DJ ROLANDO with GREG GOW, GERALD (aka MATRIX) and TODD SINES (live) at Turbo downstairs (360 Adelaide West, rear entrance),.
DJ ROLANDO with GREG GOW, GERALD (aka MATRIX) and TODD SINES (live) at Turbo downstairs (360 Adelaide West, rear entrance), Saturday (June 1). $18 advance, more at door. www.neo-techno.com, www.undergroundresistance.com
Imagine you’re an underground techno producer from Detroit and one of your songs suddenly becomes a big mainstream dance hit in Europe.
Now imagine that Sony decides it wants your track. You’re fiercely independent, though, so naturally you turn them down. But major labels aren’t used to getting no for an answer, so Sony decides to hire a producer to do a note-for-note trance cover version of your track.
That’s what happened to DJ Rolando of the militantly independent techno crew Underground Resistance back in 2000 when his Latin-influenced Detroit anthem, Knights Of The Jaguar, blew up big in Ibiza.
A massive e-mail campaign was devised to bombard the appropriate executives, and the Sony version of the song was eventually pulled, out of embarrassment. Unfortunately, the battle wasn’t won, since Sony had sold the track to BMG, who later released the cover version as well.
Things didn’t turn out so bad in the end, though. The scandal around the rip-off made the original all the more notorious, and the UR crew ended up re-releasing the track properly to a warm European reception.
“As far as I know, that’s over for now. They tried to do their thing, but it didn’t work out for them, so they gave up, I guess,” Rolando casually explains from a picnic in Detroit. “They might be up to something, but it’s old news by now.”
Roland Rocha was born in southwest Detroit, in the Hispanic district, and was immersed in Latin rhythms from birth through his musician father. He started his DJ career by cutting and scratching up electro and hiphop at neighbourhood jams, but he soon fell in love with the emerging sound of techno through Jeff Mills’s radio shows as the Wizard.
Through a stroke of luck, he was introduced to Mills’s partner in Underground Resistance, Mad Mike Banks, and became a member of the enigmatic crew.
Now that the fuss over Knights Of The Jaguar has died down, Rolando wants to focus on getting his own label, Los Hermanos, up and running.
“We’re gonna do all types of music. The first release is very melodic, lots of strings. Maybe we’ll do some vocal tracks later on — we’ll just go with the flow.”
Techno may have found its biggest audience overseas, but with the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in its third year, local support for the form is returning. The personal politics and controversy over last year’s firing of Carl Craig may have kept many Detroit figures from participating in the official festival, but the number of unofficial after-parties thrown by local labels has skyrocketed.
“With the UR party, we promoted at the festival to the visitors coming in, but there was also a lot of promotion in the inner city, trying to get these people to come in, too.
“They need to recognize this music. It’s from their own backyard, after all. I don’t know about the other parties, but we get a pretty good mix of people.”