wrecka stow woes

greetings, gate, let's dig through some crates...

"The parody of itself that the rave scene has turned into is dying a slow death. The garbage that is passed off as good music, sucks. A few years ago the music was far better, now a trip to the record store just is an exercise in futility."

- DJ Bill, veteran Upstate New York spinna (taken from an electronic bulletin board post)

From someone who used to listen to this cat ride shotgun with Scott Richmond on WVKR back in 1993, I can understand that sentiment. The visuals and sounds of Nasa's first Mask-A-Rave were still etched in my memory from the year prior. It was that event that introduced me to the experience of "raving". By around one a.m. that night, I was dancing on top of a speaker like mad to The Prodigy's "Ruff In The Jungle Bizness." (Think it's safe to say that I was initiated?) Seemed like at least 20 bangin' house and trance cuts were being released a week at that time. I could be here all day reminiscing on underground dance tracks of old, but what would the point of that be?

Ah yes, to illustrate the fact that "a trip to the record store [these days] just is an exercise in futility." Is it really? On the contrary, I can't keep myself out of record shops these days. If I'm not in them, I'm ordering online. Somewhere around the end of 1999, it was revealed to me that music knows what's best for itself. So much so that different genres were colliding with each other regardless of the fact that its listeners had drawn these definitive lines in the sand. Some heads out here are ready for the change (correction: they've BEEN ready), but many others aren't. And the majority of them aren't ready because DJs still play it safe.

There are a number of possible reasons for the glut of mediocre dance plates rotating at 33 or 45 rpm at parties these days, some of which have to do with...
  • the motive of the DJ.
  • the motive of the budding bedroom musician.
Everybody wants to be a DJ or have their track played by one. Almost anyone can be a bedroom musician if you've got a computer, a sound card, and some time to download some programs. In the age of "drag and drop" PC music software, tracks can be whipped up quickly, even programmed randomly to play themselves. But it takes more than programs like these and a souped-up CPU to make a good song. It takes patience, imagination, creativity, and a love and respect for music especially.

So the question posed to the beat maker is: do you love music enough to not just put anything out, but to spend time with it? Not many do. The same goes for the DJ. Does the DJ love music enough to search for original, soul-searching, rhythmically complex joints? Some spinners could care less. They play it safe, spinning only what sound is in style and all that. When you have that driving a person, you can't expect good music to come out of the speakers. So the attitude that one has about music will determine what gets played and what gets ignored. If you don't treat music like it's important, you'll play anything regardless of quality and listen to anything regardless of quality.

My tastes are pretty broad, so I've been working for a while on how to represent in the mix for various sounds - jazz, hip-hop, funk, soul, house, techno, breaks - and present them in a way that isn't foreign to people. Entice the crowd with joints they know or haven't heard in forever, then introduce some global sounds, some leftfield things. There's too much out there for me to concentrate on one genre (although you can find diversity within one particular genre of music if you're willing to search). So even with the same old thing being pressed in abundance, I'm more excited about music now than I have ever been.

That's another thing - I know better than to think that this DJ thing is all about me. It's about who I have in my record bag, the brilliant vocalists, instrumentalists, loop gurus and laptop cats making amazing sounds. It's about me playing something that causes someone to come up to me later and ask, "what WAS that cut?". It's about me letting them know where they can get it. And ultimately, it's about that person buying the cut that I played and putting a bit more revenue into that artist's pocket. So when it comes right down to it, all I am is a conduit, a dispatch unit that good music should be coming through. Most cats starting out these days think it's all about them. Worse yet, they think a number of things:

1. They can be a good DJ simply by knowing how to count to four.
2. They can be a better DJ just by owning a pair of Technics 1200s.
3. They'll be able to pull $500 gigs in the next two to four months.
4. Ultimately, it's all about them.

You can't expect good music to come from that kind of selfish mentality. Once the ego is placed to the side, focus can be placed upon other areas, namely the music. And when that happens, the need to share great sounds with others can't be too far behind. Make an effort to find something different and after a while it will start tapping you on the shoulder in a record shop. Happens to me all the time. I feel like I don't even have to find music anymore - it finds me. Therefore, record runs are still magical for that reason alone…just ask my wallet.

Christopher Tracy {Prince}: if you wanted to buy a Sam Cooke a'bum, where would ya go?

Mary Sharon {Kristin Scott Thomas} (quietly, after an embarrassingly long pause): ...the wrecka stow.

(Christopher Tracy and Tricky {Jerome Benton} burst out laughing in posh dinner scenario. Tricky falls backwards out of his chair.)

- a memorable scene from Under The Cherry Moon.

{jason randall smith}

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