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Never Ending Journey: Motor City Drum Ensemble

Danilo Plessow ( aka. Motor City Drum Ensemble ) is the real deal. Whilst many artists makes claims of ecclecticism, he consistently delivers diversity and quality. His staggering DJ Kicks compilation several years back daringly joined the dots between Sun Ra, Mr.Fingers and Aphex Twin in a way few others would ever have attempted, cementing his reputation for risk taking selections. This mix, in addition to an unerringly excellent run of releases and superb DJ sets, have served to elevate him towards the company of the the Detroit icons to which his moniker slyly references. A firm believer in the maxim of quality over quantity, releases from Plessow are decidedly sporadic, although when they do surface the record collecting masses sit up and take notice.

Previously known purely for his quality musical output, a recent short film by Resident Advisor shone a light on Danilo Plessow the human being. Frankly discussing his issues with anxiety, he endeared himself to many and in the process drew attention to a subject that is often somewhat taboo in the fast paced world of electronic music. His gigging has slowed down as a result of the problem, although this really only serves to render the sets he does play more special for those in attendance. Londoners will be given the chance to witness him in action next Sunday 29th September, as he headlines secretsundaze’s closing party at Oval Space alongside a bill featuring deep house veteran Mr.G and the party’s celebrated residents Giles Smith and James Priestley. In advance of his set, we were fortunate enough to chat with Plessow about his passion for music, record collecting and his upcoming projects…

Hey Danilo, thanks for chatting to Hyponik! Where are you and what are you doing right now?

In my studio in Utrecht working on a remix for Romanthony.

How was your summer, what were some highlights for you?

It was a very nice summer, quite sunny for Holland so I went out to travel the country looking for records quite a bit. Gig-wise my favorite was probably MELT Festival this year.

And Antal from Rush Hour and Rahaan played the best set I heard this summer at Dekmantel Festival.

You spoke about your issues with anxiety in your short film for Resident Advisor a couple of months ago and I think that really struck a chord with a lot of people. How has the situation improved and what advice would you have to others facing similar problems to yourself? 

These kind of problems never really go away totally so I still have to deal with it – but it got much better and I’m enjoying the travelling again. I was overwhelmed by the feedback I got from people with similar problems after the RA Feature went online and I’m glad I helped some people in a way by choosing to ‘out’ myself.

My advice is to have some sort of balance between work and your free time. Use your free time to take care of your body and mind. You can do a lot of things to improve your situation by just doing sports, meditate or doing something very relaxing and forget about expectations and job pressure etc. I myself love swimming as you can really clear your mind while doing this and your body will thank you for it.

I’ve read somewhere that you’ve worked on an album, is this still something thats ongoing? 

I’m still working on it yes. I always take forever with stuff like this, but in the end the more thorough you work on something and the more time you give your art to breathe in a way, the more certain you will be that it is something actually worthwhile. If I listen to music I made months or even a couple of years ago and I still dig it, then I know it might be good to release. But the overwhelming majority ends in the trash bin as well..

We’re more than 6 years on since ‘Escape To Nowhere’, your first release. How has your approach to production changed since then, if at all? 

Back then I was still experimenting with a bit more techy stuff,  but this sound, for me at least, hasn’t really stood the test of time, I think the same way about some of my early productions. What I can still listen to and what I also consider my forté is definitely the jazz and soul influenced, sample and MPC-based stuff. For me music is like a never ending journey – you take a step left, you take a peek right, but somehow you return to your home and enjoy it the most. My basis is Jazz and Soul and I always return to them and still find inspiration. Nowadays I try to concentrate on that and ever since I made the move to the MPC3000 and the Emu SP12 I enjoy it even more.

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You’re outspoken about your prolific record collecting habits and said in the RA film that you would be prepared to spend ‘four figures’ on one given record. Without wanting to make discogs prices skyrocket, what are some of your most sought after records that you have yet to find? 

The record I’m talking about is a very rare privately pressed soul LP from the early 70’s. Ever since a friend passed me his rip from that record I have been in love with it. Its a very delicate, emotional recording, very lo-fi but that just adds to its charm. For me its like a cross between Al Green and Curtis (Mayfield). This record doesn’t even have a Discogs entry so I won’t need to fear that, but I will still keep the name for myself for the time being. Sometimes having to search for the good stuff yourself just adds that special touch and I’m really old school in my approach here, so I’d advise you all to go out and find your own personal treasures. It will be much more rewarding if you find stuff yourself.

Your DJ Kicks compilation and your live sets show you to be a man with strong musical knowledge and deep tastes. Are there any genres that you haven’t touched on or explored yet that you would like to? Any new favourites?

I’m working on an ambient album with my friend Marcus Worgull at the moment. That’s something I haven’t done yet and I’m having way more fun with that than I would have imagined!

You’ve achieved alot of acclaim and played around the world, what aspirations do you still hold for your career as an artist? 

Thank you. As I said above already, music is a never ending journey for me. I look forward to each day that I learn something new. Discover a record, play at a certain place for the first time etc. Its all one.

You supplied a remix on the new Damiano Von Erckert LP, which we are big fans of here at Hyponik, a word on him…

Damiano is a good friend of mine.. talented young cat with his heart at the right place. One of the few young Germans who are generally interested in the music rather than the lifestyle. He’ll drop a Fela Kuti record right into his set and that’s what its all about.

Can we expect any more material from you this year? 

There will be a ‘Raw Cuts; remix 12“ out late this or early next year. Some of my favorite artists will be on there and I’m delighted to have them rework my stuff.

Tickets for secretsundaze at Oval Space next Sunday 29th September can be purchased here

Christian Murphy