Artist To Artist: Amp Fiddler & Niko Marks
What defines a supergroup? A meeting of minds? A meeting of fame? A meeting of creativity? There is often debate as to the merits of such projects, however, the announcement of BXT left us wholeheartedly intrigued and inspired.
The newly formed collaborative project sees the creative input of three of the most influential minds in electronic music. Eddie Folwkes, Amp Fiddler & Niko Marks have combined forces to create a new EP packed with soul and heart. The three artists were each respectively born and raised in Detroit and have been essential in the city's creative output across decades. From techno to funk, soul to hip hop, jazz to house the collective reach of the threesome is inspired and vast.
Ahead of the release of the debut EP from BXT we spoke with two of the group, Niko Marks & Amp Fiddler, who interview one another below…
AMP FIDDLER asks NIKO MARKS
How did you start in music?
My first interest in this music came as I discovered its freedom of expression. It provided me an opportunity to explore my creativity.
You have a lot of history with the Detroit music scene…being one of the original contributor and working with many of the now considered greats, you’ve always appeared to remain in the shadows, why is that?
As for me being in the shadows…it had always been in part by choice and out of respect for whom I was working with at the time. However, it has also been due to certain individuals who felt the need to suppress my contributions to this genre of music in order that they might appear more skilled than they actually were. I was never troubled being in the shadows as it afforded me so much opportunity to study and learn from some of the greatest minds in the art of electronic music.
Do you have a preferred method of performing?
I prefer performing live. I’ve dealt with a lot of musicians and having that interaction on stage is a bit more exciting and I’m able to engage more with the audience when it’s that way. And at the same token, I also like when I play solo when it’s more like a DJ set…bringing out a couple of keyboards to add a bit of flare.
Besides being a producer, you are a keyboardist and a singer. Do you feel more comfortable in one over the other?
After having both roles a part of me for so long, I’ve become equally comfortable.
What are some common themes you incorporate throughout your work?
The traditional composition is used as a starter to get me going then I’ll take aspects from that song or composition and chop it up. Different live instruments are added, like live drums and live piano.
Forty-four albums that is an amazing work pace…tell us more about that fact?
With so many ideas in my head, I would probably go insane if I didn’t allow them to funnel through. Therefore, I developed a discipline long ago to create a piece of music out of every idea that would not leave my mind alone. The result of that dynamic is 44+ albums. The plus represents the tracks that haven’t been released.
With electronic music being more open, how would you compare dance music culture to other music cultures?
Other styles of music can be a bit restricted in the way that they have to be a certain way for the radio; it’s gotta be a certain way for people to relate too with a traditional composition setup like, intro/verse/chorus, etc.
Whereas in dance, it’s more free. You may not get into the chorus until midpoint of the song – if there is a chorus at all. Sometimes, the vocals are so broken that it’s just vocal samples. Musically, aside from vocals, it’s open to merging both acoustic and electronic instruments. You can get really creative especially now with the some of the gear that’s out. You can incorporate samples in a way you couldn’t before. Of course, you still have to get them cleared, but that’s what to me sets electronic music aside from other music.
What artists/musicians do you listen to for inspiration?
I have always listened to various artists; such as, George Clinton & Parliament, Prince, Stevie Wonder, You, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, Inner City, Joe Sample, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Bernie Worrell…and many, many more.
Your new album entitled, “Day of Knowing” contains songs that are quite different from each other. There's deep house, techno, house vocal, jazz. Was the goal to showcase all your different sounds?
After listening to all of the tracks that were completed, it was time to choose only the tracks that assisted in defining the meaning, “Day of Knowing”. Day of Knowing is when I began to focus on the fact that my music over the years had been influenced by a plethora of genres. The chosen tracks seem to represent the influence of those genres, especially jazz. The intention was not to simply showcase sound but more to showcase the merging of my influential music styles.
What would you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far?
My biggest achievement thus far has yet to be reached; always going forward. I live from moment to moment, because every moment can bring you something greater than the last. If I said I had a biggest achievement, it’s like saying, “Okay, I’m done.”
NIKO MARKS asks AMP FIDDLER
When did you get into music?
Around the age of 17, in high school.
What is your musical background?
I am a piano player first. Studied music at Wayne State University and Oakland University in jazz and classical for two years after graduating high school and went to tour with Detroit’s national and international groups Enchantment, RJ’S Latest Arrival, Was Not Was and PFunk.
Tell about your contribution to the Detroit music scene
In my home studio, I helped the rap group Slum Village become famous and trained their producer James J-Dilla Yancey to become famous and prosperous, which put Detroit Hip Hop on the global map.
You have a pretty extensive catalog. What are some of your favourite tracks?
“I Believe In You” and “If I Don’t”
How did you come to play with George Clinton?
I was making a demo for my girlfriend and she played it for George Clinton and he asked for me to come to the United Sound Studios. We sat and listened to more music and he invited me to hang out when they had sessions.
My first big session was for "Do Fries Go with That Shake” in which my close friend Andre Fox called me for, along with Steve Washington of Slave.
How would you describe the BXT project?
Futuristic, upbeat and experimental.
Do you plan to play the Movement Festival this year?
We will be playing Movement Electronic Music Festival this year at the (xxx) stage. It’s gonna be fun!
Will you be performing with BXT?
Who are some of your influences?
Bernie Worrell, Junie Morrison, Bob Marley, George Clinton, Horace Silver, Mcoy Tyner, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock Leon Ware, Jimi Hendrix, Fela Kuti.
What else can we expect from you throughout the year 2017?
New Records from mahogany Music, BXT and Will Sessions.
What are near-future plans for supergroup – BXT?
As you know, our release is in early March 2017 – debuting our first 12 inch entitled, “Rising” and our performance at Movement 2017, Detroit MI USA.
Buy the release HERE.