By Elly Rifkin
Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Dave Powers grew up in Michigan and programmed his first drum machine at the age of 11. A self-taught jazz pianist, he played professionally by the age of fifteen, and went on to receive training in music composition and classical piano. Dave Powers is truly a jack-of-all-trades. He is a producer, composer, keyboardist, lyricist, live visual artist, web developer and DJ. In addition to releasing tracks for Punisher’s new label Hej Records and Chicago-based Klectik Records, within the last year Powers has been regularly performing all over Chicago and around the Midwest. Invigorating dance floors with a highly improvisational Live P.A., Powers creatively blends his own Detroit-influenced techno, electro and jackin’ house music—a testament to his mastery of all things funky. Armed with a laptop, MIDI controller and the occasional incorporation of his impressive skills on keyboards, Powers sets his performances apart with an ingenious command of atypical sampling, frequently layering booty house or crunk vocals over techno beats. His latest studio project is a highly anticipated forthcoming solo EP for Klectik featuring a remix from Berlin-based producer/label owner/DJ Camea.
How did you first become interested in electronic music?
At the age of 12, I was already playing around with synthesizers and drum machines. I loved the fact that I could compose entire songs on my own with just a few pieces of equipment. As a listener, my first exposure came by listening to spacey ambient music that was broadcast on a local public-radio station in mid Michigan. Then, when I moved to Kalamazoo in the mid-nineties, I started to hear proper underground techno broadcasts on Western Michigan University’s college-radio station. My interest gradually grew until finally I began attending electronic-music events and underground parties, and in 1998 I decided that I wanted to seriously pursue the creation of electronic music.
How has being a jazz pianist influenced the way you produce tracks and perform your live sets?
Although I don’t necessarily draw directly from the jazz tradition in my electronic music, my jazz experience definitely influences the melodic and harmonic choices I make in some of my electronic compositions. In performance, I try to bring a sense of playfulness to my approach that owes something to the tradition of jazz improv.
What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment in 2007?
Releasing the track “Itikiti” [for Hej Records], which was my first vinyl release, and finding out that some well-known European DJs were playing the track out.
What are your goals for 2008?
Just to continue producing, get out more records, and perform across the USA and beyond. Right now I’m very excited about my first solo vinyl EP, “Into the Twilight,” which is coming out on the label Klectik.
How would you like to see techno evolve in the coming years?
I’d like to see techno become more diverse and open to a wider sound palette, while still maintaining its edge. To some extent I believe this is a natural evolution that we already see happening.
What are some of the best gigs you’ve ever played?
Performing on piano when I was eighteen at a jazz festival and winning best jazz soloist, performing with my indie-rock band in Kalamazoo in the nineties and having jazz legend and drummer Billy Hart come check out my show and performing at the Tronic Treatment event during DEMF weekend last year in Detroit, because the party was hot and I got to play a second set and really rock things when the party was in full swing.
You are an imaginative live visual artist. What made you decide to start VJing? Do you see your video mixing ever being integrated into your music performances?
I started VJing after my friend Kero, from Windsor, showed me his VJ work, and I said to myself, “This looks fun and I know I can do it, so I’m going to make some sick glitchy visuals of my own!” I’d love to integrate video into my musical performances; right now it’s just a question of finding the time and money to make that happen.
Dave Powers performs live, joining headliners Tony Rohr and Camea, along with Chris Santiago vs Frankie Vega and Antiphase & Kiddo at Zentra, 923 West Weed, (312)787-0400, February 1, 9pm-4am. $10, free before 11pm with rsvp to majesticnightlife.com or naughtybadfun.org.