Why Are Old-School Electronic Artists Annoyed With EDM?
Broadly speaking, if you're an electronic music fan over 40, you probably dig Danny Tenaglia more than Skrillex. And chances are, if you're a Skrillex fan under the age of 30, you're like, "Who the hell is Danny Tenaglia?"
Credit: Timothy Norris
Coachella 2013 exemplified the generation gap in the world of dance music. On one side of the field, the modern-EDM-focused Sahara tent was a thrill ride tricked out with lasers, lights and LEDs designed to blow kids' minds, with acts like Knife Party, Dog Blood and Wolfgang Gartner playing hyper-aggressive sets full of drops. Your parents would hate it.
Meanwhile in the old-school Yuma Tent, revered and more underground DJs including Pete Tong, Richie Hawtin, Maya Jane Coles and Four Tet played house and techno-based sets for the more sophisticated audiophile. Your parents could have probably handled it. There were some exceptions, but for the most part, if the Sahara felt like the future, the Yuma felt like 1995.
The Yuma was new this year, actually, and it came largely as a response to the success of the Sahara and the fist-pumping, underdressed EDM culture that has blossomed in recent years. In fact, quite a few old-school electronic scenesters, now in their 30s and 40s, aren't thrilled that their beloved electronic scene is now epitomized by overpaid superstar DJs and the bros who love them. Thus, many tastemakers feel the need to educate young audiences about the genre's history. The kids? They just want ride the sonic rollercoaster.
"Dance music has taken a turn towards big spectacle," says KCRW (89.9 FM) music director and LA electronic authority Jason Bentley, who played at the Yuma tent. "It all of a sudden became a rock show, which became very concerning to me and a lot of people in the scene. The unifying force of the music and the social dynamic of the scene and community were all of the sudden amended by these rock hallmarks. "
Of course, as genres mature it's traditional for fans to splinter along age lines. Hip-hop, for example, has largely divided into two camps: Older fans of more craft-conscious rap, and younger fans of flashier, poppier songs. Similarly, critics of modern, mainstream EDM say DJs don't need to be talented to play it, that laptop "button pushing" doesn't require the technical prowess of mixing records. As Diplo recently told Vibe: "Being a DJ is pretty bullshit. I'm lucky I can produce records, too, because DJs don't do shit." In his now infamous "We All Hit Play" blog post, deadmau5 said, "I think given about one hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could do what I'm doing at a deadmau5 concert."
Meanwhile, the mainstreaming of electronic dance music has ensured that a once tight-knit underground community has been replaced by hordes of aggro fans who don't realize that artists like Swedish House Mafia and Avicii are directly descended from the old-school house of Detroit and Chicago.
"To me American and global pop culture has always been about the streets rising up," says Dennis Romero, who for years has written extensively about dance music. "In Chicago and Detroit, it was high school kids getting old Japanese drum machines and bass line machines from the trash and thrift stores and saying, 'What can we do with this?' And, boom, from the street you have EDM."
Christopher Victorio EDC 2012