- Pumping deep house classics from an architect of the Detroit house sound.
- When I ask Rick Wade how he feels about the repress of his classic 1998 EP, Late Night Basix Vol. 2, he's shocked at the level of interest in his old material. These tracks were made between 1993 and '94, a special time in the evolution of Detroit dance music. This was when Detroit house started to take the form we think of today. Wade repressed his debut EP, Late Night Basix, in the early 2010s. Now, Ghostly has swept in with a limited-edition repress and remastered digital version of the sequel to bring this influential record to a new generation.
Growing up in Buchanan, Michigan, meant that Wade was much closer to Chicago than he was to Detroit. It was from the airwaves of the Illinois metropolis that he first encountered electronic music and mix shows featuring disco classics. In 1991, he graduated from college and moved to the Detroit metro area, where he immersed himself in its dynamic scene. Within a year he was working at Record Time while playing mix shows on local radio stations, most notably WCBN, the student-run station of University Of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Per college radio convention, DJs were given a wider creative berth than anywhere else on-air, allowing progressive artists such as Wade to both experiment and hone their craft.
Mike Himes's Record Time was one of the most important early record stores in the Detroit electronic music scene. During the period when Wade was working there, Record Time was a who's-who of Motor City dance music figures who would go on to make a huge impact within Detroit's storied music legacy. Claude Young, Dan Bell, Scott Grooves, BMG and many others were employed at the institution at one time or another. During this period, Mike Huckaby was Record Time's go-to guy for all things house and techno while Rick was handling hip-hop, R&B and ghettotech.
Initially, Wade was best known as a ghettotech DJ and producer under the name Big Daddy Rick. As one of the pioneers of the genre, he was deeply immersed in that scene, getting booked professionally to play the style in clubs like Legends, Squeeze and The Exchange. But on his radio shows he would play many genres and, eventually, he made some house tracks for DJ use. "At that stage I was just making house music—not even to play for Huck or nobody. It was just for me, personally, because I wanted something different to put in my mixes."
At some point Dan Bell heard a demo in one of Wade's mixes that piqued his interest. Bell insisted that Wade release it and, furthermore, that he should switch his focus entirely towards house music. This track surfaced as "Nothing To Fear," the first song on the the first release from Wade's label, Harmonie Park.
Although Harmonie Park is mostly associated with Wade's personal output, Bell and Huckaby played key roles in the development of the label. It was Bell who came up with the name and offered to handle the business side so that Wade could focus on production. Huckaby guided the promotional aspect, making sure the right DJs and radio stations got the white-label 12-inches prior to general release. Eventually Bell's DBX project blew up, forcing him to focus on his own career instead, but Huckaby remained a constant source of guidance, eventually giving tracks of his own to release on the label.
Late Night Basix Vol. 2 came out a few years after Wade made it, just as the general public was beginning to piece together that Big Daddy Rick and Rick Wade were the same person. "Detroit Hustle" is Wade's attempt to emulate the sound of Masters At Work, who were dominating the house charts at the time. It's a track Wade is particularly proud of, because it was one of the few instances where he played keys in real time. Like many other novice producers of the era, it was a common production technique to slow a track down in order to figure out a melody or chord, then notch up the BPMs to get it sequenced correctly.
On "I Feel Good," we get a taste of Wade's Chicago influences, with disco house that could have easily come from the South Side. Wade created tracks with the idea they could be played on radio stations such as the famed Chicago FM station WBMX. Deep pads and a disco sample go a long way when chopped up just right. "This was my attempt to try to recreate that feeling that I would get hearing disco tracks as I would be driving," Wade told me. "In the old days we used to call it 'creepin''—driving aimlessly with nowhere to go."
On the flip we get "Deep -N- Dirty," a piece driven by pure emotional expression rather than a pre-existing concept. There was a time when Wade was in a toxic relationship. When things got heated, he would escape to his basement studio to work things out. This song channels his negative feelings into something constructive, but the melancholic feeling is palpable—this track has a sense of sadness that isn't present anywhere else on the record.
The aptly named "Forgotten Track" was rediscovered when Wade was listening to an old DAT tape. Though it was almost passed over, it's probably the most impressive track on the EP. This is classic Wade, from the strings and deep drums to the playful keys.
Late Night Basix Vol. 2 was made decades ago but has all the right elements to resonate with modern dance floors. It's interesting to note that these tracks were made at a time when the artists who gave us Detroit house were unaware of the effect they were having upon the global movement. And this music was made under innocent, almost naive circumstances—many of these classics weren't made to ever be released.
A large part of Wade's early output was music made in friendly competition with Huckaby. At Record Time, the two would casually slip in tracks they were working on to see if they could catch the other's ear. This was a tradition that extended to the next generation of Detroit artists. Wade recalls hanging out with Theo Parrish, Keith Worthy and Huckaby, of course, with each artist sneaking in their own demos. It would be a gratifying "gotcha" moment when one of their esteemed peers asked for an ID. Playing these tracks for each other was a test. If your music faded into the background it was back to the drawing board. This practice helped each producer take their respective craft—and Detroit house—to the next level. But it all started as a way to impress each other, to slip your track in and get your homie to say, as Wade recalls, "That track is real right, fool!"
A1 Detroit Hustle
A2 I Feel Good
B1 Deep -N- Dirty
B2 Forgotten Track