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Dirtbombs bring garage rock to Movement festival
The Dirtbombs' Mick Collins says he has "no idea what's going to happen" when his band plays at Detroit's Movement Electronic Music Festival this weekend.
And that's perfectly understandable.
The Dirtbombs are, after all, a garage rock band, formed in 1992 as a side project for Collins' previous band, the legendary Gories, and building its own story over five albums and a variety of singles and EPs. Suffice to say, however, that its music has not exactly been a staple of the electronic or dance music worlds.
So what are Collins and company doing at Movement?
Call it mutual admiration. The group's latest album, "Party Store," features Dirtbombs covers of nine songs from the early days of Detroit techno and house. It's been well-received by the electronic community -- fellow Detroiter Carl Craig even plays synthesizer on the version of his Innerzone Orchestra track "Bug in the Bass Bin" -- and the ScionAV label even commissioned a companion remix album.
And Movement's organizers felt it was noteworthy enough to put the Dirtbombs in this year's lineup.
"We've never realy booked a band like this before, for sure," acknowledges festival creative director Chuck Flask, who booked the Dirtbombs to perform on the main stage at 5 p.m. Monday, May 30. "We were kind of nervous at first, but they're doing Detroit techno covers, so I think the crowd will get it."
Collins, who's made guest appearances with other artists at previous editions of the festival, says the techno covers project has been around "literally for years, probably for as long as there's been a band called the Dirtbombs." The group's 2001 album "Ultraglide in Black" covered soul songs, and after touring to support 2008's "We Have You Surrounded," Collins and the rest of the band -- baritone guitarist Ko Melina and drummers Ben Blackwell and Pat Pantano -- decided the time was right for "Party Store," though it was initially planned as a series of singles and ultimately turned into an album project, recorded over three separate sessions between November of 2008 and May of 2009 at Detroit's High Bias Studio.
"Those records are very influential to me, personally," says Collins, 45, who currently resides in Brooklyn. "Depending on the song, they're not totally removed from rock music." Cybertron's "Cosmic Cars" and "Alleys of Your Mind," he explains, "we're the easiest to turn into rock records. They're essentially rock. The deeper we got, the more complicated it became."
Collins says something like Inner City's "Good Life" was "a song I always wanted to cover," with the Dirtbombs' treatment culled from a few of the myriad remixes available online. Aztec Mystic's "Jaguar" and Derrick May's "Strings of Life," however, "were impossible. While we can totally say we did the recording live (in the studio) for this song or that song, there's no way those songs could be considered live in any way."
Collins laughs as he recalls that a film crew was in the studio to document the session for "Strings of Life," which the Dirtbombs had saved for last because it was proving to be the most difficult of the songs.
"I'm sweating bullets thinking, 'Oh my God...They're waiting for me to do something. I don't know the first thing I'm gonna do with this,' " he says. "I had to come up with an idea right there, so I figured, 'The hell with it. I'll take this bit and put it here, and this bit and put it there. Let's start working and just forget about the cameras,' and it all worked out."
Collins and the rest of the band have been gratified by the reception for the album, with Craig's participation being "like, the ultimate validation." Movement's Flask, meanwhile, recalls listening to "Party Store" with Detroit techno legend and Cybertron founder Juan Atkins; "He was listening to 'Cosmic Cars' and he was totally rockin' out to it. He loved it, thought it was amazing. After seeing his reaction, we decided to get (the band) for the festival."
Don't look for a "Party Store" sequel, however -- at least not any time soon. Collins and the Dirtbombs, who return to town July 16 at Detroit's Magic Stick, are already at work on their next album, which he describes as "classic bubblegum, the Dirtbombs as the Archies kind of thing." And he's not sure the techno well runs deep enough for a second collection, anyway.
"When those records came out, they were life-changing," he says. "But it's been 15, 20 years for some of them -- six for 'Bug in the Bass Bin.' I don't think anything is going to come along and change the world like those did, really."
The Movement Electronic Music Festival runs Saturday-Monday, May 28-30, at Detroit's Hart Plaza. Weekend passes are $70, with VIP passes available for $150. Visit www.movement.us for schedules, after parties and other information.
DANCE TO THE MUSIC
More than 100 electronic artists and acts will perform at this year's Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit's Hart Plaza -- the usual dizzying array of talent from around the world. There are plenty of choices, and it's hard to go too terribly wrong, but here are a half-dozen more not to miss during the weekend:
*minus: Windsor's Richie Hawtin, who blew away Movement goers last year with a Plastikman Live performance, returns with is minus label crew, including Marc Houle, Gaiser, Heartthrob and others, for a party-within-a-festival all day Saturday on the Beatport stage.
*Visionquest: The four-member DJ tag team formed in Detroit and made its name in Europe. Seth Troxler was named the world's top DJ last year by the electronic music magazine Resident Advisor. The homecoming takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Made In Detroit stage.
*Chilean-born, German-based Ricardo Villalobos, until recently billed as Movement's "secret artist," plays in the U.S. for the first time in nine years, taking the main stage at 7 p.m. and then spinning on the Voyage Royale: I'm on a Boat 3" afterparty that night.
*Dr. Atmo: The German-based DJ (real name Amir Abadi) will bring a dose of old school 90s techno when he starts things off at noon on Sunday on the Beatport stage.
*69: Detroit Electronic Music Festival co-foudner and Movement creative festival Carl Craig, who just celebrated the 20th anniversary of his Planet E Communications label, presents the first-ever live performance of his landmark 1995 album "69: The Sound of Music" at 11 p.m. Sunday on the main stage.
*Little Dragon: The Swedish quartet takes a band approach to electronic music and has so far released two albums and appeared on Gorillaz's "Plastic Beach" album. It performs at 8:30 p.m. Monday on the Red Bull Music Academy stage.
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