PLAYGROUND DETROIT recently attended the NYC premiere screening of the award-winning documentary film Detropia at BAM in June 2012. As the closing credits began to roll, team member Samantha was surprised and excited to recognize the film’s composer as Detroit-based musician and artist, Dial.81. Previously associated with Blair French– the man behind the alias– she was familiar with his work in the Detroit hip-hop scene, but realized there was more to learn about this musician and artist.
French’s musical and entrepreneurial interests developed by the eighth grade when he and his friends recorded and sold 500 tapes of their songs. At 16 years old, he opened for rap phenomenon and fellow Detroiter Eminem and House of Krazees, and at 20 years old he opened for Ludacris. French, now 31 years old, has accumulated an enormous list of musical influences through his work experiences and his prized record collection that led him to explore his own sound. Without abandoning his hip-hop roots, French has found himself focusing on ambient music.
Craig Atkinson, one of the Producers and Cinematographer of Detropia, first met French in high school, but the two didn’t become re-acquainted until 2009. He sought him out after finding out that French provided the music for a successful Ford commercial and Atkinson had a new project to propose, but this was unique: Atkinson was set to start work for the full-length film of, “Detroit’s story…the iconic narrative of America over the last century.” French had never composed music for a visual piece already in existence; as opposed to his usual methods- making music for the sake of it and often filming a short to accompany a song. Director and Editor Heidi Ewing hired French regardless of his inexperience. For French, music producer turned composer, it became a challenging lesson in communication that would continue the development of his flourishing career.
Starting the film score with a whopping 40 songs, French narrowed the list to 12 or 13 tracks and then finally ten of those were re-worked for “listening pleasure.” DETROPIA (the original score) was released digitally on August 24th and has been pressed for distribution by local record label UHF Records on “limited edition colored vinyl and include a digital download card.” For French it was important to finish the album with a Detroit-based company. He also involved multiple friends to work on the project with him such as audio engineer, Erik Maluchnick, visual artist Rob Jones, and fellow musician, Eddie Logix.
Detropia has received international attention [some of which poses a controversial and negative viewpoint of the city], which has only fanned the flames of French’s dedication to his ventures. He has recently released an EP on M1-Sessions, a 12” of solo work, a short art film, and a plethora of visual pieces up-and-coming for display. With so much inspiration and production, he has found himself planning a gallery exhibition that will incorporate and showcase all of his mediums.
WANT MORE Blair ‘Dial.81’ French?
LISTEN/DOWNLOAD TO DETROPIAS SCORE BELOW!
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