Whilst the rest of the world goes to hell in a handcart, people all over the world rely on house music in its many forms, to get them through the day. To switch off from the stresses of everyday existence and subscribe to a musical way of life that has a mantra seemingly accepting of all creeds, colours, shapes, sizes and sexual orientations. Whilst that crazy world evolves around us, has the House Music scene evolved too and left its formative ideals behind?
If you were lucky enough to be part of the pioneering times 30 odd years ago in New York, Chicago, Manchester, London or Ibiza, it didn’t matter what country you were in, you were part of something new, something exciting. As much as these were hedonistic, groundbreaking times, there was a certain innocence and naivety to what was going on. All diverse types of people all coming together to form the basis of the House Music movement. But that was 30 years ago.
All diverse types of people all coming together to form the basis of the House Music movement. But that was 30 years ago.
Do you really think that the House Music movement, now with its rich tapestry of different offshoots, actually subscribes to its original ethos? Or has it lost its way somewhat, got diluted, fragmented and in fact moved away from its embryonic ideals?
Ceri, founder of Find Your Own Records and who is often found playing for long running London after party Jaded, has a balanced take on things “The rise in popularity of dance music in recent years means that more people are hearing it and that’s great, but it also means a lot of people who consume it don’t know about the roots of the music and the true meaning and ethos of dance music, which is inclusivity, respect and love.” Are the old ethics able to be re-marketed to the newer clubbing crew? Ceri went on to add that it’s part of a DJs role to extol those virtues “it is our job to spread the love to people and make sure they understand how important the message is and get back to more sweaty stranger dancefloor hugs”
Dean Longley promoter of Nightowl, who have held events all-round the UK and at Space, Ibiza threw a spotlight on Berlin, where a whole host of venues have a method to their madness with regards to exclusivity “in Berlin they will actively look to turn people away to keep an exclusive vibe.” For every clubber who hates queuing for an eternity, only to be turned away for something that isn’t even explained to you, there’s another clubber willing to run the gauntlet, gain entry and become part of the select few. Dean went on to mention “I wasn’t clubbing 30 years ago but can imagine it was less exclusive and VIP oriented. For every person saying ‘it’s not as good as it was back in my day’, there’s another experiencing it for the first time and loving it just as much”
VIP clubbing: Where it’s seemingly more important to SnapChat your way through the night, to show everyone how amazing your life is/seems (delete as applicable) than it is to even know who’s DJing. The scourge of modern clubland? In a recent interview with the Guardian, techno titan Ricardo Villalobos opined “For 120 years in Europe, we have had a wide middle class, to the point where no one really knows what the classes are. And then we go to Ibiza, and we have to pay €80 entry to a club and €20 for a water, and upstairs, on the gallery, you see the rich people who are paying €1,000 for a bottle of vodka. You think: shit, this doesn’t belong together! Suddenly you have a society with different classes, in the club. It’s a development that’s happening in wider society, too” (1)
Is it as deeply rooted as Ricardo thinks, or is it just a load of older clubbers, grumbling and harking for the halcyon days of yore? There’s a whole heap of things we can’t turn back the clock for, but house music is often cyclical and there has been a disco renaissance of late. Is that conversely, musically reflecting the woeful times going on around us? Tony English long term resident for the ever-popular LGBT night Beyond at Fire, is feeling discofied “Disco has certainly brought back a wealth of togetherness. Looking across a dance floor in a ‘typical straight club’ in London and seeing so many smiling faces from all types is really refreshing.”
The truth of the matter is you’re really not likely to get a Sink The Pink attendee going to Promised Land and vice versa. Tony went on to add a thought on this “Within the LGBT party community it isn’t so much DJ led, it’s based on how comfortable an environment is. People like to follow because it’s tried and tested so it’s safe and non-harmful” The word ‘comfortable’ is rather poignant, as irrespective of our sexual orientation, everyone wants to be in a good place when they hit the dancefloor.
Maybe division is a natural, unavoidable occurrence from the ever-growing number of sub-genres under the House Music umbrella? Tony added, “I don’t think division is a bad thing?” Perhaps not if it’s a whole heap of like-minded people getting down at 4am? “There are sub-cultures around these sub-genres, primarily built on social media.” as Dean pointed towards the internet, the root of all evil or saviour for people in places that aren’t spoilt for choice, like in London or Berlin?
A Dutch DJ responsible for a plethora of big tracks, most notably on Spinnin, preferred to remain anonymous, but had this to say “I do believe that when you want to be part of a certain scene, as long as you follow the rules, it’s OK” Isn’t clubbing supposed to be about a lack of rules? That being said certain events have imposed various new rules over the past few years, including banning shuffling when that dance style was at its nadir, most notably by Sacha Lord owner of The Warehouse Project and Park Life Festival, who also banned man bags and had quite a strong view on the topic “there was a certain genre of music that was attracting a crowd that I didn’t particularly like because they were quite moody. I was looking at this crowd and thinking that they weren’t there to come and have a good time. They were there to come in and do that stupid fucking shuffle dance—it really wound me up. I’d never seen anything as ridiculous in my entire life. It became a little bit intimidating because there were in these big groups of lads and I looked at them and thought, “What have they got in common?” They all wore man bags” (2)
I managed to catch up with singer/DJ Abigail Bailey who had some strong opinion on how she saw the scene from an artist’s perspective “I feel it isn’t as inclusive as it makes out. I have seen this first hand with other unknown artists that are trying to break into the scene and experienced this myself. It can be frustrating to get past all the talk and the ego that surrounds some of the artists, labels and business people behind it” After all the romanticising, isn’t the majority of this industry a business? DJs, artists, agents all clawing for their slice of the pie to keep feeding off? I asked Abigail about her thoughts on the clubbing aspect and she replied “I wouldn’t say that it’s lost its way as such because people in different generations have continued to feel that high. I think its evolved and no one can go back in time and make it feel the same as it was back then. I prefer the old vibes to the new more egotistical side, but I can feel a resurgence, which is exciting to think about”
If division is an accepted part of modern clubbing, is there any event that not only appeals to all but is attended by every kind of clubber? An obvious suggestion would be Elrow, possibly the most in demand clubbing brand on the planet right now. Rag Satguru, Elrow’s UK Partner, is quoted as saying “Elrow is an Everyman’s brand. You could take your mum to Elrow “ (3) Having been to Elrow and knowing my Mum’s love for music, I’d tend to agree with Rag and state that the often cartoonish and always outlandish Elrow production dictates a ‘come one, come all’ approach to clubbing. There are other events like Regression Sessions, that factor in ball pits, plasticine therapy and of course face painting, alongside some serious beats, that appeal to a very broad spectrum of raver.
In a world that has plenty of statistics to quantify young people are going out and spending less, it seems that when they do pick their parties, that they’ll opt for events like Elrow, Magic Door or Regression Sessions, who deliver some serious music, but with tongue firmly in cheek and with open arms to anyone that wants to come and dance.
I’ll finish as I began, with more seminal house music lyrics “We’ll live as one family in perfect harmony …….someday”?