DJ Bone and the power of charity through raving
The underground OG discusses giving back, Detroit-roots, and his upcoming ADE benefit showcase
Eric Dulan, more commonly known as DJ Bone, is “100% Detroit” everywhere he goes. Even while in Amsterdam, where he currently lives with his wife Ahnne. The prodigal son of the underground has become a staple of the Netherlands, since beginning a residency at the infamous Shelter. It’s a particularly suitable home venue for DJ Bone, as his personal mission supports homeless shelters by sharing his love of Detroit techno.
Next week, Eric and Ahnne will be hosting their Homeless Homies Benefit Showcase at Shelter during ADE. All proceeds from the event’s ticket sales are going to the aid of two shelters in Amsterdam, as well as Homeless Homies - their foundation providing support to those experiencing homelessness in Detroit. The line-up is undeniably stacked, with performances slotted for Dubfire, Peggy Gou, KiNK, as well as DJ Bone himself.
Watch: DJ Bone’s techno and house set in the Mixmag Lab - London
Mixmag was fortunate to catch up with Eric and his wife Ahnne, to capture their excitement and anticipation for sharing their mission with this 10-hour techno sprint, as well as their overall ethos toward partying with a purpose.
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What are you most excited for, with your upcoming ADE showcase?
Eric - I’m most excited for the actual homeless people. We’ve met a lot of people experiencing homelessness here in Amsterdam, at both of the organizations that we’re going to be contributing to. So we have people coming that are still homeless, of course, but also a lot of success stories within that - people who were homeless, but were then offered contracts to work a job in the shelter for pay. So I’m most excited for them, getting to see and experience what we’re doing on their behalf.
Which organizations in Amsterdam will be receiving a portion of the proceeds from the event?
Eric - The larger organization is called De Regenboog Groep (DRG). They help the homeless by giving them shelter during the day and into the late afternoon, early evening. They also provide showers, new clothing, shoes and hot meals. It’s located just west of the central station, Droogbak.
DRG started an artistic initiative called the Rainbow Soul Club, that will be receiving a lot of the funding we raise. It helps them with an art project that they can do 2-3 times per week, as well as sourcing supplies that they have on-site at the shelter. So they have an outlet as well as a break from the daily grind of being homeless.
Ahnne - DRG has a few shelters around Amsterdam, the one that we’re benefitting is in Blakawatra, which is close to the city center of Droogbak. We came in contact after I did some research into which shelters we should donate to. There are so many…
Homelessness in Amsterdam is a political issue, because most of the homeless are immigrants. So this being our first initiative in Amsterdam, if we went straight to the people who are immigrants and homeless we’d make a lot of enemies in the city. That’s why we went through DRG, an organization that’s already established in the city. We contacted them through our volunteers, set up an appointment, and they couldn’t believe we wanted to raise money for them. They don’t get that often.
The Stoelen Project (TSP) is the second Amerstam-based organization we’re contributing toward with proceeds from the event, as it’s the only sleeping shelter available in the city. So after mealtime, usually around 4pm, they rush from DRG to get their beds at TSP. It’s called the “Stoelen Project” because the homeless didn’t have beds before, so they’d just fall asleep on stools. So for this initiative they asked us for was new beds, saying they really needed it.
We’ve put our heart and soul into this project since getting the booking from Shelter last June. I didn’t even think it was going to happen at Shelter because Bone has a residency there and they already gave us a date for November. But over dinner I mentioned it to Kolja and he said, “Well, you know… you have to do it at Shelter. There’s no other place.” We’re so grateful to have the venue’s support. They keep the bar while ticket sales are going to help fund DRG and TSP, as well as our project, Homeless Homies in Detroit.
Read more: DJ Bone is hosting a massive charity fundraiser at ADE
How do you hope this support will improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness?
Eric - It’s going to be temporary, of course, as is all help for homeless people until they’re not homeless anymore. But with this support, TSP will be able to purchase new beds for people to feel comfortable and good about themselves. And with DRG and their Rainbow Soul Club art project, it’s going to help their local art endeavors as well as trips. They do a lot of work outside of Amsterdam too, like in Ghana building and painting schools.
But mostly, it’s also going to help with the self-esteem, knowing that people actually care.
Ahnne - DRG goes to different countries, but the homeless that participate in the project need to raise their own funding to go, and the proceeds from this event will help with that. They’ve actually invited us to go to Ghana with them on their next trip, because we're a family now and that’s how we look at them too.
Ideally, we aim for Homeless Homies to be in various cities offering the homeless a safe refuge, help to get their feet back on the ground, with free medical, dental, mental assistance and job training. The people at DRG already offered to help and guide Eric and myself to get the ball rolling. We do have a 5-year plan, and if it can happen sooner, that will be a big bonus.
How has living in Amsterdam, a city with significant social safety nets, informed your regard for social impact work?
Eric - Well, I think it’s a pretty good model for how to take care of your citizens. We love the way they care for their people. But it’s tough, like Ahnne said, because it doesn’t extend to non-citizens the same way that it does for residents. It’s a really thin tightrope to walk, to help everyone all around, because there are some bad actors taking advantage of the system.
But, there’s a lot of people we’ve met who are in limbo due to the politics of it all. That’s the sad part. They don’t foresee a future of being able to gain citizenship, unless it takes almost over a decade.
Ahnne - In a way I understand... why it’s a political issue. Of course, a lot of immigrants come to Amsterdam for work. I think the Dutch government don’t want them to come here. They don’t have things in place for them. When Eric and I moved here, we had to prove we could sustain ourselves, and once we proved that we could, they gave us residency. Now we have the rights of Dutch citizens with healthcare, and this and that.
It’s a Catch 22, you have to x y and z before granted what you really need, and once you have it, life gets better.
But the problem is is that if you’re a migrant, there’s no protection within the EU, then you can’t move here to work. I know Croatians don’t have a deal with Amsterdam so they can’t do it. A lot of the homeless are eastern bloc Polish, Yugoslavian…
Read more: Amsterdam Dance Event shares first wave of acts for 2019
In what ways has running Homeless Homies evolved your approach to music showcases and event production?
Bone - It’s a happy accident! When we started the foundation, it was because we were randomly helping homeless people. But then it grew into taking all the profits from my label, Subject Detroit, so every single download all the vinyl sales goes to the Homeless Homies Foundation. Music lost its value monetarily, but you can still make a living off the music itself, but now you live off the gigs more than the music. So the music, and the money it generates, we decided we could put that in a separate account for the Homeless Homies.
Ahnne - We were coming home for Christmas last year, when we had the idea to collect old blankets and jackets. Since Eric hadn’t played in Detroit for a while, we set up a show and decided it’d be a free party you could enter if you had jacket or a blanket to donate. It was so successful that we did it again during Movement. For that one we called Funster (my favorite!) Derrik May, Seth Troxler, and Josh Wink to help us out.
We raised a lot of money and goods for the shelters. Since it was summer, they were asking for toiletries, hygiene products and diapers - and we got a lot of those. So after the success of that event, we said we should do this in Amsterdam too! That’s how it all came about.
What aspects of your devotion to Detroit have you brought with you to the Netherlands?
Eric - It’s basically the same thing most Detroit people take with them. You have a lot of people that grew up in Detroit, and no matter what, they’re 100% Detroit. It’s something that you can’t fake. You can’t just name yourself Detroit or say so, and you're from an hour away. It has to be genuine. It’s evident. It’s a real thing, like a portable vibe, and that’s really rare.
Like if you go to New York, New Yorkers are New Yorkers. But outside of New York, they’re not necessarily as “New York” as they are in the city.
Detroit people are 100% Detroit no matter where we go. Bringing that attitude to Amsterdam opens up a whole new avenue for people to explore. That’s why I’m doing the residency at Shelter. It gives them a nice underground vibe to come to four or five times a year. It’s not the usual hands in the air, DJ dancin’ in between tracks-type thing. It’s a unique experience. Not that it’s better than what was here. It’s different, it’s genuine, and it’s a good thing that people can come out and experience it. I really, really love it.
That’s why it’s special. Especially when I get to bring some of my Detroit people to come and play a night. I’ve had so many already. I had Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Octave One… Then we get people who are either heavily influenced by Detroit, or play in Detroit on the regular, like Josh Wink. I think it’s really special.
Read more: Pride of Detroit - DJ Bone is taking over Europe with his pulsating techno
Amazing. You’re really helping lead a movement, to make giving back a core tenet of dance music culture. In your opinion, what more could be done to bridge the gap between philanthropy and partying?
Eric - I think it’s easy! If you make a conscious decision that you have plenty or more than enough, that you can actually do some good to help someone less fortunate. Just take one aspect of your life, like your Starbuck’s budget or your Uber budget and just bike somewhere, take that money and set it aside for a few months and then donate it to a cause. If you have time, speak to the cause itself to find what they need. You might have no idea that you could help more than you could imagine.
That was the biggest thing in Detroit, when we actually asked them. We used to donate money and bring food, before finally we just asked them, “What do you need?” That’s when it became almost a special order. Some people that are homeless have big feet and need shoes, but can’t find ones that fit in the donations. So we’d get a few pairs of shoes so and they’d be okay for a while footwear wise. It’s things you’d never think of, like baby formula or diapers are big ones as well… Just buying a couple extra things at the local grocery store and dropping them off. It makes a huge difference, a huge difference...
I’m not saying everyone that doesn’t do it is guilty or sucks in humanitarian way. I just think that every person doing a tiny amount makes a big difference. We’re so blessed with what we do for a living. As artists and as an artist, you should be in that realm of reaching out to people to begin with. I think it should just a little bit beyond that and wouldn't take much.
Ahnne - What we always say is, Bone is 100% underground compared to the scene. We’re not rich, not poor either. We have more than enough. If we do an initiative here and there it’s not going to hurt his brand or what not. And maybe, in a way, we can inspire someone to help us out for the next one.
Do you believe all dance music artists should utilize their influence and platform for the common good, to some extent?
Ahnne - Ideally!
Eric - In a perfect world, yea.
Ahnne - If you are an influencer, I think you should use your platform to influence other people to do good things. Not just “Look what I’m eating, what I’m wearing, where I’m at…” It has to mean something. Of course I don’t have fans, my husband does.
What has been the role of your wife Ahnne in shaping this offering, and what would you say is her greatest gift?
Eric - She kisses the Blarney Stone! Ahnne has the gift of gab, reaching out to people, encouraging them to help out and contribute. She’s done an amazing job organizing… everything. It’s not about the ego when it comes to this initiative, you know? I know everybody that is getting involved, but she’s the one who talks them into helping with certain aspects of it. They don’t look at it like “I’m doing Bone a solid.” They respect the initiative and they respect Ahnne. So 90% of the time they’re in communication with her, not me.
Ahnne, what would you say Eric’s greatest gift is, to compliment your work in this initiative?
Ahnne - His heart is pure! Gah! You’re going to make me cry…
I think it works because we’re the same wavelength, you know? He’s a kind person… He has a good heart, so…
Eric - Haha she’s mushy! But that’s how it works. We get mushy at different things.
So, what would you say is the greatest strength of your partnership, making Homeless Homies such a successful endeavor, raising funds and benefiting those less fortunate?
Eric - Well, I think it’s easy. We just take how we normally live and apply it to the initiative. We noticed it and started to see it when she travels with me throughout the year.
Sometimes we stay in nice hotels, or fly business class. So you get a lot of people in those situations, not necessarily artists, but well-off people in general who have an air about them, or an attitude of being better than the flight attendant or the person working the front desk...
We treat everyone with the utmost respect and we’re nice. We connect, ask people how their day is going. So that just rolled over into Homeless Homies, and that’s our strong suit. As a team, we try our best to treat people how we want to be treated. That just flows into the initiative and to the people we’re trying to help. The more we can do it, the more overflow you get.
Initially, it starts out as small and then it gets a little contagious. I’m not expecting people to help… I’m not expecting people to donate. I’m just happy when they do. We look at it as, “Everything is a plus. Everything is extra.” There’s no expectations.
Ahnne was so worried when she first put the ADE event together. And everyone is telling her how great the line-up is, that it’s going to sell out. But she was still so worried, hoping that it does well and that we can raise money for the initiative. And as it happens we’re very close to selling out! We’re more than 3/4ths of the way there - and that’s only because they decided to add more tickets on top because it was doing so well. So that’s exciting. It’s also comforting to know that we’re going to be able to give a really good amount to these charities.
So what’s next for you guys, after the show next week?
Eric - We’re going to keep on with the initiative. We have some really special people who have already volunteered to collaborate in the future.
Ahnne - Also, we have a date for another benefit at Shelter during ADE 2020. So we’re already looking forward to that as well. It’s my blood sweat and tears, making sure this project carries on.
Eric - We’re just going to keep a positive vibe out there, keep an underground vibe out. I’m on a mission, well several missions… but between Homeless Homies and trying to bring some true Detroit action to the world. I have a new thing that’s happening - it’s called ‘DJ Bone & Friends”. It’s basically just a pure Detroit vibe from beginning to end. The first one is November at Shelter as well.
Tickets are available for the Homeless Homies Benefit ADE event here.
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Ryan Baesemann is an Editorial Contributor to Mixmag. Follow him on Twitter.