On 2 Sept, Jocks&Nerds will present a boat party at the inaugural Odyssia Festival in Schinos, Greece. The party – which features slots from Terry Farley, Dave Jarvis and Jocks&Nerds Music Events Programmer Stuart Patterson – will be headlined by special guest Mike Huckaby.
Huckaby is a lynchpin of the Detroit house scene. Since breaking through in the mid-90s, he has worked as a DJ, a highly-regarded producer, a prolific remixer, and the founder of the labels Deep Transportation and Synth. He’s also an educator, working with schemes such as Youthville to develop children's interest in music while running production workshops around the world.
So far this year, Huckaby has released Waldorf Wave synthesiser-focused My Life With The Wave 2 12-inch via Synth, and the Shifting Gears EP via Half-Baked.
Ahead of the party, Stuart Patterson caught up with Huckaby to discuss his career, Youthville and Detroit's music scene.
Tell us about your early days in Detroit. Which DJs influenced you, and what led you down a musical path?
I say it all the time: if you grew up in Detroit, the music found you, and gave you multiple possibilities to participate in it. My early influences were Ken Collier and, believe it or not, Delano Smith. As time went on, Detroit became divided into two schools – the school of mixing, and the school of tricks. I followed the school of mixing. Ken Colliers mixing was flawless to me; I couldn’t tell when one record ended or where another one began. Delano Smith had developed exceptional mixing skills during that time as well. So I thought, ‘that’s what I want to sound like as a DJ'.”
You ran the highly regarded store Record Time in Detroit, and you play mainly vinyl. What draws you towards the black plastic?
As a DJ, vinyl was all I knew. And working in a record shop was important: interacting with the public, sharing your thoughts and tracks. So when I saw so many shops, and ultimately Record Time, close, it was very hard for me to even consider digital DJing. I’m hardcore vinyl.
In July, as you flew to New York, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) put a note in your bag. Tell us a little about that.
I found that quite hilarious myself. When I opened by record bag for the first time after arriving, there was a note inside saying "too many classics to be left with little or no attention." They were actually looking out for me.
The person that wrote that note had to be a DJ at some point. They even put a plastic lock on the lock of my bag that I had to pry off with a knife! I think TSA just elevated my DJ status with that one.
Your music production skills have seen you release on many mighty house and techno labels. What are some of your favourite productions?
That’s a tough one – I make most of my own tracks built to stand the test of time. If I’d have to pick I’d say ‘Mathematics from the Jazz Republic,’ ‘Luv Time,’ ‘Phuture,’ ‘The Jazz Republic'... hell, all of my tracks! I like my own music!
You’ve worked with youth development projects such as Youthville in Detroit, with Native Instruments and Ableton. Could you tell us about your work in such schemes?
A lot of software and hardware companies wanted to contribute to Youthville, but Native Instruments and Ableton were the two companies that gave the most support. Youthville was way ahead of its time. I think it will be another 10 years before the city really recognises the contribution it has made to the youth of Detroit.
I’m currently working with the Ann Arbor District Library, doing workshops. This is probably one of the top cutting edge libraries in the nation. You can simply check out a Moog synthesiser with you library card. In fact, you could even check out enough gear to make an entire album for a week, and do the same thing following week. Having the most cutting edge library in the nation just sounds a bit funny when it’s in your own backyard.
How is Detroit at the moment club wise, and who are the young producers to keep an eye on?
Detroit’s making a comeback economically, and the downside of that is a lot of gentrification is also happening. I’d say that Kyle Hall and Jay Daniels are the two newest producers and DJs from Detroit still holding it down. Kyle Hall is running his own label now. I remember him asking me in Youthville about starting one. I just told him to do it!
What's coming up for the rest of the year for you?
I’m working on finishing an album. It took forever to finish My Life With The Wave 2, so now that that is done I can finish two tracks for the album.
Please give us five tracks we might hear you play on the Jocks&Nerds x Faith boat party at Odyssia.
I packed my bag TSA mode, so be prepared!