For a man with such a big reputation, Eric Hoegemeyer's as humble a local musician as you could ever hope to meet. He's a man of many faces. For some, he'll forever be remembered as the animated drummer with the Brit-pop-y Charm Farm. Others might know him as the floppy-haired singer fronting Detroit rock 'n' rollers Gold Cash Gold. He pounded skins for Crud, aka Sponge leader Vinnie Dombroski's carnival-metal crew. And countless local musicians think of him as an amiable producer-engineer at Royal Oak's Rust Belt Studios.
Hoegemeyer's brainchild is a new dub project he's, um, dubbed Deep See Sound System. The group's debut album, titled Angelhead, streets next month. What's funny is Hoegemeyer doesn't expect anyone to enjoy his latest "venture" outside of himself, but then, refreshingly, he's a rather modest gent.
Over lunch at an eatery in Detroit's Midtown, Hoegemeyer explains the genesis of DSSS. "This is a project that started during my off time from the studio," he says. "I've been a big fan of dub music for a long time. I just had a free day in the studio one afternoon so I started laying down a bunch of drum tracks — sort of in the same tempo as some reggae songs that I love. I pulled the music out and wrote the tracks from there. Since then, I've been tweaking them here and there when I get time, and every once in a while a lyric idea comes to me, so I just lay that down. It basically all came out of wanting to do an album within this genre. I wanted it to be the kind of album that I would personally want to buy."
He originally imagined the project as a solo venture. "Angelhead didn't start off as a collaboration, which made it a little more difficult," he says. "In other words, I didn't have that other person to bounce ideas off of, so I had a lot more time for second-guessing. Since then I've got somebody else involved — a vocalist named Roxy Kurze. She's a great singer. I deliberately didn't want to get a singer who was going to sound too reggae, like a Jamaican singer. That would be the obvious choice, but I struggled for a long time with what kind of vocals, if any, to put on this stuff. I resigned myself to thinking that if it was going to be better without vocals, I'd leave it that way. But I hooked up with Roxy and it just worked out and came together."
Pals of Hoegemeyer — many of whom know him by the nickname "Beats" — will tell you that he has long held a passion for reggae music. Indeed, he once told this writer that he dare not visit Jamaica because he'd "never come back." Still, he insists that the concept of DSSS being a traditional reggae band was a nonstarter.
"I guess it started off that way, but I realized that it's got to come from my own experience," he says. "I've never been to Jamaica. And, sonically, it has more to do with English dub music than traditional roots reggae. Bands like Alpha and Omega and I guess a bit of Massive Attack are all in the mix. I've always loved these kind of rhythms, but there's really not a lot of sunshine in them. And this comes from a more Detroit concrete sort of vibe. It's dub music with shoegazer guitars over the top of it. If Lee Scratch Perry and Flying Saucer Attack were to meet up in Cleveland, this is probably what it would sound like."
Hoegemeyer's excited about putting his new music in a live setting. "Initially, the idea of this was to be in conjunction with a night at a local venue that would have a DJ spinning reggae music integrated with a live performance. That turned out to be premature, but I do want to do live shows now. But I want to do them at nontypical venues. We were talking about possibly renting a flatbed truck and doing a show at the Eastern Market or something. Maybe a show at the science fair? Who knows?"
Still, Hoegemeyer insists that this music is very personal to him and so his first priority is his own satisfaction. Anything else is an added bonus.
"All I'm responsible for here is the music," he says. "Obviously, I'd like to do more albums, have them released and have people listen to them. But regardless of whether people are listening to them or not, I'm still going to make them."
Near the end of last year, Hoegemeyer appeared on Metro Times' list of the 50 most powerful people in Detroit music, alongside fellow Rust Belt Studios man Al Sutton. He definitely considered it an honor.
"I didn't realize anybody was paying attention," he says. "There are so many talented people in this city that the list could have included 300 people. But it was nice to be on that. The best thing about being in Detroit is that there are so many incredible people on an underground level. We have people who have, of course, received worldwide success. But there are so many great artists bubbling underneath and it's always great to discover and meet those guys. And it happens all the time. I've been doing this for a while now, and it still happens twice a week — where I see or hear somebody whose music just blows my mind."
True enough. Detroit is blessed with countless incredible musicians, of all types of music. Add Deep See Sound System to the list.
Deep See Sound System's debut album is scheduled for release in mid-February. See myspace.com/deepseesoundsystem for more information.Brett Callwood is a music writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]