Coming into producing through a series of events that involved a producer suddenly leaving the hip hop label he was signed with back in the early 90s, DJ Maaco had already gained himself quite a reputation as one of the best live DJs in the area of Detroit. Producing, however was something completely new to him and the sudden request from the label owner for him to become their new producer helped kicked things in motion for the eventual setting up of MAP Records, a label he set up with close friend Odell. Together, they came into prominence as production and DJ duo Detroit In Effect, releasing a string of classic Detroit electro records that started to turn heads overseas as well as on home turf. We caught up with DJ Maaco at length, questioning him about DJ battles and block parties in Newport, Detroit, how he met Odell (P-Dog) through taking his DJ spot at a club and debut Europe tours organized by Clone back in 2003. His detailed responses shine a light on characters who might not not have had the same exposure and breakthrough success as people like Underground Resistance but who still laid the blueprints for a thriving community of music lovers, dancers, DJs and party goers in Detroit during the late 80s and early 90s. His Truancy Volume, racking up at an hour in length, is pure ‘Detroit-style’ as he describes himself, with fast, hard mixing getting thrown down over quick cuts and plenty of scratching. It’s the most ‘live’ sounding Truancy Volume we’ve had in a while, working through tracks by D.I.E themselves as well as music from Lathun Grady, Body Mechanic, Missy Elliot and more.
Hey man thanks again for taking out time to answer some questions and for letting us host the mix. Huge fans over here! Seeing as there aren’t many interviews online with you just want to go way back and ask if you could tell us about the Crash Crew and what they meant to you growing up in terms of DJing? “Well, the Crash Crew were the very first DJ crew that I’d seen get down. I got an older cousin, and he was was part of the Crash Crew back in the early 80s. I used to see how they rocked the parties and the blocks, and they used to do the thing. My cousin Tray, he was one of the first guys in the early years, so back then I was about 12 years old. They were the group that inspired me to get into DJing.”
What sort of music were you listening to prior to this as a kid? Had your home been an influential place in terms of music? “The type of music that I got off to as a kid was probably some of the same music that a lot of people my age got into. I grew up in a household where my parents listened to all the Motown, all kinds of northern soul, a lot of blues. But I was more privy to, you know I used to like to dance, so a lot of funk stuff, Lakeside, Funkadelics, Radio and Gap Band were getting played. That was the stuff I was into and when I got older I got more into bands such as Hall & Oates and the Pet Shop Boys. Then came the rap stuff so people like Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, “The Message” and from there on and up, I mean I could go on and on for days. I mean, that’s one thing we did as kids, we listened to a lot of music, we danced and had fun. There was no certain type of genre back then, genre wasn’t even a word, we just listened to everything from Kraftwerk, Planet Rock to Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell”. Whatever was hot at the time, we were listening to it.”
I’m not sure if Odell has taken a little step back from Detroit In Effect for the moment but can you tell us how exactly you first met, and the route it took for you two to start making music together? Any fun stories from around the time you two put your first record out? “Odell, Mr P.Dog. Odell is still around, we still kick it from time to time. He hasn’t been doing any music lately but he’s still doing his DJ thing. So how did we meet. He will probably tell you differently but I’m going to tell you how we met. Odell used to DJ at this club and I don’t know what happened or transpired between him and the owner but something went down, they weren’t seeing eye to eye. So the owner hired me as a DJ, to DJ at this club, so I’m there DJing on a Friday or Saturday night, doing my thing when all of a sudden, this big dude comes in the booth, he was mad and I was like ‘damn, who pissed this dude off’. Then I later found out, he was the dude that was DJing there before me. He was still pretty pissed off with the situation, but I told him come on, get down with us, maybe we can do some stuff together as far as DJing and he did. That relationship turned into a friendship, and he was rapping at the time and he let me hear some of his rap stuff that him and another guy had worked on named Frontpage. It was some dope stuff, P-Dog had bars, probably still has bars, sure he still got it. He was a hot MC and I was with a rap group called One Nation, which had recently lost a member.
“So the label was looking for a replacement and I knew P-Dog rapped, so I was telling the label ‘I know a guy that can rap’. So I put him in touch with the label, and at first they liked him but then they didn’t see eye to eye so P-Dog ended up leaving. As time went on I also left as my contract had expired and there was some crazy stuff that had gone on, but then they later came back and asked me to do a remix. I did the remix but when we met about it, they were talking the same old crazy stuff so I changed my mind and didn’t do it. Then I was sitting up and talking with Odell one day, we were down in my basement and he was like ‘forget them, why don’t you just put it out yourself’. I was like I’m not a record label, I just want to produce music I don’t want to do the whole label thing. He came back with saying he’ll help me and we can do it together. I would concentrate on the producing part and he would concentrate on the business part, and we can just work together and put out some records. So that’s what we did. The first record we put out was one of the remixes I did that I was going to do for that record label. That was called “The One” and “Live at MAP Part 1″ So that was the beginning of MAP. Also I might add that was around ’93/’94 somewhere up in there, when we started it.”
I’ve noticed some of your track are tagged with (Live at the MAP Lounge), including a track from your first EP titled exactly that? Was the MAP Lounge just your studio or something more than that? From dates it seems it’s been part of your life a minimum of eight years. “MAP. Live at MAP. First of all, MAP was Maaco and P-Dog and whenever we DJed somewhere, or did a party or something we were Maaco and P-Dog and if Maaco and P-Dog were DJing the party, the party was going to be live. So we took that same energy and we tried to put it into a record. So, when we did that record, we said let’s do a record, doing what we do at parties and we gon’ call it Live at Maaco and P-Dog. Then we just put the lounge on it. So Live at MAP Lounge, was just us at the studio doing what we do at parties.”
What can you tell us about a certain party in Newport? Seems like you met a lot of people through there. Who was Wacky Will? “Newport haha well back in the mid ’80s, I was getting out, starting to DJ, getting my name out there. I got a nice little reputation in the neighbourhood, I used to live on a street called Lakewood and there was a block behind me was called Newport. There were some guys on Newport who threw parties all the time and whenever they went to hire a DJ, what they would do would summon a bunch of different DJs, how many ever would show up. Those DJs then had to battle each other, for the spot to DJ their parties. Well, I would battle different DJs and I would win so I would get the gigs at the party. One day, I was going to battle this guy called Wacky Will, and Wacky Will had this crazy reputation throughout the neighbourhood so I was a bit nervous about going about this one. I was just going to go and do my thing anyway, but I’d been hearing about this guy Wacky Will, DJ Wacky Will.
“When I got there, he was there and we introduced ourselves to each other, shook hands and all that. So I setup my equipment, and at the time Wacky Will was big time, he didn’t have his equipment there, he was waiting on some guys to bring his stuff to set up. I was thinking this guy must really be doing it. Here I am, I’m setting up my little Sanford and Son equipment up myself and there’s this guy who’s got people who’s going to bring his stuff and set it up for him. I was like this guy must be a monster. So I set up and got to doing my thing and Will watched and listened, but for whatever reason, his equipment never turned up that night so I won by default. Later on, I ended up seeing him and ended up talking and I ask him what happened with his stuff, why his boys didn’t bring his equipment to the party. He told me that ‘when you started playing and I start seeing how fast you were scratching, there was no way in the world I was going to try challenge you, I couldn’t mess with you’. I was like wow, but Wacky Will was a real good MC too, he could get the party hyped, talk to the crowd.
“His crew was called The Wacked Out Productions and he asked me if I wanted to be part of his crew and I’m like heck yeah, let’s do it. Through that I met people like DJ Detline, who still till this day DJs, throwing stuff and sometimes I go and spin with him. But I’ve always tried to get Wacky Will on the production side throughout the years, but he never really wanted. One day though, we were over at my house and I’m like look man, I’m finna put you on the record. Thing with Will, he loved his drink, he loved his beer and whatever. I told him, we going to make a record and you going to talk about your drink. Sure enough, he was little offended at first but then as I talked to him and persuaded him he was like ok it makes sense let’s just have fun with it. So we sat down and made a record called ‘I Need My Drink’. Wacky took it out, it was only us that had it, never released it, but he would take it out into the neighbourhood, and people were really feelin it and all! I kept on telling him, let’s do another one, I wanted to do a whole project with Wacky Will but unfortunately shortly after we did that record, my homeboy Will passed away so I never did anything else with the song. I may play it at parties from time to time but I’ll never do anything with it. That’s my homeboy, DJ Wacky Will.”
You mentioned your rap group before, where does One Nation fit in all of this? From what I understand you eventually became the producer for the group? “Well, One Nation was a rap group I was with, around the early ’90s, ’91 we hooked up yeah. I was the DJ of the group and there were two rappers. The label was called Techstar, and that label was in a way responsible for me getting into the production as serious as I did. I mean I dabbled, I had a keyboard at the time but I [was] strictly a DJ. One day though, it was our second studio session, we at the recording studio and we doing this rap track and the producer got into a big argument with the owner of the record label. So the producer stormed out and quit and we sitting there like that was our music producer, what we going to do now. The owner of the label turns to me and says figure it out. I was like I’m just the DJ, I don’t know nothing about drum machines, reel to reel, none of that. He was like you got 10 hours, try figure something out.
“At the time we were going to the studio from 12 midnight to 10am in the morning. We were doing the ‘block’ times because when you were doing 12 to 10 it was cheaper than your usual four to five hours. So every Friday, Saturday and Sunday or sometimes it was Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was in the recording studio from 12 till 10am trying to figure out how to do beats. I remember the first session I had it took me 10 hours to program a beat on the drum machine. That was the beginning and by the time it was all over and coming to an end, I was knocking out four songs in a session. I did my first dance track on that label, under One Nation the group. It was called ‘DJ Maker Cut’ and then my second record was ‘Bitch, I Ain’t the One’ That’s pretty much it, after that then that’s what spawned into me and Odell forming our own label MAP Records.”
What would you say is the oldest record that’s still in your DJ bag? What about the newest? “Ohh man I got a lot of old ones, a lot of old fire. Probably, my most old and worn out record would probably be my Cybotron album with the original “Clear” on it, that’s broken but the clear portion is still intact so I still play it out. As long as I can bang that original version of “Clear”, I’m going to keep it in my bag and I’m going to keep banging it. Some of the newest records I got in my bag, I got a few pieces. I was just over in Europe this year, in 2017 spring around May and I was able to pick up and get handed some fire, some nice electro joints. Some pretty hot stuff. Some of the stuff I got from some guys, from a company called Sleepers. Let’s see, then I got something from London and Austria. Guarantee you’ll be hearing it the next time I’m playing.”
Speaking of Europe can you tell us a little bit about your first D.I.E trip to Europe, which was organized by the people over at Clone correct? “My first trip to Europe was I believe around 2003 with the Clone guys. I mean it was an amazing time, we were just doing what we were doing in our tiny city, in our little basement, with no idea that our music was having an impact on people the other side of the world. So when we were asked to come over to play, we were ecstatic. Here we are over in the Netherlands and Amsterdam, Germany. Those were the first places we played over there. Then there was Paris and somewhere in the UK. The Clone guys are great, Serge, Klen, I mean those guys were awesome and still are awesome guys. Not only did we develop a good business relationship, we also became friends and I still talk to those guys till this day. I really appreciate Clone for giving us the opportunity to come over and share our music with people on the other side of the world, I’m really grateful for being able to do that.”
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve done for us? It’s got a very live feel to it with all the scratching. It’s got one of my fave D.I.E tracks in it too, that “Get Up (Live at the MAP Lounge)”. “The mix I did is pretty much like every other mix I do, it’s just my style and my style is that Detroit style. We play fast and we play hard. I guess I consider myself a street DJ, like when we DJing the cabarets or the clubs, people don’t want to hear a record, even if it’s their jam, play for more than two minutes. You put it in and take it back out, drop something else and drop something else in. You got to keep hitting them and wowing them or they get bored with you. That’s just our style of mixing, we got the jitters and all the other dances. You can go back and look at some old footage of the dance programs here in Detroit. That’s what you’d hear the DJ doing, that’s just our way of DJing. So that’s what I do, try to give it that live feel with lots of cuts and scratching. We kind of morphed the whole hip hop thing with the dance stuff and just make it entertaining.”
In terms of new music you’ve been a bit quiet since 2012. Are there any reasons for this or are you slowly just working on music in no rush? Anything we can look forward to from you for the rest of the year? “You know I must admit, I’ve been a little quiet on the releases, I didn’t plan it way because I’m constantly working on stuff and new material but man time just flew by. At one point I was working on a 12” then I changed my mind, and I said you know what how about I just do an album, a fully-fledged Detroit In Effect album, we’d never done that before. So I started working on that and in the midst of that I started working on some Cybonix stuff, and before I knew it time had kind of gotten away from me. I got a lot of stuff though and it’s coming. I can’t tell you when because I don’t want to put a date on it but I’m cooking, and sometimes when you putting that certain special sauce on it you want to take your time and get it right. But, it’s coming, new stuff is coming.”