A Power of Ten

Slug's love bug, Kat Bjelland's exorcism, Dave Pirner's throbbing shins: Ten years of local music served on ten great platters.

"Woody was louder and harder and faster than anything else out there," says Rev 105 founder Kevin Cole, who took the DJ on as a partner at First Avenue in 1989. "He also had a vision, and was very driven."

McBride created and distributed hundreds of 12-inches on his myriad imprints (Communique, Head in the Clouds, Sounds, Sensuist), a legacy best captured on 1997's Communique compilation Strangely Arranged, Volume One. While few outside the dance world might have heard it, the double album has as much right to the mantle of the "Minneapolis sound" as anything else. Just as techno founders Derrick May and Juan Atkins were inspired by the desolation of run-down Detroit, ESP and his collaborators soaked up their surroundings.

"Minneapolis has always had a really dirty feel to it," says McBride. "I think it's why our music turned out the way it did. We were inspired by the rock scene. We'd go see Run Westy Run at the Cabooze, then come home afterward and write techno. That gritty, grungy sound was an important part of what we were doing."

When McBride moved to the Twin Cities from North Dakota to attend the University of Minnesota in 1988, Cole and Tom Spiegel were already spinning stark, mysterious Euro-dance at First Avenue. Fascinated by the new music, Woody quickly joined the turntable ranks at Cole's Depth Probe, then established himself as a competitor--and the party thrower to beat. Yet even as his warehouse blowouts generated dance music's next generation, the DJ began to grow restless in his role. "I put two and two together and figured out that DJs who produced went places," he says.

To begin making his own music, McBride started collecting equipment, including, crucially, a Roland TB-303 bassline synthesizer, the out-of-production source of the squelching, pitch-shifting "acid" sound. Soon he was trading ideas with local DJs and musicians, recording homemade compositions in a "shitty little apartment by the Dome."

"I had incredibly tolerant neighbors," he says. "Either that or they were too scared to say anything. I mean, we were loud."

Before Compass Entertainment booker Rich Best got to know McBride, he lived in the building next door to the young DJ and saw him taking his pet pot-bellied pig for walks. "Every night at three in the morning you'd hear this gut-wrenching, loud acid-techno from next door," Best says. One night he was passing by Woody's vibrating window and caught a frightening glimpse of the DJ's naked body jumping around inside.

McBride wasn't the only one excited. His early tracks saw release on labels across Europe, bringing the filthy, funked-up Twin Cities sound to the attention of DJs worldwide. ESP began headlining parties in France, Germany, and Switzerland. By 1993, with more than 100 releases under his belt, he decided to start his own label. Named after a Dire Straits album, Communique quickly expanded from personal outlet to multi-stylistic clearinghouse, which is why Strangely Arranged encompasses house, down-tempo techno, and electro-funk.

Though the anthology includes a few noted out-of-towners that the label popularized--New York's Frankie Bones, Germany's Roland Casper--it's mostly a hometown affair, with tracks by Timeblind and DJ Apollo. The comp's highlight is McBride's celebratory acid burner, "Basketball Heroes," a slow-building floor-filler that sold 13,000 copies in 1997 alone, and has been licensed for more than 50 compilation and mix CDs. The single is also one of only three records McBride keeps in his catalog--otherwise, he holds to the underground tradition of limited, collectible pressings.

Unfortunately, Strangely Arranged is among the titles currently missing in action. "I just found a bunch of them in my garage the other day," McBride offers helpfully. A new pressing will accompany a second, DJ-mixed volume in the new year. (Michaelangelo Matos)

 

See also:the veteran technophilia of Freddie Fresh'sLast Real Family Man and Jake Mandell's rookie laptop bleep shower,Parallel Processes.


High Fives

Local music experts pick their favorite albums of the Nineties

 

Jim Walsh, music columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press

1. The Leatherwoods, Topeka Oratorio

2. The Artist, The Gold Experience

3. The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall

4. Slim Dunlap, Times Like This

5. Cows, Cunning Stunts

 

Kevin Cole, former Rev 105 program director

1. The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall

2. Grant Hart, Good News for Modern Man

3. Slim Dunlap, Times Like This

4. Semisonic, Great Divide

5. The Hang Ups, Second Story

 

Mei Young, host of KQ Homegrown on KQRS-FM (92.3)

1. The SugarBone Express, Sweet Lovin' Sunshine

2. Spymob, Townhouse Stereo

3. Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets, Restoration

4. American Paint, Eggshells for Paperbacks

5. Mason Jennings, Mason Jennings

 

Jim Niland, Minneapolis City Council member, and booker for Lee's Liquor Lounge

1. The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group,Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

2. Low, Secret Name

3. Low, The Curtain Hits the Cast

4. Low, Long Division

5. Low, I Could Live in Hope

 

Alan Freed, Beat Radio founder

1. Mint Condition, Meant to Be Mint

2. Think Tank, Skullbuggery

3. Greazy Meal, Visualize World Greaze

4. Ann Nesby, I'm Here for You

5. L.E.D., Shortwave

 

Jim Meyer, Request associate editor

1. MCC Gospel Choir under the Direction of Robert "Eddie" Robinson, Make Me an Instrument

2. The Picadors, Praise and Blame

3. Judd Herrmann, Homeless in the Heart

4. Willie Wisely, She

5. (tie) Semisonic, Pleasure EP/ Hang Ups, Comin' Through EP

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