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1987? do you remember? 20 years ago? Many of you were 10 years old. I was 19. it was the beginning of the Acid House explosion, the Roland 808 synth pad was enabling all sorts of house music to be produced in bedrooms. It hit the baleric islands in 88 with “the summer of love”.
In remembrance of dance music’s “ground zero” here is “acid michael”, a remix of “Thriller” and “Don’t Stop” by Mr Jackson, heavily remixed with original and classic acid/techno music. At least I know most of you will recognize and latch onto the classic melody of these 80’s top charting songs so you will be able to appreciate the remix. If at first it feels weird to hear a acid version of your classic favorites don’t be taken aback, keep at it, the new remixed version will soon become the classics in your head, guaranteed. I find myself listening to the originals and longing for the vocals of “Voodoo ray” or the beats of “big fun”.
ABOVE AND BEYOND IN ATL
For the little story, about a week ago 2 DJs known as “Above and Beyond” came through ATL. A friend of mine is invested in the local premium club called Opera and lets
me know when world class talent comes through town. I was lucky enough to hang out with Paavo and Jono both before and during their Trance set at Opera and, most enjoyably for me, the next day, when I got to play acid michael to them.
For guys that do closing parties in Ibiza, have toured the world over, are regularly considered to be one of the top labels of Trance (Anjunabeats) and have played for crowds of 10,000, I find them to be incredibly down to earth. Both in their early 30’s, this fin and this brit, are rather geeky and all they wanted to talk about was tools, magic tricks and the state of the music industry. Jono (top) was obsessed with intellectual property and downright savvy on how to correctly monetize a label. My open source friends will have an appreciation for thorny IP problems. Jono kept talking about a middleware solution to automatically bill clubs for what they played. His other passion is magic tricks, card tricks and the guy really has a dextrous talent for it. I was quite impressed. He also kept talking about the state of metadata in the DJ industry and how poor it was and how difficult it was to get everyone together to agree on standards. I agreed ID3 tags just don't cut it nowadays.
Paavo (with the anjunabeats shirt) talked a lot about the tools and the lifestyle as well as contextual navigation of music websites. He is a savvy hacker. He himself hacks in PHP and mysql, claims Java was always too complicated. Paavo is a remix genius and what gave them their break was a famous remix of Madonna. While they use Ableton in studio, they are still dedicated to CD decks and he finds Ableton too difficult to use in live settings.
I was most fascinated when they were talking about the business of labels. One interesting data point for me was the fact that vinyl, as a format, is as profitable as digital for these two. They explained that Beatport constitutes 50% of their revenues, iTunes another 30% and direct vinyl the last 20%. They explained that making a living at music was a difficult thing in this day and age, that their label made good money but that some of their less successful artists had a hard time. They live full time on it. So much of it reminded me of the struggle of successful OSS developers to support their families while working at their passion. I was glad to hear them talk about the business and money rather than just drugs and parties. In fact one of them is married with children.
But then of course there is the lifestyle. Let me sum it up in two anecdotes. It seems that they live at night, period. The day starts at 5PM and lasts until 8AM. They did this both nights on Wednesday and Thursday. I stayed until 4AM on both nights and was wiped out for about 3 days. Paavo explained that he doesn’t even try to adapt to the jet-lag anymore doesn’t take any Ambien or other sleep drugs. He just travels around the world on London UK time. Listening to them tell anecdotes of parties in Ibiza, Japan, China, Russia as well as insider stories about other legendary DJs like I talk casually about good friends, was an amazing, if slightly demystifying experience.
Then the second anecdote is that guy coming up to me on the second night asking for “candy”. We were at “the Mark” one of my favorite underground spots in ATL See I like to dance old style to underground music, with this bumpy and high energy style. Bottom line is that people come to me assuming I got E with me. As it turned out I did have candy on me, I mean REAL mint candy that I had taken from the restaurant we went to. I reached it into my pocket and gave it to the guy. He was gushing with gratitude until he popped it in his mouth and told me in a disappointing tone “but this IS candy”, at that point I realized what he was after.
Anyway, the highlight for me was definitely the before-party on the second night in their hotel suite. For folks that live the rock-star life with entourage, their hotel suite party was definitely downright geeky with everyone taking out their iPhones (and Paavo proudly showing me his ssh console :) and plugging it in a central laptop. I felt right at home and at ease. Their handler, a LA native called A.J. made sure everyone was at ease. We listened to their radio show and the latest from their label. At some point Paavo asked me to give him my iPod and he played “acid michael”. They liked it, and I must say I was completely stoked. It is funny what does it for me these days. Meeting two world class DJ”s was as gratifying as meeting Larry Ellison.
The second highlight was a bit of wisdom from Paavo. He started saying “I don’t like it when people try to box music in genres”. I said “true, there are really only two kinds of music: good music and bad music”. He corrected me “actually there is music I like and music I don’t like.” He.
Onto the playlist, which is music I like:
(click on it for the podcast)
1- Thriller, Michael Jackson 1982
Do I really need to talk about that one? I really like the final line that starts with “I am gonna thrill you tonight! Thriller, Thriller night!” I can loop that one for hours and not get tired of it. The whole rap is also superb and I had to struggle to find a proper mix line for it. Interestingly enough, no amount of tweaking on that song works for me. I normally heavily EQ these songs, in order to either single out the bass or the chorus or the beats but in the case of thriller I couldn’t take it apart. If I try to take high or low frequencies, the track loses its punch.
2- Big Fun, Inner-city, Dave Spoon remix, 2007
The original Big Fun was released in 1986 and was the first cross over hit of the “belleville trio” of Detroit (Saunderson, May, Atkins). This record launched Detroit Techno for the rest of the world including me. I remember listening to this track on a “this is Detroit Techno”, CD compilation non-stop in Belgium, it was 87, I was 19 year old. It was so... new, so futuristic. This track is periodically remixed. Here it is remixed by Dave Spoon, with a very modern beat track that gives depth to the old Thriller beats and I love the vocal treatment here. I remix it with about 10 cuts throughout the song.
3- Acid Bells, Efdemin, 2007
Big fun devolves into great theoretical techno. Sandwiched in between two giants of pop “acid-bells” feels bare bones, almost minimal, but displays such great sound depth by playing on the sounds of these “acid bells”. Love it so much I manage to leave it about a minute all by itself. It gives a great melodic intro to “Don’t Stop”
4- Don’t stop till you get enough, Michael Jackson 1982
Another big pop classic. No introduction needed. I love the way this one starts on top of the bells melody, it is a shoe-in. It immediately is mixed another acid classic.
5- Voodoo Ray, A Guy Called Gerald, 1987
This one hit me like a freight train the first time I heard it in 1988. It is featured in “24hour party people” as the seminal club track of the acid house explosion. Voodoo Ray was the UK’s answer to chicago acid house music. This track became an instant club anthem with its hypnotic and lucious vocals and space invaders blippy 808 synth sounds. It is un-mistakable and it meshes beautifully with the funk sounding “Don’t Stop”.
I am quite proud of myself for this mix. I hope you enjoy it.