All about that bass

Matt Clarke creates sonic jungle sounds at Oddbody’s

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Detroit DJ Matt Clarke will perform at Oddbody’s on Dec. 6

DJ Matt Clarke has been a part of the Detroit electronic music scene for the better part of two decades. Perhaps Detroit’s biggest drum and bass (DnB) advocate, he started out spinning records at parties when electronic dance music (EDM) was still underground. Eventually, he got a job as a record buyer, purchasing DnB records for some of the city’s best-known record stores.

In preparation for his performance as part of Oddbody’s’ “Junglism” event, which will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6., I spoke with Matt about the state of electronic music past, present, and future.

How long have you been DJing and how did you get involved in EDM?

I’ve been a part of electronic music for 20 years, and have been DJing for the last 18 years or so. I went to my first party when I was 17 and have been hooked ever since. – Matt Clarke

What kind of equipment set up do you use to make your music?

For DJing, I still prefer to use Turntables (SL 1200s) with a Traktor interface and no auto sync. In my home studio, I mostly use a computer to create music, but I also have some vintage outboard gear: a Roland 707, a modified Roland 303, a Roland SH-201, a Roland VS-1680 and a few MIDI keyboards that I work with inside Ableton. – MC

Do you find your continued use of turntables puts you in the minority, or are there lots of DJs in Detroit who use them?

It is becoming harder and harder to remain being a turntable DJ in 2014. A lot of the larger venues do not have them anymore, and when I ask for three turntables, I usually get a strange look from the sound engineer. I have a large record collection, and, honestly, nothing beats the sound of vinyl. For me, it’s a true test of how good a person can DJ by using their ears. – MC

What kind of changes have you seen in the EDM community since you started performing?

When I first started it was during the underground warehouse days, partying in some of the sketchier parts of the city. At that time it was more word of mouth and not publicly advertised like they are now. The scene then found its way into the clubs in the late ’90s after all the busts and media attention made real warehouse parties harder to pull off. Now more mainstream festivals are happening with a more corporate approach to the music, and those are happening somewhere every weekend across the country. Every evolution has had its positives and negatives.

– MC

What’s the Detroit EDM scene like? As far as you can tell, how is it different from other cities’ EDM scenes you have performed in?

During the 1994–97 warehouse days, Detroit was legendary! It was the place to be on a global scale. Some of the best DJs in the world came through there or from there, and people traveled from all over the world to see what was happening in Detroit when mostly everyone else wanted to stay the hell out of our city. – MC

Are there still kids coming out to EDM events, or is it mostly the same older adults who were around during the warehouse days?

Detroit definitely has its lifers, and people who will always be a part of it. I would say about 50 percent of the audience can cycle in and out every couple of years. – MC

What challenges do you face in getting your music out there in your city that you think might not be problems in other cities?

Detroit had an identity of techno before I even became a part of the landscape. For the first few years of collecting mixtapes and records, I played acid house, house and techno. It wasn’t until ’97 that I really saw how forward-thinking drum and bass was. Playing bass music in Detroit has always been an uphill battle since I started, and I have been one of the key people making that push ever since. Be it when I was the vinyl buyer at record stores, the 10 years’ worth of weeklies I was a part of or through just pushing my music when I was the lone bass music DJ on an all house and techno line-up. Other cities I have played in have had an easier time with bass music, but the struggles I went through helped shape me to becoming a better artist. – MC

Is it still difficult getting people on board with bass music in Detroit, or are people more into it now?

Bass music in Detroit is going pretty strong, there just is starting to be a lot of redundant bookings. Promoters are just booking what will sell and not pushing the envelope very often. For things to progress and not to be just considered a cash grab, younger international talent needs to be brought in to the forefront more. With not a lot of money coming in off digital releases these days, younger DJs need gigs to support their creativity. – MC

Matt Clarke will perform at Oddbody’s, 5418 Burkhardt Road in Dayton, on Saturday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. The show is for patrons 18 and older. Doors open at 9 p.m. Wille Grimez, GEMMA, Binary Boom and Trill Bixby will also be performing. For more information, please visit soundcloud.com/matt-clarke and oddbodys.com..

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at Josher Lumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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