Tag Archives: personal opinions

Remembering Eddie Eaze Coleman, who died three years ago – one of my first ever supporters and the man who sowed the seeds for Amateur’s House…

Three years ago on this day, the death occurred of a man whom I didn’t know a great deal about, but who still had a seismic influence on what I was going to become. His name was Eddie “Eaze” Coleman, and he was a DJ, producer and songwriter. And he was one of the fairest people I’ve ever known.

When I started putting music out under the Amateur At Play alias nearly five years ago, he was one of my very first supporters. He didn’t care about my following, nor anyone else – if he liked my music, he would play it out in the clubs or on one of his two online radio shows each week. He played what he liked and ignored what he didn’t – it was a complete meritocracy.

Coleman also had a sense of what was right and wrong. Few things grated him more than metadata being wrong – this refers to pieces of information that accompany each song, like who wrote it, who produced it, who wrote it and so on. There was many a release where he wasn’t credited correctly – and sometimes, he wasn’t credited at all. When he saw something wasn’t right, he spoke out.

He also had the courage to call people out on things, not least of all me. When he released a song called “What You Need” with Michelle Rivera, I reviewed it in my Six On Saturday column – saying “there’s more potential to be extracted out of this one”.

Shortly afterwards, he contacted me and effectively told me to put my money where my mouth was. He wanted me to remix the track and gave me the clear instruction to “go full dub” – a reference to the dubs I was putting out at the time. The result was this – and I had to push myself hard to get there.

But it was a valuable lesson, one of many he taught me. And although I was aware during 2018 that his health had deteriorated, the announcement of his death on January 2nd 2019 was still a shock. Truth be told, it rocked me to the core for a while – it was only the fact he was always keeping himself busy which got me going again.

He taught me to speak out when I see things I don’t agree with and to call out people who I think have got it wrong. He also taught me to believe in what I was doing and not to be afraid to do things my own way. Which is essentially what Amateur’s House is all about.

I shall remember you over a drink or two tonight, Eddie. Just as well it’s a Bank Holiday in the UK tomorrow…

Two months after Traxsource gave garage its own category on the site, this blog takes a look at what needs to happen in 2022 – part two of two…

Part one of this series on Christmas Eve covered what has been happening on Traxsource with garage music during 2021. In this concluding part today, I draw on my personal experiences of making music to explain what I think needs to happen next for garage to become more successful on the website during 2022…

I spent a fair amount of the last article pointing out the importance of getting involved with vocal songs. I believe this is part of an overall strategy which could help garage reach new heights during 2022. The genre has been doing well on the underground for years and its influences are seen in the pop charts frequently. So why shouldn’t the real garage scene get a slice of this lucrative pie?

The first thing I believe needs to happen is producers should spend more time working on original vocal songs. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional cover, especially if done well – but rehashing old material only gets you so far. Create new and interesting music and then get really good at promoting it. It’s going to require a big effort to do this – especially from a scene which has its divides – but it’s necessary for things to advance further.

This was one thing I found terribly disillusioning when I was making music. I believed that my collaborations with the likes of Morris Revy and Richelle Hicks were strong, original music – but the ecosystem meant they ended up going nowhere. It’s disheartening and one of the reasons why I stopped making music. If this doesn’t change, more people are going to leave too.

The second point kind of relates to this. Garage is a broad category of music – ranging from the deeper stuff by Demarkus Lewis all the way to 2-step. I think it’s time to embrace garage for the broad church that it really is. In the early days of dance music, no one cared what genre anything was in – if it was good music, it was good music and it got played. Garage DJs and producers must embrace this mentality and go with it.

The third thing is to involve other, more established labels and genres. Probably the biggest producer on Traxsource at the moment is DJ Spen – and to be fair, he’s one of the better ones on the site for endorsing new talent. Garage house producers have started appearing on his Quantize label – True2Life appeared on a release recently, and Scott Diaz has been on a few in the past.

Spen has stayed on top all these years because he’s able to see what way the wind is blowing. And if garage makes enough noise, he’s going to find it extremely hard to ignore it. The offers of remix work will inevitably follow, as might even signing a few records from the genre.

You see, it’s all about cross pollination. This is something which the pop industry embraced years ago – it’s why you see collaborations between a new face like Dua Lipa and an old face like Elton John in the charts. Instead of continuously fighting these things, garage needs to give it a go and see what happens. It could be very successful.

Finally, keep as many of the rights to your own music as you physically can. The artists who made the earliest house records are still having their records played to this day – but most make no money at all from this. Why? Because they signed the rights away decades ago for a large cash advance. In an age where the pie isn’t as large as it used to be, owning more of your own music ensures more money heads in your direction.

In summary – make original music, do remixes if you think you can add something new to a song, promote the hell out of each other’s work, and don’t be afraid to back yourself. And I can tell you now that this blog will be there to support you along the way…

In case you missed it, Part 1 of this series was published on Christmas Eve and can be found here.

Two months after Traxsource gave garage its own category on the site, this blog takes a look (with a little statistical help from Danny J Lewis) at the current state of play – part one of two…

Two months ago, the result of a few years of campaigning produced results. Around five years ago, a new movement started to circulate within dance music – it was called garage house. It was a genre influenced by the garage sounds of the USA in the 1990s, alongside more modern day ideas and context.

Labels like Pogo House and Plastik People popped up to promote this new sound. Veteran producers like Jeremy Sylvester and Danny J Lewis appeared alongside newer talents like Fizzikx, Marc Cotterell and Martin Depp. Early efforts to get a garage house category on Traxsource can be traced back to 2018, and were politely rebuffed by the site.

Exactly why is unknown, but according to a source I spoke to a few months ago who’s closely associated with Traxsource, the campaign failed because the scene came across as disjointed and the music was poorly defined. Efforts were then redoubled and real work done on the ground to strengthen the foundations.

This was duly rewarded in October when a second attempt was made to get a category from Traxsource. Spearheaded by Danny J Lewis and backed up by the likes of Marc Cotterell and Mike Millrain, this effort was much more successful – and a garage genre category was born.

So how have things gone over the past year? The aforementioned Danny J Lewis gathered up a huge amount of data on the subject earlier this month, put it all into Google Data Studio and out came a lot of useful information. His post and the full set of data is over on his blog.

For the purpose of this piece, I shall hone in on three particular sections – Top 10 positions, Top 100 positions and Overall Rankings. During 2021, Marc Cotterell and music making machine Demarkus Lewis were well ahead of anyone else in the rankings – but the real lesson here is from Tony Fuel.

Why has he ranked so high on the chart? It’s at least partially because of his two vocal tracks this year – “Let’s Rise” on Pogo House and “That Feeling” on Plastik People. Similar things can be seen with prolific veteran producer Booker T, whereas I’m confident the likes of DJ Passion and True2Life could increase their rankings with vocal records.

Infact, I honestly think anyone here could. My one criticism of garage house has been a lack of proper vocal orientated songs – and it’s no exaggeration to say these results back up my opinion. Even during my days in music production, vocal tracks tended to do better and stick around longer than the instrumental stuff.

The Top 10 and Top 100 charts show what is, on the face of it, a less clear picture. Demarkus Lewis, for example, ranks so highly because he’s incredibly prolific yet somehow manages to do it without sacrificing quality. He does little vocal house himself, but remixes significant amounts of it – this is true of a number of other names in both lists too.

So what’s my take on what needs to happen next for the garage genre on Traxsource to become a big success? I’ll cover that in the next installment…

Part two of this series follows on Boxing Day. Many thanks to Danny J Lewis for collating the data used in this article.

Everyone’s blaming Boris Johnson for lockdown carrying on in England – and they’re right – but aren’t the industry just a little bit to blame for this predicament?

Before anyone comes at me claiming I’m a Tory stooge, let’s get this out of the way. I hold no truck for Boris Johnson. I think he’s the worst Prime Minister in living memory. Infact, I first said four months ago that I believed June 21st wouldn’t happen.

However, I also believe in the idea of personal responsibility. Take a look at the United States, where clubs have now mostly reopened. Only the other day, 5 Magazine posted about the reopening of Smartbar in Chicago. They’re very excited about it – and it’s nice to witness.

There’s just one little detail. Everyone who wants to go to the club must be able to provide evidence they’ve had both doses of a Covid vaccine. A source in Chicago tells me “Yeah, everyone just wants to hit the club again now. And if getting vaccinated is how you make it happen, that’s what you do. I haven’t come across anyone who’s complaining.”.

Such a contrast to the UK, isn’t it? This week, we have the truly disgraceful scenario going on where the likes of Camelphat and Solardo are publicly talking about holding illegal raves in defiance of England delaying lockdown changes. And the dance music press says nothing. You will not hear a peep about this in the likes of Mixmag – readers are entitled to ask why.

Nor does anyone within the scene. For example, if Sacha Lord had any principles whatsoever, he would immediately announce Solardo’s removal from the Parklife Festival lineup, stating that such behaviour was totally unacceptable and in contrast to his own publicly expressed view.

But he won’t. And nor will anyone else who is either rewarding this bad behaviour or ignoring it, hoping it’ll go away and no one will notice.

The dance music scene has also failed to challenge the numerous anti-vaxxers in its ranks. The likes of Camelphat can reply to a tweet asking whether they’d get a Covid vaccine – the one way we have out of this that doesn’t involve tens of millions dying – and one of the two guys replied with…

And this is essentially why Boris Johnson is happy to talk to Andrew Lloyd Webber to see what they can do to help with his threatres, but he won’t talk to clubs about reopening. It’s because other sectors of the entertainment industry are led by grown-ups, who are prepared to get together and campaign in an intelligent way.

The clubbing sector is a joke in comparison. No one collaborates because they somehow think it would threaten their own positions. Unless they’re old mates, they won’t work together – and even when their own friends do wrong, they lack the courage to speak out.

Whilst the Johnson administration are unquestionably to blame for holding off putting India on the red travel list because they were sniffing around for a post-Brexit trade deal with the country, there has been a terrible failure of leadership from the night time industry.

They refused to contemplate having mandatory proof of vaccination before going into a club. That bastion of free capitalism, the USA, has no such qualms – yet the British clubbing world prefers to listen to crusty old has-beens like Danny Rampling and his paranoid, unfounded drivel.

And he’s far from alone in trying to apply a 1988 mindset to a 2021 problem. As we start coming out of this pandemic, it’s time that the people running this scene got called out for their pathetic failure to show leadership and courage when it was most needed.

I was told I’d have 5G and a phone call from Bill Gates by now, but I’m still waiting – so having had my second Covid jab this weekend, how DID the anti-vaxxers get it so wrong?

The anti-vaxxers have been telling us for months now that you shouldn’t get the Covid vaccine. It’s part of an evil plot so that Bill Gates can take over the world by sending drones running on Microsoft Windows round to your house to spy on you with the microchip. Or something equally loopy – the story changes every now and then.

Well, I decided that I was going to get my Covid jabs anyway. Not solely because it dramatically reduces my chances of catching Covid-19 – I have a wife and three children to think of, you know – but because of the benefits it provides. They said the 5G coverage around me would improve – it’d be like having my own personal super fast wifi.

I had my first one back in March. Without going into details, I was in one of the groups that allowed me to receive the vaccine earlier. I wrote about it at the time – I was quite disappointed, but perhaps I was being unrealistic also. The vaccine is administered in two doses, after all…

At the start of last week, I received a letter telling me that I would be getting my second jab on Saturday. That was yesterday – so I went down to the leisure centre turned vaccination clinic and got one. I was told to keep the card, saying I might need it in the future.

So, do I have immunity to the coronavirus now? Not exactly. In three weeks time, I’ll have about 90% immunity – this is how the majority of vaccines work. But we all know what the REAL central question is here.

What about the 5G?

To test this, I went to stand in my garden – well away from any wifi points that might interfere with the experiment. Traditionally, my garden is a mobile phone blackspot. You’d be lucky to get one or two bars on Vodafone UK, let alone anything else. So, what happened? Was my brain emitting a glorious 5G signal so that I could make phone calls and watch Netflix wherever I was?

No. Not even one bar.

It’s just as well the Covid jab provides protection against coronavirus. Because the side benefits as promoted by the anti-vaxxers don’t seem to work…

As Seb Wheeler swaps Mixmag for Defected, are things going to get any better for the beleaguered dance magazine under new stewardship?

Things have not been good for Mixmag for some time. Their print edition continues to be on a coronavirus imposed hiatus, with all the lucrative advertising revenue that the print format can surprisingly attract. And now they are without an editor.

Yes, Seb Wheeler, the editor of their digital output for several years now, has jumped ship. Exactly who will replace him has not been announced at the time of writing, but this currently means that Mixmag has no editor for its digital product or print one.

So where is Wheeler off to? He’s heading off to Defected, the new colonialists of house music. His job is to lead the digital marketing team – given the job of promoting Defected mostly involves writing “in house music we are all equal” in the ITC Avant Garde typeface, his new job shouldn’t be too taxing.

As for Mixmag, what’s next? Wheeler leaves behind a pretty unremarkable legacy – the magazine is increasingly known online for its clickbait headlines and doom-laden articles. These may generate clicks and controversy, but they offer nothing new to club culture or anything else they were originally set up to cover.

Barely a word gets written about the underground movements trying to get off the ground. Issues like the gentrification of dance music and plague raves certainly don’t merit a mention. And on the weekend, there’s no one in the office!

It doesn’t help that Mixmag is a tired brand in desperate need of refreshment and new energy. Don’t take my word for it – previous print editor Duncan Dick openly states this on his LinkedIn page. Great journalism is the exception, rather than the rule – and these stories are invariably almost never followed up.

At a time when dance music needs someone standing up for its interests and defending its culture arguably more than ever before, Mixmag has been – quite simply – found wanting. The only question now is what are they going to do about it?

They could do worse than turn to Kwame Safo, known otherwise by his alias Funk Butcher. His Blackout edition was one of the best in many years. It showed courage, guts and a fearless spirit – exactly what Mixmag needs if it’s to have any chance of survival in the future.

Because believe it or not, the reason I criticise Mixmag so harshly is because I want them to do their job better. Dance music needs big representation keeping an eye on the scene and speaking truth to power. Most of these voices have disappeared in the past few years, and a lack of scrutiny is bad for the whole scene.

Will they take a leap of faith, or are they too concerned about upsetting the powers that be? We shall soon find out.

The question everyone’s asking as Sterling Void puts out a brand new remix for D Records – who REALLY made it?

Were you starting to think that I’d forgotten to keep an eye on Sterling Void? Not a bit of it. Sterling Covid, as I call him around here, is sadly on his second wave after it took 32 years to bring the first one crashing down.

An anonymous friend sent me this the other day. It’s a song out on Bandcamp, the very fashionable place for putting music out these days. It’s called “We Got Da Bass” by Santonio Echols and Mike Anderson. Decent enough tune too, as it happens.

Well, Sterling Void has apparently done a remix of it. This heavy tomb weighs in at a little over ten minutes long – which given everything I’ve written in the past, is ten minutes more than Void has ever spent making music.

So, the question has to be asked – who actually produced this? It’s a nice enough record, with its fun percussion and nice chord progression on the piano. This renders the possibility that a man who couldn’t tell the difference between a keyboard and a kettle made it.

Unless, of course, he did? I know that Mr Duane Pelt reads this blog. He once threatened to sue me for slander, an action which he dismally failed to follow through with.

So, here’s a direct message for you, Duane. Prove me wrong. Prove that you did make this. Send me a video showing me the project files, showing what VSTs and synths you used in the project and explanations for particular decisions you made with the remix.

I’ll publish it on the blog, entirely unedited and without comment from me. I’m even prepared to forego having a dig at you in the headline. Can’t say fairer than that!

As Mixmag gets a pat on the back from The Drum, managing director says they don’t “shy away from telling the truth” – but is that REALLY so?

I see that Mixmag won some awards last week. Good for them. It’s always nice to be told you’ve done something good, although I find it highly curious how media organisations seem to want to be given awards for doing their jobs.

The awards they’ve won are in two categories. One is for the work they’ve done, courtesy of Funk Butcher (real name Kwame Safo), who highlighted how the Black Lives Matter movement related to dance music and the wider industry.

There are no qualms from me on this one. The work from Safo on this was nothing short of exceptional. I believe the issues were approached in a sensitive manner aiming to raise understanding. I do, however, question whether Mixmag has the bottle for what could be a very long campaign.

The second award is for an article by Annabel Ross which basically exposed how Erick Morillo got away with his appalling behaviour for so many years. You can read it here. What I found most shocking was not the details, but how long this had been going on for.

Whilst not directly quoting Mixmag’s managing director, the Drum’s article says:

“Mixmag’s Managing Director Nick Stevenson said the Morillo investigation was very much in the public interest. While it may not have the same infrastructure or budget as mainstream media outlets, he believes it is an editorial platform that does not shy away from telling the truth.”


So why does Mixmag have nothing to say about plague raves? Why do they never ask any difficult questions in any of their interviews? Why do they have nothing to say about serial abusers like Derrick May?

No, the truth is that Mixmag, like most of the dance music press, are failing in their duty. Their job is to hold the dance music world to account. It is not simply to tell us about drugs or about the latest release from an artist. They have a duty to inform their audience on what is really going on.

Yet the matter is – and this is not a situation unique to Mixmag – they are too close to the industry in order to report on it with any real objectively. If they run an unflattering article about an artist, nightclub or whatever, they run the risk of losing access to them.

Scared of being put on a blacklist, they’re cowed. It’s the same with most of the dance music press – they rarely bother to practice journalism anymore. There should be distance between those making the music and those writing about it, and it’s time that fact was remembered.

Yes, the exposé from Annabel Ross is extremely powerful work. The same with Kwame Safo. But this should be the norm in dance music, not merely the exception to what is a very dull magazine playing it safe.