From business techno to rudeboy techno. From Aphex Twin to Midland. And from Beatport Link to rewinds, Harold Heath sums up the world of dance music Twitter in 2019.
Each social media platform delivers a certain experience, derived in part from their ability to trigger our dopamine receptors and in part from our constant gnawing need for validation. However, each platform has a particular quirk. Twitter’s only got 280 characters. Instagram is about photos. Facebook is deathly dull.
Spend much time on Twitter, follow a few DJs, labels and producers, and before you know it you’ll find yourself in Dance Music Twitter, a fast-moving, exhilarating and baffling place. Dance Music Twitter is where entire empires of opinions rise and fall in a day, where your favourite DJ may happily self-sabotage themselves, and where having an opinion on things you previously knew nothing about is de rigueur.
2019 Dance Music Twitter was a microcosm of real life, but only if real life were full of uninformed, disproportionately angry and self-obsessed people talking utter bollocks all the time. So in fact, just like life. If nothing else, the concerns that occupied Dance Music Twitter over the last 12 months give us an insight into the industry’s preoccupations.
We started the year rinsing out serial plagiarist and well known wrong-un FLOD who continued to wander through life in some kind of contemporary Walter Mitty daydream, conjuring a career out of thin air by releasing other peoples generic tech house as his own generic tech house, perhaps the most utterly pointless crime ever committed.
We were all briefly united and collectively breathed a sigh of relief when Detroit Police waved guns at Moodymann and it didn’t end tragically like so many other similar situations have. Then we quickly returned to normal, which in Dance Music Twitter means that we returned to arguing, this time about track IDs. DJs should totally share their track IDs all the time or die. Or they never should share them on pain of death, can’t remember what we finally decided, but everyone was really pissy about it for a bit. Then we found out that hey, talking about track IDs, Jeff Mills had accidentally released someone else’s tune as his own by mistake, nice.
An article about rewinds made everyone incredibly opinionated about rewinds for a bit.
Dance Music Twitter definitely had a very slight air of the surreal to it this year: witness Carl Craig who announced that he liked to shag his mixer, presumably when DJing. Soon it was time for another sentient balloon animal to publicly shit his own bed and roll around in it before proudly showing his work to the world. This time it was producer-no-one-had-really-heard-of-till-now Vakula who released some music with cover art depicting various well-known female DJs on a penis-shaped space ship. This whole episode was so utterly depressing and predictable in equal measure that I can barely be bothered to recall the sordid details, but his R.A. biog says Vakula is a “singular artist and musical storyteller”. Apparently, the story he was telling here was one about how sexist towards men the music industry is now, a point he bought to our attention by depicting female DJs flying a space ship penis. And if that’s a musical story told by a singular artist then I’m a ghostwriter for Drumcode.
An article about rewinds made everyone incredibly opinionated about rewinds for a bit, the main point of contention being older heads couldn’t comprehend that the kids call them re-loads or wheel-backs. Also, as a personal aside, I would love it if everyone stopped calling opinionated articles ‘hot takes’ because it sounds like ‘hot cakes’ so you immediately think about hot cakes but there’s no cakes, you’re still just reading an article written about discos by someone who’s not been in one for 12 years, but now you also want cake.
In spring, a video appeared on Twitter of a person who thought Aphex Twin was a group and so everyone thought this was hilarious. How funny to point and laugh haha look at that person, they don’t know something that at some point we also didn’t know, but now we do so we’re better than them isn’t it funny, aren’t we great, that’s the true spirit of acid house right there, top one, sorted.
Next, we decided to argue about acid house documentary Everybody In The Place, a programme that looked at the larger political context around the birth of acid house. So obviously everyone got angry that it was about the larger political context around the birth of acid house and didn’t mention getting nutted on White Doves, pharmaceutical amphet and poppers, which was well out of order because that was what it was really all about right? Greg Wilson probably said that the larger political context was also happening up north too and had been for years.
DJ Cedric Woo stole a record then overpaid for it to atone, that was good for a couple of days, but this important news was quickly overshadowed by the much bigger news of the impending death of DJing and DJ culture with the arrival of Beatport LINK. All DJs were required to have an opinion on the matter or risk on-the-spot fines. Beatport LINK or BLINK as we’re all definitely calling it is a government-funded programme to round up DJs and make them hand in their physical music collections before being branded with a barcode that allows them unlimited streaming with the chance to buy back their soul if they pay for the premium option.
Things quietened down a bit over the summer, but there was still plenty of discourse to deal with. With the joyful lack of self-awareness of a house DJ announcing they’re going to play a disco set, Lee Foss thought it would be a good idea to appear on a flyer apparently receiving a blow job. Good one Lee. Dance Music Twitter next decided to be confused over the Acid House exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London as although it was about acid house – which we all know is good – it was at Tory Party donor and spouse-abuser Charles Saatchi’s gallery – which is bad. Life is so complicated, certainly way too complicated for Dance Music Twitter to form a cohesive response. Then it was too late to worry about anyway as all our irony meters burnt out at the news that the Chicago White Sox sports team, don’t know what sport, sorry, were celebrating the 40th anniversary of famous homophobic attack on our culture, the Disco Sucks rally. In Chicago, the birthplace of house music.
In spring, a video appeared on Twitter of a person who thought Aphex Twin was a group and so everyone thought this was hilarious.
Late summer saw the news that whilst DJing at Burning Man, DJ Flume had rubbed his face in between a semi-naked woman’s butt cheeks, a ‘story’ that quickly became “FLUME EATS ASS AT BURNING MAN”. Wikipedia tells me that Flume is a pioneer of future bass, more like future ass amirite?
Then, and I’m not sure if I dreamt this or not, but I think someone wrote a dance music think-piece about dance music think-pieces. To prevent the internet collapsing in on itself in some kind of meta-Möbius-strip-singularity anti-matter type of deal, Dance Music Twitter decided that music journalists should shut up, or stop being journalists or be better journalists, or not be journalists unless they had previously been musicians, or be different in some other unspecified way from how they are now, or should carry on as they are now, or be fairly remunerated. It was complicated, confusing and ultimately meaningless, much like the world of music journalism itself.
This was then proven by an article about ‘Business Techno’ that was read by approximately 5% of the people who commented about it, which in today’s world is actually a pretty good ratio. Anyway, despite fairly lengthy discussions, no one was any clearer on what business techno actually was, or meant. Possibly it was something to do with synergy, Instagram, the capitalist commodification of culture and also memes. It didn’t matter because once again we barely had time to digest any of this before Nina Kraviz displayed an obvious lack of regard or sympathy for victims of racism. If there’s a lesson from the whole debacle then perhaps it’s that in the future, Dance Music Twitter should try listening to those who experience racism, rather than instantly denying their experiences.
The year sped to an excellent close with some US DJ no one can remember the name of getting some decent Twitter numbers with a tweet telling the world that they deserved a marketing fee for promoting on Instagram any gig they were playing at. Because why on earth should a DJ promote their own gig without getting an extra marketing fee, that’s just a mug’s game. Promote your own gig, what’s next? Move out of your Mom’s basement? Ridiculous.
Anyway, fun though that was, Carl Craig came crashing back onto our feeds doing a frankly odd impression of 80s popster Robert Palmer before removing his mic from its stand in order to drop it. Then DJ Carnage – he of “Imma fire $10,000 in $1 bills into my audience because narcissism” fame – opined on the Twitters that warm-up DJs should, in fact, not warm-up but should, in fact, bang it from the word go in order to maximise any possible future bookings. This was good as we could all unite around such utterly appalling career advice, akin to telling a chef that they should just char-grill everything, the meat, the soup, the customers, everything.
With Christmas looming, we were given the cheery echoes of Seth Troxler’s festive message, informing the world that he definitely didn’t like Camelphat, a proclamation I still find difficult to raise any emotional response to at all.
And finally, if you are from the 0.5% that read to the end then the reward for your persistence comes in the form of something truly positive which reminds us that in the right hands social media is a force for good. And those hands are the cherished paws of Midland who in the wake of a disappointing UK election result, immediately put a much-requested track he recently performed at AVA festival up for download on Bandcamp with all proceeds going to Trussell Trust, Choose Love and The Albert Kenndy charity. See, it’s not all bad, is it?
Harold Heath is a journalist based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter.