Sunday, February 10, 2008
Pick and Pan: the Electro DJ
Pan: Dave Seaman.
I went out the other night with Nathalie and the usual gang to see Dave Seaman. And for once Nathalie came out, which was great. I also invited Chris Klaus, more on Chris in a second.
I was really excited to get to see Dave. I have been a fan of Dave ever since the 96 Renaissance compilation. It was so new, so fresh. The mix was perfect. I asked him how he had done it, he said "with 2 decks". I said "but how did you get it so seamless back in those days without software?" he said he did in several parts, 3 parts to be precise and then put it together. That album really stood out for me. I re-listened to it recently and, unlike other classics from that era, it has not aged well.
I followed Seaman through his trance transition in the early 2000 still on the Renaissance compilation series. It was by then already becoming less and less melodious. I got to be honest, I really didn't like him all that much by then. But when I saw he was going to be in town, I had to be there.
I got to say, it sucked. Bad. First the club was half empty. Only 65 passes were sold, the night was rainy, it was thursday night and few people showed up, maybe 200 total? Only people who knew who he was came and apparently that isn't many. The crowd that night was definitely trendy, early 30's, DJ's, the few industry people that live in ATL, almost by definition of knowing who Seaman is. But sometimes even a small dedicated and knowledgeable crowd is not enough to ignite the night.
If this is the kind of crowd a UK legend can pull in the premium ATL club, we have to either a/ declare the electronic scene of ATL DEAD or at least on life support or b/ come to the realization that Seaman's star has dimmed a lot and is not enough to draw a crowd out. So much for the superstar DJ cachet!!! Either way it is not good news for the ATL EDM scene.
The ugly: artistic bankruptcy
But really my main beef with Seaman was the music selection. For someone that was not afraid of melody, was looking for signal in synth in the mid-90's he must have gone tone deaf. Nathalie and I left at 1AM after 90 minutes of Seaman. It was dismal. NOT A SINGLE MELODY IN 90 MINUTES, NOT ONE. Only drums, and not a very good selection for my tastes at that either. He was going for the quirky stuff. Also bowing to the Trance god, he got lazy on the mixes and was mixing the simple segments and Nathalie correctly commented that "this has got NO energy", the little energy that was built he squandered on countless mixes. It was so disappointing.
Look, I am the kind of guy that can sit through 8 hours of straight up techno and get into the groove of things. In fact, like many of you do, I used to develop software while listening to this music. I like the abstract drum patterns, it helps me concentrate. But here, I never connected, NOT A SINGLE TIME. I felt sorry for the kids that were there. They don't know better and are fed stuff they cannot possibly relate to. I was looking at the crowd, no one was moving, they were looking up at the DJ but they were not moving, absolutely a static crowd. All there was, was two little groups of jumping up and down people. One group looked like they were drunk, the other one was so excited they looked they were on a combination of X and crystal Meth and to them it probably sounded very exciting. So I asked myself if this DJ was just playing to the hardcore drug using community. If that is what London gets off on, we got to conclude they are a coked up lunatic fringe as one other UK DJ once confided to me ("It is all about charlie right now in London"). But I ask, where is the soul? No wonder Hip-hop steals the scene here.
The highlight of the night was definitely dinner with Chris Klaus. Chris is someone I really enjoy talking to. Chris founded ISS, the security company here in town that was sold for 1B. So as far as entrepreneurs go, Chris is the man here in ATL. He is also very young, 34. We share the Atlanta International School (AIS) connection where our kids go. Both Chris and his wife Crissy are very much into education, Crissy sits with me on the board of AIS. But truly, there is a certain comfort in hanging out with an accomplished entrepreneur like hanging out with old friends. You don't feel threatened that they are hanging out with you because they want something. It is easier, there is a certain de-facto trust. So that was enjoyable.
Pick: Alexander Robotnick, old is new
In the aftermath of that dismal night, I was exchanging emails with one of the young ones here in ATL. Kid is very knowledgeable when it comes to EDM and has a sure footed taste and education. He mentioned many people shared my negative impression of Seaman and that it was truly depressing to see the state of the ATL EDM scene. Being a naturally positive guy he also was quick to walk away from the generalization and sent me this link.
It is rare when I find a compilation I completely relate to, and Warren was right on. Robotnick is an italian producer, the man is 53. Still parties. He now DJ's and is great. Listen to the selection if you would, you will find Driven by Estroe at minute 10 (great electro track, will need to mix it) next to Yazoo, New Order and Bronski Beat from the 80's. My kind of music, my brother.
In reading the 100 or so comments it was funny for me to find the old crowd absolutely loving what he does. The younger crowd being divided. There are those that "get it" and ranked him at the top of the podcast list and a few that seem to absolutely hate it and ranked him last, he seemed to have polarized the crowd. In any case, for me this is an eclectic selection, mixed with mastery. The man uses Ableton and uses it live.
I mentioned to my friend that we should book this guy and bring him to ATL. He laughed the idea off saying, "look if we lose our shirt with Seaman, imagine what it will be with this guy. We might as well save the money we would lose in flying him from Italy and go ourselves to see him in Europe". I mentioned he was playing "Le Rex Club" in Paris in May, and we laughed and left it at that.