Notes From The Underground: Elizabeth Merrick-Jefferson
Following in coverage of Chicago based imprint Argot’s fifth release seeing enigmatic lady Elizabeth Merrick-Jefferson stop lurking in the shadows of Detroit, and reveal her talent to the world with her three track debut record “Urban Off Road” we thought we’d catch up with her to find out more about the woman making such gripping tracks. Her muscular take on techno dashes across dance floors bearing a distinct tinge of vulnerability, courtesy of the retro sounding bell infused melodies nestled between heartburning bass lines, brisk piano chords, and precisely arranged avalanches of vintage percussion. With a big release coming up and plenty of future plans we discuss the history of Detroit, Belgian beer and intimate birthmarks!
If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you what first drew you to electronic music?
Coming up in Detroit, it was hard to avoid. Just hearing The Wizard on the radio was enough to get anyone interested in tons of styles of new music.
What were/are your influences?
Mills, Carl Craig, and Theo really stand out among all the techno I really love.
Where was your first gig and where has been your favorite place to play?
I’ve never played out! Went to a lot of parties back in the day though. So I guess my sunroom would be my favorite place to play!
We’re finally starting to see a wider range of female talent at the top in electronic music from Ellen Allien to Maya Jane Coles and Nina Kraviz. Why do you think we’re seeing such an influx of female stars? Do you feel being a woman has affected your career in anyway?
Ha, I don’t really have a career in music (yet), and I have made music completely in a bubble. So I would say that it has had no influence whatsoever. I hope people will let the music speak for itself.
Any plans for a live show?
I’m finally getting to the point where I have enough material to put together a live set. The circumstances would have to be right though. I would want to make it interesting.
Coming from Detroit a city that has such heritage when it comes to electronic music and sees techno as much as a cultural movement as a music genre do you feel more pressure as an artist coming from the Motor City?
I like to think I’m honoring the traditions. I think there are a lot of people that are able to ride the wave of Detroit, but as far as added pressure, no. I think people forget that a lot of mediocre records have come out of Detroit too.
You’ve signed with Chicago’s Argot records. How did this come about?
I never really intended to release music. The kind of techno I make seems to have fallen out of favor for “deep house” recently, so I just have been making tracks to keep myself happy for years.
I got hooked up with a few people on an IRC channel, #313—centered around Detroit techno, about 10 years ago. Olivier Mutschler, Sanys, and Alex Israel, who have all since gained popularity, and several other guys used to pass tracks back and forth. Alex Israel included one of my tracks on a mix for Little White Earbuds, and Steve Mizek from Argot and LWE approached me about an official release.
How important do you think the internet and social media is breaking new artists into the scene?
How else are you supposed to get discovered anymore, really? I know lots of DJs that have put in amazing work in the city for years and have really never gotten any real exposure, but it is a lot easier if you really want to do it big now that you can throw a mix up on soundcloud and it can be heard instantly anywhere on earth.
You’ve got a style that’s very difficult to categorize in that it takes elements from several different strands of electronica. From bell infused melodies to piano led chords and retro sounding percussion effects. Is this cross pollination a conscious choice or just something that happens organically?
I am admittedly addicted to the Yamaha DX line of synths, so maybe I just do what I feel is justice to the sounds in those boards… But really, I remember a lot of junky piano sounds and intricate melodies during the late 90s and those always just spoke to me.
Could you tell us about the processes that you go through when creating new music?
I try to start in a different place on every track. I may lay out a 909 pattern, fit a bassline with it, then add keys, pads, etc, until I feel there are enough patterns to play it out and sequence it. Or I might just pull out the DX100 and start playing to the MPC metronome and go from there. I just start with an idea and fit everything else around it.
How do you feel the rise of digital software which has help breed a new generation has affected electronic music?
For a while it seemed unbelievable how much digital stuff was coming out and how disposable most of it seemed. A lot of that has to be linked to the fact that anyone with $300 and no musical knowledge could get a laptop and pirate some software and make “tracks”. Maybe it’s even worse now. I don’t even know because I just ignore most of what’s out there. I get my fix by downloading mixes and listening to stuff my friends send me.
What do you do to relax?
I like getting in the zone while making tracks. It makes time stand still. But aside from that, Belgian beer seems to give me the most relaxing buzz.
Have you any interesting/bizarre stories to tell from your time within music?
The Thanksgiving 1998 party in Eastern Market. Kenny Larkin, C2, Derrick May, KMS… They had to change the venue last minute or something because the original space had no heat and I guess whoever owned the first place called the cops. The new place was supposed to be legit, D. May cleared everything with the mayor, Dennis Archer, and the cops busted in and cleared the place right in the middle of Kenny Larkin’s live set. I think it was his first live set ever. Derrick May was screaming at the police chief “Look, I have the mayor on the phone!” Thousands of kids fucked up on who knows what spilling into Eastern Market in the middle of the night. It was insane.
What would you change about electronic music scene if you could?
I have no idea. I’m kind of not a part of it…
If you could play a gig literally anywhere and with anyone, where would you want to play and who with?
D’Angelo, on the Voodoo tour, at Chene Park. Best show I’ve ever seen.
Do you have any projects outside of music you could tell us about?
Not really! Daily grind.
Who else’s music are you enjoying at the moment?
Sanys is putting out amazing stuff that I don’t seem to see a lot of buzz on. Cosmin TRG’s stuff is great. Conforce’s album, the newest Claro Intelecto album. Another guy from that IRC channel I mentioned, TMZ, I could listen to his stuff forever. But I don’t think he’s been making music lately.
Tell us something about you we don’t know and couldn’t guess!
I have a birthmark shaped like Domokun on my right butt cheek
Is there anything you’ve wanted to be asked in an interview but never got the chance to answer a question on?
Are the any other rising stars you’d recommend?
What does the future hold for Elizabeth?
I have some other material that will hopefully see vinyl release soon… I would really like to try my hand at remixing (WINK WINK). Other than that, a podcast or two.
Check out Elizabeth’s new EP on Argot below