The first time I met Eddie Fowlkes was back in 2012, outside a bar in Berlin. I was interviewing him for my old radio show ‘Ceoltronic’. As one of the Godfather’s of Detroit Techno Soul, I wanted to hear his story and share it with my listeners. When I started this tech blog, Eddie was high on my list of artists to speak with.
After attending a 1978 Charivari party with his older sisters where he saw DJ Darryl Shannon mixing records, Eddie requested a mixer for Christmas. From that time on he mastered the art of DJing leading to his first release in 1986. That release on Juan Atkins’ Metroplex Records, “Goodbye Kiss,” helped establish what would come to be known as Detroit Techno.
In the 1980s, he performed with three turntables, a mixer, wah-wah pedal and the 808 & 909 drum machines and this revolutionary style of DJing pushed the boundaries of what a disc jockey could be. In 1993, Eddie Fowlkes found a name for his distinct sound: Techno Soul. Techno Soul is Detroit techno, 70s funk, the Motown sound, Parliament, and Chicago house.
Eddie has been moving dance floors for more than 30 years, his 150+ catalogue of soulful classics speak for themselves. Someone who has been there, done it and knows how to make a record. This is his Studio Talk…..
Hi Eddie, How did you first get into the technical side of music production and where/how did you learn your craft?
It was basically by default. I bought my equipment for my bedroom and read the manual and everything was by trial and error. I didn’t know any engineers. Back then there was no such thing as “home engineers.” I would do a production and play it on a mobile sound system and compare that to another production and that is how I trained my ear over the years – perfecting my technical sound in the studio as well as my DJ ear for quality sound systems to get that TechnoSoul sound.
What would you say were the biggest challenges you faced when you started making music?
E.Q. short for equalizing and Midi thru because in the beginning they only had Midi in and Midi out and then the industry added Midi thru so basically when I got my first studio I had the have Juan come connect the Midi for my studio and he had to teach me the fundamentals of Midi. If you hook up the wrong cord, the drum machine starts playing your bass line from the keyboard, etc etc.
What was your first studio set up?
My first studio set up was a Roland DX 100, Roland 909, Roland 808, 4 track cassette tape, Fostex 8 track mixing board, Fostex 2 track tape recorder, my two turntables, and a foot sampler
What is your current studio set up?
I would never tell people my current set up. I can’t tell people my current setup because I don’t want anybody to sound like me. That is one thing about older programmers. That’s how you stay one step ahead of the game – you never tell people what’s in your studio.
What is your DAW of choice?
Ableton, all day every day! Naw, I’m just kidding. I use Ableton for certain projects.
What are your favorite plugins?
Serum, iZotope, Waves, Antares
What is your approach to sound design/sampling?
My approach to sound design and sampling is looking at it at the beginning of sampling and how much music is out there and how the individual him or herself makes it into something no one ever heard and then put it in a rhythm and a sound that nobody thought that it can be done. Most people sample just to be sampling and to be relevant to the sound of today instead of starting a new trend like Detroit did, but they don’t understand that sampling is a technical art. So to me, that’s why J Dilla’s (Detroit) MPC drum machine is in a museum forever.
What advice would you give to the modern electronic musician?
Don’t live with your mother or father. Only way you’re going to make it in this business is you got to let your knuckles scrape the ground, meaning don’t live with your mother and father, you got to have some heartaches like your back against the wall like a tiger and come out making some hot music because no PR, no manager, no booking agent can stop a hit record.
Trust me, that’s what made Detroit and Chicago the origins of all of this music. I think the problem is there is so much media PR, etc etc, that the artist/DJ forgot to make a hit record. So you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money for PR and marketing to be relevant and that’s the sad part of this industry, because if you make a hit record they be sucking your toes from here to Egypt or from wherever you are at to Detroit.
What is your current live/club set up?
I would give you my club set up but never give you my live set up. My club set up is two turntables or two CDJs and the Pioneer 900 MXS mixer.
What have been your highlights of the past 12 months?
Self-distributing Detroit Wax and City Boy Music (digital releases only).
What are your upcoming releases?
My latest 4 EPs, coming out are:
- Detroit Wax 0013: Give It Up For My DJ and Love Works (out now)
- Detroit Wax 0014: Route 88 and Pass the Butter (forthcoming)
- Detroit Wax 0015: DJ HOIE and Chants (out Nov 11th, 2018)
- Detroit Wax 0016: Mar Mar and Epsom (out late January 2019)
Visit the official Eddie Fowlkes website here