Considered a member of Detroit techno's second wave of artists, Carl Craig was not the first to do it, but few can match the diversity of his output. The Detroit sound has evolved as technology has, going from blues and jazz to the soul and R&B of Motown to psychedelic funk to eventually techno. While the connection among all these styles of music may not be apparent, Craig has embraced the entire spectrum and blurred the lines between them as much as anyone since George Clinton.
Craig, born and raised in Detroit, began his music career in 1989 with some club-focused collaborations with techno founding father Derrick May before rattling off an impressive string of releases over the next decade. He began using aliases in addition to his own name -- such as 69, Paperclip People, and Innerzone Orchestra -- to capture the many different moods and styles of his music. While many of his releases were techno or house, there were also numerous jazz and experimental tracks.[jump]
Minneapolis DJ Dustin Zahn counts Craig as his favorite Detroit techno artist, though the style of music he primarily plays has more of a heavier leaning toward Jeff Mills or Robert Hood than it does Carl Craig. "I love Jeff, but Jeff's music is all about spaceships and aliens," Zahn says. "I don't give a fuck about spaceships. Carl's music still has the human touch, and when it comes to electronic music, that's extremely important to me."
As the years went on, Craig became a prolific remixer of other people's music, ranging from fellow techno producers to the industrial band Throbbing Gristle and more recently to dance bands like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, and Caribou. Remixing was not his only form of collaboration, he also composed music and performed with the Detroit jazz collective Tribe for a project called "The Detroit Experiment" and later collaborated with the French orchestra Les Siecles to perform reimagined versions of his classic songs in concert halls throughout Europe.
"I'm a music fan before I'm a producer or a DJ, and I'm obsessed with so many genres and artists," Zahn adds. "Carl is similar, and his musical range inspires me. Most aspiring artists will never be fortunate enough to write a hit or a classic. He's written numerous hits in spanning many genres including house, techno, jazz, and down-tempo."
That portfolio of work alone is enough to cement his status as a Detroit music legend. However, arguably his greatest contribution to his city is the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, or Movement as it is currently known. In 2000, Craig worked with the city to create a world-class music festival over Memorial Day weekend in downtown Detroit. The festival was an instant smash hit, and it continues to bring tens of thousands of techno fans to the mecca every year. Although Craig was controversially fired as the artistic director of the festival in the run up to it's second iteration (much to the chagrin of techno fans), he is clearly still an influential figure over the festival 15 years later.
While the festival's aim is to unite techno fans across the country and even world and bring them to Detroit, his latest idea brings Detroit to them. In 2014, he debuted a new project called Detroit Love at a festival in Amsterdam, which culminated with Craig performing a four deck set which focused on Detroit artists both new and old while another member of Detroit techno's second wave, Mad Mike Banks, played keyboard over the top.
Craig has since brought the show on the road, and his tour includes a stop in Minneapolis at Studio B at the Skyway Theater on Saturday. Most of the Detroit Love shows have been held in collaboration with a music festival in Europe or in large cities like New York City.
Minneapolis is by far the smallest city the show has been booked at, and few people are happier about this than Steve Seuling, aka DJ Centrific. Centrific is putting on the show with his Intellephunk group and says booking Carl is something he first started dreaming about in 2008. As dance music is as popular as it's been in decades, he felt now was a great time to try to spread the gospel of Detroit techno and few if any people are as qualified to do so as Carl Craig.
Carl Craig Presents Detroit Love. 18+, $25, 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 at Studio B at Skyway Theatre. Tickets.
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