Le Bain

Delano Smith's Deep Connection

We catch up with Detroit pioneer Delano Smith, before he plays in Le Bain's skyline, on Friday December 14th.

LE BAIN: You’re a real pioneer DJ of the Detroit scene, with a career that started before techno and house even existed, but you took a break with DJing in the mid 80s. I really enjoyed the story about the day you fell in love again with DJing, while visiting a friend in the early 90’s. Looking back to that day, do you consider it as luck, a coincidence, your destiny? 
DELANO SMITH: Looking back, I will definitely say it was my destiny. I had no idea my friend was into the music, let alone had a DJ set up. I had just moved back to Detroit and was trying to get adjusted to things, I don’t remember how I connected to my friend to organize the visit that changed my life again, but I do remember the deep connection I had to the music and culture as soon as I touched the turntables and found that my skill had not diminished.

40 years later you’re as much considered as a pioneer as a rising force of Detroit techno and house. How do you position yourself in the Detroit dance music scene’s legacy? 
I don’t consider myself an inspiration for techno, as I was not producing music in the mid 80’s. I was simply DJing before any of the other guys were. I was lucky enough to play alongside Detroit’s godfather Ken Collier at the very inception of DJ culture in Detroit, at 3 of the best clubs that played disco and what we called “progressive” music at the time, 1980 to 1984. I probably was an influence to some as far as DJing goes, but I had nothing to do on the production front in the 80’s, I want to make that very clear.

But you were close to the techno originators from the beginning. 
I was definitely around it when everybody started buying synths, mixers and drum machines and visited Derrick [May] and my friend Mike Slade’s living room studios, for some odd reason though, I didn’t catch on to the production end until much later. But I simply got a head start on the DJ side of things before the other guys did and was fortunate to gain popularity and played at Detroit’s best nightclubs when this thing got started here in Detroit.

What memories do you have of Detroit in the late ’70s and early ’80s? 

Probably when I first heard a DJ blend two records together on the radio when disco was in heavy rotation. When the scene was primarily black and the music was new, to all of us. There was no hip hop and we dressed up to go to parties. Disco parties were the only gigs that the gangs didn’t go to in 1979 to 1981 [Laughs].  

Two years ago, you said Detroit is in a very good position as a city. What developments would you like to happen in Detroit’s close future? 
Detroit’s definitely on the right track now, but it would be nice if the radio stations were a bit more open to the music so this music and culture can be introduced to a younger generation, particularly the young African American youngsters in and around metro Detroit. Our youth here are completely lost in the Inner city and there needs to be more programs, artistic and cultural, to introduce them to other things rather than seeing and hearing images of the horrible so called Hip Hop icons of today.

Delano Smith's 'Detroit Lost Tapes'

Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins once said, “I’m more interested in Ford’s robots than Gordy’s music.” What does that inspire you? 

Not sure if I agree nor understand the meaning of that quote. But both were good for Detroit, just like he was!

Europe and Berlin have been playing a major role in your career as a DJ and producer. Is Berlin itself an inspiration?  

Definitely! It’s one of the last places where DJ culture is alive and well and the club scene thrives and is open to all types of music. Definitely one of my favorite cites to play and visit.

You said you were digging a lot of 60’s stuff when riding your car...
Well, I've been doing the Spotify thing in the car now so my playlists consists of 60’s soul and pop and I’ve added 70’s soul and classic rock to my playlist now. I rarely, if ever, listen to house and techno in my car. I hear enough of that in the studio or when touring! 

On Friday, December 14th
Le Bain presents Delano Smith
10pm | The Standard, High Line

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