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.”

Really?

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.

History in the making: UK hosts first legal nightclub in over a year – early signs are that Circus tests in Liverpool have been successful

This weekend in Liverpool, an important event is taking place. It’s taking place courtesy of Circus and it’s all about trying to find out whether it’s safe for mass gatherings to restart again.

Tonight is the second of two events – indeed, this evening’s fun is due to kick off at 7.30pm. The event was all over the news last night – I even saw coverage of it on the News At Ten. Here’s Metro’s report on it.

That footage of Yousef playing “Free” by Ultra Naté and the crowd singing along to every word is going to be something remembered for many years to come. I won’t deny it – it was quite a special moment to witness.

I’m well aware that I was scathing about Sven Väth being present at the event, but I wish everyone well on this second night – and let’s hope that, come late next week, it’s good news on the tests taken afterwords!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do what a grumpy old fart like me does on a Saturday evening – namely putting my three kids to bed before settling down with a cool cider…

Now, about the homophobia: what you won’t be reading in the press as the veneration of Saint DMX goes on

New York State has decided it will be renaming December 18th “Earl Simmons Day” in honour of DMX, a rapper who died three weeks ago. We know this because Mixmag told us – the same Mixmag who couldn’t care less who he was until they realised they could make money from writing about him.

Look online elsewhere, and it’s the same story. Don’t speak ill of the dead is very much the motto of the press, who are too scared to be seen as taking sides. You’d be half forgiven for thinking DMX was a Christian missionary who went around healing the sick.

If Adolf Hitler died today, you’d probably have articles explaining he had a difficult childhood – as if that fact alone somehow gives you a licence to be an arsehole for the rest of your life. Well, here’s news for you – it doesn’t.

Why, for example, has no one thought to publish the fact he was a notorious homophobe, and transphobic to boot? Look at the lyrics to his 2003 single, “Where The Hood At”. He has never rescinded those words or expressed any kind of regret for it either.

The song goes “Last I heard, y’all niggas was havin sex with the same sex, I show no love, to homo thugs, Empty out reloaded and throw more slugs, How you gonna explain fucking a man?”.

And later in the same song, he says “I don’t fuck with niggas that think they broads, Only know how to be one way, that’s the dog”.

He’s basically saying he thinks men who have gay sex should be shot, and that trans people are no better than dogs. What a nice bloke, eh?

I saw much the same trend when Erick Morillo died last year. Let’s not mention the fact the guy had been charged with rape. Let’s not mention the fact his DNA was found on a rape kit taken as part of the police investigation. Let’s not mention the other allegations made by numerous women over the years that this guy was a complete creep.

No, let’s just mention that he made some decent tunes and was a good DJ and that Pete Tong, Simon Dunmore and several other people are going to miss him. And if anyone claims otherwise, they must be a “hater”.

I’m not saying for one moment that DMX was a totally bad guy. I’m sure he did some good in his life – but don’t insult everyone’s intelligence by pretending he was some sort of modern day Mother Theresa.

What disease – and it’s not coronavirus! – threatens to bring the dance music world crashing down? Why the idolising needs to go

I remember the first time that I read a dance music magazine. It was all the way back in October 2001. I was at college at the time studying for my A Levels and I had some time to kill before I had to catch the bus home.

So I wandered into town and saw a newsagents. I’d never been in here before and I saw they had a huge selection of magazines and newspapers – many of which I’d never seen before.

Whilst browsing, I saw a copy of Ministry magazine. Believe it or not, but before the internet came along, you had to get dance music news through the press. There were few ways to get it directly. If you weren’t in the scene, you had to go through the gatekeepers in the media.

I enjoyed reading the magazine and I bought many more. But as an overly inquisitive 16 year old studying Sociology – oddly enough, one of the better decisions I made at that age – I noticed one thing. The coverage was very positive. Insanely positive.

There was little criticism of anyone in there. Certainly not in the way you’d expect to see in newspapers, for example. And this trend over the years has just got worse and worse. It’s gone from being positive to downright idolatry.

And I can’t help but think this is an incredibly dangerous development. It creates the conditions where DJs can put whatever the hell they like on their riders and if you dare criticise them even mildly, they come at you like someone who’s just been caught kicking a puppy.

Whilst there are plenty DJs at the top of this scene who are humble and haven’t forgotten their background, let’s be perfectly blunt here. There are many others who are a bunch of overpaid prima donnas with a truly staggering sense of self-entitlement.

And I believe one of the reasons for that is the sheer amount of idolatry they’re exposed to. They’re treated like kings, and some of them inevitably fall for the hype and think it’s the truth.

They’re not used to dissent. They’re not used to dealing with criticism. In social media, they have a friend. Their fans will unfailingly speak up for them, defending them. Most of the time, it means they don’t even have to answer it in any way. They can express their view by simply liking a tweet or even saying nothing.

They make threats. They threaten to stop you from progressing further in your career. They find out what you want and they threaten to stop you from getting it. This is why they’re absolutely terrified of outsiders – there’s nothing they have in the artillery to stop them.

Derrick May is the perfect example of this. For years, he was venerated and worshipped as some kind of god. This allowed him to behave in whatever way he liked – hence why he’s now accused of sexual mispropriety against at least 18 women and has made a career out of pretending he can play.

No one ever challenged him on it, and he’s still benefitting from idolatry now. His stooges, like Carl Craig and Patricia Altisent, are defending him whilst he somehow pretends that anyone who doesn’t like him must be a racist.

This is an utterly contemptuous and disingenuous line of defence which the dance music press should have torn him to shreds on. Instead, they reported it – even they couldn’t ignore this – but made no further comment. Were they seriously that terrified of his Mickey Mouse lawyer?!

It’s high time that this culture of deference and idolatry in dance music stopped. Otherwise, the egos are just going to destroy what’s left of the scene – and since the egos will be rich, they won’t suffer…