Two hundred singles after his 1993 debut, DJ Icey is again entering the dance stratosphere with "Different Day." Five years of reflection between albums has cooled Icey, and his latest is a more mature album than his previous bass & breaks pillagings. Giving nods to electro and downtempo, "Different Day" wends its way around different scenes while still using the DJ's trademark breakbeats to hold together its sequences. It doesn't explode into danceable frenzies, but, like a good pop record, retains a base on melodic hooks while effortlessly shuffling between structures in a somber mood. It's an intelligent fusion of what's happening now, while nostalgically bumping its body to the sounds of yesteryear. An album of intersecting influences, "Different Day" (released March 11 on System Recordings) shows how much the horizons of electronica -- and DJ Icey -- have expanded.
Ten years ago, at the high point of Orlando's techno scene, the fleet-footed could put on their running shoes and head out to hear Icey -- along with AK1200, Q-Burns and the rest of the city's respected dance community -- spin all night long. The town was rated one of the top-five rave spots in the U.S. by Rolling Stone. Times have certainly changed, and the breaks that fueled that nascent scene have been spun so much that the grooves on their vinyl slabs have been worn into dusty silences. Once the definition of "The Orlando Sound," breaks have gone the way of many techno genres. Now considered "kid's music," breaks are filed away in hot DJ's libraries for the inevitable day they become hip again. The local e-scene has always been more diverse than just breaks, with Q-Burns doing eclectic-house, Kimball Collins in the trance category and newcomer Machine Drum representing "I(ntelligent) D(ance) M(usic)." Still, the popularity of Icey (aka Eddie Pappas) cemented breaks as Orlando's music in the early '90s.
Yet even Icey demurs from this assessment: "Orlando has always had a rich musical contribution in electronic music," he says. "Breaks is just another piece of the contribution."
Voted "King of Funky Breaks" by Mixmag in 1995, Icey's fame nonetheless helped to elevate the reputation of the club where he DJ'd . The Edge's impressive roster of electronica mavericks was curated and hosted by Icey. Yet despite a degree in marketing, Eddie was a better mixer than promoter. And though The Edge might be a mythical Mecca in the nostalgic vision of Orlando's rave scene -- a place where stables of techno affiliates cut their beats before moving up and out to national residencies -- in fact, the club was a reluctant host to ravers.
"The late-night scene at The Edge was small and ended early," he says. "The Abyss and Firestone had a much deeper dance scene. Week in and week out, The Edge was much more of an alternative music club `and you heard` all types of music. I DJ'd the gamut from gothic to grunge and then late-night dance music.
"I really don't know what `scene` I built to be honest, I don't take credit for building anything. As far as I am concerned 'Ahhz' at The Beacham Theatre was the real beginning of the scene."
Despite the small crowds at The Edge, Icey gave many electronic acts spots at the club, including Rabbit in the Moon and AK1200. And while The Chemical Brothers made their first U.S. appearance at The Edge, it's important to remember that Pearl Jam entered Orlando through the same doors. It was established clubs like The Club at Firestone, which was booking international acts -- that brought in the big crowds, not Icey's progressive lineup of local names.
"You have to travel, just like bands travel and build a following," espouses Icey. "When The Edge closed I went on the road for two years."
Currently, Icey plays more than 120 DJ gigs a year, with no preference of dancefloor to drop on: "I play in Orlando just like any other city in America, several times a year." All this touring between cities has built Icey's reputation for tight sets based around breaks.
Breaks, that genre of dance that takes drum samples and plasters them with electronic rhythms, is Icey's staple. Artists like Frankie Bones established the sound of American breaks in the late '80s. Inspired, Icey began making his own breaks, becoming the first American artist signed to U.K. DJ Pete Tong's label. The rest was a steady upward climb of high-profile remixes and extensive DJ gigs. Today Frankie and Icey are on the same label. The DJ also runs four of his own labels -- Zone, Tree, Sweet and ECB.
But Icey needn't worry about his legacy here. Clubs from Tabu to Blue Room still play the breaks that he dropped like apple seeds all over the world. It's as if nothing has changed in 10 years: Breaks remain a foundation in Orlando's dance clubs.
But Icey's mix is more eclectic now. "Different Day" finds the DJ working in an area more akin to atmospheric drum & bass than the straight-up breaks of old. With this release, perhaps one of the city's most well-known techno ambassadors has unveiled a new image in the public's eye.