Age Of The Jaguar: 5 Steps With DJ Rolando
There are few outfits within electronic music spoken about in such hushed and revered tones as Detroit’s Underground Resistance. Such was the influence of the politically charged collective of techno innovators to the scene that over two decades on its members and former members still continue to have a considerable impact. Thus when the likes of Messrs Rolando, Mills, Hood and Banks speak we tend to listen.
Now based in Edinburgh, DJ Rolando has been enjoying a revival of late with the ‘Jaguar’ producer recently exciting fans with the announcement of the formation of a new imprint entitled Roland Rocha Records or R3 for short. With the new imprint now operational and 3 track opening gambit Juu out now Rolando and his fans can rightly look forward to their musical futures with a great deal of optimism.
So with the Detroit legend touching down in London this weekend for secretsundaze’s bank holiday Sunday extravaganza we thought the time was right to invite the Detroit producer to share 5 pivotal moments from his storied career with us. This is 5 steps with DJ Rolando.
The first time I saw Jeff Mills (The Wizard)
I discovered The Wizard aka Jeff Mills in 1983 on his radio show, he was playing hip-hop such as Kurtis Blow, electro: Afrika Bambaataa, Cybotron (Juan Atkins & Rik Davis), Visage… and not that Fade to Grey BS, “Frequency 7” which was massive in Detroit, Kano “I’m Ready” (at the end of disco era) and Kraftwerk. It was like nothing else you heard on the radio in Detroit. I would make a point of listening to his shows and record them with a cassette tape recorder. So two years later when I found out he was actually DJing in my neighbourhood at Southwest Detroit at the Stratford Theatre I was definitely going. It was the most important thing in my life. You know come hell or high water I was going. It blew me away, I’d never seen anything like it, his DJ skills were unbelievable; it was like magic. There was this guy, “The Wizard”.. and he was disappointingly tiny and we were expecting him to be huge! I guess we expected just a bit “more”. It was like scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz. He inspired me to DJ. Jeff Mills: that was my inspiration to get turntables and to learn to DJ.
My first trip to the UK
My first trip was in the spring of 95 to play for Steve Bicknell at Lost in London alongside Suburban Knight as part of the “UR DJ Assault Squad”. It was a whole new experience for me, the train spotting thing was extraordinary and I had never seen anything like that before; it just didn’t happen in Detroit. I was under intense scrutiny, every record I put down, every move I made I could feel eyes following me. The pressure was excruciating. Desperately trying not to fuck up. There are still people today who come up to me and remember specific mixes from that night – Numbers by Kraftwerk with Final Frontier seemed to capture their imagination in particular. It is awesome that they still even remember.
Celebrating Metroplex Records 10th anniversary
In the summer of 95 I was asked to take part in the 10th anniversary of Metroplex, I had only been with UR a year or so, it was a huge deal because no one else from UR was asked, for me all my Christmas’ came at once. I mean this is Juan Atkins Metroplex 10th anniversary, The Godfather, The Originator of Techno. It was a big fucking deal! It was an epic night, anybody who was anybody was there apart from Richie Hawtin who was at the time banned from the USA but listened via his brother Matthew’s mobile.
You had performances from Detroit royalty, Model 500 live, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Robert Hood, Ken Collier, Stacy Pullen, D Wynn, Eddie Fowlkes, Mike Huckaby and me. The atmosphere of Detroit was electric, it really felt as if there was a happening and we had visitors from overseas, Basic Channel, 4 Hero, Tricky… Oasis, all sorts of people would appear in all the hangouts like Alvin’s, people would flock to Submerge (UR HQ). Detroit was a Mecca for techno.
In 1998 after tinkering around on my keyboard I came up with the “Jaguar” melody, then after with a bit of studio time and a bit more tinkering I had “Jaguar”. It was released in ‘99, it wasn’t massively promoted- you didn’t send out lots of promos in those days, at least UR didn’t. Although many pretended to get a white label and to have broken the record to a wider audience (I won’t mention any names) in reality it was what we would call a viral success and the record blew up organically. I hadn’t done a lot of production at that point let alone releases so it was overwhelming as everyone wanted a piece of the action. The underground is no less greedy than the majors. There was a famous battle with Sony over a cover version of the track which brought out the militancy in many fans but although Sony did back down I still didn’t get paid!
I did and still get feedback from all over the world; it has left a cross genre imprint on people. Simultaneously a burden and a delight.
Starting my new label R3
So now some ten years since I left Detroit and have produced for numerous other labels I have started my own, R3 Roland Rocha Records and for the first time since I started making music I feel free to do what I like, when I like, how I like. I don’t have to only be concerned with producing the music, I have input at every level and it feels good to be hands on, it feels more natural, more organic and true. I am not assimilated into somebody else’s “brand” , I can just be me.
The music is packaged in the way I want it to be and it seems to make more sense that way, as I can feel a better fit for my music on an EP then someone else randomly selecting tracks that they want to package together. It makes for a better product – the real deal. Yup, definitely one of my proudest moments.
Based in London? Then you’re in luck as you can catch DJ Rolando in the flesh this weekend May 4th at Studio 338 for part 1 of Secretsundaze’s bank holiday party. For more details and tickets head to www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?562703