For people who work in quite a technology focused genre of music, DJs and such show a considerable amount of ignorance sometimes. Take Jeff Mills, for example. He became known as “The Wizard” due to his incredible skills on turntables in 1980s Detroit.
Yet when it comes to at least one aspect of computing, he apparently remains entirely ignorant. You see, he posted a second defence of his decision to go to the Saudi Arabia government funded event MDL Beast Soundstorm later this month. The first was deleted by Dave Clarke, when he scrubbed his thread from the imternet for reasons unclear.
Mills deleted his defence from his Facebook page a few hours ago. He seems to think if he deletes it, it never existed – and no one will be able to read the whole sorry mess again. Wouldn’t it be a terrible shame, therefore, if someone – like a blogger with a penchant for asking awkward questions – had taken screenshots of the whole thing?
Well, I’m more than happy to help. I’ve split it into four pictures to make it easier to read, but not one single word has been changed. Here’s the defence Mills now wants to pretend he never made in its full glory…
It comes across as even worse after a second read, doesn’t it?
Whenever North Korea has a big announcement to tell the world, they always bring in the lady dressed in pink. Her name is Ri Chun-hee – and if their latest dictator has died or chucked a nuclear bomb into the sea to annoy the Americans, she’s who they turn to.
More recent generations probably know her from the utterly hysterical display she put on when announcing to the people of North Korea that Kim Jong-il had died in 2011. But I suspect even she would struggle to read out some of the nonsense published on the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival website with a straight face.
Such as their claims on their About page, for example. Let’s start with the amusing boast that “We showcase talent, develop content, and host events by supercharging a community of creators, to amplify the unseen”.
Yes, in the eyes of Saudi Arabia, DJs such as Carl Cox, Charlotte De Witte, deadmau5, Nina Kraviz, David Guetta and Tïesto – who are known pretty much worldwide – are “the unseen”. If Saddam Hussein had asked his notorious information minister Comical Ali to relay this to the world’s media, even he would have considered it far-fetched.
They then publish a bizarre list, which includes “we see the world a little differently”, that they “create fresh music, art, and culture from the underground up” and they “pull in the obscure, the unconventional and the surprising”. By which point, Chun-hee had collapsed on the floor, crying with laughter.
Because there’s nothing which screams “pulling in the obscure, the unconventional and the surprising” than doing exactly the same as all of these other generic, McDonald’s style festivals. Indeed, it’s about as surprising as the revelation of what bears do in the woods.
And there’s clearly no better way of demonstrating a commitment to “create fresh music, art, and culture from the underground up” than by booking Carl Cox, who hasn’t been referred to as underground since around 1994. Or by putting Steve Aoki on the bill – a man who throws cakes at people with $95million in the bank. You obviously couldn’t get more underground than that.
And the worst thing about all this? Some poor sod out there genuinely believes every word of it…
Yesterday, I wrote about something which has started bubbling up over the last few days – the lineup of the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia next month. I posed the question of whether any of these DJs care about anything but money – and on this Monday morning, I return to the subject.
Today, I’m going to go into some more detail about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and I shall be mentioning specific DJs for this purpose. This blog makes no apology for doing so – a few DJs being made to feel uncomfortable is of little significance compared to aforementioned DJs, from a scene founded on love and respect for all, taking money from a country which shows none to those to whom it disapproves.
For starters, one DJ on this list is gay – his name will remain confidential. He is receiving $40,000 for his appearance in a country where same-sex intercourse is illegal and same-sex relationships are not recognised in law. Given his personal circumstances and dance music’s history, isn’t this a very dubious decision?
Questions must also be asked of Nicole Moudaber – who is more open about her sexuality. She left Lebanon due to police persecution at her parties, largely attended by the gay community. At the time, Lebanon was under Syrian control and they strongly disapproved of homosexuality. So what the hell is she now doing associating with a regime where being gay can potentially get you killed?
As for Grooverider, he might want to be careful what he packs in his bag. In 2007, the DJ – real name Raymond Bingham – was arrested in Dubai for being in possession of 2 grams of cannabis. He was sent to prison for 4 years in February 2008, but pardoned and released just over six months later. In an interview, he claimed to have “forgotten the spliff. It was a small amount. Back home I would not even get prosecuted.”.
Saudi Arabia are similarly strict when it comes to the use of illegal drugs – there are a few other DJs on this list which could therefore encounter this problem. And if they wish to drink alcohol on their flights over, forget it. The country has a strict ban on alcohol – and if customs suspect you’ve been drinking when you arrive in the country, you could face being arrested.
Their riders could make for interesting reading, if the authorities were to come across them – not entirely inconceivable in a state like Saudi Arabia. For example, items like pornographic magazines, which one seedy high-profile DJ seems to have on his rider, are strictly banned.
After self-declared baron of techno Dave Clarke posted about this event last week, his followers expressed particular disappointment about Jeff Mills agreeing to go. Mills himself responded with this defiant comment…
His defence appears to be that someone in that audience could be inspired to bring about social change after listening to the likes of himself, David Guetta or Carl Cox playing music. Anyone trying to bring about change in Saudi Arabia tends to get tortured, if not killed. The delusion of Jeff Mills is well and truly off the scale.
And finally – for now, anyway – let’s consider Carl Cox. This is a man who believes in freedom of expression and responds graciously to criticism. It’s a shame Saudi Arabia doesn’t. In 2018, a journalist called Jamal Khashoggi was lured to a consulate building on false pretences where he was murdered and subsequently dismembered. Investigators later found out many in the team sent to kill him had links to Mohammed bin Salman – the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
With the exception of Mills, every single DJ in this list is currently staying silent over the controversy. And one other question remains – did anyone who got the invite to go to this Saudi Arabian propaganda gig have the courage to turn it down?
It turns out at least one did. Frankie Bones, a house and techno DJ from dance’s earliest days, revealed he was offered $10,000 to do it – admitting he could “use the cash”, but that “my own sanity is more important”. Nice to know that at least one DJ in the upper echelons has some principles…
Most people who get involved in the remix game have a story of someone who didn’t like the new version of their work. For example, New Order blocked the release of Danny Tenaglia’s remixes of “World (The Price Of Love)” by New Order in 1993. Tenaglia stated that “Warner’s dance department loved the remixes but New Order did not”.
Another instance is from 1991. David Morales was asked to remix “Something Got Me Started” by Simply Red. Despite being paid a five-figure sum by Atlantic, they never received an official release beyond a very limited test pressing. Rumours persist to this day that Mick Hucknall didn’t like them, so stopped their release.
A later example comes from 1999, when Sasha was asked to remix “Belfast” by Orbital. The man like Sasha used to play the song heavily during his earlier years – and admitted he was quite “reverential” of it. So he ended up taking his remix quite far from the original – much to the disdain of the band. The remix was repurposed as “Belfunk”, which came out later in the year.
Very little of Orbital’s stuff has been remixed officially – although a quick search of YouTube reveals plenty of bootleg offerings. But since the trend amongst the business techno lot at the moment is to rinse out old records with usually inferior new mixes – heaven forbid they make something new, eh? – a new version of “Belfast” was always on the cards.
Infact, two of them were. Brazilian techno DJ ANNA – real name Ana Miranda – has created a techno and ambient mixes of the song. And in response, they sent out this tweet…
Big thanks to Anna for giving us this perfect start to a celebration of Orbital past, present and future, 30 something has arrived in style! https://t.co/NLy5nxLGPE
Another day, another festival announces its lineup. Or at least the first phase of the lineup – telling people everything they’re actually paying for in a ticket expensive enough to buy a small country with is out of fashion these days. This week, the Ultra Music Festival announced their biggest names for their 2022 festival, due to take place from March 25-27th.
As ever, the list contains the same old names. Carl Cox, CamelPhat, inventor of house music (according to ABC News, anyway) David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Nina Kraviz and some trumpet calling himself Timmy Trumpet all appear. It’s basically a business techno list with a few names like Carl Cox thrown in to add a little credibility.
Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I think that these festivals are a lot like the fast food chain McDonald’s. Most of the big festivals now have almost the same lineups. If you break through into the higher echelons of this world, you could make a living doing nothing but sets at festivals – you’re pretty much guaranteed work year after year.
The lineups hardly ever change, much like the menus of McDonald’s. Which begs the question – if DJs were items on a McDonald’s menu, what would they be and why? Well, Carl Cox is clearly the Big Mac. He’s been around for far longer than any of the others and generally speaking, he still delivers.
David Guetta has to be the Double Cheeseburger, if only for the amount of Camembert he manages to squeeze into every set. Gareth Emery is like a McFlurry, in the sense you wonder whether he used to be bigger in the past. And the aforementioned Timmy Trumpet must surely be the equivalent of the Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal.
As for the token fish item on the menu, the Filet-o-Fish which sits on menus feeling all full of itself with a gargantuan sense of entitlement? Well, there’s a joke to crack here about CamelPhat – but this blog is happy enough for you to make it…
Cast your mind back to the early days of the pandemic. The scene started having discussions which aren’t normally had – mostly because there was nothing else to do. Talk soon turned to the enormous fees being demanded by the higher echelon of DJs – and I’m probably not the only one who noticed this was a debate in which those very highly paid DJs stayed conspicuously quiet,
There was a reason why. Namely that they’ve come to enjoy being paid big money – $40,000, maybe $50,000 per appearance. More in some cases and with the right agent negotiating on your behalf, a six figure fee was a distinct possibility. Not bad for a few hours work.
There was talk by some about there being some kind of “reset” within the scene – where the aforementioned big bucks DJs would apparently reduce their fees to something more sensible. But not surprisingly, the DJs in question never agreed to drop their financial demands.
Evidence of this arrived in my inbox last night, courtesy of one of this blog’s wonderful readers. Time Warp USA is taking place from two nights, starting on November 19th. It’s happening in New York City, in a currently undisclosed location. Which makes booking a hotel a bit awkward, because you could end up in entirely the wrong part of town – but hey, why consider the needs of people actually paying for the tickets, eh?
The lineup is even more business techno than Amnesia Ibiza’s offering this weekend. If you’re looking for hours of droning, mostly tuneless tech-house which makes your ears hurt, this could be the perfect opportunity for you. There are even a limited number of tables, allowing your painful ears to be accompanied by an arse numb with boredom.
However, in order to accommodate the massive fees for the DJs – which are second in size only to their egos – you’re going to need deep pockets. When you first visit the DICE website to pay for tickets, it tells you it’ll cost you $107.47. When you click the “Buy Now” button, however, the price suddenly jumps up to £201.19 for a ticket that covers both days.
The $107.47 price refers to general admission on the Friday under Tier 1. And in a twist which just screams of wanting to take all your money, you can also buy access to the backstage area. It’s $232 for either Friday or Saturday, or $366 if you want access on both days.
They don’t even try to mask their desperation to make money these days…