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Stateside Podcast: Kevin Reynolds improvising Detroit Techno

This upcoming weekend is Movement Electronic Music Festival, one of the biggest parties of the summer in Detroit. To prepare for it, Stateside visited the home studio of electronic music producer and performer Kevin Reynolds.

The first time Reynolds laid eyes on a drum machine, it was his stepdad’s. His stepdad was a jazz pianist, who used the drum machine to have beats during his performances at different clubs in Detroit. When Reynolds got his hands on it, he said that he reprogramed it to his own liking.

“Then when (my stepdad) showed up to his gig, the next day he’s like ‘well what did you do to my drum machine?’” Reynolds said.

Reynolds describes his work as this: He is a composer. He makes a song or two and then during a house show, he remixes his music live, fading out different parts, bringing in new parts of the music.

“Unlike a DJ, where it’s playing two track and it’s a song that’s sold for six minutes or so, I am taking parts of my own music and blending it with other parts of different songs of my own,” Reynolds explained. “I would compare it to improv in jazz. It’s high energy, fast moving and lots of dancing going on.”

There’s a lot of software that allows people to get creative with their EDM composing, but for Reynolds, he still likes to return to the drum machine. He said he wants a tactile interface and an integral part of Detroit techno house music, for at least Reynolds’ generation of producers, is the use of the drum machine.

“I just need to touch something,” Reynolds said. “I need to move something, move a fader knob in order to feel the music.”

As for some of Reynolds influences, he cites the Electrify Mojo, The Wizard Jeff Mills, and Kenny Larkin But he said another aspect of his younger years that has a hold on his music is living in student family housing for Michigan State University when his mom became a medical student there.

In East Lansing, he was surrounded by a community of international families and when these neighbors started playing their preferred music, you can be sure that Reynolds was listening in.

He heard highlife and afrobeat music from his Kenyan neighbors, Tejano from his Mexican neighbors, and a lot of other styles, from the Middle East to Sweden.

The Detroit area had similar influences too, as Reynolds grew up on the border of Hamtramck before moving to East Lansing. There he would hear music from Poland, Yemen, and South Asia.

When people listen to his music, Reynolds said he hopes that it heals them. Making the music heals him, and he said that that is his main drive, not just getting someone to press play on his song.

“I just got a message from a friend over in the U.K. who just lost his closest friend and he said that my album got him through a very difficult time, and it brought him a lot of joy,” Reynolds said. “That is worth more than any kind of financial reward or any kind of money. That’s the main drive in me, to know what kind of artist I want to be. I want to help people heal.”

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Music in this episode byBlue Dot Sessions.

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Mike Blank is a producer and editor for Stateside.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.