From drifting around the suburban landscapes of Troy on his skateboard to haunting the record shops of Ann Arbor, Michigan native J.T.C has touched almost every point of the Detroit area creative spectrum. Whether crafting broken beat experiments under his Darbye moniker, painting between rounds of yard work or collaborating with some of the region’s most respected producers, J.T.C has his fingers in the juices of the Metro pie. Before his upcoming Vancouver performance, we spoke with the man of many hats about his community, friendships and collaborations, his creative process, hype, anarcho-punks, strip malls, parking structures and leading a meaningful, slow-paced lifestyle.
A lot of people don’t know much about Troy, Michigan. What were some things you liked to do growing up there?
[Troy is] about 15 minutes north of Detroit. It’s a decent place to raise a family, but there’s little more than strip malls, office buildings and subdivisions there… at least in the ’90s. I haven’t been there much recently, so I can only assume it hasn’t changed much. The neighborhoods ranged between lower-to-upper-middle-classers and had a fair bit of cultural and ethnic diversity. I made good friends there. I mostly hung with skaters, anarcho-punks, visual artists and musicians. I skated a lot of parking structures, played in a few bands, and listened to a lot of records. My musical compadres, Mike Servito and Carlos Souffront, are also from Troy.
Can you share a bit about your life in Ann Arbor with us? What does the typical day-to-day involve?
I moved here to Ann Arbor to work at Todd Osborn’s record store, Dubplate Pressure, around 2000. I’ve worked at Ann Arbor records stores ever since. Nowadays, I still help out at Encore Records once in a while. My typical day is comprised of yard-work, cooking, painting, listening, making music and recording noises.
Growing up in Michigan, what local artists and DJs were the biggest source of influence for you?
Electrifying Mojo, Jeff Mills/The Wizard, Robert Hood, Rot8tor (not to be confused with the French producer, obviously), Medusa Cyclone, Claude Young, Shake, Carlos Souffront, Dopplereffekt, The Belleville 3, UR, Kenny Larkin, Mike Servito, House Shoes, Craig Huckaby, Twonz, D Wynn. We saw a lot of influentials from Chicago in Detroit. Traxx, Ron Trent, punk band The Jaks, Los Crudos…
Tell us about a memorable experience you had at The Shelter during your Untitled residency.
Traxx came and introduced himself. I was playing in the side room. It was one the first times I met him. I was re-discovering his work at that moment, so it was a thrill to meet him. I had really honed in on a musical vibe that Traxx is an expert on. That was the start of a strong creative bond that we share to this day.
How did you meet Matthew Dear, Derek Plaslaiko and Mike Servito during that period? Did you have a sense back then that bigger musical things were on the way?
I have a difficult time recounting how I met people. I new Servito from high school. He’s from Troy too. He and I used to go to parties, listen to Dance Mania tapes and make mixes together. I knew Derek, I think, from when he worked at Record Time in Roseville. I met Matthew after moving to Ann Arbor and getting acquainted with Ghostly and Sam Valenti. I wasn’t charged with ideas about career prospects or Ghostly’s future, but I was confident that I was going to successfully execute my ideas and conceive of many more things to explore that I could make work. I’m so glad that these guys are still killing it. Proud of my homies.
The range of your productions travels from hip-hop to experimental, through to acid. What is a piece of gear that no matter the style has been a part of your setup?
There are pieces of gear that I go to more often than others during certain phases, but no actual musical instrument that I use for every project and alias. I do use a tracker most regularly. Currently, I’m running Renoise for MIDI and most sound sequencing applications. I learned sequencing on a tracker a long time ago, so I am comfortable using that program. The workflow is incredible once you memorize a few key commands, and I can work without seeing wave blocks – something that I think can negatively influence my creative process.
Collaboration is a constant theme throughout your back catalog. Can you speak a bit about your approach with projects like 2 AM/FM or Saturn V, and how it differs from your solo productions?
Collaboration works great for me as a bonding experience and a way to make new discoveries I would otherwise miss on my own.
The bonding is nice for me, because in today’s underground the cycles of hype and social networking create a lot of noise; the sounds I think more people could really dig get obscured by waves of spectacle and gimmickry. It can be very alienating if you don’t also indulge in that sort of thing. I have a few friends that have similar interests, and the fact that we can connect in the studio is really special.
Can you tell us a bit about your paintings? Many people I know who studied art in university eventually shifted more towards music, and no longer had the appropriate energy to invest in both. Is it difficult to find the time to paint and produce music? Do you think the two complement each other?
It isn’t difficult to make time for both at the moment. I prefer not to be on tour for many weeks on end, and I don’t yet have children. I want to live a meaningful and slow-paced lifestyle. I need downtime to organize my ideas and act on them. I can work on music or paintings at my own pace. The best thing about doing both is that I can work on new music, take a break and paint. It gives me a chance to reflect or cleanse my palette. The act of painting while listening to music helps me come to ideas and recharge.
In terms of your contemporaries whose music are you most excited by? Who are people sleeping on?
I’ve seen my appreciation for different music grow. I know what it’s like to be unready for certain sounds. At the same time, occasionally I want to say that people are sleeping. It can be frustrating to see so much attention diverted from really sincere music. A lot gets lost in the shuffle. Some of the artists I am currently excited about have been accumulating the attention of more and more people. I am distracted from socializing around music. It’s difficult for me to gauge who is slept-on and who isn’t. Some artists I am stoked about have been doing their thing for a while but only recently started releasing music or gained momentum, etc. – so here’s a list of artists I’m excited about/happy for/got my eye on:
KMFH, D’marc Cantu, Beau Wanzer, GB, Ekoplekz, Todd Osborn, Keith Worthy, DJ Qu, Patrice Scott, Mike Huckaby, Traxx and Nation crew, Doc Illingsworth, Count Bass D, Brandon Mitchell (Kadence), Jamal Moss, James Vance, Small Professor, House Shoes, Cavalier, Jason Hogans, Darly Cura, Heinrich Dressel, Hanna, Ellis Monk, Quelle Chris, Clear Soul Forces, Jon K, Demic, Fit, Delroy Edwards, Morelli and the L.I.E.S. crew. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
There seems to have been a shift away from the sounds of Dabrye and an emphasis on your J.T.C moniker over the past few years. What does the future hold for you in terms of forthcoming productions? Will another Dabrye album see the light of day?
The Dabrye project is slow coming, but I feel like the momentum could shift, and a new LP could be much closer than expected.
Leisure is proud to host Tadd’s first Vancouver appearance under the J.T.C moniker on Saturday July 27th. You can head over to our events section for more information and to secure a pre-sale ticket. We hope to see you on the dance floor!