Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alan Oldham Gets Beyond Djax

Back in the mid 1990s in Melbourne when I used to buy most of my vinyl from my mates at Octave Records, the stand-out 12-inches on the shelves were the ones by Djax-Up-Beats, the Dutch label run by Saskia Slegers (aka Miss Djax).

A stand-out not just because the music sitting pretty on this wax – sourced from the likes of Mike Dearborn, Steve Poindexter, K. Alexi Shelby, Claude Young and Thomas Heckmann – was sensational, but because the actual record labels on each one of those 12-inch releases were even more gorgeous. Turns out they’d been lovingly designed by another essential musical contributor from Detroit, Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000), and he even took up the time to draw up a few thumping action-based comics for Djax as well.

Seventeen years on Oldham is still making essential tunes and in fact has a brand new LP on the cards. Funnily enough it’s called the Beyond Djax LP, it will be coming out in March 2011, and in the promo notes it’s listed as the companion CD to last year’s sold-out art show in Amsterdam.

“I had a gallery show late last year, at a venue in Amsterdam that also sells limited-edition toys,” Oldham related in an email interview I did with him this week.

“I was in the middle of a tour, so I was present for the opening, and it was attended by such friends as Dave Clarke, DJ Bone, DJ Kammy, Ritzi Lee, Shinedoe and other friends and art lovers who came in from Dresden, Paris, Berlin, and London. It was a very successful show. Ben Sims bought two pieces right off the wall! I was in A’dam for a week, so I painted new pieces to replace the ones that sold, and they sold too. There were only two or three pieces left over at the end of the show, which lasted a month. The CD digipak will contain pics from the opening! There’s also a hardcover art book to go with the event.”

On the new LP, ‘Theme From Vectra’ is cited as a score for Oldham’s comic-book, Vectra: Black Girl From The Future. That comic, like much of the man’s artwork, has a clear nod in the direction of Japanese manga.

“Well I was into anime and manga years ago, before they were so available in the United States,” he says.

“Although we had Speed Racer when I was a kid, anime didn’t really make an impact with me stylistically until Macross came to America as Robotech. Then, I met a girl in college named Reiko, who gave me a few original manga from Japan, which I still have in storage. That really opened my eyes. I then changed my superhero-type art style to a manga-inspired one, and created Johnny Gambit. It was one of the first American manga published in the USA, along with Reggie Byers’ Shuriken and Doug Rice’s Dynamo Joe. Wow, that was long time ago – before I got into electronic music.”

The track ‘Theme From Vectra’ is futurist electronic tech stuff that somehow captures the essence of the speed, style and colour of the comic.

You can read more of this interview over on a new blog thingy I'm doing for the Elektrax label on electronic music; it's called Techno How? ...get it? ;)

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