Interview: Blank Code

Most of our Detroit readers will recognize the Blank Code name. Founded by a couple of Detroit scene veterans (Chad and Nick), Blank Code have become known as event organizers and label owners heavily associated with harder, underground techno sounds. They are responsible for the respected “Scene” series of events at The Works, featuring everyone from DVS1 to Luis Flores. Their first label release came out earlier this year, a dubby collection featuring tracks by Mutate and remixes by Audio Injection, Drumcell, and Bas Mooy. Since then, we’ve seen a release from The Plant Worker (A Trebor) and and another from Mutate, released both digitally and on wax.

So let’s start out with some obvious questions. How long have you been involved in the Detroit electronic music scene? What was your introduction to this community and techno music in general?

We came up with the original concept for Blank Code back in 2007 to use as our own creative platform when we began preparing for our Movement Festival after party “Substance”. Prior to 2007, we ran multiple event series and residencies under the differnt names such as Friction, Substance Detroit, We Like You Humans, Friendly Integration, Deform and Chaotic going all the way back to the 1990’s.

This next one might be a contentious question. Based on your event lineups and label releases, it’s safe to say that Blank Code really isn’t catering to the “classic Detroit sound” (in this case, meaning the more melodic, borderline house-y sorts of techno created by the first wave artists and some of the second wave). Do you think the Detroit scene is able to accept a sort of techno that doesn’t fall under the style of it’s own namesake?

We think it’s right at home in Detroit. In a gritty city defined by it’s manufacturing history we feel the more darker, industrial and mechanical sounds we tend to identify with are very much a Detroit sound.

Has the scene evolved over time to become more accepting of other genres? Obviously in the past few years, slow house has seemed to hit the spot for many people in southeast Michigan.

We almost think the opposite has happened to a certain degree. When we started attending and DJing at underground events in the late 90’s a typical lineup would feature artists ranging from house to techno to D&B to trance all on the same stage. Nowadays it seems a lot of promoters tend to focus more on specific genres which we also like because from a music/programming point of view it can make for a more cohesive event musically with a nice progression through the event with each artist on the bill.

But you guys have booked a lot of cool people without any connection to the Detroit scene, people like Brendon Moeller or Tommy Four Seven. Were these artists chosen purely for their sounds, or is there a personal connection there?

A little bit of both. We tend to book artists that are making music we are into but a lot of those artists have become good friends over the years. If there’s an artist who’s making great music we may book them as an opportunity not only to have them perform at one of our events but to foster a working relationship that could open the door for future productions.

From our previous conversations, it seems like you often spend a day or two just hanging out with the artists that you book for shows. When these artists are in town, what do you do with them? What do you show them? What is it like to barbeque with Truncate?

We usually like to take them out for a good meal or two (burgers at the Redcoat Tavern for our non-vegan guests) and get to know them a bit better if they’re someone we haven’t worked with before and generally just relax and hang out either before and after the show. David (Truncate) has become a good friend of ours over the last few years and when the weather is nice and flight schedules permit, we like to fire up the grill and cook up some great food, hang out and share stories with some of our closest friends.

So far, it seems that most of your events and label releases have focused on American artists, ranging from DVS1 to Rrose. What’s the motivation behind this? I’m assuming it’s more cost-efficient, but is there also an agenda to highlight the American techno scene?

There’s some great American artists making some really good music these days and it’s nice to work with and showcase American talent. It’s also a plus that it tends to be easier to book most of these artists since they live in the country and don’t have to worry about visas, international flights, or the occasional fussy booking agent which helps us keep our event and ticket costs down.

On a similar note, two out of your three label releases have revolved around tracks by Detroit-area producer Mutate. Is there a preference for Detroit artists?

Our preference is probably based more on sound & style than geographic location. Len (Mutate) has been a close friend of ours for a long time and has been a big contributor to the label both musically and graphically. Len has designed our record jackets and artwork for many of our event fliers.

While we’re on the topic, what can you tell us about Mutate? He’s a relatively unknown name, but the tracks he’s released on your label have a really matured sound.

Len (Mutate) has been making music since the late nineties. He has music released on Development and D-Records both in collaboration with Richie Hawtin, Plus8 and M-nus records. In the early 2000s as the landscape of techno began to change along with the rise of the mp3 he began to explore new ideas and took an indefinite break from releasing music. With the resurgence of harder edged experimental techno via such labels as Electric Deluxe, CLR and Stroboscopic Artifacts he found a renewed interest and spirit in the kind of music he first began creating.

Who else should we expect to see releasing on the label this year?

We have upcoming releases this year with tracks from Drumcell, Material Object, Audio Injection, Luis Flores and Project 313 to name a few.

You held an event with Paxahau this fall at TV Lounge. What’s your relationship like with Paxahau? Should we expect future collaborations?

We have been personal friends with the guys at Paxahau for a long time and recently we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with them on professional level co-hosting some events. It’s nice to work with Paxahau because they’ve been doing events for a long time and are very professional which isn’t always the norm in this industry. Definitely expect to see more future collaborations. The CLR Detroit event in February is our next collaboration with Paxahau.

And although the Paxahau collaboration was at TV, most of your shows are at The Works in Corktown. Why did you decide to go with this venue? Did it just have the “most techno” atmosphere?

We’ve been involved with and throwing events at The Works for over 10 years now. It definitely has a good techno atmosphere and most importantly it’s one of only multi-room venues in Detroit that can stay open past 2am.

Alright, let’s end with the question I always do. Which newer artists and labels are you guys excited for right now?

Artists would include Truncate, Luis Flores, Rrose, Dadub, Jeff Derringer and Yan Cook to name a few. New Labels to look out for include Eaux, Silent Steps, LC Series, Tanz Factory, Repitch Recordings, Non Series and Magnus.