Friday, April 29, 2011

What happened to house music?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy started it in Chicago, a record shop couldn't fit Warehouse Music (the club Frankie was playing at) on the window and so they created the term 'house music' and then it went nuts and the fact that you're reading this blog means you've got your own special relationship with house, and more likely deep house, whether that's the MAW, Naked Music, Julius Papp era or today's more electronic evolution.

I came to house pretty late, after a few years of Pet Shop Boys and New Order, then some dodgy raving, followed by a come-down of indie music thanks to the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses et al. It was The Farm and the Monday's that actually led me to house, thanks to Terry Farley's remix of Groovey Train and Paul Oakenfold's Wrote For Luck and Hallelujah. Suddenly the records I was buying changed, the record stores I frequented changed and I needed some record shelves and more pocket money!

Okay, not all of the purchases I made were good one's, and most of those early 12"s sound pretty dated today, but somewhere in there (even if I say so myself) I developed a taste. Between the pop/rock/dance anarchy of The KLF and some dodgy pop come rave releases I found my way to Frisco Disco (which I've spoken about before here), The Whistle Song and other 12"s I treasure still. Where I went from there is a bit of a blur really, not due to anything other than there were so many records in such a short time, but I like to think being exposed to something of that standard sealed the deal and showed me what real house music was about.

I can't remember the record shop names from back in the day (Alan Fernley's Records or something), and then a couple of newer ones in Middlesbrough centre sprang up, but in their way they all played a part in my education. I wonder where the new music listeners of today will go and hang out, have some record shop guy try to sell them the newest and latest promo copy of X, Y and Z on So and So's new label and get that all important exposure. I remember listening and trying to look knowledgeable, checking out the tracks on the booming speakers, feeling obliged to buy them, but not being able to buy everything!  And so, your taste develops, I guess? You focus in on the artists and labels you can rely on, the remixers you've liked and remembered and before you know it you have two record collections. One of tunes that will be with you forever, and another of tunes you were into at that moment in time, but in all honesty their shelf life has already passed and they'll be consigned to the bottom shelves with Ace Of Bass, Altern8 and co before you can say digital download.

These days the internet's full of people of my age or older bemoaning the death of vinyl and the 1210's and in someways I'm 100% with them, those things are up there with the mix tape and old school flyers (when every event had one everywhere), but times move on and so should we, shouldn't we?

What's the point of this post you might ask? Well, I finally got round to loading all the tunes from the past 2 years into the new S4 Traktor software (and before you say it I do have the skills to mix vinyl) and a I did that I began sorting them into new directories - not unlike the days when you'd sort out your 12"s into a system of tunes for sets, but a lot faster! So, there I was working my way from UM16 (March 2009) to today, more than 3,500 tracks to select, load, play, listen to, judge and file (and that's probably a third of what I've listened to to get to those ones). After an hour or so I'd deleted a scary amount of tunes with a control click of a button. They'd gone to the trash forever and it struck me. That in itself is part of the battle these days surely of making new music for a fast moving market place and audience. Isn't it? Theses days it's that easy to move on, bin that track or file it away and never go back.

Until I moved to the other side of the world I'd never thrown a 12" out, not even Ace of Bass. OK, so in the end I sold a load and shipped a select couple of hundred and left the others in safe hands - but they didn't just get deleted. I couldn't do it to them. The relationship with digital is so different I can't see a time you treasure a WAV or mp3 like that Etienne De Crecy 10" Super Discount EP or something that had a time and a place like buying Mood II Swing - All Night Long in Flying Records in London after an hour of Lofty playing all sorts of new stuff other than his own tune 'The More I Want...", which was one of those moments in house for me. It's a tune I've played far too many times, a tune I own on vinyl and digitally, but even now, thinking about it I'm picturing the plain beige sleeve and the bright orange and purple label!

I've got another few hundred tracks to sort before this weekend's set, and as I've been zipping through the tunes I've been setting them thinking about this post, renaming files, filing them away in neat folders and thinking there's far too little of that old school-ness these days. Search, purchase (or steal another down side to the modern music market), download, play and soon forget has become the cycle of consumption. I think we all need to get back to our roots and remember what it was that we fell in love with in the first place and for me that was going to the record store, hanging out with like minded house heads and sharing in the communal sounds of whatever tunes had arrived that month. Sadly, Wellington doesn't have a record store for me to go to, but if it did that's where you'd find me tomorrow daytime. Well, that's what Saturday's were meant to all about - house music!


  1. You have to embrace the future of today. Things are made much easier for us to enjoy. Like said, as a DJ you don't need to go to the gym just to carry your vynil anymore. *smiles

    At the same time the coin has two sides, as it goes with everything ;) The old charm of a record store for instance.

    This goes along a post I dropped recently: The digitalization of house music and it's reflection today.

    Very interesting and great post! thanks for sharing your thoughts on this ;)

  2. It's like you're living in my head! Great insight, rings true in every paragraph.

  3. just wanted to let you know 3d printing will usher in a new vinyl era so save those technics bros haha