To many, the name Aux 88 has long been synonymous with the term Techno Bass. Having been influenced by the early days of Detroit Techno, as well as the glory days of the Electro Funk and Miami Bass era, the duo had the vision, that like with the growing movement of Techno Bass music in Miami thanks to bands like Dynamix II, could help create something that could actually become a new style of Electro music, helping not just to revive the dying Electro Funk sound as the late 80's brought about its demise worldwide, but also to give it a direction which the sound could take and evolve from what it once was...and that's exactly what happened, the rest is history! Having been involved in the making of Electro sounds for almost 25 years, Keith Tucker and Tommy "Tom Tom" Hamilton have just about done it all. To this day, they continue to push the boundaries by not just perfecting the mix, but also by innovating on what has previously been done.
Both Keith and Tommy come from musical backgrounds since an early age. Since the age of 5, Tommy has been playing the drums, giving him a well rounded perspective of rhythm which would later manifest into an avid dedication for dancing, more specifically, a style called the "Snake", as well as the Pop-Lock, which was a form of the Detroit style called the "Jit". Having joined the dance groups "Cosmic Swingers", "Motor City Poppers", and "Devo Dancers", Tom Tom gained an understanding of the dancefloor which would prove to be key in the making of the sound that would soon take over the Detroit dance scene, eventually moving on to revolutionize Europe and beyond.
Keith Tucker, a classically trained musician since his grammar school days, developed a strong affection for the true art and theory of music laid forth by legends like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. This would lead him to gravitate towards the sounds of Sci Fi movie scores, where sweeping strings move about in the background of things, creating dark, moody and enigmatic atmospheres that inspire thoughts of futuristic visions. Tucker went on to learn music sequencing and completely immersed himself in the world of synthesizers and drum machines, also putting himself through college, learning Technical Illustration, Computer Graphics and Mechanical Engineering. This has been a great asset in the path that he would take with his many projects like Aux 88, Optic Nerve, KT-19941, but more than anything, with his label Puzzlebox Records. Keith is responsible for the cover art of the releases issued on this great imprint, as well as their websites and video footage that is displayed during many of Aux 88's perfomances.
In 1985, Keith and Tom Tom joined forces with Anthony Horton and Marcus Greer to form RX-7. The group became a local success in Detroit, playing not just original material, but also cover versions of Cybotron and Model 500 tracks. The great thing about these performances was that absolutely everything was played live by hand, something that is quite amazing considering how fast some of the basslines, arpeggios, and synth lines are in many of the songs they were playing. Wanting to pursue their own individual aspirations, amongst other things, the group disbanded some time later.
Keith Tucker went on to record for Metroplex Records, under the name Frequency, a collaboration between Tucker, Juan Atkins, and Jesse Anderson, as well as a one time appearance on one of the tracks by Darren Muhammad, of Adrenalin M.O.D. The record was released in 1990, and featured the tracks "Television", "Frequency Express", and "New Jack House". The group also had a couple of tracks released recently on the compilations "Disintegrate", and "Dance Eternal", in 2007 and 2008.
In 1992, while continuing some work for Metroplex, Tucker received a visit from his old friend Tommy Hamilton and the two decided to join forces again. The two found that taking some time to work on their individual ideas had done them a lot of good, so they began to produce a great deal of tracks with a new sound that was fusing Tucker's Techno background, with Hamilton's West Coast and Miami Bass influences. A sound that later came to be called "Techno Bass". The two really had nothing to do with coming up with the term itself, it was something that was adapted by 430 West/Direct Beat, and some English magazines that were trying to promote a new style of Techno that stood apart from the sounds that had been going around for the past years.
As ironic as it may seem, Tucker and Hamilton did not begin to release their Techno Bass material right away, that was just beyond the horizon and would come into being by a string of fate. Together with Anthony Horton and Andrea Gilmore, they formed the group, "Sight Beyond Sight", producing House tracks. The group experienced a great deal of success, but Keith and Tommy were looking for more...much more! On one fateful day, after finishing up new SBS tracks for 430 West, the wrong demo was sent in which happened to have some of Tucker and Hamilton's Techno Bass tracks. By the time the group had returned to their studio, a contract had been faxed in requesting to release this new sound. The birth of something new and special was in the making, Aux 88 was now in the midst. The name came from the fact they had originally thought of the name for the group in 1988, as well as their fascination with the Auxiliary input in hardware because: "it could do anything!".
Their first release was a cassette album called "Bass Magnetic", a vinyl single followed of the track "Technology", which was later also followed by the 1994 12" L.P. of the album. The duo went on to record another Sight Beyond Sight record, and in 1995, released "Aux Quadrant", quickly following up with one of their all time classics: "My A.U.X. Mind". The group also had the privilege of performing with Juan Atkins and Mike Banks, as Model 500, for the 10th anniversary of Metroplex Records. In 1995, ironically after the success of their recent releases and live performance, Keith Tucker and Tommy Hamilton decided to go their separate ways once more after recording "Direct Drive". Tucker went on to pursue some individual goals, joining forces with Anthony "Shake" Shakir, starting the label "Puzzlebox Records".
Tom Tom, unwilling to give up on Aux 88, briefly got together with BJ Smith, and recorded some of the group's most notable releases, "Electro/Techno", "Break It Down, and "Is It Man Or Machine". Aux was also later joined by the already established Di'jital, to assist in their performances as a live DJ. Tom and BJ began to tour the globe, exposing people to Aux's Techno/Bass/Dance fusion, gathering a great deal of momentum; even having their video played on MTV's AMP. BJ Smith left the group to pursue his own career as Posatronix, leaving Tommy to record the rest of Aux's material released on Direct Beat in the late '90s and early '00s. One of the most recognized of these was "Xeo-Genetic", an album that won two Detroit Music awards for Best Artist and Best Recording.
2002 saw the beginnings of what would soon be the return of Aux 88 to it's original members, performing at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival as the "Auxmen". Tucker was asked to close out the last night of the festival by doing a "History Of Techno", and saw it fit to reunite all of the members that had been a part of the group throughout it's history. Unfortunately, Tommy was not able to perform that evening, instead, the group went on to record a couple of very successful releases on Puzzlebox Records, "Project 1", and "Auxmen 2". A CDr of their historic performance at the DEMF was also released on Puzzlebox.
In 2005, Aux released the self-entitled album on Submerge Records, and was a well received international success. While this album began to move in a slightly different direction, it stayed fairly true to the original sounds of the early days of the duo. It wasn't until 2009, with the release of the Mad Scientist album, that the true evolution of Aux began to take place. Although it did not create a sound that was completely different than their usual material, it showed that the two had matured a great deal in the nearly 25 years of making Electro and Techno music. Rich textures, carefully composed melodies, and intricate sound scapes made this probably the best album of the year, climbing to #1 of the Streetsounds Electro Charts, and also appearing on the first volume of the label's return to the scene after 25 years. The duo also embarked on one of their most successful European tours, receiving a great deal of attention not just from their fan base, but also the media and many people that were being exposed to the Aux sound because of the Mad Scientist release.
Aux is currently in the middle of releasing their long awaited project "Black Tokyo", a vinyl and CD release that will feature a much different sound, even more so than Mad Scientist. Most of the songs on this new release are more Techno than Electro, embarking the two on a much different path than ever before. Changing their image to a more refined and mature expression of themselves, the duo are expanding their horizons to a more entrepreneurial approach to making music and using different avenues to spread their sound to many different circles. Expect much more to come over the next few months regarding Black Tokyo and everything that will encompass this project.
If practice makes perfect, then dedication and self confidence make history! Aux 88 have proven that if you believe in something, and you seek it with all of your might, there is nothing you cannot do. Having been a key reason why there was a revival in Electro music, Tucker and Hamilton used their experiences of the past, their opportunities of the present, as well as their vision of the future, to bring together many different styles in order to create something that has outlasted anyone's expectations. Aux 88 and their Detroit Techno Bass sound have captured people's imagination and obliterated dancefloors across the globe, while giving us something to look to, something that over time grows with us as they themselves grow. In a society that has long forgotten the value of true artistic expression, these two individuals have become great role models for a younger generation that is desperately seeking and needing something that is real, true, and purely passionate. Welcome to the AUX Quadrant, the journey has just begun!
Written by: Santino Fernandez