The nation might’ve shut down for the much of the pandemic, but Detroit’s DJ Godfather has kept the beats coming.
After surviving a bout with COVID himself, the ghettotech pioneer dropped Electro Beats for Freaks on his Databass label – and it’s a 44-track monster full of all the high-BPM nastiness that’s made the Motor City genre so infamous. Booty-shaking trash talk from MCs like Parkhouse and Goodmoney G100 color a variety of saucy cuts more suited for strip joints than, say, terrestrial radio. But if you’re looking for a frenetic instrumental, look no further than sledgehammer single, “Godzilla 2020.” Available as a continuous-mix album or via separate EP releases as separate tracks, Electro Beats for Freaks offers quite a ride.
And it must be said that if you’ve never see DJ Godfather throw down on the ones and twos, you’re really missing something. Each year, his set at the Movement festival in Detroit’s Hart Plaza is a must-see event – not just for the stage show, but for the manic footwork in the audience. It’s Detroit through and through, and it’s one helluva party. We recently caught up with DJ Godfather (aka Brian Jeffries) to talk album, pandemic and ghettotech.
DJ Times: How would you describe ghettotech to someone who’s never heard it?
Godfather: To me, it’s not just a genre, it’s a culture. It’s the only type of dance music I know that requires a DJ to have some kind of beat-juggling and scratch skills while keeping the dancefloor. It’s also one of the only genres that has a dedicated dance to it called The Jit. The ghettotech sound itself is a blend of a few genres such as Detroit techno, Miami bass, electro, funk and more.
DJ Times: When you began your musical journey, what were your principal inspirations?
Godfather: At first, I just wanted to be a hip-hop DJ in a group so bad. Anytime I would watch MTV in the late ’80s, I was always focused on the DJ such as Jam Master Jay, Jazzy Jeff, and others. Then I saw some DMC battles and I got hooked immediately. At the same time, I always loved early electro and Detroit techno. I wanted to take what a battle DJ can do and apply it to dance music to do something that no one else was doing that I knew of at the time.
DJ Times: Why an album now? What was your approach, in terms of theme or inspiration?
Godfather: The album is a continuous mix. You can skip through the tracks, but the beginning and end of the tracks are blended into each other. I wanted to create an album that will put all attention on me. I don’t want other DJs playing the tracks yet, until the album is out there and the masses that like this music know I made these tracks. That’s why I made it continuous. I’ll be releasing seven EPs from the album with the full-length tracks, instrumentals, a cappellas, dub versions, etc., after the album is already out – for the DJs. It’s crazy, but you can’t expect people to know and follow every single project you do, especially with so much easy access to tons of new tracks daily. This is my way to stand out from everyone… to release an almost two-hour-long album with nothing but my production. I think if anyone did that it’s impressive and it would stand out.
DJ Times: What’s your typical DJ set-up?
Godfather: I’m always on two Technics 1210 turntables and a Pioneer DJM-S9 battle mixer. I will always be a turntable DJ. You can only use tables to rock a proper ghetto-tech set anyway!
DJ Times: What’s your studio set-up?
Godfather: Oh man, I’m a gear junkie. I use Ableton Live for my DAW. I just got a couple new plug-ins to try out that I really love. One is a reverb/delay plug-in called Drip by Kyle Beats. It has some effects on there I really like and they sound a little different than a normal reverb. The other is OVox [Vocal Resynthesis] by Waves. You can come up with endless vocal effects on it.
DJ Times: Hardware? Anything vintage?
Godfather: For vintage and outboard gear, I just got six semi-modules from Behringer – I got the CAT, WASP, MODEL D, PRO-1, NEUTRON and the K-2. These semi-modules are so cheap and sound identical to the original synths, in my opinion. Plus, they are all USB, which is great because they pop right up on a MIDI track in Ableton. I used to have 18 vintage synths including a [Sequential Circuits] Pro One and a Minimoog. I got rid of all of them and bought all new stuff, just to come up with different ideas. I started to miss them a little, so I bought these semi-modules to twist some knobs again.
DJ Times: Any “secret studio weapons” that help create your favorite sounds?
Godfather: Hmm, I like to sample some drum sounds off vinyl and stack them with sounds from my Maschine by Native Instruments. It makes the drums sound dirtier and warmer. I’ll run the samples though my Avalon VT-737 tube compressor to make it sound even warmer – don’t tell anyone [laughs]. A recent production I did this on would be my “Godzilla 2020” remix. It’s off the new album and already released as a single.
DJ Times: What’s next for you?
Godfather: Well, I’m already almost done with another album of 45 tracks to follow up this one. I’m also doing some projects with Gettoblaster and an electro series called “Street Beatz” with Keith Tucker – aka DJ K1. I have a few other projects as well, but I can’t let the cat out of the bag yet. Sorry!
DJ Times: What’s it been like where you’re living?
Godfather: Detroit is staying strong. Yeah, we were locked down for a few months. During that time, I got COVID, and had to quarantine as well – but I’m good now. All I did was work in the studio, hung out at my pool and learned how to play “Call of Duty” with my boys. [laughs]
DJ Times: Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work?
Godfather: Oh yeah, lost out on a lot. I own a couple of nightclubs in downtown Detroit and we had to shut one down temporarily and the other was left with a strict-and-limited capacity. It pretty much wasn’t worth being open, but we got through it. I also lost out on a bunch of international gigs in Italy, Belgium, Ireland, the Lente Kabinet festival in Holland, and a few more. Nightmare!
DJ Times: Seems like you managed to stay busy, right? Did you learn anything during this period?
Godfather: Since March, I’ve produced, mixed and mastered almost 100 tracks that I will be releasing on Databass Records, Casa Voyager and Lapsus Music. I only learned a couple things: One, how to play “Call of Duty,” and two, that I’m a happier person living in the studio and ignoring the world!
DJ Times: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period?
Godfather: That I actually like the downtime. I’m 10-times more productive in the studio with nothing else on my mind. I love it!
DJ Times: What have you done anything online during this period?
Godfather: I’ve done multiple online streams from my Facebook page… every Wednesday night. I called it: “We Had to Sterilize the Population Series.” It did great – every video did over 100,000 impressions with zero promo. I also did a live-stream for Movement Festival/Beatport that did really well, along with some other streams for the City of Detroit and more. But I got sick of doing them after a while. Everybody was doing one and, to me, they didn’t seem special anymore because it was flooded.
DJ Times: Any theme tunes recommended for the moment?
Godfather: Puff Daddy & The Family’s “Victory” – we will beat this!
DJ Times: Any advice on getting through this situation?
Godfather: Engulf yourself in something you love. You won’t think about all the crap going on in the world if you truly do. It really worked for me and, in a strange way, I’ve never been happier! I’m beyond excited to unleash all of these tracks I have.
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