Ever since the dawn of disco, rock and dance music have never really got on. We all remember that embarrassing one night stand they had together in the early 1990’s which gave birth to the industrial scene and the resulting hordes of died black dreadlocks and shaved eyebrows. Now they sit at opposite ends of festivals headline stages hurling abuse at each other like jilted ex-lovers at a table with their lawyers trying to come to a divorce settlement; “Ok you get the mainstream market but I get the indie cred. Now we want Michael Jackson; he’s pop-rock, he worked with Van Halen” “ Ha! Spose you want Quincy too? NOT GONNA HAPPEN!”
Has EDM really killed rock music? The war has raged between the two for decades, the deciding battle isn’t about who’s better, but who’s financially viable.
Just to nail my colours to the mast early, it’s safe to say that dance music is to rock as the state and federal governments in this country is to personal liberties. Just when you start a good thing going dance music (or the man) comes in and fucks everything up. Disco and cocaine killed punk, the rock revolution of the mid naughties was killed off by Sneaky Sound System, The Presets, neon clothing and MDMA and the federal government killed my right to legally torrent TV shows (go read the Crimes Act 1914, it’s technically not a crime!).
If you’re talking about units sold then yeah, EDM is winning this war but fuck that, if we measured art in units sold then Andre Rieu would be crowned the new Da Vinci and you would find me in a convertible blasting Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It heading for the nearest cliff Thelma & Louise style. There have been two key players in the most recent tussle between the two genres of late.
Ryan Adams a few weeks back used his Governors Ball headline slot in NYC to throw insults at Deadmau5 (who will be henceforth known throughout this article as Deadmouse because using numbers as letters in music went out of fashion with Sk8er Boi) over his set noise leaking over. Then not long after I hear, in a completely unrelated article, that Flume is calling out rock music for being boring (in bed) and that his music isn’t dance music because it’s not 4/4 (“ Wait…hold on just a minute. Let’s count the crotchets in this bar. What? Not 4? I SHALL NOT DANCE!”). How many more feelings need to be hurt at the hands of these reckless entertainers?
Ryan Adams’ little spat at Deadmouse was actually a bit of a fun poke between two artists that are friends and have worked together but for the sake of this narrative it was inflammatory as fuck! It was the Mike Patton v Wolfmother type situation all over again. Ryan made two comments. One was that Deadmouse’s music sounded like a “terminator nightmare” which I think is just a great fucking line. Off the cuff and in front of a festival audience? Well played lad! I can see why Mandy Moore stayed with him for so long. He must have wooed her with his sense of humour making her blind to his chubby cheeks and his 14 year old “trying to rebel without getting in trouble from my private school headmaster” haircut.
The other comment is the one I took umbrage with. “Try to make this song on your fucking iPhone”. Like all good wars, half the battle is done with discourse and this little propaganda piece continues to perpetuate a lie that electronic artists don’t slave for their craft. It might not be a traditional avenue for creating music but it’s certainly not easy. Which brings me onto Mr Flume (if that is your real name). In a recent interview with The Guardian Mr Flume made a few interesting statements first of which I will mention is that rock music has grown stale due to the sonic limitations of a traditional band set up.
Flume has failed to grasp a very important point. Drums in rock music play an important part. It’s the rhythmic component holding together the elements that make a song. Flume mate, I don’t think you’ve ever written a song. I think Google just nearly shat itself because during the “research” I did for this article I might have been the first person EVER to google the lyrics to “Holdin’ On”. Good lols there. I’m not dissing Mr Flume here, if he wants to work on the minutest details of a digital snare sound then good on him. That’s his craft. No less valid than the art of song writing. It’s just different.
Rock music is not stuck or boring, it is what it is. It doesn’t need to call out for technological advancement, its appeal is in its honesty and its ability to connect. And I can see why this view has alluded you Flumey. A vocal sample over a repetitive beat offers nothing in the way of emotional connection. Sure it has made thousands of people happy all over the world and as a young Australian you have to commend him for that but to call another genre boring because it lacks the sonic variety for some ableton addict is a bit disappointing.
You’re not reinventing the wheel yourself, you’re doing what other people before you have done. I’ll concede you’re doing it better, some might say the best right now, but without that emotional connection your music is just catchy repetitive noises that make people want to dance. The same could be said for the YMCA.
Just to be 100% clear – I’m not saying that lyrics equal emotional connection. There are many rock songs that have the lyrical depth of Holdin’ On and many of them have platinum records to their name. In the same way there is some incredible classical music that has had huge emotional impact on listeners for centuries which offers no lyrical assistance in the process. Why I could never really get on the EDM train is the superficiality of its output and the major label spend pushing it out there.
Financially backing an EDM artist makes more sense for the financially fucked major labels in a post-napster industry. Recording costs are lower, touring costs are lower and for reasons I shall keep to myself for the moment, it has a better return with the pop markets. Where’s the major label spend on rock bands? Only rock bands that are out there filling stadiums now are the ones lucky enough to still be kicking around since the early-naughties where things seemed to be going right for rock namely The Killers, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and Kings Of Leon. Sure a few of them have had to make a few sacrifices (if I never hear Sex On Fire Again it’ll be too soon) along the way but they’re still kicking and making a lot of people happy.
But since then I can’t remember a new band that has hit those heights and I blame a troubled industry grabbing onto the easy option. In turn I blame the public for letting it happen as well. Like a nation of people allowing the government to tarnish our name to service their own agenda, the music listeners of this country have allowed mediocrity to rain down from the major labels, allowed it wash over us through our NewsCorp-esque music services such as Channel V, commercial radio and free-to-air TV to the point where we’re now drowning in an emotionally void mire of superficiality, fake tan and piss with residual trace elements of amphetamines.
Noel Gallagher recently said that if Oasis were starting out now they’d never make it due to the changes in the industry meaning that bands like his simply wouldn’t be given a break. Ha, DMA’s appear to be proving him wrong but at the essence of what he’s saying I think he’s right. All you need to do is listen to Definitely Maybe, Pablo Honey or Mellow Gold, all backed by labels in the 1990’s before things turned to shit, and then look at the 20 plus year careers of these incredible artists and think – will we ever have a time like that for music again? Will we ever hear from the next generation of Thom Yorkes, Beck Hanson’s or Noel Gallagher’s? I hope so but right now things are looking a little unlikely. EDM this is not your fault. You’re doing what you do and the timing just happened to be perfect.
In this country there are some companies like Future Classic and Astral People who are made up of incredibly talented music lovers who are furthering the talent of this country and in turn making this country a more musically rich landscape. It’s the levels above them, the majors, that’s where this battle is being won and lost and it seems to be down to finances. Things get tight – you back the easy option. Things get tight – you back singular producer over the five piece rock band. Things get tight – things get boring. Sorry – this article has turned a bit dark all of a sudden. Life isn’t that bad. I suppose we all just got to remember “To keep holdin’ on, holdin’ on”.