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HBF’s James Brown wades into the “push the button” argument, and ends up siding with Avicii, who reckons Noel Gallagher is just a dinosaur from a by-gone era and his opinions on youth culture and EDM mean absolutely nothing.

There’s been a re-ignition lately in the old ‘do we all just press play’ argument pertaining to ‘EDM’ – or ‘electronic dance music’, for the acronym averse.

As a brief recap, the whole saga began (if such a thing can truly ‘begin’) with comments that the ever-outspoken Deadmau5 made about his fellow EDM superstars.

Deadmau5 criticised his fellow performers for commanding huge sums of money for live shows only to stand on stage and ‘press a few buttons’. There was a back and forth between various elements in the electronic music community, culminating in an admission from Deadmau5 that essentially he just ‘presses play’ too – the admission stopped short of an apology.

This all happened a couple of years ago, but Noel Gallagher re-started the dialogue recently during a backstage interview with XFM at T In The Park.

Speaking about the current state of music in general Gallagher mused

“I find it quite disturbing for the future of; a) festivals, and b) youth culture, in a way, if a dude in a hat stood behind a pair of fake DJ decks pressing play on a CD player is what it’s all about”

He follows on to say:

“Streaming [is] a service for, and invented by, people who don’t like music. Streaming is for people who are not into music”

He proceeds to propose that there hasn’t been any real band of worth since the 90s – or any real tune that you could lose yourself in.

It seems quite clear that that last little snippet is purely subjective. In fact, some of the bands mentioned in the follow-up to that supposition – the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian – could clearly be said to be carrying the baton, whether you like them or not.

As for streaming, it seems a little harsh to write off a whole media sector as a tool for those, ‘not into music’. Personally, I love music, and I also love streaming – sure, there are noted problems in that side of the industry – revenue generation for artists, sustainability of platforms, and many more, but it’s a new and evolving service. An argument that streaming is ruining the music industry comes across as a continuation of the tired ‘CD is killing the tape industry’, ‘tape is killing the vinyl industry’, ‘vinyl is killing the shellac industry’, ‘shellac is killing the wax-cylinder industry’…. yawn. In actuality streaming is the evolution of legitimate music consumption – a legal alternative to piracy, and simply the latest in a long line of technological advancements – but that’s a topic for another day.

The crux of this article is about those ‘hat wearing DJs’.  Global megastar Avicii has taken personal offence at this dire insult, and felt compelled to respond via social media, in the form of a rambling Instagram post.

“Guess what: There are still good bands, still making great music that changes peoples lives, – what is really “sad” is hearing a old time musician like yourself confessing so bluntly and openly to not having an open mind to new music by dissing shit u havnt even heard” [sic]

As loath as I am to say it, this is actually pretty much spot on. Obviously Avicii means this in reference to his own music, but it applies much more generally. In calling out Noel as a “bitter ol’ timer rocker” Avicii has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Is the Noel Gallagher we hear in the interview really lamenting the lost art of songwriting, concerned for the aural wellbeing of the current youth generation?  I’m afraid not, In reality he’s demonstrating the age old tendency of all people to cling to the past, and to dismiss any trend that appears after their heyday. It’s a sad truth, and it’s borne out by the fact that the interview increasingly sounds like two men sat in a pub reminiscing about the ‘golden years’.

It’s easy to dislike Avicii – many, many people do – and even the tone of his Instagram post reinforces why this is the case – I mean, calling Noel Gallagher a “silly sausage”? Come on. At least when the 90s bands had a problem with someone they’d come straight out and say it without consulting a team of PR professionals first.

Personalities aside though, it’s impossible to judge the worth of a current musical trend while you’re in the moment. There’s a long tradition of current musical trends being written off by those that had any kind of emotional investment in a previous trend. Chances are, the kids who are really into EDM will look back on this period as one that was equally as important to them as 90s guitar music was to a previous generation.  They may even see EDM’s upsurgence as a response to disillusionment with increasingly watered down guitar music. They may postulate that EDM is a successor to the prevalent musical trends of the 90s in a reactionary sense, the same way Gallagher sees a thread running from his music way back into the past.  I’m not saying that this would be a correct postulation but it’s a possibility, and certainly the musical worth of a whole generation’s input shouldn’t be disregarded on a whim because it doesn’t conform to one artists view on how music should be made and performed.

Of course, a good EDM row wouldn’t be complete without Deadmau5 making his opinions known – ironically siding with Gallagher, despite being a ‘DJ in a hat’ himself. Coming forth with the argument that performers should be doing more on stage, Zimmerman lays into DJs and producers who are happy to rely on a stage show whilst waving their hands in the air. While a lot of music purists (and non-purists) would agree, it could be argued that it’s up to the crowd to vote with their feet. If people are happy to pay for those shows (expensive though they are) then let them. Perhaps they’d rather see showmanship that musical chops, or maybe they’re buying into the theatre of seeing someone like Steve Aoki surfing across a crowd in an inflatable dinghy.

The market will always be there for those who want to perform ‘properly’, because there will always be a subset of music fans that aren’t into all the fireworks and theatrics.  The key is choice – music (live performance and recorded music) is a commodity, and the general public are entitled to choose what they want to consume; be it flashy, effects driven stadium shows; introspective, intimate drawn out muso concerts; or anything in between.  

James Brown

is a musician/producer from the north-east of England, now residing in a charmingly frenetic area of north London. He is generally engrossed in music production under his Plainview moniker, and has a soft spot for old-school sci-fi novels with badly drawn covers. You can find him out and about in Dalston and Stoke Newington most weekends, or Djing at his residency for club night French Cafe. Feel free to contact James at james_philip_brown@yahoo.co.uk