Something Cold was started by longtime Detroiter Justin Carver in 2009, later to be joined by Dan in 2013, as "a roving social club and record label celebrating the underground realm of minimal-synth, post-punk, coldwave, industrial, and experimental music within the Midwest." After having more fun than seemed possible at one of their monthly DJ events, we spoke with Carver about their ongoing endeavors.
Metro Times: How do you describe your night to someone who might not share your same cultural musical references?
Justin Carver: In the simplest terms, Something Cold is a night celebrating cold, analog synthesizer-based minimal-synth, industrial, and post-punk music, new and old. To someone unfamiliar with minimal-synth, you can often reference the early music of Kraftwerk, as well as Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, and Depeche Mode, plus the mood of Joy Division, and the DIY spirit of punk and post-punk.
MT: This is a DJ night, but how often are people dancing, and how often are they just hanging out?
Carver: Something Cold is a social club at heart, and most people come out to hear interesting music they wouldn't hear anywhere else in Detroit, to have some drinks, and meet up with or make new friends. It really varies from night to night. Sometimes we have a steady pace on the dance floor all night, other times it remains a bit quiet. I don't attempt to "create" a dance floor at any point during the night. I'm really proud of the vibrant, diverse crowds that help keep our fragile little ship afloat month after month, year after year.
MT: Are there songs you try to not play, like Throbbing Gristle's "United" or the Normal's "Warm Leatherette"?
Carver: Neither of those songs are strangers to our playlists (laughs). When packing my record crate each month, I just try to not bring the same records I played last month, to keep the playlists diverse and expansive. However, there are some records that I feel are such staples that they always remain consistently packed. If anything, I find myself trying to not slip the occasional darker Italo-disco song into sets these days.
MT: Are you always hunting down new things to play?
Carver: Constantly. I've been collecting records for years. I'm always on the hunt for obscure, rare, new, and old minimal electronic, industrial, and wave music.
MT: You still run the night with Daniel Stolarski, correct?
Carver: Yes, Dan still works as my co-DJ and helps curate events with me. Besides helping with Something Cold, Dan also runs his own label, Passed Loves, and books shows under that banner. He also performs live under the name Martial Vows, making loud, experimental industrial/power electronics.
MT: When you started this event, the term "minimal wave" wasn't as known as it is today — the label of the same name hadn't been around so long yet, for instance.
Carver: I've been collecting records for years and initially discovered what's now known as minimal-synth/minimal-wave, and the darker, Factory-inspired, coldwave when I was much younger, getting into more obscure industrial, synthpop, and goth artists around the world. As you dive deeper into independent music scenes, you find even more niche sub-groups. Absolute Body Control, Fad Gadget, and Bakterielle Infektion may have been the first minimal electronic artists I got into, back in maybe 2003 when I was a young goth expanding my horizons to more electronic sounds (laughs).
When I started Something Cold, I had no idea there would be such a resurgence in this stuff. All of a sudden, there was a revival of artists picking up analog gear, making cold electronic sounds. Pitchfork was reviewing compilations with Oppenheimer Analysis, Deux, and Crash Course in Science on them. New labels started popping up and reissuing rare, sought-after records. Cold Cave and Light Asylum were played in J. Crew stores! I definitely feel like that resurgence is now over, a lot of the trend-hoppers are now on to industrial techno, or whatever else is the new thing nowadays. For everyone else, we're still here. And we're not going anywhere.
MT: You guys put on shows by touring artists, like Denmark's Lust For Youth the other month. Which of all the shows you've promoted was the best? And which went the not-best?
Carver: We've been pretty lucky and haven't had too many issues over the years. I personally try not to book too many shows, as they are often very tedious, stressful, and time consuming to put together, despite almost always being very rewarding in the end. Probably my favorite show I've ever put together was Martial Canterel's live performance for the three-year anniversary party of Something Cold. It was very meaningful to have him perform for our anniversary, as he was a huge inspiration to begin SC, after all. The worst (or maybe the best, most memorable, rather) may be when we did a show inside of the Russell Industrial Center only to find the space next to us was an after-hours brothel. Yikes.