MR & MS: The Road 2 Detroit: An Interview with Mike Servito and Maxime Robillard
Maxime Robillard and Mike Servito ask each other the realness ahead of their party together at Black Flamingo for our 'Road 2 Detroit' series with Movement Festival.
MS: We didn't know each other at the time, but what were your first impressions of Movement Detroit?
MR: You made a huge impression on me with your infamous No Way Back set in 2014! I started going in 2013 with Novation, working the synth demo room at Hart Plaza during Movement. I was just so happy and excited and felt like I was finally getting close to something I had been looking for. I’m a huge romantic, so, being in a storied place celebrating and experiencing a piece of what I had seen from the outside was a thrill. I will never forget the first time I went to Deep Detroit, when it was still at 1515 Broadway. That taught me so many lessons and helped form what I believe makes a party a gathering of life.
MS: When I met you early on, one of my earliest impressions of you was that music was a priority based on a great photo i saw of you drumming. Where does your deep musical talent come from?
MR: I’ve always liked creating. I have evidence even of this! In kindergarten I drew a picture of myself and wrote “I like inventing”. My dad plays saxophone, jazz when I was young but he’s always searching and learning, and now he is even composing and recording! When my sister started piano lessons I asked to start as well. I was 5 years old. Our Aunt Tatou in Montreal would call and ask us to play for her, so we would set the phone on the upright piano and play. After a swift critique, she'd tell us we needed to be playing 2 hours everyday. She played organ in a church in Montreal. A lot of relatives on my dad’s side are deeply involved in music - I think it was just always was a possibility in our family. Not necessarily for a career, but as an activity, encouraged, and as something to pursue, learn, appreciate and experience. It was never questioned, and I think I was just born with an innate inclination towards it. Getting into recording early on initiated something that has carried me til today, thanks to my half-brother Dominic wanting to record a cover of Space Oddity over Christmas break.
MS: I love your music eclecticism. I know David Bowie is your #1 of all time. I also know your deep appreciation for Anthony "Shake" Shakir. Can you share a 3rd artist who inspires you that you hold in high regards?
MR: Aw thank you. We have some surprising Twee crossovers, loved finding that out about you. Bowie I love for music, culture and exploration as a total artist mediating the world. Shake is just, no words can really describe his sounds and where his music seems to come from. He’s a huge sonic and groove influence. A lot of his work constantly asks the question “what is this?” andd I love that, hope someday I am making music that asks that. A third artist I hold in high regards is someone I know personally - Juliet Gordon aka The Classical aka Luxury Skin. So happy you also love her song “Uh Oh”! We met about 8 years ago in school, and she comes from such a different background, musically, than I, and I’ve learned so much from her. I’m always so impressed with her arrangements and sound choices. She’s a cryptic lyricist with a good dose of pop sensibility too, I learned a tremendous amount from her when helping produce her first album and she’s gone on so far one her own creating amazing, fun but also challenging work.
MS: So, the question on everyone's mind still: Who Was Driving? And what inspired that track? ;)
MR: Chris was driving, and if you know that you can track the sample down! A lot of my music is inspired by dancing and movement, and I didn’t have a track that moved a body like that yet. A lot of cut-up vocal tracks inspired this, like the 80s freestyle and house tracks that use it, as well as a contemporary one from a group of friends in Århus, Denmark.
MS: I loved our driving soundtracking this past November in Vermont. What soundtracked your teen driving years?
MR: Oh boy… Until I was driving my own car I was often not allowed to put music on because my friends and whichever sports team I was riding with said it was too weird. LOL. The car I drove had a 6-disc CD changer and for a couple years it was filled with a rotating selection of Bowie albums and some 3 CD collection called Nonstop Disco that I got as a birthday gift when i was 7 (thank god! set me on the right path). I also loved to drive to Stereo Total, Rick James, Ssion, of Montreal, Yeah Yeah Yeahs first album, Klaus Nomi, Gravy Train!!!!, B-52s (summer of love!), Crystal Waters, and this band from Kansas, whom I still love, called Evangelicals. Mag & the Suspects became a huge driving hit for me, their song Erection. In my teens I tended to treat my car like a party if I wasn’t having a subdued mountain drive to Mount Eerie/The Microphones or Portishead’s song ‘The Rip’.
MR: When we have driven around Detroit together during Movement, you often call out certain streets and routes that signify something special for you from growing up there. What are some of those streets and what was your soundtrack on those drives?
MS: It's been so long, I cant think of any street names! Forest. Third. Jefferson. Lafayette. Woodward. Sometimes out of boredom, I would just go for drives on my off days. It could be the middle of the week, driving around in Midtown. or driving down Jefferson downtown. The Detroit of then is in deep contrast to what it is now. There was nothing! I remember driving by the Heidelberg Project one afternoon listening to J Dilla Donuts and more specifically Two Can Win. I had a brand new Jetta with a nice sound system. I was listening to a lot of Hip Hop and R&B. I remember driving down Woodward listening to Autechre's Eutow. Those 2 were probably the most played in my car of all time. I loved being in my car with my music.
MR: I know your sister (actually... i don’t know, was it a cousin?) introduced you to Prince which was a huge influence for you, but who else was pivotal in your discovery of music early on?
MS: My favorite older cousin and I bonded on the Prince thing. I will never forget that excitement in my youth. I can flashback to those moments instantly. W were pretty obsessed with Prince. My sister is actually pretty pivotal in my musical upbringing because she was always listening to really fresh music. Freestyle and House was her thing. Also, i learned about Yaz from my older sister. I stole that cassette from her. I took all her Wizard tapes that she recorded and added them to my own collection. So, both of those girls in my life were my first and most important influences, and shaped my taste heavily. When I started DJing, Mike Huckaby was the one who fine tuned my ear and looked out for me in my record shopping days I'm always indebted to Mike. He's always been a main inspiration to me.
MR: If Acid House was a car, what kind of car would it be?
MS: A yellow Porsche 928...from 1988!
MR: Tel Aviv is one of your favorite places for food, but of all the cities and places you’ve now played in over the last few years, which place has a restaurant or cuisine you never tire of going back to?
MS: Honestly, coming back home to Brooklyn and getting the ricotta pancakes and that side of med rare steak at Five Leaves with you is all I ever really want. Can we soon? Is that a boring answer? OK. There is a sushi place in Ibiza that I went to w/ Magda last summer for our post birthday dinner that was unforgettable. But, I forget the name. It's close to Pacha is all I know and we were so excited about it!
MR: For whatever reason, we both share a guilty pleasure in Aerosmith’s song Crazy. What music video is one of your all time favorites/ what video can still take you back to a moment in time in Detroit?
MS: I loved that string of Aerosmith videos with Cher from Clueless! Hahahah. This question is actually so appropriate. One of my absolute favorite videos of all time is Cocteau Twins - Crushed. I remember seeing it on MTV on 120 Minutes late on a Sunday night and I was so mesmerized by it all. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence can take me back to a Detroit youth moment in a heartbeat.