Editor’s Note: Tickets to this event will be extremely limited. The first Signal > Noise party was a sold out show.
Falling on the 25th of April is the second installment of the Signal > Noise events, version 1.1 featuring Norm Talley from Detroit. The techno pioneer will be playing an extended 3-hour set alongside Signal > Noise residents Jim Kempkes and Kornwalis. Version 1.1 will be held at 45 Euclid in Rochester NY, formerly known as Club Love. Tickets are currently $15 and are available through Signal > Noise crew members until they are sold out; if tickets don’t end up selling out they will be available at the door. Please contact Rob Dunn, Brian Shelton, Eric Harris, Rob Morley, Joe Bucci, Danny Kornreich, Jim Kempkes, and Editor-in-Chief Tan Ho (Buffalo) for tickets.
An Exclusive Interview with Norm Talley by Jim Kempkes [Signal > Noise]
Jim Kempkes: Have you always lived in Detroit?
Norm Talley: Yes, I was born and raised in Detroit at Kirkwood General Hospital and lived here my entire life.
JK: When were you first exposed to electronic music?
NT: Well, my first exposure I would say would be Juan Atkins, Kraftwerk and other music like that.
JK: Around what time period did this take place?
NT: I would say early 80s. That’s when a kind of, a more spacey sound was cutting edge at that point. And, I mean, as well as other bands like Depeche Mode, things like that. They had records out around that time like, “Get The Balance Right” and things like that. Those were good records as well to mix along with early Detroit music. And then, rock records as well, they had a lot of good rock records. I like the older rock better than the new rock.
JK: And specifically, how were you exposed to this music?
NT: I mean, first, before I could club, I was listening to the radio. Then when I could actually go to backyard parties and things, I found out about music then. And then club music made me find out about that, but the radio was always on. Even when I was too young to go to clubs I would listen to the radio.
JK: When you refer to these first clubs to attended, would some of these be the “high school parties” I’ve heard and read about? These seem like they were pretty influential.
NT: You mean like, social clubs in Detroit?
JK: Yeah, things like Charivari and the various parties…
NT: Yeah sure, social clubs. They were really the ignitor for the whole scene because these social clubs were the actual promoters who were throwing the parties. That was very prevalent at that time: for a group of guys to get together, join, and make a club and throw parties and events. It really jumped off from there. And from disco it went to that, so even disco was part of that. They were playing disco as well–that transition point, it was disco and progressive up until house, you know? Maybe say, 1984 or so. But before that, it was disco. Progressive classics and things like that–12″ mixes, special mixes of records, you know. Up until house, it was a lot of disco–that was the house (laughter)!
JK: So, when house came out of Chicago, did it really seem like this big explosion?
NT: Well, it was major for sure… at least from the DJ perspective, to be able to get that amount of new music at that time on vinyl. It was an explosion I guess I would say. As far as a lot of releases coming out of one area. And they were pushing it, which was a good thing.
JK: Would you say that the influx of Chicago house definitively changed the sound of the DJs and producers in Detroit?
NT: Well no, I won’t say exactly that because I think still that producers in Detroit and Chicago produce differently–both in their own ways. It’s positive, it’s a good thing. I know a lot of Detroit producers and I know some Chicago producers as well and they produce a certain way and we produce a certain way, so I think it’s a good thing, but it is different. I play a lot of Chicago records, and it’s a good thing because I can get something different from what I make or what somebody in Detroit makes and use that flavor and the Chicago flavor. So it’s a win-win.
JK: What motivated you to get into DJing?
NT: I began as collector listening to records at home. I had some friends and they came by, more than once, and they liked the records that I had and offered me a party. I really didn’t know how to DJ. So, at that point I had to practice and learn how to DJ. I had about six months to do it and I got the mix down, kinda, and I did the party and it worked out successfully.
JK: Having the right records is half of it, right?
NT: True. I mean, I started out with one turntable and then that’s when I progressed to two turntables when I got that offer and I had to just figure out how to put it together. And then I made some money as well. I bought some more records. So, then I wanted to flip it again and do another party and from that got two or three other parties. So that kinda started the snowball rolling (laughter).
JK: And how did you get into production?
NT: I got into production with a strong push from a good friend of mine named Eddie Fowlkes. I’d known him for quite a few years and he always would tell me, “You should make a record, man, make a record.” I’d been DJing but I’d never made a record. He convinced me that I wanted to make a record. So, I went out and I bought me a 909, a 106, and a mixing board and I made a record.
JK: One thing I recall was you being associated with Detroit Beatdown a while back with Delano Smith and Mike Clarke. You guys put out some dope mixes. What’s the status with that collaboration? Is it defunct or still on the table?
NT: All of us are still doing productions and things like that. Whenever we do another project and get together, I’m down with them. Everybody’s doing their own thing kinda. Delano’s doing his own thing, and I’m doing mine. Everybody’s trying to do their thing, do their bookings, do their records, run their labels and do all the things they have to do independently. But then, it’s always good to collaborate as well. It’s always on the table.
JK: But you guys still get together and play records from time to time?
NT: Oh yeah of course, because we’ve been life-long friends. Most definitely. You know, we’re friends and we talk, and everything’s good.
JK: The recent EDM trend in the U.S. has probably brought more attention than ever before to electronic dance music, in this country at least. Has this had an effect on your career as a DJ and/or musician?
NT: What was the first part of the question?
JK: This recent EDM trend–with big DJs like David Guetta and Steve Aoki and giant festivals in the U.S. and things like this?
NT: (Quizzical Silence)
JK: Has it had any kind of trickle-down effect on your career?
NT: Well…ahhh…mmmm…no, I don’t play too many big festivals like that, so…
NT: I don’t play too many festivals. If I did a lot of festivals and things like that I could say that it was benefitting me, but I don’t. I mostly do clubs, the majority is clubs.
JK: One festival I know you have played several times before is Movement/Detroit Electronic Music festival. The festival is pretty well-established in Detroit at this point. Has it changed the dance music culture in Detroit?
NT: Well, I think the whole festival thing has most definitely opened up the culture as far as expanding it. From the suburbs and from all areas they come for that one weekend to hang out. It’s a positive thing. It’s a win-win.
JK: Has it changed the way Detroit DJs and producers go about their business?
NT: Well, I think Detroit producers are just doing their thing. That’s just a weekend where there’s gonna be some people in from out-of-town. It’s a 365-day-a-year thing here. You try to do it whether there’s a festival coming up or not. But it’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. With all the people coming to town you meet some great people, and you have a good time, and you do some business on the tail end as well.
JK: What have been some of your favorite places to play over the years?
NT: Well, I like Fabric in London. I like Rex Club and Catapult in Paris. I like Panorama Bar in Berlin, that was good, I like that one. I mean, you like each and every one for a certain reason, or a certain vibe, or the way the club is set up. Every club is kinda liked for a certain reason. I like Watergate (Berlin club) because they got the water back there. Every club has a certain…it’s almost too many clubs to name. They all have their own niche. I like Le Suchre (Paris club) because they got the back room back there with the bathroom that’s close! (Laughter)
JK: They got the bathroom right near the DJ booth?
NT: Yeah, you can go right through there and go to the bathroom. You don’t have to go into the crowd or anything.
JK: That’s an important thing.
NT: That’s a DJ-perk! (Laughter)
JK: Just put on a long record…
NT: …And go to the bathroom. A lot of clubs you may not have that. You may have to walk far. I like Concrete, too. I just did Concrete recently in Paris.
JK: You’ve named a lot of French clubs…
NT: Yeah–the French, they’ve been banging it out. It’s been going down in Paris.
JK: What music influences you?
NT: Like, producers?
JK: Yeah, sure…
NT: I like what Juan (Atkins) is doing. And, I like Jeff’s stuff–Jeff Mills. He’s been putting out some….shooooooooh! (mouthed sound effect)
JK: Some space-shit.
NT: Yeah. I like his concepts and things like that. Eddie Fowlkes has been putting out some good stuff. He gave me some records just recently that were nice on Detroit Wax. I like Delano (Smith)–he’s been putting out good stuff with Sushitech. There’s a lot of good things–Mike Huckaby’s got some good stuff coming out. Rick Wade–just a lot of guys been putting out some solid stuff just outta Detroit. DJ Bone! DJ Bone has been putting out some really good stuff.
JK: Has he put out recent stuff?
NT: Yeah, he’s got some new stuff that I’ve been playing. Shoooooooh! (sound effect) He’s got one–it’s called the “The Detroit EP.” Oh yeah, it’s good, I’ve been playing it. You gotta peep it.
JK: I will. How about music outside of the electronic dance realm? Does any other music influence you?
NT: What, you mean like, Prince?
JK: Yeah, sure! You like Prince?
NT: Yeah I like Prince. And then more like the old-school bands. I’m really into that. You know, like, Ohio Players, Stylistics, and Chi-lites. You know, just the old-school bands–I’m feeling that.
JK: Last question. Do you have any pursuits or interests in life besides music that might surprise people?
NT: Mmmmmm…unfortunately no. I’m really boring. It’s music and music only. Production and Djing, and that’s my painting. There’s nothing else. I’m not a pilot, or…
JK: You’re not boring! You’re just a music-head–nothing wrong with that.
NT: Well yeah, but just music no surprises.
JK: Anything else you want to add–any shout-outs?
NT: I’ll give a shout out to Rochester, NY. April 25th, Signal>Noise. Let’s do it. Let’s rock ’em down.
Originating from the west side of Detroit, Norm Talley is no secret when it comes to techno music. At the young age of 13 he began collecting various records ranging from disco, progressive and jazz. From there, he began mixing at his house when friends came over, and ended up meeting Ken Collier who lived just a few houses down from him. Needless to say, Norm ended up becoming great friends with Ken and looked to him as a DJ mentor. He has countless years under his belt as a DJ and has toured all over the world from Berlin to Paris and back to the United States. Norm surely is not one to be messed with as his style is pure underground and his vinyl collection is out of this world.
Born and raised in Rochester, Jim Kempkes has over 20 years of DJing under his belt. He is a vinyl-only DJ known primarily for spinning house and techno, but also collects disco, funk and electro records. Jim is also a member of the Floorwax DJ crew out of Rochester with Keven Atoms. They currently hold a weekly at Lux in Rochester NY, where they play strictly old school vinyl. He joined Signal >Noise a month ago and has been in love with it ever since.
Kornwalis started DJing out of his dorm room at SUNY Albany in 2009. Paid gigs were few and far inbetween, so he created CPJ Presents with his partner Mr. Kissner to start throwing events. This eventually led to a successful residency at Elda’s on Lark Street, which saw over 200 attendees at every event. Additionally, Kornwalis and Mr. Kissner held down a two-hour radio show every week on 90.9 FM WCDB Albany. Upon graduating, Kornwalis relocated to Rochester, NY and linked up with local heavy hitters to form Signal > Noise.
The Dance and Rave team is extremely excited for the next Signal > Noise event featuring Norm Talley. We highly recommend attending to get a real taste of what the Detroit underground scene has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.