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Delroy Edwards: Breathing New Life Into House Music

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Delroy Edwards.

Artbound's season seven debut episode explores Afrofuturism and contemporary Black art. Catch the premiere Tuesday, November 17 on KCET and nationwide on Monday, November 23 via Link TV.

Delroy Edwards is a Los Angeles-based musician and producer. After spending time working at A1 Records, Edwards was looking for a place to put his foot in the L.A. music scene. Along with his friends Henoch Moore and Jimmy Mock, Edwards created a completely independent record label called L.A. Club Resource. The label was formed because Edwards, Moore, and Mock wanted to not only create an L.A. house sound, but also provide a platform for people to create club records at a low cost. The label releases music from their own artists, as well as reissues music from the '90s in an effort to "give it a second life."

Edwards' music often thumps with an unceasing bass-kick, the heartbeat of the song that pumps energy into his stripped-down brand of electronic dance music. It equally channels '80s warehouse club-bangers and the angular, jagged beats of French producers like the L.A.-based, Mr. Oizo. But for Edwards, dance music isn't just a way to get down, it's a way to connect with the past, present, and future.

For the debut episode of Artbound's seventh season airing November 17, we're exploring expressions of African American art. In a recent interview for our upcoming special, Edwards spoke with filmmaker Martine Syms about Los Angeles, L.A. Club Resource, and "the newest African music."


On Los Angeles

I love L.A.; I never want to leave. L.A. has always had a great music scene. I mean people say what they want about it because of the industry that fuels it, but it definitely has an interesting impact on the people that live here, and that is something to be said. People come here to succeed and most of them don't, so it's kind of like a city with that vibe. There's a lot of people out here that came for one thing but then stayed for another. For me growing up in L.A. and being around Hollywood that was evident. There is always something going on, there is characters out. I have always been inspired by that. It is the same vibe that people hate L.A. for. To reiterate: transplants, the California aesthetic, Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard it has its own mystique -- [people] trying to make it in a place where the industry is not what it used to be. It's not the 1930s when L.A. was on the verge of being a thing. Now everything has declined. The music industry has declined. The film industry has declined. There is not much to do but make your own thing.


On house music being "the newest African music"

The first musical instrument was a drum and the first drum was found in Africa. Now, you can still have and play a drum. But, for a lot of young kids living in the city, it's cheaper to go to a pawn shop and get a drum machine. Then you can have all the drums you want. To me, that's the future. That's the next step. You know, I love, live drums, but when you don't have the capabilities or you don't live in a place that can support that that's what you do. You have to go digital.

I went to CalArts for a little bit and I was mentally not there. But the only class that I was there for was my African drum composition course. I was really invested in it because I was trained classically in jazz drums, so that was the first musical thing that I did. My uncle was a professional jazz drummer, my grandfather was a professional jazz drummer, and it's kind of in the family, as far as rhythm. But as far as that element -- house music, dance music, club music -- for me, when I first heard it, that was the first thing that triggered: "This is the newest African music." It's so tribal. The beat is almost at a heartbeat. So that's what makes people react that way, because it's primal. People react to drums and with Black/African music because the rhythms are always so strong and they're always a very big part of it. From the music of Africa and Ghana, and all those places -- which was what I was studying -- to even now. African American music, the music of people who are American but African, it's all so similar. It trips me out. The music has very much not veered far from the origins and the fact that people still lose their minds over a simple beat is why it's worth it to me.


On L.A. Club Resource

It is an independent record label that started with a couple friends of mine: Jimmy [Mock] and Henoch [Moore]. I haven't even known them that long, but we met and had a similar mindset as to what we wanted to do. We just try our best to make vinyl in these modern times. We put them out at an affordable price with good quality so that people can hear some new stuff or some old stuff. This is what we're into, so it's what we're doing. It's great tunes, good-sounding music, drum beats, interesting atmospheres. It is mostly made in someone's house, bedroom, or studio. It is never really big production stuff. Usually, it is very lo-fi and is recorded on whatever is available to the artist at the time. You can tell when listening to it that it's very personal music. By putting it out on a vinyl or a 12-inch -- which is mainly what we do for people to play in clubs -- opens it up to be something different. When most people make an LP it is designed to listened at home. We design the records to be played for big groups of people.

On making club music

It is called L.A. Club Resource because we want it to be easy to understand. We make records that are club-playable. The club aspect is the last way for kids to go crazy and have fun. The music is fueled for clubs. I am not really into clubbing or anything like that but I do like going and seeing people really energetic and going crazy. They're inspired by sounds. You can see it on their faces and it really creates this jubilee. They lose themselves in music, and that is fun to see. We're out here trying to get these people to listen. We live like this and we do this because we want to bring more of a united vibe with the people of the United States. And hopefully, every time another person comes and will say: "Woah, my city's doing something different and there are a bunch of guys in my city trying to make wild stuff."


On archiving music

We recently started putting out reissues. Most of the stuff was never issued properly in the first place, so it is unreleased. We're into a lot of different types of music and if something really connects for us then we'll try and reach out to the artist and make it happen. I have a lot of respect for people who did it before me. It's always a shame when there is something that's so great that never got received, or never got the opportunity to be a thing because of what was going on socially or politically at the time. A lot of what we have done is older, but it's more relevant now than it was then. And that's always something that most of the artists I talk with are instilling in me. They were ahead of their time and they knew it. And I love talking with these people, because that's how I learn. To hear how they did it is inspiring to me because you gotta learn from somebody, and who better than someone you respect. It's great to hear from someone who has maintained their integrity, and is not trippin' that it wasn't received that well back then. They're just grateful that people are enjoying it now enough to give it a second life. More so than making a profit, we make friends with people who are not necessarily someone we would meet in day-to-day life. We make friends with people from other places, people from other walks of life that have dealt with things that sound like a movie. Like [they were] literally caught up in the system and this was their reaction to it and it's this little piece of music. It's cool to give that a second life.

Delroy Edwards.

Related reading:

Erin Christovale: Creating Narratives With Black Experimental Film
Archivist and curator Erin Christovale addresses the artistic traditions of Black California, her "Black Radical Imagination" film project and the importance of claiming blackness today.

The Hybridized Writings of Tisa Bryant
Author Tisa Bryant's work and pedagogy center around the fluidity of time, space and the meaning of race. Noted for her book, "Unexplained Presence," Bryant can be counted amongst the thriving community of Afrofuturists in Southern California.

Nicole Miller: Mirror Images and the Power to Create Reality
As a visual artist working primarily in video, Nicole Miller often explores self-representation. She's not a documentarian, but her films sometimes reflect the lives of ordinary people.

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