Tag Archives: extended pieces

As Defected release over 140 tracks from Todd Edwards archive tomorrow, a pertinent question – are they repeating the mistakes the majors committed with house music in the 1990s?

Let’s start this piece by being kind. Simon Dunmore is a man who has done much for dance music. From his early days at Cooltempo to being A&R at AM:PM all the way to heading the modern day behemoth that is Defected, he’s a man who’s not afraid to back what he loves.

He took Cooltempo and turned into a credible house label signing artists like Juliet Roberts, Adeva and Kenny Thomas. At AM:PM, he helped create an extremely credible house music label that’s still fondly remembered today. Then he launched Defected in 1999 and it’s still going now in 2021.

Where are most of the house music labels from 1999 now? Nearly all of them are long dead. If the internet and music piracy didn’t bring them crashing down, the collapse of vinyl distributor Amato in 2007 didn’t help matters.

This is a huge accomplishment in itself. The label has survived by becoming much more than that – it’s now an events company amongst other things. As a fan of house music, I’m also very happy when I see old songs that were previously only available on vinyl made available digitally.

But there are things going on within the Defected machine that are inspiring déjà vu – and not in a good way.

For example, there’s Defected habit of buying old record labels. In recent years, they’ve purchased the catalogues of Moving Records, Nu Groove, 4 To The Floor, Slip N Slide, and numerous others. Whilst it’s great to see many of those records available digitally for the first time, it does have more than a touch of the past about it.

In the late 1990s, the majors started doing the same thing themselves. AM:PM was always part of a major, but after owners Polygram were gobbled up by Universal in 1998, the label was closed four years later. Strictly Rhythm was purchased by Warner in 2000 – the label crashed out of the market in 2002 as well.

There are no doubt other examples. There are also cases of majors launching dance labels, but later getting cold feet. Credence was launched with much fanfare by EMI in 2000. The label included Felix Da Housecat, Dajae, DJ Sneak, Eric Prydz, Lee Cabrera and more.

EMI closed it unceremoniously in 2004. And the only label backed by a major I can think of that’s still around from back in the day is Positiva – they somehow even survived their acquisition by Universal.

So, why is Defected doing this? The labels in the 1990s were doing this because they wanted to retain control. Many had compilation businesses and it wasn’t in their interest to have labels making their songs available on all of them.

For instance, Virgin had the Club Anthems series, Telstar had National Anthems and many others, Polygram and then Universal had the Club Mix series, and Ministry of Sound had the likes of The Annual and the Clubbers Guide. Independents would licence to most, but majors would keep almost everything to themselves – unless the song had a ridiculously expensive sample clearance fee to be recouped!

The compilation business is now practically dead in dance music. So this clearly is no longer a factor. But much of the 90s is otherwise being repeated now. It didn’t end well last time, so what’s different now?

There are also awkward questions when it comes to the launch of Defected’s latest label, Sondela. I wrote about this a while ago if you want my thoughts in full, but I’m left wondering why Sef Kombo wasn’t given the top job at the label. Instead, Dunmore put his son – who has no experience of any kind running a label – in to basically keep an eye on him, as if he couldn’t be trusted.

At best, this setup just looks plain weird. At worst, it looks colonial and outdated – it’s as if Dunmore doesn’t trust Kombo, in which case, why bother employing him?

As I piece more and more of these things together, it looks like Defected not only want to monopolise dance music, but its culture as well. I hope I’ve missed something here, and I really hope I’m wrong – because this would be a worrying development.

House music was intended to be for everyone, not just for one or two corporations – and it certainly isn’t in keeping with Defected’s “in our house we are all equal” marketing slogan…

Is there trouble for the Belleville Three?

Much has been written of late about Derrick May, not least on this website. Not just about what he’s been getting up to, but also about the silence from large swathes of the house and techno worlds about him. I can’t help but wonder why. Their silence condemns them.

I thought I’d have a closer look at the Belleville Three today. Incidentally, before we start, did you know that the back story behind the Belleville Three is bollocks? It was a load of rubbish made up by a journalist who thought if he could pitch the song as being the first techno record, it would sell by the bucketload.

Anyway, Kevin Saunderson appears to be standing by his friend Derrick May. The two are mutual friends on Facebook, a platform which Saunderson is a frequent user.

Yet when you search under the mutual friend that Juan Atkins, the third member of the Belleville Three, this comes up…

It seems even the Belleville Three is split on Derrick…

Harry Romero and the duties of house music’s statesmen

Death is very much present in the world of dance music at the moment, and not solely due to Covid-19. Robin Rush, Angel Moraes and Claudio Coccoluto are amongst those to pass away in recent days, so it’s understandable that many have questions on their mind.

Harry Romero, no less, is one of those who asks a very pointed question.

This deserves a pointed answer, so I’m happy to offer my thoughts. I believe that the current generation of house music stalwarts has a duty to guide the next generation. As Mr Romero points out, the current generation will not be around forever. If new and upcoming talent is not nurtured, house music has no future. It’s as simple as that – names like Kenny Carpenter must realise that too.

It also involves speaking the truth and calling out wrong where we see it. Unfortunately, this is an area where Mr Romero has shortcomings in. Remember when Erick Morillo died last year? He committed suicide with a sexual assault charge hanging over his head. Since then, it has transpired that Morillo was an aggressive and prolific sexual predator.

Harry Romero used to work with Erick Morillo. The two were friends and business colleagues. Romero provided numerous tracks and remixes for Morillo’s Subliminal label and the two worked together frequently for many, many years.

Why does Harry Romero have nothing to say on this subject? I have scoured his social media from the past six months and can find no reference whatsoever to the allegations circulating around his friend. Why has he, as a stalwart of the scene, got nothing to say on the subject?

Is it because Morillo was a personal friend? Is it because he believes that Morillo was falsely accused and that speaking out will harm his standing with the likes of close friend Roger Sanchez, whose girlfriend was allegedly a victim of Morillo? Is there another reason for his silence?

The current generation, as I said, have a duty to encourage the next generation to come forward. They also have a duty to ensure the next generation can do things in a way even better than they did. Romero’s silence over this matter – and it is a far wider matter than his old friend, it’s about what sort of culture we want in the house music world – casts grave doubt on whether he is up to the task.

How did it get to this, Mayday?

Derrick May might have been a good person once. It’s hard to know. I struggle with the idea that a person is born evil, but I definitely know that people can be corrupted along the way. There are others who know May personally – they’re more in a position to comment on that.

One thing he can certainly be called – four letter expletives aside – from the perspective of an observer like me, is a survivor. You don’t get this far without being able to adapt to a situation and survive. For example, May sometimes does gigs where he appears to play his own songs live. The fact that he can’t actually play the piano doesn’t seem to have stopped him.

Last week, I reported that May had persuaded a judge to dismiss a defamation action against Michael James. This was even though it was May himself that instigated the action. Why would you drop an action that you instigated yourself?

There are a few possibilities, but the most likely is that May has gone into survival mode. He faces legal actions elsewhere – for instance, Derrick May still faces a $6 million dollar lawsuit for a rape he is alleged to have committed in Toronto in 2004.

This legal action was brought forward by no less than Gloria Allred. Given her success rate, May might well be terrified of facing such an adversary. I know I would be.

He also has a lawsuit currently being brought against him by the mother of his own children. How much has he fallen in order for that to happen? Like every other rat, May has good survival instincts. Chances are he’ll manage to resolve this one somehow too.

Nonetheless, he now faces an uncertain future where he never knows where the next allegation is going to come from. It’s only going to get harder and harder to persuade the world that all these women are wrong when their numbers keep adding up. And let’s not even get onto the subject of his career – most likely now damaged permanently.

Where did it all go wrong for you, Derrick?

How to win a remix contest (by someone who won one and doesn’t know how!) – Part 2

I’m currently running a two-part series on this site telling you about my experiences with remix contests. I’ll tell you about what went wrong with all the ones I didn’t win, and what possibly went right with the one I recently won for Russian label Mask Sexy Records.

Yesterday, I went through what definitely didn’t work for me and, chances are, probably wouldn’t work for you either. In this concluding part, I go through what just might…

If you’re reading this, frankly, I’m a bit surprised. Maybe you haven’t seen the first half of this series yet. Maybe Google has sent you to this page first. Otherwise, you might be best to hold off having any confidence in what you’re about to read until you’ve, well, read it first.

After my experience with the Quantize Recordings contest, I stopped entering any remix contests at all. I’d made my mind up, or so I thought. You can’t do anything with the remix if you don’t win because it’s copyrighted to a record label from the second you submit your entry – look it up in the terms and conditions, it’ll usually be right there. And even if you do win, record labels are usually under no obligation whatsoever to actually release your remix. Again, look up the terms and conditions on various remix contests if you don’t believe me.

That was until around October last year. I came across a record called “Don’t Give Up” by Dormidontov & Newzs Feat. Michael Balzer. It was on a Russian label called Mask Sexy. I’d come across the label a few times before and I liked some of what they put out. Then I noticed that they were running a remix contest.

I was initially hesitant. I’d had experiences of them before, and all of them bad. I sat on this for a little while thinking about it. During a moment where I was in between projects, shall we say, I thought why not? I downloaded the vocal stem and started work. I didn’t do it with any intention of submitting the entry. I did it solely to pass the time – and I found myself being a lot more creative all of a sudden.

That bassline reminiscent of the sound of numerous speed garage tunes from the late 1990s? An entirely deliberate choice to contrast with the softer sounding chords elsewhere in the mix. I thought it worked and I stuck with it. Everything else came along so much quicker without the pressure of trying to conjure up some pre-conceived notion that someone somewhere may or may not have.

The only constraint I gave myself was to stick with a vocal mix. As much as I enjoy doing dubs, I couldn’t see any in the release history of the label, so I thought I wouldn’t stand much chance doing that.

Is this a contradiction with my statement saying I was only doing it for fun? Most definitely, yes. It was at this moment I realised I had to send this thing. So I found the email address for the label and submitted my entry. I got a courteous reply saying that they were looking forward to checking it after the closing date.

The closing date came and went and I heard nothing. I just chalked it down to experience and said I wasn’t doing any remix contests again. And then I happened to be scrolling on my Instagram feed and noticed a post from the label announcing the winners of the contest.

Much to my surprise, I read my name on the list. I had to read it several times to make sure that I wasn’t having some weird out of body experience. Seeing my name on there was utterly humbling. I never expected it in a million years and it restored a little bit of my faith that some of these contests are actually judged on merit and not on pre-conceived ideas by labels not wanting to pay.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to check out the release very soon, and hopefully, this series has helped you out with a few remix contest conundrums. And if it hasn’t, well, you should have probably held back your confidence in the first place!

How to win a remix contest (by someone who won one and doesn’t know how!) – Part 1

Today and tomorrow, I’m running a two-part series on this site telling you about my experiences with remix contests. I’ll tell you about what went wrong with all the ones I didn’t win, and what possibly went right with the one I recently won for Russian label Mask Sexy Records.

In today’s first part, I go through what definitely didn’t work for me and, chances are, probably won’t work for you either…

If you have come across this article through my social media, you probably know roughly what to expect. You probably know my sense of humour and what comes with it. So you’ll know to take anything written over the next two days for what it is. I simply speak of personal experience.

If, on the other hand, you have found me in the future from a Google search, I imagine this title hasn’t filled you with the utmost of confidence. Nor should it, frankly. I have no idea if what I’m about to write has any lessons in it whatsoever. I’m just going to tell you about my experience with remix contests and you can take what you’re going to take from that.

So I’ll start by declaring that I don’t know exactly how many of these I’ve entered. My first one was on Beatport many years ago – it was for a song called “Funk Dat” by Sagat, which originally came out in 1993. I entered it simply because I could and because I wanted to try remixing something. I was learning exactly how my DAW of choice – Cockos Reaper – worked, and I thought the best way of doing that was to work on something where the ideas were already partially there. I think this was the right strategy for me, it might not be the best strategy for everyone.

I never won anything for any of these. And let’s be frank about the reasons for this. Most remix contests are commissioned by record labels who don’t fancy paying someone to do a remix. Back in the 1990s, remixes cost a lot of money. If you wanted the likes of David Morales, Marc Kinchen, Todd Terry, Masters At Work or whomever to do a remix of your track, it was going to cost you big bucks. It wasn’t remotely unusual for them to charge £15,000 and above.

Labels were more than happy to pay in those days because the money was there to do it. Vinyl sales often counted towards the ultimate chart position of a song, so a decent remix pack on the 12” could help swing it in favour of a particular release. The remixers knew this, and charged accordingly.

Those days are long gone. Budgets at most labels are far thinner than they used to be and remixes have been particularly badly hit in this regard. So remix contests are a useful way of getting a remix without paying for it. They also usually – especially in the case of the major labels – are looking for a particular sound. They want what’s hot. They want what’s going to do well on the streaming sites, because that’s where their listeners are these days.

And who could blame them? That’s their job. If you want to enter a remix contest for a major label, my advice is to be acutely aware of these facts. There’s absolutely no point anyone going into this without both eyes open. Unless your remix becomes an absolutely huge global smash hit, there’s simply no way you’re going to make much from it. Just do it for the fun. It’s not like you’ll be able to do anything with it if you don’t win, anyway…