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?
Last week. this blog ran a five-part series of posts all about the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival being held in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh in a few weeks time. As anyone who read it might possibly have noticed, I’m not best pleased with the business techno line-up deciding they’re happy to attend a propaganda event for a regime which abuses human rights daily.
The postbag received since then has been broadly very supportive of my stance. Indeed, a few thought I should have gone even further in my criticism. But the inevitable claims of whataboutery soon made an appearance, so I thought I’d respond to this claim here, just in case anyone else is thinking of complaining about it.
The hard of thinking appeared to think that I was saying Carl Cox, Jeff Mills, deadmau5 and so on were complicit in human rights abuses by doing gigs in Saudi Arabia. Clearly not. No one is saying for one moment that these DJs are somehow guilty by association. My problem is very simple – they are being paid a lot of money to be propaganda pawns for the hereditary dictatorship which runs the country.
It also speaks volumes that, of all the DJs on the Soundstorm bill, only Jeff Mills has publicly defended himself against the various allegations made against the lineup. And whilst I would like to praise him for having the guts to speak up for himself, his defence is an absolute mess of contradictions and moronic suggestions people’s real problem with DJs earning large amounts of money is jealousy.
Another equally baffling claim is that I don’t insist DJs should boycott other countries. For example, I live in the UK. I’m well aware of my country’s own very mixed history regarding the British Empire. And I also live in Northern Ireland, where the constitutional question is never far away – so I’m no stranger to seeing hard questions being asked.
But there is a difference between countries like the UK, the USA, France, Germany and so on. These countries are all democracies. Yes, they sometimes elect leaders whom you don’t like – and words can’t express how much this blog detests Boris Johnson – but at least we get to elect our political representatives. And whilst human rights abuses do happen in Britain, they aren’t on the same sort of scale as in the Saudi Arabia hereditary dictatorship.
In any case, the naysayers should aim their fire elsewhere. If they read this blog regularly – they should, they might learn something new – I published an article a while ago questioning DJs who were going to play in Texas at a time when women’s abortion rights were being heavily curtailed by the state. And believe me, there will be more posts on subjects like this in the future.
I stand by every word of what I’ve said on the subject. Frankly, there are DJs on the Soundstorm lineup who would be content to play a concert in Pyongyang for North Korea and Kim Jong-un – whose regime of concentration camps and human experimentation make Saudi Arabia look gentle in comparison.
This blog will have no hesitation calling out DJs when I believe they’re putting money above everything else. As you saw last week, I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again…
Parts one, two, three, four and five of my series on the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival can be read by clicking the numbers in this sentence…
So far, all of the DJs who are on the bill for the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia next month are remaining quiet as the controversy over their appearances rumbles on. The collective strategy – accidental or intentional – appears to be keep their heads down, attend and get a big pay day just in time for Christmas.
They do this knowing the useless dance music press won’t call them out on it – mostly because the Saudis might refuse to advertise with them afterwards. Only one has stuck his head above the parapet to explain himself – and his defence is frankly so embarrassingly poor that a judge would probably laugh at him.
So last Sunday, self-declared baron of techno Dave Clarke posted about this subject on his Facebook page. The thread was deleted a few days later, with Clarke citing “racism and abuse” in the comments as the explanation why. But thankfully, this blog took a screenshot of Mills’s original defiant words…
The comment went down badly, to say the least. Clarke suggested Mills post about the subject on his own page to see what his followers thought. And last Friday – four days after Clarke’s proposition, Mills did exactly that. The length of time it took suggests in itself that Mills isn’t as confident in his arguments as he thinks.
His latest post – screenshots below – mostly uses deflection and whataboutery to avoid further criticism. For example, there’s his laughable insinuation that him performing in Saudi Arabia makes him complicit with the government’s human rights abuses.
Or his bizarre assertion his brand of techno would help people with their “need to mentally escape” from the “conditions [the government] impose”. Following that theory, Mills would be happy to perform a concert for Kim Jong-un in North Korea – the residents there could do with a few hours “mental escape” from starvation and torture, couldn’t they?
But probably his most dubious claim of all – and there’s plenty of competition here – is that these mostly multi-millionaire DJs not going to Saudi Arabia would “further isolate the young people there”. If Mills seriously believes that playing business techno to a crowd in their late teens and early twenties is a way of showing solidarity, I’d like to have a little bit of whatever he’s smoking.
You might wish to ask yourself why no one else in the lineup is using the same arguments in their own defence, Jeff. You might learn something…
It doesn’t take long for people to reveal their true selves – in this day and age, it’s simply a question of knowing exactly where to look. But even by the duplicitous standards of dance music, this one takes quite some beating.
Last week, a furore started bubbling up online about MDL Beast Soundstorm. I’ve been covering it on Sunday, Monday and today – and will be coming back to the subject again, be in no doubt. I’m far from alone – and the latest to join in is Terry Farley.
In years gone by, he used to spend his time doing remixes with Pete Heller and counting his bank balance. These days, he spends a fair amount of time on the Faith fanzine – relaunched during the first lockdown of 2020 after a hiatus of some eight years, backed by Defected. The label has not yet responded to my email asking how the relationship works.
Well, Terry Farley is one of the founders of the original magazine. And he’s involved in this incarnation too. He certainly isn’t happy about Soundstorm, saying this on Facebook…
Very forthright. I like it. I agree with it. So why is Faith fanzine, which he works for, promoting Carl Cox T-shirts?
And look whose name appears in the list – none other than Farley himself. Can he seriously not see how this makes him look?
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…
Over the years, a lot of people must have had to keep quiet about the fact Derrick May couldn’t play. Dzijan Emin admitted this fact in an exchange a few weeks ago. And he’s far from the only one who’s kept quiet.
Word reaches me at least two major dance publications deliberately kept the fact out of their articles – apparently, keeping the myth alive was more important, not to mention prosperous. Even now, they refuse to disclose this fact. This is what happens when you’re too close to your subjects to report the truth…
Jeff Mills is noted for being a brilliantly talented musician. He’s also noted today for having next to nothing nice to say about Derrick May. The two made a joint appearance together at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne in January 2016.
According to a source who was in the audience that night, the two men barely acknowledged each other’s presence. Indeed, when the two were in close proximity, she told me that “things between the two just seemed frosty”.
When the reviews came in for the much hyped event, Mills was furious. The critics were much more favourable towards May, talking about how much more intimate with the audience he was. The facts that May was physically closer to the audience and not actually playing anything might explain that…
The story goes that May threatened Mills. It was along the lines of “if you ever tell people I can’t play, I’m going to tell everyone about your secret”. And although I am aware of details of the allegation, I will not publish it at this time as I cannot verify it.
In the end, the fact May can’t play was exposed anyway…