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'The Wizard' is spinning his magic at the Nectarine

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'The Wizard' is spinning his magic at the Nectarine


He calls himself "The Wizard," and unless you were at the Nectarine Ballroom last Sunday night, you've never heard any DJ do with a record the Merlinesque things the spinner, a.k.a. Jeff Mills, did with Madonna's "Into the Groove."

A sparse but thrilled crowd of a hundred or two ebbed and flowed to keep the dance floor filled while Mills turned the precision of hip-hop, scratch mixing and the like into as personal an interpretation of the songs as any musician who played on the original recordings produced.

Working on a small stage with three turntables in the center of the dance floor, Mills would play a few bars of the Madonna hit and, while cuing up a different record on another turntable, he would spin the Madonna record backwards to repeat the process at least a half-dozen times.

No, it's too hard to describe. But in talking to the 22-year-old Detroit native, it's obvious that his undeniable wizardry isn't the result of having tugged the right sword from the right stone, but simply a matter of hard work. Three years of "street" DJing for friends and parties led to a year of radio work with Detroit's WDRQ.

All that hard work, it should be added, is now paying off admirably. He is regularly performing/spinning at the Nectarine on Sunday evenings, and has just signed a contract with Detroit's most popular black-oriented station, WJLB.

WJLB? Is Mills -- excuse me, The Wizard -- the replacement for the now LLZ-ing Electrifying Mojo?

At this question, Mills turns even less talkative, and understandably so: The ink is hardly dry on his contract. He shyly says "no" and defers comment on any question regarding his time slot or position at JLB to that station's program director, who could not be reached for comment.

But on the subject of his other employer -- the Nectarine -- he is forthcoming and enthusiastic. "It's great," he says. "I've spun at just about every major club in the state and it's the best." The best feature of the room, he says, is the way it's set up: "Other discos have lights but they're out of date. This is all state of the art."

As for his intent, possessed stage manner, he says simply, "I feel that DJs should pretty much put on a show. That's why I want to spin in the middle of the dance floor instead of up in the booth." So while the dancers snap and whirl around him, Mills can feed off their energy as he spins, mixes and plucks records from the stack and racks around him.

If you didn't catch his act with the three turntables last Sunday, be forewarned: He won't be doing it this week, be he promises that "every week there'll be some kind of surprise, there'll always be something different." What'll it be? Hey now, you know better than to ask a wizard to explain his tricks, don't you?

The Blind Pig is usually closed on Sunday nights, but not this weekend, and there's a very special reason for it. Some very altruistic local souls have been shipping around the advance tapes of the just released Map of the World single and the tracks recorded for the band's forthcoming EP.

The result is that a representative of the Artist and Repertoire Department of the London offices of Geffen Records will be coming to town on Sunday night to check out a showcase gig especially set up for the purpose, That means, folds, that Ann Arbor's gotta turn out in droves to properly display the Map at their best.

Aren't feeling altruistic? OK, there are advantages. After all, if they get a deal, your copy of the "Monkey Paw" single will skyrocket in value, the town will be besieged by record companies trying to cash in on the "Ann Arbor Sound" and, anyway, there's no cover charge. If you're looking for something to do after the UB40 show (or just looking for something to do, period), why not stop over? But, for god's sake, try not to look nonchalant.

Jeff Mills got his start DJing for parties.

Pop Shop

'I feel that DJs should pretty much put on a show,' says Jeff Mills. 'That's why I want to spin in the middle of the dance floor instead of up in the booth.'

Harmen Mitchell's column of news and observations on the area music scene appears each Friday in The News.