Rebecca Goldberg has been booked to DJ Detroit nightclubs like TV Lounge and the Works.
A touring DJ and active music producer who has worked at Detroit Threads record store and was featured in the 2016 French documentary Music on the Road, it’s easy to see Rebecca Goldberg as a torchbearer of Detroit techno.
“I have devoted myself to it. It’s not just the music, but the culture of it,” she said. “It’s very much a culture, and I think I’m a good representative of that.”
Goldberg grew up in Bloomfield Township in the ’80s and ’90s, where her mother played piano and accordion and sang. Her father, more interested in the technological side of music, kept a consistent collection of vintage radios and stereos at home.
“You don’t realize until much later, but looking back it makes perfect sense,” she said about the way these two aspects of her childhood have shaped her own approach to music.
In addition to the sounds her parents exposed her to, including disco, Phil Collins, The Doors and Madonna, Goldberg vividly recalls hearing the DJ mixes of Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale and live recordings from Club X pumping through Detroit’s airwaves.
“Stacey was playing freestyle music, and I had never heard anything like that before,” she said. “The club music was techno, trance, stuff that my parents didn’t have in their CD collection, and I wasn’t hearing on the school bus on the way home,” she laughed.
Though she attended the University of Michigan to study American culture and got a job after graduating, it was not her passion to work in that environment.
“I didn’t know if there was a way I could make music and create a career for myself. It took a few years to hone that in. Once I realized that could be my livelihood, I definitely went all in,” she said.
She began producing her own music, took a job at famed local record store Detroit Threads, and got booked to DJ Detroit nightclubs like TV Lounge and the Works.
And after growing up listening to Hale, Goldberg and her hero wound up being booked to DJ many of the same events over the years. Hale later gifted Goldberg her first piece of music production equipment: an MPC. This combination drum machine and sampler that allows its user to upload sounds and manipulate them the same way a percussionist would “changed everything,” she said.
Having once rode 10 airplanes and six trains in a single week while touring, Goldberg calls the effects of COVID-19 on the electronic music community “devastating.”
“Obviously, we want this [virus] to go away, and everyone needs to do their part to make sure that we’re back safe, so it’s OK that everything’s on hold,” she said. “But it’s pretty devastating.”
Though many DJs have turned to live-streaming on various internet platforms and phone apps, Goldberg acknowledges, “I don’t think any of us got into this to play for a camera.” She personally feels weird being the “visual focus.”
Though she doesn’t know what the future will look like for her beloved music community, “Detroit’s always been able to adapt,” she said.
Quarantine hasn’t been all bad, though.
“It was like forced downtime that I might not make for myself otherwise to do more administrative things,” she shared. “Like doing my taxes on time and updating my website.”
Seeing it as a metaphor for the circumstances that first birthed techno, she said, “You have to be in a [tough] situation, more or less, to get inspired to do new and innovative things. Even designing or producing music related to the experience you’re going through. It’s all a reflection of that.”
In addition to music, Goldberg is a digital graphic designer. Inspired by vintage propaganda, travel and gig posters, as well as typography and pop art, her bold designs have been printed on posters, postcards, stickers, apparel … and now face masks.
Something of a premonition, Goldberg’s most recent album, Synthetic World, was completed before COVID-19. “It’s so reflective of everything that happened, culturally,” she said. “Everyone’s online and plugged in on social media. It ended up being the best way for everyone to stay in touch with each other during this crazy global catastrophe. I’ve got this record about the world being synthetic, or not totally organic, [while] we’re relying on this technology to stay connected as humans.”
Though she is anxious to travel and play music out in public again, Goldberg admits she is happy to enjoy the rest of her summer with less stress than usual.
Rebecca Goldberg’s music and designs are available on her website www.rebecca-goldberg.com.