Scan 7 is from Detroit, no use in denying that. They even proclaimed it loudly on ‘I am from Detroit’, a track that became a genuine underground anthem for Detroit fans around the world. The success of that e.p. is surely reinforced by their thrilling performance at the first DEMF, a live show that is burned into the memories of many. They are part of a select group of acts from Detroit that have always covered their operations with a cloud of mystery. Scan 7 a solid live reputation and they always perform masked, a proof of their link with Detroit’s powerhouse Underground Resistance. They released their unique sound through labels such as UR, Tresor and Elypsia and they are about to launch their own label: Cratesavers. Next to that they forged a strong link with Optic Nerve (Keith Tucker) and Strand and formed SOS: Saving Our Sounds. But the main attack is yet to come, in the form of a new album entitled ‘The Vanishing Art’. The forthcoming album aims at reminding us that some elements have been neglected in our music and at the same time will serve as an excellent opportunity for the new kids to learn. Technotourist.org talked to Trackmaster Lou, unmistakably the mastermind behind Scan 7, and with One of Seven, the female member of the outfit.
To a lot of people your true identities will always remain a mystery, but I don’t think it would hurt telling a bit about your musical background. What music were you into as youngsters?
One of Seven: Prince, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Supremes, Temptations and all Motown music. Kraftwerk, Art of Noise, Soul Sonic Force, Mantronix, Africa Bambata, Dirty Jaw, Renegades of Rhythm, Sergio Mendez, Roy Ayers, Sal Soul, Parliament, Funkadelic, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode, most 80’s alternative dance, Nocera, Bill Withers, all Detroit dance music released on Express and Incognito, Pet Shop Boys, Tom Tom Club, Eurythmics, Grace Jones, Devo, Bonde, Yello, Yazz, Yello Magic Orchestra, Sugar Hill, Suzie and the Banchees, B52’s, Mr. Fingers Inc., Ten City, any and all good music. And everything that the Electrifying Mojo ever played!
You come from Detroit, the city where techno music originated. When did you first get sucked into electronic music and what exactly appealed to you in this sound?
Trackmaster Lou: I started taking an interest around the mid 80’s. One of Seven: The mid 80’s is when I fell in love with dance music. We didn’t have titles for all the styles at that moment, we just called it good dance music or alternative. Techno was an intricate part of my whole experience as a girl who spent a lot of time on the dance floors of Detroit. What appealed to me about techno was the baselines and the snares, especially the songs that Juan Atkins created. I could connect with the soul and the words because it was about what we all were experiencing at that time. It felt real. It gave me a feeling that someone understood me and what I was going through.
Who were the people you looked up to and hung around with when you first got into the techno scene?
Trackmaster Lou: At first I was hanging around Derrick May, D. Wynn, Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter and Eddie Fowlkes. To me these individuals were making a difference in the way the music was being created. The production tactics were amazing, blending different influences to bring forth something totally unique, but with familiar element of soul it was something like a revolution. One of Seven: The Electrifying Mojo was one of my earliest and greatest influences, also, I hung out at the KMS studios and watched the guys create records or mix. I used to hang out with Jeff Mills at his home studio, or go see him play as the Wizard at the Nectarine Ballroom, I hardly ever missed a Sunday. I really looked up to Juan Atkins because of the music he was doing, also there were a couple of friends of mine, Andre Ellsberry and H. Parker that were very influential because we wrote together and produced music together at the time.
How did you all meet up and how did the idea of working together come about?
One of Seven: TrackMasta Lou and I go way back together as friends and as fate would have it, we ran into each other at a gas station. I was on my way to do a performance at the DEMF and he was on his way to do a show in Lansing at another festival. We just happen to pull up at the same time and exchanged numbers. A couple of months later he asked me to join Scan 7 as a member. I went out on the road with him for the first time in February 2002 to Paris, Berlin, Paisley, Brussels, etc. I was amazed at the creative chemistry we had together. People were really showing a lot of love, the rest is a work in progress
Scan 7 is part of the UR-family, a movement for which the community and helping each other out is very important. How did this translate towards you guys, I mean, how did you get integrated in the family?
Trackmaster Lou: Mad Mike Banks asked me to join the squad of Underground Resistance. He’s extremely talented and has had a lot of influence and impact on my career. he was interested in my style of music, because he considered it to be completely original. Mike has seen something in me and he believed in the Scan 7 sound. Actually I’m one of the original members and I plan on working with him for as long as the city of Detroit is in Michigan.
In the early nineties, the Detroit-Berlin axis was established by people like Jeff Mills, Mike Banks, and Blake Baxter when they forged an alliance with Tresor. Scan 7 also went on to reinforce the Tresor-camp. What is it about Tresor that makes it such a good haven for Detroit artists?
One of Seven: From what I have discovered through my research Tresor is a really cool label that has worked hard to expose a lot of Detroit artists. I feel they are important because they have given these individuals an opportunity to get their work out. They have good taste in music and that they are fair people. I also think that with this question in mind I would also have to mention Underground Resistance and Submerge. I feel Mike Banks has been just as great a force helping many Detroit artists gain recognition and teaching them how to make a living doing what they do.
Most people in Europe see Detroit as this mythical place where all artists know each other, like on big family. My visits to Detroit however have taught me that there is a lot of competition and envy around. What’s your view on this whole playa hata-thing and what provokes that behavior?
One of Seven: It must be something in the water they drink… No, not everyone here is like that. Some people are still down to earth, hardworking, loving and honorable. These people have heart, they been through a lot, yet they still respect others! Those are the ones to take into consideration when you think about Detroit, there are also still many talented musicians that have yet to surface.
Can you tell us how “S.O.S., Saving Our Sounds” came into life, who started it, and what it is all about?
Trackmaster Lou: Actually it was Scan 7, Strand and Optic Nerve, as a collective, that together started the S.O.S. concept in other words ‘S’ for Scan 7, ‘O’ for Optic Nerve, and ‘S’ for Strand. We wanted to make an effort to save our own sound and style and bring new and old artist together to showcase the music.
One of my personal highlights of the first DEMF in 2000 was Scan7’s live performance at the underground stage. How did that performance feel for you guys?
Trackmaster Lou: I’m very happy that you feel so much for Scan 7. When people express how their experience with us makes an impact on there life, it makes an impact on us as well. It felt good to play in front of our own people and in our own city, to make them aware that we are here and we do exist. The best part about it was the fact that the people came out to support the group and our sound.
What do you think the DEMF, especially the first edition, has done for the electronic music scene in Detroit?
Trackmaster Lou: The creation of the DEMF brought a lot of old heads out the wood work and back together. It also opened up the eyes of the people in Detroit, bringing an awareness that this style of music was created in their own city.
One of Seven: On the DEMF: this is one of hopefully hundreds of great ideas that are floating around in the minds of the Detroit masses. We have to keep going, to keep the momentum, focus on the positive results. Working together is key and fear must be destroyed.
It seems that people have taken a new interest in Detroit and its music scene in the last few years. How do you explain that Detroit is back in the spotlight?
One of Seven: I find that people all over the world are relating to the surrealism of the fantastic adventure that is life in Detroit, and it is what it seems, the obstacles, the danger, the war between good and bad. They are in love with the story; they are passionate about what they feel. It is a true story, I know because I live here. It is what it is and we have many lessons to learn, but we have a lot to offer to the world. Living here inspires a need to express one’s true story through music and art. All the talented people, most of them still unknown, struggling to survive, the sadness over loss of dreams overlaps the light that still offers them hope. What does it feel like to be taken over by music that is created by these emotions? It is as individual as each piece of music!
To what extent are people in the US opening up towards techno and electronic music in the US?
One of Seven: They can’t hold out forever. Dance music is gaining on them, opening up their minds to the possibilities. It’s only a matter of time before they understand fully their true destiny.
Lou, you seem keen to work with other people. According to you, what’s the added value of collaborations and what do you want your partners in music to bring to the table?
Trackmaster Lou: I do enjoy working with people because it opens up more ideas and doors, collaboration brings different audiences. More minds are greater then one mind.
I heard rumors that you are ready to launch a new label soon. What can you tell us about that adventure?
Trackmaster Lou: The rumors are true that we are about to launch a recording label. It will be based out of Detroit, but distributed around the globe.
What kind of label would it be musicwise and what would be the idea/the concept behind the label?
Trackmaster Lou: It will be something different from what you are used to hearing, a variety of compositions. The idea is that the music we put out will be worth buying and collecting and saving, something to add to your secret vault aka your crate!
There’s a new album about to be released called ‘The Vanishing Art’. What can you tell us about the new album, what can we expect?
Trackmaster Lou: The concept is relating to the art form of creating music that was once prevalent in dance music. You’d have to hear it to know what I’m speaking about, and you’d have to have some experience or background with that flavor, to recognize these almost extinct techniques and sounds, but it’s ok if you don’t, because now the opportunity to experience it is here again.
To what extent will it be different than or similar to the previous album?
Trackmaster Lou: The Vanishing Art album by Scan 7 will be different then the first two Scan 7 albums. I felt it was necessary to do this compilation of Scan 7 material to display some of the elements that producers took out and forgot about.
When and on what label will it be available?
Trackmaster Lou: Well, there have been a few offers to release The Vanishing Art overseas on really good record labels and a couple of labels here at home have also taken an interest as well, so it may end up on a Detroit Label, or on our own label, as our premiere release. If that’s the case, it will be adorned with some rare and collectable artwork created here in Detroit.
What else can we expect from Scan7 in the future?
Trackmaster Lou: The unexpected.