ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Detroit-based electronic dance music group Telephon9 will play a stellar concert in the depths of the Ann Arbor District Library.
Composed of Chris Call, Jair Alexander and Adari “BassMODE” Perkins, the group arranges its own music and vocals to create upbeat and punchy electronic dance and pop music.
Telephon9's music, which is full of fused beats, smooth vocals and explosive energy, has been heard at festivals around Michigan, including Dally in the Alley and Ferndale Pride. Each member comes from a music background and Telephon9’s collective passion pulses through its exciting music.
We chatted with Chris Call about Friday’s concert, his influences, and the music scene in Michigan.
A4: I was curious if you’ve performed at the library before and what encouraged you and your group to perform at the library?
Call: "Well, it’s interesting. Sean (a friend working at AADL) told me about it and I thought it was a great idea. I used to go to the library often. We used to go to the University of Michigan and me and a lot of friends would go out to Ann Arbor. And I really enjoyed hanging out at the library and reading."
"And he (Sean) told me about it, I didn’t even know there was an actual program running for musicians, so that was pretty cool. And he asked us (Telephon9) about it and we submitted, and we lucked out that we were able to play."
A4: Is there anyone that you’re hoping will come? A concert in the library is a really fun idea but it’s kind of new for the library and for Ann Arbor and Ypsi, so is there anyone you’re hoping will listen to your music or will show up to the concert?
Call: "Um, you know, that’s a very interesting question. Honestly, I would like to sing, in general, to grow. I’ll tell you, it doesn’t matter who it is, from older people to younger people. We have some people coming out. I would just love to see different types of people. A collage of different types of people would be great."
A4: Have you been in the Ann Arbor music scene long? Telephon9 does a lot of stuff in Detroit but have you done a lot within Ann Arbor as well?
Call: "Not as much as we’d like. We did a club, Club Above. We played a couple years ago. The scene, I guess, in general, I would say, is geared towards acoustic music and rock music. And that’s really a whole Michigan thing. It’s been a lot harder to get into things because we do electronic dance music, especially since there’s a lot of techno music that's in Ann Arbor as well, at Necto and different places."
"And Detroit is basically the mecca of techno but it’s really, really, I would say the word is segregated, in terms of dance music, which is strange. It’s, 'We do techno and we don’t do these styles.' And it’s weird, you know, because EDM music is the higher-selling music worldwide. Techno music doesn’t sell as much. It’s more niche-y now. So that's a strange thing. So I wish, in general, that Michigan would open up to more different styles of music because there’s tons of artists out here that aren't getting opportunities because of everyone being particular to a certain style in this region."
A4: Are there any particular influences that you or the other guys (in Telephon9) pull from or that you feel influences your music at all?
Call: "Yeah, there’s a ton. I grew up listening to Timbaland and Missy Elliot and Dr. Dre and his music.
"In terms of the production side, I used to mimic and study these guys. I play classical piano. I’ve studied it since I was 3. My mom and my grandmother got me into it so I was built on the classical side there, but I got into the production side of it around 12 years old. And I mimicked their style and everything like that. And I found out that a lot of those guys, while I was playing their music, they were sampling it. So I actually learned a heck of a lot more about how to make the music.
"Calvin Harris is a big influence. You know, I love how he structures his music. It’s very intricate. He makes things sound very simple but it’s incredibly complex. Who else is there? Zedd. I don’t know if you know Zedd. Zedd is pretty good. I just like more of the progressive house music. I feel like techno is the more crude form -- no disrespect to techno -- but it became the Chicago scene. Then it became house, then beat-house. Then it became progress house. So I’m really more into the more advanced forms of electric dance music, which have more musicality. So I like those artists more..."
A4: So, artists that are more complex but maybe don’t seem that way if you don’t really have an ear for music?
Call: "Yeah, yeah. A lot of times, your really beat artists have a disdain for pop music in general or dance music or whatever type of pop. I used to, coming from a classical background. But the complexity is in the arrangement. And, you know, there’s something to be said about tons of people liking a certain type of music. It means it’s connecting. Rembrandt the painter wouldn’t be Rembrandt if a lot of people didn’t agree that this was a great piece of art."
"So the snobbishness, and I mean no disrespect but I know a lot of the techno heads. Even in the rap community, there are some guys who battle rap and they think they are better than the guys on the radio or the women on the radio. They’re just different styles. But I think the people who are actually selling have figured out a way to connect their art to a large audience. I don't know if you could call it selling-out. That has a negative connotation. But I don’t think it’s selling out. I think you’re connecting more and I think that's what all artists should do: Look for more self-expression and connect more with the audience, just like a public speaker would."
And Call makes a good point: Public speakers reach hundreds of thousands of people, just as musicians do.
Telephon9’s concert will be held in the multipurpose room of the library’s downtown branch from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
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