5 Iconic Underground DJs You Should Know
Written by Angel Lebailly for BPM Supreme
In dance and electronic music, many DJs and producers have altered the scene forever. Today we’re taking a look at five established yet underground DJs/producers who we think you should get to know. Whether for their performances that break boundaries as seen with Motor City Drum Ensemble, for molding a musical genre like Laurent Garnier and DJ Pierre Acid, expanding a musical scene like Robert Hood’s minimal techno, or for sharp, distinguished sounds such as Floating Points, these DJs and producers have made a path to worldwide acclaim and are regarded as exceptional, meticulous, and iconic.
Motor City Drum Ensemble, Stuttgart, Germany
“I’ve always embraced the hedonistic aspect of my life,” said Motor City Drum Ensemble.
If there is one producer who blends jazz, soul, and techno within a unique, melodic twist, it’s German music producer Danilo Plessow, a.k.a. Motor City Drum Ensemble (MCDE). A versatile producer, music collector, and refined DJ, MCDE is known for playing some of the world’s top stages and festivals. Take for example his track, “L.O.V.E. (DJ-Kicks)” which showcases his uncommon style rich of musical references across these genres.
Born in 1985, MCDE at a young age moved from a small German town to Stuttgart, the German motor city, which influenced him to take on the name Motor City Drum Ensemble. Later launching the prestigious Raw Cuts series led him to work with top names in house music such as Caribou, DJ Sprinkles, Jazzanova, and Tiga. Despite his young age, MCDE has been ranked as one of the top 10 DJs on RA, signed on 25 labels, known globally.
No matter how hectic or demanding his touring schedule has been, MCDE is a great example of a successful, yet balanced and down-to-earth artist as you can see in this interview on Resident Advisor.
DJ Pierre, Chicago
“House is always going to be here,” DJ Pierre once claimed.
DJ Pierre, born Nathaniel Pierre Jones in Chicago, is regarded as one of the founders of Acid House. Releasing what’s considered to be the first acid-house EP recording in 1987, Acid Tracks, DJ Pierre helped house music reach higher heights by pioneering the genre. Using sounds created with the Roland 303 drum machine, acid house defined DJ Pierre’s music and propelled his longstanding career.
The Chicago House music veteran is today celebrating 35 years in electronic music and recently released an anniversary remix compilation of his legendary Acid tracks. The compilation includes remixes by luminaries Bloody Mary, KiNK, and Analog Kitchen to name a few.
Robert Hood, Detroit
“Before I got into this music I wanted to be an originator. I wanted to be original,” said Robert Hood.
Born in Detroit, Robert Hood is regarded as the creator of minimal techno. The son of a jazz musician, Hood initially intended to become a trumpet player. It wasn’t until he joined the world’s well-known Underground Resistance label in 1989 that he began pioneering a new form of techno music that would resonate with a global fanbase.
In 1994, Hood took a leap that would lead him to stardom and spark the foundation of modern Detroit techno. He launched the label M Plant and defended the project as an initiator for a new kind of sound.
“M-Plant is what I’ve always wanted to hear: the basic stripped down, raw sound. Just drums, basslines, and funky grooves and only what’s essential,” Hood said.
Floating Points, London, England
“Rather than spending loads of time producing a record, I’m spending loads of time learning the equipment that I make the record with,” Floating Points told The New York Times.
When talking about the world’s most iconic DJs and producers, we can’t forget English electronic musician and sound innovator, Sam Shepherd, a.k.a Floating Points. Known for his unique musical knowledge and hybrid of sounds ranging from classical to jazz and from soul to electronic, Floating Points is co-founder of the label Eglo Records and has also earned a PhD in neuroscience from University College London.
Once upon a time in London, Floating Points’ own nightclub, Plastic People, was the home of the contemporary producers and music creators of the British capital. He has been linked to world-famous Caribou, Four Tet, and Jamie xx to quote a few. His newest album Crush debuted in October. Watch the video for the single “Last Bloom” here.
Laurent Garnier, Boulogne-Billancourt, France
“This is not just music, it’s techno,” Laurent Garnier once said.
What would be the world of modern, eclectic, and vibrant electronic music without Laurent Garnier? Beginning his career in the late 1980s in Manchester, Laurent Garnier helped take acid house, techno, and rave music worldwide to new levels. He moved to London in 1986 and became increasingly known for blending analog sounds with modern sounds from the latest music-making programs.
Garnier spent time in New York City meeting with people like Frankie Knuckles and was influenced by the likes of Jeff Miles, Carl Cox, and Derrick May. In 1988, Garnier’s album 30 won the “Victoires de la Musique,” a French music award for electronic music.
In a full biography of this most versatile French DJ producer entitled Electrochoc, Garnier shares his views on music, people, and dancing for an insider view into the raves of Britain in the ’80s and ’90s. Check out one of Garnier’s most famous tracks “Crispy Bacon” here.
Let us know what you think of this article and if there are any iconic DJs you would add to this list. We want to hear to hear from you!
About Angel Lebailly
Angel is a French music producer and journalist. She began her music career 10 years ago in London, DJing and promoting music events. Inspired by various music scenes, she lived in Berlin, Bali, and Tokyo. Angel contributes to large music magazines and music platforms, such as DJ Tech Tools, Magnetic, Musicoin, and Imusify both as a journalist and content writer.