Legendary producer and singular voice Aaron Carl would have had his 47th birthday last week. It’s worth listening to what he had to say – in music and in words.
Ten years on, it’s still heartbreaking that Detroit’s Aaron Carl (aka Aaron-Carl Ragland) died at the age of 37. It’s impossible to write that without a reminder that we need to take better care of our heroes, better care of one another, just better care. We can’t make life any less fragile, but maybe we can make it less careless. And obviously, in a year of loss and health risk, it’s still urgent to consider that both inside and outside the scope of the pandemic.
But whether you’re steeped in his music or just discovering it, some of that reflection is also well spent on Aaron Carl himself. He is best known in techno, but covered all bases – with his Wallshaker Music label in Detroit, his Amsterdam-based creation Cherry Juice Recordings, plus tons of work with the likes of Ovum, Underground Resistance, DJ Bone, Scan 7, Kelli Hand, Aux 88… all those cats, generally.
Now what’s funny is, where you’ll see his impact is more in Europe than in Detroit. There’s an extended video from the artist’s that includes both an intimate up-close interview and lots of music, filmed at a 2004 visit to Vienna.
Among other things, he talks about the value of coming to Europe and feeling valued – hearing their music on the radio and getting some respect. That’s something I’ve heard a lot of artists speak about pretty passionately. It’s generally out of my own hands, in that I don’t control airplane tickets and booking fees all that often. But I do hope that some of the (oft-deserved) recent criticism of Europe and its music scene can motivate the industry here to do more to continue to value Black artists and disadvantaged artists (economically or LGBTQ or otherwise) around the world. It isn’t enough just to assume local scenes will support people. They assuredly often will not – anyone who’s hung out in a lot of scenes or moved to another place for music knows all those shortcomings all too well.
But this also means we have some deep thinking to do about accommodating artists’ travel (especially when they face health challenges), about environmental efficiency, about how these scenes relate… well, about a lot of issues. Based on what I’ve seen of this virus, though, we ought to have the time to devote to serious conversation and greater depth.
Meanwhile, it’s impossible to listen to Aaron Carl’s music and not be humbled and inspired.
Actually, I think whoever I am or you are, this is a line worth considering from Aaron’s blog (as quoted on Lisbon’s SoundDesigners’ blog a few years back):
“There’s something to be said about a person who bares his soul to the world.”
That’s in his lyrics, in his vocals, in his voice. But it’s even too easy and superficial to talk about things being “soulful” – he’s someone who also did some damn superb techno production, no vocals. So I don’t mean necessarily “soul” as pastiche. Your soul might be machine, or alien, or weird, or whatever. And I hope that’s all of it what we support in each other’s music.
It’s well worth reading the full obituaries here, as they say a lot about who this person was.
Local DJ Aaron-Carl, 37, dies [Pride Source, in Michigan]
A Tribute to Aaron-Carl [SoundDesigners in Portugal – also with a comment from Jevon, Aaron’s son]
Plus check brutal tracks like Ctrl-End:
Or this wonderful set, apparently filmed as … an indie horror movie (greetings, IR night vision camera):
But let’s please not wait and not’s only look to people after they’re gone. Let’s take care of people and give them recognition now. From Detroit alone I know there are a lot of fairly unrecognized people – and for all its scene, Detroit is just one city. So do feel free to keep bugging me with your music, bugging me about people we should know – and I do hope we also do more to support new media and blogs again (imagine that) and not only social media accounts. And take care – more on that topic soon (it’s been coming up in conversation, as you might imagine).
I know, I know, I’m perpetually behind and here comes another Bandcamp Day soon… but also full support to any of you attempting journalism or at least “spitting out words.” We can do this together. (Couple more links/shout outs this week coming on that very note; stay tuned.)
Thanks to Kevin aka FBK I think posted this video reminding me and — yeah, speaking of people to take care of, recognize, and bring back to Europe. He had his birthday yesterday, so go buy his EP already!