of the music. They licensed as much music as they could, taking away from the independent labels that kept Detroit strong. Once they thought they had figured out the formula to making the "Detroit sound" they ignored the artists that made them rich and began cultivating their own version of the sound stripping it of its original soul. Then they re-packaged it, branded it and marketed it to MTV minded consumers.
Like Jazz and Rock n’ Roll, Detroit Techno creators and innovators were pushed out by corporations and imitators. This left the world with knock-off versions of the originals. The sound was watered down to make it easier to digest and sell to the masses. They had the means to throw a ton of money and promotion behind it to mask the lack of soul and spirit in the music.
I came up with A.B.M. to make sure that the musical history of Subject Detroit never gets twisted or co-opted. It’s not just about black people but it is about the roots of it being black and how those black roots grew into inspiration for others to only have people ending up ignoring the source. ABM will keep our legacy intact.
The discography for Subject Detroit features a whole raft of quality acts, remixes and names, Juan Atkins, Aux 88, Aaron-Carl, Rennie Foster, Stephen Brown, Donna Black, Trench. What is the label’s A&R policy or is there a specific sound you look for to associate with the label ?
The sound is of course A.B.M. and that’s why the artists you mentioned are on the label, but what I we really listen for is unique sounds. I want people who are trying their best NOT to sound like anyone or anything else. I hear too many people saying they make the "Detroit sound". You have the presets and software now so that’s it ? To me the Detroit sound has and always will be about pushing the limits and expanding into unknown territories of funky electronic music. Listen to what people from Detroit (Jeff, Bone, Carl, Kenny) are making. What we are making doesn’t sound anything like their version of the "Detroit sound". It’s not about what machines or sounds you use but who is using them, and how. The Detroit sound is different…it constantly evolves.
The label has just turned ten years and has to be one of the most prestigious labels out there, how do you guys keep the quality so high and give new artists a chance to showcase their talents ?
Thanks for the compliment !
We strive to be the best underground, independent we can be while waving the flag for Detroit and ABM.
We are contacted every day by people who submitted their music to some prominent electronic music labels but were turned down only because they DIDN’T sound like everyone else. They say they’re always told "we really like your music…but could you just make it more of a minimal sound ?". And that’s the norm today. Labels and artists are less trendsetters now and more just trend followers.
So, if I receive songs from a big name producer and a new guy and the new guy’s tracks are better, we go with the new guy. That’s how we put quality over fame. It keeps the label consistent. I also aggressively seek out new or underrated artists to keep our movement and sound alive for the future.
Recently, Ron Murphy, another musical genius has left us…… Lots of Subject vinyl have been mastered by NSC. What was the most exciting point during your work with him ?
May Ron Murphy rest in peace and GOD bless his soul.
I always listened to Ron’s advice and would attend as many Subject Detroit mastering sessions as possible. He had a great ear and always told me the truth even if it was hard to hear.
The most exciting moment for me was when Ron called to tell me that he was mastering my stuff and felt that those Subject Detroit releases were the best Techno coming out of the city. He made sure that I understood how many labels he deals with and the stuff he was working on topped them all. We had a lot of amazing conversations and great moments. Ron is the biggest part of Detroit’s sonic history !
Let’s talk a bit about producing: you often preach on your tracks, which work really really well. Is that something important to you ?
Only if it fits the mood of the record. Sometimes I need the vocals on there to help put the whole song’s meaning into perspective.
I only make music when I get a vibe or idea that needs to get out of me and be expressed. I can’t just sit down and make tracks on command, it’s kind of like walking up to a comedian and yelling be funny RIGHT NOW !
Nowadays some Subject guys like Aleckxis, Rennie’s twin girls and of course you are hooked in with Thomas Fisher and the Sect dancefloor thing. How did that come about ?
Basically they contacted Subject Detroit and asked if I would be interested in doing the first release on Sect. They explained the purpose/concept of their label and expressed respect for the music and vibe of Subject Detroit. We have been dealing with Juno for years and met Thomas through our great relationship with them. Now Thomas is branching out with Sect. We believe in his label and are going to help him discover some much needed new talent.
Speaking of Attacks: when putting out a new thing, is it important for you to deliver a message to the listener, something that people can interpret on their own ? Or is it all about having fun and that’s it ?
I don’t DJ solely to entertain people, I’m not a court jester. It’s what I love to do! Sadly, some people like paying to see a "DJ" push some buttons on a laptop, move a fader and then throw their hands up in celebration to conduct the crowd like a cheerleader. Then they drink champagne and party onstage with their friends…and you just paid to see that. You just spent your hard earned money to watch a "DJ" party with their friends. I understand it’s a trend (fashion) so good luck when that trend is over.
I started ATTACKing on the advice of my girlfriend to be able to vent my frustration with things that are, to my logic, obviously disturbing. My messages come from the heart as an artist, not as an entertainer. This is just who I am, Detroit breeds a lot of REAL people.
You are one of the few still existing three-deck DJs. What’s your aim playing with three decks at once ?
To me, playing on 3 decks is an art form…and I mean really playing on three at once. It makes my DJ sets more exciting by allowing me to inject my physical skills into the mix to create a unique vibe. I grew up listening to many great DJs who inspired me to take things further.
The turntable is my instrument and I think it has endless potential as long as you know how to bring it out.
What if a rock guitarist let the guitar play itself while the person holding it just cheered to the crowd ? Easy, even efficient, but very boring right ? Well, the guitar basically stayed the same…but it sounded amazingly different whenever it was in Jimi Hendrix’s hands! My point is that instruments shouldn’t make the musician.
A few years ago Jeff Mills performed a ‘One Man Spaceship’ show with six decks, visual material and all sorts of his own productions. Do you have any plans to introduce a one man audio visual journey to your performances ?
Yes, but in a totally different manner. I have been developing a concept performance since I was resident at Motor in 1998, unfortunately at that time there was no way to present it effectively because the technology wasn’t viable yet. I’m almost there but won’t talk about it, I learned early on that people will take your ideas and run with them.
Let’s just say it will be something that has never been done before and it will happen in Detroit !
You’ve said in previous interviews that You have a few DVD and multimedia projects in the works. So are you still working on the projects or have already finished it ?
Some of our early test projects are finished like the videos for Change and Mister X’s Hazy Bliss but the bulk of the multimedia stuff is still in the works. We have to do a lot of work with very few workers, sometimes we don’t sleep for days but once we complete a project it’s all worth it.
We are also going to record on video an upcoming gig I’m playing in Cork, Ireland later this year which we’ll use for the first DVD.
Anyway, great to see you on the Attacks mix 41, which shows your brilliantly as a DJ.
Thanks ! I try to keep it fresh !
Finally, where do you think electronic music is heading ?
It’s heading to www.subjectdetroit.com. I feel it’s already there !
We are signing more NEW artists with fresh, innovative sounds that will be released on Subject Detroit in the near future. We are also forging ahead with new videos and unheard sounds. Stop by and check us out to see what’s in store.
Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to what everyone else is doing. This helps maintain my unique vision of our sound.
True talent resides inside those who will shape the future of electronic music. It’s simple, if you have soul, spirit and skills then the future is wide open. If you don’t then all you can do is fake the funk. I’ll just listen carefully…and feel what’s good.
Subject Detroit Future Releases
Trench – Comatose, 12"
DJ Bone – Circus World, 12"
Rennie Foster – Good Time Charlie, 12"
Stephen Brown – Subject Scotland II, 12"
Various – Beings Of Sound, 12"
DJ Bone – Himbot, 12"
DJ Bone – Tru Warriors EP, 12"
Mister X – Unbalanced, 12"
DJ Bone – Subjugation, 12"
DJ Bone – The Red Zone, 12"
You can pre-order your copy of this here:
DJ Bone makes Advanced Black Music
DJ Bone – Circus World [Subject Detroit]
Bloody hell. DJ Bone has always had the utmost respect from all corners of the globe. He has the soulful techno sound that I adore and this release is really showing his deeper side. Deep, soulful and highly dramatic to boot – this kind of shit is right up my street.
- A1. Circus World
- A2. Circus World (Instrumental)
- B1. One More Tune
DJ Bone – The Red Zone [Subject Detroit]
DJ Bone turns in another swingy tribal crowd-pleaser that can’t fail on any sensible dancefloor.
- A1. War
- A2. Fight
- A3. Wardance
- B1. Stomp
- B2. That Tree
- B3. Doubt