TBB Talks … God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines With Filmmaker Kristian R. Hill

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is a documentary about the origins of Techno music in the heart of Detroit Michigan in the 1980s.

The contributions of the city to house/electronic music is often overshadowed by its popularity in places around the World such as Europe which has become the hub of the culture. In the documentary Filmmaker, Kristian R. Hill introduces audiences to exactly where the sound was created and developed.

We spoke to Kristian about the documentary and why it was so important for him to shed a light on this sub-genre of house music …

Please introduce yourself …

Kristian Hill, I’m a Filmmaker from the west side of Detroit.

Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …

Manifesting. Dreaming. Actualizing.

Tell us about your latest project …

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines. The story of the African American Dance music coming from Detroit called Techno.

What’s your role on it?

As an independent filmmaker, you have to wear many hats in order to get your film in the theatres and on television and share this film with as many people as you possibly can. I’m the Director, Producer, Writer, Editor, Cinematographer, Researcher, Yoda! My Role is whatever it needs to be to take God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines to the next level.

What I loved about this film is the reminder that House music came from America – being a Black Brit, we often feel ‘dance’ music and everything under its umbrella is ours/Europe …

I mean, we just wanted to be clear about where black dance music emanates from in terms of the 4×4 beat. For years people knew about Detroit, but there wasn’t anything explaining how Detroit, Chicago, and New York formed a triangle of dance music that impacted the world. Detroit created Techno. One of the most thriving dance music scenes next to House, and in some places more than House.

Documenting the history of dance music from Chicago, Detroit, and New York helps as we talk to our brothers and sisters in London, Paris, and Germany; as we talk to our brothers and sisters in South Africa, and Ghana, they need to know what it looked like from our point of view.

What’s a House song that defines the era for you?

Like This by Chip E. Feat. K Joy

How did you juggle telling the story of the pioneers and getting in as much factual history as possible – as both narratives are so interesting?

That’s a tough question because these guys are part of a bigger scene that’s interconnected to a lot of origin points. We just had to figure out how to make the film impactful. That’s why we chose the picture that was taken by Norman Anderson to narrow our focus of the story that we could tell. The picture became the cover photo for Record Music Magazine in 1988; which was really the first time that Techno had been celebrated as a genre, as a new sound coming from Detroit – so that in itself made it historically relevant. A concrete connection to the rest of the world. It was something coming from Detroit that was published on the cover of a London-based magazine. That’s the story we could kind of use to lift up our whole scene. We spoke to the people in the photo and let them tell the story in their own words.

Highs, lows, solutions (tell us the high points, any obstacles to getting the film completed and how you resolved the obstacles)

Highs – The standing ovation at Tribeca Film Festival; the sold-out Detroit Free Press Screening at the Michigan Science Center; 3 BFI sold-out screenings, and an Athens sold-out show. Celebrating this film around the world was something I could have never dreamed would be this sweet.

Lows- The business of making historical music documentaries is maddening. Trying to find the right partners. Trying to find grants and finishing funds is a constant quest.

Solution: Doing shows all over the world while we sort out the proper licensing deals internationally. These festivals are one thing but the whole reason for making a film is for it to be seen in theatres, people’s homes and on their phones, wherever it could be able to monetize, you know. People think oh you got into BFI that’s the cherry on
top! No! BFI isn’t the cherry on top, it’s a layer in the whole scheme of things. We want to reach higher heights. Getting this film out so people can see it is the only thing that matters.

Which scene or moment best defined why you worked on this film?

Ritchie Hawtin and Black Coffee in Langa Township, Cape Town, South Africa, 2013. It was a Bridges for Music event through the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival. We learned about the ecosystem of dance music, and in the ecosystem, there are no histories more important than the present.

Sometimes in dance music, you need people to remind you of where this history comes from. And seeing Ritchie Hawtin in Langa telling the story of how he met Derrick, Kevin and Juan on Techno Blvd; and how the Detroit dance music community raised him was one of Executive Producer Jennifer Washington’s keen early decisions that paid off. Going to South Africa all makes sense and is worth it 9 years later. We ended up making 2 films about that
moment, Electric Roots: The Detroit Sound Project and, of course, some of that footage was also in God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines.

As a filmmaker telling stories in locations around the globe, that scene is the stamp on our career – in terms of how far we’ve gone to tell this story and to illustrate just how important Detroit dance music is to the world.

What’s your current plan B? (if it all goes wrong what’s the plan?)

I’m a motherfu*kin Filmmaker. There is no plan B. It’s shoot, edit, repeat or bust.

What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week?

Leaving London. Ticket prices to get back to London in 10 days. God Said Give’em Drum Machines is back in London from October 29th at 1 pm at the Doc N Roll Film Festival at the Barbican. And November 11th and 12th at the Leeds International Film Festival.

What are you watching right now?

The Cave of Adullam on ESPN

What are you reading right now?

Story by Robert McKee

What are you listening to right now?

Demos from Esa Williams. Roc Marciano & The Alchemist, and some Scan 7,

The last thing you saw on stage?

The Nutcracker

What’s on your bucket list?

Outdoor screenings of God Said Give’em Drum Machines and Electric Roots throughout Europe and Africa.

Celebrate someone else (who do you rate right now?)

I want to celebrate the Detroit Dance Music Scene, I want to Celebrate Mike Huckaby, Greg Tate, Steve Dunbar, Eric Jackson, and Delmar Washington. Jennifer Washington, without her we wouldn’t be here. I want to celebrate my brother Ruben Robert Hill. Without him, I wouldn’t have followed this thread in life with dance music. My older brother had the key to this world that today I value beyond measure. It’s a whole world that now, I’m able to walk through wherever I go in the world because of stuff my older brother exposed to me when I was very young.

Celebrate yourself … (make us proud of you)

Not Yet, it’s too early. There’s so much more work to do.

Where can we find you / watch God Said… ?

Find me on Instagram at @readycinematic Follow the film at God Said Give’em Drum Machines on IG, Twitter, and all other major platforms. Coming to a theatre or Television near you very soon!

What’s next for you?

Meeting the proper investor and partner to help us create the God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines film franchise. We have part two ready to go!!


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