Slow Jams Detroit Celebrates 8 Years (An Interview with Creators ERNO + Eastside Jon)
Those in the music industry know that it is no easy feat to throw one party, but throwing one every week for 8 years straight is damn near impossible. That’s why it’s so impressive that Slow Jams Detroit is celebrating 8 years of funky get-togethers on Monday, October 31 (Halloween night). Co-creators Ernie Guerra (aka ERNO) and Jon (aka Eastside Jon) have been throwing this chilled out get-down at Woodbridge Pub since they opened their doors in 2008 and there’s no signs of them slowing down. We caught up with these two dudes to ask them about the party’s origins, what separates it from other Detroit parties and some of their favorite memories from throughout the years. Take a listen at some of their past sets as you enjoy the interview below!
RP: Give us a brief background on yourselves and how you two met.
Jon – I am Jon, a record nerd and enthusiast of music. I started digging in about 1993-94 at Record Time, Mays, Car City or anywhere else I could find records. Ever since then it has been an obsession along with finding analog music gear. Ernie and I met in 2006 or 2007. We both had mutual friends that introduced us because we were both into music and at the time we were both working on the legendary Funk Night parties.
Ernie – I’m Ernie and I have been collecting records since 2002 or so. I met Jon through the Funk Night parties back in the day when I started helping with organizing the venues when the party left the CAID and started traveling to different venues around the city in 2006-2007.
You guys are celebrating eight years of Slow Jams on Halloween night. Tell us about the origins of Slow Jams – when, how and why did it start?
Jon – Slow Jams started with a group of friends that wanted a place to play music and hear funk, soul and jazz records that you couldn’t typically hear in the city. It gave us an outlet at a new spot that just opened in the up-and-coming Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit.
Ernie – The idea of Slow Jams started when the Woodbridge Pub opened it’s doors in September 2008. We had a friend that assumed managerial duties at the Pub and wanted to start a weekly event on an off night to bring in some business to the newly opened pub. Since we were just coming off an intense summer of Funk Night Parties and the event (Funk Night) seemed to had been growing to numbers not seen yet, we decided on a chill theme where the DJs could play the records they normally couldn’t play out on a weekend night when the party is always craving music with higher energy.
What are some of your favorite memories from Slow Jams throughout the years?
Jon – I don’t even know where to start but my favorite part of the night is the guests that we have had over the years such as Dez / Andres, Rick Wilhite, (Grammy Award Winning) DJ Head, and Alexander Robotnik just to name a few. We have had DJs stop in from all over the world such as Italy, Greece, and Russia playing jazz to deep house and everything in between. It’s nice being able to play whatever I want, including records found that day from my record adventures.
Ernie – My favorite memories always come from the guests we have out each week to play. It’s always fun to hear a DJ that may be known for playing one style of music come out and play a different format to fit our night; it is truly special. You always get a genuine effort and the crowd always seems to talk about those sets.
The event features vinyl-only sets. Why is that?
Jon – I am very strict at keeping the night vinyl-only especially in the digital age. Plus, we are one of few all vinyl nights in the city and it’s something I feel very strongly about . The music we play is mostly only available on vinyl. It really does sound the best and adds to the whole experience. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur showing up to play at parties with my box of 45’s and everyone else has a flash drive or laptop.
Ernie – The night is strictly vinyl because it always has been and the whole reason we decided on that was because the night was intended for the residents and guests to play out the records they do not typically play out. It keeps the sets interesting working with only what you have in your crate. It motivates the guests to prepare what they are going to play prior to playing putting thought and effort into their selections. I personally feel that it makes the sets more unique.
How has Detroit influenced your sound (what you play, listen to and the kind of music you create etc.)?
Jon – Detroit was always my biggest influence in music from listening to the Electrifying Mojo and the Wizard (Jeff Mills) on the radio in my younger days. In the mid to late 90s I was going out every weekend to see funk, R&B, jazz and hip-hop shows such as Parliament Funkadelic, Frankie Beverly, Marcus Belgrave, and Slum Village to name a few. When I was underage, I would sneak into Dilla’s DJ night at the old Alvin’s then out to an after-hours to see some of the best house and techno DJs in the world in grimy underground spaces throughout the city. Motown (Detroit) has definitely molded me musically.
Ernie – I have lived in the area my entire life and it never ceases to amaze me how many talented musicians come from here. To this day, after 14 years of record collecting, I am still uncovering new artists from the past that have Detroit connections. Whether it be that they recorded here, are from here, or honed their craft here, the common thread seems to be that they were all influenced by this city and its people in one way or another and you can hear it in the music.
What can attendees expect at the 8-year anniversary of Slow Jams? Are costumes encouraged?
Jon – Guests at the anniversary party can expect a dance party with an eclectic all vinyl mix of music and have a proper Slow Jams funky good time. Costumes are encouraged, it’s Halloween!
Ernie – It’s Halloween so of course, costumes are encouraged. We will have a beefed up sound system at the anniversary party and will be celebrating with two local Detroit legends: John Collins and Scott Zacharias!