We spoke with Fabio, Anja Schneider and I:Robots about the reality of getting old working in dance music.

Ageism – prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age – can be experienced by both the young and the old. How prevalent is it and is it holding people back?

With age comes experience which is often overlooked as the music industry seeks ‘the hot new thing’. Could it be that DJs and producers produce their absolute best work as they get older? Does all those years practising improve your art or is the gleeful enthusiasm of youth lost?

And how about other issues such as hearing? As you age, there’s a chance your hearing will deteriorate making it harder of course to produce and mix.

A discussion that’s frequently had in the Attack office is about composers. In the classical world, people such as Beethoven, Puccini and Verdi all wrote some of their most revered works in their later years. In the case of Beethoven, his hearing was far worse at that point as well.

In dance music, a much younger genre, we are the guinea pigs for exploring how ageing affects DJs and producers on a technical level as well as a music industry level. For this month’s long read we spoke with some older members of the dance music/club culture community about their opinion on and experience of ageism.

Fabio

Fabio is one of the UK’s most influential and well-respected DJs, a jungle and drum & bass innovator who has been at the forefront of the scene since the very beginning.


Attack Magazine: How old are you?

Fabio: Over 50!

Do you think that you’ve got better with age?

Yeah, definitely, I still learn things now. You have to because of technology, and the way things move on. I’m still learning new things, especially the way you DJ now, it’s completely different. Before we used to just turn up with the records and play vinyl, that was it. Now you’ve got to adapt to today’s world, you’ve just got to keep up with the times man.

Have you experienced much ageism in dance music? 

Yeah, but it’s passive – no one ever goes “Oh you’re too old”, but there can be a kind of patronising attitude towards older DJs, like the term ‘Heritage DJ’, which apparently means you’ve been around a long time – that’s really patronising. Why are they grouping DJs of a certain age together? 

When we first started in acid house no one gave a shit whether you were gay, black, white, Asian, older, younger, whatever, and that was the ethos of acid house: everyone was welcome

Some ‘isms’ like sexism and racism, they’re being dealt with and talked about – and I know we’re nowhere near getting as far as we need to yet – but they’re being talked about, but no one talks about ageism, and it’s real.

The older you get, the more you see it. It’s just little things, it’s never people coming right out and saying you’re too old. You just get the impression that they think you’re older and not up to the job, which I just don’t understand.

Even when we were at Radio One, I think there was a bit of ageism. I think because they wanted to corner the 18-25 market they thought if you were over a certain age that you weren’t really up to the job which is completely the opposite; really, I think experience is everything.

I’m not saying “Oh, poor older DJs, we just want older DJs” because the young are going to be picking up the baton when we retire, the young are going to move the scene on. But at the same time, I don’t understand why if you’re a certain age they don’t want you on the lineup, it’s crazy.

The majority of my work is playing to kids, 21-year-olds, 22-year-olds, and they never have a problem. I’ve never heard any kids go “I’m not gonna go listen to him because he’s too old”. And the thing is, while ageism is out there, it’s not affected my work; I’m working now more than I’ve ever worked.

Has your age affected you in other ways, like do you get more tired now? 

The only thing that makes you tired is travelling. Since everything opened up again it’s just been nonstop travelling all over the world and that’s difficult; it’s a lot harder than it used to be because your recovery time is not the same.

But I just make sure I eat well and sleep well and I pace myself, make sure that when I’ve got leisure time I make the most of it. I don’t tire myself out because burnout is real. But no matter what, once you get on the decks you don’t ever feel tired ever. It doesn’t matter, I could be awake for 48 hours, once I get on those decks I’m absolutely fine. 

Do you think the music industry is a young person’s industry? 

No, I don’t think so.

I think it’s great that young people are involved, but I just don’t see why we can’t all live together in this thing. When we first started in acid house, what was so refreshing was that no one gave a shit whether you were gay, black, white, Asian, older, younger, whatever, no one cared, and that was the ethos of acid house: everyone was just welcome.

·

Anja Schneider 

Anja Schneider is a German DJ, producer, radio broadcaster and label boss. She co-founded house and techno label Mobilee in 2005 and has more recently launched her Sous Music imprint.  


Anja Schneider by @pata_aicir

Attack Magazine: First of all, how old are you?

Anja Schneider: I’m old enough to have a conversation about ageism with you! I started with radio in 94, my first show was around 2000 and I started my own label in 2003/4 and also started DJing.  And I’d already reached a certain age, I was no longer in my twenties, which was good.

Why, do you think you’ve got better with age?

Yes, I think so, because you get more relaxed.

I was happy that I had reached a certain age when my career started because I would not have been able to handle it when I was younger. My career started with a boom and suddenly I was playing at all these big festivals – and I was already cool and relaxed and didn’t freak out. 

Everyone thinks that only young people can influence pop culture in a certain way and no one thinks that someone over 40 can make a big cultural impact - but they ca

So having a bit more maturity was helpful at the start of your career? 

Absolutely. I’m more secure nowadays when it comes to a party – I still get nervous, which is good, because this is my job, and if I’m not nervous, then sometimes it’s not a good gig – but I’m more secure now and I know exactly what I want to do.

Have you experienced ageism in dance music? 

First of all, I’d say ageism is a big problem for everyone.

Anyone who says getting older is cool – it’s not! You have certain problems, especially when you work at night time, it takes longer to recover after later nights for example. But also, if you really look into our dance music scene, compared to pop or to hip hop it’s quite good.

We have a lot of older people who play for a younger crowd. When the Rolling Stones play, they’re not playing for a crowd of 20-year-olds. But some of us are playing for a crowd half our age, or even younger – and this is really good. 

I’ve not felt much ageism personally – I mean promoters always want to have the youngest and the freshest names, this is absolutely normal and is the same everywhere, and I can understand this. 

I’m super happy that all these young kids nowadays interpret our music in their way. And it’s wonderful to see that it’s still going, because when I started with techno, I had no idea that it would still be going thirty years later. But personally, I’ve never really experienced ageism. 

So have you had any physical issues with getting older? How’s your hearing doing from all these years of DJing and producing? 

Oh, actually, thank god, it’s still really good.

But of course, you feel the tiredness and the travelling is getting more and more difficult for me, I can feel this in my body. I have to look after myself and also do a lot of exercises so I can handle it.

Do you think the music industry is a young person’s game?

Absolutely. But everything is a young person’s industry: if you look at fashion or pop music, everyone wants to be young, good looking. And everyone thinks that only young people can influence pop culture in a certain way and no one thinks that someone over 40 can make a big cultural impact – but they can. 

As men get older, it’s all “They’re getting better, more interesting” but with a woman, it’s like “Oh she’s trying too hard” – there’s often some bitterness to it, which is really sad.

But this is in general and not especially in dance music. As I said, we have so many great older DJs in their fifties and their audience is 20 or 21, which is great. 

I don’t want to do anything else even in another 20 years’ time. You reach a certain age and everyone’s like “She’s still doing this?”, but why should I change? Should I get into folk music or classical now? No, I won’t!

I-Robots

Gianluca Pandullo is a DJ, producer, A&R, promoter, art director and vinyl trader better known as I-Robots. He runs the Opilec Music and Turin Dancefloor Express labels and has been in the music industry since the mid-80s.


Attack Magazine: How old are you?

Gianluca Pandullo: I will be 54 years old next August 2022.

How long have you been in the music industry?

My passion for music began in the late 70s and I started to buy and collect records a few years after. I started to play music in the clubs in the first half of the 80s and as a party organiser and local promoter after 1993. 

Do you think you’ve got better with age? 

Yes of course, life experiences can only make you wiser and professionally much more solid.

Learning is a never-ending process in my opinion. During the second half of the 90s, I started to think it was time to keep my ideas and creativity to myself and to spend my energy starting something that could represent my background and my eclectic artistic side.

Yes of course, life experiences can only make you wiser and professionally much more solid.

Do you think there is ageism in dance music?

Absolutely and from both sides, young and old.

Specifically, do you think there are any particular issues that come with being an older person in the music industry?

It depends on the artist. Not everybody has the same issues. Certainly, new growing talents and artists should have their place in the scene and the “old school” should always give inspiration in my opinion – so everybody should learn and respect each other. Sadly there are a lot of unprofessional people around the scene that can create problems around this issue…

So do you think the music business is a young person’s industry? 

If there is talent, age is not relevant. As I said before if you learn and respect, it will always put you in a good position.

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Author Harold Heath
26th May, 2022

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