MEMCO Share Black History Month Symposium on Detroit Techno

by | Jul 25, 2020 | Culture, Stories | 0 comments

The Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) have shared a recording of the Black Lives Matter Symposium they held in February. The talk, given by “Mad” Mike Banks and Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale, was moderated by DJ Jungle 313 and uploaded to MEMCO’s SoundCloud account.

Opening the dialogue, DJ Jungle 313 (real name Ron Johnson) talked about his own history in electronic music. As with many Detroit techno mainstays, he was inspired early on by radio DJ Charles Johnson A.K.A. The Electrifying Mojo, who exposed him to the likes of CybotronKraftwerk and Prince. When stationed in Germany during military service in 1989, he experienced a full-circle moment upon hearing Detroit techno played in Frankfurt nightclub Dorian Gray.

When asked “What is techno,” Banks touched on the genre’s history while sharing a philosophical perspective on the genre’s evolution. “It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but I don’t think there was any genius in it,” he said. “Techno occurred because Detroit was abandoned by major music. I think the market was so uninteresting to them that our DJs got allowed a lot of freedom to play what they felt the community needed.”

For her part, Hale recounted stumbling into Detroit nightclub Heaven and falling in love with the concept of continuous mixing. Ahead of her time, she developed a method she called “sneak-a-mix” to make songs blend seamlessly into one other without the audience being able to tell that a transition took place. Hale has gone on to mentor countless up-and-coming DJs – among them Brooklyn hard techno artist Gia.

Johnson closed out by asking what Banks and Hale would like the audience to take with them from the Symposium. The former artist encouraged them to take responsibility for the future and not turn a blind eye to the unchecked greed of the system. “Detroit is the model for blind, immoral capitalism,” he said.

Banks and Hale’s credentials as figureheads of Detroit techno speak for themselves. A founding member of Underground Resistance, a collective greatly responsible for techno’s history as protest music, Banks has contributed to the genre’s afrofuturistic vision. Hale is often called the “Godmother of House Music” and performed in such seminal clubs as The Warehouse and Studio 54 before techno was a glimmer in any Detroiter’s eye.

MEMCO’s Black History Month Symposium was partly funded by Arts at Michigan and The Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

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