MIXMAG by Joe Muggs
November 3, 2017
Not so long ago I witnessed a couple of brilliant and in-demand DJs discussing the downsides of the job. So far, so normal. But they weren’t complaining about hangovers, jet-lag, escaping the afterparty in time for the flight, or lack of saunas in their hotel. No, Terry Farley and DJ Harvey were swapping tips on dealing with back pain during long stints behind the decks.
It wasn’t even that unusual. From global premiere league names – Oaky, Coxy, Sven and Norm – through highly credible house/techno/disco stars like Farley, Harvey, Monika Kruse, Dave Clarke, Greg Wilson and US originators like Robert Hood, Larry Heard and Masters At Work, to leftfield scene leaders like Gilles and Goldie, Weatherall and Trevor Jackson and of course Mary Anne Hobbs (who only seems to get keener on new sounds as time goes by), a lot of our favourite spinners are now well over a quarter-century deep into their music. Creaky knees and reading specs are more the name of the game than jeggings and septum piercings. Hell, Annie Nightingale is still repping new electronic acts at 77.
What’s significant is that these people aren’t ‘heritage acts’. And that maybe says something about dance culture. Sure, from time to time they might turn out to do a retro set – but then so might an awful lot of younger DJs. On the whole, though, you don’t go to see Terry Farley play a bunch of early-90s Boys Own releases, or hope Rob Hood will spin Minimal Nation tracks. Indeed, most of the crowd for the latter are likely to be far more concerned with hearing tracks from the latest Floorplan release. If you tune into Trevor Jackson, Andrew Weatherall, Mary Anne Hobbs or Gilles Peterson on the radio, you’d feel let down if you didn’t hear some very new (and very odd) music. Even if Harvey or Greg Wilson are playing old disco, you’ll never hear the same set you did last time: there are new twists, new blends, new discoveries, new edits. Bill Brewster’s new, ‘autobiographical’ crate-digging comp ‘Tribal Rites’ might be old tunes, but he joins the dots across decades with such Balearic pizzazz and personality it all feels fresh.
It’s not just DJ sets, either: the wisdom of age can lead to truly awesome music. Some of the very best dance albums of the last year or two have been by grizzled veterans. As DJ Parrot, Yorkshireman Richard Barratt was one of the very first to spin house in the UK in the mid-eighties, yet his work as Crooked Man is as strange and new as music by people half his age. Hi-Fi Sean, aka Sean Dickson of The Soup Dragons, made an absolutely extraordinary album, ‘Ft’, with a galaxy of left-of-centre star guests riding slo-mo house beats, and at the time of writing it’s #1 on the Billboard dance chart. UK house scene mainstay Luke Solomon’s Powerdance project makes vintage house and disco licks sound like they’re brand new – and makes them double camp and triple trippy into the bargain. Björk’s new collaborations with Arca sound like nothing on earth. The Orb are making some of the music of their careers. Chicago veteran Mike Dunn has a new record of acid and jacking house coming up that sounds as if it could have been made 25 or more years ago, yet still fizzes with vitality.
And maybe that’s the key. Dance music might have phases and trends, genre splits and innovations – but unless it gets ruined by total over-exposure, once something works, it works. In the heat of the dancefloor, a banger remains a banger, whether it’s brand new or 40 years old, made by a 15-year-old or a 55-year-old.
Obviously there are potential downsides to this: having a bunch of old-timers taking up slots on bills might look a bit like bed-blocking, stopping new talent coming through much like the way the mainstream festivals rely on the same rotation of Foo Fighters/Coldplay/Muse/U2 over and over. And yes, all too often the DJ hierarchies do value name and connections over talent. But realistically, not that many oldsters make it this far. Not everyone can keep up with Carl Cox or Andrew Weatherall or Goldie’s inhuman work-rate. And at its best, the relationship between old DJs, young crowds and new acts can be a symbiotic one: the vets can mentor and showcase the tunes of the newcomers, and give their own sets a constant injection of fresh blood into the bargain. Next time you’re tempted to joke about OAP’s in the rave stop and think what they might be contributing – even now.
Check out the original article here: http://mixmag.net/feature/no-heritage-acts-dance-music-allows-its-veterans-to-remain-creatively-free/2