Once the domain of exclusive loft parties and quasi-legal warehouse raves, electronic dance music (EDM) has emerged as a dominant force in contemporary pop music. This newfound fame has come at a high price for some longtime EDM advocates, who feel the music has sacrificed its soul in exchange for commercial gains. A group of local DJs are working to remind Indianapolis of the genre's roots.
PRIME is a monthly electronic music event founded by a collective of Indianapolis DJs called 317Techno. The DJs of 317Techno are Taylor Norris, Adam Jay, Justin Haus, Rebecca Ciaglia, DJ Shiva, David Hodnik, and Andrew Hizer. PRIME distinguishes itself from the plethora of electronic music nights currently en vogue in clubs throughout the city by focusing on the underground roots of house and techno music. I spoke with 317Techno DJ and PRIME event organizer Chachi Guerrero to learn more.
NUVO: Tell me a bit about yourself as a DJ; how long have you been spinning?
Chachi Guerrero: I have been spinning for almost 10 years. I started out playing Latin music. I got into it while working at Latin clubs when I lived in Florida. With Latin music, it was easy for me to have a good time and feel comfortable with the format, since that music comes from my roots.
My heritage has influenced me immensely in what I do. I probably learned how to dance merengue before I started walking. So it is important for me to sometimes show that in my DJ sets - - but in a very subtle way.
After I moved to Indianapolis in 2004, I shifted my focus to underground house and techno music. These two genres really spoke to me in a different way than any other music.
NUVO: What is 317Techno?
Guerrero: 317Techno is a group of techno and house DJs from Indy who decided to join forces to promote the underground side of those genres - - not the "Top 40" EDM you hear on the radio and in clubs these days. We felt that there was a lack of this genre in the city. There wasn't a team of people who were devoted to this type of underground music, so the 317Techno group was created.
NUVO: Tell me about 317Techno's PRIME event.
Gerrero: Our PRIME events are held at Dunaway's Downtown once a month. The venue offers a very intimate surrounding, which allows the speakers to hug you in a different way. People come to our parties for the music, not just to show off. During the warmer times, we host the party on the rooftop of the venue, where you can dance and let go while enjoying the city's skyline.
We have had the opportunity to bring amazing DJs from all over the country, like Nigel Richards from Philadelphia and Audio Injection from L.A. We also showcase Indy's own talent too. At our next event on Feb. 16, we're featuring some amazing talent from the home of techno, Detroit. [We're bringing] Project 313 and Corbin Davis. These guys have been in the underground scene for a really long time. Locals Justin Haus and Andrew Hizer are also on this lineup representing Indy. This is a great chance to come and experience what we're all about.
NUVO: When we spoke before the interview you said, "The EDM scene has damaged the true meaning of underground music." Could you elaborate on what you meant by that?
Guerrero: The EDM scene is not the same as it was ten years ago. It's become so mainstream that the original meaning and essence have deteriorated. So many pop songs use house beats now and Justin Bieber is singing dubstep songs.
Beyond all its popularity, underground dance music was and still is a form of expression that you feel. Most of the underground music is purely instrumental; there's hardly any lyrics. So it's all about what the music transmits to you. EDM has been around for decades already and people are just now starting to take notice - - but I feel they don't appreciate its main roots.
This may be a weird example, but it's like having a fast food burger versus eating a burger from a health-conscious restaurant with organic beef and produce. Fast food places are so much more in your face that you just go for them.
PRIME: Dunaway's, 351 S. East St. | Saturday, Feb. 16, 10 p.m., $10, 21+