Ariana Paoletti’s transformative journey through sound has certainly brought her changes in scenery. From her formative gothic years to becoming the DJ known worldwide as Volvox, it has been her undying passion for music that continues to drive her. A Portuguese saying goes, “O amor é algo eterno; o aspecto pode mudar, mas não a essência” – Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.
She was born in São Paulo, Brazil. But when she was two years old her family moved to the United States due to the country’s 1987 debt crisis. “Just days before my family was set to move the banks shut down and kept everyone’s money, including my parent’s entire savings,” she says. “They arrived in the United States with a little more than $2,000 to their names, but my American grandparents took them in and helped them get started in Buffalo (where my mother was from).”In Western New York on the Niagara River sits Buffalo, a small and gritty rust belt city only a stone’s throw from Canada. Not only was Buffalo’s rave scene strong in the early 2000s, the Queen City brought life to various famous underground artists and was also home to a very prominent hardcore scene (most notably Everytime I Die). “I had a great time growing up there and was never bored,” Ariana says. She attended Amherst Central High School, just east of downtown proper. She was a vocalist in a punk band, and from 2001-03 she played keys and performed vocals in EBM-industrial band Process of Elimination; they would open for international Industrial acts locally and in Rochester, N.Y.
“There was a venue called the Showplace Theater that was in a crummy part of town that would let us host our own shows but we had to buy tickets from the venue and resell the tickets ourselves to cover the overhead of the event. So imagine a bunch of goths pushing tickets on their friends, almost monthly. It was a hassle but we loved it! Many times we just paid for the tickets ourselves and let our friends come for free. We were all under 18 at the time so these shows were the best option we had for going out and having a scene,” she says.
A pivotal place that defined her teenage clubbing days was The Continental, a now defunct goth/punk dive bar that was located downtown at 212 Franklin Street. “It had been open since the ‘80s and was the de-facto home of the underground/alternative scene in the area. It had a performance stage on the first floor and a dance club upstairs. It was dark and dirty and smelly and sticky and beloved,” she says. “The funniest thing I remember about the club at The Continental was that the dance floor was the width of the building but relatively narrow, the long side was mirrored and so everyone in their goth finery would dance and preen facing the mirrors, checking themselves out and the others behind them! Eventually my band played there once or twice, which was pretty exciting for me as a teen.”
It was a space unlike any other in Buffalo, where fetishism could be expressed freely and the dark electronic music ranged from postpunk, Industrial, and EBM. “Occasionally they would host touring band shows that were 16+ and I would hide in the bathroom to avoid being kicked out before the 18+ club night started afterwards. I specifically remember an Ohgr (Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy solo act) show in 2001 that was a big moment for me. Ogre was the most famous Industrial music figure after Trent Reznor of NIN and Al Jourgensen of Ministry so this show coming to Buffalo was a huge deal.”
When it comes to raving Buffalo is primed for it. Similar to Detroit, the city relied on manufacturing (particularly with Bethlehem Steel) and saw a rapid socio-economic decline along with deindustrialization. Homes began to disintegrate and many spots in the city became ghost-like structures, only to be inhabited by temporary new life.“Just before I went totally goth I started attending raves in the area with some friends – Buffalo had tons of abandoned spaces along Main Street downtown and also in Fort Erie and Niagara Falls. The first rave I ever went to was in 2000, put on by local promoters Phlux and it was a MASSIVE affair held at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. My parents drove me there and picked me up at noon the next day. I had never been to any dance event on that scale and I still distinctly remember walking into the massive main room, it was so dark and large you couldn’t see the ceiling, or the end of the room. It was a proper classic rave with multiple rooms each a different genre including a chillout room. For a while my parents drove me to and picked me up from these events to ensure I was behaving responsibly. Indeed at this time I was still naive to the world of drugs; I was just thrilled to be able to dance for eight hours straight! There were many raves I attended around that time but Groove Attack was by far the largest and most memorable.”
When school wasn’t in session Ariana would perform The Rocky Horror Picture Show each Friday night at the Amherst Theater on Main Street, a staple to this day for new art films and re-screening classics. “Nearly our entire cast was from my high school. I had very horrible acne on my face and back at the time that I was extremely embarrassed about it but performing in various states of undress with these folks helped me feel more confident about my body and how I looked! My mom would drop me off at midnight and watch X-Files at home until 2 a.m., she’d then pick me up when our show was over. Once I had my drivers permit I drove myself and my friends home from these shows as my parents were very sick of staying up so late,” she says. “I had stellar grades and was very serious about school which is why my parents were always so accepting of my nighttime interests!”
Upon graduating in 2003 she was deciding between Boston or Chicago; she chose to attend Massachusetts College of Art and to continue clubbing unhindered. “I was already well entrenched in the Goth clubbing scene by the time I turned 18 and indeed I chose to move to Boston over Chicago because the minimum age for clubs in Illinois is 21 whereas in Boston it was 19+ at the time. Club life had already become my main interest and there was no way I was going to put that on hold for three years!”
Through Livejournal she ended up connecting with Angeldustrial, a local crew throwing events at Cambridge goth-club, Manray. “They welcomed me with open arms into their midst. I became a part of the crew, eventually joining their fetish-leaning dance performance troupe” for about a year after her move. “That was the beginning of my professional involvement with clubs, as I made the transition from spectator to performer.”
Angeldustrial’s core beliefs include “raising cultural discourse through high technology and blending social circles for greater DIY networking.” These friends got Ariana to start DJing in 2006 with a group birthday gift organized by her friend Jenn – a Numark CD Mix 2. Koren (aka DJ Punketta) helped get her first DJ gig at Redline, a Harvard Square bar that’s now closed. But before she started learning the craft she was being molded on many Manray nights in the dark corners of the club.
Manray was an integral space for the Industrial/goth scene from 1985 to 2005; its name derived from the Dadist artist. Although it has been more than a decade since closing, Ariana can still visualize the space vividly. It was “a sprawling old-school style club with several rooms, a main dance floor, second dance floor, lounge with its own bar and a downstairs with men and womens restrooms, coat check and a large dressing room. Manray’s main dance floor had a second story DJ booth so the DJ was totally out of sight, but looming over the dance floor. There was a phone booth in the corner you used to request songs from resident DJ Chris Ewen. There was a large stage that hosted many famous bands and also the dance/fetish performances. The main room was sonically dedicated to goth, rock, and ‘80s synth. Swishy stuff that trad(itional)-goths loved to swoop around to in a flourish of velvet, point toe boots and clove smoke. The second room was more of my domain, focused on EBM, industrial and alternative electronic sounds with a decidedly more cyber-futuristic and European slant.”
As Manray closed its doors in 2005 the local scene fell along with it, although some of the club’s events continue elsewhere to this day.
Eventually she “made the transition from goth/industrial to electro/techno.” A party called Hearthrob – which took place every other Tuesday night at The Middlesex Lounge – is where she sparked a residency with Make It New. Hearthrob is also where she met “an entire small village of people that now live in NYC all met there, including NYC lighting designers Michael Potvin and Kip Davis, Unter’s Olga Romanova and KUNQ’s False Witness.”
“I ditched the black and went full on new-rave as the noughties rolled on into the blog-house era. Soon after I was asked to become a resident of Make It New, the weekly Thursday party at The Middlesex thrown by the Basstown crew. The people I met there showed me that you didn’t have to be ‘an adult’ or established to throw a great party, and the Boston electronic scene as it was now basically grew up around the Hearthrob and Basstown parties.”By 2008, freshly graduated with an art degree in hand, she decided to attempt living in Berlin. “By then I knew Techno was my life and so I had to get to the motherland. I remember the first time I went to Berghain was in 2008, as I heard it was a pretty sweet fetish/alternative club, like I was used to at Manray. I was still mourning it’s closing so I was excited to get back in black,” she says. “It was so way beyond anything I imagined. I remember I wanted to see Mark Broom play so I rushed my friends to get there at 1 a.m., which to me was very late to get to the club! When I arrived I found out Mark wasn’t playing until 6 a.m. or so…what the fuck!? I had no idea clubs were open that late.. On some later trip someone from Juilliard took my photo outside the club for a school project, maybe one of the earliest such surveys.. I don’t know where those images ended up but I’ve always wondered…”
Her best friend Lauren was working as label manager for International Deejay Gigolo Records, and DJ Hell would invite Ariana to staff meetings. Exploring her local Media Play in Buffalo is where she became familiar with the label and others such as Astralwerks and Hed Candi.
“CD compilations used to be a huge thing and the Gigolo series was second to none. This is where I learned about artists from Terence Fixmer to Derrick Carter. When I was 17 years old I told myself ‘one day I’ll go to Berlin and meet DJ Hell.’ It was an insane dream, as far removed from my teen life as anything I could imagine. Well, I completely forgot about that until in 2008 I was sitting in the Gigolo Berlin office and it hit me. ‘Holy shit.’ I thought to myself. ‘I’m here. ANYTHING is possible!’” – VOLVOX
Three months later in Berlin, she says, “I was 23, recently graduated and jobless, with blue hair, a terrible spat of chin acne and a bogus story of working at a record label. Nobody would rent me a room until one day I met a Brazilian guy whose room I was interviewing for. The lady I was looking to rent from had a giant gnarled ponytail hanging off the side of her head and red lipstick that was all out of the lines. She had a huge dog, hundreds of plants and asked me metaphysical questions about ‘what I wanted from Berlin.’ ‘You don’t want to live here,’ he told me. ‘This lady is crazy. If you don’t find anything else you can come stay with me, I’m moving into a one-bed.’ And that is just one of the many times being Brazilian has saved me in a pinch.” Their chemistry as roommates matched as his job had him up early to work each morning and Ariana would sleep during the day after being out each night.
Until one morning her roommate woke her up in a panic – there was a fire.
“We tried to make an escape but we were overwhelmed by smoke in the hallway and I almost lost consciousness choking in the darkness. It didn’t help I just HAD to bring my DJ bag with me. I started to drift off then I remember thinking to myself ‘No, I’m not going out like this, not now.’ I got up and shouted for my roommate. Just as we were both about to pass out he smashed the hallway window with his bare firsts. Firefighters arrived soon after and took us to the hospital. After this experience I decided I had enough of Berlin and moved back to Boston.”She spent three more years in Boston DJing, throwing events and dealing vintage clothes. Her gigs were frequent, but $100 a night just wasn’t enough. “In the back of my mind there was always this nagging voice telling me that a wider world was waiting for me, and that I was squandering my potential staying in Boston.” In 2011 she made her move to New York City.
Working her way into the rhythm of the city she started promoting at The Flat, and also helped found Moon II along with Michael Potvin. This warehouse art space on Rutledge Street off Broadway became home to a series of raves and events which Ariana says “put our group on the map in the burgeoning DIY electronic scene.” One of the space’s first tenants, Daniel Fisher (aka DJ Physical Therapy), was a nexus figure integrating them into the local scene. Ariana recalls Ron Morelli playing one of the first parties and Mykki Blanco using the space to rehearse.
“Eventually the local Hasidim who owned the space brought those efforts to a close, they certainly didn’t appreciate all the queer party freaks that were hanging outside, smoking cigarettes and carrying on into the morning light,” she says.
Fischer introduced her to John Barclay, owner of Bushwick’s beloved Bossa Nova Civic Club. At the time the bar had just opened and he was looking for a resident on first Fridays of each month. She and John Barera ran the monthly together for a couple years before it evolved into what is now known as Jack Dept. “For the first couple years the party had no name, only hot DJ lineups and little more than a Facebook event. That was the style in Brooklyn at the time, very understated, if you knew the artists you knew what was up. I don’t even have flyers from that time, I guess we never even made any!” Yet, popularity for the party grew.
“When I came up with the name Jack Dept. all the energy we had put into the parties up until then just came together in a big way. I remember one dancer excitedly letting me know ‘I’ve been to ALL the Jack Dept.’s!’ …it was only our second party. That’s when I knew the name was spot on, that it would encourage such enthusiasm and also stand for a consistent level of forward-thinking bookings.”
Some of the party’s bookings include Shawn Rudiman, Kiernan Laveaux and Father of Two, Justin Cudmore, Doc Sleep, Hot Mass residents, Eris Drew, Mary Yuzovskaya, Patrick Russell – and that’s just to name a few. “Over the years I’d say half the people that came to the early parties have become famous in their own right and the party is now informing a new generation of edgy Brooklyn clubgoers,” she says, adding that her and Barera are working to bring in national upcoming talent.
“I deeply appreciate having the privilege to break young artists here in NYC and also to provide an intimate club experience for more established DJs to enjoy. As I play more and more massive events across Europe I have recognized that the intimate dive/club experience is something that brings me back to my roots and lies at the heart of my passion for dancing and electronic music.”
Out of the party grew a digital-only record label of the same name in 2016. Pushing lesser known producers who create techno and acid, the imprint has seen releases from Will Martin, M//R, TX Connect, AAAA, Horos, Innershades & Robert D, and Pete Vai. Ariana handles the art direction.
Additionally, the Bossa Nova residency is where she became acquainted with Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson and Christine McCharen-Tran: the founders of Discwoman. This collective has grown to become a globally-recognized platform and booking agency for woman-identifying artists. As one of the group’s first clients, Discwoman has played an integral role for Ariana not only providing further growth for her DJ career, but in the strengthening of her community.
“Discwoman definitely turned me on to the female DJ mission. I guess what I’ve realized now is how amazing and special my youth experiences were in that all the scenes I’ve described until now were well-balanced between men and women, straights, gays and everyone in between, people of all races and decidedly liberal and creative leanings. I never felt like anything was missing but clearly that hasn’t been the story everywhere. I’m happy that Discwoman can inspire more people to take up electronic music, their support also showed me that there was a wider audience for what I do than I ever imagined!” – VOLVOX
When she’s not at Bossa she also holds a residency with Unter, the acclaimed underground party whose unique aesthetic and high-caliber bookings have brought on a serious reputation. Additionally, for the past few years she has been touring on an international level stretching to 21 countries beyond the United States. Her gig roster is incredibly extensive in review. But you can certainly find her frequenting Berghain/Panorama Bar. Perhaps you caught her performance alongside Umfang at last year’s Dekmantel. Back on Buffalo turf in 2016 she played to an intimate dancefloor for Strange Allure as the city’s underground scene began its most recent surge. That’s hardly close to scratching the surface of how much she has done and where she’s gone.
But, there was one party specifically that focused and refined even further the vision of love that Ariana has for music. In February 2016 she made her way back to Brazil for Dûsk, a party in celebration of Vênus Ácida [Acid Venus]; a party inspired by the planet poetically known for its myths of feminine energy and creating balance. Visiting the motherland reintroduced her to ancestral power. This reconnection to the idea of home helped her understand more so her own essence of being.
“I always say that my love of dancing comes from being born in Brazil. They just LIVE for it there! I’d say it’s the national pastime. It’s in my body and my soul. But growing up away from there I never knew what it was about me that was Brazilian. Since I knew only my family I had little sense of what Brazilian people were like. I only knew that I always felt somewhat different/alien all while growing up. That I had a fire inside me that wasn’t like others around me,” she says. “Finally in the last three years I’ve been able to spend quality time there as an adult, and so much has clicked into place. My passions, my desires, they all make more sense when I see myself in this frame. I am so so grateful for the friendships I’ve sparked there, the fruits of which have been deeply spiritually nourishing. I always come back from São Paulo feeling 100% more confident and embodied.”
Over time, life’s little details changed. No matter the city or sky she is under. No matter the time of the day. To thousands of people or just a handful. Ariana’s love for music is eternal.
“I love music because it’s an internal journey that can take you around the world. Music has nourished me for my entire life and has been the great driving force of my happiness. As you can see my life has been wrapped around music for as long as I’ve been doing things and I’m just dumbfounded by how far it has all gone. I’m a lifer for sure, come find me in 10-20 years…I’ll be on the dancefloor.”
An abandoned Detroit building with an infamous leaky roof. Twelve hours of sonic exploration and psychological liberation. Interdimensional Transmissions. Ten years ago, No Way Back became a party like no other that would last throughout the years, constantly evolving yet the unchanging threads have maintained that inexplicable enchantment.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994. Just a few years later Erika Sherman joined as conspirator. With years worth of history and memories, they celebrate their 10th anniversary during Movement Festival in Detroit this weekend (Saturday, May 27 – Monday, May 29) with three very special events. Coined “313: Return To The Source” the name draws parallels of each unique party, and how as a whole they create a story arc between them.
Gillen says, “My original inspiration for the Return to the Source name comes from the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia “Exit 23” where they sample Timothy Leary saying ‘Return to the Source.’ That song still gives me chills. I heard it when it was new – it just became part of my brain, so when we were trying to name the whole weekend, it just popped in and I felt like it really said it. This is a chance to do just that, through carefully curated events, stellar sound, venue transforming decorations and a strong connection with music. It’s important to do this ritual at least once a year, it ultimately leaves you feeling inspired and refreshed. And in today’s insane news cycle, we need this reset more than ever.”
But first, let’s start at the beginning. A party’s growing years.
No Way Back came to fruition as a means of reigniting the local Detroit scene after a lull at the turn of the millennium. Derek Plaslaiko received a call from Gillen with an idea to throw a 12-hour party to get feet moving and reawaken the scene.
“We kinda just discussed what we thought was needed at the time in Detroit’s somewhat stagnant state. Don’t get me wrong, there were good things going on. But, we kinda longed for the old days when a great party was just 3-4 DJs in a dark room with a punishing sound system. There was definitely a party in mind to model it after: Hardware. That was a small set of parties that Dean Major (Syst3m) put together circa ‘95-96 in an old hardware store up on Jefferson near Belle Isle,” Plaslaiko says. “For me, it defined exactly what I felt an amazing party was. I’m guessing it was about 150-200 people maximum, completely losing their shit in just a simple sweatbox. Things were often like this in Detroit. While other cities were focused on making their parties bigger and brighter, Detroit just seemed to find a pure formula that worked perfectly for us. I hold those times extremely precious, and I think all of the No Way Back crew agreed.”
Plaslaiko continues, “Eventually he told me he thought he had a perfect space for it (he was right!) and Erika, Patrick and Brendan started putting it together. At this time, Erika wasn’t DJing and Servito wasn’t in the mix yet. So, the first one was just Carlos, Patrick, Brendan and myself. The party was perfect! Even with the rain/mud and sweat dripping from the ceiling, the party was incredible. Brendan, Erika, Amber and Patrick all did a phenomenal job of transforming that space into what I remembered best about Hardware.”
The location was an abandoned bank near the Woodbridge Historic District. Regardless of the dilapidated structure, the crew worked together to launch the first ever No Way Back. Gillen paints an image of what the party was like, the space itself and how in just a matter of 12 hours, something special was created.
“Fucking crappy building. It was so bad. We had to bring in a giant jet engine heater and porta johns, there was no running water. The roof shocked up and leaked all night, as the snow melted from the dancer’s heat. Maybe at it’s peak it was around 150-200 people. The party felt magic, I can’t describe it. We had imagined people needed this, and it turns out it was even more profound than we had thought. So many original ravers and promoters came through. A highlight was Dean Major, of Syst3m, volunteered to run the door for us, himself a major inspiration for these kind of parties. His Hardware parties were the last real underground thing in Detroit of the original rave era. This party was a nod to the rave, taking inspiration from that Detroit outlaw vibe, but advancing the music with much finer curation, insanely deep selectors. Many cycles of life experienced in one party, and the energy was just so amazing. We were supposed to end by noon, but went until 5 in the afternoon. Derek ended up running through the wall. It was crazy. It was so special that we wanted to share it with more people, it was what we wanted to show visitors about Detroit. What they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
A rekindling of the grassroots, underground world that the sound was born in, this party served as a reminder. The name deriving from the classic acid track by Adonis perfectly reflects the raw and unstoppable energy the party invokes. Plaslaiko, BMG, Patrick Russell, and Carlos Suffront played records that night into the early afternoon.
“Well, I was in attendance at the inaugural party, and these stories have been told many times…the leaky roof, Derek’s head going through the wall, etc. I had actually gone home and then I got a call around 9 in the morning from a friend who said the party was still going, so of course I gripped a cup of coffee and went back until the end,” says Israel Vines, who records for IT’s sister label Eye Teeth. “That was probably the first time I ever properly met Brendan, but I already knew the rest of the bunch. I do remember thinking early on in the night that this is what an underground party should be. And I must say that last year’s NWB was one of the most intense and immersive party experiences that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m really looking forward to the whole weekend at Tangent once again this year.
The following year the 12-hour party moved to the Atlas Building, this time as an after party during DEMF weekend. A few No Way Back events, including this one, were split-structured with Too Far Gone lasting from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and then No Way Back until 9 a.m. the next morning. Too Far Gone, presented by Dethlab, was the segment of the night that had some room to expand beyond just heavy-hitting techno and acid records.
“‘Too Far Gone…’ was a way to have a more free-form, open-minded exploration through music. It’s totally another kind of DJing. It didn’t have be dance floor, dark room, totally lost in it stuff – just appropriate for the time and context, before the main event of No Way Back. Music that represented our wider view on music, and a place for people to be before the party that wasn’t somewhere else,” Gillen says.
Added to the bill was Detroit native Mike Servito, now based in New York City where he also holds residency for The Bunker parties. From this grew a long lasting love affair between Servito and IT, as he played nearly every year following.
“My favorite No Way Back memory is the very first one I played in 2008 during Movement at the Atlas Building on Gratiot. I have such vivid memories about that late night into morning,” he says. “I remember the energy and that space and the excitement. I played an extra hour because someone was having a little too much fun (nudge nudge Plaslaiko!)”
For the next few years, No Way Back nestled into the Bohemian National House, a historic structure built in 1914 by the Bohemian Society on Tillman Street. By 1960 it transformed into a Lithuanian Cultural Center, and then in 1996 was sold and redesigned to be a multi-cultural performance and art space.
“The space initially was magical. Off the beaten path, in a neighborhood, kind of looked like a school from the outside. It’s a building from the 1900s that had been created as a space for people from Bohemia,” Gillen says.
The “Bo House” had a controversial foundation. John Sinclair, co-founder of the White Panther Party (a far-left anti-racist white American political collective) previously resided there and would be constantly bothered by the CIA after a political bombing in the ‘60s. Due to this the space became a target for additional surveillance, which would play into the transgression of the location a couple years later.
“This venue had the most renegade feeling of them all, even of the first No Way Back in the leaky bank. The building itself was a maze of rooms and corridors, with many different spaces contained inside – it had several levels, with many staircases and hallways and rooms,” Sherman says. “Over the years, I experienced so much different music there – bands performing on a stage, jazz musicians moving around the room, a disco party with an elevated dance floor installed for the night. For the parties we threw there, it was possible to create completely unique experiences for each party by using different rooms, dividing or orienting rooms differently – even using rooms that had never been used before, or creating new pathways and connections between spaces.”
Recorded live that night was Plaslaiko’s 4:30-6 a.m. set. Looking back over the past decade, he shares with Sequencer his favorite No Way Back memories over the years.
“Jesus, where do I start!? I guess everything about the first one would be the first favorite moment. Brendan at the one where Serge From Clone played (who was also incredible). There was also the time Traxx jumped on near the end and tagged a bit with Carlos. That was pretty mental. I guess I sorta think of every NWB as a continuation from the previous one. The party generally feels the same, but different records are playing. As a whole, I’ve always felt like we are all playing one long set together at each one so it’s rare when any particular set stands out for me. We are all attempting to play our absolute best because we know whoever is playing before and after our sets are in the exact same mindset. As I stated in my previous answer, this party isn’t for everyone. But, if you like crazy acid freakout records, you’re gonna hear all of us playing our favorites and you’ll likely go home happy and hopefully saying “that was my favorite No Way Back yet!”
The following year No Way Back took place within another area of the Bo House. Gillen says, “Our new space was the Ukrainian room. It’s hard to fully describe, because the place felt anarchic, I think that was the magic – it felt outlaw.” IT also brought back the Too Far Gone…No Way Back format that year, allowing the 12-hour party to diverge in energy as the sounds and sunlight shifted.
“No Way Back has a specific vision, but we enjoy so much more music than what fits it. Too Far Gone let us open up and explore different types of music by having bands play and inviting people to play non-techno sets, starting early and building the vibe before transitioning the room to NWB. It let us explore music within the confines of a single room,” Sherman says.
That year the venue’s longevity came to an end. Gillen recounts, “The owner started to focus on other projects, neglecting to renew his licenses, or to protect the building from mold, and in 2011 a special task force came right at the end of Carlos, Scott Zacharias and Sal Principato tagging as the Too Far Gone portion of the program was coming to an end. They had the crowd divide into two lines, one for people over 21, one for people under. Only one line formed, the youngest person was 23. Then they asked us if we had heaters. CCWs? The crowd had no idea what they were asking and spontaneously laughed when they finally asked us if we had guns. They threatened the sound guys with impounding all their gear if they had to come back. They failed their mission and were disbanded over wasting so much resources over nothing, but we couldn’t do our music safely there again. Rare moments like that never last, but it sure was special.”
A pivotal moment for future No Way Back events, and other parties thrown by IT, safe locations became paramount.
“The prime thing to us is that people be safe. I don’t want the people to have to deal with police, task forces, any of that. The place can’t have mold, toxic waste, all these things in old Detroit warehouses that could alter your health and change your life for the worse,” he says. “The place has to be legal, clean and safe. Tangent has one of the only 24-hour occupancy licenses in Detroit; it’s a very rare license. We even added another fire exit off the main No Way Back room this year, so people can get outside easier.”
From the Bo House, IT made their way deeper into Downtown Detroit to 1515 Broadway.
1515 Broadway was previously known as the Music Institute. Inspired by Chicago, the club was developed by Chez Damier, Alton Miller and George Baker. Sparking the second-wave of the city’s techno producers and performers it served as a unifying place for Detroit’s legendary DJs Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson among pioneers Eddie Fowlkes and Blake Baxter.
“I first met the place when I went to the Music Institute as a teenager. I had seen Derrick May annihilate the universe in that room in a way I wish he still did. I want everyone to experience that. The place was small, with a floor made of marble and terra-cotta. They had a few stage risers for shows that we would put out for a partially wooden dance floor, so the DJs and the dancers could be on the same level. It was really dark in there and you couldn’t see what was in front of you, barely. You entered off the street, we had a zone where you could buy records and shirts and buy a wristband to get in,” Gillen says. “That was the entrance, the exit was through the same door, but on the other side of a stairwell that went upstairs, and there they sold juices and coffees and fresh organic food. From either side you could walk into the dance room, which was a hot box. On the left of the DJ you could walk back to the bathrooms and the outside alleyway. The venue was already under siege by investors who were trying to buy the whole block. We had to hire a guard for the back door to explain to people where not to stand in the alley – because the building next door that was owned by a circuit court judge was experiencing ‘demolition by neglect’ – bricks would occasionally fall off of it.”
In addition to a new venue, New York City’s The Bunker began officially working alongside Interdimensional Transmissions to put on No Way Back. This collaboration came to fruition with the connecting link of Plaslaiko. Gillen explains, “Derek had moved to NYC and was The Bunker resident, and introduced me to Bryan Kasenic. I checked out Bryan’s taste in music and it was deep and we really connected on so many levels, we love so much of the same things, that it just felt natural. They had done some other weekend things at Oslo earlier and decided that No Way Back was what they wanted to be part of in Detroit, so we discussed it and it grew naturally from there.”
Kasenic says, “Despite the lineup being almost exactly the same every year, each edition of NWB is it’s own beast, and there are so many great memories attached to each one. I think that’s why people keep coming back for more every year, it always delivers, and is a unique event that can’t really be re-created any other place and time than Memorial Day Weekend in Detroit!”
“One of the defining things for me about NWB at 1515 Broadway was the small size of the room, it would be packed wall-to-wall with people – but not by cramming in like sardines at a rock venue. People were there to dance, so there was room for dancing and expression. The DJ booth was on the same level as the crowd, so you were connected right to the people and their energy, the vibe was a two-way street…the room had a very special, super tangible feeling when it was really going off.” – ERIKA
Carlos’ set was released under IT’s podcasts. The description of the mix paints a perfect picture. “Come experience the edge of your consciousness in distorted rhythms and dirty acid. Here is Carlos Souffront playing the prized 4:30 AM slot at No Way Back At All, Sunday 5/26/13 at 1515 Broadway during the Movement weekend, where Carlos fulfilled the promise of his legendary ‘truth in advertising’ set at the original leaky warehouse No Way Back. Vinyl artifacts intact, set includes one record that was stepped on at the first NWB. Set begins with Carlos mixing in the AFX’s ‘Elephant Song’ over BMG playing the unreleased Shake Remix of Alpha 606.”
Resident Advisor chose Mike Servito’s 2014 No Way Back set as Mix of the Year, which not only gave the party serious exposure but also helped fuel Servito’s career as a DJ.
“2014 was the last year the party took place at 1515 Broadway before it moved to Tangent Gallery. My friend Mike Servito’s set has become rather infamous from that evening. He smashed it. Mike came swinging with new records stitched together in a way only he can do. That was a pretty special moment! Things really took off for him after that.” – JUSTIN CUDMORE
Servito shares his reflections of that night. “All I can really remember about that party was that it was maybe one of the hottest on record, and by hot I mean warm. I can’t believe no one died, seriously. Orphx had just finished and they were so phenomenal. The room was waiting for more. No pressure there. I think I was ready to have a good time. I had specific records that I wanted to play and I think I managed to get it all in and deliver what I wanted to. It’s still a surprise to me that RA recognized that mix as online mix of the year. It was such an honor and a launching point for me! That night and that mix was validation not only for me, but for IT and The Bunker family; that we can doing things our way and succeed.”
Patrick Russell also reflects on that night as one of his favorites. “It’s difficult to pick one favorite moment from all the years, but I’d say the impromptu three-hour tag set with Carlos Souffront in 2014 is right up there,” he says. “None of it was planned whatsoever, it just happened in the moment. Packed, hot, and completely unhinged, I think that night as a whole really made a statement and set the bar for following years. Completely unforgettable!”
As interest grew for No Way Back, so did the need for a bigger space. Tangent Gallery became the new home for Interdimensional Transmission’s annual party. Among the varying transformations, even the decorations have had their own evolutionary process and have become an iconic visual for underground techno heads.
Gillen says, “Before even No Way Back, Amber [Gillen] has always been about creating fascinating environments. I will take this story back to Syst3m, who we threw the Love From Beyond party with in 1998, and Amber and Dean Major collaborated on the Burns Room at St. Andrews Hall. She brought this projector and a series of images, and Dean was so inspired by her aesthetic and her Infinite Dimensions crew that he created this clear plastic shell to the room that she could project on – it was an amazing collaboration.”
Beyond the doors of the Ballroom techno dungeon you become enclosed in womb-like darkness. Large parachutes stretch above with simple (but at times disorienting) laser projections. Military netting drapes throughout the room which sends you to another time and place and behind the DJ stretches the signature hand, glowing like a signal for your surrender. The room allows you to expose the deepest parts of your mind. Memories might rapidly make their way into your conscious vision. You start to deal with it. You have to listen to it. With simple but well-thought out decoration, a box with a door becomes something else.
Gillen explains, “At first the parachutes and netting were a nod to Syst3m and to Tim Price’s decorations at Plastik Produkt parties. But as Amber interpreted these things, they came out in an all new way. She was already an accomplished artist, but with her collaboration with IT a whole new thing has developed with it’s own organic logic. What started as very male and military has morphed into a very mentally liberating environment. She says she thinks about it like a cave, something that surrounds you. I personally feel that when you walk into the space, you see visually and feel viscerally that this is safe space to let go and be yourself. You can actually see that we are committed to this, which makes it easier for the audience to commit and be able to fully connect to the music.”
With multiple rooms the crew was able to construct lineups fitting for two very different, but complimentary, environments. The notable Outer Space Room is where the party explores a more ambient, cooled out setting. Sherman delves deeper into what makes this room special in the scope of the party.
“It’s somewhat similar to Too Far Gone, but since we can run two rooms at once in this venue, we are no longer bound by a strict timeline. So it is an evolution of this idea, designed as a companion rather than a warm-up, allowing the presentation of an even wider range of music, while being tied even more closely to NWB as its true companion, in that the chill out room was separate from the dance room at the parties we experienced in ’90s,” she says. “And it’s a rare opportunity to hear this style of music be so enormous, through such an amazing and enveloping sound system. The focus is truly on the experience of losing yourself in music without dancing, being able to come and go from the intensity of the dance room without leaving the overall experience. The room itself undergoes a complete transformation over the course of the night, beginning as a chill out room but in the morning, it transitions into a slo-mo free-form dance party, as a comedown, not a warm-up.”
“Most of my NWB memories are not for public consumption, however I will say Carlos playing Current 93 in the Outer Space room last year was one of the highlights of my raving career. I was super into Current 93 in high school and kinda put them on the shelf when, all of a sudden, there is Carlos radically re-contextualizing them to make one of the trippiest things I’ve ever experienced. Oh, and my track ‘Ground Score’ was inspired by real life NWB events, but that is all I can say about that.” – JASEN LOVELAND
The Outer Space room happens simultaneously as music beats down in the main room of Tangent Gallery. While the main room will send you into a realm that you may have not experienced before, the gallery is a perfect space to grab a seat, take a deep breath and experience consciousness in an easier environment.
“Ambient, chill, experimental music means so much to us. People deserve a place to decompress, to just be, and explore inner and outer space. That is what this room is about. It turns out that now this is the only place in Detroit where you can experience this kind of environment all weekend,” Gillen says. “Everywhere else you are being constantly bombarded with the beat. It’s at the restaurants, it’s everywhere. So here is a place where you can let go and experience the music. Chill out rooms were always such a pleasure, having seen Mixmaster Morris play so many cool weird records, or Clark Warner or Carlos in the chill room was always a highlight. But to me this is an evolved version of that, with music perfect to let your mind go. It is the perfect contrast and foil to the main room at No Way Back, it really completes the whole vision of a place where you can really stretch out your brain.”
313: Return To The Source will consist of three events: “Berlin / Detroit – Building Bridges” – a night presented by IT and Tresor, the 10th year of No Way Back, and an evening with The Bunker. For those dedicated to completely immersing themselves at Tangent all weekend long, the IT crew has offered a Super Deluxe Weekend Pass which includes entry for all three parties as well as a tote bag and T-shirt from Interdimensional Transmissions among other gifts. Gillen says, “The Bunker is giving us CDs of their new Gunnar Haslam album, one of my favorite artists and people, and he’s on our Acid Series with Tin Man as Romans. Tresor has a few special gifts, the one I can tell you about is Drexciya’s ‘Harnessed The Storm’ album on CD. Drexciya is such a giant inspiration for me, I was very excited at the idea of sharing this music with more people.”
Berlin and Detroit have a long-standing symbiotic relationship when it comes to techno. Respectively shaped by their own unique destructive history, from the struggle grew communities that sought freedom and unification. After techno originated in 1980s Detroit, the German sister city became incredibly influential in the growth, support and reciprocation of the genre’s creation. Among rusty safe deposit boxes, Dimitri Hegemann helped make music history by opening Tresor Berlin in 1991 after the fall of the Wall. “Detroit and Berlin – both cities represent the most singular, resistant and significant correspondence in the history of electronic music – the Techno Alliance,” he says.
On Saturday, May 27 the second annual collaboration of IT and Tresor will pay homage to that history. The title “Building Bridges” discerns this party as an effort to provide a continual bond between the cities that once fed each other during the birth of techno, and have continued to do so since. Gillen says, “The event celebrates the storied history of Tresor and it’s place within Detroit, balancing the past with the future.”
Hegemann offered Sequencer some exclusive insight about the significance of this weekend’s collaborative event.
“In 1989, when Mr. Gorbatschow opened the Berlin Wall, he triggered off an incredible euphoria in Berlin. People and families that had been divided for over more than 30 years came together again. Following the fall of the wall, from 1990 until 1994, authorities had to deal with fundamental issues, such as bringing a socialistic system and a capitalistic system together on one ground, under one administration. Subcultural movements used those years of freedom.
Berlin became the platform for many artists to start an international career. The circumstances of this historic moment were perfect: incredible energy, no curfew, many empty spaces and the new sound that came from Detroit. Germans from both East and West loved this hard instrumental form of music, coming from a hard city. Techno became the soundtrack of the country’s reunification. Yes, the real reunification took place in different dark basements of Berlin.
The peaceful togetherness of people became a mythos that lured people from all over the world into Berlin’s nightlife, to discover a new quality of freedom and tolerance. It was the start of what came to be one of the largest youth movements in the world.
With time, an entire economy shaped around the nighttime, influencing many new startups, transport, accommodation. The spirit of Berlin was the natural incubator for the recently found sharing economy. A new capital was rebuilt based on humane rules. Techno also gave yet another new direction to Berlin: Culture and appreciation for the alternative arts. Today they call it creative industries.
After 25 years, Berlin’s techno-club Tresor continues to identify with Detroit’s techno music.
Berlin’s history has shown how the power of disused spaces mixed with Detroit’s original music has changed the image of a city entirely. Let’s then compare both cities and their creative advantages.
Learning from Detroit – Learning from Berlin.” – DIMITRI HEGEMANN, TRESOR
Last year, the Berlin club celebrated its 25th anniversary during the evening prior to No Way Back during Movement weekend. Tresor’s Diana Alagic had been attending the Detroit party for years. Completely inspired she told everyone she worked with how much it meant to her. Eventually IT and Tresor collaborated not only for the anniversary but have delved deeper, further strengthening the already established trans-Atlantic connection. A round table initiative titled “The Potential” has developed on behalf of the Detroit-Berlin Connection to help bring even more growth to Detroit’s music environment.
Gillen says, “When I first went to Berlin in the early ‘90s, you could feel this visceral connection to Detroit. Underground Resistance had become to their scene what Minor Threat had been to American punk. The kinship is so strong. It was time for the Cold War to end, and who wanted out of that more than Berlin and the forgotten people of Detroit?”
A live debut performance from Berlin’s Flowing and Detroit’s Terrence Dixon will serve as the proverbial bridge. Flowing is prominently known as one half of The Orb and a founding member of 3MB with Moritz von Oswald. In the ballroom you will find an opening set from Silent Servant, a live set by Civil Defence Programme, Christina Sealey of Orphx with a hybrid live/DJ set, and a closing set from L.I.E.S. founder Ron Morelli. Moving the floor in the gallery will be Claude Young, Marcellus Pittman, and Intergalactic Gary. “This year promises to be even more sonically adventurous and fearless,” Gillen hints. “Not to mention all the surprises that you’ll only find out about when you arrive at the party…”
Extending its hours for the 10 year celebration, No Way Back will start on Sunday, May 28 at 11 p.m. and will continue on until Monday at noon.
“No Way Back is special for so many reasons. What started off as a raw ‘back-to-basics’ party in 2007, a real anomaly in the post-minimal Detroit landscape at the time, has grown into a destination of like-minded folks from around the world. Seeing the love, devotion, and energy the audience brings to this party makes my heart swell every year. For me personally, it’s where the IT family gets together to present something sonically unique; we get away with playing some really out-there stuff, music we wouldn’t dare play any other time, and yet people go nuts and love every minute. They just…get it. The party is a true symbiotic relationship, and I feel deeply honored to play for that crowd.” – PATRICK RUSSELL
Sounds from the usual suspects will be heard throughout the caverns of Tangent Gallery: Erika, BMG, Derek Plaslaiko, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Bryan Kasenic, and Scott Zacharias. There will be a special lineup for the Outer Space Room, an unannounced guest, in addition to a live set from Outer Space (John Elliott and Drew Veres), as well as Grant Aaron.
A man who has been influential since the party’s inception, Plaslaiko expands on how he has seen No Way Back change over the past decade. “Well, it’s definitely gotten bigger! The first NWB probably had around 100 people come through the whole night? Maybe more, maybe less… I’m really bad when it comes to numbers for these things. When we started doing them during the festival, we weren’t concerned with getting tons of people there because the spaces used couldn’t necessarily hold tons of people anyhow. This party wasn’t for everyone, and we knew it. So, we started making sure NWB was thrown on Sunday because that’s when the boat party would normally take place. I guess we felt like anyone who might come to NWB and then complain about it would probably prefer being on a boat rather than a dark, dirty and sweaty party on the outskirts of downtown (when it was at the Bo House). It was all about quality, not quantity. It still is, but it’s gotten way bigger than I think any of us possibly imagined. I attribute that to the right people coming over the years, and then they in turn invited the right people for the next year and so on. It’s been amazing to watch, and we are all extremely proud of it.”
Wrapping up the marathon weekend will be the second annual presentation of The Bunker during Movement on Monday, May 29. Although the full lineup will be announced May 28, it’s already pre-loaded with Chicago’s Hugo Ball co-founder Eris Drew, Antenes, Israel Vines, Hot Mix (comprised by Servito, Cudmore, and Haslam) as well as a surprise international guest closing each room.
“I’m part of the extended [Interdimensional Transmissions] family, as it were. We’re all folks from the same era of Midwest techno, particularly the Detroit scene – so there is a particular background that binds the crew, but everyone has their own take on things, which is what I think makes this group a special one.” – ISRAEL VINES
Tweaked to be geared for the energy and context of Monday night, Gillen says one room during the party at Tangent will mirror the classic second room at a typical Bunker party. The Ballroom will have “echoes of the highlights that you would experience in the main rooms of their parties, again altered for this context, and a little more personal and fun – it’s Monday night!” he continues.
Although IT and The Bunker have worked so intimately for No Way Back itself, there is something particularly special about the dedicated Bunker night at Tangent. With many people gone home after the conclusion of the festival the floor is more intimate, elevated and lucid.
“No Way Back could only ever be on Sunday night. Saturday night people are still nervous, they want to achieve something, goals of what they imagined they would do in Detroit during the festival. On Sunday, people have invariably experienced something incredible and now are just in the groove. The Sunday night energy is what makes No Way Back so special. Monday has another energy altogether. People are exhausted but still up for it, the music now has another meaning,” Gillen says. “The whole night starts strong, so you can get there early and be already seeing headliners and if you need to crash early, you will have experienced something special, or maybe the music and the people will provide all the energy and motivation you need to make it through the closers’ sets. I remember seeing Voices from the Lake one year at a Monday of Movement Bunker and thinking I would just go check it out and becoming so captivated and excited for the music that I stayed to the end.”
He says he hopes that The Bunker party will resonate with more people and perhaps this can be an event to be held every year to come.
Interdimensional Transmission’s label has been picking up creative momentum with a project that will be unfolding most likely over the next year. Several records will be released for the Acid Series, each production drawing upon personal inspiration from the evocative energy of No Way Back.
“I began the project last summer after I got so excited by so many demos I was receiving. Anyone who runs a label knows how rare that is. I had been thinking about a way to celebrate there being 10 years of No Way Back and this record series seemed like the perfect way to do that,” Gillen says. “It was a chance for the ideas to come together, for there to be a series of music on IT that directly communicated the sound of No Way Back. The series will last until all the records come out, it may take until next year’s No Way Back because there are so many great ones (all so different from each other) to come.”
The Acid Series will include productions from Tin Man and Ectomorph, BMG and Derek Plaslaiko, Jordan Zawideh, Romans (Tin Man and Gunnar Haslam) and Dona. All of which will be packaged in a special sleeve adorned with a design inspired by the iconic decorations of the party itself. The first two records come from Jasen Loveland and Justin Cudmore and will be available at the merch booths of all three parties.
“NWB is not a party for the faint of heart. You will be uncomfortable. Amber manages to turn the space into a predatory jellyfish. It gets hot. People turn into animals. You can’t get away from the sound system. It gets into your mind. This was what I wanted to try to capture in the EP. The paranoia, the claustrophobia and even the fear that grips you when you are at a party that is too much for you.” – JASEN LOVELAND
Los Angeles-based Acid Camp producer Loveland kicks the series off with his debut recording. “I’m from Chicago and cut my teeth raving in the Midwest during the ‘90s. This record amounts to my raving resume. It’s what I’m about. Each track is stripped to its bare essentials, using only a couple pieces of gear. No superfluous bullshit. Intentionally demented, the tunes aren’t meant to be light-hearted party bangers or even playable outside of a NWB context. Music to embrace The Void to.”
Originally from Illinois and now based in Brooklyn, Cudmore lays down productions for Volume 2 of the Acid Series. The Bunker resident had his debut release on Honey Soundsystem Records in 2016, shortly after Gillen asked him to contribute a record for this series. With instruction from Gillen to “make it sound like No Way Back,” Cudmore says he had two months to produce the four-track record. He continues, “I tried to keep my point of view, but try something a little tougher, headier, bass-heavy. ‘Sleazy’ is the word BMG uses most often to describe No Way Back, so I tried to approach the tracks from that angle.”
Gillen explains, “The idea to represent the sound of No Way Back as a series of records was inherently absurd, we know we can’t do every aspect of the sound, but in a record art kind of way, this communicates something. In this kind of music, there is way through releases that we communicate ideas all around the world, you might connect with something and never meet the person, but still know so much about them. The series starts with artists I met in the crowd at No Way Back. They were inspired by the feel and sound of the parties and started sharing unreleased songs with me.”
With the commencement of this 10 year celebration, let us embrace the expansion of time. Let us reunite together on the dance floor as we share laughter and joy. May we heal together. Embrace the wounds from our past and relish in the beauty of a bright future. Return we shall to our roots. A return to the dark underground of which we were born in. Let us return to the beginning. Return to the source.
There is an undeniable passion that drives Derek Plaslaiko, a Detroit native who calls Berlin home base. With more than 20 years of touring internationally, playing extended sets, and producing tracks – in addition to balancing family life – he continues to grow as a beloved head in the scene.
Growing up just 20 minutes outside of Detroit proper, Plaslaiko’s youth was spent exploring and becoming heavily involved in the city’s circuit. He got his start around 1994 when Detroit’s house and techno scene was on a heavy up and he became crucial to both the Analog and Poorboy Parties, along with comrade Mike Servito.
An experience that really brought him into the realm was picking up a job at Record Time. Opened in 1983 by Mike Hime, the acclaimed music shop was a staple for local music lovers. With a couple different locations it became a place where many would converge to explore and discover the multitude of local sounds and music from abroad.
Plaslaiko started working at Record Time around Christmas 1996, he vaguely recalls. Hired by Mike Huckaby he says “I was only supposed to come on for the holidays, but then was kept on until summer 1998, I think? Somewhere around there.”
Other former employees include familiar names Claude Young, Rick Wilhite, Magda, Dan Bell and Rick Wade. The Dance Room at the Roseville location became known as a hub for collecting and selling records from numerous local house and techno producers. Plaslaiko says “the space was was usually pretty hilarious, too. Guys like Gary Chandler & DJ Dangerous would come in and crack jokes with Huck. Have you rolling on the floor laughing.”
Eventually, “I got let go for the same reason 99 percent of the people working there did: being late. They were super strict on it. Even if you were one minute late, then that would be strike one. I then went back to work at the Ferndale location around the spring of 2000 until spring of 2002,” he says. During his time there he was ordering for the dance catalog and remembers it being fun, seeing a range of characters walk through its doors. He commended the staff of Record Time saying it “was nice to see the hard work build into something special.”
The shop was influential in many facets for young Plaslaiko as his passion for music began to transform. “Working there was incredible! Both locations were phenomenal. This music was a lot harder to come by back then. So, working at the source really helped shape my musical tastes. Not to mention working around Mike Huckaby,” he says.
His employment at Record Time helped him earn his weekly residency at Family. Held at the pivotal Motor club tucked away in Hamtramck, this venue played an important role for the scene’s growth and was one of the longest running clubs in Detroit. Jason Kendig and Jeremy Christian were original Family residents. One night at a party in 1998 Plaslaiko found out Christian was leaving his spot and the event’s promoter Adriel Thornton had an opening to fill. Plaslaiko took to the helm and was a regular there for the next four years or so.
It was this residency that convinced Carl Craig to ask him to play the inaugural Detroit Electronic Movement Festival [DEMF], which eventually transitioned to be known today as Movement.
Throughout the years he has found himself playing the annual festival, other parties throughout Memorial Day Weekend and as a resident he can always be found at the otherworldly after-party No Way Back. That is of course with the exception of 2014 when he basically took the year off from DJing altogether with his son’s birth just four months prior. Regardless, experiencing basically every year since the millennium he has seen the festival’s evolution, which is now a pilgrimage for music lovers from around the globe.
“The festival has changed in so many different ways. I mean, the obvious one is that it used to be free. But that was never going to be able to sustain itself. Even still, you can’t beat that first year. The thing about it being free that made it so special was that people from absolutely every walk of life came down to check it out. Every race, every age – you name it and they were down there. But, you start putting a price tag on that, and it’s obviously going to change.”
Prices began increasing, but he says the biggest benefit to Paxahau taking over in 2006 and the higher price tag means a larger scale of production. “Doing something that big down there is a feat unlike any other. I’m super proud of all those guys for doing what they have done with it. And they really do strive to make it better and better every year. I often think they are going to plateau even with the sound systems, but they just keep getting bigger and better … It’s always going to be a super special weekend for me, and I don’t even plan to skip it again unless something major prevents me from going.”
In the summer of 2004 he needed a change of scenery and moved from Detroit to New York City. Eventually he met Bryan Kasenic and went on to become a now 10-year resident of The Bunker parties. During time spent in the city he started producing; his debut output xoxo, NYC was a 12″ released in 2010 through Perc Trax. During that same year, he packed up again to move to Berlin and has since remained. In 2011 he spent a summer residency at Club der Visionaere and frequents the notable and legendary Tresor and Berghain/Panorama Bar among many others in Germany.
Although Berlin remains home he continues to travel extensively playing festivals such as Dimensions in Croatia, Communikey in Boulder, Harvest Festival in Toronto and Decibel in Seattle. He’s shared his music at beloved venues such as Smart Bar, Hot Mass, Good Room for The Bunker, Marble Bar – the list goes on and on.
Still, he maintains his traveling lifestyle as a DJ and balances life at home with his wife Heidi and his son Elliot. Such dedication is no easy feat and I find incredible appreciation for people who are so passionate about their music and are still growing a family. Someone else whom I admire for exactly that is Chicago’s Sam Kern, otherwise known as Sassmouth, who is also good friend of his. I couldn’t help but wonder what sentiments parent DJs must share with one another.
“God, I love Sam Kern. She was actually just in Berlin with Ryan [her husband] and Amelia [her daughter] and we got some great hang time in. I really try my hardest to not let my ‘career’ affect my family life in Berlin. I’ve definitely been more selective of my gigs these days and also very cautious about spending too much time away from home. DJing might be considered a job that I’m doing, but there is no denying that there is quite a bit of fun being had. I tend to feel a bit guilty about it, and feel it’s maybe a bit unfair to Heidi if she’s left to all of the parental duties while I’m out partying in multiple cities for 2-3 weekends in a row. Despite all of that, she is incredibly supportive and is even encouraging me to go out on the road more this next year.”
Elliott will be three in January and since he spends time in daycare and preschool (Kita in Germany) Plaslaiko says things are becoming a bit easier to manage. His wife is able to work consistently at her day job, “so me being gone doesn’t affect her like it would have a year ago,” he says. “Though, I’m sure the early mornings every single day probably wear on her a bit. But, all in all, I’m just trying to weigh everything out so that I’m still doing my part, so to speak. Elliott is at an age where he’s constantly doing new things that are super impressive, so it hurts to be away and missing a lot of these first time moments. I also miss them terribly within two days of being gone. Even writing this, I’ve been gone four full days and it feels like weeks. And I have eight more days to go. So, in short, yeah it’s quite hard to be away from them. Luckily with Skype I can stay a bit connected to them while I’m touring. I have no idea how people would’ve done this 15 years ago!”
For the last stop on his tour he will hit Rochester, NY for the first time at Signal > Noise, which has seen the likes of The Black Madonna, Claude Young, Norm Talley, Mike Servito and more. For a man with more than 20 years of dance floors under his belt he has seen a variety of spaces and crowds. I inquired about his reflections on small city scenes.
“I have never been one to shy away from playing someplace just because it’s scene is ‘small’. In fact, I’m always looking for more cities that fit that description. For years, I have had the approach of hoping to help build something somewhere. It’s important for a scene’s growth to have people come in from outside of the local community and (hopefully) provide a different experience, and possibly inspire those in that community.” – DEREK PLASLAIKO
For almost every DJ that has spoken with Sequencer regarding their insight on intimate crowds and concentrated music scenes the consensus seems to continue. “And smaller scenes usually have some of (like you said) the most passionate crowds. The first two that come to mind are Pittsburgh and Philly! Small scenes for the most part, but I can come in and do seven hours at Hot Mass, or thirteen hours at Inciting HQ and have some of the most engaged dancers I have seen anywhere else in my life! I’ve heard nothing but great things about what has been going on in Rochester, and I’ve been looking forward to it for months now.”
What can we look forward to seeing from Plaslaiko in the future? “I have The Bunker 14 Year Anniversary coming up in January! Definitely looking forward to that. Also, I did a remix for TB Arthur that will be out in late January. I’m also going into the studio with BMG right after I finish this interview, so that’s exciting too!”
I recently caught Brawther giving a master class during a sunrise set at Heideglühen in Berlin. While he was playing track after track, I was fighting off the urge to ask him what every song was. Finally he played something that fit the moment so perfectly that I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t ask what it was. When I made it up to trainspot, he politely told me it was Jorge Caiado’s “Sunny Days Are Coming”, and by the next day it had found its way into my collection.
Having briefly been acquainted with Caiado though his prior release on Chez Damier’s Balance Recordings, it was refreshing to hear his latest work in this setting. As an up and coming producer from Portugal, Jorge is known for his deep cuts, thick basslines and his work for Groovement Records, which put out this release.
Opening up this release is the title track: “Sunny Days Are Coming” – a nearly 10 minute long ballad that is ripe for early morning sets. Starting off with a classic sounding drum track, the addition of a low key bass thump and cinematic sounding pads usher this one along as it begins to open up. A set of bright, dreamy keys have you almost picturing a sunrise in your head before the main kick and bass sequence takes it into overdrive. The bright tones of this track seem to continue to ascend for the duration, making me thankful this cut got one side of the record all to itself.
Flipping it over you’ll find the title track’s dub mix. While this one keeps quite a few elements of the original intact, you’ll find it a little less epic and more suited for late night than early morning. With the presentation of the straight forward drums and the bass given more room to breathe, this one is definitely a chugger. B2 brings you “About Love”, a chilled out house tune with clean sounding drum breaks, soft pads and chopped vocal samples spaced throughout. Though the groovy bassline on this one is a treat, this cut is definitely more of a wind down track for me that gets overshadowed by the others on this release.
While Caiado’s discography doesn’t appear to be very deep at the moment, I’d recommend keeping an eye on his future releases. Though GR024 is sold out on Groovement’s store, I had no problem finding it on Discogs or other online retailers like hhv.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, formerly of Chicago, is now based in Greece as the label manager for Yoruba Records. He has spent the last 10 years developing his sound by digging deep in the bins wherever records are sold.
Eric Cloutier fell in love with techno at an early age and over the past 20 years has developed into an esteemed selector and curator. Born in Birmingham, Mich. he was first exposed to the culture of the scene while flipping channels and stumbling upon “The New Dance Show,” a low-budget Detroit version of “Soul Train.” As Cloutier grew older he became increasingly more drawn to the techno sound and scene in the city of Detroit.
Moved and moulded by Richie Hawtin’s moniker Plastikman, the 1994 album Musik was “damn near flawless” for Cloutier. In the beginning he moved to Detroit and started working at Oslo on Woodward Avenue, now known as the Whiskey Disco, for resident parties by way of Hawtin and Stacey Pullen. But Cloutier could be found playing or just spending his spare time in the dark backroom pit of The Works.
“Just growing up in Detroit was enough of a pedigree. You’re constantly immersed in exceptionally good and – at that time – groundbreaking music, so it’s near impossible to not have some level of inspiration come at you from all angles,” he says. “Going to raves and such in the late ’90s was a proper blessing. And just on those nights out alone, I think I learned more than I have in the last few years.”
By 2009 he became an official resident of The Bunker, a New York City-based party who have hosted an innumerable amount of incredible DJs. Cloutier first played in 2006 and just a month or so after made the move to the city. He reunited with Mike Servito and Derek Plaslaiko, formerly of Detroit who became Bunker residents as well. The liveliness of New York and the output of music there was an inspirational pool for Cloutier. There was something unique – it was ever-changing.
“Music is my life. It honestly gives me energy in the day, helps me through bad times, pushes me when I’m uninspired, and keeps me calm when I’m on travels, amongst other things. I honestly don’t know what I’d do besides working in music – it’s just what speaks to me the most,” he says. As his career grew Cloutier began landing gigs and exploring the European scene. He picked up his things once again and for the past three years he has been living in Berlin, another city rich in history during the birth of techno. Although he can be found playing clubs throughout Europe, Labyrinth in Japan and performing for thousands at festivals in places like the Netherlands, Barcelona, Russia, Montreal and more, Cloutier still understands the significance of his roots. Born into the concentrated dancefloors of Detroit, he nods to the importance of parties in small cities, and the role they play in the grander scene.
“If it weren’t for the smaller cities none of this would have really pushed boundaries. It’s so easy to rest on your laurels when you’re in a larger city, but when you’re the runt of the pack in a tiny corner of the Earth, you really have to do something profound to be heard and I think it’s exceptionally important for the little scenes to find their voice amongst the masses. All the most interesting stuff comes from the strangest places.”
The most unsuspecting cities, particularly in the Northeast, are establishing strong communities for house and techno. Cloutier says, “Without a doubt the tiny cites go off harder than the big ones, simply because it’s a luxury for an outside guest to come through and they make the most of it. You can tell people schedule their nights out around those once-in-a-while events, and it’s super important to them to get it while they can before it’s gone again.”
During his sets Cloutier demonstrates expert track selection and navigates the crowd, leaving them lost in time and space. His dedication to the music, whether as an opening DJ or headlining, has provided him a platform and a background for growth. For years Cloutier has explored the art and technical skill of DJing and it wasn’t until the last few years in his long career that he became more involved in producing. Although Cloutier releases will be relatively limited as he focuses on quality over quantity.
What’s next for the intrepid traveler? “Not totally sure where life will take me in the next few years. While the missus and I do enjoy Berlin, I can’t see it being the end point for my life travels…but who knows! As far as where to next, I’m always down to move to Amsterdam or the south of France, but…we’ll see!”
He kickstarted the techno scene for the debut Signal > Noise event in Rochester, N.Y. and now Cloutier returns to Western New York tonight for the next installation of Strange Allure in Buffalo, N.Y.
The ability to move is something that many may often take for granted. Movement toward change, peace or safety is not accessible to all. For some, the right to movement is being actively denied. In Germany the term gegen has become one of significance and holds an immeasurable amount of political weight.
Through Noise Manifesto in 2014 Paula Temple released her track titled “GEGEN.” The term is a very powerful and complex word in German. With two opposite meanings it translates to “against” but if applied to time it means “around.” It is a word of tension and a term that drives protest. A club night called GEGEN Berlin creatively took the term and uses it as a tool to lead a very specific mission. The collective strives to break the structural identity and to be “Against yourself. Around queer narratives.” The aim of the party according to their website “is playing with the solitude of the political meaning of gegen as a suicidal mechanism of the ‘self’ or the sublime crisis of enemy subtraction as the aggression of dialectics.”
Gegen is a term being used heavily by protesters, specifically now with the upheaval of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany.
“Sadly Europe has been closing its borders especially since introducing Frontex, making agreements, supplying arms that are causing unnecessary cruelty and murder to innocent people. As refugees fleeing for their lives it is shocking we are creating similar conditions and hateful rhetoric as what happened in 1930s pre-WWII for political gain,” says Paula Temple. “My personal hope is in our efforts to diminish the climate of hate with an overwhelming climate of empathy. This is not do-gooder blah blah, this is life and death.”
The O Platz Refugee Movement in Berlin is a group of refugees driven by self-organized protest and who are choosing not to accept the disfranchisement by the German state. The group set up a protest camp/home base at Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Through a list of demands and by publicizing the cause through protest and media, they hope to achieve peace for refugees in their state.
The group demands mandatory residence. The Residenzplicht is a unique legal requirement that is affecting foreigners living in Germany; rather, they are applicants for refugee status or those given temporary stay of deportation. Under this requirement refugees are required to remain in a certain area which is a violation of human rights.
O Platz demands an abolishment of all “Lagers” which are forced refugee camps. According to the organization’s website these locations are “mostly completely isolated from society, under inhumane living conditions and constant surveillance by authorities and Lager-guards.”
This group demands an end to deportations and also The Dublin III, which is a European Union law that the O Platz group deems “nothing else than a network of human trafficking between European countries.”
“I have freedom of movement, I can go in and out of countries. Since moving to Berlin I have been lucky enough to travel the world, meeting many techno communities and queer communities who share a sense of care and responsibility for each other.” – PAULA TEMPLE
HYENAZ, an electronic band from Berlin that have evolved a cult following for their immersive live shows, were inspired by Paula Temple’s track. They released a special edit this month that lays angry punk vocals over the tune, yelling for a desire to move and evokes a jarring sense of solidarity. It is abrasive, but that naturally reflects the political situation at hand. This is an edit specifically made for the refugees and asylum seekers that are in need. HYENAZ says, “The urgency of its siren-like lead synth speaks to the militarized policing of national borders and the desperation that pushes people to risk everything in order to exercise the human right to move freely.”
According to a statement from HYENAZ, “So many assumptions are made about why people choose to move, who has the right to move, and who does not, who can simply travel on a whim and who must risk everything to leave their lands for others. Our sense of time and space is increasingly unbounded, as access to knowledge, art and the public sphere shared through electronically mediated communication. Yet so many still have to risk death or internment to cross national borders physically, with access to migration arbitrarily determined by pieces of paper distributed along class and racial lines.”
The track is available for purchase. For each purchase Paula Temple and HYENAZ will personally double the sale and the whole amount of funds will go to the Berlin O Platz Refugee Movement, who is tirelessly providing to help to refugees and fight for their rights. Funds will go toward the constant need of resources and money to pay lawyers fees, help to run education tours, or to provide food and activities for mental health relief.
Paula Temple says, “I’m not expecting anything big with this, simply being part of the dialogue for empathy, however your support here and now would be much appreciated. Please buy the edit, even if you never liked ‘GEGEN.'”
Raised on Detroit’s westside, Norm Talley and Delano Smith began establishing themselves as artists in the early days of house and techno in the Motor City.
Talley was influenced by music at a very young age. “During this time in my youth there was a strong musical presence on the westside of Detroit. Lots of great record shops and parties to go along with that; they even sold records in department stores like Federals along with records shops like Detroit Audio, Professionals, Chaunceys, Kendricks, etc.”
With genuine determination to explore his love of music, he picked up a paper route to earn money for records as well as another turntable to complete his set.
“Motivation comes from within and if I wanted it I went out and got it, so at this time in my life as a teenager my motivation was collecting good music and dancing before I even had two turntables.” – Norm Talley
Smith was born in Chicago, Ill. but he and his family moved to Michigan when he was maybe 4 or 5 years old. Although his roots stem from Detroit, by the early ‘80s he started to develop a taste for Chicago house music. “There was no place like the Detroit’s westside growing up. That’s where the scene started in Detroit,” he says.
Each artist were influenced by the late and great WLBS DJ Ken Collier, a Detroit-native and pioneer to the techno community. Collier was ultimately known for his after hours sets at Heaven, a gay nightclub on 7 Mile and Woodward. Like Frankie Knuckles and others, Collier played a pivotal role in the era of post-disco, when the energy was high, the scene was pushed further underground and a new sound was brewing.
“I opened for Ken a lot in Detroit at many of his residencies … I already knew how to beatmatch pretty much prior to having the opportunity to open for him. He did advise on little things like blending, EQing and volume, but just watching and speaking with him when we played together taught me a lot,” Smith says, adding that he has too many fond memories of him to reminisce on just one. Smith did begin to DJ alongside Collier and began gaining most of his notoriety at L’uomo Detroit, a warehouse type club.
Talley lived four blocks away from Collier and regardless of being a bit younger at the time, he was still gaining knowledge through the music he shared. Collier was a mentor and a friend to him, providing him knowledge about disco and progressive which developed that signature Talley sound and energetic set. “One great memory of Ken playing was when he got ready to mix a record he would tell the light guy to ‘blacken the floor!’ which meant turn off the lights and when the mix was complete, and the next record was introduced, the light guy would then turn back on the lights!”
Smith took a break from DJing in the mid/late ’80s around the time that house music was becoming more popular. “I’d already been DJing for a long time making no money, so I decided to get a real job and further my education and eventually left Detroit for a few years. When I returned in the early ’90s the music had changed completely. I was at a friends house that happened to have some turntables set up in his basement — one thing led to another and here we are.”
Fully inspired and on the grind, Smith had his mission at the helm and in 2003 joined forces with Tony Foster to develop Mixmode Recordings. Prior to that, Smith and Talley developed the Detroit Beatdown Crew, along with Mike ‘Agent X’ Clarke. Their first compilation LP was released through Third Ear Recordings in 2002. As a trio their sound began seeping into the European scene, leading Smith to Germany where he developed a very impactful relationship with Yossi Amoyal, head of Berlin label Sushitech.
Both artists have performed on an international level, including places like Germany, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Japan and more.
“When I first began to travel internationally overseas they seemed to pay very close attention to detail as far as sound system which was pleasant for me and now I see a lot of clubs in the U.S. paying more attention to details. Don’t get me wrong, there were some clubs in the U.S. in the late ’70s and early ’80s that had great soundsystems but I guess it seemed as all the clubs overseas had great sound systems,” Talley says.
According to Smith, “The music is taken more seriously in Europe and Japan it seems. A DJ can really play from the heart. People that come to hear you are truly your fans, they buy your records and are knowledgeable about the music and the entire scene in general. It’s a lot different in the U.S., and I’ll just leave it at that. There are many factors in the U.S. that divides us musically and culturally.”
Regardless of international differences, “the D” is the birthplace of techno. Creation and community was so poignant during the early days on the westside, it helped spark and develop a culture that remains authentic. According to Talley, “I think DJs and producers living in Detroit at that time were heavily influenced by the rich history of music coming out of Detroit through radio, our parents, backyard parties, high school gigs, DJ crews … so I think it just carried on into our adult lives.” The city is still growing with new waves in the scene, many shaping the next generation of music from that city and carrying on the legacy. From two artists who have seen the city’s evolution, they shared with Sequencer who they find to be an important player in shaping the next generation of music from the 313.
“Really hard to say as there are so many and I like a lot of them,” Smith says. “Too many to name actually, but I will say – with the new younger generation of music producers, the scene will be left in good hands!”
Talley continued, “A lot of producers and DJs have brought their sons into the music business and I think they will carry the house and techno torch when we’re old and grey. Guys like Jay Daniels, Kyle Hall, Dantiez and Damarii Saunderson, and Generation Next to name a few.”
Tens of thousands of people will make the pilgrimage to Detroit on Memorial Day weekend for the annual Movement Festival. Movement attracts people from all over the world, exposing them to the city and perhaps showing it in a new light, breaking the negative connotation that many people might have in mind. There is a culture of art, music and cuisine that is more than a pleasure to explore.
Each person that has a connection to the festival has a special meaning in their heart for Detroit. For Smith, “I like the fact that Detroit is shown in a good light around the world. The guys at Paxahau have a top notch production in the U.S.A., we need this here, and it’s done in my hometown where techno was born.”
Movement, produced by Paxahau since 2006, will be celebrating 10 years this May and has grown to become one of the largest electronic festivals. “It’s a positive thing all the way around exposing people from Detroit – and worldwide – to electronic music from Detroit and abroad,” Talley says.
Talley will be returning to Rochester, N.Y. along with Smith on Saturday, April 23 for the seventh installation of Signal > Noise who have previously presented The Black Madonna, Claude Young and Eric Cloutier. This event has also been selected as an official Movement Pre-party.
Both artists have been friends and DJing with one another for decades. Smith says that he and Norm are like family. “I’ve known Norm for many, many years and we’re very close friends, like family,” Smith said.
“Great friend of mine for many years, and we have held residencies together here in Detroit for over 20 years,” Talley says. “[He is] very passionate about music and pays close attention to detail which is right up my alley. Great DJ and label owner of MixMode recordings which we have done records together in the past and more coming in the near future!”
Signal > Noise 2.1: Norm Talley and Delano Smith
Saturday, April 23
45 Euclid (45 Euclid St., Rochester)
See the Facebook event page for more details.
Öona Dahl paints visionary dreamscapes through sound. Driven by wanderlust fever, she has absorbed creative energy in her travels and where she has lived from Buffalo to Berlin.
The artist moved to Buffalo by way of Orlando, Fla. with her mother when she was seven years old. Around 2004 she moved back to the Sunshine State to attend college. For the past year Öona has been living in Berlin but in June she packed her bags for a tour and has been living on the road ever since.
“Berlin is amazing; my favorite city I have ever lived in and I plan to go back one day when the cards are right. I miss my studio there but I will have one in Florida as well to work in. It was always a dream of mine to move to Berlin and absorb the creative energy there,” Öona said. “All the music is the best quality and you have so many creative motivated people around you that it challenges you to be better at your craft. I immediately felt the creative web there.”
Her productions and sets inspire complexity, a depth of emotional evocation and vision quests. Tapping into the more minimalistic realm, Öona said that playing the more melodic and entrancing style of house and techno comes naturally for her.
“One of my favorite quotes is by Hazrat Khan, ‘The person, who is in tune with the universe, becomes like a radio receiver through which the voice of the universe is transmitted.’ I feel closer to the heavens with the sounds of pure love and beauty. This is my one side. My other side does enjoy the darkness as well. My side project with my good friend Amber Cox has a bit more edge to it, we go by Slumber.”
The All Day I Dream parties were founded in 2011 by Lee Burridge and Matthew Dekay. The events, which now travel across the country, have a foundation built on “technicolor emotionalism” and a specific dream-like atmosphere and landscape. A significant face on the Playa, Lee Burridge established All Day I Dream and maintains the immersive and experience-specific structure that Burning Man is known for.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to find inspiration. Creativity is built, molded and explored through boundless outlets. Öona finds creativity through traveling, dreams and reading. So enraptured by her novels she said that while reading, certain sounds illuminate within them. Her track titled “Soul of the World” was inspired by reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. “If you have read the book you know what the soul of the world is and you can hear the music that portrays it.”
When it comes to traveling she said she’s most influenced by Burning Man, even titling one of the songs on her album as “Beached Carny,” which was her Playa name in 2011.
As within, so without, Öona creates beauty through a certain parallel of space.
“My dreams take me to sacred places; I am in complete control of them and sometimes I am not. Wherever the journey takes me, good or bad, it inspires me to create the dream world with song,” she said. “I also have a small case of synesthesia where I can see color in sound. My music has a sparkling aura to it. When I hear chimes, music boxes, anything related, I see rainbows of spirals bouncing off the sounds.”
This fall her album will be released under Hallucienda, as well as a release of her music video by Barbara Klein titled “Wait. Lifted.” An EP through All Day I Dream is in the works and a Slumber EP titled “Body Clock” will be released the first week of October.
Check out her music video for “Somewhere We Can Go” that was filmed in Buffalo.
“We filmed the video in May 2014 in Buffalo. We couldn’t have asked for a more unique day to film. From sun, to sun showers, a rainbow and last a beautiful sunset over the Niagara River. I had two of my best friends featured in the video that I have been dancing with for well over a decade. I wrote the song right around the time I was living in New York in 2011. We would venture out to abandoned buildings to explore and get away. Buffalo in a sense is so much like Detroit, and doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I wanted to represent the city I grew up in and show that beauty lies in everything. Even a rotted abandoned building that has a forest growing on the rooftop. Forest Lawn is present time and Silo City is memories reflecting on a place where we go. A special thank you to my friend Don at DB Media that helped bring this idea to life.”
Catch Öona tomorrow night in the Dnipro Basement Bar for ORIGINS, a party being thrown by Igloo co-founder Paul Kuenzi and Chuck Abbott.