Okay folks, if you know me, you know that I’m not a snob when it comes to dance music and DJ culture. I like House Music in its realest 1980s Chicago style sound as much as extra broad EDM Top 40 remixes. And I would never ever diss anybody, just because he or she is successful and makes all the money that I don’t make. Actually the only people in the scene who I openly discriminate, are those “commercial success = crap”-thinkers. If you think you have to distance yourself from a cool track, because it’s suddenly a worldwide smash hit or you start hating on DJs, who played their way to the top over the course of several decades, just because they actually reached the top or maybe if you think that everybody, who enjoys a certain popular sound is an idiot, then you are an asshole. It’s that simple.
So please, please, pleaaaaaaaaaaaase don’t take the following words as some kind of shitty these-guys-lost-their-credibility-with-their-success diss! Okay?
But I do have to admit, that I am annoyed by the current use of a certain word. Something, that has been used in to describe things, that have nothing to do with the meaning of that word. Of course I’m talking about “underground”.
Now we all know that DJs are the new rockstars and EDM (I hate that term) is super successful and many DJs and ravers are totally annoyed by it. So basically it’s the 90s all over again. And a while ago, many DJs and producers started to distance themself from the current hype, by applying the “underground” label to themself. That has now the effect, that everybody is either EDM or underground, even if they can’t be underground for several reasons!
Probably the biggest reason is: You are too well known! Too big! Too much of a legend! Too successful! (Again: Not trying to hold your success against you!) But look for example at that list here. Even if they wouldn’t make at least $2 Million, how can icons like Carl Cox, Sven Väth, Erick Morillo or Paul Oakenfold be considered underground? Just because they don’t play the current top 40 EDM sound, but instead some 120 bpm deep house or something without big drops, but lots of pianos?
The weird thing is, that in their urge to distance themself from the current commercial scene, “underground” became just another hollow catchphrase, that can be easily sold to the kids, who consider themself too cool for the top 40. And I’m really not just talking about that list. I don’t even know if those DJs really consider themself underground (although I remember Erick Morillo dropping that term in several interviews, when describing his current musical output) or if the writers of the website just thought “Well, they don’t headline EDC, so I guess they must be underground”. But when Cajmere calls his latest album “Too Underground For The Main Stage”, but then only fills it with admittedly damn good, but not really innovative (Deep) House tracks and sells it for several weeks exclusively on Beatport, just like DJ Sneak, the self proclaimed “Original House Gangster”, who even banned his old buddy Armand van Helden from his parties because his music was too commercial for his taste, you really start to wonder what their real intentions are!
There is nothing wrong with saying: “I think I should try to bring the music that I like back to its roots” and purposely avoiding the sounds, that would make your music an instant club hit for a weekend or two. And there is definitely nothing wrong with saying: “Fuck the Beatport top 100, I go now completely underground”, but then you should REALLY go underground! Start making and playing music, that is original and experimental, even if you risk to alienate your fans and get zero social media likes! Maybe even ditch your old stage name and stop spinning in the big clubs! Don’t just go to a part of your scene, that is less overexposed, but overexposed nonetheless. And stop selling your stuff exclusively in the big marketplaces like iTunes or Beatport! I know, you want to make money, but either that or stop waving the underground flag! It makes you look like a phoney, which is exactly what you tried to avoid, when you turned your back on the commercial EDM crowd and declared your undergroundness!
And apart from that it’s stupid! Just do your thing! Play what you like! No need to apply fake labels! (Unless it’s in an ironic way…) If I see a new Cajmere, DJ Sneak or Erick Morillo track popping up on Beatport, Traxsource and Co., I will definitely check it out. Not because they or someone else claims they are underground, but because these guys put out some serious quality stuff over the years! And all the other, lesser or completely unknown names out there will definitely not get my attention, just by yelling “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! I’m SO underground!“ I’ve never been a fan of that kind of elitist bullshit and I still think that THIS is what is endangering the scene and its spirit more than all David Guettas and American EDM Festivals!