A response to Clive Martin’s handy guide/open letter to America.
Thank you, for the recent “explanation” of rave culture. On behalf of my fellow Americans, I’d like to thank you for the advice on how to handle our dance music scene. However, there are few things you might not quite understand. I am more than happy to break it down, or bring it up, as it were, to your haughty heights. You have rightly noted that it was you Europeans who have baked this dance music cake we are now stuffing our faces with. True, the ingredients were originally ours… raised in the dingy bars of Detroit, the foggy warehouses of San Francisco, and the reverberating discos of Manhattan. Then we gave them to you, let you knead that dough and ensure it was properly fluffy and moist before we took a big bite. Now we’re having this EDM cake and eating it too.
You see, for much of the last 25 years, we enjoyed electronica/house/techno/ EDM/what have you, in the confines of tiny clubs, similar to the ones you were in. True, we didn’t go as hard on the rave thing until lately, but we didn’t judge you for it. We didn’t think it made you gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or existentialists (we don’t know what that means). We just thought it was a virtue of being pasty, pill-poppers so desperate for sunshine and/or an escape from the confines of your socialist lives that you’d settle for any sort of “super-loud repetitive music that hasn’t changed since the mid-90′s” (to quote Ted Mosby). Please look me in the eye with your dinner plate-wide pupils and tell me Pacha in 2003 sounds drastically different from Ministry in 1997 or Creamfields in 2006 or Radio 1 during any ten year period between Blue Lines and “When Love Takes Over.” Do you want us to admire you for liking Airdrawndagger or something?
The thing is, when the US got fully in the game, the game stepped up. Electronic music of all forms has exploded into the mainstream, but also throughout the underground. The confluence of accessible production technologies and expansive digital access has led to more diverse material for broader-than-ever audiences. And it has us making heart-hands.
So here’s a shot fired back at you, for your dithering and dead-wrong assault on our Yankee raver ways.
YOU’RE WRONG! NOT ALL DANCE MUSIC IS ELECTRONIC! AND WE’RE NOT IDIOTS!
I could dignify your contention that “all dance music is electronic” with a condescending explanation about deep house, vinyl, and the history of live orchestras in disco. Instead, I’ll just tell you that the Dave Matthews Band makes many Americans dance and they’re not electronic. Also, don’t call us idiots, you thieving, would-be-speaking-German-if-it-weren’t-for-us, cheap little man!
Admittedly, we haven’t been that adept at naming our genres over the years – Modern Rock of the 90s made as little sense as Indie Rock did in the 00s. But while you sort that out for us, we’ll be on the dancefloor, going HAM over some sick new EDM.
LIVE DRUMS ARE AMAZING, TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE, BUT, LIKE, WHERE DO YOU HEAR THEM?
Didn’t Underworld used to have live drums in their set? That aside, a few years ago I got really into Infusion. They hail from your former penal colony, I believe? Anyway, they use some live percussion and it’s pretty ravetastic. Robert DeLong is a new American artist who does the same. Beyond that, I’m not sure where you’re seeing these live drums at the rave, but please do share! It sounds exciting! We’re a nation of marching band drumlines, Tommy Lee, and beach bongo campfire circles with Matthew McConaughey, so this live drumming you speak of suits us just fine.
IF YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT HOW WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DRUGS…
You’re totally that guy who wants to lecture everyone about the neurochemistry brain science of a drug taking WHILE taking drugs, aren’t you? You English are just so buttoned-up! Here, we’d just call you a wet blanket and lose you in the parking lot. The thing is, lads, we’re not obsessed with our drugs. We do them or we don’t. So what we call them is somewhat irrelevant. As long as our d-boys can decipher our texts, we’re straight. And in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re not too fussed about speaking the King’s English – especially when it concerns narcotics. If that’s of such primary importance to you, maybe you should put down the pipe, or baggie, or whatever it is that has you so jacked up. Also, stay hydrated out there.
YOU’RE RIGHT, WE DON’T NEED A DROP IN EVERY TRACK – BUT WE WANT ONE!
Here’s the problem with you limeys… you’re so committed to rationing your pleasures! So what if there’s a drop in every track? Go for it! You can have three drops in every track and still enjoy three in the next track. Why limit ourselves when it comes to bass? Go for it! Why delay the enjoyment a well-timed fist-pump or head-bang can give a crowd? (Besides, we’re frankly not quite sure how long this whole EDM thing is gonna last, so it’s better to pack ‘em in while we can.)
IN AMERICA, HOUSE MUSIC IS NOT DRUG MUSIC
Let’s elaborate… I understand that you cannot justify making house music and being anti-drugs if you live in the sunless doldrums of the British Isles. If I saw only gray skies for nine months of the year, I’d want to turn them purple too. But we have a sunnier (and ever warming) climate over here, and drugs are just superfluous to the highs of a good tune. In point of fact, we couldn’t be more proud of our own drug-free superstar DJ, Kaskade. That man kills it coast-to-coast and he doesn’t even drink! It’s just so passé to let your musical tastes be dependant on substances, and if you’re not better than that, we certainly are.
IF DJs AREN’T ROCK STARS THEN WHY DO THEY GET PAID LIKE THEY ARE?
Time was, we couldn’t lure Tiësto, Calvin and the Swedish House Mafiosos over here with enough cash to make it worth their jetlag. Times have changed, and now these boys hold down million dollar residencies in Vegas and headline megafestivals that are paying for their grandkids college educations. It’s definitely a bubble, but until it bursts, the world’s DJs are on top in America. They’re in beer commercials and on MTV. They hook up with reality TV stars and hang out with Jay-Z. Not only that, our promoters are rock stars too! I don’t know if you know who the Tomorrowland promoters are banging, but ask an American raver kid who Electric Daisy Carnival mastermind Pasquale Rotella is fathering a child with and they’ll gladly tell you. Is this wrong? Who’s to say? But even as my British ex-pat friends chide stateside crowds for facing the DJ booth while at
church the club, they’d be hard-pressed to argue that the dude at the decks isn’t a bonafide rockstar.
IT MAKES US SO VERY HAPPY
The bottom line is that we don’t really care what you think about us. We’re not trying to ape your muddy olde raves of yore. This is our scene, our music, our rules. And as much as you think we don’t “get it,” we know you really don’t get it either. Just stand in the middle of a steamy crowd of thousands under the stars when Skrillex is playing “Cinema” and hear every sweaty glitter-bodied person around you shouting back the lyrics at the top of their lungs like they’re Gary Go and they just landed on the moon with a billion dollars and a pile of puppies. If that doesn’t melt your frosty Anglo heart, I don’t know what will. This – not your dad’s weak-ass 90s MDMA – is what defines ecstasy. We live for moments like these. These moments are why you, my British friends, might do well to learn a thing or two from us.
follow Zel at @ZelMcCarthy