Jay Denham

jay denham

Jay Denham is the second generation Detroit techno pioneer – musician, dj artist and producer from Kalamazoo, Michigan – city right in the middle between Chicago and Detroit. His style is a unique blend of these two worlds – Chicago house and Detroit techno, with a Kalamazoo touch. He stays true to the underground, makes the music for the art of it and always remembers where he comes from.

Denham’s solid musical background takes its roots in 70s, when little Jay opted for a four-string bass guitar over a six-string electric. By age 17, Jay has been playing high school party gigs with his rock
band. During these teenage years, he developed a taste for punk and New Wave, though still influenced by funk acts like Rick James, Parliament, Cameo, Zapp, and later Prince and The Time, as well as by electronic music of Kraftwerk.

With the arrival of the 80s, Jay Denham moved on to the early Detroit techno and further on to the Chicago house, when he came across “Chicago Hot Mix” tapes and the revolutionary Farley Jackmaster Funk and the deep Frankie Knuckles. Immediately blown away by these new sounds, Jay started his pilgrimages to the Cradle of House music in search of records, religiously tape-recording the local radio shows he couldn’t receive in his home town, Kalamazoo. A chance encounter with the legendary early
House producer, Chip E inspired Jay to try to make this new music himself, and eventually to create his own sound.

The next significant encounter marked another step in Jay’s career. At the Western Michigan University he befriended a certain Anthony Shakir, aka DJ Shake, who now runs Frictional records. Shake had a
keyboard, Jay had a drum machine and it wasn’t long before they were jamming together. Finally a breakthrough – full dedication, hard working and sacrifices paid off – Denham’s early works captured the attention of Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson who released Jay’s first EPs on Transmat off-shoot label Fragile and KMS label. The track “Rituals”, which Jay released as Vice on the Techno 2 Next Generation album, was quickly followed by the classic track “In’Sync”, released as Fade II Black.

The fruitful collaboration came to an end when growing stack of tracks eventually hit against the labels’ limitations on releasing and Jay decided to go back home to his roots in Kalamazoo, where he worked with local producers and DJs, and continued to develop his unique sound.

In 1992, Jay Denham struck out on his own. He founded Black Nation Records and launched it with his seminal “Birth of a Nation” E.P. (allusion to the infamous and subversive Ku Klux Klan propaganda film of the same title), featuring tracks by Denham himself and as well as his colleagues – Fanon Flowers, Tony Ollie, Brett Dancer, and Chance McDermott. Black Nation’s philosophy: driving underground grooves for the funk-conscious record buyer. With the success of Black Nation relentless releases of pure Detroit techno, Jay was able to refine his sound to what he describes as the funky techno sound.

After a while Jay decided to set up shop in Munich, Germany, where he worked with a local label Disko B. The label gave him carte blanche to express his creativity beyond the sound he was known for at the time, which gave the world the classic album “Synthesized Society”, #2 album of the year 2000 according to Groove magazine. Moving on to the European scene Jay expanded his style as a DJ
performer. Famous for his dj skills, he conquered the fans with his brand of hot mixing, rocking 3 decks back in the day.

Over 30 years of career, Jay has recorded under aliases Blackman, Constant Ritual, Defenders Of The Ghetto, Fade To Black, Formula, The, Psychic Warfare, Que Sera Sera, and Vice, and has releases on
numerous labels such as – Transmat, Fragile Records, KMS records, 430 West, Cosmic Records, Disko B, Federation Of Drums, Virgin 10 Records, Tresor Records, Cosmic recordings, Drought records,
Parasound records, Sessions recordings, and more recently MK recordings, Technorama and Dany Rodriguez’s Recode Musik, as well as on his own labels – Black Nation Records, Sector 616 and Slavery 2000.

He has performed at festivals and clubs around the world – Movement Detroit, DEMF, Awakenings NL, Time Wrap, Sonar festivals, as well as at Tresor Berlin, Rote Sonne Munich, Lost London, Nature
one, Fuse, among many others.

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