On Record: Tyler Dancer
Semtek asked me to write something about a piece of music that had really touched me through the years to help kick off a new series called On Record which chronicles artists’ experiences with their favourite music. I pined over it constantly for about a year until it dawned on me after a really good mix session. I decided to choose the mix that I feel changed my life for the better: DJ 3000’s Somewhere in Detroit (SID) mixtape.
It was 2006. I was a sophomore at the University of Michigan. I had recently started my gig at WCBN, I was practicing breakdancing with Element One break dance crew, and I was making those A’s baby! I was living in West Quad. I was blessed to be living with my boy Rodney who was in the break dance crew and my main man Kova lived two doors down. We were always talking about music or jamming on drum machines when we weren’t shutting up and getting down. I remember when he passed me Somewhere in Detroit (SID).
I had been exposed to techno music but it didn’t have my heart yet. I experienced my first Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) back when it was free as a high schooler. It was the first time I was mistaken for my brother and the first time all the music he had sent home through the years came together. I was too young to know that Brett was such a sick DJ and I had no clue of the history that was happening when I was hearing about Sector 616 raves in Kalamazoo when I was in middle school. There was no Soundcloud back then and if you weren’t in a big city listening to late night radio or old enough to get into a club, dance music could possibly pass you by.
Kova hit me up with the tape and my mind was blown from the very first listen. It was like the time when I found Parliament Osmium on CD in the used bin at Music Express in Kalamazoo or the first time I heard “Walkin’ With Jesus” by Spacemen 3 with my boy Dave. It changed my life! While some of you in Europe had electronic music by default, I grew up in a rock city. I didn’t even know how blessed yet I was to have any insight into electronic music at all. Techno and House was different. It was to be experienced when ready and measures were being taken to make the public blind to its existence. You could get derivatives of it here and there but it had to be sought to be experienced in its true pure form.
Anyway, when I heard SID it was right on time. I had reached a balance with the rock and jazz phases of my life. I had gotten over seeking pure virtuosity in music as many instrumentalists do and was actively seeking spiritual experiences with sound. SID filled that hunger for me in many contexts, framing some of the best moments of my life in that special way that can only happen in a continual mix of music.
It starts with figurative and literal “Inspiration”. Cornelius Harris’s poetry graces the track in a way that can make any artist feel like a young monk at the beginning of their own spiritual journey, as if to send you off on a sonic pilgrimage. The uninitiated have no clue where they are going.
This is when the slap hits you. You partied till the break of dawn and Mama still made you go to Church: “First Galactic Baptist Church”. Its like a plate from the Queen Aretha Franklin, rescuing that ass through a sonic method you didn’t know known possible. That’s Black church on a Sunday and I will leave it at that! The mix is so strong you might not notice you got through Mr. De’s “Super Ugly” which pitches you into “Soul Saver”. Do you even realize you just went to church?
That is when you get blessed by an angel with one of the greatest vocal house songs of all time: Davina, “Don’t You Want It”. It become’s the perfect prelude to Los Hermanos’s symphonic masterpiece “Birth of 3000”, graces you with a bit more Mr. De, and brings you the rebirth of Model 500 with Model 600’s clever petition to the future of electronic dance music with “Update”. It really all starts to sound like a creation story when you realize that it is from none other than the originator Juan Atkins himself.
You then begin to get introduced to a number of street anthems that you wouldn’t be hard pressed to hear in an East side jit session brought to you by two twelves or at one of the best underground nights to be found in almost any techno set at the time: “X2”, “Find Your Particular Space In Time”, “Shake it Baby”, & “Knights of the Jaguar”. You could write all day and wax philosophical about any one of these songs and artists when this mix was made and even now which makes the choice of Erik Travis’s history lesson and timelessly relevant “Techno Drivers” so special. The year of this writing is 2019 and they say the electro revival is upon us. It never left us in Detroit!
This is when you get teleported to “Woodward Avenue” after a club night and see what happens when 2 AM hits in downtown. For some of you living outside the US you may be saying “Wait a minute, I just got to the party?!” 2 AM is when the drinks stop and most places shut the door, thats the law! They rather leave us frustrated than to actually experience what it means to dance the night away and see the sun rise. That is a human experience every being should have the opportunity to have. It should happen at least once in your life. But instead, you get a whole bunch of sick cars and people dressed to the nines on Woodward energetically but briefly bringing the party to the streets as they head into the things we all do after a night out.
Next up is future space station music with “Atomic Witchdokta”. I think Detroit Techno should be the official sound of the International Space Station (ISS) but thats just me. Jeff Mills’ “Outer Limits” is definitely a step in the right direction so it’s perhaps plausible and could happen!
We have the final helping of the album’s editor and mastering engineer Mr. De with “Y2k”, a second coming of Electric Soul with the literally titled “Jit Beat #1” which ends bottoms up in Aaron Carl’s (R.I.P.) iconic Rorschach test of how far your mind is in the gutter with “Down”. I know the heads are smiling really big when they hear that the lyrics never come in on this particular mix but I know they are singing them to themselves. This song is as anthemic as it is clever. Out of all the tracks on this mix, this is probably the one I have heard in the widest variety of sets. No matter if it is played with bass, electro, techno, or house it is always a good choice and potentially even a floor filler.
Now, if it took “Down” to get you on your feet you will be disappointed that the mix is almost over. “Come On Baby” blends in and expertly shreds you into the mixes conclusion, “Communication”. It is a deep undulating vocal electro track that will tease the repeat listener with the fact that this sonic journey has just come to an end. It does it expertly leaving you wanting more and possibly giving it another spin immediately.
Since hearing this mix for the first time it has become a constant fixture in my life that has played the soundtrack to some of its best moments. It is what I want to hear when I am driving into the city and see that Detroit City Limits sign. It has provided the sound to many a dope cypher where I saw a Ballroom dancer jump in like Special K from Breakin’, played in full multiple times on my own radio show, and become an appropriate choice for touring guests around the city so they know what it’s spirit sounds like. It has also become a prelude to good times. When I hear this mix I know I am about to be doing something awesome and I reserve it for those moments. It gives you many a chance to exclaim, “OH MEIN GOTT IM GOING TO TEC-TROIT” or wherever you are headed and need to bring the hype level up a bit in anticipation.
So in conclusion, I think you need to stop reading and go ahead and check out this mix. It is like a road map to Detroit and a sonic spiritual that can bless any occasion. The only thing that could make this mix any better for me is if it was to be performed live in a set by DJ 3000 himself.
Tyler Dancer’s 62 Miles High EP is out now on DBA