Born in Chicago and raised on the west side of Detroit, Delano Smith, while not part of Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins' now-rarified 'Belleville Three', is nonetheless a true Detroit original (bar the city of his birth, of course).
He was from that same stock, though, the splinter of that generation which was inspired by the legendary Electrifying Mojo, the Michigan radio DJ who brought the sounds of both Prince, Funkadelic and Kraftwerk together, and unknowingly laid the seeds for what became techno and would over decades spread its tendrils across the globe.
But it was under the tutelage of the equally legendary WLBS DJ Ken Collier that he started DJing in the early '80s, making his break at the L'Uomo club on Friday nights, where he met the likes of May and Eddie Fowlkes on the dancefloor. He was there in 1987 when house music first gripped Detroit, and the likes of Chez Damier, Alton Miller and Jeff Mills got themselves involved.
But his college education brought him out of Detroit, and perhaps out of that initial rush of talent. It wasn't until the early '90s that he returned to the scene, at which point he embraced it. He's been a pivotal force ever since, and while Detroit's exports have left the city itself sometimes impoverished in terms of its own club scene, he says things are coming back.
“The scene is coming back at the moment in a big way,” he says. And he's someone who should know. “Now, there’s something to do every weekend. With social media the world has gotten a lot smaller and I think folks in Detroit are starting to broaden their musical tastes.
I’m starting to perform there a lot more these days. Promoters are booking more interesting DJs all the time. It seems like everyone is doing their own little part to keep it fresh. Completely different than it was some three or five years ago. I’m going to do what I can to help the scene here grow.”
As such, he reckons that the scene is in a good place. He cites the likes of South London's Wbeeza as beacons of hope. “I’ve been to his studio several times and am blown away by this young guys grooves and
unorthodox workflow,” he says. “The stuff I hear there is never released, it seems, and that’s some of his best work. If he stays consistent, he’s definitely one to look out for. “Folks are starting to realize what’s crap and what’s not, but there’s always a few clubs and scenes where it’s not about the music, but the spectacle.
With the resurgence of vinyl, analog gear and more live performances, I think producers will soon take the music in very new and interesting directions.” His most recent work has found him working closely with Berlin's Sushitech, established in 2005 by Yossi Amoyal.
“I met Yossi through an email or Myspace," he says. "We talked about a remix for his label at first but after we met at Panorama Bar after one of my DJ sets there our relationship took a different turn.
I eventually stayed at his flat during one of my early euro tours and we just talked about the scene in Europe and music the entire time. He shed light on a lot of music and a scene that I was not familiar with.
"I would say because of him, I’m a very different DJ and producer than I was, say, 10 or 15 years ago. He spoke of building something that made sense and that was family oriented. And now Sushitech is just that. Mostly all the producers on the label know and respect each other a great deal and we all keep in touch in one way or another. I appreciated his vision and respected his opinions about my music and we have grown together I think. Yossi is one of my best friends. Family, really.”
His own label, Mixmode, has been running since the early 2000s, and there's some releases planned soon, one likely a collaboration between Smith and French producer Brawther. “And of course I’ll be dropping a piece on the imprint very soon,” he says. Just as long as it is very soon.