Eddie Fowlkes (Part 1)

In the media, artist, and VIP areas at Movement Detroit, artists were bustling around between interviews, sets, and meetups. We were lucky to be able to chat with a good number of them, even when limited on the clock. One on our list: Eddie Fowlkes, “a founding father of techno, a DJ pioneer, a quick-mix master, a musical ambassador and a label owner.” He was even was honored by the Detroit Historical Museum’s exhibit, “Techno: Detroit’s Gift to the World,” documenting his 30+ years of experience in the music industry… super cool.

That said, we wanted to talk to Eddie about Detroit itself and the scene there, and were stoked when we got a few minutes before his set on the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) stage.

Describe your sound with three words.
Funk, soul, fun.

Who gave you your first chance playing out?
This guy named Hamilton Murray. It was a party on a college campus at Western Michigan. That was a time when maybe one person had a turntable, I got the mixer, another got the records, and a clique started.

You run a label and maintain yourself as an artist. What’s the hardest part about balancing the two?
It’s really hard to balance. I need to be creative and know a lot about music rights and be creative in the studio.

It seems like music runs in everyone’s blood in Detroit. How do people get into it?
Everyone in Detroit gets music equipment and a lot of parents owned record stores back in the day. There were a lot of record stores and kids buying [records]. In Detroit, everyone makes music, since it all started with Motown. It’s in everyone’s DNA. Detroit is the shit in the summertime; there’s music playing everywhere.

If you were to play tour guide for a day, where would you take someone?
Belle Isle. I like Belle Isle because you have places where you can park your car and turn it up loud before the police come.

We’ve been told something about the music being different in different parts of the city.
The east side of Detroit is more techy, the west side of Detroit is more housey. I grew up on the west side. Mike Banks, Carl Craig, and Kenny Larkin grew up on the east side.

What’s your track selection process like?
During the first three records, I look for the crowd. After seeing the reaction to the first three records, I know which way to go. I have a playlist for each of those three records.

What’s your live setup?
CDJs. I used to do vinyl, but made the switch because it was no longer feasible when traveling. I also lost all my records in a flood.

You never would have sold them, right?
No, never.