Talking Classics is a new interview series where we pick 10 classic tracks from the house and techno domain and ask artists we admire to provide us with their thoughts on them. The format allows us to dig deep into the rabbit hole, drawing on some of electronic music’s most treasured records as we go—under the proviso that it will hopefully elicit some interesting memories from the interviewee. This week’s guest is a son of the Motor City, but is now firmly based in Atlanta, Georgia. Reggie Dokes is the owner of the always on-point Psychostasia Recordings label. Very much a DJ’s DJ, Dokes is someone whose musical prowess can’t be questioned: aside from repping seminal labels such as Clone Royal Oak, Sound Signature, We Play House and Prime Numbers, he’s also known to turn his hand to hip-hop, with his latest EP Soul Sample Vol. 1 available via Bandcamp page now. Added to this, Dokes is also heavily involved with ‘God Said Give Em Drum Machines, a project that aims to shine a spotlight on the often (criminally) overlooked story of Detroit techno. More recently, Dokes has even turned to film composition as his latest creative endeavour. A true creative, he’s also a brilliantly humble guy who really lives and breathes his craft. As such, he’s the perfect guy to kick off our series…
Patrick Cowley – Megatron Man (Megatone Records) (1981)
This record gives me goosebumps from my shoulders to my beautiful toes man. What?…This is like disco had a baby with electronic music. I would hurt someone just to get my hands on any of the original synthesizers he used on this record. Patrick Cowley was a genius. I am talking about the man who worked with the artist Sylvestor on some of his hit records. Next to Giorgio Moroder, these guys were highly respected for their infusion of synthesizers with dance floor grooves. I am walking on the dance floor like John Travolta in Saturday Night with my shirt open and tight slacks that flare at the bottom. Can’t forget the Afro…Power to the People on some early electronic vibe.
Paul Rutherford – Get Real (Happy House Mix) (4th & Broadway) (1988)
This record is crazy. I can see myself in some hot steamy night club in Europe dancing to this record with my hands in the air spinning around until I passed out. Then I wake up from my haze hearing this beautiful voice asking, “Are you okay ?” Once I focus, she is beautiful, and I find myself taken by her. I respond, ” Yes I am okay, I think I have fallen in love with an angel. ” She smiles, and we become lovers and have a beautiful family. Oh I am sorry, did I digress ? This record has that acid vibe that became a huge sound in the underground dance scene of Europe. I must admit though, when his vocals come in, he sounds a little like my all time favorite artist David Bowie..respect to his legacy. Anyway, this dude was a member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood..that is dope. 80’s music rules for me hands down.
Total Confusion – A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funky Dread (Heavenly Mix) (Tam Tam Records) (1990)
The title alone grabs me and makes me laugh. A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funky Dread. I would love to be in a room with all three and have a collective conversation about the current state of affairs. However, I am here to talk about this record. A record that was made in England during the 90’s. When the record begins, I feel like I am charging down a hill in my armour about to go to war. Crack a few heads and claim my territory. Then it is interrupted by these samples, which for only a second flip the vibe a tad bit. From my armour to my Adidas track suit and shell toe gym shoes, also Adidas, I want to breakdance? Maybe not…I do want to dance. As a DJ I wouldn’t play this record today, but would certainly listen to while washing the dishes…
Masters at Work present… Nu Yorican Soul – The Nervous Track (Ballsy Mix) (Nervous) (1993)
This record is a damn classic in my book. When this record came out, I thought it was an amazing piece of work. I would not expect anything less from the most respected producers in house music: Masters at Work. Their discography would make your nose bleed. As a DJ I played the hell out of this record man. Do you call this house music? This joint was jazz immersed in Latin roots. It was such a unique and inspiring record for me as a DJ and producer. Very different for what was coming out back then during the 90’s in house music. Those smooth chords just have you floating, laid back somewhere poolside with a drink in hand of course. Then the percussion comes in and you are ready to get up and break your neck bobbing to the intoxicating rhythms. This mix is pure dopeness on the highest level. I still run this record, because it is timeless…
Ron Trent – Sometimes I Feel Like (Peacefrog) (1999)
Oh yeah, I know I feel like driving myself down 94 to Chicago right now hearing this record. The first time I was introduced to Ron Trent’s production, was a record called Seduction. I have been a fan for a long time, and proud to say that I have met and spoken with Ron on many occasions about music and life. When I heard this record, I had just bought the double pack or maybe it was a triple pack of vinyl on Peacefrog Records. The shit was expensive, and put a hurting on my budget that day. It was worth it though. Peacefrog if I recall correctly, was a label out of Europe that had tapped pure American house music talent like Ron, Kenny Dixon Jr. (aka Moodymann) and Theo Parrish. For me, to see their names on an import meant that you were making a fucking name for yourself in the world of underground dance music. Let me also be clear that vinyl records were selling back then, not this downloadable shit we call streaming. Anyway, Ron Trent’s discography is highly regarded and is considered to be some of the best dance music ever contributed to this scene. If you disagree, don’t say that out loud in front of me, because I might have to put my paws on you.
Moodymann – Tribute (KDJ) (2001)
I will slap the hell out of anyone who speaks poorly of Detroit hero Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann! Oh I am so sorry, did I say that out loud ? I don’t advocate violence, just lost myself in this infectious groove. Words are not sufficient enough to express what Moodymann has done for deep house and most importantly; Detroit. I have had the privilege of visiting this mysterious personality in his home. Let me tell you, my jaw dropped to the fucking floor when I saw what he was working with. This of course was around the time his first album came out on Planet E. It was an MPC, a Fender Rhodes and a recording machine of some kind. As they say, ” Less is more.” Without a doubt, Moodymann has given the world more than what we could ask for in this lifetime. I remember buying this record, taking it home and listening to it on my setup. Damn is all I could say. This brother is on some different shit, and it has served him well up to this point in his career and beyond…
Omar S – Set it Out (FXHE) (2003)
Omar S…come on man, he is the homie from Detroit. He can do no wrong in my eyes. This record with its smooth chords, just puts me in a vibe of driving down the highway in a convertible. Then the lyrics kick in and it is like OHHHHHH SHHHHIIITTTT ! Not the Set It Out lyrics. Mannnnnnnnnnnn, now it transports me to my basement in Detroit, 10th grade baby. Damn… I wish I could go back to those days, life was so much simpler. The instrumental version of this record was such a huge hit in Detroit during the 80’s. Damn near every mixtape of the DJs back then, yours truly included, would run that record. In Detroit that joint was considered progressive music among the black and open-minded teens during that time in dance music. I can’t forget the acapella version. DJs would drop that on the dance floor and bring in another record that would explode the place. I can still see the original label in my mind right now, spinning on my Technic SLB 200s. Please take me back…please take me back in time…can anyone say, ” Black to the Future ” not Back to the Future.., get it..maybe not.
Rick Poppa Howard – About Fourteen (Remix) (Beautiful Granville) (2008)
The remix is really cool on this record. The drum sounds and pattern remind me a lot of those classic house tunes from Chicago. Well what do you know! Beautiful Granville Records and producer Tevo Howard who had a hand in producing this record is from Chi town. This record also gives me that early stage of deep house vibe that the Godfather himself, Mr. Larry Heard created, also from Chicago. The vocals on this piece kind of put you in a somber mood against a track that is light and mellow. The vocalist almost sounds like he is crying in a dark room somewhere fighting against his internal demons. Maybe I am getting too deep with this review, but I did watch an episode of Euphoria starring Zendaya the other day. Got me feeling some kind of way, I think this record triggered something, and has me digging deep in my feelings. Oh boy, grab me a box of tissue man because I am not used to house records making me feel sad. You know, I can’t be too mad at this vibe. Artists have been known to express what they are dealing with through their art. Like they say, ” Art imitates life.”
Radio Slave – I Don’t Need A Cure For This (Kenny Larkin Remix ) (Rekids) (2010)
What can I say, Kenny Larkin is one of the most respected techno DJs and producers in underground dance music. Without question, if you want your original track remixed, don’t give it to Kenny Larkin. He is going to put a touch on that shit, that is going to take it to the next level, and the people are going to forget all about the original. Trust what I say now. Here is a Detroit artist that was nurtured by the soulful contributions and creativeness of three black men who created the genre we know as techno ; Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May. Don’t say the Belleville Three, that shit ain’t got nothing to do with Detroit man. These guys are Detroit all the way, through and through. Enough of the history lesson. Kenny Larkin’s remixes are timeless. He undeniably gives a breath of fresh air to a genre that has become lacking in soul and ingenuity. This remix in particular just gives you 8 minutes of pure thumping pleasure and funk. I can see myself now rolling down Grand Blvd in Detroit in Kenny’s yellow Porsche ( He used to have one..seriously ). I’m in the passenger seat of course looking at everyone saying, ” Yeah baby, you wish you were me right now !” That has nothing to do with the music…sorry, but Kenny Larkin has always been a classy guy who has made some classic records.
Steffi ft. Virginia- Yours (Ostgut Ton) 2010)
I am sorry, maybe it is just me, but I feel like I should be walking into a dance club during the 80’s when I hear this record. Upon entering I feel the pulsating kick, the bright flashing strobe lights with beautiful women dancing in cages, and then I hear those melodic stabs in the record, and then I lose my mind. There is such a retro vibe to me in this European record, that in a way, it seems to pay homage to the Detroit group; Inner City. You know Inner City right ? It was headed by world renowned Detroit techno DJ Kevin Saunderson, vocalist Paris Grey back in the 80’s. They changed dance music forever. This record just takes me back to that time when dance music from the states was having a tremendous influence on Europe. I noticed this record was produced in Europe possibly, so it would be really cool to sit down and talk with Steffi and the featured vocalist about what was on their mind, or what influenced them to make this record. It also would not hurt to see this record performed live on some huge stage. Am I asking too much ?
The answer is no, because electronic music has since evolved from the 80’s, and has become something bigger than life.