I’ve been thinking about something Andy Weatherall said when he came in for that co-host recently.
We were talking about dubstep, I played him Skrillex, and as soon as I said that Sonny (aka Skrillex) used to be in a metal band, his back straightened and he went straight into ‘purist mode’ and exclaimed: “There lies the problem for me”. He said that there was “no dub” in there, and that it was symptomatic of what was wrong with the genre, that too many people were coming to it from somewhere else (ie not Croydon!) and from too many random musical spheres, suggesting that the genre’s integrity was being usurped.
I have a massive amount of respect for Andy Weatherall, he’s one of the special ones, a Remix Hall Of Famer, someone whose hand-print I’d immortalise in bronze on the pavement of Leicester Square if I was in charge. But Andy is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a purist, and as such we find ourselves on opposite sides of the tracks.
I have always been ‘impure’. I came at dance music from rock, in the days where it was almost unheard of to confess a love of both. In the early to mid 90s, when I was discovering all these beats, I remember the purists telling me that all the stuff I loved (big beat/drum n bass) was shit and all the stuff I thought was boring (minimal/house/trance) was where it was at.
I understand the purists point of view. I do. But for me, it’s the same point of view, in principle, as The Kennel Club, and their obsession for only pure breeds (the Crufts organisers even once had members in common with the eugenics movement, before Hitler’s passion for eugenics put all that rubbish out of fashion).
For me, it’s the impurity, the dilution, that makes something better. It works genealogically: the more mixed the genepool, generally speaking, the better the result. My blood has been in-the-mix since I was conceived, my son even more so, so I’m there on a deep level. Everything about me is mixed and diluted from a cellular level upward.
Take dubstep. The bleepy, dubby, early beginnings of that genre, with a whole bunch of producers who didn’t really know what they were doing (production-wise) gave rise to an amazing genre. But the best music, for my money, came when people from other genres with better technical skills, brought their production panache to the table and took the genre to a new level.
I wrote about this a couple of years back, in the context of admiring how a lot of breakbeat producers had dusted themselves off after the death of their beloved genre and come back brighter. You only have to look at the likes of Nero, Chase & Status, SkisM, High Rankin, DJ Fresh and Pixelfist to see that new blood from a different genre is exactly what is needed to bring a new slant, an improvement to something that already exists.
If purists had their way, we would have no conflict, but we would also have no progress. One gives rise to the other.
I’ve always been about the grey areas. I’ve been waving the ‘Dance That Rocks’ flag for eleven years on Xfm now. It drifts in and out of fashion, but the point is my whole schtick is sullied, in the eyes of the purist. Fusion of genres, grey areas, middle ground, has always been frowned upon by the musically eugenic, but that has almost always been the parts of music that turn me on the most.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing purity, or those that love it. What I am saying is that love of something pure and original is a wonderful thing, but if your love for that becomes so all consuming that your eyes cannot ever leave it and appreciate beauty elsewhere, then surely your life will be comparatively less interesting?
In most things, art, politics, architecture, pretty much anything you can think of, there is an established status quo. There is a line drawn by those involved that says ‘anything outside this line is not pure and therefore not as good’. I challenge that point of view vigorously. Without somebody challenging the way things are, then those things stagnate. It is the very conflict itself that drives us forward, so I say to you, embrace the conflict, love it, for that provides inspiration and variation.
The eclectic DJs like Hervé, Utah Saints, DJ Fresh and myself have long loved playing lots of different BPMs in our sets. Electro, drum n bass and dubstep can all live very happily together in almost any set we play, and while I will always show respect for a trailblazer, it is those who dissect, dilute, and challenge that I admire even more.