Hes been one of Detroits better-kept secrets. But after a stellar performance at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, DJ Bone is touring the world in support of Subject: Detroit, Vol. 2, his new mix compilation.
Bones style is true to the roots of Detroit techno, which should come as no surprise considering that hes been a DJ in the area since 1987. Sometimes smooth and calculated, often the beat-juggling showman, Bone keeps his audience guessing as they nod their heads, wave their hands and get down.
Detroit techno wasnt always about playing the hardest, fastest and most popular records. Bones new release allows those who understand this truth, as it was demonstrated at the DEMF, to take the underground sound home with them. According to Bone, the basic funk elements of techno are often lost by those who attempt to exploit Detroits sound.
"(People) have never given (the Detroit sound) the respect it deserves because they were afraid of it they didnt understand it. People fear what they dont understand. They would rather try and copy that sound, even if its a watered-down copy, (so that) they can understand it. They take the part they understand and try to make it theirs, and thats where all these other (electronic) music forms came from.
"People basically want to commit genocide on the Detroit techno culture theyve been trying for years, by trying to imitate it, trying to rope it up and corral it ... you name it. But thats where the underground comes in its too strong for that. It will always survive. Its always made money. We dont have to be rich. I know underground people who do have millions of dollars, but they dont have to show people. If you excel with a hot song, you could be wearing some Kmart specials, I dont care ... that songs hot. I dont have to be filthy rich. Im rich when I go and play for 20,000 people. Im rich when somebody calls what I do art."
Another aspect of Bones craft that is often lost in the wake of the mainstream marketing engine is the element of risk in a DJs set. Often, the club audience pays more attention to the name than the music, missing the point of how good DJs separate themselves from the rest.
"My style is all about taking chances. Ive never been one to be safe. Safe is for people who dont have confidence in their skills, or people who actually lack skill. (Taking risks) can have two effects: You can scare the shit out of (the crowd) and theyll think that youre horrible, or theyll love you. If I can do the tricks and the beat is still on ... that moves the standard up. No one will see it, but the next time they go hear someone who just does a straight beat-match on every mix ... theyre gonna be thinkin, Why arent I as excited as I was when I listened to Bone? I put emotion into them its not just a kick drum, drum rolls and effects. You cant put funk into something that doesnt have funk. If I take two mediocre records ... and put effects on top of that and push some button, thats just too many condiments on the hot dog. Youre just dressing up the bare essence, which wasnt that good to begin with. Youve gotta have funk at the core you have to."
For those still wondering exactly what is meant by the underground ethic, Bone elaborates:
"(Underground) is basically being able to choose for yourself what you enjoy, not having it forced on you, not being fooled, swindled into believing something. Thats hype, not talent. Underground has talent. Underground can move in mysterious ways and still get the job done, even more so than someone (in the mainstream). Its covert its not to be seen its not for everyone to put a face on it and market it to the masses. Being in a magazine every month, every week ... and being just "entertainment" and not being there for a purpose ... thats not underground. I set the ball for people to spike sometimes. They look at the dunk they dont look at the alley-oop. Thats the sentence I chose, because Im underground."
A quality DJ set also entails considering ones audience. For this reason, Bone has created a CD thats suitable for many moods and environments, yet one that always maintains the funk. Robert Gorell rounds up the sounds for the Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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