|In the early 90s Taylor Deupree, Dietrich Schoenemann and Jason Szostek were three friends who
had been creating electronic music independently of each since the 80s.
Their experiments in sound ranged from post-new wave to industrial
dance music and ethereal electronica even releasing a few of these
projects independently. By the start of the decade they had
become increasingly influenced by the emerging trends in club and rave
music, especially the pioneers of Chicago Acid house, Detroit Techno
and Benelux New Beat. Getting caught up with the new energy of the
emergent techno trend, they were starting to get more directly involved
in the "scene".
By 1992 they had all worked with each other in different combinations, Prototype 909
was simply a name given to one of them by Dietrich and Taylor. But in
early 1993 Talyor got a TB-303
and Prototype 909 became a
band when Jason
was invited to join because the "old man" had some experience with the
old pre-midi analog stuff that they thought might be useful. They
quickly set out to put together some tracks all made exclusively with
gear they had that was manufactured before 1983 (hence, they didn't
even use a TR-909).
The result was Acid Technology
released on Sonic/Instinct
Records later that year. The album and group at their core were
on the idea that this kind of equipment lent itself well for
improvisation thanks to the "live" way the sequences and sounds are
controlled. Three friends working together on the same wavelength could
operate as if they are six handed techno monster and could make music
"playing" "live" in a way that rivaled any other production technique
used in making techno.
November 1993 saw their debut live performance. From then until 98
they played at least 50 shows all over America, Canada, Mexico and
Germany. In 1995 they released Transistor Rhythm Sonic/Instinct
Records, an artistic progression for them as they integrated more
digital techniques with their analog performances in the studio.
as they became more refined in the studio and had a few successful
singles ("Love Sky", "Karma", "Believe" ), people were increasingly
them as a live act. Compared with some of the great live acts
of that era, this three man team were unmatched in utter unpredictable
energy and spontaneity. They in fact planned or rehearsed little and
only rarely attempted to "recreate" anything they had done in the
studio. A Prototype 909 show
was guaranteed to be a surprise to
everyone, including the band members themselves. This was a strange
dynamic when you consider the cold calculation and adherence to rules
that techno music increasingly came to represent and continues to
suffer from to this day. The people's response to that contrast helped
make Prototype 909 live a legend of the 90s. A live album Live
'93-'95 and single on Instinct soon followed. But that was the tip
the iceberg as there were many "bootleg" tapes (some actually
"official") floating all over the scene at that time.
During this time their live act got ever more adventurous. Working
for appeal beyond the club and rave scene, they paired up with Stabbing
Westward and opened up for Killing
Joke on their east coast tour. An
open air festival in Detmold Germany, and an electronic music festival
in the mouth of a volcano at The University of Mexico with The
Legendary Pick Dots were also among the highlights of this era.
By the mid-90s all the band members were becoming increasingly involved
in other projects. Living in New York the three had separately and
together been involved in the early days of the Rancho
Relaxo Allstars, that group's live performances at The
Limelight and the first CD on Disko
B. Taylor was of course
for his "chill-out" and ambient work as Human Mesh Dance, solo works under
various aliases and techno and ambient collaborations with Tetsu Inoue and Savvas Ysatis to name just two.
Dietrich was releasing solo techno and ambient works, working with Abe Duque in Facil, with Taylor in Unit Park (and other projects) and
becoming better known as a dancefloor dj. Jason had released solo ambient,
techno and electro tracks on various labels as BPMF, and started the
electro-revival label Serotonin
Records with John Selway
releasing tracks as Synapse
with John as well.
|It would be
an over simplification to focus on the time and
pressures these projects represented as *the* cause for their eventual
breakup, but that was certainly a part of it. Although the ironically
entitled last album Joined at the Head
(Caipirinha 1997) has some of
their finest ever studio work ("The Kids Don't Care", "Noisefloor" ),
one can also hear in this recording the balancing of the two main
forces in the band's history: the spontaneous energy of the live
improvisation vs the calculated precision of their studio creations.
This balancing act was becoming more precarious as the members brought
in their recently changing perspectives on sound and production to the
group, or perhaps it was because the rave scene that had been such a
fertile ground in supporting them was coming to its logical conclusion.
Prototype 909 wasn't gonna be big enough for the three of them any
more. They played some more live shows and called it quits in early 98.
All three of them went on do to great things, but nothing could quite
compare to the joy of playing live together. After 8 years apart,
making techno, ambient, electro and whatever caught their imaginations;
that need to work it out, on the spot, on stage dragged them back
together for a show in Detroit in May 06. They are still at it today
and will probably continue for a while longer as they still haven't
gotten it "just right" and because they keep changing their mind about
what "just right" would actually sound like anyway.