Archives for the month of: December, 2012

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I want to end 2012 with some attitude, and who better to lead the way than the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

I found an incredible, full HD video of Michael Jackson’s HIStory World Tour in Helsinki, Finland 1997. When these shows were going on, I was 8 years old growing up in suburban Washington state, completely unaware of his music. The HIStory tour was the third and last solo concert tour for Michael Jackson (In 2009, the This Is It tour, which would have been his 4th world tour, was cut short when Michael passed away on June 25th). It stopped in 58 cities, 35 countries and 5 continents. In total, this tour produced 82 concerts and wowed a jaw-droppings 4.5 million fans. At the time, it was the largest concert tour ever by a solo artist, in terms of attendance, bringing in $165 million dollars.

But high revenue is not the point of Michael Jackson’s tour, his music or his aesthetic as an artist. There is an attention to detail, a goal of perfection and a deep sense of soul in his song construction, concert production, style and music videos that elevates Michael to a superhuman level. Going way back to his time with The Jackson 5, Michael was trained from childhood as a performer and entertainer. From 1971 on, he started his solo career. Throughout the 80’s, music videos for “Beat It”, “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” were idolized; not only for breaking down racial barriers at the time, but for their ability to turn music videos into a true art form.

Dance moves such as the robot and the moonwalk were brought to life through Michael Jackson. The world admires and draws influence from his dance techniques, which are presented with effortless flow and precision. The most epic example of this to me, came from his 1995 performance at the MTV Awards. In Michael’s words during the show, “Some of us like to play it safe, and take each day as it comes. Some of us like to take that crazy walk on the wild side. So for those of us who like living dangerously, this ones for you.”.

See you in 2013. 

– Jimi Jaxon

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There’s been a lot of activity on this blog in 2012. Not having a search bar on here, I feel that some interviews have been overlooked. I want to highlight 10 conversations I’ve had in 2012 that left a lasting impact. I also want to say how much I appreciate all of you that read and support Disco Droppings. WordPress sent me my annual statistics report for this blog, and in 2012, people from 135 countries came through; America being number one, followed by the UK and Canada. I haven’t traveled outside of America, besides Canada and Mexico. It’s inspiring and humbling that my features have reached people as far away as Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Onward and upward..

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10. Distal (Atlanta, Georgia) –  We talked about his acceptance into RBMA 2013, his fantastic Boiler Room set, his label Embassy Recordings, along with books and films he’s been into recently.

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9. Bosstone (Melbourne, Australia) – Started off this post with his epic tune “Lean”, off his Gun Club EP via Paradisiaca Recordings. Also profiled his remixes of Pryda’s “Miami To Atlanta” and Amerie’s “1 Thing”.

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8. Alex Bau (Germany) – I was super hyped to talk with Alex, as he’s my favorite techno producer. We discuss his huge output of releases in 2012, where to go out in Germany, why he calls his remixes “Repaints” and what “The Holy Bassdrum” means to him.

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7. Jonny Dub / Hoya:Hoya (Manchester, UK) – Jonny is a resident DJ and co-founder of Hoya:Hoya, one of the top club nights in the world, which has hosted Kode9, Actress and Hudson Mohawke to name a few. I loved his “Hoya:Hoya Podcast Mix #2”, and chat with him about the club night, who he’s inspired by and the dynamics between Illum Sphere (co-founder of Hoya) and himself.

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6. Mosca (London, UK) – It was quite a challenge, coming up with questions for such a razor-sharp producer like Mosca. He gives advice to young producers like myself, and talks about his Eva Mendes EP for Hypercolour.

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5. Slick Shoota (Oslo, Norway) – I had such a good time talking with Slick back in May. For the rest of the year I’ve watched his tunes be exposed to more and more people, through his touring schedule and support from high-profile artists. His tracks were featured on “Diplo and Friends” for BBC Radio 1 and Machinedrum has been regularly playing his remix of Bambounou’s “Alpha”. We talk about his “Percussion Skank” EP, his favorite juke phrases and his “Windbreaker” collaboration with Cedaa.

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4. Ghostdad (Brooklyn, New York) – This dude put together some of the coolest visuals I’ve ever seen for Porter Robinson. When I traveled to Las Vegas back in June for EDC, my favorite set hands down came from Porter. At 19 years old, he played the main stage (which was the biggest stage in North America to date) on the third day. Ghostdad’s visuals for the show combined anime, video games, nature, space and mayan/egyptian imagery. He also accompanied Porter Robinson as a VJ on his Language Tour.

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3. Lucid (Melbourne, Australia) – By far the most in-depth interview I’ve done so far. I got to know Lucid for weeks through AIM leading up to the interview. This is pretty close to his life story, documented on Disco Droppings. Everything from Tupac to N64 to his “cry/lovemaking” dream set is included here.

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2. XI (Berlin, Germany) – This conversation flowed so easily. Christian is a very special man; he talks passionately about Actress, videogame soundtracks and what a game soundtracked by XI would look like.

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1. Alana Watson of Nero (London, UK) – The beautiful and lovely Alana. I got her perspective as the vocalist for Nero. She talked with me about her headlining show in Seattle for Resolution 2012, Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 show and her favorite Nero track.

– Jimi Jaxon

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The discussion about vinyl and its place in the current state of the music business isn’t a new one. There are plenty of ideas and more than a surfeit of information out there regarding the actual and perceived popularity of the medium, whom it is that’s actually buying it and how people consume music today.   

As a product of the so-called millennial generation and as an avid music listener, I’ve found myself having a similar discussion with people over the years that more often than not ends up in this agreeable disagreement about wether or not vinyl is worth anything anymore as a medium. I’m just old enough to remember when independently owned record stores in suburban Phoenix, Arizona were closed down almost by the month, only to be replaced by chain multimedia stores selling CD’s, movies and games. I’m old enough, that the first bits of music I owned were on cassette. I’m young enough though, that while I grew up with four-track recorders and tape machines, I initially learned how to record and edit music on a Mac laptop. As far as digital production goes, I appreciate what it is to be able to program an Endless Rotary Encoder to do whatever you want. I appreciate what the digital world has done to make music more accessible for people, not just to listen to, but to make. Yet, while novels could be written about the transformation of the listener from generation to generation, or why the UK saw a 40% spike in vinyl sales in 2011, there are a few aspects of vinyl’s place in our current culture that have fascinated me over the last couple years.

 

There are, of course, technical aspects that people talk about. When you put a record on a turntable you’re hearing every bit of what the master mix sounded like at the very end of the production process. Nothing is lost in the translation of copying the actual record over to a new physical medium. In the digital world, as the files get copied and converted in order to take up less space you run into what is called data compression. For music to translate in a relatively small, internet service friendly format – a lot of the sound is actually taken out of what you end up listening to in your car or on your laptop. Every semi-avid computer user will tell you about higher quality audio formats like .wav and FLAC, and those are great options for your digital collection, but they’re still not even remotely commonly used for every day digital releases. Even while Neil Young is on the case to find a way to better the digital format, these days plenty of bands and labels are putting out higher quality, analogue versions of what they also release digitally.

Working in the production process myself, I appreciate the amount of work that goes into crafting the spaces and tones one hears as art. From the standpoint of the person who makes a record, it makes sense to want the listener to absorb every last bit of what you worked so hard to create.

The controversy about mastering techniques that has emerged in recent years, and the steps artists have taken to avoid excessive compression and limiting of their music points to a more concerted approach to achieving a quality end product. For the fact that plenty of the records you might buy today also come with digital download codes, the nostalgia we have about it is almost the only thing that makes vinyl seem anachronistic.

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Services like iTunes and more recently Spotify have created a fantastic venue for nearly endless music listening and discovery. The portability and accessibility of these services has certainly made a lot of music easier to get to, but it also leaves little consideration for where the music came from. There are even new websites like Discogs.com that provide an online community where people can find out more about artists they like, their releases, who put out their music and other places to find them. Boomkat, Juno, Insound and numerous other online retailers sell vinyl releases of new music where you can often find things that have only been distributed in that format.

There is a sense of  locality and community record stores inherently have and almost need in order to survive. There’s something about going to a place to find a copy of a record you’re looking for, or simply exploring to find something new that is absent while clicking around on the internet. Living in Chicago I got to know which shops to go to for specific kinds of things. If I wanted an old Al Green or Supremes record, I’d go to Dusty Grooves – the soul and R&B shop in my neighborhood. If I wanted an old Cure record I’d go to Permanent records who had a great selection of left-of-the-dial rock. If I wanted a new Indie release I’d go to Saki up on Fullerton. One of my favorite places to go for electronic music was Gramaphone. I found everything from old drum and bass singles to brand new promotional releases. At every one of those shops I would end up talking to the people who worked there about new things they got in that week, or what they happened to be listening to at the moment. I also found out where to go see music played, and what venues or bars were good for different kinds of music. Music culture has always depended on people participating, and vinyl carries that spirit in a way CD’s and mp3’s never have.

It’s also, quite simply, nice not depending on something you have to charge, to play or access your music. There are no LED screens on turntables. Maybe that’s not the most modern sensibility, but in today’s age of hyper-consumption and online socializing, there’s something refreshing and personal about a community that values music in that way.

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I had a lot of fun making breakfast this morning; flipping bacon and scrambling eggs while I bounced around the kitchen to Blawan’s music. His tracks get me so hyped, at times it feels like my head will explode from too much excitement. Blawan, aka Jamie Roberts, possesses an understanding of rhythm and percussion that’s just…menacing. He’s like some sort of dark shaman techno character, and I’m his pupil, desperate to hear his teachings. I first started hearing about Blawan from Mary Anne Hobbs, whose supported his tunes on her Xfm show and done some back to back sets with the UK based produer. Then I heard What You Do With What You Have in a Jamie XX mix, and I was like “what is this?!”. Now that I’ve gotten more familiar with his releases and his approach to producing, I’ve got to share his dark vibes on Disco Droppings.

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Often, when I look into an especially distinct artist, they talk about restricting themselves. In an interview with RA in November of this year, he was asked about using a machine as opposed to a computer, which he first started making tunes on. Jamie says, “One of the main problems—and a lot of people will testify—is that with a computer you can do too much. You have to be restrained to be really good at writing stuff on a computer, especially if you’ve got tight schedules and you can write stuff really quick. I think you tend to have to be a more restrained, quite well-managed person, and I’m not like that at all.”. For him, limiting himself to machines works with his personality. In addition to limiting himself to machines currently, he pulls so much out of a few sounds. I really admire this stripped-down approach. I know as a producer how easy it is to stuff more and more into a song, instead of pulling the maximum amount of energy out of a few sounds. 

 

In addition to limiting himself on the production end, he limits his release output. StompMag talked with him last year, and when discussing the approach of constantly putting out new music he says, “Ya just slow the fuck down basically. I think theres a real sense of people wanting everything now. And I know people appreciate the music, but ya gotta appreciate that the producer maybe wants to take it somewhere or take his time. I think thats what I’m trying to do, I don’t want to put everything out cos if i do it’ll just end up being really messy, there would be no fluidity to the releases. I think thats what im trying to do, keep a nice flow going rather than just have craziness!”.

 

Where Blawan does not restrict himself is the energy of his productions. His first release back in 2010 for Hessle Audio, Fram / Iddy is ridiculous. He commands attention on both tracks; “Fram” takes bits of garage, jungle and techno and melts them down to a hypnotic compound, and the rhythms on “Iddy” are so tight and distinct, I’m left in awe with every listen. His latest release for Hinge Finger, His He She & She is currently only available on vinyl, and seems to be out of stock everywhere. It opens with “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”, a sinister techno track that’s painfully superb. Earmilk gave a fitting description of this release saying, “If I heard one of the (several) screams throughout this track – and the whole EP itself in fact – in a club and didn’t know where it came from, I would be fairly certain the club was located above some sort of underground torture dungeon. That’s Blawan for you on this EP. It really seems he wants to freak you out. Even considering the photographs on the cover, smiling children, couples and friends,  when put into context of the music makes a dark EP seem even more sinister, in a “missing persons” sort of way.”.

 

If you’re interested Blawan’s collaborations, check out his work with Pariah as Karenn. I’m diggin’ their Sheworks001 release, vinyl only. Karenn did a live set for Boiler Room last month, all hardware, which can be viewed here. There’s also the Cursory EP, released by Blawan and The Analogue Cops via Vae Victis Records in December of last year. Get hyped. 

Blawan – Twitter Facebook Discogs

– Jimi Jaxon 

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A recent Mixmag interview with Machinedrum has prompted my assessment of EDM. I was impressed with Machinedrum, aka Travis Stewart’s balanced observations of underground dance music and EDM. Being such a driving force in the underground, it is refreshing to see someone like Machinedrum speak on Mixmag, without even a hint of attitude or territorial ego. You don’t hear an us vs. them argument, which I think is vital for the healthy development of electronic music as a whole.

This attitude especially connects with me, because my journey with electronic music has gone through many stages. With close to zero knowledge of electronic music up until the age of 18, I saw Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 show in Seattle. From there I saved up for DJ equipment, and by February 2008 I was practicing in my dorm room, without any sort of a community of like minded people. Soon after I was invited to my first rave, with the funny name “Hakuna Matata” (it was year 4 or 5 of their series, I can’t remember which). This began my entrance into the rave scene. Having grown up never attending house parties as a kid, and also having been completely sober up until that rave, it was a big moment for me. I was hearing electro house, breakbeat, drum & bass, happy hardcore, psy-trance, and eventually dubstep which started to slowly find it’s way into the parties. Rave culture was very influential to me, for the freedom it gave, the ability to soak in the dynamics between the DJ and the audience and the overall loving and accepting attitude that I got from people at those parties.

Eventually, that particular area of partying faded for me, but my devotion to DJ’ing continued on. Eventually I was putting on shows with my friends and exposing myself to styles not presented at the raves. Later, I found myself working for USC events; A Seattle-based, EDM focused group putting on large-scale electronic events hosting artists like Nero, Calvin Harris, Porter Robinson, Afrojack, Sub Focus and Tiesto. At the same time I also started and continue to work for Decibel Festival; an international electronic festival working more in the underground area, bringing artists such as Amon Tobin, Flying Lotus, Addison Groove, Autechre, Trentemoeller, Four Tet and James Blake. I find myself straddling EDM and the underground and have come to understand that’s perfectly fine. I don’t take the stance of, “Oh I’m over here doing this underground stuff I’m done with EDM”, or “It’s all about EDM”, I have taken influence from all of it, and certain styles and communities made sense to me at different times.

I speak about this, because it’s important for me to always understand where I came from. I came through the EDM/rave scene, but that was one piece of the puzzle, one element in my overall development as an artist. Everyone comes into electronic music at their own level, it is important to respect that, and at the same time analyze what you’re seeing. In my case now, I push forward so that the music and the community around me remains strong and interesting.

That being said, EDM seems to be having some sort of identity crisis. A lot of the artists I adored during my rave days have in my opinion, stalled creatively. I see a lack of progression now, a lack of a narrative, and too much a focus on partying. In the long run, this combination of factors, if they remain the same will burn out the audience and the artists. As I said in my review of EDC 2012 in Las Vegas, only a small handful of artists seemed to be bringing that fresh, distinct feel to their performances (Afrojack, Feed Me, Porter Robinson). A shining example of an artist bringing a strong narrative and music that works at the party and home is Nero’s debut album, Welcome Reality, a concept album which debuted at #1 in the UK charts. I have yet to hear another recent album within this EDM category with such style diversity, emotional range and distinct atmosphere. Nero is especially close to my heart for several reasons; their Essential Mix is arguably one of the best ever produced for BBC Radio 1, I had the honor of working for them when they headlined USC’s Resolution 2012 (New Years Eve) and I interviewed their vocalist, Alana Watson for Disco Droppings at the beginning of this year. That interview, week after week, month after month all the way through to today, has pulled more views than any other post I have ever written for this blog. I have the utmost respect for Nero, and at the same time, I see the difficulties they now face. They may have produced one of the most solid albums in the EDM community ever, but that community seems to be falling out from under them. There just don’t seem to be enough like-minded artists pushing things forward. I’m very interested to see what a sophomore Nero album will sound like, being as smart as they are, I hope they are foreseeing these issues with EDM, and planning to once again change up their game.

 

You may be unaware, but there is a battle for control over EDM on the business side. I picked up the September issue of Billboard Magazine with the title “Inside The EDM Arms Race; Robert F.X. Sillerman Has A $1 Billion Plan To Conquer The World Of Dance Music“. Before he set his sights on EDM, Mr. Sillerman took a network of individual concert businesses and combined them into one single massive empire, SFX Entertainment. That company was sold to Clear Channel for $4.4 billion in 2000, which eventually became Live Nation. Now, this approach of buying up smaller companies and merging them into one focuses on the electronic dance music in America, which has grown into a gigantic money maker. Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment has begun buying up different companies within the EDM community, from Disco Donnie Presents (promotion company for Middle America events) to Live In Color (Florida based promoter for co-ed paintball parties, formerly known as Dayglow Productions). If all goes according to his plan, 18 other EDM entities, from promoters to ticketing groups to venues will all be under Sillerman’s ownership. By the end of this experiment , over $1 billion dollars will be spent to acquire over 50 companies, marking the largest EDM conglomerate ever. It’s quite sad that someone doing all this has no actual passion towards the music. In Sillerman’s words, “I know nothing about EDM..But I sit in the meetings, to the extent that they are (meetings). I meet the people whose places we’re buying. And I haven’t a fucking clue what they do or what they’re talking about. Not a clue. And I love it. I just love it.” That right there, is fucked up. He will eventually flood America with big-scale event after big-scale event, and given that EDM is already looking unsure of itself music-wise, I predict this huge boost in shows will burn out the audience, due to exhaustion, overstimulation and lack of money. The party will be over. So I call on those in the EDM community to move towards something that transcends the party. I also call on the underground community to drop the territorial attitudes, and realize that so many more people are now open to electronic sounds, and eventually many of those people will come searching for you. 

I’ll end this post with some of my personal favorites in EDM. At its most positive, I feel it has opened up a very big sonic quality, and several artists have produced some savage tracks that I have held onto. Please excuse any youtube artwork that’s cliche; one of the most annoying aspects of EDM online are pictures of chicks in their underwear, tits being covered by headphones..let’s please move on from that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Jimi Jaxon