You can ascertain very quickly whether or not someone is speaking from their heart. As a side effect, it’s also evident in any creative piece of work they bring into this world. It’s that renegade sense of purpose to make a difference that provokes everyone’s rhapsodic imagination. It’s why some people allocate their lives to doing the things they care most about, and it’s the difference between sincere intentions and questionable contributions that characterises every scene. Adam Mitchell has been irrefutably applying this concept since his days of bombing NYC’s underground subway network, and his support today for those illegal warehouse parties that are evidently manufacturing a resurgence, is an ongoing justification that no doubt delineates his soul.
Those earlier years aside, and after working closely with his brother Frankie Bones whilst he established America’s first ever techno record store, his first EP was released in 1991 which unequivocally catalysed the progress of Sonic Groove Records. It hasn’t just been the structure for his own work. It’s played host to some of the most forward thinking electronic music from various artists, all of which have impacted our own vision as a result of the imprints success. It’s now 2013 and with a heavy release schedule, as well his Traversable Wormhole project propagating its own allurement, it really does become apparent that this is a valuable illustration on how to further an innovative movement.
EC: That love for what you do will never die, surely, so the rest of this interview is in that context. Can you give us a brief on what it all means to you, your soul, and your own personal inner progress?
AX: Music is my life, it is the soundtrack to my every day reality. Nothing more, nothing less.
EC: Adam, all this started back in New York City alongside your brother Frankie Bones. What was driving your imagination at that point and how was life in those earlier days?
AX: NYC was the place to be back then as a youth. It was a time of total adventure and mischief in NYC as the city was rotting away in urban decay. I myself was riding high on the wave of painting my name on the subways city wide in 1989, making it to the top of the Police departments Vandal Squad units most wanted list. At the same time this was going on in my life, acid house, hip house and club house were hitting big in most dance clubs in NYC. I also just became of age to go out clubbing. One venue I would go to was called “The Wave” in Staten Island. It was where my brother and Lenny Dee held a DJ residency. It was here that I would be introduced to many great records in the aforementioned styles. In 1990 my brother decided to open a record shop in Brooklyn called “Groove Records”. I was in need of a job and was also wanting to slow down on painting trains due to police pressure. My brother needed some help in the shop while he was on tour. So I took up the offer and in the short time he was away I became immersed in the new comings of techno music. From there, I started to buy records I liked and in with a few months went out and bought decks to DJ with. I would also land in the studio with two other of my brother’s posse, recording a release call P.L.U.M. on Atmosphere. By October 1990 I would land my first gig in Los Angeles and by 1991 I would have big success with my first solo release under my artist name Adam X entitled “Listen” The rest is history!
EC: Sonic Groove is still an institution which you run solely by yourself these days. How has the label developed with respect to maintaining the spark that originated your love for electronica, as well as evolving to ensure it stays relevant?
AX: Though some try to pigeon hole the label and me as being only Industrial techno, I am really not about fitting cliche’s , genres etc. I love a wide range of techno , industrial, experimental, electro (of the broken beat kind) and ambient. Though I do want to cater more to music that can be played in a club, party setting. I will also release any of the aforementioned on an EP release. The label has a lengthy history of well established artists releasing on it as well as many new comers, some with their first ever recordings being released on the label. I like the balance as I have always loved to hear new innovators step forward in this music as well as those from the old school who still keep it relevant. So there is plenty of interesting innovative music coming my way. I always have my ear on the pulse of electronic music in general. Either listening to new music online, in clubs, and most importantly djing new music at gigs regularly. I have never taken a break from the music for the 23 years I have been into it. I always do my best to stay on top of the latest in sound innovations.
EC: And no doubt the relevancy of approach is a little different with various advances in technology being made more available. From the perspective of a label owner, what are your thoughts on some of the music you receive that lacks the undertone that’s necessary for a successful release? What mindset should be incorporated when approaching a label etc?
AX: I find a lot of what is sent to me is trying to emulate what others are doing. I am not interested in releasing music that sounds much like the rest. There are thousands upon thousands of people making techno / industrial music and other relative styles but in my opinion only a small percentage will take it to the next level with creativity. I search for originality when listening to music. I also search for music that is not made for the functional purpose of rocking a dance floor. It must also dig deep inside the mind. I love a good mindfuck while dancing on the dance floor. Sometimes I receive music that has potential but is lacking on the sound production level. I am not interested in releasing music that sounds like it was recorded on an old cheap analog mixing desk back in the late 80’s or 90’s. I’m not even slightly interested in this old school revival of low quality sound production. This is definitely a no go for me. I like pro quality sonically tight sounding music. I should also elaborate that I am not in search for new artists to sign on the label. I have way too many good friends making great music and I prefer to work and release music from personal friends of mine. The release schedule is already full enough and trying to fit them all in proves difficult.
EC: …and you voiced some of your concerns in a recent documentary titled ‘Berlin/Paris: 20 Years of Underground Techno”. One point of substantial importance was preservation of well executed environments (ie. Berlin and specifically Berghain). How would you balance the advances of any said scene globally, from being destroyed in the context of its success?
AX: The scene will eat itself again if promoters play it safe and only book the same artists over and over like it did in the late 90”s with techno. Many of the bigger artists who were being booked back then bought nothing new to the table but were booked only for past accomplishments. The lack of innovation in the scene caused it’s death for many years. It nearly took 10 years for the techno scene to re-ignite with a new found energy and excitement that it had prior to the late 90’s. It is important for newer artists who are making innovative music to also have the chance to play important events.
This is what keeps the scene fresh and the people interested in going out. If the promoters throwing techno events have their ear on the street and are not only booking artists because of a guaranteed draw factor on the amount of guests the scene will be fine.
EC: Besides Berlin obviously, what scenes do you think have “gotten it right” or have developed a safe environment for artists to work as freely as possible?
AX: I am really impressed with my birth place of Brooklyn, NYC right now. I left in 2007 because the scene was not even close to what it was in the 90’s. I had enough of the stagnation and desperately needed a change to keep the inspiration going, so I moved to Berlin. Without explanation the scene there has taken a total 360 degree turn in the past three years and is now reminiscent to the 90’s with many illegal parties being organized in warehouses, lofts, etc. There are also new clubs which have opened emphasizing on pushing techno music. With multiple techno events on a weekend it is running close to Berlin with the amount of techno talent passing through. It’s really nice to see this turnaround in my hometown. It has made for many a great gig, I played there recently.
EC: That freedom has transgressed your current work. Coercive Persuasion, Traversable Wormhole Vol 6 -10, along with the Sonic Groove remixes, have already been released this year and we’re not even mid year yet. What’s currently being lined up at the moment and what plans do you have across everything you’re involved with right now?
AX: I’m not finished yet for 2013! I have a new collaboration out with Perc on our newly formed AX&P label. The release entitled “Ampere & Ohm is out the middle of this month. On my Sonic Groove imprint I am set to release a very rare Detroit techno track entitled Scattered Thought from 1993 produced by Separate Minds, one half of which is Lou Robinson from Scan 7(Underground Resistance). This release features a Traversable Wormhole remix or shall I say interpretation. I am not normally into making remixes but this track I love so much and wanted to release. I felt I could do something cool with it since it is on the out of wordly tip much like TW is. Then by years end I should have a release on Anthony Parasole’s new label Corner Records if his schedule is on time. Who knows maybe something else also comes. There is still 4 months left in the year!
Many thanks Adam.
Elliot Clarke – September 5 2013