When I was young and learning how to play drums, my guitarist father systematically force-fed me a healthy musical diet of various funk, soul and classic R&B joints from bands like Tower of Power, Average White Band and the monstrous George Clinton of Parliament and Funkadelic fame.
I cherished these moments, focusing on groove patterns because I knew the experience was most likely not shared by many other suburban kids.
As it turns out, many well-established techno and house DJs – and the up-and-comers from my hometown – had done exactly the same.
Despite my early exposure to the founding genres of dance music, I was mostly a stubborn rock, funk and jazz guy until I turned 19-years-old. Even then, I stayed inside my little alternative box for a long time, refusing to view techno as original music.
A lot of this had to do with lack of exposure – my only familiarity with the genre of electronic dance music came from listening to acts like Radiohead, Bjork and the occasional spin of the only Chemical Brothers disc I owned.
From what I understood, the electronic producer and DJ was a hack musician stealing other people’s beats as samples, mixing and remixing them to make them sound fresh and original for their own benefit.
I hadn’t taken into account the kind of craft needed to put together a solid mix, the dedication to a vast music collection, or the painstaking hours spent programming beat machines and modulating synthesizers.
The revelation came last year as I started up my press rounds to cover Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. As I interviewed the four acts hailing from Canton, I learned of their upbringings and how closely related we were musically.
Watching a documentary for research, I heard techno founding fathers like Juan Atkins and Derrick May talk about Clinton like a god, much in the way I spoke about the madman of funk music. I learned that techno and house music were just versions of high-tech soul, augmented and weighted down for catalyzed dancing.
These producers weren’t just creating blips, beeps and loops. They were jamming hard and making the kind of dance music I was raised on.
I learned that as long as we stay inside our boxes and refuse to understand the wider, collective perspective, we’ll forever remain comfortably ignorant to what the rest of the world has to offer.
Keep searching and never stop learning. You’ll never know what you might be missing by listening to the same Led Zeppelin album over and over again for the next 30 years.