Maybe less jumping and more mixing?
Want to join the fight against the DJs and producers that fake the funk but aren’t quite sure how you can help? Now you can join the cause and spread the message just by playing a song. I know it’s a bit self-gratuitous, but fellow producer and real art enthusiast Rob Nutek and I did a song on 7Stars Music with the cause in mind. In our response to a certain “h8ers” release, we call out all fakers and give DJ Sneak a proper shout out for heading up the charge. Check it out and join the cause along with other supporters like heavy hitters Roger Sanchez and DJ Sneak. Stay tuned for an amazing remix package as well.
Long time dance music veterans Rob Nutek and Sean Ray have teamed up again to give life to a dance floor monster with a message in their “FAK3RS” song on Seven Stars Music. Aside from the undeniable groove, the lyrics address some of the current rumblings in the scene involving the calling out of various artists for faking their performances.
Sean Ray who is no quiet voice on the matter, runs the very popular notyourjukebox.com, which is dedicated to keeping art as the focus of dance culture. “When Rob approached me to collaborate on this track,” explains Sean, “It was a no brainer. Of course I wanted to put a beat to a message for which I’ve been fighting for years.”
Pioneer recently announced their new CDJ-2000nexus which, not only adds a lot of new (if not gimmicky) features to its industry standard player, but also adds the ever controversial sync button. CDJs have now officially bridged the gap between traditional hardware technology and current DJ software and controller technology.
To sync or not to something something
For those of you living under a rock, one of the biggest beefs CD-jockeys have towards software/laptop-jockeys is the availability of the sync button which allows for one-click beat matching. CD-jockeys cite (often unknowingly ironically) that they are keeping it ‘real’ by not using this automation and relying on skill and art to mix tracks. Meanwhile software-jockeys claim (ignorantly so) that beat matching isn’t really a skill, that the sync button is just a tool that opens them up to be more artistic in other areas that actually matter, and that if you don’t like it don’t use it. Vinyl-jockeys just shake their heads at everyone. So who is right?
First, I think it is important to clarify the huge difference between getting two songs to be at the same tempo for a 16 count transition and riding the pitch in order to keep two or more songs sync’d up for several minutes. The latter takes a tremendous amount of skill and practice over the former. Not to mention the fact that how the artist approaches this task will give create a unique sound and style. Automating this process removes the human element and creates a more sterile feel and experience. Proponents of the sync button argue that beat matching isn’t really an art to begin with and is only a minor part of the DJ process at best, citing that selection, presentation, and other qualities are the true art form. This isn’t quite correct as they are all components of a bigger picture. You can pull out and focus on several aspects of DJing and defy that they have any artistic quality when in actuality it’s how they all fit together as a whole. It’s like saying the stroke of a paintbrush is just a quantifiable ratio of force and requires no real skill and has no real bearing on a painting. If we were to automate the brush stroke process of a painter we would reduce the artistic quality considerably, despite the fact the artist still having to know the placement and kinds of paints used.
Yes, automating the beat matching process saves time and can allow one to focus on other forms of expression, but at what cost? If someone is doing their own beat matching and are able to do these other tasks, isn’t there a higher artistic value? Does a painting with automated brush strokes have a higher or lower artistic value than a hand painted one? There is value in effort alone, the doing something in a way that is the unique result of that manual labor itself.
The “don’t like it then don’t use it” argument
“Keep up with the times, besides, if you don’t like the sync button you don’t have to use it.” A common argument that sounds fairly straight forward, but like much else in life, there is a deeper issue. DJing and dance culture as a whole are already saturated fields where quality is being replaced by quantity in every aspect. Making tasks easier at the expense of artistic expression and skill only makes things worse. There isn’t much quality control going on to begin with, so how many more overpriced headliners that are faking their way on stage do we have to endure? Why are we making it easier to flood our lives with the mediocre? I’ve always been a proponent of art over convenience and this is no different. Even acknowledging that a some people will use the sync button to expand other artistic areas (and I suspect people profoundly overestimate this number) the flood of people using the sync button to achieve status as bookable is just not worth it. Even those of you concerned with money over art should at the very least be concerned for this reason alone as a flooded market drives prices down.
Realistically, love it or hate it, it seems the sync button is here to stay. With any luck however, we can shame people away from using it and keep the art alive and well in what we do.
I’m not opposed to change by any means. Change is crucial to life and growth. It’s just sad when valuable perspectives, experiences, and lessons get lost as a result.
There is a lot of discussion in dance culture around vinyl vs digital, cd vs laptop, mixing vs programming, etc etc. Those who embrace the new defend it, those who have mastered the past defend it, insults are thrown, pride is put to the test, but most importantly, there is a key discussion being ignored.
For those of you who are too new (and by new I really mean anyone in the scene for about 15 years or less) to really have experienced the history of the dance culture and electronic music scene there are some things you need to understand (don’t worry I have some words for the old-timers too).
Most of us in the early years of the scene had to constantly fight. We had to fight for space, for sound, for music, for a voice, for validity. Many of us didn’t even know we were fighting, we were just deeply connected to the music and had to express it, whether making it, playing it, or dancing to it. It was even a fight just to get the music. It was expensive, limited, and you had have the hook-up to get the choice new releases in your area before someone else did.
The music was a necessity for us, the very essence of us. We were mocked, we were told it was garbage, it wasn’t real music, that it was a passing fad. Because we were so connected to the music and identified ourselves through it, this meant they were calling us garbage. We banded together, we built communities, philosophies, and we danced our asses off because it was who and what we were.
Every record was special, it was a weapon in the battle for validity. Every scratch, imperfection, and skip was a memory of a party, an experience, a good time, a bad time. We didn’t replace our music every week, we played it until it wouldn’t play anymore. And even then we might try to play it a couple more times hoping that it had somehow magically healed itself through our pure love of the song. Long story short, we weren’t just connected to the music, we were the music.
Things are different now. People interact with the music differently, they relate to it differently, they express it differently. There are a lot more people in it for money and fame as opposed to the pure need to express and connect with the art. Because of the foundation that was built, there isn’t nearly the fight for validity there once was (proven by the fact that dance music is in the top-40 mainstream). There is a mass consumption of a product that we spent decades forced to keep underground.
This is something the old-timers need to recognize beyond the obvious. These newbies aren’t connected to the music they way we were/are. They aren’t seeing the house built from the ground up, they are inheriting the family property. That’s not to say it is better or worse, just different. We fought so they didn’t have to, they explore new ways to express it, some good, some bad, some down right insulting to those of us who have spilt blood, sweat, and tears. We can’t expect them to get out of it what we did because they aren’t building the scene, they are inheriting the scene.
The discussion should not be about what equipment they express on, or what medium they use, but rather do they have talent at what they do? Is there effort, art, passion, connection, and most importantly, respect? That is what is important here. Are they pressing play or are they creating art? We old-timers can learn some new tricks from you newbies, and newbies we can show you some foundations and perspective that make this meaningful and an art form, not just a revenue stream or a way to get laid.
The reason I implore all of us to switch the focus of the discussion is because we are at a delicate turning point in our culture. As something becomes consumed on a mass scale, there is danger of that thing being consumed to its extinction. How many forms of music, fashion, art, etc., have been destroyed because it was over-consumed and the meaning, art, and specialness were forgotten and lost?
I love this music, these people. I want it to last as long as possible. I want it to remain a meaningful culture. Not just some ‘in’ product that will be thrown to the wayside because it becomes a gutted shell. Let’s keep dance music a meaningful art form, a culture with a rich history and that focuses on talent and passion. Being in the top-40 realm isn’t inherently bad, but unless we maintain a level of quality, an understand of the roots, and pure connection to the passion and art of our culture, we will lose it. And rightly so.
Just say no.
This is one of the best things ever. Enjoy.