Mixmag Asia reluctantly welcomes Arthur Kovacs and his pessimistic, blunt and sardonic view of the modern dance floor and everyone in it. From dancers to DJs, no one is safe from his line of sight, not even himself. He’s a has-been DJ, a failed promoter, a long-time clubber and an armchair anarchist, and he’s also old, disgruntled, and bitter; constantly complaining at everything; an old man raver yelling at the sky. When he’s not moaning about something, he’s usually busy browsing through your social media posts, trying to find the next thing to complain about. So if you see him writing so much heat, and you start to cry each time you read… just scroll on by.
This year has been miserable for all of us. Losing jobs, losing our freedom, hell, some of us even lost our loved ones. Even for me as a miserable old-man-raver, this year has been especially crap. Normally, I’d feel a sense of schadenfreude in others’ suffering but not this year. And please, if it’s been a fantastic year for you, keep it to yourself. Your toxic positivity is not welcome.
Of course, there are things for which to be grateful as well. Although they may not be in their abundance, if 2020 taught me anything then it would be to celebrate the small victories in life.
As we get into the festive spirit, let’s take a look at the top five things that have disgruntled me this year and the top five small victories that are worth celebrating.
Let’s address the biggest elephant in the room: the pandemic. As we drunkenly welcomed in 2020 — not just a brand-new year but a brand-new decade — we had hoped for the dawn of a new era of flying drone taxis and Pioneer CDJs with a motorized spinning platter. Instead, we got a brand-new coronavirus putting most of us under house arrest and putting the industry all of us hold dear under the most-difficult economic situation since its conception. Even the UK’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which killed off the burgeoning rave scene, didn’t put the dance music industry under the same amount of stress. And to make things worse, the recently released Pioneer CDJ-3000 doesn’t even spin.
2. The Livestream Pandemic
In came the virus, out went the gigs. And in we stayed so out came the controllers and poorly broadcasted live streams. During lockdown, DJs, from international superstars to teenage bedroom DJs, dusted off their controllers and launched the dreaded Facebook Live function. My newsfeed was inundated with live sets that sounded like they were recorded with a potato, punctuated by the sporadic conspiracy theory posts of 5g tower masts infecting people with the virus through rectum insertion.
This summer, everyone became a DJ, including your great aunt and that girl who used to babysit you when you were three. But this summer did finally answer one of humanity’s eternal questions: if we had nothing else to do with our lives, what would we actually do? Given the number of live streams on broadcast this year, the answer is apparent: We’d all become DJs. And why not, everyone’s a fucking DJ nowadays.
3. Dave Lee Name Change
July this year saw one of House & Disco’s titans go through the logistical headache of a stage name change. Uneasy was Dave Lee with the moniker he has had since the start of his well-forged career thirty years ago, Joey Negro was no longer the name he wanted to use. Unlike the Blessed Madonna, Lee was never subjected to pressure from rights group calling him to change his name. The decision was his entirely and in his original announcement, it is clear that he’s been uncomfortable with the name for quite some time. My gripe isn’t with the name change. My gripe is with the army of commenters completely missing the point of the name change. It is Dave Lee who feels uncomfortable; his decision barely impacts our lives; why does anyone need to facetiously smear Lee with being ‘woke’. If anything, Lee has done us a favour by removing an entry from his long list of pseudonyms. Now, I only have to search for Jakatta, Doug Willis, Raven Maize, Sessomatto and (technically) The Sunburst Band when I’m fawning over new Dave Lee releases on Z Records.
4. Vinyl & Rotary Mixers
Just to be clear, I have nothing against vinyl or rotary mixers. Indeed, I own all of these things myself and there is no greater feeling of blending one vinyl into another on my Bozak AR-4.But when promoters start to use vinyl as a marketing buzzword, nobody cares, much less when they start to advertise which boutique rotary mixer they’ll be playing with. Our scene will never be short of buzzwords and vacuous marketing slogans. We’ll never be short of Insta-famous superstar DJs either. But it’s time we wise up to this shit and leave all of those things behind in 2020 along with the coronavirus and…
Let’s leave Trump behind in 2020 as well. Plus, the guy clearly cannot dance. How are you supposed to vibe with the ones that say they know what is what but they don’t know what is what?!
Enough of channelling my inner Rave-Grinch. Here are five things we ought to be grateful for this year; the five small victories worth celebrating.
Yes, this bloody virus has made it to the number one spot again. Despite the global grievances the virus has given humanity, it has taught me to appreciate all the positives I have in my life. For a lot of us in our region, we can still organize and attend events, some of us are still able to find income through DJing (in person and not on live stream), and, for the most part, restaurants, bars and clubs are still open.
Before COVID-19, and although I’ve been somewhat thankful for living in Asia, I’ve never truly appreciated how amazing our region is. The culture of togetherness and the sense of community clearly manifests itself in how most Asian countries have dealt with the pandemic; there is an undeniable willingness to do anything to tackle the virus by willingly wearing masks and respecting social distancing measures.
2. Club Owners & Promoters
As a DJ, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with venue owners and promoters. Sometimes I’d feel short-changed by the promoter and sometimes I’d get into arguments with venue owners on the state of their poorly maintained DJ booth and sound system. But this year has made me appreciate those colleagues more than ever. When the country I reside in decided to lift lockdown measures, I am grateful for the club owners and promoters coming up with ingenious ways of reopening and putting on events again. Some of the parties I played at this year had the promoters themselves checking all of the attendees’ temperatures upon entering and refusing entry to those without masks. That this was done by the promoter and not their subordinates goes to show that we are in this together. And for that, I am grateful.
….until things turn back to normal and you horrible twats underpay me again.
3. Bandcamp Fridays
Artists were always going to struggle at a time like this. Governments in our region were never going to help the nightlife industry let alone the people who make the music for our industry. Likewise, in the West, barely any of the government grants went into helping those who actually needed it. In March this year, Bandcamp waived their revenue share in order to help artists and labels; a huge gesture hitherto unseen from an online music site. Cough cough Spotify, take note.
Assuming you can decipher the subtitle, I’m grateful for this online drama for one simple reason: it has made my own online drama with another local DJ a few years ago seem like an insignificant playground tiff. I’m also thankful for popcorn being low in calories because I ate A LOT when this exploded.
And lastly, Joe Biden: An old white male with grey hair has saved the day at the end of the year. Do we need to leave out cookies and milk for him at the White House?
Ravers, DJs, promoters, and general troublemakers, I wish you all the best for the festivities. I’ll end on a positive note: let’s hope this year is not a prequel to 2021!