Twenty five years deep, honing my skills, paying my bills & I'm exhausted from the hustle.
Regurgitated beats, sounds, the churning xerox of another rehashed idea, served with hipster garnish to a diminishing count of newcomers.
I began using Facebook over 9 years ago now when they took over the reigns from MySpace as the go-to hub for online community-building and marketing. They quickly began to feel like the mothership, a huge, vast, global sponge that absorbed everything in it's path. Aside from their lack of music player implementation, what appealed as a user was their sleek and easy-to-use interface and the under-one roof nature of their site.
The music industry would be so much better if it wasn't an 'industry' at all - if it valued uniqueness over commerce, over seasonal treadmills, over haircuts & handshakes, backhanders & bores. It feels like the world of electronic music is stuck in a rut of it's own making, with franchises and corporate management draining any 'art' from the art. The blind leading the blind.
When I first began The One Series 3 years ago now it felt like a leap into the unknown. I'd been struggling for some time with the treadmill of DJ'ing week in, week out, and more specifically I'd been falling out of love with the music that had established me. I knew something had to change, but couldn't be sure how to effect that change, so I took a calculated gamble, and I became a promoter, and decided to trust myself. I decided it was time to grow.
I took on a beautiful warehouse space in the Mission district of San Francisco, and with the help of a number of core DISTRIKT crew (Burning Man), I set about creating a night that was my own. I bought in VJ AllOfItNow and Mad Dog Madigan (and their teams) and created the perfect launchpad for my simple vision to flourish. I was nervous as hell, but I listened to my heart. I knew I was doing the right thing for me, and I knew that if it worked out, it would be a gamechanger.
That night I played from start to finish for a full 6-hours. The doors opened at 9pm, so the first couple of hours were super quiet, with just a handful of people turning up at the start to experience the full vision with me. I was nervous, scared, worried the turnout wouldn't happen, worried the music wouldn't meet people's expectations ... and then the people rolled in, and the night ended with dozens of people coming up during my last track (Beck - Blackhole) and placing bouquets of white flowers on the mixer.
It was a beautiful moment that touched me deeply, and made me realise just how important art & music is to people.
The One Series returns to San Francisco for the 5th time this November, when I take over PublicWorks for the night on 14th November.
This piece was originally published a year ago today in October 2014.
2003 - 2007. This was a formative era for me as a DJ, if less so as a musician. Let me explain why.
I’d already been DJ'ing for 13 years by the time 2003 came round, and from the first time I picked up a piece of black plastic (just as the first time I picked up a musical instrument). I didn’t see genres as a limitation, as a border, as a confine. I saw music - good, bad, indifferent.
During that period, there were four primary sounds that interested me as a DJ, and they were four separate sounds that converged to meet in a supremely happy melting pot of styles, known by some as Tech-Funk.
There was the world of Electro House, back then a nascent scene epitomised for me by the likes of D Ramirezand his fully beefed up chunky drums, and stone cold epic funky buzzsaw basses.
There was the world of Techno, epitomised by the likes ofDusty Kid … fast-paced and at times furious, but a maelstrom of peaks, of builds, of intensity.
There was the world of House Music, impeccably and unceremoniously destroyed and re-constituted by the likes of Switch into new, shape-defying and logic-defying forms.
Finally there was Breaks and a healthy output of music that had House Music as it’s beating heart as opposed to the super-heavy tearout and funky sounds that prevailed in other areas of the genre.
The upshot was convergence. All four genres bought something different to a beautiful melting pot, a rich and varied smorgasbord for any DJ willing to ignore the confines of genre stereo-typing … and for me, it was a perfect and open-minded era. I remember opening my sets at a number of festivals in Australia with Dusty Kid's epic ‘Adyra’ and absolutely destroying people’s pre-conceptions in doing so. These different styles dove-tailed beautifully as they variously shared sound palettes, tempo, groove and perhaps most importantly of all, energy.
Here’s one of my many Strongarm Sessions from the era to demonstrate this blend of styles …..
So … fast forward 2014, and the complete eradication of that convergence. Since probably 2008 all of the aforementioned genres have undergone a fairly rapid and radical divergence from one another. (You may choose to disagree with these opinions. That’s fine by me.)
With exceptions of course, Techno has largely become more groove-infused, slower, more compulsive and with fewer seismic drops. Layers rather than impact moments have become the order of the day, but as ever it remains a broad, diverse, challenging world of sound and rhythm.
House Music has diversified (as it always has done), taking on board garage-tinged basslines in some quarters, but becoming a less radicalised & high energy form than in the almost punky subversions of the Switch era.
Electro House has seen the most seismic shifts, adopting a ferocious post-Wolfgang Gartner sound palette and adopting a gonzoid approach to it’s new stadium-sized audiences. The music has undergone an almost complete commercialisation, an extreme dumbing down to it’s most soulless and abrasive form.
Breaks has become dominated on the one hand by booty bass, accelerated tempos, misogynist lyircs and the sound of car alarms mating. On the other hand Psy-Trance has become an unlikely bedfellow with a whole subculture of super-fast and overly programmed noodling. On the third hand, the hard & heavy dubstep-electro palette has become a staple of many breaks tunes.
In short, that beautiful convergent eclecticism that played ball so damned nicely, has become a wildly flailing octopus having a panic attack in a crowded retail park whilst wearing rubber gloves embedded with razor blades.It’s carnage out there people.
So … when people occasionally ask and wonder why I no longer draw down from the rich and diverse range of styles in the way I was once able to do, the answer is simple … it is no longer possible to FLUIDLY blend those different genres (assuming that I actually liked them all in 2014, which I clearly don’t).
I want my dancefloors to be carried along the ceiling on a wave of euphoria .. I want my dancefloors to be enraptured by range and depth and hypnotised by the blend … I want people to feel the music, to touch it’s soul. I want to reach deep inside myself when I play. I want people to lose themselves in it and I want to feel that emotional connection.