Interview: Reggie Dokes
In-depth with Reggie Dokes
Reggie Dokes is a U.S. producer really enjoying a great time of it recently. Anyone who’s followed his work for the last while will no doubt share our feeling that it’s been a long time coming. If anything, Dokes’ time in the spotlight is overdue, especially in Europe where the Atlanta-based Detroiter is beginning to earn regular bookings. Aside from working with some of the house scene’s best imprints, Dokes also helms his own label, Psychostasia Recordings. Ahead of his gig with Bradley Zero at Rhythm Section on 20th April in London, we put some questions to him about what he’s been up to of late …
What is your first memory of music?
My first memory of music would have to be from my father. He had a great vinyl collection of jazz, rock and r&b. He would play certain records by the Stylistics and Isley Brothers. This music was very interesting to me at the time. Then came my first cousin Kenneth Williams from Little Rock, Arkansas, who really peaked my interests with records from the Commodores and Earth Wind and Fire, and Parliament Funkadelic.
You’ve moved around a bit, and although you’re now back in Detroit you also spent time in Atlanta. Are experiences something that greatly influences your music do you reckon?
Contrary to popular belief, I still reside in Atlanta. Detroit is always where my heart is, but physically I am in the ATL. I have lived here now for 10 years and love this place. I initially came here to produce Hip Hop and still do. In the beginning, I was entering beat competitions to network and enhance my profile. My wife asked me one day did I miss doing house and techno, and my response was, “Yes”. Once I went back to my roots, that is when things started to open up for me. At the end of the day, music is music, especially if it is good.
At the end of the day, music is music, especially if it is good.
What is your place to perform outside of Detroit and Atlanta and why?
My favourite place to perform would have to be Belgium. Belgium is one of those countries that opened its arms to me as a DJ, thanks to my friend DJ Red D of We Play House Records. I always find Belgium very peaceful and beautiful place. I have played quite a few cities in that country. On my last tour there, I was able to play the famous club called Kink. It was awesome.
My favourite place to perform would have to be Belgium. Belgium is one of those countries that opened its arms to me as a DJ.
Where did you first perform in Detroit? What was the experience like?
My first DJ performance in Detroit had to be somebody’s basement. That is where it all started before I started playing the club scene in Detroit. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous. Nervous as hell, but I knew I had some good records. Folks would damn near stand in the speakers to see if your mix was on point. It was a serious learning ground because you had to have skills as DJ coming up, period.
My first DJ performance in Detroit had to be somebody’s basement. That is where it all started before I started playing the club scene in Detroit.
As a child, did you always have a yearning to perform or make music? Or when did you realise music was something you wanted to seriously pursue?
As a child, I always loved music because my father was a music teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. So music was always around me. I remember going to concerts and marching band performances with my father a lot. I like to think that it was in my DNA. I played Viola, guitar and lastly, drums in which I was formally trained. My father never pressured me to take on music, it was natural. Back in 2001 is when I wanted to pursue DJing as a career, but me and my wife started our family. Things were beginning to take off, but I had to put things on hold because I wanted to be a good father and husband. I wanted to be around and watch our children grow up. I wanted to be home for their schooling and birthdays, etc. So I got a 9 to 5, put my head down and pushed music to the side. Now many years later, I feel like I have a second chance, and I am not slowing down.
Can you remember what track or album made you want to start creating music of your own?
Well, I will tell you this. When I was DJing internationally, Derrick May had an agency run by this guy named John Wright from Canada I believe. I was on a roster with Stacey Pullen, Kenny Larkin, some really big name DJs. This was my first lesson. I was always wondering why I was not getting all the calls like everyone else, it was truly frustrating in the beginning. However, people were saying that I needed to put out records if I wanted to be booked as a DJ. Fast forwarding to Aril Brikha’s album with Transmat, Departure In Time I believe. Derrick and I were heading to Toronto, and he turns to me and says, “Listen to this demo and tell me what you think !” So I am listening and the first record that comes on blows me away. I turn to him and say, “You need to put this out. This is Detroit Techno for real. This will put Transmat back on the map!” A dude from Sweden, who had done his homework. Then the album was licensed to a video game and that was it for me, I had to start my own shit, period.
Do you have any horror stories from your early days as a DJ?
Horror stories as a DJ of course. You have not lived if you did not experience some challenging times as a DJ. I remember playing this rave in Vancouver, Canada. The DJ before me was playing this hard ass set, then here I come. My first record was this deep house record and the crowd started to boo me and shake the fence I was playing behind. It was horrible. My first time ever being booed by an audience, but I persevered and got through that experience unharmed, lol.
You’re equally interested in hip-hop as you are house and techno. Do you think producing with one sound compliments the other?
It is all connected to me as far as music goes. I don’t care what genre it is, I am equally committed now to all three genres of Hip Hop, House and Techno. My first Hip Hop vinyl release came out on my label Detroit Westside Kid Records. Rush Hour in Amsterdam carries the record and a shop in New York called Halcyon. Sometimes when I am creating, I will start out producing a House record, and it turns into a Hip Hop record and vice versa. It is all connected man, one can influence the other. So when I sit down in my home studio now, whatever comes out, comes out, and I just roll with that.
It is all connected man, one can influence the other.
How have you seen the scene change since you first became involved? What’s been for the better and what’s been worse?
The scene changing I cannot give an in-depth answer, but what appeared to happen over the years, is that folks started listening to what was popular and hyped. And in most cases what was popular, was hard, soulless and not creative. Everyone started to sound the same, there was no uniqueness in the music anymore. But I think things are changing for the better now, these kids want to hear that soul and funkiness in the music now.
Going back a bit, were you involved in the likes of the Music Institute way back when? Or do you remember the first ‘techno’ gig you went to?
I did not play a part in bringing Detroit Music Institute to the scene. It was all George, Derrick May, Alton Miller, etc. who are the fathers of that great club back in the day. I was merely a spectator in those days, and I am grateful for having experienced such a great place. The music was awesome, and it would be safe to say that is the first time I started hearing Techno in the club scene. As far as my first Techno records of purchase, I give credit to Juan Atkins.
Who or what has been the sole biggest influence on your career?
Always give credit to Derrick May for allowing me into his space and taking me under his wing. He was the first one to show me that you can make an honest living at DJing if you want. Next, it would be Masters at Work for me, who played a big role in taking House Music to the R&B world. And lastly Carl Craig, a man who is truly talented as an artist. He took Techno to the Jazz world and elevated this genre to a level of respect and influence. Lastly, Juan Atkins, who created the blueprint for Techno across the world.
What’s next for you and the label?
Plans for the label would include my new release with Gari Romalis called Feel Me Deep EP on Psychostasia Recordings. I am really excited about Brian Neal’s EP coming in the summer, and really amped that I am finally playing a party in Detroit during the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Memorial Day Weekend. Oh yeah, and my first London appearance in April, really excited about that one.
Reggie Dokes & Gari Romalis’ ‘Feel Me Deep’ EP is out now on Psychostasia Recordings.
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