MIXED BY Mike Huckaby
A hypnotic, soulful mix from the Detroit OG—plus a quick Q&A for good measure.
"You can hear the climate of Detroit in the music," Mike told us last summer when we made our yearly pilgrimage to Movement Festival, which takes place in the heart of techno's ancestral homeland. Huckaby's a Detroit OG who earned his stripes slinging wax at Record Time in Roseville, and debuted in 1995 on Rick Wade's Harmonie Park Label with a jazzy record that married the swing of Chicago house with the stark minimalism of Detroit techno. Arriving on the scene a few years after the Belleville Three (the nickname for the trio of producers credited with pioneering techno, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson), Huckaby witnessed the the first explosion of interational interest in Midwestern house and techno, and has since created unbreakable ties with his peers across the pond. "I've probably remixed the entire country of Germany right now," he told Little White Earbuds in 2010.
A proflic remixer, producer, and staple on the European house and techno circuit, Mike has also been sure to stay focused on the needs of his hometown, overseeing an electronic music writing and engineering course for kids in Detroit. When he's not locked into his studio finding new ways to sample harmonics from Egyptian rocks and typewriters, or flying across the Atlantic, he's guiding a group of future superstars through their journey as producers. He hooked up a hynotic, funky mix for us this week with crackling records drawn from deep in the vaults and it's clear the man has more soul than a sock with a hole. Enjoy the vibes while reading the quick chat we had with Huckaby on the occasion of this super special mix for THUMP.
THUMP: What were you going for with this mix?
Mike Huckaby: Basically, there are so many podcasts, so I have to continue to dig deeper into my collection to make them interesting. As much as I'd like to, I can't really find new records all the time, so I just try to play timeless, classic music. That's it: Records that resonate with me from over the years that I would still play. I don't include trendy records that I wouldn't play in a month from now. I play tried and true records.
Last time we checked in with you, we were visiting you at the Youthville program. How's that going?
Youthville is still going and the work has increased. Since then I've picked up a 15-week series at the Detroit Public Library. I'm here one day a week. It never ceases to amaze me how many resources there are for this in Detroit.
Do you think that house and techno have become recognized as an important part of the Detroit heritage?
Yeah, for those that realize it. You can always run into a kid that doesn't even know it exists. If their parents were listening to electronic music it's a done deal, you'll have an easy time with the kid wanting to make electronic music. Otherwise, it's kind of a default to hip-hop. I don't necessarily try to persuade kids in any one way just because I'm a house head and a techno guy. I just let them show up, express what they're trying to make and go from there.
I assume a lot of the kids in your workshop are interested in a diverse array of music.
It's really interesting now because they hear dubstep, they hear Flying Lotus, they hear all these different artists that create their influential makeup. That's really interesting to me because I have to continuously remember that when I was coming up there was no such thing as dubstep. I have to be patient with that. When a kid is trying to make a classic Detroit house or techno cut, but he's introducing an element within the track that sounds a bit like dubstep, I have to realize why he's trying to do that, but also steer him in a direction to indicate that dubstep is not appropriate in a Detroit techno track. I make no qualms about saying that.
Last time we visited, we were with you in the studio where you were sampling rocks.
Man, the comment thread on that was like, Woo. Guys have been asking me what the fuck that was all about. I get a lot of requests on that part of the series. I've been making a lot of samples with that and I think I'll do some type of sample pack.
Are there any other unusual means you use to create sounds for your music?
I was at Panorama Bar the night of Prosumer's last set as a resident DJ and I happened to record the crowd cheering. I suppose I could take that and make some songs out of it. All of this comes by way of Reaktor by Native Instruments, which makes it possible to extract harmonics from rocks or from a crowd.
I saw you had a typewriter sample up on your SoundCloud as well.
Exactly. I just sampled myself playing the typewriter. It's cool because a lot of the students saw that and said "Wow." They're starting to get into it.
What are your hobbies outside of music?
Oh man. I like to canoe, but music kind of engulfs me. I suppose outdoor activities. I'm into that.
When is "Baseline 87" getting repressed?
That's in 2015.
Absolutely. I'm really looking to put a lot of my old tracks out. That's the thing with electronic music—guys want to dig deeper. Labels are always asking, "What else do you have? What else didn't you release back in 1997?" Every city right now is thriving in its own way. The scene is just soaring and booming.