Senior Staff Writer Derek Staples returns to discuss the ever-evolving market and culture behind EDM. This time around, however, he’s gone ahead and expanded his column to be something akin to an online zine, featuring op-editorials, investigative reporting, guides, track selections/reviews, and interviews. Don’t wait for it, read ahead now: The Drop.
Wow, has it been a crazy few weeks in electronic music culture. There have been massive festivals, deadmau5 continued to troll the web, and even Shaq decided to get in on the action (more on that later). Plus, with the DJ Mag Top 100 voting now open, the EDM dialogue is nearing its yearly peak. For those that thought the US campaigns were intense, just wait for the onslaught of social blasts and PR announcements from the world’s elite DJs and producers; R3hab has actually already taken over djmag.com’s page skin. Whether you decide to vote or not, take the opportunity to dig deeper than the perennial names that claim the top 15 slots, using The Drop as just one of your reference materials. My personal top five would be Jimmy Edgar, Seth Troxler, Brodinski, Art Department, and Loco Dice. While contemplating your own list, take some time to explore the minds of Jon Gooch (aka Feed Me) and a few select insiders in this edition of The Drop.
Interview: Jon Gooch (aka Feed Me)
For a decade, Jon Gooch has been a renaissance man in the bass music community. From his earlier days as exploratory drum and bass producer Spor to his more recent work under the alias Feed Me, Gooch has always insisted that the soul of a track doesn’t always have to succumb to a blistering low end. Ahead of his forthcoming Psychedelic Journey Tour, Gooch took a moment away from the Feed Me build to chat about his new EP, new live experience, and passions for design, Haight-Ashbury, and Hayao Miyazaki.
From looking through your various social feeds, I can tell you are an extremely busy man. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today.
No problem. It is actually really great to step away from the fabrication [of Feed Me]. The build is about finished, and then I am off to Ibiza, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary for some shows. But first I am going to go check out the Kill the Noise and Mat Zo tour.
It has to be really great to see the success of Kill the Noise. You and Jack Stanczak have known each other since your drum and bass days.
Correct. In a sense, it is like we grew up together. Think I have known him about nine years now. That world, which I still love, was a great foundation for the both of us.
Caught a new video today of the ongoing Feed Me build. Where might this all be taking place?
We are up in Norfolk [England]. Metalman is the fabrication team, and Hangman is sourcing all of the designs for the Psychedelic Journey tour.
How does the new Feed Me experience differ from the tour of 2012 and ’13?
A lot of it will actually remain the same for the viewer. The redesign is really meant for durability and so that my team doesn’t hate me. The former model was made of 400 pieces and made three laps around the planet. Over that time, it got covered in dings and was just starting to look rough. If you got really close, you could see the edges had just become razor sharp from being thrown into the trucks all those times.
The new version will be made up of much lighter material and be much easier to assemble for my crew. There are also loads of new elements, including kinetic and LED lights plus moving heads. I run the entire show through MIDI, so each of the visuals must be synced perfectly to these new songs.
The rig was inspired by Chris Cunningham’s music video for Bjork’s “All Is Full of Love”, the one with the robots. Bass music has become quite “military,” and I didn’t want the experience to feel that way. I wanted to create more of an environment, something that was useful and medical. Something that starts black and white but can transition into other colors, creating an environment that people really want to be in.
Will the new rig be making appearances in the UK, or are you waiting to unveil during the US tour?
We will start with the US tour. Want to play some more US shows, test the equipment out, and then get ready for a US festival tour in early 2015. We will be adding a lot more music to it over this tour, as I am currently working on both the second Feed Me LP and follow-up EP to Psychedelic Journey. It isn’t as easy as just playing the tracks live. We must first create a storyboard and attach visuals for each of the tracks before they are ready.
When I am done, or close to done with a track, I will send it over to the visual team with the colors that I was seeing when producing the track and how I envision Feed Me relating with the track, be that in a spaceship or as a bumblebee. That is what much of the live journey is about, following Feed Me as he would experience these tracks. Feed Me is a conduit between me and expression. He is like a caricature of my personality and desires. And when I have been drinking, I become a bit of a gremlin.
It is quite fun for me to watch people watching the show. Seeing them all really taking it all in, exploring the intricacies of the entire journey.
That psychedelic idea is also very prevalent in the new album artwork. It very much reminds me of the posters from the Haight-Ashbury days.
Great. Really wanted to capture the style of the old Fillmore and Bill Graham posters. Worked with really fun typefaces and was all hand-drawn.
So, you were also behind the visuals for the album artwork?
Yeah, spent as much time in Photoshop and Illustrator as I probably did recording this album. I really like working with a theme and concept. Feed Me can then go on all these adventures around that theme.
Kind of reminds me of the old Magic School Bus.
Are you a fan of Totoro? That made me think of the catbus. We are actually going to be wrapping the tour bus like that!
Huge fan of Miyazaki. Have you ever explored much of the meaning behind the catbus and other eerie theories behind My Neighbor Totoro, like why the characters don’t have shadows?
I have heard some of these, but will look up more. I don’t actually sleep a lot, so when I am not performing or recording, I do a lot of reading and research.
Could chat about Miyazaki all day, but to bring it back to Feed Me: You actually sing during new single “Alarm Clock”, so do you plan on performing live vocals during the upcoming dates?
First we need to find a way to live-check it. I really believe in “Alarm Clock” and want to eventually perform it live, just need to integrate it into the system. I actually didn’t even set out for that track to have lyrics. It is actually quite an odd track with its really heavy center section. I was listening to it, and just started singing before I even realized. Think I started writing the message as I was listening. I would actually like to start bringing in more live aspects like guitar work.
I imagine it can be quite risky dedicating so much time, energy, and money into this project.
Not as risky as the first set of shows. At that time, I was without the essentials, no car or home, and I pretty much financed that show myself. So, the first time was really scary! Now I am able to be even more conscious about the show. Balancing visual overload versus something soft and smooth. There will even be times when there aren’t any lights on at all.
In this EDM scene, there are those stages with 100 feet of lights on each side of a massive stage. You don’t really need that amount of light, if used properly. Saw a Justice show and for the first 20 minutes it was only red lights, and the audience forget that there was even the possibility of other colors. So, when they did kick in, the experience was even more intense. Just because you have them doesn’t mean you always have to use them.
You took some time off the road to record your full-length artist debut? Will you be doing the same for the upcoming Feed Me releases?
No, I really don’t want to take time off to record those. We will actually have a studio in the bus where I can write. Actually just worked on a track with Kill the Noise at an English primary school. We wrote them a song to all sing.
Very Pink Floyd of you!
Yes, Jake [of Kill the Noise] and I are both fans. It’s a very positive message, and we also had the students draw our characters, so we are planning to release an official music video drawn by the children.
I have also been in LA working on some singles and developing a new sound for my second Feed Me artist album. Worked with Milo Greene and Noonie Bao from Avicii’s “I Could Be the One” among others.
As you continue to work with more collaborators and sharpen your songwriting ability, do you ever envision hitting the road as Jon, without any moniker?
All of these things are actually possible with the show that we are building. Can pluck a string and the lights and design can all change. But at the moment I really do enjoy working themes, and it is more fun to have a character when working on a mass scale. If I was looking to make something more personal, and perform on a more intimate scale, then I would start to look at touring in a different way. But I like having that escapism. It doesn’t feel less personal for me; I am drowning in the experience, in a good way.
Your first artist LP, Calamari Tuesday, was also the first release on your own label, Sotto Voce. What else is planned for the imprint?
The name of the label actually comes from an operatic term that literally means “under voice.” In other words, saying the last word of a sentence really quietly for the sake of emphasis. Although that album was the first released on the label, I created Sotto Voce to stand alone from Feed Me. I want it to stand out as its own lifestyle. The only other artists I have released is Proxy from Russia.
I am actually a massive fan of what he does with electro. Would be great if you could convince him to go on an extended US tour.
I did get a chance to see him live. It would be great to bring him on tour, but planning for the US market is really complicated, and I usually task my team with finding openers. But I will definitely let him know.
Thank you so much for your time. I know you have to get back to the build. Looking forward to catching the final production August 22nd in Chicago.
Was my pleasure, see you soon!
Continue on to explore the EDM money grab of 2014, learn some tips in artist management, and discover the importance of a new producer-focused website.
The EDM Money Grab
Now valued by many at over $6 billion, mass electronic music gatherings flourished across the UK during their infancy in the 1990s due to free parties. Much like current transformational festivals, there was a shared DIY mentality that truly created a community around these multi-day events. Following the nature of US free market system, as soon as the “EDM bubble” started to inflate about a half-decade ago, a new wave of cash-hungry hustlers came crashing into the scene. While it may be easy to critique industry leaders like Insomniac, Ultra Music, and Disco Donnie, at least the founders of the companies were passionate about electronic dance music and the revelers before brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Red Bull, and 7Up decided to throw millions into the kandi coffers. As affluent twentysomethings continue to discover the scene, marketing executives would understandably be let go if they didn’t attempt to grab the attentions of this hard-to-target demographic. This process has made the likes of EDC and Ultra Music Festival some of the most awe-inspiring experiences across the globe; however, a new influx of festivals are making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Formed in the wake of the cancellation of Chicago’s Wavefront Music Festival, the inaugural Riverwest Music Festival featured one of the best underground lineups during 2014 but also some of the worst planning. Spending three days dancing is tough; doing so without any shade or adequate water refill stations is near impossible. For those that tried to bring in water bottles, the overzealous security staff were quick to throw them out and subsequently commence an exaggerated pat down. Once inside, fans were quick to discover that accessing the rooftop terrace of Estate was near impossible, unless one wanted to wait for two hours (and miss action from the other stages) or throw down an additional $500-$1500 for a table. Not only did this enrage fans, who actually established a Facebook page demanding refunds from organizer and Spy Bar owner Dino Gardiakos, but producers like Visionquest also took to social media to protest.
The shortcomings of Riverwest are minuscule compared to the disaster (even the Red Cross were called in) that was the Hudson Project. Produced by veteran company MCP Presents, a lack of adequate planning was compounded by severe weather. During a camping festival, it is not only the task of a production company to entertain a large audience; they must keep them safe. While it is easy to blame the storm, hillside camping, shortage of hay/straw for drying purposes, slow response times from on-site crews, or a general lack of communication (which also worried concerned parents), all made a difficult situation much worse. Compounding the issue was a ravenous group of bassheads that Sunday headliner Bassnectar almost unintentionally incited to riot from a string of tweets.
Year one as it was, MCP’s experience with Camp Bisco should have led to a more thorough and better communicated disaster and evacuation plan (something all events must create to acquire a permit). MCP brought some of the biggest festival favorites and thus pulled in sponsors and further guaranteed the first year of Hudson Project as a financial success, but they failed to provide the essentials when their fans were most in need — Monday morning, after being drenched for 12 hours. And it is not like the crowd could keep extra food, water, or other nourishment in their cars, as the primitive camping was separated from the vehicle parking area. In the end, MCP seems to be doing the fair thing and refunding the crowd for Sunday tickets. A push of positive PR came after social channels were flooded with harsh Hudson Project criticism for 24 hours. At the very least, this should be a learning experience for all American camping festivals, since somehow the flooding of Leeds or Glastonbury didn’t make much of an impact.
Event companies are not the only ones hoping to make a quick buck on the trending culture. Celebrities have been quick to pick up a thumb drive, some software, and transition into the DJ booth. Actor-turned-DJ isn’t new; Danny Masterson was DJing when Perry’s stage was just a lifted platform in the woods of Grant Park, but the new crop are more focused on paychecks and comped drinks than being aural trendsetters. Most of the world already knows that Paris Hilton somehow earned a $400,000 residency, but just this month Shaquille O’Neal (aka DJ Diesel) and former porn star Sasha Gray both took to the decks. And, frightening moms of 13-year-old girls across the US, bad boy Justin Bieber entered the world of deep house. It’s true that most anyone can DJ, but when legends like DJ Shadow and Mark Farina are being kicked off the decks, and celebrity DJs can make bank just showing up to the club, something has run afoul. For all of the non-dance music fans that have somehow read this far, imagine if your favorite sports team was replaced by the cast of Girls. Sure, Lena Dunham probably isn’t going to score many points, but she will most likely fill the place with new fans who will be rushing to the concessions to buy another glass of wine. In essence, that is what much of the decadent club land has become.
This cash-quick mentality has even saturated a blogosphere that prides itself on unearthing new talent for the pleasure of evolving the scene. As reported early this week by DoAndroidsDance, EDM.com (for many the epicenter of all-things dance music) has morphed into a PR/pay-to-repost blog. Dubbed “Slingshot,” EDM.com and its affiliate sites seek monetary compensation for reposts. This is a massive benefit to young artists who are seeking attention from the scene’s major booking agents and managers plus fills the pockets of the EDM.com leadership, but it’s a massive disservice to a community who looks at these blogs as key tastemakers. Just as with the major labels, those with the most money end up having the most plays. And this is the fuel that supercharges the EDM money grab; new “ravers” want to see the biggest names, and club owners will happily book those with the plays and followers no matter their actual abilities. Just as unfounded venture capital burst the dot-com bubble and bad debts led to the deflation of the housing market, these unsubstantiated artists, clubs, and festivals have the potential to quickly bring the electronic music community down with them.
If you think you know a solution, feel free to share below.
Judgement for Simon Cowell’s new EDM competition series will wait until a few episodes begin to develop, so be sure to check out future installments of The Drop for thoughts on his new venture with SFX.
Five Tips from Mikhail Mazunov
Manager for DJ ARTY
1. Select a genre
Focus on a genre of music that you like and know best, as managing an indie band and managing an EDM artist are two different things. Each genre has its big players, record labels/artists/media, and you should have a precise picture of them.
2. Be prepared for changes
Artist managers’ lives extend beyond the office, so be prepared to travel a lot or even change your city and country of residence, if it is necessary. Be prepared to be with your artist on tour without seeing relatives for a long time. If you have some freelance projects or a part-time job that distract you from your work, better throw them away and focus on your artist.
3. Network, network, network
The right contacts will help you in the implementation of big ideas.
4. Develop creative opportunities for your artist
Think outside the box, as good ideas will play a big role for your artists and help them strengthen their position in the scene.
5. Form a team
Soon after you gain some respect, it is necessary to create a team that will move all your projects forward. Don’t be afraid to delegate important tasks and trust your people. Together, you can achieve more.
Enjoy what you are doing and believe in yourself!
And for all the aspiring producers/remixers out there, a word from Morgan “Galvanix” Crozier, producer/DJ and the mind behind DontSample.Me.
I’m not a lawyer.
I’ve had my own issues with DMCA takedowns where I thought that I was in the right due to popular “fair use” misconceptions, such as only using less than five seconds of audio or altering the sample dramatically. Unfortunately, only using a small part of the track, or giving it away for free, doesn’t fall under “fair use.” In order to use a piece of copyrighted work in any way (aside from criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research: 17 U.S. Code § 107 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use), you must clear the rights with the copyright owner. Good luck!
With SoundCloud’s recent decision to allow companies like Universal free access to flag accounts, it’s more important than ever to keep your account in line to avoid getting your music taken down, or worse, having your SoundCloud account permanently deleted, along with your followers and music. Seeing no sign of the copyright claims slowing down, I figured that the best way to stay out of trouble would be to avoid illegal sampling in the first place, but when I tried to find lists of the artists signed to these labels, I ran into a mess of outdated Wikipedia entries and hard-to-navigate label webpages.
In between projects and with a bit of extra time on my hands, I took a day to dig into public copyright removal records to see which major labels were issuing takedowns, as well as their subdivisions. The initial list took the better part of a day between development, compiling the list of artists, and double-checking sources between artists websites, often outdated label sites, and even more outdated Wikipedia articles. After the first blog post on Do Androids Dance, the website spread quickly, reaching over 50,000 unique users in the first week. I opened up a forum for visitors to point out missing artists from the list, which has received over a hundred suggestions from helpful folks all over the world, which I double-check for validity and then add to the website.
So, before tackling your next “Latch” remix or attempting a twerk edit of Lorde, definitely check out DontSample.me.