Interview: FIT Siegel

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about FIT Siegel. Based in Detroit, he’s widely known for running a label, a distribution company, being a stellar DJ and producing richly defined house music. FIT Sound and its sub-label Est. 83′ Records have put out a wealth of music from names such as Marcellus Pittman, MGUN and Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir, even Jamal Moss, DJ Sotofett and Madteo… FIT Distribution was set up in part as a way to get out of his bike messenger job, and grew from working with the many labels Detroit has to offer, building up to an international enterprise that disseminates some of the best and most respected music around the globe. As for DJing and producing – it’s for the latter aspect that we caught up with him. He’s just put out Saboten, a collaborative 12″ with Kassem Mosse. He previously worked with the German artist (under his given name of Gunnar Wendel) on Enter The Fog, released in 2012 on FXHE Records, the label helmed by his friend and fellow Detroit mainstay Omar-S.

While no indication of his workrate, his discography is scant – after releasing Enter The Fog with Wendel, Tonite with vocalist L’Renee and a split release with Mixx in 2012, he put out just three records over the next few years. The blissful Cocomo in 2014 was followed by the perennially gorgeous Carmine in 2015 and the heartfelt drive of Living Is Serious Business, in collaboration with Tim “Love” Lee, in 2016. There was “911”, a track made for the Detroit Electronic Quarterly publication. According to the press release for Saboten these newly released tracks originate from recording sessions in 2016. We asked Siegel how he and Wendel first got together in the studio, why this particular release was on the shelf for so long and what’s next for the many aspects of the FIT operation.

How are you? How has 2019 been so far? “I am well. Thank you. 2019 has been treating me well so far. Kicked it off playing with Claude Young at the Freakish Pleasures party in Detroit on NYE. Great proper underground party in massive dilapidated theater – real old school Detroit style..Had a nice birthday after that and been working on new music everyday.”

You played across Asia last month – what was that like? Any standouts from the trip, musical or otherwise? “That’s my spot. The food. The culture. The people. It was hard to leave. I was in Thailand, China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. All the gigs were sweet..some great new clubs popping up over there with some good sound systems and musically adventurous crowds.”

Between distribution and running a label I imagine you’re kept busy – when do you find time to produce? “It was difficult. For many years I didn’t do much else besides shipping records during the day and being in the studio at night. But at the end of this month (January 2019) we will close the distribution arm of the business. It’s been 10 years and its time to focus inwards on the label and making music. We will still continue to sell records but it will be our own labels (FIT SOUND and EST. 83) and some special projects.”

It’s often mentioned that you worked as a bike messenger in your youth – did you listen to music while you were on the road? If so, what kind of stuff did you have playing, can you remember? Or was there any pattern to it? “No way. I never listened to music on the road. Especially in Detroit, the road is a car’s domain. Most drivers aren’t aware of you, and so you need to be double aware to avoid getting fucked up.”

You worked with Gunnar before on “Enter The Fog” – how did that collaboration come about? “I met him at Alex’s (Omar-S) studio. And we just recording some shit over a few nights and it ended up turning into that record “Enter The Fog”.”

This new release was recorded some years back, but is only coming out now. Can you tell us about the process, from the initial sessions through to this point? “He had a week off on his tour so he came stayed at my house. We recorded at my studio and at FXHE studio. We also had a gig at a warehouse in Highland Park with a homemade sound system that kept overheating and smoking. The sound would cut off and they would have to run a fan on the amps to cool them down until they stopped smoking. Anyways, I knew we had some good sounding stuff in those sessions, but it took me a while to get around to sorting them out. It was pretty much because I was doing other stuff and forgot really.”

“Saboten” means cactus in Japanese; “West World” is a fairly explicit reference, either to the movie and/or tv show or just the Wild West in general, especially taken with “Saboten” and the artwork. Where did these ideas tie in with the music? “Yeah the wild west – outlaws, shoot outs, and the desert. That’s the theme. One of the tracks (guess which one) sounds like a wild west theme (to me it does) I had never heard any wild west techno before. I was also listening to a record by a Japanese all girl garage rock band called Saboten, when I was thinking about the artwork. So it all made sense.”

“Saboten” itself is a really exciting number, that acid melody is jerky and energising. What’s the division of labour like when you’re working with Gunnar? “On most tracks from both records – Gunnar did most drum programming, and I did most of the bass, keys and mixing.”

The melodica – if that’s what I’m hearing – isn’t a common trope in house and techno, although i have heard it used by Juju & Jordash. “West World” has a really intriguing use of space that evokes dusty landscapes and open plains. Was that something you were aiming for or just a happy accident? “I never heard it before in electronic music, other than New Order. I wasn’t aiming for anything other then just seeing how it would sound. Most of the good stuff is happy accidents.”

Finally “Cycle Blue” seems on a different wavelength entirely – deeper, smudgier – although that piano line adds a lot of colour. When you’re making music like this do you make with dj sets (your own or those of other djs) in mind, or is it just the music in the moment? “No I don’t make anything thinking about DJs / clubs during recording. Maybe I think about it more when I’m mixing it down though.. make sure certain parts would be good for a DJ to mix in or out of.”

You’re known as an important figure in Detroit – have you any tips for 2019? “I don’t know what to look for. I am just trying to do my thing like everyone else. Let’s just hope these big developers and big money don’t take over Detroit and completely suck the soul from it. They are trying to make it boring like other cities. The good thing is that there still is a lot of space here and a lot of freaks, so its will stay weird for a while.” Thanks for your time! “Thank you! Peace!”

FIT Siegel + Kassem Mosse – Saboten is out now on FIT Sound. Buy here.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...