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Coming off a successful transatlantic exchange, Brian Kage and his Michigander label keep the momentum, and the collaborative spirit, moving with an EP that hits closer to home. For any Detroit artist, working with Delano Smith would be on the bucket list, as one of the city’s original, more influential DJs — before the D developed any of its “waves” — who would come into his own as a producer later to, once again, help mold the Techno City’s sound. Make no mistakes about it, this tastemaker had a ripple effect back before techno even had a name, when it was just “progressive” music and mixing. The thing is, the feeling of admiration and respect here is mutual, from the moment Smith first stumbled across one of Kage’s records and had to know who was making these sounds. This meeting of the minds happened organically and timely, with Keep ’em Movin’ as the result.
Opening the release is the title track, a driving number with pulsating synth tones and deep, call and response piano stabs. The ever so slightly pitched down vocals are modern and effortlessly cool, a style that resonates with today’s dancefloors, but done tastefully, and with lyrical content that sets the record straight about what it really means to represent Detroit.
“D Spirit” takes an ancestral turn. This is spaced-out Detroit techno meets afro deep at its finest. Forward moving keys are bathed in deep, celestial pads as shuffling hats accented by light hand percussion beckon the body to move. Lively marimbas cut through the hypnotic undertones and awaken the senses with soulful appeal. A fluid bassline rumbles beneath while baroque pianos add tension and heighten the atmosphere.
It’s great to welcome you back Brian. How have you been keeping this last year?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been enjoying some camping trips with the family and close friends. Things have been as good as they can be, but we are definitely still dealing with the pandemic here. I’ve been putting in a lot of time in the studio, along with my day job so that’s kept me busy.
We talked to you last time about your studio kit. You spend a lot of time in the studio in your day job, right? Tell us of the many facets of Brian Kage.
I actually work at a University full-time here in Michigan. I split my time between doing video projects and audio projects. I also mentor students and teach them how to produce video and audio. Nowadays, I mainly work in my home studio during my free time doing personal projects, along with mixing/mastering projects for other talented folks around the globe.
Detroit born and bred, as the city begins to function again, what’s happening on the music scene there? Are the clubs and bars up and running?
There have been some events and nights going on here. However, pre-cautions have become stricter to slow the spread of covid.
The city is known for ‘Movement’. I guess you guys are feeling it right now as the festival was due this month. Are there plans underway for next year already?
The city was very fortunate to receive a “Mini-Movement” in May this year where the promoters of the festival did a scaled back version at different venues around the city. It felt authentic because it highlighted local big- name artists as well as up and coming artists. It was also free which was very generous of the promoters. I do miss the open-air festival at Downtown Hart Plaza, so I hope we can get back to that in the future.
You work a lot with some pretty significant names in the studio. Who are some of the people you work with?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great artists. Notable names include Omar S, Delano Smith, Norm Talley, Monty Luke, OB Ignitt, Hazmat, John FM, ICP, and so many more.
Your last EP was a collaboration with legendary French techno artist Taho. This time you are collaborating with another legend – Delano Smith. Have you guys been friends for a while? How did the collaboration come about?
I’ve been a big fan of Delano Smith’s music and DJ Sets for many years before we worked together. He had heard a few of my tracks via Norm Talley. I think it was the record I did called “Past Echoes.” So, he got in touch with me to give me props. We’ve kept in contact since and have become real good friends. Very organic meeting of the minds!
Is the label Michigander all about collaborations?
Not necessarily. I’ve released both solo and collaboration releases on Michigander. Collabs have featured Taho, Omar S, and now Delano Smith. This is my seventh release on the label, so really, I’m just getting started with my vision!
What other artists would you like to join forces with?
Underworld, Laurent Garnier, Boards Of Canada, Carl Craig, Danny Brown, Tycho, Washed Out, Computer Data, Chris Curran, too many to name!
Moving onto your new release. You talk about authenticity. Do you think people try to appropriate the sound of Detroit a lot?
I think so, but I think a lot of younger artists are doing it without realizing they are making “Detroit techno.” Case in point— a lot of the lo-fi house music I’ve heard sounds very “Detroit-y.” I guess at this point, good music is good music. I’m proud to be from this city though, and I will always represent it and know my roots.
There are a stack of Detroit artists who are held in very high esteem about the world. Records by Detroit artists are treasured the globe over. What do you think is so clearly special about the city and its talent? What makes the sound so unique?
I like to think real Detroiters and Michiganders stick together even through the tough times. I also like to summarize my thoughts about the talent and music with the following keywords – melancholy, desperation, escapism, hope.
Talk us through your new EP ‘Keep ‘Em Movin’’ EP.
On “Keep ‘Em Movin’’ EP, there are three deep & raw cuts for any dance floor. The title track, “Keep Em Movin’’ is a very driving tech-house number with lyrical content about what it really means to rep Detroit. “D-Spirit” is a deep grooving melodic piece featuring our homie Walter “Hazmat” Howard on the Kalimba and keys where he really shines. The final track, “For the Music” is dubby style house song featuring a special vocal you may have heard before, but re-contextualized here for maximum impact.
Have you guys physically spent time together in the studio on this?
Due to covid, we mainly worked via file-transfer and FaceTime, but we do plan to follow up in the future with another record together in the studio.
What was the first track you made on the EP? How did it come together?
I believe the first song we started working on was “D-Spirit.” It came together very very quickly!
Do you have a particular production process that you follow all the time?
I don’t use templates for my setup as I want to try something new every time I get into the studio. I have certain tricks and processing that I do apply for my sound. Choosing great sound sources to begin productions with such as analog hardware helps a lot with my workflow.
What do you have in the pipeline we should look out for on the label?
I’m working towards more releases on Michigander, both solo tracks and collabs. I’m also hoping to release my very first solo album in the future. It’ll be some time before that, but I’m excited for it.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you Brian?
I have some music coming out this Fall for Norm Talley’s label “Upstairs Asylum” so be on the lookout for that! Also, I have a forthcoming collaboration coming from the talented Japanese producer, Satoshi Fumi, along with some great music with my good friend from Submerge Recordings, Cliff Thomas.
Thank you for your valuable time!
Thank you for the opportunity. Stay safe!
Artist: Delano Smith & Brian Kage
Title: D Spirit
Release Date: 2021-09-03