Ryan Crosson interview
Detroit rock city
David Pollock quizzes Ryan Crosson on his Detroit techno credentials
Among techno devotees of a certain age, it’s a real brand of quality when a DJ tells you they’re from Detroit. In the case of Ryan Crosson, though, there are one or two qualifiers. ‘Well, I actually grew up in a suburb north-east of Detroit,’ he says, ‘but it’s one big metropolitan area, so everyone just says Detroit. I don’t know if that bothers any of the actual Detroit guys, though. And of course, I wasn’t around for the whole original Detroit thing. That all kicked off around 85 and really blew up at the end of the 80s. I would have been about ten, eleven years old when the big guys were happening.’
As a latecomer to clubs and to making his own productions, Crosson even missed the second wave of Detroit techno in the 90s. ‘I wasn’t going to raves when I was 14, 15 like a lot of my friends,’ he says. ‘It was when I was at university, one of my friends brought some turntables over for a New Year’s party and I was hooked, so our roommate and I split our own set.’ He graduated ‘around 2002/03’, and that’s when he met the team from Detroit’s Beretta Grey. Hanging out with them taught him how to use production tools such as Reason and Ableton, and set him on the way to remixing and producing himself.
‘Even though I was from Detroit,’ he says, ‘it was still a learning curve I had to catch up on. People would play me the old Detroit records and be like, “What do you mean you’ve never heard this?” The Beretta guys were really into Joris Voorn, even though he wasn’t from Detroit, but he was making that synthy style of techno. Then when the minimal thing got huge, guys like Detroit Techno Militia were still making old-school sounds around the city, if a bit harder. And Rich was a massive influence, of course.’
Rich being Richie Hawtin, the revered second wave Detroit pioneer also known as Plastikman. ‘I started out listening to DJ Shadow driving around getting stoned with my friends,’ says Crosson. ‘Then I graduated to drum & bass and in college I discovered Plastikman, Jeff Mills, things like that.’ Of course, Crosson is more than familiar with Hawtin’s work these days: some of his tracks have been released by the latter’s M_nus label over the last few years under the alias Berg Nixon, a device that enables the label to retain exclusivity and Crosson to work for others.
It isn’t the only pseudonym or side project he has on the go either. Alongside his darker, more minimal work as Crosson/Nixon, he’s also involved in a new project entitled Birds & Souls (‘I don’t wanna say it’s progressive, but the first track is, like, arpeggiated stadium techno’) alongside Sergio Giorgini, and has recorded the odd deep house bootleg as Ian Grosson. He’s also a third of Visionquest alongside Seth Troxler and Lee Curtiss, and the three Michiganites are currently based in Berlin – although Crosson’s girlfriend lives in London, and he’s considering moving there.
‘I think this is finally gonna be the year I have a lot of music coming out,’ he says, ‘and then I’m looking at recording my first artist album for 2011. Am I the hardest working man in techno? I don’t know about that, but I’m sure trying.’
Ryan Crosson guests at Hotbox at the Universal, Glasgow, Fri 15 Jan.