Dallas Observer Mixtape: One Year Anniversary Edition

Digging deep into Dallas electronic music history for the anniversary mix
Digging deep into Dallas electronic music history for the anniversary mix
Wanz Dover
Dallas has a long and somewhat hidden history of electronic dance music producers that have made their marks far beyond the Texas borders. House, techno and drum and bass all have deep roots here that tie directly to the larger international scene. Producers from Dallas have caught the ear of Chicago house pioneers, Detroit techno originators, the Berlin techno elite, the IDM illuminati and the U.K. bass tastemakers. All have given significant lip service to our city's electronic music, even while it's largely ignored in our own backyard.

For this week's Mixtape, we present a mix completely composed of Dallas producers of a variety of club stripes. Some of these tracks don't even exist in digital format and had to be digitally recorded straight from the original vinyl releases. Some of the tracks are featured prominently on current Dallas club labels like Audiophile Deep. This being the one-year anniversary of the Dallas Observer Mixtape, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to present a mix of local talents from the past to the present and find out how some of them fell into the producer role that exists beyond being just a DJ. 

Demarkus Lewis

How did you get into production?

A very close friend of mine who I credit as being my mentor and best mate, James Oliver, first showed me production. He is also the one responsible for teaching me the fundamentals of DJing. I think we started creating beats in 1996. We had a room up at Universal Rehearsal studios up off of Markville and Greenville Aveue. James' brother-in-law Vince Barnhill is the owner of The Faculty so he let us convert a broom closet into a studio. We only had a Korg workstation at the time. Who knew 20 years later I'd still be rocking out house beats and he would be a hotshot studio instructor to the stars out in Los Angeles!

What role has being from Dallas played in your development?

I love Dallas... Dallas is blessed to be in the center of all the influences whether it be East Coast, West Coast or the Midwest, like Chicago. It's a melting pot really. The vibe here is amazing when it comes to the arts. Most people who visit for the first time have a very different opinion when they leave here. (We don't all wear cowboy boots and ride horses.)

DJ Red Eye

How did you get into production?

"Dominator is Dead" came about originally as a joke. There was a while where everything had that signature sound from "Dominator"  — we used to call it a "hoover" sound. It was getting so played out. So Arnold and I made that track kinda mocking the trend. People ended up loving it. So then we got asked to do a whole EP.

What role has being from Dallas played in your development?

Being from Dallas has played a wonderful role because of so many talented people I've come up with and grown up around. We've all been friends for decades. And with that friendship came a sense of camaraderie where we help each other instead of trying to hold each other back — which unfortunately happens in a lot of cities where there's a high producer output. We like to see each other become successful. So we promote each other, we help each other, we studio with each other. Other cities seem to do more bitching and competing with each other then we do. Everyone, at least in the circles I run in, generally seem to get along with each other. Not a lot of drama. It's a very productive environment.

Brad Dale (Dorian, Ishi)

How did you get into production?

I've been making music on the computer since the late '90s. I was a guitar player mainly but always the recordist. During music school at UNT I ventured out into various types of music including what was at the time "IDM."  The dance bug got me later, partly because of my love for African music, thanks to Gideon at UNT. A brief stay in Florida introduced me to a bunch of DJs and producers and when I came back to the area some of my old music friends were making house and techno so we started doing it together.

What role has being from Dallas played in your development?

Dallas has always been a healthy town for house, so I gravitated to spots like Orchid Lounge, Pharmacy and, later, Minc. I'd come home from the club and write tracks a lot, so everyone who was playing out had influence on me.

Jake Schrock

How did you get into production?

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My parents put in me in piano lessons as a kid. I did that for a few years but never really enjoyed it; it felt more like schoolwork. When I was 15 I bought a keyboard to play around with at home that had preset drum beats and whatnot and started to teach myself how to play again and write my own stuff for the first time. (Which i found way more enjoyable than learning other people’s songs.) 

In 2003 I purchased Reason and started making songs on there and did that for a couple years, then began buying hardware gear around 2005 to 2006. I was discovering a lot of late '70s and early '80s underground synthesizer music at the time, listening to Veronica Vasicka’s “Minimal Electronik-Plus" radio show on East Village Radio and loved all the sounds I’d hear in the songs and simple production style. I was very inspired by this type of music, so naturally purchased vintage analog synths and drum machines from that time period, so I could create music in a similar environment. I started making recordings with that stuff around 2007 and have been doing it ever since.

What role has being from Dallas played in your development?

I became friends with Michael Stein around the time I was buying gear and he was the first person I met in Dallas who also was recording with vintage synths and drum machines and into similar music. We ended up going to Dallas Sound Lab at the same time and studied audio engineering there. I learned a lot from him. He talked me into buying Pro Tools and showed me how to use that, and always had really interesting and experimental approaches on music production. He’s in Austin now playing in the band "S U R V I V E," who are definitely worth checking out.

I feel like Denton also had a role in my development as well. I used to hang out there a lot around 2007 to 2009 and there were a lot of great new electronic groups at the time like Vulgar Fashion, Corporate Park, Darktown Strutters, et cetera. It was exciting to meet a new group of people there who had similar interests and were making really great, unique music.

At this point it seems much more common to find other electronic musicians and producers in Dallas, which is great, and there are a lot of new acts popping up all the time. It’s definitely a good time to be here.


How did you get into production?

I got into production messing around on my dad's computer-based DSP instruments. He introduced me to MIDI through the earliest versions of Cakewalk, which didn't even have a good GUI. It was primitive but it worked. I continue to produce because it is pretty much the only thing I am good at. 

What role has being from Dallas played in your development?

Dallas is a very open-minded city, although numbers and turnouts can be very low. There is a very supportive community of artists and we all go to each other's shows and check out what they are up to. The only thing I can say that needs to be changed in the role that Dallas plays would be more support from the city itself for the weirder arts, more exposure — because there is a ridiculous amount of talent and skill in this city.

1. J Dilla - Baby (DJ A1 House Break)
2. Left/Right - Don’t Give it Up?
3. Jake Schrock Deep Sea?
4. Gavin Guthrie - Soundtrack 909
5. Black & Tan - Holding on(Demarkus Lewis Re-Rub)
6. Rich Pinder - Forever(Paradise Remix)
7. Tim Schumaker & Luke Sardello - Things Fall Apart
8. Maetrik - The Entity
9. Dorian Feat. Dezi5 - Controversial Love
10. JT Donaldson - My Belief?
11. Lance Desardi & Waric Cameron - Get Into Me
12. White Lotus Society - Space Cadillac(Derrick CarterDub)
13. Diy & Joel Zoch - Lemon Drops(original Well Mix)
14. James Kelley - Nephilim
15. Jack Dover - The Work
16. Brett Johnson - Breath
17. Mundo - Analog Baby
18. M3SA - Acidfloor
19. Convextion - Miranda
20. Cygnus & R9 - Cyberfunk
21. ill76 - Rush?
22. Nasa Project - Dominator is Dead
23. LDFD - Outtacontrol
24. Opencloud - Exploring Tragedy
25. Mashonda - Back of da Club(Catalyst Dub)

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