LOS ANGELES---A random walk down the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas or a quick glance at the Billboard Pop Charts on any given week will quickly reveal that EDM: Electronic Dance Music has been the hottest genre of music for the past 15-17 years in terms of record sales, music streaming and concert attendance. In Las Vegas, for instance, the majority of the casinos on the strip hire superstar EDM DJs giving them compensation packages that are tantamount to that of superstars like Celine Dion and Elton John. And there seems to be no end in sight, which renders the long asked question of whether or not EDM is just a fad mute. There is a major reason that can readily pinpointed as to what or who helped to make EDM music become what it is today :the invention of the world's first DJ software named Retrogrooves, which is credited to great inventor Andre Gray and the many aspiring European musicians approach to it as an "instrument" rather than just a new and more portable way to play records albeit virtually. But what was it about this software that democratized DJing and made EDM DJs out of millions of people (professionals and amateurs alike--myself included) and, more importantly, are EDM DJs real musicians or do they simply just play music. In order to answer this twofold question, I have to start at the beginning with the software itself and go from there. |
The world's very first DJ turntables software named Retrogrooves was invented by great inventor André Gray and released in the interactive CD-ROM format on February 28, 1989 and featured the customary two turntables (left and right), a cross-fader, two volume controllers, two detached speakers and a record crate replete with 40 albums consisting of 1960's soul, funk, disco and experimental electronic music from the 1970's. Not having a barcode, Retrogrooves was sold in primarily mom and pop record stores in the USA and heavily bootlegged in Europe. Retrogrooves introduced the world to interactive music, democratized DJing and contributed greatly to the rise of EDM: electronic dance music (production & live performances), made a DJ out of everyone, had an immense impact upon hip hop music (production & live performances) and served as the template and grandfather for all future digital DJ turntables software, the first of which did not appear for a more than a dozen years in 2002.
As DJ/performers, we all hit play, don't we. It's no secret. When it comes to "live" performance of EDM (ED: electronic dance music)… that's about the most it seems you can do anyway. It's not about performance art, it's not about talent either (really it's not). In fact, let me do you and the rest of the EDM world button pushers who fuckin hate me for telling you how it is, a favor and let you all know how it is.
As much as we'd like to think that the DJs and electronic musicians of the world get on stage and make crazy dance music on the fly—the truth is that most of the time they're just pushing play. Just ask Deadmau5, one of the most popular electronic musicians in the world.
I think given about one hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could DO what I'm doing at a Deadmau5 concert. Just like I think ANY DJ in the WORLD who can match a beat can do what "ANYONE else" (not going to mention any names) is doing on their EDM stages, too. Have a look, then let me explain:
Okay, so here's me, in a big silly mousehead.. twiddlin a knob or somethin… okay so here's how it works…. Somewhere in that mess is a computer, running Ableton Live… and it's spewing out premixed (to a degree) stems of my original producitons, and then a SMPTE feed to front of house (so tell the light / video systems) where I'm at in the performance… so that all the visuals line up nicely and all the light cues are on and stuff. Now, while thats all goin on… theres a good chunk of MIDI data spitting out as well to a handful of synths and crap that are / were used in the actual produciton… which I can tweak *live* and whatnot… but doesn't give me alot of "lookit me I'm Jimi Hendrix check out this solo" stuff, because I'm constrained to work on a set timeline because of the SMPTE. It's a super redundant system, and more importantly it's reliable as FUCK! And obviously, I've done the show a couple hundred times easily by now, so the focus over the past few runs with the "cube show" has been more revolved around adding new audio / visual content to keep it current.
So that's my "live" show, and that's as "live" as I can comfortably get it (for now anyway). Of course it'll evolve, and change-up, but I'm sure a few key principles will always remain the same.
I'm just so sick of hearing the "NO!!! I'M NOT JUST DOING THIS, I HAVE 6 TABLES UP THERE AND I DO THIS THIS AND THIS" like… honestly. who gives a fuck? I don't have any shame in admitting that for "unhooked" sets... I just roll up with a laptop and a MIDI controller and "select" tracks and hit a spacebar. Ableton syncs the shit up for me… so no beatmatching skill required. "beatmatching" isn't even a fucking skill as far as I'm concered anyway. So what, you can count to 4. Cool. I had that skill down when i was 3, so don't give me that argument please.
My "skills" and other PRODUCER'S skills shine where it needs to shine: In the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases. that's what counts… because this whole big "EDM" is taking over fad, I'm not going to let it go thinking that people assume there's a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. Because none of the "top dj's in the world" to my knowledge have. myself included.
You know what makes the EDM show the crazy amazing show that it is? You guys do. The fans, the people who came to appreciate the music, the lights, all the other people who came, we just facilitate the means and the pretty lights and the draw of more awesome people like you by our studio productions. which is exactly what it is. But to stand up and say you're doing something special outside of a studio environment, when you're not, just plain fuckin annoys me.
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