How many more movie stars turned DJs does the world need? This was my first thought when I saw this headline earlier today on Twitter. A quick look later though you’ll be amazed by how sophisticated Johnny Depp’s taste in electronic dance music actually is: Nina Kraviz, Ricardo Villalobos, Efdemin and many more – no mainstream electro but deep, subtle house vibes. And yes, this is a joke.
Good news: the electronic dance music blog of your confidence has moved to a harder, better, faster and stronger server (thanks to Thomas aka DJ Len), and Disco Demons 4.0 is now up and running. Not only does the site load much faster now, there’s also
the most awesome human being to have ever set foot on earth Bill Fucking Murray in the header, watching you as you discover amazing new music. Awesome, right? I’ve also re-designed the side bar a bit, for fast access to social media and recurring series of posts. If you experience any problems with the new site, please let me know (comment, email, etc).
There will be a big recap of what’s been going on in the world of dance music while the blog was down tomorrow. Here are some beats to listen to in the meantime.
Back in the days when I still used to own an XBOX and even had time to actually play video games Halo used to be one of my favorite games – not only because of the superior gameplay and the compelling story but also thanks to the incredible soundtrack by Martin O’Donnel.
On November 6, the fourth part of the Halo epos will hit stores, with a completely new soundtrack by UK-based composer Neil Davidge. The OST not only comes with a nice remix package covering everything from techno to dubstep but also gives musicians the chance to create their own versions of Revival, To Galaxy and Awakening, three tracks from the upcoming OST album. Get the stems here on the offical remix contest website!
UPDATE: as there are remarks in the comments on how this post missed to cover recent developments: please note that this article has been written in 2012!
“Who’d have thought three little letters could make dance music look so wanky?”, fellow blogger Clive from UK-based music blog Electronic Rumors asked on Twitter a few months ago. “What’s happened to dance music?”, Haezer asks his fans on Facebook. London music blog Too Many Sebastians recently declared the beginning of EDMageddon on Twitter.
In the meantime, Tiesto is still touring US universities for his Club Life College Invasion tour, Steve Aoki is still surfing underage crowds on an inflatable raft and David Guetta is still selling out every single show he plays. Skrillex and Avicii can still be heard blasting out of every kid’s iPod, the top ten tracks for electro house on Beatport still have cheesy trance vocals and synths in the breaks and Rihanna or Pitbull’s songs still sound like big-room club anthems. Madonna still keeps appearing at Avicii’s shows. Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia still thinks SHM are the new Beatles. And above all, Paris Hilton still thinks she’s a DJ now. What has electronic dance music become? Or is EDM just electronic dance music for douchebags?
After an entire summer spent traveling from one EDM festival to another, I obviously could go on for hours here, but let’s just forget about all that for a second and step back to take a closer look at this thing called EDM. A few years ago, EDM had been a collective term for all kinds of electronic dance music (rather than a genre on its own), ranging from techno over house to drum&bass, and all other kinds of music created on computers and synthesizers with the purpose of making people dance. Except for some new genres (like dubstep or moombahton) that have recently joined the family, EDM is still the catch-all term for electronic dance music. So what exactly has changed, and why are so many people (including me) so upset about it?
“EDM has become an entire generation’s pop music.”
If you ask someone what kind of music they enjoy and the answer is rock, you can go on asking which kinds of rock music, and you would probably get stoner rock, indie rock, hard rock or any other kind of music with guitars as an answer. If you ask today’s average EDM fan the same question, they will most probably have a hard time naming you three sub-genres of EDM they’re into. If you don’t believe me, go check the line-ups of dance events a few years ago: never before have artists such as Tiesto, John Dahlbäck, Richie Hawtin and Steve Aoki constantly shared stages, because each of them represented a different style (trance, house, techno, electro, etc.) back then, with completely different crowds. Today, it’s all just EDM. For a large number of (young) listeners (mainly in the US), EDM has become a new genre, it seems. A genre characterized by simple melodies that immediately get stuck in your head and catchy vocals that you can sing along to after the first listen (wait, isn’t that pretty much a definition of pop music?). Add a big drop with lots of bass, gritty synths and white noise to that, and you’ve got a pocket definition of 2012′s idea of EDM. I recently asked on Twitter “What has dance music become?”, and one answer I got was from Andrew of Harder Blogger Faster: “One word: predictable.” I couldn’t agree more with this, remembering Skrillex joking about one of his fans commenting “Nice song, but where’s the drop” after the prince of dubstep posted a video of Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker on Facebook.
How could it have come to this, though? For years now, electronic dance music has been growing bigger and bigger, finally making the jump from music made for clubs to receiving attention on mainstream radio – outside of clubs. This process was sort of kickstarted between 2006 and 2008 when some emerging artists managed to build a big hype and make electronic music “socially acceptable” for people who have never been into dance music before: somewhere between alternative rock (which was huge back then) and dance music, indie dance was born. Think of: Justice’s remix for Simian’s We Are Your Friends, the early days of The Hype Machine, blog house, Kitsuné, the Ed Banger generation, Crookers, MGMT’s Kids (Soulwax Remix). In fact though, this process has been going on for much longer, though: electronic music has always been drawing influences from other genres – think Bloody Beetroots collaborating with hardcore punk bands such as Refused. After this big hype back in 2006 – 2008 though, it started actually influencing other genres itself. For years now, electronic dance music has been influencing mainstream pop music – I don’t think I need to give examples for that.
Today however, the situation has changed. Electronic dance music is no longer influencing mainstream pop music. EDM has become mainstream pop music.
Underground music has been influencing mainstream music for as long as music exists, probably. When underground music actually becomes mainstream music, though, some problems arise: long-time members of the original scene will feel irritated with lots of new people suddenly claiming to be part of the movement when they obviously have no idea what this scene is really about. What better example than old-school house legend Mark Farina being removed from the decks in Vegas after the club received complaints from its bottle-service VIP crowd for “too much house music”? Or deadmau5 ranting about Madonna, and his “we all hit play” statement, and Boys Noize tweeting “if you see a dj that uses a mic and screams ‘put your hands up’ throw a banana at him”. Furthermore, artists who used to define and shape the scene for long years will start to “sell out” because of the big money that suddenly can be made when a genre blows up. These problems and others are of course typical side effects of a genre’s commercialization, and no EDM-specific phenomenon.
EDM in the USA – a booming industry.
With the hype exploding and still growing, EDM has evolved from an underground movement to a big target market for all kinds of enterprises, attracting the attention of big companies who started pouring lots of money into the scene, hosting bigger, louder, crazier festivals all over the world (think Holy Ship, Ultra, EDC, Tomorrowland etc.). “It’s just a marketing term to sell various genres of dance music to the US.”, Clive of Electronic Rumors once tweeted, and he’s totally right about that. With the massive marketing firepower of the entire event industry as a strong tailwind, EDM is getting bigger and bigger. In fact, the bigger it gets, the bigger it gets – a vicious circle.
Obviously what I’m talking about here is largely a US-based phenomenon. Of course it’s swapping over to Europe, but the real big hype hasn’t actually arrived yet (and I’m not sure if it ever will): even at European mainstream EDM festival like Tomorrowland you will meet more North and South Americans than Europeans combined. This is due to a strong, independent scene and a long tradition of electronic dance music in Europe: French house in, well, France, drum & bass and dubstep in the UK, techno and deep house in Berlin – just to name a few examples. There are lots of big artists in Europe who firmly stand against the EDM hype, who have always chosen quality electronic dance music over cheap music for the masses. I’m not going to do some namedropping here – if you’ve been following this blog for some time chances are that you already know who the good guys are. After being asked in an interview why Europe seems to be constantly ahead of the US when it comes to electronic dance music, techno legend Richie Hawtin explains that the club scene in Europe has not only a much longer tradition than it has in the States, but also complains about the mentality of the US scene: “I think music in America, and this emanates across the world, everybody wants to be a superstar. Everybody wants to actually cut themselves off from people. Everybody wants to be on a pedestal. [...] It’s a little bit disappointing how that’s happened in America. It’s really like the whole rock star, hip-hop mentality. You know, these unreachable people.”
Having said that, EDM’s poster boys are of course in no way inferior when it comes to producing and DJing (except for some of the obvious douchebags), in fact I have all the respect in the world for artists like David Guetta: every single piece of music this man touches immediately turns into solid earworm gold. Also, he’s French, so obviously I’m not just hating on the US music scene here, just to be clear about that too. The US music scene is clearly breaking new grounds with EDM at the moment, so obviously there are lots of people who are new to electronic dance music – and of course they can’t be expected to immediately know and appreciate the more elaborate and sophisticated facets of electronic music, as Hawtin explains: “If you just got into Calvin Harris or you just got into Afrojack, great. You’ve stepped through the door, but there’s so much more to learn.”
This is the end?
However, at some point in the near future the EDM hype will probably collapse, as new (or old) genres will eventually start replacing it again. I remember asking Olle of Dada Life in an interview I did with them back in 2009 if he thought that electronic dance music would ever become as popular as indie rock, and he answered: “It already is, in some ways. On a regular weekend more people are partying to house and electro than rock. They just don’t know what they’re hearing at the club. I don’t think that will change, but that’s fine!” Obviously it did change, so why shouldn’t it change again? Hopefully for the better, this time.
In my opinion, while quickly gaining lots of fans, electronic dance music has become less credible in the course of this big EDM hype. The (bigger part of the) underground clubbing scene (where it has been all about the music) has turned into a commercial hype focusing on festivals, fireworks and rockstar personality cult rather than on the music itself. It has become harder to spot the most interesting artists, and it has become harder for talented artists to reach an audience if their music is not big-room compatible. While introducing massive crowds to electronic music, this thing called EDM has been a major setback for electronic dance music, as it has changed the public’s perception of dance music to something that dance music never wanted to represent.
Having said that, the scene has always been sort of re-inventing itself – and the bigger EDM becomes, the more up and coming artists start rejecting the hunt for the hardest drop, slowly developing a fresh underground scene, where it’s all about the music again – for example the future techno movement. Facing the rapid commercialization of mainstream dance music, these small underground scenes are rapidly gaining fans who are fed up with the EDM hype. So let’s all just sit back and wait for this whole thing to repeat itself again in a few years. Eurodance, EDM – I wonder what they will call it the next time.
Photo credits: Drew Ressler, rukes.com.
Those of you who are following me on Facebook or Twitter will have noticed that I’ve spent the past week in Belgium. I have been invited by Tourism Flanders on what they called the world’s biggest blog trip, inviting 100 bloggers from all over the world to visit a festival of their choice and do some sightseeing in Belgium.
After flying to Brussels from Vienna, I arrived in Gent on Thursday afternoon. I didn’t actually know a lot about the city, except that it’s hosting I Love Techno festival each year in November. Staying there for two nights I spent most of the time just wandering around in the city, randomly discovering beautiful plazas, old buildings and nice bars, all within walking distance. If you’re ever there, make sure to have a Delirium (it’s said to be the best beer in the world) and stop by De Kastart for the best spaghetti in town. Also met up with Laurens from Aerotronic, don’t sleep on their latest remix for Sinéad O’Connor!
On Saturday I caught an early train over to Antwerp for Laundry Day festival, one of the craziest festivals I’ve ever been to. Read more about Laundry Day festival and watch some incredible photos here! Obviously I had a great time in Belgium, meeting lots of cool people and visiting beautiful cities. Can’t wait to get back for some more festivals next year!
Fairylands and fireworks, sculptures and soap bubbles: Belgian festivals obviously tend to be a slight bit crazier than others , we already know that. Having said that, it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise for you that there’s a festival called Laundry Day, celebrating dirty beats and clean laundry. And yes, the DJs are playing on a giant clothespin.
Laundry Day will take place next Saturday (September 1st) in the lovely city of Antwerp, Belgium, presenting lots of the most interesting names in electronic dance music: Mumbai Science, Gtronic, Aeroplane, Ego Troopers, Modek, Paul Chambers and Sound Of Stereo, just to name a few.
I have been invited by Flanders Is A Festival to fly up to Belgium for Laundry Day festival and visit Brussels, Gent and Antwerp before, so for the next few days there might be less music on the blog but instead you will find pictures and impressions from my travels around Belgium. If you happen to be somewhere near, feel free to drop a comment or email me if you want to meet up for
Belgian chocolate beers!
Music blogs are awesome. Music blogs joining forces on unique platforms to create something special are even more awesome. Let me introduce to you Weavir, a new web-based music discovery service that connects users through the discovery of music blogged content, concerts, and musical similarities. Sounds complicated? Not really. Let Sam, the founder of Weavir, explain:
Along with some other rad blogs, we will curate the music that can be discovered on Weavir. There are other sites out there already to discover music posted on music blogs, right – but what really sets Weavir apart from these services is that you can discover up-to-date music and concerts through similar people, and you can discover similar people through up-to-date music and concerts. You can also find out about artists’ tour dates, and even organize crowd-funded concerts together with like-minded fans. Pretty amazing, right?
In order to make this happen, Weavir just launched a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. Crowd funding is a way to raise money for a company by recruiting large amounts of people to contribute small amounts of money (25$ will already make you a member of the Weavir community) through the internet. The good thing about it crowd funding is that you only have to pay if the campaign reaches its set goal. Weavir is launching through a crowd funding campaign in order to get people involved and to build an online community of contributors who will help create the platform through creative engagement and feedback: there are special plans available for artists, blogs, venues – and most importantly, fans. Get involved!
Deadmau5 recently kicked off quite a discussion on Twitter and Facebook with a controversial articled titled “we all hit play”, published on his personal tumblr blog, promisingly named “united we fail”. It’s not the first time Canadian-born Joel Zimmerman has rocked the boat by speaking his mind: earlier this year he called Madonna a “fucking idiot” on Facebook after she made a reference to ecstasy on stage at Avicii’s performance at Ultra Music Festival, Miami. On a side note, he also wore a T-shirt with Skrillex’ personal phone number on it on TV at this year’s Grammy awards – but that’s another story.
Once again he’s brutally honest here, exposing the (mainly US-American) EDM scene’s pretentious idea of “live” shows: in order to perform a typical dance track live (and by live I mean live as in live with real instruments, not live as in Ableton Live) you’d probably need 10 drum sets, twice as much percussionists and a whole army of people on keyboards and synthesizers. It’s all about the show, the lights, the pyrotechnics – but most definitely not about performing “live”. He’s obviously not breaking any news to you here if you have a bit of an idea about music production and DJing – but I highly doubt that the 16-year-olds in the first row have already realized this:
I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of ableton and music tech in general could do what im doing at a deadmau5 concert. Just like i think any DJ in the world who can match a beat can do what anyone else [...] is doing on their EDM stages too.
Okay so here’s how it works: somewhere in that mess is a computer, running Ableton Live, and its spewing out premixed (to a degree) stems of my original producitons. And then a SMPTE feed to Front Of House to tell the light / video systems where I’m at in the performance, so that all the visuals line up nicely and all the light cues are on and stuff. Now, while that’s all goin on, theres a good chunk of MIDI data spitting out as well to a handful of synths and crap that are / were used in the actual production, which I can tweak “live” and whatnot – but that doesnt give me a lot of “lookit me I’m Jimi Hendrix check out this solo” stuff, because I’m constrained to work on a set timeline because of the SMPTE.
Basically, what he’s saying here is that (most) “live” shows in electronic dance music are about re-arranging premixed parts of the artist’s tracks and adding some effects (at best), which brings us to an inevitable question: why don’t play a DJ set instead? There are two simple reasons for that: First, there’s more money in live shows. Second, people expect more than just a simple DJ set. Let me explain. At the moment, the EDM scene is rapidly taking over concert venues, festivals, radios, etc. (I’m talking about the US here; the situation over here in Europe is a completely different one). To an entire generation, DJs (producers, to be precise) are their new rock stars, when in fact they’re not even performing live. People go to Avicii or David Guetta shows just as they would’ve gone to a Limp Bizkit or a Red Hot Chili Peppers show ten years ago – and they’re paying the same price for it, or even more. For that kind of money, people don’t want to see a DJ on a big stage playing his tracks on two CD decks. They want a “live” show, with a “live” setup, meaning having lots of synthesizers (real or not) and other undefined stuff with lots of buttons, lights and knobs on it standing around on stage. That alone wouldn’t be a big deal – there are lots of rock bands that have guitar amps and whatnot on stage that they wouldn’t actually need as well.
The real problem here is that these shows create the false impression of EDM artists being musicians who perform their tracks live on stage with real instruments – when in fact they are more or less just DJs, playing their own tracks on a laptop, with some possibilities of live modulation. They are real musicians – not on stage though, but back home in their studios:
My “skills” and other producers’ skills shine where they need to shine: in the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases. That’s what counts. I’m not going to let it go thinking that people assume there’s a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly, because none of the “top DJs” in the world to my knowledge have. Myself included.
Having said that, there are of course artists in electronic dance music that do real live shows – think Squarepusher or Soulwax, just to name a few. Artists such as these have proven that it’s possible to successfully perform electronic music live on stage.
And then again, there are the real douche bags who give the entire scene a bad name by snorting so much white powder that they don’t even know anymore what they’re talking about (unrelated):
I think the Beatles made something that’s kind of melancholic to sad and happy combined, and that’s just amazing. I kind of analyse music a lot, and I think that what the Beatles have done is what we do today. It doesn’t matter that we do dance music.
It’s that time of the year again: The nominations for the Grammy Awards have been officially revealed and as always, they’re the subject of heated debates. Especially a few certain nominations have already caused quite a pandemonium: Apart from Katy Perry, Rihanna and all the other usual suspects, this year’s list of nominations for the Grammy Awards holds quite a few surprises.
Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex, has always polarized opinions. There has never been an “in between” thing – people either loved his music or hated it. Either way, that guy from Los Angeles with the big glasses and the sidecut hair has managed to build an incredible hype around everything he has been doing in the past year that is almost without equal. And while a lot of people have obviously already entered into a prosaic post-hype stadium (Is Skrillex the most hated man in Dubstep? – Guardian), The National Academy Of Records Arts & Sciences has decided to nominate Skrillex for five (yes, you read that right!) Grammy awards.
For those of you who don’t feel like going through 49 pages of nominations, I’ll just quickly sum it up here: Skrillex has been nominated for “Best New Artist” (alongside Bon Iver and others), “Best Dance Recording” and “Best Dance/Electronica Album”Â for Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites, “Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical” for his remix of Benny Benassi’s CinemaÂ andÂ ”Best Short Form Music Video” for First Of The Year (Equinox).
Another big name of the electronic dance music scene can be found in the list of nominations, this time rather a veteran than a newcomer, though:Â Deadmau5 has been nominated for “Best Dance Recording” for Raise Your WeaponÂ with Greta Svabo BechÂ (also nominated: Duck Sauce, Avicii, David Guetta, Robyn, Skrillex), “Best Dance/Electronica Album” for 4 x 4 = 12Â andÂ ”Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical” for his remix of the Foo Fighter’s Rope.
Other interesting nominations include Daft Punk as composers of the Tron Legacy soundtrack in “Best Score For Visual Media” as well as Foster The People and Adele, both nominated for various awards. Of course there are lots of other amazing artists nominated, so if you’re interested in looking them all up in detail, here’s the official Final Nominations List.
I honestly don’t know what to say, words can’t describe how I feel about this – why would someone do something terrible like that to this incredibly gifted artist whose music is so full of positive energy?
Best wishes to The Magician, take as much time as you need to recover – don’t want to miss your music!