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…
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…
Last night, I published an article criticising Faith fanzine for running an interview with Carl Cox whilst at the same time, one of their founders is criticising his appearance at a Saudi government backed festival. And it hasn’t gone down entirely well – much to the surprise of no one.
Let’s get to Faith fanzine’s defence first. They haven’t said anything directly to me, but they did like a comment pointing out the interview with Cox and everything associated with it would have been done before the MDL Beast Soundstorm revelations. And on Instagram, they responded to a user by pointing out “the interview was done in the summer and went to print early last week”.
They seem to be arguing they’ve been backed into a corner and had no other choice. Which I sympathise with – but only to an extent. You see, this is a classic case of the print media showing itself to be an irrelevance.
By Faith’s own admission, this interview was recorded during the summer. I would take that to mean July or August. It’s now late November. That interview could be over four months old. With each passing day, the risk of that interview being superseded by events increased. And that’s exactly what’s happened here.
I sympathise a little with Faith fanzine – but the blunt truth is that print magazines in dance music are a throwback to a long gone era. Yes, some of the print magazines of the 1990s were brilliant – but they existed in a time with a slower news cycle and no alternative to print. Nowadays, this kind of content belongs online.
And don’t take my word for it. Look over at Mixmag. They last published a printed edition in April 2020. They said they’d be back in 2021. It’s now nearing December and the print magazine has now been resting as long as the money in Father Ted’s bank account. The online operation has had money spent on it – although sadly not on staffing it with proper journalists.
Whilst I feel a little bit sorry for Faith fanzine and Terry Farley – who comes out of this looking especially foolish – I think they’ve just proven their magazine is a relic of a bygone era…
A lot of people aren’t best pleased about this MDL Beast Soundstorm festival, due to take place in Saudi Arabia next month. The guestlist is a who’s who of dance music’s richest players – who seem to be happy to take part in a Saudi propaganda exercise.
A few naysayers have tried to tell me this week that the average clubber doesn’t care about this. Wrong. My email subscriptions have gone through the roof since I started writing on the subject on Sunday – and my readership has gone up around 50% on normal levels.
But there’s one place where you will not find a single word of commentary or news on this issue. And that’s in the dance music press. They, or rather the editors who dictate what their cheap interns must write, have decreed their response will be the same as it always is with awkward topics.
And that response is to say nothing and pretend it isn’t happening. This week, Resident Advisor have managed to find time to publish an article about Blackburn’s rave scene and one about a producer sharing 50GB of samples – but not one article about this story. Mixmag, DJ Mag and the usually decent Chicago based 5 Magazine have written nothing about it either.
Then again, why should we surprised? During this pandemic, they refused to write about plague raves until pressure forced them to. And not a single word was written about the controversy surrounding Dominick Fernow earlier this year. It was the first major test for Resident Advisor’s new editor Whitney Wei – and she failed it pathetically.
On this Tuesday morning, the response from almost the entire fleet of DJs going to the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival next month is silence. They either think they can ride the storm out by saying nothing, or they genuinely think they’re in the right. In which case, speak out and say so!
Some of them, however, are even less likely to speak out than others. One of those is French DJ David Guetta. He’s been in Saudi Arabia at least once before – in 2018. And unlike some of them, he can’t even use “I need the money” as some kind of justification. Signing a $100million deal with Warner Music a few months ago ensured his finances were alright.
Now, Guetta takes a lot of pride in the amount of edits and remixes he prepares for specific gigs. And when he did a show for Formula E three years ago in the same city, he certainly tailored his set towards his audience. In this case, towards Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the king of Saudi Arabia.
In his honour, he played a number of his personal remixes of patriotic songs praising the king. So it’s safe to say Guetta is unlikely to be the one to respond to the dismal call of Jeff Mills to encourage others to rise up in desire for social change.
We really are stuck with the most morally and intellectually bankrupt generation of DJs at the top of this scene, aren’t we?
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…