With summer festival season heating up, Local Spins asked DJ and electronic music authority Todd Ernst to reveal the albums have had a major impact on his own career. Plus, check out his current favorites.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians and producers can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases recordings that changed the world for Grand Rapids DJ Todd Ernst (who’s also half of the duo DiscoBrunch). Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks.
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Todd Ernst has been an electronic music DJ and promoter for more than 30 years. He grew up in a household where his father was a bass player for a Motown cover band, and he played drums for a decade himself as a youth.
“We always had funk-driven sounds going through the household,” he says.
While his days are spent as the owner of an indie real estate brokerage, his personal company EXSIGN is a creative and consulting team that designs and manages corporate, non-profit and nightlife events. He’s also one of the founding team members for TEDxGrandRapids and a contributor to Local Spins through his column, “Looking for the Perfect Beat.”
As the summer festival season ramps up — with numerous electronic music spectacles from Electric Forest to Breakaway Music Festival on the horizon — Local Spins asked Ernst to reveal the albums that changed his world.
1. Michael Jackson, “Off The Wall” (1979) – The first girl I dated played it incessantly. At the time I was playing drums. I thought, holy cow, who’s that drummer? I’d act like I hated it, then I’d go home, put the headphones on and play along. It had those funk/r&b-based rhythms.
Listen: “Off the Wall”
2. Front 242, “Front By Front” (1988) – A friend was really into New Wave, and there was a Howard Jones concert at Devos. He dragged me to it kicking and screaming. I was fascinated by the drummer’s standup electronic drum kit. I was also intrigued by Cabaret Voltaire and Kraftwerk. That (all) was the thruway to Front 242. It was industrial and recorded for Wax Trax! in Chicago, where house music debuted. “Headhunter” and Welcome to Paradise” were hits.
3. Underworld, “Dubnobasswithmyheadman” (1994) – Still my favorite act. Techno was birthed in Detroit in the early ’80s. It really became everything I embraced all the way through the ’90s. In 2020, Underworld was going to be the headliner at the Movement Electronic Music Festival (in Detroit). I saw them a handful of times.
Listen: “Dark & Long”
Currently Loving: U2, “The Joshua Tree” (1987) and Cannons, “Shadows” (2019) and “Fever Dream” (2022) – One I’m listening to non-stop is “The Joshua Tree.” When I was growing up I listened to a lot of classic rock and progressive rock, Rush, Supertramp. “The Joshua Tree” is not quite like a prog record but almost.
My favorite sounding band right now is Cannons. I saw the band last month. It’s got a nostalgic, throwback sound, downtempo, cool sexy stuff. “Fever Dream” is the newest (released last month). One (review) referred to it as electro-pop, another as indie rock. That’s what I appreciate, something defying genre specificity.
Listen: U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name”; Cannons, “Come Alive”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Todd Ernst’s Playlist on Spotify
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