Vibe: Ghetto Tech, Juke, Footwork
Artists to watch: Typhonic, Machette, Chump Change, Johnny Megabyte
Meet Ben Midwicki and Ben Carson, aka Cherriep and Ghostwhip. The two bonded over a mutual love for underground music and eventually moved out West to establish the booty house crew Philthkids, with the third member Clay Muc (aka Clay Choones). But future booty had bigger plans for the boys, leading Midwicki and Carson to launch their own music label—Philthtrax. The label has been hovering around Juno charts, elevating some of the most innovative electronic artists of today. With Philthtrax, Midwicki and Carson continue to push new and emerging styles of urban sound to the surface.
Recently, THUMP met up with Midwicki to discuss the label's history and its current direction with Detroit's little-known genre, ghetto tech. He also passed along a free download, I Get, from Australian artist, Typhonic. The EP is set for release at the end of this month.
THUMP: Could you give us a brief history of the Philthkids?
Ben Midwicki: I met Ben Carson in Grade 4. He was picking on me with another boy. The next year, he introduced me to some wicked mix tapes. He was into death metal and speed metal at the time, and would play me all these crazy American metal bands from the 80s like Testament and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. I was completely floored. Meanwhile, I was listening to MC Hammer, C+C Music Factory, and Ninja Turtles soundtracks. I had no fucking idea about this stuff. If I hadn't have met Ben, I very well may have gone on the course that most people go on life with music which is, 'All I know is what's popular.' He hooked me up with these tapes and it transformed me.
We met up again later in life and became best friends. I found out that he was making tracks around the same time that I was getting into hip-hop so I started playing him the tracks that I was making. We formed a hip-hop group, got sick of it and moved West. That's when Clay came into the picture.
How did Philthtrax evolve from the Philthkids? Why did you decide to form the label?
We [Midwicki and Carson] wanted to form the label so that we would have a platform to put out our own music. The process of shaping an imprint and doing it successfully gets a lot of positive attention. It's not so much about recognition, it's about getting a foot in the door. There's also an artistic element with running an imprint where you have total and complete control over what the music sounds like. If you stick with that then you will develop a very serious catalogue that could be considered timeless if you're very selective. That selectivity is another reason that we do it.
You guys were based out of Nelson for a while. Tell us a little bit about the scene in Nelson and your connection to it.
Nelson is the neighbouring city to one of the largest music festivals in the world, Shambhala. That's where the Shambhala families originate, that's where they grew up, and that's the economy that the festival supports when they come through town. There's a lot of mysticism and energy. The long time people of Nelson will tell you that Nelson has a mountain that contains a magic crystal inside of it, and this magic crystal emits energy onto the town and its people. So you have a new culture of musicians, artists, and small business owners. It's very hip and very isolated.
So you didn't start off with footwork and juke right away, it was more hip-hop and other dance orientated music. What was the draw to footwork then?
So basically, hip-hop in Nelson was very limited and in my opinion, very whack. It was a lot of Irish pub and crystal powers stuff. So, we started getting into electronic, but there was a moment somewhere in between 2007 and 2009 where dubstep started to become popular. This is prior to Datsik and Excision being the biggest fucking thing. Nelson caught wind of dubstep just around the same time as Vancouver's lighta! scene was really big. So, we kind of dabbled in that for a minute. We were playing a lot of UK bassline and funky. By 2009 we caught wind of this footwork stuff. I heard a DJ Rashad mix that was really cool. We were like 'This is it! This is what we want to do.' We decided to come up with more of a hybrid thing and mix booty and jungle together. We did that with the All Out EP.
Like footwork and jungle, do you think there is a connection between footwork and metal?
I think the parallel is that death metal, jungle, and footwork are extremes of two different parallels. So they're musical genres that push extremes. But we're not doing so much footwork and jungle stuff. We're shifting the label's direction onto ghetto tech and the future of ghetto tech. It's a very strong genre within Detroit and it has a very strong niche following in Europe. But aside from that, it really never left Detroit. Not a lot of those artists cared that it never left Detroit. We feel like there's a lot of work that could be done in a positive way to bring new ghetto tech to people. If footwork can blow up and become a global phenomenon then why wouldn't ghetto tech?
Do you think that there was something crucial there that was being overlooked?
I don't think they really needed to take it outside of Detroit. This is before Detroit crashed and declined. This was a time when Detroit was a bustling city. Artists like DJ Godfather and DJ Assault, they were making good money off of their records and buying Escalades with their royalties. And some of them still are because they're business people. Perhaps they felt there was more value in what they did by keeping it only in Detroit. Ghetto tech is a Detroit staple.
I hear that you guys have collaborated with some other artists recently. Want to tell us about these latest projects?
We've been working with Sinistarr and Deejay Earl. We're trying to do more work with guys like DJ Assault and OktoRed. We also release a lot of artists from around the world, but I treat it like a collaboration. I have a lot to do with the creative direction of a record, but the artist has control and the final say. If we can't come to an agreement, we don't make a release.
Who are some of the artists on the label?
Machette is coming up. He's an incredible producer from Paris who's making the ghetto tech that I am trying to push. He would be my poster child for new ghetto tech. He's really created a new dimension for it. We also have Chump Change who is based out of New Orleans. He does footwork, but it's more attainable, like easy-listening footwork. We've also done collabs with Johnny Megabyte. He is from the UK and is also a big artist on one of the only ghetto tech imprints out there worth mentioning, Databass. That's DJ Godfather's label.
You guys have also been busy lately planning events. Tell us about some of these upcoming parties that you are putting together?
Myself and Homesick, who is a Calgary-based producer and DJ, are working on a night called "Percolate". It's basically Calgary's only access to ghetto tech and footwork or jungle stuff. At that party, we showcase various genres of ghetto house starting from early dance mania and early Detroit techno to contemporary footwork and juke. We had TASO come through from Teklife. Next we have Deejay Earl and we'll be coming to Vancouver.
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