Thursday, May 27, 2010

One on One with Detroit's Female DJs Part 1: Exclusive Q & A with K-Hand

Power to Detroit's first lady: K-hand reins the decks

Out of the hundreds of acts spread over the three-day Movement festival (complete with five stages), there are only seven women scheduled to perform. We could be off by a few but it doesn’t keep us from asking – where are all the ladies? This question becomes especially relevant when looking at the history of Detroit’s electronic music phenomenon where women are absent from this success story.

Sure, we owe a lot of credit to the men who shaped the landscape of this musical generation (Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Jeff Mills, to name a few), but the emergence of Detroit’s electronic music scene was certainly not devoid of the female touch. For the final feature to conclude our Ode to Detroit Edition, we introduce Kelli Hand, aka K-hand (interview below) and DJ Minx, Detroit’s first ladies who are considered among the few female DJs who emerged during techno’s first wave generation. Inspired and mentored by pioneers such as May and Kenny Dixon Jr. (aka “Moodymann”) these women moved on to establish their own imprints, inspiring other women to follow suit and launched the career of several artists across the board.

These ladies are musical innovators who have been (and remain) integral to the character of Detroit’s unique musical subculture and opened the doors to the rise of the women DJs. K-Hand and Minx boast a hefty discography of original productions as well as remixes for their own labels and various respected Detroit-based imprints, such as Third Ear Recordings and M_NUS. However, their contributions as role models and music trendsetters are under appreciated (and often unknown) by the general fan base of Detroit house/techno enthusiasts.

For this feature, we wanted to give these influential ladies the spotlight they deserve. In these interesting and inspiring interviews we talked to them about what it takes to be a woman in today’s music industry and the challenges they faced breaking into it. We also used this opportunity to pick their mind about Detroit’s Golden years, Movement and their favorite records.

Below is our exclusive interview with K-Hand, who will be performing at Hart Plaza on Sunday, May 30 at the "Made in Detroit" stage. *Go here to see our one on one with DJ Minx.*

Has it been a challenge for you being a woman DJ in an industry – particularly that in Detroit – dominated by males? Would you say there’s some kind of ‘glass ceiling’ out there?

K-Hand: Yes there is a challenge, especially in the DJ booking world. There is a glass ceiling full of certain women who love DJs, particularly males who are interested in dating them and they are actually booking agents, which has been a problem for many years. It becomes harder for me and other women in the USA mostly to get booked because some but not all women that are running these agencies book males they personally like and possibly can date. Reason why you see some male artist's girlfriends or wife turn into their personal agent, which is a business conflict of interest, overall. And yes it is a lot different being in a male dominant environment, I guess reason why its better not to be in the USA all the time. I'm finding in Europe it doesn't even matter about the male female domination aspect. I see this perspective comes from the USA mostly.

Do you think Detroit still stands as a capital of techno today?

K-Hand:Yes, Detroit will always be the capitol mecca of Motown, Motor city, Techno , and good electronic music in general, coming from a city full of artists, the past history of Motown, and the deprivation. It's also a city people from around the world look to, to hear what is happening next in a new style of music being produced in the city itself.

What were the Golden Years of Detroit techno and how was that like?

K-Hand: The golden years for me was the first year of the Electronic Festival in Hart Plaza.
Although, I was overlooked and wasn't asked to DJ. Many people were asking why aren't you playing ? I was like, I don't know, ask the organizers. It was like WOW! We finally are getting more recognition and respect for our music and now people can come downtown in our own city and enjoy our music. Regardless, of what people say, I am part of this history like Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Eddie Folwkes, Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, (the list can go on) that is the reason why it's all happening. Without my first steps in this there wouldn't be as many female artists out now, as well male artists I have inspired as well. I an fully aware of the inspiration I give has allowed other female djs to jump in, some are talented, a lot aren't and as I always say, this Business is NOT for everyone. And that's that.

What separates the attitude towards music, particularly electronic music that other cities and places don’t share? What is “it” that Detroit artists have that make them exceptionally talented artists?

K-Hand: Regarding the separation of attitudes, and cities that don't share what we have. Other cites can't share , or be like Detroit and can't create what we have in Detroit, because other cities don't have a history of hit artists like we do. People sample and sample, and look for ideas from all of us everyday, all the way back to the Motown sound and this is something I believe will continue throughout all of our lives and thereafter, because the music recreates itself into a new school style every decade. If you from Detroit only ttrue detroiters have a sound that nobody else can recreate that makes hits. As well, this should explain in part, what Detroit artists have that “DO” make us all so talented, whether some artists are acknowledge or not. The day will come.

Can you tell me more about your experience at Paradise Garage? Was it as special as it sounds?

K-Hand: Yes, this was a very special club. I can tell you a bit, this answer can go on and on and on, however, there is no club i've seen that has matched the Paradise Garage to date worldwide. Some clubs try to copy some of their concepts like choosing people at the door, but not close because they weren't even there. One day I maybe one of many who can possibly re-create the simulation of this club.. I see it in the future coming, and it is a dream come true for me.

Finish the sentence: Music is my…


I’ve never been to Detroit for Movement and everyone says it’s something I need to experience. What’s so special about it in your opinion? What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Movement?

K-Hand: Wow, yes you need to be there of course that is [how it] is with everything, to go and see for yourself, right? The special part is that the event is in Detroit. Period. Where the music all started, the city of the most sampled music from around the world, people copying our sound trying to emulate, and actually doing it. As far as this years [festival], I am looking forward to my performance and seeing also some of my talented colleagues were truly forgotten finally get a chance to perform.

And lastly, what three records constitute your “ode to Detroit?” Basically, what three records do you think capture the heart and soul of Detroit and its music? Please briefly (in 2-3 sentences) explain your choices.

K-Hand: “Flashback” by K-HAND. It was produced live with no sequence in Detroit. It not only captures the heart and soul of Detroit but the dance floor as well. “Everybody” by K-HAND. [This] dance track captures the soul of Detroit, it's a deep thumping dance floor track for Everyone and for the world. “Think About it” by Etat Solide/K-HAND, captures the heart and soul of Detroit. The souls involved in engineering this record includes Mike Clark (Agent X) who did the mix-down & Rob Hood, Mike Banks [and] Jeff Mills.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the interview, enjoyable and interesting read, also the minx one!