As a third wave musician with a long musical background, it is safe to say that Jay Denham has been around the block a few times.
At fifteen, he picked up his first instrument, a bass guitar, and by the time he was seventeen was playing in a rock band for friends at parties. He developed a taste for punk and what Americans refer to as "new wave", moving on to the funk of Parliament, Cameo and The Time as the eighties arrived.
In 1982 he came across a Chicago Hot Mix tape, which opened his ears to the then revolutionary sounds of Farley Jackmaster Funk and Frankie Knuckles. Immediately blown away by this new sound, he took to making expeditions to the Windy City to find records and tape the local radio shows he couldn't pick up in his home town of Kalamazoo. A chance meeting in Chicago with early house producer Chip E implanted the idea that he might actually try making this music himself….
The next step came for Jay when he started Michigan State University and met up with Shake aka Anthony Shakir, who now runs Frictional records with Claude Young. Shakir had a keyboard, Jay had a drum machine and it wasn't long before they were jamming together on early tracks. When Shakir got to know Derrick May he passed him some of Jays' tapes. Mays' favourable reaction led to Jay moving to detroit after college to work for the nascent Transmat label, and releasing his first records: "Ritual" as Vice on the Techno 2 LP and then the mythic 12" "Insync" as Fade II Black.
Frustrated by Transmats' low output, Jay recorded for Kevin Saundersons' KMS and the Burden Brothers' 430 West, before a combination of hard times and family commitments led to a return to his home town of Kalamazoo in 1992, for what he himself describes as a period of self retirement from the business.
But thats only half the story. Back in Kalamazoo, Jay continued to quietly developed his sound, working with local producers and dj's, and amassing a stack of tracks, despite the fact that he had no-one to release them. Late in 1994 jay took the plunge himself and started his own label, Black Nation, beginning with the "Birth of a Nation" EP (also the title of an infamous early 20th Century Ku Klux Klan propaganda movie, fact fans) whjich features tracks by himself and friends like Fanon Flowers, Tony Ollie, Brett Dance and Chance McDermott and a philospohy to produce "funky, rhythmic, driving underground grooves for the funk conscious record buyer". Black Nation Records has gone on to become one of the best and most consistent underground labels around.
It would have been all too easy for Jay Denham to have sunk without trace, just like many of the early chicago producers he was inspired by. Or to have fallen into the rut of churning out endless formula Detroit tackle, which it might be argued that many of the Motor Citys' original musicians are guilty of. But he didn't. Jay Denham is back with a new attitude and some of the freshest, fiercest grooves around.
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