The past few times I’ve browsed the magazine stands of local bookstores, the latest edition of SPIN magazine–dubbed the “Dance Issue”–has caught my eye. The cover features Skrillex, an American-dubstep musician that has amassed an incredible following in the short time that he has been performing. The headline? “The New Rave Generation.”
I had never read SPIN before, but after a recent resolution to read more (and more varied) publications, I decided to give it a shot. All was going reasonably well–a short interview with Amy Lee of Evanescence only mentions Hot Topic once, and the “Breaking Out” section features SBTRKT, one of my favorite DJs right now.
But then everything began spiraling downward. Skrillex seems like a coked-out mini-Messiah, bringing the hipster masses into the EDM world. Philip Sherburne writes:
This is a new era in American electronic dance music. And if you want to understand it, keep your eye on Skrillex, regardless of what you think of dance music’s current ultracommercial turn, or of dubsteps regressive macho tendencies, or of the genre’s 30-plus years of rhythmic refinement threatening to devolve into a Pauly D fist-pump.
The girls who dress up to dance at such events are referred to as half-naked, hedonistic strippers in furry boots. But even beyond that, SPIN gets the whole scene wrong when it brings up drugs–as it does early and often.
A feature at the bottom, titled “Dance Party USA,” begins a history of EDM with… the invention of Ecstasy? MDMA is referenced frequently throughout the magazine’s features, seen as intrinsic to “raver culture.” (Yes, that is what they call it, as well as “electronica” and “techno.” The ’90s called; they want their stereotypes back.) Sure, some people roll Ex at dance parties. Those are the same people that roll at rock concerts, house parties, and dorm rooms; there is no special connection between EDM and E… until articles like this promote the idea, and readers begin to believe it.
In 2000, Christopher John Farley wrote about the sometimes-popular, sometimes-underground rave scene for TIME. Even then, dance-lovers were being portrayed as druggies:
In particular, many believe that the press is more interested in writing about drugs than about the music and that the press coverage is partly to blame for the supposed ecstasy boom.
Indeed, some of the biggest acts associated with the rave scene say they are drug free. Van Dyk says he was introduced to electronic music in East Germany, when he secretly tuned in to West German radio as a kid. He didn’t need drugs to enjoy the music then, so he figures he doesn’t need them now. Moby says he tried smoking pot when he was 11 or 12 so he could hang out with the “cool kids,” but that was pretty much the end of his experimentation. Says Moby: “I’ve never tried ecstasy, I’ve never tried cocaine, I’ve never tried heroin. I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with drug use, but the reason I stay away from it is that I value my brain too much. I don’t want to trust my synapses to some stranger that I met in a nightclub. I hope to use my brain for the rest of my life.”
As do I; as do countless other fans of EDM.
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve gone to an EDM show. The reason, ironically, involves my favorite industrial musician, Deadmau5. I’ve been a mau5 fan for several years, and was initially delighted to see him receiving much-deserved attention. But at a 930 Club show last winter, the DJ’s 40-minute set was plagued with fans moshing and crying for Deadmau5’s hit songs. Terrible.
Perhaps SPIN‘s assessment of and predictions for EDM are on-point. My experience at the Deadmau5 show certainly revealed the dark side of the popularization and commercialization of a beloved artist and genre. If that’s the case, I’m just going to find a new kind of underground. One that doesn’t require me to be a drugged-out stripper.
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Want to learn more about EDM’s roots? Watch this:
For a good UK-influenced dubstep mix, check this out:
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