Henry Rollins used to be really fucking cool. Back in the early '80s he was the frontman for Black Flag — one of America’s greatest punk bands. Black Flag wound up a lot of more ‘musical’ musicians by playing songs that were rawer than cold sushi, really simple to make, really catchy, and really appealing to the kids going supermental batshit crazy at the punk shows. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS NOISE? wailed the flabby middle aged statesmen of rock. IT’S NOT MUSIC! IT TAKES NO TALENT!
20 years later Black Flag had been absorbed into the musical establishment, whilst Rollins was making rubbish commercials for edgiest-brand-ever Gap, and recording woeful ‘comedy’ routines where he would whine about how shit rave music was, how DJs had ‘no talent’ because they ‘played other people's records’ and how dance music ‘could only sound good on shitty drugs’.
Something terrible had happened. Henry wasn’t cool anymore. Like your Dad pontificating on what’s hip whilst wearing Simon Cowell jeans, Henry was embarrassing. He was out of touch. And, as he might have realised had he bothered actually engaging with even the smallest modicum of the music he was dismissing, he was really, astoundingly wrong.
So, major alarm bells ring when the old guard of dance music start using similar language to lay into the fans and producers of EDM. Currently, Daft Punk lead the depressingly crowded race to tediously dismiss new music. First the French duo drivelled on about how EDM lacks soul, then they quipped that they thought it was all “made by one guy”. My favourite quote has them moaning that kids don’t go to parties because “when everybody has the ability to make magic, it's like there's no more magic — if the audience can just do it themselves, why are they going to bother?”
I’m sorry, what? They’re basically confirming that they’re so shockingly uninspired that they’re incapable of making something with a laptop that couldn’t be copied by a million other kids. Are they really that shit? If it’s genuinely that easy then why can’t I knock out a record as insanely successful as 'Levels' in my lunch break and fuck off writing this crap? Lord knows I’ve tried.
Let’s be honest, I really don’t like most of Skrillex’s output. It sounds like a fax machine getting a reach around. But I’m 34-years-old! Of course I think that, I’m an ageing shit who goes on about necking mega doves, raving at Telepathy, and 'Strings of Life'. Just because I don’t like, or understand, EDM doesn’t mean it's shit, or it's easy to make, or it's soulless, or it's any number of other spurious accusations being levelled by a host of dance producers my age and older. It just means I’ve got different points of reference and I like different things.
One-trick pony DJ Sneak bleats that the new generation of EDM producers should “take a good look at themselves and realise that they are the worst thing that has ever happened to this music industry… we built this house a long time ago, these newcomers just like to vandalise it… if you’re going to start making or playing house music, educate yourself and respect the sound”.
OK, two points Sneak: First, it doesn’t matter. Just because some people like Borgore records doesn’t mean your living is in any way going to be impinged. Let the kids enjoy themselves. Second, I’d say that the last thing kids should do is educate themselves. Fuck that! They should go in knowing nothing, with no rules dreamt up by curmudgeonly 40-year-olds to hold them back. Let 'em download hacked DAWS onto cheap laptops and make the craziest sound they can possibly imagine!
That’s the true maverick spirit of house! It’s about invention, necessity, love and having a good time. It’s not about history, it’s not about learning some formula, it's about smashing formulas and making music that utterly alienates some people whilst entrancing others. Yeah, attack corporate interests controlling modern EDM, yeah attack mega bucks fees, but Jesus, don’t moan about the music, or you’re really letting the world know you’re o.v.e.r.
To finish I’d like to quote Carl Craig, an excellent and wise man recently interviewed for DJ Mag USA.
“I tell you we’ve got to be very careful to not start looking like old men. It pisses me off when I see people going, ‘ahh this music ain’t shit, the music we used to listen to was so much better …’ It just sounds like someone’s dad. Someone who listens to EDM and they really like Skrillex, they don’t want you to diss them… when I was a kid, I didn’t wanna be dissed because I liked the B52s, or Skinny Puppy, or The Cure.”
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