“Good music comes from a neighborhood”: Eddie Fowlkes in Conversation with MUGA

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Written by MUGA

Eddie Fowlkes was bestowed the title of the Godfather of Techno Soul, inspired by his love of soul and house music from Chicago.

Under his own name and a myriad of monikers and groups, including Eddie “Flashing” Fowlkes, Peaches & Cream and City Boy Players, the Detroit-born producer and DJ can count a lengthy string of soulful electronic releases on acclaimed labels like Back To Basics, Peacefrog and Tresor, who he’s enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with.

He also helms several of his own imprints – City Boy, Detroit Wax and Nouveau Riche Entertainment – which are a space for his own productions as well as releases from artists like Black Extraterrestial, Jevantte, Niko Marks, Norm Talley and more.


His latest release unearths an old cut from 1993. ‘Deepcover’ previously featured on Atkins’ Magic Tracks CD compilation and is now being shared with the world again via Belgian imprint MUGAalongside a fresh remix by Casa Voyager’s Driss Bennis. Written during a time when Eddie was living in the same building as Mike Banks, Juan Atkins and Rob Hood, the tripped-out track was made without a sampler and sees him colouring outside of the lines, but still retaining that signature soulfulness that characterises his music.

In the below conversation, Brussels-based MUGA label heads Jakob and Dana sit down with one of Detroit’s original techno music innovators, to talk about life and work balance, his hot-takes from a long and storied career in the industry alongside some nuggets of wisdom for the next generation of young DJs.

MUGA: One of our favorite things you said in an interview was that “whoever tells you techno doesn’t have vocals, they don’t know what they’re talking about.” Could you tell us a bit more about that, and how you would define techno music today?

Eddie: Of course techno music has vocals. We were inspired by soul music, gospel music, and blues music first and foremost. Even Kraftwerk has vocals. So yes, whenever I hear something about techno music not having vocals I have to laugh. Techno is not soulless!

MUGA: For you it’s about knowing your music history and creating something deep and musical. Can you tell us how you became the “Godfather of Techno Soul”?

Eddie: Yes. It has to have some depth, people need to try and make music that is everlasting. Most of the shit coming out now is not everlasting. I can’t even remember the last time a real hit came out. Actually yes – it was that Dennis Ferrer track “Hey, Hey” on Objektivity. Remember? That was the last hit that hit the whole world. That record came straight out of New York. Most tracks nowadays are just loops with strings – no depth. That is not everlasting and music should be everlasting.

What I created comes straight from the ‘hood. The kids in Chicago started house music. In Detroit I was listening to old disco records, jazz, and some synth stuff coming out of Germany, and then I heard what they were doing in Chicago so I combined all of that to make Techno Soul music.

MUGA: In another interview with XLR8R, you are quoted saying “They don’t understand that music is a vibration in your body. It’ll make you dance. It’s a spiritual thing.” For us, Deepcover definitely carries a lot of emotion. What advice would you give on how to guard and connect with the spiritual and emotional aspects of music and the reality of being financially viable?

Eddie: When you’re making music, you have to believe it will cut through. If you don’t, your music is going to fall flat. If you make hot sh*t, it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do [financially], because it’s touching people’s spirits. 

I’m a true believer that music touches your soul. When I hear bad music or soulless music, I don’t want that near my spirit, or my body. You know when you’re out and you don’t hear music on the train, or on the streets, and nobody is talking to each other? Then you try to speak to someone, and they look at you like you’re crazy? That’s soulless. That shit scares me. I try to play music that touches people’s souls, that brings them out of that state. Then as a producer I transfer that into the studio. I want people to feel that kindness in the music, that warmth. None of that start-a-set-at-138-BPM business. That’s soulless.

MUGA: How have you combined music with having a family?

On both sides of the spectrum, it’s true that you get what you put in. Nowadays, if you’re on the road, at least you can work a track on a laptop and then finish it off when you get back home. The truth is, most people in this business don’t have a family. You can’t really have a life outside of music. At a certain point, I decided to sacrifice some of my music time in order to focus on family. I was confident in my ability to make music so I felt I could step away for a while and do that. You have to put aside 12 years to get your kids grown and able to do what they want to do. Then you get back into what you want to do. It’s worth the sacrifice.

MUGA: If you could only DJ or produce for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Eddie: DJing. First and foremost I am a DJ. All of us. We created a whole genre just to have some music to DJ that the next DJ didn’t have, and there’s so much good music that needs to be played.

But there are lots of people claiming to be DJs when really you need at least 15-20 years behind a turntable to be a DJ. The rest are just music selectors. DJing is about taking people on a journey. Carl Cox can do it, he can take you there. Kevin Saunderson can, Derrick May, Farley Jackmaster Funk from Chicago, Marshall Jefferson and of course me!! All these cats can take you on a journey, and you have to be able to take people on many different kinds of journeys.

I’m just a DJ who decided to make music. 

MUGA: Can you tell us about the process behind making the Deepcover track?

Eddie: I can tell you that I didn’t have a sampler. I was just playing notes and tweaking sounds, doing some late night shit. When I made Deepcover, Mike Banks, Juan Atkins, Rob Hood, and I were all living in the same building. It was all kinds of music playing all night, at all hours. It was some crazy shit! I don’t do drugs, and I didn’t do drugs then, but it was all very trippy. No samplers. If you take away the sampler you’ll hear some good music [laughs]. You have to be able to play. I just wanted to create something different. I wanted to create my own style, not like what the others were doing. Nothing with a straight 4/4 kick. I hoped that it would cut through the noise.


MUGA: Do you remember why Juan selected it for the Magic Tracks compilation?

Eddie: Juan was also making some tweaky – I’ll call it tweaky – stuff at that time. So when he heard Deepcover, it was clear we were evolving in a similar direction, and it was important that we were bringing out a different sound than the rest of the world – that was very crucial to us at that time. Other than that, I don’t know why Juan selected it, to be honest with you [laughs]!

MUGA: Has anything in terms of gear and production techniques changed for you over recent years? 

Eddie: I would say time stretching. That has been the single biggest change in music technology, the manipulation of music with time stretching.

MUGA: What’s the latest with your labels Detroit Wax and City Boy?

Eddie: City Boy is no longer. Initially, City Boy came to me in a dream in 1989. It ran its course and now I am more focused on Detroit Wax. There is Detroit Wax vinyl and Detroit Wax digital. I decided to do digital because I had a conversation with Kenny Dixon (Moodymann), and he said he wants to serve everybody. So yeah, I want to serve everybody with Detroit Wax Digital. I told him, “Alright dog, I’m not too old to learn.” You have to change with the times. 

MUGA: We agree, it’s good to serve everybody. There are pros and cons to both sides. We think vinyl can be more fun and challenging, but for example it’s bad for the environment.

Eddie: Yeah. I might stop making vinyl because of that.

MUGA: We heard that you’re busy making music for films. Any recent favorites?

Eddie: I worked on some film projects with Spike Lee and the Brooklyn Library. I’m trying to be more like Quincy Jones, diversifying my talents and projects. I want to be well-rounded. Quincy broke walls and was the king of ‘crossovers’. Quincy was the baddest m*therf*cker to ever live.

MUGA: Where do you keep finding inspiration for dance floor music? Do you like to go out and enjoy or do you prefer to stay behind the booth?

Eddie: I just love to dance. I’ve loved to dance since I was a kid. I can’t dance like I used to but I still go check DJs when they come into town. I also like to listen to different podcasts and radio shows from different countries. I love Deepvibes radio – that’s a well-curated online radio that I support. They go from techno to house to a little bit of jazz. They play everything, and it’s all consistent with dance music. 


MUGA: Speaking of collaboration, how do you balance being self-sufficient and making your own sound with collaboration? 

Eddie: COVID actually changed my perspective on sampling and collaboration. Sampling records became a source of collaboration when we could no longer collaborate in person. The horn from this, the drums from that. These samples became my collaborators, even though I’m from the school of playing your own shit. First, play your own stuff, then find some real people to collaborate with. Only if you can’t do that should you start sampling. Also you have to give proper credit to whatever you sampled. When you’re putting in hours and hours into music and then somebody just comes and snatches it and reuses it without credit, it’s so fucked up.

Recently I collaborated with Jeff Mills and Jessica Care Moore as The Beneficiaries. That woman is so special. She is a genius, she’s not egotistical at all, even her footsteps are meaningful. It was very powerful to be in her presence.

MUGA: Are there any topics that you wish you could talk about more or questions that you wished people asked you more?

Eddie: Yes. It’s DJing. DJing is my bread and butter. I want to share that a bit more.

MUGA: We have to get you to Brussels! That would be so cool.

Eddie: Does Brussels have a cool scene? I don’t know much about Brussels.

MUGA: Yes! Brussels has a very tight knit, supportive community. It’s always been an underdog to Berlin, London, Paris… but the level of talent is so high. It’s a very special place to be. Last question – any advice for young DJs and producers? 

Eddie: I recommend taking time on a Sunday, reading up on some contract law and some textbooks about the music business. I don’t know if it’s still true today but you should be able to have one hit record and be able to live for the rest of your life. We were making hits that changed the world. No one seems to be doing that anymore. Also, I know maybe only 10 people who made hit records by themselves. It’s all about collaboration.

Finally, remember that good music comes from a neighborhood, not from a big festival.

Deepcover is out now via MUGA.