A talk with Motor City Drum Ensemble: how it all started

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Danilo Plessow, better known as Motor City Drum Ensemble, performed at 360 Degrees in BIRD two weeks ago in R0tterdam. We had the opportunity, before his gig, to talk with him about how it all began. This is what he had to share with us.

Making music started when I was eleven years old and got a sequencer from my uncle as a birthday present. Starting from an early age, I was really interested in hip-hop, jazz, and the world of sampling. The obsession for recording samples and making beats reached its peak when my first EP got released.

I did this together with a friend of mine under the ‘Inverse Cinematics’ moniker. The record label that released our EP, invited us to the release party in a club in Stuttgart. I was only sixteen years old at that time and I was still living with my parents in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. I was so hyped, due to the fact that it was not only my first release party, it was also the first time ever that I’ve actually entered a club. It was a pretty bizarre moment. It was so mind-blowing to hear my own track in that club and to see people dancing on similar music. That night had so much impact on me, that I immediately bought two turntables and started to focus on DJ-ing as well.

This all happened when I was still in high school. I eventually became a resident DJ in Stuttgart and had some occasional gigs in England, Croatia and Slovenia. After the weekends, I often came to school, completely exhausted, which didn’t go unnoticed by my school teachers. They all thought that I was severely on drugs, but they were even more surprised when I explained to them that I just came back from a gig in Slovenia.

When I graduated from high school, I decided that going to college or university wasn’t the right path for me. After all, I was always into music since I was a kid, so I decided that this was the thing I wanted to keep on doing. However, before I got known as ‘Motor City Drum Ensemble‘, I fell into a certain dip. The record industry was starting to collapse and the whole movement basically died. As a result, it all came to a point where my own records didn’t sell anymore and I hardly got any new gigs. For a moment, I almost considered to go to school again and study for some kind of bullshit media thing or whatever.

Everything started to turn around in my favor when I released my first Raw Cuts in 2008. The Raw Cuts series got picked up really well by other DJ’s around the globe and it started to become a huge international success. Suddenly the gigs started coming again and I didn’t only perform in the neighbour countries like I used to, but literally all over the world. A couple of years have passed since then and I’m still trying to figure out how it all happened.

What people can expect from me is as soon as I feel like I’m home, I can truly do the thing I love to do. BIRD, for example, is the kind of venue where I have this kind of feeling with. That means that I like to keep my music selection broad and like to make transitions between disco, house, acid, techno, soul, and jazz. It’s not that I’m always trying to keep it as broad as possible, but I simply like the diversity. As long as it makes the people happy, I guess.

This is a result of the period when I played as a resident DJ in Stuttgart. I often played in bars and lounge cafés and it was my main purpose to provide background music. Basically I didn’t play for a dancing crowd, but for people who were having drinks and conversations with business partners or whatever. I had to make sure that I used a broad music selection. Even though I was more or less forced to do so, I absolutely loved it and that’s why I still make use of this style after all this time.

How great this DJ lifestyle might look like for some people, it’s still a love-and-hate thing for me. Every weekend I have at least one moment where I’m wondering “What the fuck am I doing?” It’s mainly because of those bizarre transitions between specific moments that I face every weekend. One moment I’m in the most social place in the world, surrounded by happy and joyful people, where in the next moment I’m sitting all alone and depressed in my hotel room. If you experience those kind of transitions every weekend, year after year, it slowly fucks you up.

Travelling to gigs also consumes a lot of time and the waiting, oh, the fucking waiting.. Those things makes it really hard to maintain the joy of all of this. That’s why I’m tended to take a few steps back every once in a while and take it more slowly.

Don’t get me wrong though. As soon as I’m starting to hit the decks, I feel like I’m the happiest person on earth, which makes me realize why I am doing this in the first place. That’s where the love comes in.

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Menno Klinkenberg Jr.

Menno was born on the 5th of March 1989 in Rotterdam's former 'Van Dam' hospital. Raised in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Düsseldorf, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Vienna, Antwerp, Thionville, Budapest and Bratislava. Despite having no interest in taking over his father's position as a captain of an inland shipping vessel, he still holds his former nomadic lifestyle dear.Menno started writing at a fairly young age and wrote for music platforms, concert halls and jazz clubs during his years in college and university. Although he's still struggling to become a successful writer in the creative industry, he always invests time and energy in the thing he loves most: music.