MIKE HUCKABY with DERRICK RAMIREZ , SARA SCRUTON , GERALD MATRIX , RAUL VARGAS at Footwork (425 Adelaide West), Saturday (October 1). $10 before midnight, $15 after. www.kickmagazine.ca. Rating: NNNNN
Detroit producer/DJ Mike Huckaby demands that you wrap your head around a lot of contradictions.
One minute he's chastising DJs for playing digital media instead of the records they're trying to sell, the next he's telling you he's blown away by how he can sell one of his tracks to a European compilation over the Internet without ever meeting the compilers or generating a paper trail. He blames cheap and easy production programs like Reason for allowing anyone to churn out generic techno without any technical know-how, but goes on to admit that early Detroit techno was made just as blindly.
"I don't respect how I used to make records," says Huckaby. "I was really working in the dark. The music came out okay, but I can't respect the method. Even Derrick May would agree that Detroit techno was an accident. That era of someone sitting down at a machine, not knowing what they were doing but just letting their soul come through, is over. Skill is the new order, not luck."
The skill Huckaby mentions is an understanding of the principles of synthesis, something he feels too many producers are lacking, a situation that's encouraged the unlikely musical conservatism that's developed in techno over the past decade. He's been spending much of that time learning about sound from the ground up - ironically, from another piece of software, Reaktor, which he uses to build his virtual instruments from scratch.
While Huckaby's clearly excited about the flexibility and power he gets out of just one program, he's also critical of how the increasing accessibility of production has changed the industry.
"I've noticed this inverse relationship over the years. Early on, when it cost a lot to make a techno record, you could make a lot more money; now that it's very cheap to record and put out an album, you end up making a lot less.
"Back in the old days, you'd press up 15,000 to 20,000 records and be able to sell them. These days we're talking about runs of 500 to 1,000 records, and the labels are struggling to move even that much."