You’d be forgiven for expecting DJ Stingray to be one of the more intimidating figures in electronic music. A physically imposing character associated with a dark, dystopian brand of electro, and rarely seen without his trademark black balaclava, it takes just 30 seconds of conversation with him to dispel this preconception.
The Detroit native is enjoying a new lease of life after relocating to Berlin last autumn: tearing up the best clubs on the continent week-in, week-out, curating a mix CD for Tresor’s Kern series and becoming a regular at Berghain.
In a warm Midwest accent, he makes it clear he’s having no regrets about the big move. “I thought to myself, ‘Hey, if I’m in the capital of techno I should be able to play out more,” he explains. “And so far that’s what’s been happening.’”
Real name Sherard Ingram, Stingray was initially taught to DJ by Kenny Dixon Jnr (aka Moodymann) in the mid-1980s. The pair soon found themselves holding down a regular slot at The Outcast, a hard-as-nails motorcycle club in North Detroit, and the club’s uncompromising clientele would have a profound impact on Ingram’s style of DJing.“Let’s just say I had to play some records quicker than others,” he laughs.
The crowds at The Outcast were interested in hearing Miami bass and hip hop, so Stingray knew that if he wanted to play the techno and electro he was into, he would have to do so seamlessly and at breakneck speed – a method he has continued with ever since. “No-one plays electro like he does,” says Helena Hauff.
Perhaps best known for being a member of Urban Tribe, or via his affiliation with seminal electro outfit Drexciya, it’s his determination to uncover innovative new sounds rather than dwell on the past that has helped cement Stingray’s status as a visionary of electronic music.
When asked which contemporary musicians inspire him, he lists footwork prodigy (and fellow Mixmag Star of 2017) Jlin and Anatolian psych-techno experimentalist Nene Hatun – both artists at the vanguard of electronic music. “I’m interested in hearing music made for the postmodern world we live in,” he explains. “We’re living in an era where everybody’s buying this vintage gear, these old machines. I mean that’s great – but where does it get us in the long run?”
On a personal level, he conveys a similar desire to continue evolving and stay artistically relevant. ‘I’m trying to evolve, and that means I’m willing to put down things that don’t work and sound dated,” he explains. “I try to listen to the younger individuals, but I also try to take my experiences from back in the day and translate them to modern parameters. I’m trying to not only stay relevant, but define what relevant is.”
Michael Lawson is a freelance writer