“The Songs That Changed Music” special on Detroit

07.14.11 | 1 Comment

Swedish Television is researching Detroit for a half hour special on three songs that are emblematic of Detroit and significant contributions to the music world overall. This special will air in January 2012.  They chose “No UFO’s” by Model 500!!

For this segment on Detroit, they will also feature “(Love Is Like a) Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas.

And probably an MC5 song, although when I met with the reporter, he was not certain which Detroit rock song they would cover.

It appears that they stream most or all of their programs online. I’ll find out for sure whether or not “The Songs That Changed Music” series will be available to watch online and I’ll let you know.

Anna Swantesson is the principle researcher for the program, Kåre Persson is another researcher, as well as the reporter and camera person, and Jerry Silfver handled sound engineering.

After a brief introduction to the project, and an explanation that they are planning to talk to Juan Atkins and Derrick May, here is what Anna Swantesson wrote to me:

“But we’re also looking for some kind of ‘expert’, someone who can tell us how the techno-scene started out in Detroit and who can explain the sound and also tell us just how this music influenced other musicians. Perhaps also play excerpts from different kinds of early techno and describe just what we’re hearing and tell us what it was that was ‘new’ about this music at the time.

“Since we’re doing educational TV with an aim to reach music school students, we’re focusing on the actual music and the sounds. The culture and sociology surrounding it is of course also interesting and important but we’re mostly interested in someone who can talk (and perhaps show/play) about the actual music and sounds.

“Do you know who we should talk to? Can you perhaps recommend someone in the Detroit-area? Preferably a woman, since we’ve already got so many men in this feature.”

Yes ma’am, I know who you can talk to, ME! I figured since my good buddy, Kent Williams, here’s another link to him, and the man on soundcloud, referred them to me, it was appropriate to say “shit yes, talk to me.” Kent also referred them to Dan Sicko. Hopefully they spoke with Dan as well.

I was so excited, but totally freaked out nervous wound up, to be asked to play music and talk about it. It took me a while to figure out where I would meet with them. I didn’t really want to ask them to come all the way out to Ann Arbor to my house. Their visit to Detroit consisted of three very packed days. I thought maybe I would meet them at the Detroit Public Library, check out a turntable and a room. That would be kind of cool, but not really. Then a good friend suggested that I try to meet up with them in a record store in Detroit. After picking myself up off the floor over the greatness of this idea, I decided that Detroit Threads would be perfect. I had never formally met Mike Smith who owns and runs Threads, but I figured, like I always do, that it never hurts to ask. So I wrote him on Facebook describing the project and telling him who I was and what I do. I figured there was a good chance I wouldn’t hear back from him. This is Detroit and he is a Detroiter, so I expect people to be skeptical or even uninterested. That is not a criticism, not at all. I love Detroit and the people who make it what it is. It’s a hard city and there is an air of insulation and protection that is somewhat necessary. I expect it and usually know what to do with it.

Mike responded right away agreeing to host the interview. Now imagine my smiling face at that…

Nervous as all getout, I met them down at Threads one afternoon last week. Kåre had excellent questions for me, responding directly and intuitively to what I was saying, and addressing specific points with further inquiry. They filmed the record store and gave me the space to talk about the store a bit. Detroit Threads has been open for 14 years! They filmed me digging through the Detroit records section and asked me to talk about what I was finding. Mike keeps an excellent selection of new and old Detroit stuff. I came home with a small but solid stack.

We then began talking about the songs I brought to play and discuss. They asked me to talk about “No UFO’s” of course. They also requested A Number of Names “Sharevari.” I was planning on that one anyway. I was given two other songs of my choosing to discuss, although we did not get to talk about them very much. I chose Anthony Shake Shakir “One Beat (Just Won’t Do)” and Robert Hood “Museum.” When you ask me to talk about techno, I’m not going to just talk about techno, I promise you. I’m such a big jerk! There are plenty of beautiful and important strictly Detroit techno songs. Just read this great list and this great list. Seriously, I get genre, I really do. I love it. But what makes music important and meaningful is not just the ability to zero in on very specifically delineated categories, but also the ability to move well beyond specificity to nearly wild oblivion, not totally, but almost. I agonized over those two songs. Here are some others that I considered:

Jeff Mills “The Bells” and “The Dancer”

Rhythim is Rhythim “Strings of Life”

Drexciya “Bubble Metropolis”

Paperclip People “Throw”

Theo Parrish “Synthetic Phlemm”

Omar S “Phychotic Photosynthesis”

Moodymann “Mahogani Brown”

Inner City “Big Fun” and “Good Life”

Minx “A Walk in the Park”

Kelli Hand “Flash Back” and “The Saints Go Marching On”

Claude Young “Change of Pace” and “Detroit By Night”

That’s a pansy list, isn’t it? In terms of length, definitely not in terms of who and what are there. There are lots more, but that’s what I wrote down while prepping for the interview before I reminded myself that I can choose TWO. I was already pretty settled on Shake, so really, it was just ONE that I was giving myself permission to choose. I love Rob Hood’s music, and “Museum” really captures the driving force, sonically, that I hear and feel in Detroit.

I loved being involved in this project and now I know that I can speak into a camera about Detroit. I wasn’t sure that I could! Like I said, I’ll let you know when this airs. Later bitches.

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