AM I OUT OF TOUCH
My socials have been filled with lots of talk about a Swedish DJ called Savatore Ganacci this week, after videos of his performance at the massive Tomorrowland festival did the rounds. It’s quite the watch, give it a go below:
It’s hard to believe now, but a DJ was like a folk hero. An unknowable faceless figure who was whispered about in the school playground. At my school one of the edgier kids would boast about sneaking in to see Alistair Whitehead or Carl Cox at Hard Times but nobody could disprove his bold claims because nobody knew who these guys were or what they looked like.
DJs should be heard, not seen. That was the absolute beauty of the thing - you could be successful, famous, respected (and if you were really lucky, rich) without anyone really knowing you. I’m quite a shy person in real life - like most people, just speaking on a microphone in public fills me dread, so the idea that you could be all those things (without every really showing your face or being so famous that you’d get stopped for an autograph while buying bog roll in Tesco) was pretty amazing.
For 10 years or so, the biggest DJs in the world were mostly faceless silhouettes in a dimly lit DJ booth. Even the sound and lighting was mostly crap, so music was king. And drugs. Lets not pretend. But mainly music, and that feeling of belonging to a tribe.
I’m 37 now though, I just scraped into being a “millennial” by 1 year, so I’m getting on a bit. When I watched this Salvatore video for the first time earlier in the week, my reaction was probably the same as most industry people around my age. I reached for the pitchfork.
“Look at this idiot. What a clown. He’s a joke. He’s making a mockery of the artistry, history and love we’ve spent 25 years creating. This guy's an embarrassment to the scene and backs up every negative stereotype of electronic music.”
This guy is basically a dick!
I don’t know if it was the bicycle kicks, the overly enthusiastic dancing, pretending to be asleep in the booth, the constant shouting on the mic, or the entirely pre-mixed selection of hooks, drops, samples and horribly cheesy sped-up Vengaboys B side sound-a-likes that did it, but within 2 minutes I’d made my mind up, and I was not not happy.
Then I had a slightly shameful realisation that I’d inadvertently just turned into THAT guy. An electronic music “Gammon”. Take your eyes off the tomfoolery in the DJ booth, and look down, and there’s 20,000 people with massive smiles on their faces. They’ve saved up their money to be entertained, they’ve covered themselves in glitter, and holy sh*t they are having a good time.
Also, I’ve seen just as much dickheadishness in uber-cool Boiler Room streams, and the first place I ever heard the Vengaboys was on Pete Tong, so these things are all quite relative.
It doesn’t help being English - we’re genetically programmed to curl our toes and tighten our sphincters at the mere suggestion of raising our voice in public. I made the same knee-jerk reaction mistake with Steve Aoki a few years ago. I’d heard all the “nonsense” about him throwing cakes, shouting and generally being a clown from the oldskool establishment of the industry and formed my opinion based on that. Then I spent an entire summer doing a weekly residency at the massive BCM in Mallorca, where Steve also played quite regularly. Watching the unbridled joy, carnage, mayhem and pleasure that he brought as he PADDLED AN INFLATABLE DINGY over the heads of 5000 sweaty people was brilliant. That’s what dance music is about as much as anything - escapism from the mundane, a secret world that other people don’t understand. If people older than you are shouting “what’s this load of bollocks?” then you’ve already won. Well played Salvatore.
As the gatekeepers of electronic music, we’re supposed to be all about inclusiveness. PLUR. Peace and Harmony. Respect. It’s OK to dress like a tennis player, air-thrust your willy to 20,000 people and play 300 chart drops an hour at a European festival and it’s OK to play your vinyl-only set of unreleased techno to a clued-up audience of aficionados.
Big room EDM is a positive version of the “gateway drug” effect anyway isn’t it? Same as Thunderdome CDs, happy hardcore and euro dance by MC Sar and the Real McCoy was for me. We get hooked in by the fun stuff and slowly find the deeper more fulfilling layers as and when we want them.
When the perpetual cycle of music comes back around in 20 years, those same smiling kids in the Tomorrowland video will be reminiscing about that hour of their life, saying “I remember when DJ’s used to be entertaining showmen and you got your monies worth - not like all these new kids who never get on the mic and just stoop over their laptops in a darkened booth playing serious music.”
Let me know what you think - @andidurrant