Greatly loved, highly outspoken, Dezi Magby aka DJ Psycho from Detroit is a madman behind the tables, his wildly kinetic sets leaving an unforgettable imprint in our psyche.
The Flint native recently came to Chicago as part of the Detroit vs. Chicago Boiler Room sets, and with two other members of the Detroit Techno Militia banged it like there was no tomorrow. His range of musical expertise is inimitable, and with his defiance of single genre sets makes you realize that there is oh so much more out there musically than we could ever comprehend.
Photo by Marie Staggat.
Great job on your Boiler Room set! What did it feel like doing it in Chicago and what were some of your impressions on it?
Chicago was the first place that I ever went to for a party, a loooooong long time ago – like the late 1980s, in a building near some train depot. Whenever the odd train would go by, the building would kinda shake a little, and you would feel the ground move beneath your feet, but the music stayed steady. I hadn’t started partying in Detroit yet, so it was at that moment that I got it.
Chicago has a very special place in my heart, because of the music, the history, the people and especially the food. Y’all got it goin’ on there. I spent most of the Boiler Room event in a “Chicago House” T-shirt with the Bulls logo, but kept my Detroit hat on. A lot of people respected that and even took pictures with me. I love y’all.
Playing Boiler Room was… intense. I’m still trying to wrap my head around being chosen to do it in the first place, because that’s like a modern milestone. Some BEASTS have played Boiler Room, so being in that kind of company is kind of a mind scramble. The 313 The Hard Way thing (with DJ Seoul and T.Linder) is a rather fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants deal, and the setting lent well to our performance. Energy plus energy times energy.
Our loyalty is so catching that other cities have adopted the “Hustles Harder” tag… but even with that, we lookin’ at folk like, “Y’all hustle alright, but y’all ain’t out on West 8 Mile by the strip mall sellin’ shoes in sub-zero weather hustlin’.”
As a fixture of the Movement Festival, what would you say have been some of the changes that have transpired over the years? You told me that there were two Detroit stages across from each other this past year.
The one thing that I am happiest about over the last few years of Movement is the increase of a hometown presence at not just one stage, but all of them. Paxahau has done a wonderful job of staying true to that and keeping their ear out. I personally appreciate it, because I’m quicker to see my friends play than most of the big names.
This past year, they put up a new stage across the way from the Made In Detroit stage. All locals. Everyone that walked on that stage banged… from ADMN 2 The Konkrete Jungle crew to DJ Head…everybody got it in. Closing that stage this year with my DTM family was an honor.
A few years ago we interviewed the founder of Tec-Troit, which I believe was created as a sort of response to Movement, so it could create a bigger showcase for local talent. What’s your role in Tec-Troit and can you tell us more about it?
Tec-Troit is not really a response to Movement as it is a response to the almost immeasurable amount of talent we have here at home. I always say that in Detroit, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit greatness, whether it’s the first, second or third wave or some kid in the basement. It’s all there. Movement can’t fit everyone on, neither can any of the other respected festivals that go on, not just in Detroit, but in the Midwest in general. So we made it a point to feature as many as we can so that, between all of the festivals, the city’s talent can truly shine.
Raul Rocha (DJ Roach of Nuestra Futura/Underground Resistance) started this whole thing. This is his baby. He brought Greg (Gregory Merritt aka DJ Disc, Detroit) and I in to help cull the talent, participate in the fundraising and promotion and sorta keep the whole thing under a non-political, non-judgemental vibe. The last two years was a great and humbling experience. I loved being able to bring in acts from other cities this year. You see so many: Lansing, Grand Rapids, Port Huron, Flint and Kalamazoo folk at the shows in the city every weekend, so it was nice to give that section of the audience something to be proud about, and give Detroiters a taste of a different musical experience.
One thing that always struck me about music people from Detroit is their absolute fierce pride and loyalty to their home city. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people wear variations of Detroit t-shirts in my life whether it be in photos, parties, festivals, on the streets, anywhere.
Oh, we loyal. Almost to a fault. Lions could be losing their asses all year, and you still see folk in Honolulu Blue. That’s how we roll. Our loyalty is so catching that other cities have adopted the “Hustles Harder” tag… but even with that, we lookin’ at folk like, “Y’all hustle alright, but y’all ain’t out on West 8 Mile by the strip mall sellin’ shoes in sub-zero weather hustlin'”. It’s a whole ‘nother thang. I’m a Flint native, and I respect that kinda hustle greatly.
Verbs from the Dungeon… Is that your podcast? Tell us about that, I gave it a listen and wow you have quite the amazing and eclectic taste!
VERBS was an idea that I actually hit Aaron-Carl (God rest his soul) with about three years before he passed. He liked the idea because it wasn’t just mixing or playing strictly House, which was most of what was happening on WARMTH Radio. Everyone knows me for my eclecticism, so it was a way to show off all of these different styles of music and string them all together, and let people know where I get my funk from. After he passed, I kinda put the idea on the backburner. I was approached by some members of WARMTH about doing a show, so I resurrected the idea and went for it. Even after it became independent about six months down the line, it still had this unique, vocal audience, so I stayed with it.
Down the line, VERBS has become more of a pressure valve for me. I come down off the high of my weekend shows, I sit in The Dungeon and pick 33 random records of many different styles and pack some nerdy info tips about the artists or the album or whatever – and I just kinda unwind in the tracks. Sometimes, I even talk about my younger days and my family, but the connect is the music. Something different grooves somebody different somewhere different all the time. We get so caught up in what we are TOLD to like that we forget that there are other things out there – music that may even connect with what you are into at that moment, but on a different level. It’s edutainment. It’s two plus hours where you don’t have to be the selector. Just put it on and cruise.
I have played old school Country all night at a corner bar once. It was funny as hell to see the looks on people’s faces when they see some kid that looks like he’s straight from the hood playing Ferlin Husky records.
Is there anything you don’t play?
I try to understand everything. The trick is to take yourself out of yourself and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. You may like it, you may learn something, you may not… but at least you didn’t close yourself off to the possibility.
Understanding, however, doesn’t mean I’ll go out and play it. You will never see me play Trap or Hardcore. I leave that up to those who feel it. However, I have played old school Country all night at a corner bar once. It was funny as hell to see the looks on people’s faces when they see some kid that looks like he’s straight from the hood playing Ferlin Husky records.
You are an inspiration to many, have you ever mentored any cats out of Detroit or elsewhere? Can you give us some wisdoms to those that are aspiring DJs and producers?
Detroit is such a self-sufficient city on that account, but most of the old schoolers here are welcoming, and that’s a beautiful thing. Mike Huckaby teaches production to the young kids, and when one of those kids break out, that’s your next Carl Craig or your next Richie Hawtin. The future is in front of you at all times, and to not take an interest in nurturing the future is a big mistake. Everybody that knows me well knows they can ask me anything, and if they are asking for answers, I’m gonna do my best to answer them from my perspective. I can’t keep what I know to myself, and even at almost 35 years in the game, I’m still learning. Learning new things or things about the history of the music and the cities keeps me going. Once I stop taking it in, it’s over. I might as well quit, and I don’t wanna ever do that.
Never stop learning. Take in everything around you. Don’t get stuck. Yearn to grow. Pick up that machine, read that record, see those people, do it all. Move about. Staying still is death.
Never stop learning. Take in everything around you. Don’t get stuck. Yearn to grow. Pick up that machine, read that record, see those people, do it all. Move about. Staying still is death. Closing your mind off to technology, whether it’s past or present, is the worst thing you could do if you decide to take this up as a vocation, because you are limiting your reach and your wallet. If I’m ever out of a job, it’ll never be because I didn’t try to do everything or play anything. It’ll most likely be because I wouldn’t.
And be real. George Clinton said “If you fake the funk, your nose will grow”. You may have those fans for a minute, but people DO get smarter…. and the more knowledge that they will get, the more examples of realness that they’ll see, they will figure you out and seek their funk elsewhere. Be real with it or don’t even step in the arena.
Detroit Techno Militia is an institution that garners immediate respect when mentioned. In the give or take last decade that you have been a collective, how do you find new members that are, shall we say, worthy? And have your goals changed given the changing climate in today’s music business?
That’s a question that only Tom and Angie (the Linders are the founders of Detroit Techno Militia) can answer. The only thing I can tell you is that they’ve not been wrong. Even when you look at the members who have gone on, you can see a similar work ethic between each member. I’ve been in bands for years and not had as much confidence looking down the row as I do here. Each member can hold their weight behind their machines.
As far as goals, they change every year, I suppose. You wanna do bigger, be crazier, go further. The album was a huge thing for us because ALL of us were on the record, and you can hear each member’s personality on every track. The actual work surpassed our expectations.
So Piggy McTiggers is an alter ego of sorts that comes out every few years. What’s your method of compiling such a wide array of music and genres? Is it thought out beforehand or all on the fly? What is it about this character that only comes out every so often?
Since about 2004, I had been making these mixes…unusual selections given because of its sonic texture, more than anything and somehow making it palatable to people who wouldn’t normally listen to those styles of music. Basically taking the “mash-up” thing and being a complete asshole music nerd about it. The odd thing was the timing of my making these mixes was always during some sort of personal crises.
The last one I did, “Ferric Oxide,” was made literally a month before I left the Flint area to live in Detroit proper in September 2013. It was recorded in two weeks time with no breaks. I used something like 200+ pieces of vinyl – 150+ songs credited, but I was rocking doubles over the top of some tracks and all that. There was a limited cassette run, a VERY limited CD run and a few shows doing that whole thing live.
Making this thing, there’s no planning. It’s just whatever works at that moment. My hope is that when it’s done playing, the listener looks at the tracklist and discover some music that they had no idea existed, or reminded of something or someone they loved.
Music is the greatest connector of souls. We all dance to something.