Dion Fischer: I’m terrible. I’m the worst at that than I am at interviews.
Carleton Gholz: This is Record Detroit. Detroit Sound Conservancy. My name is Carleton Gholz of the Detroit Sound Conservancy. We are at Urban Bean Coffee House on November 17th 2014. We’ve been doing this all semester long. I still think it’s semesters cause I’m a teacher and we have Dion Fischer from the UFO Factory amongst other projects with us tonight. Deon briefly, describe who you are and what is your relationship to Detroit music.
Dion Fischer: Hi Carleton. My name’s Dion Fisher. As you’ve mentioned my relationship to Detroit music is pretty simple. I’ve lived and played music in Detroit for over 20 years. I record and produce records. I write songs, have a venue where we present live music. I make art that often goes on the front cover of music records from Detroit. So it’s pretty much what I do. Detroit music.
Gholz: What would be some specific things? Names we might’ve heard, groups we might’ve bought their records. Maybe even in the past or, maybe even just a starting date for approximately when things might’ve moved from maybe your bedroom music making to a more public, experience.
I released my first record with my first band in the nineties
Fischer: Sure, sure. I started, I released my first record with my first band in the early nineties. I’m going to say 1992, maybe 94. I don’t know. That band was called Godzuki. And from there I, either headed up or played a role in a lot of bands. Everything from the Dirt Bombs to His Name Is Alive to a band called The Go. I was in a band for a while called the Wild Bunch, which became the Electric Six. I had several bands of my own sense. Godzuki, Infinity People, Fake Blood. I recently played in a hard rock band called Iron Stag. I’m affiliated with a label slash collective called Time Stereo. We have an extensive history with bands like Princess Dragon Mom, The Crash, The Wolfman Band, The Whales, many, many more. I’m currently working on a project called Tomorrow and The Teardrops and there’s a lot, you know, it’s all that’s popping into my head right now.
Gholz: That’s great. I have a question to follow up with that later, but we’ll go, we’ll stick to the script here. What was the first Detroit record you remember hearing? What was it, how’d you hear it and what’d you think?
I have a specific memory of looking at The Stooges ‘Raw Power’ record from in one of my uncles record collections and playing it and being taken aback by how different it was than the other things in that record collection.
Fischer: Just how it looked now, just how it looked and how it sounded, how it was, it was almost scary. And so I’m going to say that, I mean, you know, David Bowie ‘Panic in Detroit’ isn’t a Detroit record, but I remember another uncle that was really into David Bowie. So the word Detroit is associated with that song, but Stooges’ Raw Power”.
Gholz: Okay. What was the track you heard at Zero?
Fischer: At Zero? No, I mean like, your periods. I mean, Motown, the label, the sound is inescapable and I don’t think that, you know, I grew up on a farm basically, but that was still part of my life, you know.
Gholz: We have a question here. What was the first, I mean, I guess you could say not a Detroit band, but I prefer a Detroit fan, but was the first, or best live music performance, do you remember hearing a Detroit band? Who was it? Where was it? Who did you go with? What’d you think? Sort of a early Detroit, you know, Detroit band. You would have seen it with, when the best shows could be a first show.
Fischer: I could answer the actual first, but there’s probably a better answer than that. The actual first Detroit band, like local band I saw was a band called The Weapons at
Freedom Hill, some heavy metal band. I don’t know if they’re still around or not. There’s a good band name though. But, you know, this is into my twenties of, this is an early important Detroit live local music memory is I’m seeing a Rocket 455 and the Demolition Dial Rods, they played an event at Zoots Coffee House. It was closed door. It didn’t start till midnight. You paid 10 bucks to get in and there was a keg. I was 20. There was a, you know, you drink all you want. And it was like having heard the MC5 and the Stooges, as you know, a seven year old. It was like, that was me actually seeing what Detroit rock and roll personified was. And it totally had an impact on me. I know that those guys are my buddies now, but like at that time I was like I’m seeing this. It was sonically insane, conceptually insane. Like I had no idea like up until that point, I had definitely been going to see shows at local venues or small shows that were different than seeing the Rolling Stones at Pontiac Silverdome or whatever. But this was, that was a moment where like, it was, it warped me. Yeah. Yeah. I loved it.
Gholz: Motown is known the world over as you very well. Have you’ve already said describe one aspect of Detroit music history that you wish got more attention.
Fischer: One aspect of Detroit music that I wish got more attention
Gholz: Other than 18 of the 20 bands you mentioned are like…
Fischer: No, no, no, no. I’m not worried about those guys. I don’t know. I guess the songwriting, like from the world that I am in, which is a little bit more rock and roll, a little bit more experimental. I think that Detroit audiences on a small level specifically overlooked the singing and songwriting aspect of rock and roll. I’m a huge fan. I think the style and excitement of rock and roll is 50% of it, but I still see a gap here and abroad, like, you know, the songwriting, songwriting and singing. Yeah. It’s Robin Tyner from the MC5 is one of the greatest singers of all time. And I’ve never seen him put in that realm. You know, he’s clearly a better singer than Mick Jagger, but I’ve never seen anyone put him up there with the people that he should be up there. While, you know, on the other hand, you have Motown, the label was Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye and the guys that they get their due for singing and song writing well-deserved. Right, right. I guess that’s my answer.
Gholz: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s a good point. Tell us, so a couple individual questions here that we sort of craft for the people coming in. So tell us about the UFO Factory. It’s genesis. What’s it doing now? What’s the plan? Just anything you want to say about the UFO Factory as a project for you?
Fischer: Sure, it’s pretty simple. The UFO Factory is overarching name that I attached to whatever I’m working on now. The dates, a label, productions, and a venue, art gallery and also bar. It’s a bar as a supplement to being able to present music and art. Mmm. It’s a necessary evil, I guess people like to get drunk while they see bands, but it makes it so that, you know, I had an underground version, once a month loft space. There was no way to do it sustainably when I lived there and it was my apartment. It made sense because it wasn’t costing me any extra. But in reality, that’s a small space that can present music of a wide range, an art of a wide range where we don’t need to make money off of what they’re doing. We only need to make money off of selling a couple of drinks. That being said, I have, you know, record my basement production comes out. That’s called UFO Factory. If I release an album that I might not, may or may not record the labels UFO Factory, it’s kind of a umbrella.
Gholz: Where’s the inspiration for something like that? I mean, obviously with independent records and punk rock and you know, there are lots of examples of people doing that kind of thing, having their umbrella. But for you specifically, who would be the people you look to for like, Oh, here’s a model for what you could do or how you could do it and make it work, whether it models for you for this project?
Fischer: I don’t think there’s a specific model, but I mean, you can look at something like Fortune Records where they were recording in the back and selling the records in the front. You can look at Motown, you can look at, Rough Trade Records out of the UK, having a record store and a label. There’s a lot you can look at, but it’s really just, it has a lot to do with for me it has a lot to do with making records and playing at places, venues. I mean, I’m sure have toured extensively over the world and I just, and I’ve shown arts all over the world and I just want to do you a place that, where I do that, it does not combative to the artist. It’s, collaborative with the artists. You know, it’s like if I see the UFO Factory, the building as an art project of my own, and, when a musician plays there, or an artist shows their work there, or you know, the bartender serves a fancy drink that they made up. It’s becomes just a collaborative art project. So it’s our, it’s all the same, you know, making the cover for the record, recording the record, writing the song, playing the music at a place, showing the art that could someday become the record cover. It’s all just stalled the same thing. It doesn’t, it’s all kind of comes from the same place in my head. So I don’t see any reason not to combine them.
Gholz: We, one of our first parties, the Detroit Sound Conservancy did, was at the old Zoot space, now Model D. And you were part of that performance. And you just mentioned a show that was really important to it suits for people who have no idea who, what Zoots is, or for people who were hearing this recording, not from Detroit. Can you briefly tell us what Zoots was?
Fischer: Simply put, Zoots was a tiny coffee house in the, what was once known as the Cass Corridor. It’s now known as Midtown Detroit that served coffee and presented live music by a complete blee, a rainbow of music and people that all you could imagine. And it was, it may not have been on purpose, but to me it felt fearless. It felt like a place you could do anything and it’s where I learned to get on stage and act like an idiot and not be scared that someone’s gonna laugh at me. Is that cool?
Gholz: Yeah, no, it’s totally cool. What’s your chosen last individual question here, then we’ll go back to our sort of tags here. What’s your chosen instrument? I mean you play guitar. Do, you must be able to play some other things too. What’s your instrument when you think of yourself as a musician? What do you think of as a musical instrument?
I don’t think of myself as a musician
Fischer: As long as I think of myself an artist and I’m like, everything I do is like all self-taught. So I’m probably the best at guitar. But I mean, I write songs, I sing them. I have a plethora of analog synthesizers that has been one of my obsessions for 15 years and I’m just as interested in, if not more than guitar. I’m not a very good drummer, but I’ve played drums on recordings that have been released in the real world. Yeah. I don’t know man. You know it really is all the same to me. I don’t, I’m not trying to be like cute. I really don’t see it as that difference. Like, I want to play, I love music, I want to play guitar in a band. What are some bands that I like, Kraftwerk, the Stooges. I really liked that. I really like that I can, maybe I can figure out a way to do something like that. Or maybe I can figure out a way to do something like that. And, you know, I just do my version of it. And it’s the same with visual art and stuff, which are directly connected for me. I’d like to make a cover for this album. So figure out how to do it.
Gholz: You have some posters at the back of UFO Factory. Some actually Fortune Records, if I remember, there’s a poster, it was a fortune poster, some other shows that were thrown, et cetera. Why… what’s important to you about having those kinds of things in the bar, you know, older posters from earlier era. Why is that important?
Fischer: Simply put, it’s just stuff I like, which is what I’m into. You know, it’s maybe some world, it’s inspirational to the artists that are going to be performing there to see a Fortune Records or a Magma or a Wayne County and Electric Chairs poster. Mmm. I imagine that someday in 20 years, some guy’s gonna want to hang a poster from my venue or my bands and their place and their bedroom or their venue or find it even worthy of archiving. Like saying where you safely store posters. So I mean, I just continue on, I guess I see it as all part of things. Some of this stuff is Detroit. Some of this stuff is just inspirational. It’s just what I like, and it maybe harkins in some way to the music that will be currently playing there, and if Magma ever wants to play at UFO Factory, that’d be cool.
Gholz: What should we, the Sound Conservancy be doing, do you think? Can you give us some advice in the next couple of years? You know, you obviously know a little bit about the project now, early, sort of you’ve been involved with it sort of tangentially here from a distance, a supporter. So what, what do you think we should be concentrating on in the next in the near future here?
This is going to sound crazy, but there’s also a reality that, someday the grid’s going to go down and there’s going to be a zombie attack or whatever and a record, an actual vinyl record will be a lot easier for the next version of humans to figure out how to listen to.
Fischer: I don’t know. I don’t, I’d be lying if I said I knew the whole scope of the Sound Conservancy. I do know that there’s a digital aspect, which I think is very important because that’s how we live now. My advice I guess would be to harken back to the last question or a couple of the other questions, which would be physical, as much as it’s important to digitally things, you know, and this is going to sound crazy, but there’s also a reality that, you know, someday the grid’s going to go down and there’s going to be a zombie attack or whatever and a record, an actual vinyl record will be a lot easier for the next version of humans to figure out how to listen to. The internet as far as I can tell, I’m no expert will be gone if there was no grid. Same thing goes with posters and other sort of thing that gets referred to as a femora, which may or may not be the correct way to refer to that stuff that in the digital world could go away. Yeah, and so could the analog world too, but at least, isn’t there a satellite with a silver plated record on it or something? Yeah. It’s kinda like that. You maybe imagine that someday they’ll be picking something out of the ashes. So maybe you should, and I’m not saying you don’t already, but, maybe that’s part of the focus.
Gholz: Yup. We’re thinking that way too. Absolutely. I’ll add one if I can. Why stay in Detroit? Because you have had a career doing many different things. You, have seen the world, you’ve toured a little bit, you’ve been in different kinds of bands and what have you. Was there ever a time where you said yourself not Detroit or was there ever a chance? Like why would you, why stay here?
Fischer: Why stay in Detroit? Well, it’s not to be little the importance of what’s going on in Detroit or the potential of Detroit, which I do believe in and I own a home here. I wouldn’t be working my butt off from my little corner of Detroit to try to make it a thing if I didn’t believe in Detroit. But ultimately I think everywhere is the same. And you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re gonna be a star. If you move here or if you think you’re going to get a prettier girlfriend, if you move here you’re just fooling yourself. It’s all what you make of it. So if, even if Detroit, even if I didn’t believe in Detroit, I don’t think I would have necessarily moved because it’s maybe more of just a pragmatic thing. Yeah. Does that make sense? I mean I don’t feel stuck here. The word career is weird because I’ve never made any really significant money off music. Right. I worked in a record store 13 years, and that doesn’t make you any money, but that’s the most money I’ve made off music is selling records to people, not playing music to people or selling my own records. It wasn’t a money making thing in the nineties, and it’s really not now. So I mean, you should. People should be making records and doing things like the Detroit Sound Conservancy and doing art and opening places like the UFO Factory, for the artistic magic, not for the glory of news, print or money. Cause that’s fleeting and pretty much useless.
Gholz: And with that, Dion, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
Fischer: Thanks for having me.