Interview: Cornelius Harris of Underground Resistance & Wilba Sandieson from Rubadub Records
Riverside Festival guests include Jamie XX, Boys Noize, Len Faki, Josh Wink and Michael Mayer
'Timeline basically expands on the idea of hi-tech jazz music; it’s where techno and jazz mix, so there are both dance and improvisational elements. The fact is, jazz was dance music for a long time, so this project is kind of bringing things back full circle'.
Both the manager and a member of Underground Resistance, Cornelius Harris is offering an insight into the latest live incarnation of the secretive and much respected Detroit techno label and collective.
'The group consists of Jon Dixon on keyboards, DeSean Jones on saxophone and DJ Konspiracy on the turntables; of course, I can't leave out the one and only "Mad" Mike Banks who also plays keys', adds Harris, explaining the line-up. 'They are a power quartet for electronic dance music; Jon’s the musical director and basically runs the show but everyone contributes'.
Arguably the most eagerly anticipated act appearing at the forthcoming Riverside Festival, it’s the first music event of its size to take place in the environs of both the Riverside Museum’s bold architecture and the iconic Tall Ship.
Due to take place across three stages, stand-up comedy and street food stalls will also feature alongside DJs Nina Kraviz, Michael Mayer, Boys Noize, Josh Wink, Len Faki, J Rocc and Jamie XX, as well as Slam, Optimo, Pro Vinylist Karim, Auntie Flo and aptly enough, Rubadub’s Martin McKay.
Something of a Glasgow institution, the shop’s been selling underground, electronic music and equipment for more than twenty-one years and both it and related distribution arm, Blackhole, represent a local connection to ‘Mad’ Mike; McKay and his Rubadub co-owner, Wilba Sandieson, were among the first in Europe, in the early 90s, to forge a relationship with Underground Resistance’s leading figure, who also heads up the related Submerge distribution.
'When we started Rubadub it was clear some of the music we loved was not getting the exposure it deserved as it was seldom restocked at any of the distributors', Wilba explains. 'Detroit techno was massive for us, but I knew that there were no real sales of the artists own music in the city or anywhere else in America for that matter and I thought this should change, because artists need to get paid somewhere along the line'.
'So, I went to Detroit with Chris Abbot from Infonet Records, where Mike took me off the streets and showed me the real deal of life, death and music in the Motor City', he adds. 'Getting to visit the studios at Submerge and the Transmat and KMS labels was a real eye-opener and meeting my heroes in the city and then Chicago, blew me away. Mike helped us in many ways, probably because we were the underdog that actually braved to go to the streets of his home town, in search of their music. Submerge and Blackhole had a proper go at getting this music out there; together, I think we played a part in making it more accessible'.
The relationship that developed between Rubadub, ‘Mad’ Mike and Underground Resistance also led to the first club appearance by the label’s artists in Europe, with a number of acts performing in a small club in Paisley, where Martin and Wilba both held a regular night.
'It was the most intense musical experience I have ever felt; I have been at a few top gigs over the years but this one was standout, a guaranteed mind blower', admits Sandieson. 'The UR guys rocked the joint and really enjoyed playing for an audience that understood and knew their music; they felt they were on a level with the crowd'.
Best known for their uncompromising take on techno and electro, Underground Resistance have always maintained their independence, resolutely avoiding the commercialist approach taken by so many involved in the States’ current EDM craze, as Cornelius confirms:
'Considering it was Juan Atkins’ Cybotron which started it all back in 1981, these folks are thirty years late; anyway, it’s more important that UR focuses on those who want something more inspirational than the stereotypical radio programming on offer'.
Finally, what does the future look like for the label and collective?
'We’ve been very active in mentoring up-and-coming producers and DJs, as well as collaborating with other established, underground artists and producers and there’ll be some new labels that’ll come out of this', Harris reveals. 'There’s are also the Dirt Tech label, which was recently established by long-time DJ/producer Waajeed and the artist Nomadico, who has some great stuff in the pipeline too; it's really an exciting time for us'.
Riverside Festival takes place at the Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Sat 24 Aug, 4pm–11pm. See Electric Frog's website for more info.