By curating Saturday shows at Red Light Lounge called Stereo on Strike, Wanz Dover is trying to draw attention to the local underground dance music sounds, particularly techno. It’s also an attempt to raise awareness with people who can’t tell the difference between techno and house. Today he is releasing the first of a series of compilations, SOS #1 Dallas Techno, with the same goal in mind.
“There’s a long tradition of house and techno producers from Dallas accepting the fact that they have to leave here to get any kind of notoriety,” Dover says. “That’s true of most artists, regardless of genre. But it’s just a little bit more true with electronic artists in Dallas.”
Dover goes to festivals in Detroit and Seattle and sees scenes that don’t exist here. But through the Internet these electronic music scenes in other cities have started to influence local electronic artists. He sees a grassroots scene emerging: “There’s a bunch of techno people here.” He says the electronic music scene has been dominated by house music for decades and that many people can’t tell the difference between it and techno.
“It’s like night and day,” Dover says. “House was initially developed in Chicago by way of guys like Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan in New York. It was more or less the next evolutionary step of disco. Techno was Detroit's answer to Chicago house. Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson fused the technology and futurism of Kraftwerk and merged it with the funkiness of Funkadelic and techno was born.”
Techno traditionally operates at a higher tempo than house. There are some gray areas, but the two genres are mainly separate here in DFW. With house so dominant, you rarely see techno getting booked unless it’s someone really famous, like Nicole Moudaber, who performs at It’ll Do Club later this month. But we have some electronic artists who have been criminally overlooked on the local level.
Convextion would be a prime example. FactMag and Resident Advisor have cited his work as some of the best of the last decade, beating out artists like Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem. “He lives in Plano and nobody knows who he is,” Dover says. But every few months he travels overseas and performs in front of huge crowds in England and Germany. “And then he’ll come back here and play in front of 10 people.” Cygnus would be another example: He went on a huge tour with Autechre last year and released an incredible new album, 1.9.9.X., soon after returning to Dallas.
Maceo Plex used to work at Illmatic Records here in Dallas, an influential DJ record store owned by Ill76, who appears on SOS. By the time he left Dallas he had already released a huge body of work. “He was flying off to a different country every weekend,” Dover says. “And he’d come back and do his techno night in Dallas for five or 10 people.” Living in Spain, Maceo Plex is now one of the biggest DJs in the world and he had to leave Dallas for that to happen.
“Stereo on Strike as an idea started in Denton back in the late '90s," says Dover. "A bunch of electronic musicians were frustrated.” When booking these shows, Dover gives priority to DJs who are also producing music, often on labels in other countries. SOS #1: Dallas Techno represents different shades of techno, with local electronic artists who have been in the scene for as long as 15 or 20 years.
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Dover sees house as something friendly. He also sees links between punk and techno. When he goes to techno shows in Detroit he regularly sees people who are also into metal and punk. It’s all extreme music. Techno is futuristic, robotic and experimental. Trunkrider, who will be featured on the next installment of SOS, is a techno duo with an abrasive sound and they are coming from noise backgrounds.
A veteran of the local music scene for over two decades, Dover also arrived at techno after being known for DIY punk. With a stripped down sound and a fast pace, he saw techno as electronic music’s answer to punk. “The more I learned about this scene the more I realized I belonged here,” he says. “I kind of see it as the avant-garde of black America that unfortunately most black Americans don't know about.”
But Dover isn’t insisting on just techno on Saturdays at Red Light. Over the weekend, Donald Glaude, a touring house DJ, opened for two techno artists. In a couple weeks a bill will feature bass music, grind, two step garage, tech house and break beats. “The solid techno nights are like once or twice a month,” Dover says. But once the weather warms up he will have electronic artists inside and on the roof. By then you can expect to hear techno every single Saturday.
“A lot of younger folks are really excited about techno,” says Dover. But he wants to make sure those in Dallas have a chance to hear it by generating interest. “Detroit techno is the root of so much modern dance music. It is ground zero. You have to experience it live though. These tunes are largely not meant to be listened to by themselves as a single song, but as a cog in a properly mixed DJ set.”