Mike Servito is from a very special yet temporary and partially lost fertile crescent of techno / house / party DJing. It was a time when raves were still a fresh idea, almost felt like a revolution, and DJs like Claude Young, D Wynn, Derrick Carter and Mike Huckaby were informing an upcoming generation. If you look directly to that inspired generation you will find the lost threads of Detroit Techno, House and beyond, you will find a group of DJs with insanely deep mixing skills, the ability to rock almost any kind of party with an improvisational approach that is so skilled it makes everything seem so well thought out, but even they don't know everywhere their set will go. But it will take you there... In the future, this special generation of deep midwest mixers will be remembered and revered as the wizards they are, long after the trendy players have lost their luster.
Detroit never forgot about Mike Servito, his upfront dirty deep and bitchy taste has had an impact on Detroit nightlife for over a decade. From debuting in 1995 at Dat's Poorboy parties, to being a resident at blackbx and Ghostly's Untitled (along with Derek Plaslaiko, Tadd Mullinix and Matt Dear), co-founding the bizarrely popular, wild and free Dorkwave, and progressing that concept into Sass (the hippest queer party in Detroit at the time) with Nathan Rapport, to blowing minds at Interdimensional Transmissions' No Way Back parties, Servito has made his impression. Moving to Brooklyn, Detroit's loss has been their gain, as he has found a proper home with a new residency at the Bunker, and worldwide representation from Beyond Booking.
Check out Servito this Friday, October 26th at No Way Back at the 70 N 6th Street Loft above Public Assembly in Brooklyn playing with BMG, Erika, Patrick Russell and Bryan Kasenic, or in Detroit on Saturday November 3rd with Erika's debut live show and BMG in the loft above the TV Bar.
What was the first record you bought?
The first record I bought was 12" vinyl for sure. Inner City - Good Life, or Wee Papa Girls - Heat It Up. I'm not sure which came first. I was really obsessed with both.
How did you get your start DJing?
I guess subconsciously, it was always meant to be. When I was 12 or 13, I would edit all my Wizard mix tapes so that the beat was continuous. I hated the commercial breaks so I would cut them out. The idea was in my head early on I suppose.
I never gave it any thought at all. I was buying records when I was like 12 years old. I was obsessed with acid house from the get go. It was strictly for listening pleasure. When I started going out in 1992, I would see Mike (Huckaby) and Jon (Billeebob Williams). It was exciting to see them play. Mike was serious and really involved. Jon was wild with the eq's. It never dawned on me til the mid 90s to give it a try. Dat Duong gave me my first gig in 1995. He's responsible for this! Poorboy forever.
Who were your early inspirations as a DJ?
D. Wynn. Claude Young. Stacey Pullen. Mike Huckaby. Billeebob. Dat. John Acquaviva. EVERYONE! I paid attention to all the locals. That whole wave of early 90's Detroit DJ's opened up my ears. Jon "Billeebob" Williams is responsible for making me want to DJ. His energy was infectious. Mike Huckaby opened my mind, shaped my taste, and looked out for me in an era where music sharing didn't exist. Later on, Derrick Carter would influence my long mixing and risk taking. Derek Plaslaiko and I would drive around and obsess over his mix tapes. Huck and Derrick were that perfect mix of house and techno and are the single most influential DJ's in my life.
MIke Servito at No Way Back 2010 DEMF Edition
What made the Detroit 90s scene so unique?
In the early 90s, the people of Detroit made it unique. It was a creative, care-free bunch. Everyone seemed smart, educated, and really tapped in to the music. Every party and every space was exciting. Driving downtown in the late night was a thrill for me. I was a mere fly on the wall and I knew I was witnessing amazing moments. To be in the midst of it all...I don't think I could ever thoroughly explain what it was like. You really did have to be there! It was a magical Detroit era.
Craziest mid 90s rave experience?
All of it. I went through the rise and decline of Detroit rave culture. Part of me gets nostalgic while another part of me can't help but cringe. I don't care to relieve the latter half of the 90s. It was a dark era. Honestly, I don't think I ever really got too crazy. I was always a bit too aware and too nervous in my crackhead surroundings.
Do you feel the 90s midwest rave DJ art is now lost or now an integral part of todays techno house music continuum?
It lives on! There's a resurgence in the sound. People are actually buying and playing vinyl. I do think DJ's were a little more creative back then. Today, anything and everything is archived, referenced and even copied. I am surprised to see a younger generation doing their homework and looking back, and learning about the origins of underground dance music and electronic music. People want to be educated and know what they are talking about. I mean, techno is the nerdiest genre of music ever so, it's not surprising.
Lets discuss some highlights from some of your Detroit residencies: Untitled, Dorkwave, Sass…
2002 to 2007 in Detroit is one big bold highlight for me. These were my formative DJ years...
I started DJing again in 2002. I got re-acquainted with old friends like Magda and Derek Plaslaiko. That entire summer was reconnecting with people I really loved. Derek had mentioned this idea to me and it all just sort of fell into place in the fall of 2002. Jon Ozias from Motor and Sam Valenti of Ghostly had an idea for a new night and executed it to perfection. I think there was a lull after the 90s. That next wave of fun was brewing. Untitled was the best thing that ever happened for me and I do believe everything started for me here. I played every weekend for 3+ years. It was my launching pad and it is where I gained credibility.
I don't think any of us knew what was going to come of Dorkwave. It took on a personality of it's own. It's hard to even comprehend what we we're doing every month. It was wild times for the city. We were loved and hated, but at the end of the day, we gave an outlet to let loose...for free. For me, it was also an outlet to play whatever I wanted and not be locked into any given genre and feel pressured to be that perfect DJ.
Sass was an extension of Dorkwave, but a bit more personal. Nathan Rapport and I were really just trying to serve a purpose and give options to a queer Detroit audience. The gay bar scene in Detroit was extremely limiting and the music was offensive most of the time. We were just trying to fill in the void.
And for the record, I will add that I.T.'s No Way Back DEMF after party in 2008 was a huge stepping stone as well. It is a lot of pressure to live up to that infamous morning...every year!
What formats do you play and why? (vinyl, laptop, Cd's, DJ mix robot)
I play vinyl. It is my chosen format. I prefer the feel of it over Cd's. I am not opposed to Traktor Scratch. I think the capabilities of what Ableton can do for someone is appealing. Never say never I suppose. But, playing live in front of an audience...I am most comfortable with records. I can't speak for others, nor do I care about all the debates over vinyl vs. technology. I am not opposed to DJ's using other outlets other than vinyl, but I am sick of the ongoing debate. I'm more interested in quality tracks, solid programming ,and interesting mixes.
How much preplanning do you put into a mix? Is your path through the music totally improvisational?
None. I don't really pre-plan as far as mixing. It's always improvised when I play gigs. There is some risk taking involved I guess. People think that's insane, but that's how I operate. That's how we were all programmed in Detroit...to just run it, you know? For recorded mixes, I decide on a certain sound or idea and kind of piece it together. I pick out maybe 30 records and do a run through and see what works. Edit out what doesn't work. I find it all a bit nerve-wracking, actually.
How would you describe your approach to mixing?
It seems to be a very organic process. I was never given rules or a manual on "how to". No one ever taught me how to mix records. So, my approach is very open still. It always boils down to timing and a certain feeling. Some mixes are just meant to happen and work out at that moment. The rule of thumb for me is that there are no rules. You just kind of have to feel it out.
How would you describe your sound?
It's always really hard to answer this question. I have no clue. People always say I play sexy or dirty. I don't know what that means. I like weird sounds. I like catchy basslines. I like things stripped down. I tend to play on the housier side of things. I'm a 4/4 guy. That's what I like. Thats whats moves the floor for me.
Is there anything you miss about living in Detroit?
I miss the energy and the spirit of Detroit's past, the architecture, Slow's, Lafayette Coney, and those late night drives thru Babylon. =)
photo: Seze www.sdphotography.net