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milieu

+_SILVER..SPORK_+ new years eve featuring MIKE CLARK (beatdownsounds) DETROIT

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+_SILVER..SPORK_+

new years eve 12.31.04

what:

music

where:

cass cafe

4620 cass ave.

detrot, mi

313.831.1400 map

when:

10pm-?

why:

because we care

cost: $20 @ the door

$20 advance tickets available @ cass cafe

ticket includes a drink and a love basket (or equivalent)

call for more info

1177_2.jpgMike Clark aka Agent X (beatdownsounds, planet-e)

Funny how things turn out. There was a time when a DJ relied solely on their abilities on the decks to get gigs. You'd play all the parties you could to try build your rep - slowly, from the bottom up. It's the equivalent of a band spending years gigging around hundreds of seedy venues playing to audiences of five before eventually being spotted. Then all that struggling pays off, a record deal beckons and you're a better, tighter and more experienced band for it. Not any more. Just as 'bands' are selected at auditions by music biz fixers who don't give a damn whether or not you can play or write songs, merely whether you can dance, smile and possess a tight set of abs, so do DJs now need to also be producers just to get noticed, let alone a booking. Nowadays, your skills behind the decks are usually secondary to the records you've put out and the labels you've recorded for.

No-one is more acutely aware of this than Mike Clark. He might have a deal with Planet E, one of the most exciting record labels in the States, but somehow you figure he doesn't really want to be a producer. He wants to DJ, just as he has been doing for the best part of twenty years, on and off. But to DJ, he must make records. And he knows it. "I see that as where my career is heading now," he explains, in that distinctive Detroiter's drawl, "because you don't get any gigs if you don't do the records. It wasn't like that before."

He tells of turning up to play a rave in Detroit recently ("I don't usually do raves, but I was doing a favour for a friend") only to be bumped down the pecking order by a seventeen year old kid, despite the fact that Mike was supposed to be headlining. He found out later that the kid in question was the son of one of the promoters. "That kinda let me know where we stand right now, there's no respect, no nothing."

It's a world away from Mike's DJ roots in the pre-house days of disco. "When I started off, the whole mixing thing was kinda green. You know, like when a new country discovers house music or techno, the whole vibe is fresh, new,young, everybody's into it, you got a spirit that's not tainted by the music business, it's a good feeling. When I first started it was a whole new era, disco just started, mixing was in, there were no 1200s. It wasn't looked on as a business that could go corporate."

Mike learnt his craft from local heroes like Ken Collier, Darrell Shannon and Kevin Dysard, and devoured tapes of Tony Humphries and Timmy Regisford over in New York. Eventually he signed up with Todd Johnson's Direct Drive DJ crew (whose chief competition on the Detroit circuit was Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson's Deep Space collective) and later made a connection with the groundbreaking Hot Mix Five over in Chicago. He even began a long association with radio by working with Electrifyin' Mojo.

But as the dance scene took off, themoney men moved in and Detroit went on what Mike calls a "downturn" in the late eighties, Mike quit DJing with the intention of moving into production, helping Mike Banks set up labels like Underground Resistance, Happy and Nite Gruv, and picking up his Agent X moniker in the process. And then, as the nineties dawned, Mike quit music altogether. Partly because of disillusionment, partly because of his other commitments - hairdressing and martial arts. "I actually denounced the whole thing. Got burned out, I guess. I was backed into a corner, man, 'cause the whole music thing was taking off, we just formed Underground Resistance, and I'm doing platform work [hairdressing demonstrations] and hair shows competitions] and music and going to school and doing martial arts, so I had to cut a lot of shit out."

It couldn't last. An eye injury put the brakes on his martial arts, but he couldn't deny the groove. "I ended up admitting to myself that I love this music - this is what I've been doing all my life, this is what makes me happy. So I had to figure out how I was going to pursue this without getting caught up the same way I did before, you know, letting other people influence my thinking - the 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' theory. I decided I had to do it strictly on my own terms."

Releases for Track Mode and Glenn Underground's Nite Life Collective re-established him on vinyl, then by chance Carl Craig heard some tracks Mike was working on and offered to put them out. These formed the basis of the "In The Morning EP", released earlier this year and a subsequent global hit with DJs of the deeper persuasion.

Oddly enough, the deal with Planet E (for whom Mike hopes to have an album in the can by March) has brought him full circle. Craig's request that Mike mix the second Planet E Geology compilation means he finally gets a chance to stake his claim as a DJ on an international stage. Although Mike admits he hadn't reckoned on Carl Craig's perfectionist streak: "It was always missing something - [imitates Craig's voice] 'You're a hair off there - do it over', 'It's fine, but there's hissing right there - do it over', 'You hear that pop and click? Do it over!' I'm like, 'What the fuck..?' But I thought, 'Carl's serious about quality and this is gonna be in Tower Records, I understand where he's coming from'."

Mike might not be reaping the financial rewards just yet - "I think this is one of the most brokest times in my life, I've never had it like this before." - but he's back doing what he loves and heading in the right direction once again. He knows it won't ever be the same again - the rules of the game are different now - but he's finally figuring out his place in the scheme of things.

"I never know what the crowd thinks any more, because you know, we're older. When we were teenagers and in our early twenties, we had a whole 'nother frame of mind. Now we're like, late twenties, early thirties, you know? So I don't necessarily know what gets the kids going these days, I just try to stick with the basics and keep my ears and nose open so I can go with the flow."

DOWNLOADS

audio 1: deep reflections

audio 2: Live @ agave

w/ djs

milieu (atmosrecords) www.thunderchunky.com

dj spaceghost

a detroit revival society production

www.thunderchunky.com

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