Meet and Greet with Death Along with an Amazing Tour of an Iconic Recording Studio in Detroit

May 3rd

By Kevin Tshiamala

To say that I was aware of the legendary Detroit band Death prior to a few years ago would be a lie. When working at Quicken Loans, my teammate and I would rabble on about music; particularly punk music. He asked if I had ever heard of Death — no — he was adamant that they were punk before punk; that if you wanted to know anything about punk rock music, you had to start with the music of three brothers from the hood who called themselves Death. It wasn’t his conviction that sold me. It was the fact that he said, “three brothers from the hood,” who played punk music. The sight was unimaginable. You have to understand that besides Whole Wheat Bread, Fishbone, Bad Brains, and maybe a few others, there is very little color in the punk music industry  and even less in the scene. To envision three black men who people claimed started punk would be similar to saying Elvis started Rock & Roll. It didn’t add up, but this came to be true. For it is now 2014 and the documentary A Band Called Death has put the rumors to rest. With a recently released album, great music, and a plethora of tour dates, the music of Death has never been more alive.

Death Wall Hanging
Death on the Walls of USSRS

When receiving word that Navdo Presents would be hosting a Meet and Greet with Death as part of a tour of the legendary United Sound Systems Recording Studios, we knew we had to participate. When chatting and taking pictures, Death could not have been more kind. Even better, the tour of the legendary United Sound Systems could not have been more exquisitely enchanting.

United Sound Systems Recording Studios (USSRS) became one of Detroit’s first, independent, recording studios in the 1930s. The business, founded by James Siracuse in Detroit’s Cass Corridor in the 1930s, moved to its present Second Avenue location  just before World War II, and has been in continual use the majority of  its existence. The studio, which early on served as a space for industrial and promotional film production, is best known as the site of numerous well-known musical recordings. In addition, major technical and engineering advances were made at the Studio that would ripple through the global recording industry.

Studio B
Renovated Studio B

The historic United Sound Systems Recording Studios gave birth to Motown’s signature sound, in 1959 when Berry Gordy borrowed $800 from his family to record Marv Johnson’s “Come to Me”. Mr. Gordy would continue to use the studio during the course of Motown’s Golden Era. Don Davis purchased United Sound Systems from Mr. Siracuse in 1971, and continued to nurture the iconic studio. The studio gave artists, musicians, writers, and producers a place where they could cut a record and get it played on the radio without being signed to a major label.

United Sound Systems Recording Studios recorded legendary artists such as: Anita Baker, Ron Banks, George Benson, The Clark Sisters, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Death, Miles Davis, The Doobie Brothers, The Dramatics, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, John Lee Hooker, Earl Klugh, MC5, Charlie Parker, Parliament & Funkadelic, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul Riser, Max Roach, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Johnnie Taylor, The Temptations, Jackie Wilson, and Stevie Wonder. These artists and countless others have left their mark in history at USSRS.

The Dramatics
The Dramatics “Do What You Wanna Do” Signed Gold Record

The building is now threatened by the proposed widening of I-94 that would result in the removal or loss of the studios. Studies by the Michigan Department of Transportation present a conflicting historical narrative of United Sound Systems and of the building, and are cited to justify the demolition or removal of the building. However, the highway expansion plans are not cast in stone leaving some time for them to generate the funds and the public support they will need to succeed in saving the historic home of United Sound Systems. For the studio is truly a breathtaking sight. When walking through you can feel the musical history.

For more information please visit United Sounds Systems Recording Studios’ official website:

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For more information on Death please visit their official website:

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Collage of all photos
Thank you to USSRS, Navdo Presents, and Death for granting access to Hear Magazine