Even though I never got a chance to attend Detroit’s famed Music Institute, the club’s legacy has always signified something momentous about Detroit techno and house to me. Like the Electrifying Mojo, the Music Institute is just one of those things that left an indelible mark on the city’s artists and club-goers. Those that did make it to the club, be it as an every-weekend destination or just a haphazard encounter, recall it with much fervor. Just check out the testimonials over on The Music Institute Detroit facebook group page and you’ll see what an amazing time and place this was for hearing, dancing and experiencing electronic dance music. Alan Oldham wrote a great piece on his remembrances of the club and what it meant to Detroit, which can be read here. Kai Alce’s recent 12″s under the Music Institute 20th Anniversary banner have proved invaluable sources of techno and house time capsules brought to give us a taste of what those nights had to offer as well as show us what they portended. He plans to release one more 12″ and then compile them all on CD (with some extras hopefully) later this year. Alce talked to me about his involvement with the Music Institute, why he started the 12″ series and what he’s got in store for an upcoming Movement afterparty.
Q: You were originally hired to do lights at the Music Institute at 16; can you tell me how you ended up applying and getting that job?
A: I was out with a girlfriend of mine checkin out Farley @ another club & when it was over George Baker gave us an invite to a late night spot so we wet and checked it out. it was during the week and had just opened. When were leaving Chez stopped us at the door a said they were hiring that coming week. We went back and was initially hired as coat check & worked my way up to lights. They never knew I was 16 til a year into it & by then i was on my way to college.
Q: What did the club mean to you at that age?
A: A job for one & it was cool and consistent place to hear the music I loved.
Q: What was magical about the club? What could current clubs learn from what happened there?
A: As with any club the sound & the people make it. It was a tight knit family of trendsetters from all around Detroit. Although very inviting to those that were not of that scene. The two completely different vibes that encompassed everything we were feeling and doing at that time. Also there was this amazing larger than life mural by Sarah Gregory inside the club that would mesmerize you, which never really has been seen outside of the MI, but don’t you worry after some investigation and persistence I have found a picture of it that will be enclosed in the MI disc booklet.
Q: Where you more into the Back To Basics or Next Generation night and why?
A: I enjoyed both night just as much, I mean you’re hearing the basics of the past & present on one night & the future on another, musical bliss.
Q: What was you relationship with Chez Damier like back then? Was he like a big brother to you?
A: Definitely he took me into the whole family of producers that were around then as he was the A&R @ KMS. Not to mention we found out we were distant cousins by way of marriage!
Q: Do you have a particularly fond memory or favorite experience that defined the Music Institute to you that you can share?
A: Probably the last night, which I happened to be back in Detroit for that weekend as I had just left for college a few weeks earlier. I can remember the club at frenzy, reporters from overseas, all the regulars, it was crazy. About 3am Derrick is about to get on and the booth is packed with socialites & Derrick yells “Everyone out!” & then calmly says “except you Kai. I need you to work the lights!”
Q: What made you decide that the Music Institute 20th Anniversary 12″ series was something you needed to do?
A: I actually made one track that reminded me of the MI & that spawned the idea. And as it was actually 20yrs later and no one had actually done anything to pay tribute I thought no better time then now.
Q: The Music Institute 12″s stand as documentation of that period in Detroit’s musical history. How did you convince people to let you release these unknown pieces and how far did you have to dig to find them?
A: It was quite natural as I have kept my relationship with all those involved over the years.
Q: Now the 1st 12″ you didn’t list any of the artists names but obviously can hear early Derrick May on track A1, who else is on there? What was your intention in not providing track names and artists?
A: Well I didn’t want people picking up the 12″ based on names and hype I wanted it to based on the music and the sound.
Q: The 2nd 12″ had names leaked to record stores (KZR – you, Theo, Mike Huckaby, & D Wynn), are those correct?
A: Ah, ah, ah, not yet the names and ID’s will be released when the CD is compiled that will contain never before seen pic of the inside of the MI and memories and quotes from all those involved & a few patrons from the day.
Q: What are you planning for the 3rd 12″ and a final compilation of the series?
A: All I can say it will be doozie!
Q: You recently had “Dirty South Dirt” come out on FXHE, what made you decide to have that track re-released and on 7″?
A: Well that was actually Omar S’ idea to re-release it. He had been playin the original & he was frequently asked what it was he was playing and after doing some research and realized that it was quite unavailable so he contacted me I had a version that was never released & so goes the story.
Q: You also have a limited edition 45 (featuring you, Larry Heard and a collaboration between KDJ and Theo) getting released. Is that going to be sold exclusively at the DEMF/Movement festival and is it related to the Music Institute releases?
A: No it isn’t part of the Institute Series just something special for the the attendees of the DEMF events to take back and say i was there. Last year it was the 12″ mix of Andres remix of Feeding from my first EP on NDATL.