The thought of a higher power is something that everyone can relate with. There’s a reason even the most devout of atheists can still feel a flurry of uprising energy when listening to a gospel choir. The sound, and the way the message is delivered, is something that is purely symbolic to the circumstances of the individual.
For Robert Hood, a higher power is something he relates with in its most literal sense. A born again Christian since the day his ill grandfather visited him in a dream and announced he should give his life to Christ, Hood has since linked up on a collaborative project, Floorplan, with his daughter, Lyric, to blend the worlds of faith and techno together.
We connect over a phone call. It’s 10am in Alabama, where Hood now lives after relocating from Detroit, after founding Underground Resistance alongside Mad Mike and Jeff Mills. He speaks in long, thought out sentences, continually referencing a rebirth and enforcing the importance of love during a period of some pretty turbulent Western politics.
“When we got here it was a struggle”, he says, as I question him on his move to the South. “As time went on we began to adjust. That involved the school of ministry here. I didn’t make music here for around two years as my studio was packed away in storage. I began my process of a rebirth. A transformation...”
“When I began to make music again I approached it with a different vision. I read a book by Myles Munroe called The Power of Vision. That book changed my whole perception about who I was, who God was and who I am in God and about my creative power and my purpose. That book changed my whole aesthetic, and being involved in the school of ministry, and moving to the South, furthered by education in the gospel. It removed me from the familiar surroundings of Detroit to these uncomfortable, unfamiliar surroundings and challenged us, rebuilt us, remixed us if you will.”
The mention of an unfamiliar surrounding leads wonderfully into my next question. On Friday 9 th November, Hood carried out a sermon and techno set at St Thomas Kirche, Berlin after being invited as part of Dimitri Hegemann’s ‘Happy Locals’ initiative. A church may seem like an odd place to play techno, but a glimpse at it through Hood’s eyes makes sense. “When I’m behind the turntables, I’m at a pulpit”, he said, in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m preaching a message of love – it’s just coming through electrical wires and Funktion One speakers.”
“I think it’s been years in the making”, he says, speaking of the event at St Thomas Kirche. “I was going through a process of being reborn spiritually. I could begin to see myself preaching a message in a different setting outside of the traditional church that I’m familiar with in Detroit, and here in Alabama.” “Starting with the club, I started to see that vision when I was playing tracks like ‘We Magnify His Name’ and ‘Never Grow Old’ and so on and so forth. It was a vision come true. It was a special night.”
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I’m keen to learn how the Christian community reacted to the idea, given Hood’s ties to club culture. Of course, it’s not only the Christian community that may have a problem with club culture. We only have to glimpse into history to see that dance music hasn’t exactly had an easy time of it, but, given the values held close by the Christian faith, and given Hood’s own faith, there may have been some significant backlash.
“You know what? It’s been very easy, surprisingly”, he says. “I thought it was going to be a struggle with the Christian community, being a Catholic Church and all that, but it’s been really open. One of the pastors at St. Thomas’ Church in Berlin was a former clubber. There’s a gap that’s being bridged by the spiritual and electronic music world, the techno world and the church.”
“To be honest with you, in Detroit, the music aspect of it always felt like a church. The vision and the spirit were there.”
Our attention turns to the most recent DJ Kicks instalment, which Hood has curated and mixed together in his home studio in Alabama. He gives a typically spiritual response, describing the mix as “a reflection of who I am” and “a reflection of not only love, but that ugliness that is inside of me”.
The culmination of love and ugliness conjures up images of protest. A sea of people uniting under love in retaliation to the ugliness that flourishes in the darkest of environments.
In Georgia, techno has been adopted as the sound of protest in retaliation to ridiculous drug laws and discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. Earlier in the year in Berlin, thousands of demonstrators gathered at a weekend, believed to be the largest ever clubbers protest, to oppose the far right AfD party.
Can techno still be implemented as an effective form of protest?
“Absolutely”, says Hood. “If we approach this correctly we can take a stand against hate. It reminds me of this special night in Berlin. I learned that night was also the anniversary of the Kristallnacht, The Night of the Broken Glass. We were also approaching the 70 th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We see on the far right this movement of bigotry, hate and misogyny and everything that is the antithesis to love.
“Techno artists and people of this techno culture need to show a solid front of love. I guess you could relate it to the Civil Rights Movement, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and people like Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson, made it clear that they were about love and you don’t combat hate with hate. The most powerful force in this universe is love. It’s a precious opportunity to present that same attitude and not burn down buildings but combat hate with the opposite.”
All this talk of upheaval, protest and love is enough to make me want to rise from my seat and clap, as if I’m in the crowd watching on as Hood delivers a sermon. I almost forget to ask the artist for his opinion on contemporary techno music.
With the soaring popularity of any genre comes the inevitable copy cat period where everything begins to sound the same. There are some exceptions to the techno genre, with the likes of Hodge, Skee Mask and Anastasia Kristensen illustrating how the music form can still be the sound of the future, but is it happening enough?
“Not enough, not enough”, he says as he begins a parting message. “We need to experiment otherwise we’ll start to repeat ourselves. We need to cause a commotion. We need to dig deep within ourselves, but maybe it’s not even for us to do. Maybe it’s some new energy, some new kid, sitting in his basement or attic wherever it might be in this world.”
“We need to not become comfortable with where we are. We can’t become happy campers and be satisfied with being around the mountain; we have to keep moving up the mountain.”
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Robert Hood - DJ Kicks is out now.
Words: Andrew Moore
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