In a world where society is structured by gender being categorized in two opposite forms, Jarvi Schneider’s gender identity lands fluidly somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, free from segmented definition. Fully enveloped in Chicago’s queer scene, the self-identified nonbinary artist and DJ was raised as a child in the house and techno scene of Detroit.
Jarvi spent their adolescence in Ann Arbor, Mich., eventually moving on to Commerce Township until the end of high school, to finally land in East Lansing, Mich. before moving to Chicago in 2012. The move, Jarvi says, was “to finally free myself from a state of no jobs, lack of public transit, and extreme queerphobia and racism.” Due to this atmosphere and being a hairstylist by trade, the salon was a difficult environment to find comfortable footing in Michigan.
While living in Michigan Jarvi says that “even within the queer communities, there is a lot of ideas of what a queer person ‘should and should not be’ or ‘look like’ to really be accepted.” They came out officially as nonbinary about two years ago.
To identify as nonbinary means one does not identify as exclusively masculine or feminine. “I have always been androgynous. I have always been called a boy. I think the worst of it all was being forced into a queer identity (lesbian), because anything outside of the binary was even too much for suburban Detroit queers to grasp. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the term ‘nonbinary’ until I moved to Chicago, and even then I could hardly grasp it because of what I was accustomed to all my life. After some major trauma in my life, I realized that I had to make sure for the sake of my own brain and my chosen family, I had to be true to myself and who I am.”
Chicago for Jarvi meant better opportunities and was a cheaper and easier move from Michigan. “I sold my car, packed everything I owned into a Ford Excursion, and my cat, and I moved to Chicago knowing only a couple folks from high school, to start my new life.”
Jarvi is a member of the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew, a resident of Planet Chicago night at Smartbar, and also runs and curates freaky queer club night Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel. Their introduction to the NBFC became a pivotal moment for Jarvi’s life in Chicago by experiencing an open, free environment and eventually learning the art of DJing.
“I found this crew (or maybe they found me) shortly after I moved to Chicago. They threw the best undergrounds in the city, always had the most welcoming vibes, and even outside of the rave we all became more than just people you hang with at the party,” Jarvi says. “After meeting Sam and the crew, I pretty much attended everything that NBFC did and started to help out with setup and tear down. Somewhere between that and the DJ lessons, I became one of the crew!”
It was just before Jarvi’s birthday in 2013 when God Particle label owner and NBFC’s Sam Kern (otherwise known as Sassmouth) gave them their first ever DJ lesson as a birthday gift. Jarvi says that “after two lessons we just vibed and kept working together. I think the bond we share is incredible because I have been listening to and attending techno and house events since childhood with my father, and not one friend or other DJ I have ever met had ever offered to teach me the craft. I’ve always known the music industry is a boys club, and having the opportunity to try to do something I loved and admired for years with a person who understands the struggle of not being a cis man in this scene, is easily the best gift I’ve ever received.”
The NBFC is comprised by Kern, Jarvi, Pat Bosman, Ryan Kelley, and a slew of other DJs, producers and artists that overtime have helped create and maintain the collective. The core crew shares roles collectively when it comes to bookings, design and direction. “That’s one of the best parts about working with these folks is that every last little bit of the vibe is created by all of us. I will say though that setting up sound has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can barely set up my TR8 to Ableton without referring to notes,” Jarvi says with a laugh.
For the month of March both Kern and Jarvi continue to use their established music platforms as a vessel to push and strengthen female, female-identified and queer artists, DJs and promoters by participating in Daphne. The month-long festival hosted by Smartbar will incorporate workshops and events to emphasize that mission. According to Jarvi, the biggest obstacle for women and queer persons is commodification.
“The constant struggle of, do you suck it up and go through it in hopes that you will get closer to being seen, heard, understood? I can’t tell you how many times I read an article about some white cis techno dude talking about his struggle not getting booked and having to work his awful 9-5 when all he wanted to do was play his Surgeon records for a packed underground rave. Sometimes it feels like there’s only a certain allotted amount of women-identifying and queer artists, and the recycling of the same ones can be frustrating not because they shouldn’t be getting all the gigs, but because there are so many of us in the world without exposure simply because so many people who are in charge of bookings don’t want to look. Probably because they don’t REALLY care. I think it’s also important to point out that if your women-identifying idols in music don’t help any other queer, women-identifying and nonbinary, or POC artists, they probably aren’t as progressive as you think.” – JARVI
Motivated by the frustration and with a desire to maintain personal and creative freedom, Jarvi started Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel a little over a year ago. The stage persona Acid Daddy came to fruition for Jarvi during Plastic Factory, the first party they were ever involved in at Berlin Nightclub.
“The party was a wild latex club-kid party with wacky installations and performances. La Spacer and I were the resident deejays for the Thursday night monthly, and it evolved somewhat from a joke in our group about how me and one of the other members were the ‘daddies’ of our group, and my love for acid house – among other things.”
Long after the Plastic Factory parties, Jarvi continued on harnessing the Acid Daddy energy. “I was up at a camping trip, Tentsex, when at some point in the weekend our generator runs out of – you guessed it – diesel. In a loopy state, I’m arguing with someone about how to get more fuel for the generator so we can get the music back up and running, and in stubborn Taurus fashion I storm off back to my tent. Sam happens to be in a porta potty and overhears me mumbling to myself something about ‘Acid Daddy, gimme that diesel’. The phrase stuck, and when I was given the chance to do my own party at Berlin [Nightclub], Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel just made sense!”
Acid Daddy is so much more than just a name. Jarvi says, “I think what is so important to me about this stage name (that may in the future develop into a moniker for music) is that it really represents the evolution of my gender identity and the happiness that comes from no longer being forced by society to be something I am not.” The name encapsulates and empowers Jarvi’s freedom from the oppressiveness of gender normative roles.
The house and techno scene is historically rooted in providing a free space for people of all types and expressions. There are so many artists, promoters, writers and DJs out there that continue to use the electronic music environment as a platform to promote cultural and social awareness, by cultivating a safe welcoming space. Yet, there are places within house and techno where those roots have been lost somehow. Our music scene is just a microcosm of our society at large.
To deviate from the normalities of any facet can result in a negative response from others. That’s what makes the dance floor so unbelievably significant. That’s what makes artists like Jarvi and so many others equally important. To understand that gender and sexuality are on a spectrum is to see that by inherently breaking binaries we are simply forming unity.
“The gender binary is just a way to keep cis men in control and women-identifying folks subservient. Even the most progressive cis folks I know still show me totally innocent ways of being affected by the binary. I think the most obvious is the inability to use gender neutral pronouns. Folks can learn a new hobby, how to operate a vehicle, or get a certificate/degree in a field they’ve never understood in their life but can’t incorporate a plural, nonbinary pronoun into their vocabulary when they already know the word. I struggled with the use of ‘they/them/theirs’ at first, and I identify that way. Sometimes I think folks can’t grasp the use of neutral pronouns because they still don’t really believe that it exists. I connect very much with femininity and that identity, but not 100 percent. I cannot really say that I relate to anything masculine, and honestly spent a lot of time trying to dismantle the binary connection with words, for example, ‘daddy’. NBD (nonbinary daddy) is a term we use out here in the Chicago queer scene a lot. I highly doubt I started that term, but it definitely fits like a glove.”
What does being nonbinary mean specifically for Jarvi?
“Grey area. In between. Not this, not that. I truly believe there are more nonbinary folks in this world that exist than cis folks. Once the term becomes more common in mainstream queer entertainment (because it has to start there before we get it across the board) I think a lot of folks who realized that this binary they’ve been forced into because of tradition and fear, really is not for them. Some days I feel like wearing a dress, sometimes I feel like wearing a suit, sometimes I feel like growing out my mustache and being topless in a leather chest harness, but not one of those outfit choices express any binary gender to me. when you erase that, you have so many less things to worry about because you just get to be you. However you want to feel or look, it’s just you.” – JARVI
Nonbinary folks fall within the overarching transgender category. By definition transgender denotes a person whose identity and gender do not correspond with their birth sex. Gender expression and identity is expansive and complex, yet simple at the core: people are who they are, and they should feel comfortable being and expressing themselves. But we live in a society where transphobia is very real, causing harm (in varying degrees) to those who identify beyond the binary.
Jarvi spoke a little bit deeper about experiences had alongside Chicago DJ/promoter Ariel Zetina. “My relationship with Ariel, be it romantic or platonic, has always provided us with struggles from the outside cis hetero and cis gay male groups. Whether it’s slurs stemming from binary-loving cis hetero normies, or the hyper-sexualization of both our nonbinary trans identities. By cis gay men, we both encounter negativity even in the most unlikely of places (i.e. queer spaces). I have learned so much from her, especially about POC trans and queer-related events, artists, and struggles that are otherwise swept under the rug so to speak in primarily white queer spaces (which is most of the spaces in Michigan).”
How can we help? Javi says: educate. “If you hear something offensive or hurtful, it’s pretty easy to respectfully explain why that isn’t tolerated and to enforce that strict no-tolerance of hate in spaces, whether it’s rave spaces or the dang super market.”
Music will continue to be the space for Jarvi where there is safety and love. It is so very clear that this deeply rooted passion has helped them evolve and grow into a true representation of themselves. Isn’t that what we’re all really striving for?
“I love music because it saved my life. It can say everything I can’t put into words. The music itself doesn’t judge me, it guides me. Without music I would never know the rave scene. I would never have found my chosen family in the underground where you can be anyone you want to be, as freaky and weird and out there as you want. Like-minded individuals all there together because the world doesn’t see us as the creative and beautiful individuals we are. PLUR forever.”
If 2016 did not already achieve the accolade, 2017 seems poised to be the year in which Acid House and Techno retake the forefront for DJs and connoisseurs alike. You may have noticed that European label Get Physical Music has started a pre-order page for their satirical hat declaring “Make Acid Great Again”. And it’s entirely true that if you’ve spent any time in reputable dance clubs in the last six months, you’ve probably heard the squirrely synth work of the coveted Roland TB-303 take an energetic and throbbing lead in techno sets the world over.
As the series name suggests, Alien Rain is a stamped white label limited press Acid series that embodies celestial strangeness. The tracks are foreign, frightening, and fortuitous, making listeners feel all sorts of weird. Alien Rain records lack any sort of accreditation for producers and bear only the entry number and a mysterious extraterrestrial friend on the stamp. The first installment actually came out in 2012, well before the resurgence of Acid styles into the mainstream, and with the current fondness for acid enticing new listeners while making old heads smile, this particular entry from 2013 is ready for any dark and dusty warehouse.
The lead track “Alienated 3A” is a true techno purebred that makes no attempts to appease people who need percussion to get into the groove. There is a sole pounding 4×4 kick drum and undulating sub bass that set the vibe from the first measure to the last. The filter on the 303 does not open much, creating a wonderful sense of anxiety. When it does, a very simple hi-hat on the upbeat pays the listener a visit as well, sending the tune into spaceship overdrive – only to land again on a distant planet when it calms back down. Discordant washes intermittently keep up the spacey vibe while the lead synth does its nasty, relentless work. What I love so much about this tune is that the notes in the acid loop itself stay intact for the entire nine and half minutes, which is more akin to classic techno than actual acid roots. Where originally acid was defined by exploratory solos of the 303, this tune causes the brain to naturally pick out different frequencies of the sound over time even when the filters are not changing. This fusion of techno purism with acid bass leads are what make this record sound like an old gem made in modern times. Absolutely scary stuff you’ll want to get abducted to.
“Alienated 3B” has a bit more accessibility to it. The kick drum is still in a straight 4×4 pattern, but is more distorted from saturation. There is a more defined sense of separate sections here thanks to a back-and-forth of the elements. A constant techno clang does, however, keep the pace every four beats but gets louder throughout the composition, and the 303 opens and closes more commonly than the A-side. The tune periodically lets in a sort of gust sound that I would imagine the wind on Neptune sounds like. A cymbal ride sample also adds a new dance floor-friendly dimension to the track, but the strict adherence to the same acid notes from start to finish solidifies the theme set forth by the first on the record. The tune comes off like a soundtrack for illegal street racing in a nebula far, far away – excellent peak hour material.
So if you’ve been excited about the slamming high tempo trip down the Acid music rabbit hole, be sure to set your sights on the Alien Rain entries if and when you come across them. The deviance from the old Acid formula while retaining the best aspects of it make each 12” worth owning.
These tracks are everything Acid Techno should be: hypnotic, terrifying, and of course – alienating; there isn’t a single snare drum on the entire record! As incessant as precipitous downpour, and alluring as Area 51, they’re sure to be pleasing those brave enough to weather the storm for years to come. Of course, they are not the easiest records to find due to the limited run and the fact that most of them have been purchased already. Expect to pay over $12 for Alien Rain III unless of course you are savvy enough to scoop the single copy available through a domestic seller currently on Discogs for $5. Until then, be well earthlings.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.
DETH Records presents: ACID BATH 011
live techno set by Khobra
visuals by: Stacie ANT Inc and Kevin Holliday
limited capacity come early
If you so choose to explore the dimensions beyond your structural consciousness – and seek expansion of how you might define spatial extent – you will find Interdimensional Transmissions. For more than 20 years the Detroit label has been creating inspiring techno, and continues to develop a realm to truthfully reunite with music, the concept of self, and universal consciousness.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994.
“I was born in Detroit and raised in the dream of where the edge of the forest and the city meet, that so much of Michigan urban sprawl is based on. I grew up on Detroit radio with the likes of the Mojo and the Wizard (Jeff Mills) and Mike Halloran and Peter Werbe. That alone should get you ready for a revolution. If you add all that up, you can see it in the music we make and play,” he says. His favorite memory as a child was visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts and watching six of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs spin around.
His creative inspiration derived from a visionary esoteric place during a trip to Europe in 1991, when he realized that techno stretched to a global level beyond Detroit. During his trip he also had an experience at Dún Aonghasa, a fort on the Aran Islands near Galway, Ireland. An individual that is both scientifically-driven and spiritual, Gillen heard voices that told him to change his life path and to start creating music. Eventually, he listened and Interdimensional Transmissions was born, named after the guiding ancient voices that seemed to permeate into his reality. The label went on to become essential to the Detroit scene as Gillen had a mission to create techno for the city itself, not just for export.
“Detroit’s history is profound, corrupt, confused, inspiring and crushing. When you move to the city of Detroit you enter into a who-dun-it. Who killed this city? Why? What factors? What confused byproducts of previous wars are left here? You’d be quite surprised at the answers.” – BMG
For several years he worked as music director at WCBN, a radio station at the University of Michigan. Erika Sherman, deemed co-conspirator of the label – joined the station’s efforts her freshman year. “We met pretty quickly through weekly music review meetings. I was spending a lot of time at the station volunteering and learning about music, and we became friends,” Sherman says.
She eventually became program director of the Ann Arbor station and in 1997 Gillen asked her to join Ectomorph. “There was a personnel change in Ectomorph and Erika seemed like a very interesting solution; she entered into the project and it was a long-term evolving education thing from which she later fully emerged as the artist you know today,” he says. The two have been creating sounds together with all analog live hardware sequencing under that name ever since.
Daughter of a famous scientist, Sherman was born and raised in a home of technology and music. At a very young age she was well-known for developing a BBS (Bulletin Board System) as well as launching erika.net – a freeform streaming online radio station.
Sherman says, “My relationship with Detroit has always been primarily about music. I started going to Detroit right around the time I joined WCBN to see bands play, go to raves, etc. — all while studying music at the radio station. During this time period I learned the most about jazz, rock and techno: music forms that are a part of Detroit’s cultural makeup. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Detroit’s place in music history/music present.”
As both a DJ and a live performer her mission has been to gather collective human energy and transfer it through sound. The energy is palpable and can be seen above the crowd in a cloud, according to Gillen. In a means of call and response Sherman says she loves how the energy on a dance floor is “visceral and raw. At its best, it’s both pure individual expression while also a shared experience. It brings people together, forcing a group of friends, acquaintances and strangers to channel their energy into a collective moment, even when dancing by themselves. As a dancer, I like to be lost in the music, dancing by myself, but also feeling the energy of others around me having this moment with that track.”
“You can’t see it, you feel it. It exists without boundaries. It works within your mind but also on a multitude of primal levels. It connects us all, and reconnects us to things far beyond what we can see. For me it is my place of meditation of mental and personal growth, mental relaxation or mental exploration. Freedom for the mind,” Gillen says about why he loves music.
Both Sherman and Gillen perform live as well as DJs. Sherman is well-known for her rare use of The Octopus in her live PA, which is a midi-sequencer that was discontinued by genoQs Machines after the company shutdown in 2010. With her upbringing in a science-based environment, it is clear she uses that influence in her creations; as an example, her video for “North Hex” takes tones of the song which are sent to different machines including computers, a World War II submarine oscilloscope and video synths, all of which are captured with real-time modulation.
Through both of the artists productions and performances, it is clear that space exploration is a driving force for inspiration. What about this science and thought is so intriguing to these artists?
“First, that we know so little about it, so there is tons of room for speculation and contemplation. I can imagine it to be so many different ways inside nebulas, on planets, circling moons… I also like the idea that when we are looking up into space we are actually witnessing ancient history; the light that travels to Earth from the stars has taken so many millions of years to get here. So what’s going on today?” – ERIKA
Gillen continues, “We are stardust. We are the result of a random cosmic collision … We are not unique, but we should stay alone for now. We are totally responsible for what has happened here. Our culture, our achievements, our failures of past societies – that is us. The way we have treated this living organism of earth, you would hope that we never explore beyond our planet. A defining aspect of civilization is that it destroys wherever it is. When I look at the stars I don’t ask myself, ’Is there life out there?’ I already know. The answers are not in the sky, in the stars, in alien lifeforms. I am not waiting on my angel. I don’t need the cosmos to answer a mystic question. I just enjoy witnessing the endless creation, destruction and rebirth.”
In the early 2000s the sound of the scene changed, as did the environment. Minimal became hyper-prevalent and events in Detroit were being held in bars and clubs. It was that time in techno that many are familiar with, where there was a lull followed by a resurgence.
Gillen made a phone call to Derek Plaslaiko, a Detroit native, and pitched an idea to reawaken the local scene: a party that would last 12 hours. In 2007 at an abandoned bank, No Way Back was created. The party has been housed in many places but is mostly known as an after-party at Detroit’s Movement festival and is now co-produced with New York City’s The Bunker.
No Way Back is more than a party. It is an experience that is deep, contemplative and psychologically expansive. In the environment created, the dance floor is a place to transcend in the most primal and honest way. In recent years, it all takes place at Tangent Gallery and from moonlight to sunrise people are flowing in and out of the industrial blank art space building. Nearly 10 minutes from downtown Detroit – just beyond the entrance gate – the floor and the patio are packed. There is a chill room that glows in cool colors, music on the ambient side lets you flow into the space and there are chairs to sit back if you need some ease for just a moment. Past the bar, through the hallway, beyond that door, is the main room. It’s dark, and the temperature is high. Giant parachutes hang from the ceiling and military netting provides background behind the DJ; the label’s recognizable symbol of a hand can be found there as well. The environment is created to inspire certain feelings and vibrations – what you do with the experience is up to you.
In regard to No Way Back Gillen says, “We live in a world of accelerated time, where everyone is multitasking, living these 24-hour lives always pushing but so rarely in the moment. I like to think about vast concepts when you remove the gradation, like music is continuum that we divide into 12 tones, but there is so much more there when you apply different scales or look for notes in between notes. Gagaku [ancient Japanese music] uses only seven notes. Another very fun one to think about is time — how we divide up time. Like there are currently more than 14 calendars on Earth right now, in some places the year is currently 1437. The October Revolution that started too much in Russia happened in our November. Astrologers still use the Julian calendar. Yet my favorite to ponder is Eternity. The absence of time moving forward.”
“That is the space I hope you can return to at our parties where the past the present and the future all exist on the same plane, and you are experiencing that without thinking about it. Our culture robs us of so much of the tribal highlights of living, and nothing beats the dance for actually stretching out your brain and resetting yourself for daily living. So the party must be a place where the mind can go free, and we respect that and structure our parties around that. A free open space for you to be you and to reunite with music, which was our language before words,” he continues.
At No Way Back you will see performances from the likes of BMG, Erika, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Patrick Russell, Scott Zacharias, Orphx, Bryan Kasenic, Derek Plaslaiko, and others. Many factors and well-thought planning are at hand to create a party that for many is inexplicably life-changing. Sherman says “with No Way Back we hope to provide a safe environment in which you can lose yourself in sound and time. How we construct the environment – with an emphasis on the quality of sound system, top-notch DJs, and immersive environments – is something we bring forth from the heydey of rave culture in Detroit. This party is an attempt by us to not look backwards, but to bring the best parts of our early rave and warehouse experiences to today’s crowds.”
We forget in the daily minutia that our innocence is there to be embraced. We deny our darkness for fear of what we’ll see. Our concept of where we are and who we are with is sometimes not as clear because we do not take the time to really be aware. Interdimensional Transmissions in its cognitive and visionary nature brings you into the depths of what it all is, what it all means. Once you get a true glimpse, there truly is no way back.