James Stinson
1969-2002 - An Appreciation

James Stinson, founder member of electro-techno outfit Drexciya, died on 3 September, 2002 in Newnan, near Atlanta, Georgia

By Tom Magic Feet


Stinson, who was 32, had been ill for some time, even instructing record labels with whom he had deals to go ahead and release his music should he not live. Prior to his death he had been working as a truck driver, a job he said he enjoyed because of the time it gave him to think.

As a youth growing up on Detroit's East Side, James Stinson first encountered electro music through Cybotron's Alleys Of Your Mind and became a regular listener to radio DJ The Electrifyin' Mojo. In 1989 he founded Drexciya (he claimed the idea came to him in a dream) with Gerald Donald, although it was several years before any Drexciya music was released. (The duo's first actual records were released under the names Glass Domain and LAM in the early 90s.)

Drexciya's releases proper began in 1993 with Deep Sea Dweller on Shockwave, which also established the mythological underwater theme which would characterise all their subsequent releases in the '90s through the UR, Warp, Rephlex, S.I.D., Submerge and Tresor labels. 1997's double CD 'best of ' collection, The Quest was heralded as Drexciya's 'farewell release', but 1999's all-new Neptune's Lair LP on Tresor proved that talk of the group's demise had been premature.

By shunning the usual means of promotion – interviews, publicity photos, live performances etc. – and working on a strictly need-to-know basis, Drexciya inadvertently cultivated a mystique that only added to their appeal and they became renowned as one of the classic 'faceless techno' acts. Yet this approach allowed Drexciya a level of artistic freedom – not to mention career longevity – that many would envy.

Instead of media overload, Drexciya created a fantasy world of slaves-turned-fishmen and underwater landscapes around their music, building on Stinson's fascination with the oceans and African-American history and his vivid imagination. Recently, however, his gaze seems to have turned outerwards: the last Drexciya release proper before his death was the Grava 4 LP earlier this year on Clone, named after a star Drexciya had 'adopted'.

Although a jazz and hip-hop listener, Stinson also deliberately isolated himself from other electronic music, especially when recording, for the simple reason that he didn't want to be unduly influenced by other peoples' ideas. He was a notorious perfectionist too, and earlier this year told Detroit Free Press writer Tim Pratt, "I'll never reach the point where I can say this is the best I can do."

Yet his music was hugely influential. Futuristic, dark, textured and compelling, Drexciya were one of the keys to the resurgence of electro music in the '90s and one of the bedrocks of the Detroit electrobass style.

Although Drexciyan releases throughout the '90s had been few and far between, the last couple of years had witnessed an unprecedented level of activity. Stinson had finally begun to give occasional interviews, speaking of his concept of seven 'storms' – seven albums created in the same year to be released on different labels around the world. The first was Drexciya's Harnessed The Storm album, the second and third were solo releases under the pseudonyms Transllusion and The Other People Place. More material is known to be forthcoming on Tresor and Kombination Research and Rephlex recently released the second Transllusion LP, L.I.F.E. It's as if he was just hitting his stride when he died.

He is survived by his parents, his wife Andrea, a brother and seven children.

James Marcel Stinson, musician, born September 14 1969; died September 3 2002. 'Negative evolution cycle completed. Now in sonic infinitum mode.' – UR 

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