Posts filed under ‘DJ Wesley Personal’
It’s been 20 years. 20 years.
It was 1993 that saw the founding of the Internet Underground Music Archive, or IUMA, essentially prior to the widespread adoption of the graphical World Wide Web. I discovered IUMA in the late 1990s, after they debuted on the web, but prior to their acquisition by (and later destruction under the watch of) EMusic. This was before the original Napster, AudioGalaxy, and the mass piracy tools; IUMA was only a decade or so before its time as a promotional tool and a vehicle for independent music artists to have a presence online. Today, of course, it’s all de rigueur. But at the time, the ability to download free, fresh independent music was pretty cutting-edge stuff. (Bear in mind that with the Internet speeds of the time, it also took a great deal of patience.)
I discovered a great many artists through IUMA, but as is the case today online, it took then (and takes now) a lot of effort and time to sift through all the crap and get to those little grains of gold hiding in plain sight. There are three particularly memorable acts for me from that period: Anything Box, Alien Bliss (Michael Hodjera), and Darkangeles cum Delphinium Blue cum Arlin Godwin.
Anything Box are a synthpop act whose material represents a virtual soundtrack for that period of my life, and the music feels virtually as current and fresh today as it did then. Best known for Living in Oblivion, released when they were signed to a major label, I think their best material came later when they got out from under their label deal.
Michael Hodjera’s “Alien Bliss” project is a sort of mellow, hard-to-describe pop that frankly doesn’t resonate well for me today, but at the time, was a sort of “endless repeat” delight that fit the emotions of the summer where the cassette tape never left the player in my car. (The specific Alien Bliss album, by the way, was Bandito D’Amore; his other work didn’t appeal to me so much then—and not now either.)
Arlin Godwin, through all his naming iterations, is an artist I’ve come back to time and again, and who has served as more than a little inspiration to me musically. Arlin’s music is difficult to describe, and I think that the fact that it’s somewhat genre-resisting in nature is particularly appealing to me. Broadly speaking, his music is “electronic,” but it’s EDM at one moment, experimental in another, pop the next, soft rock at yet another moment, and downright strange from time to time as well.
From his home in Washington, DC, Godwin started out as Darkangeles—the name under which I discovered him. From the start, he smartly released a limited selection of songs for free download, while still releasing CDs and such for purchase. Somewhere in Chocolate City was the CD where (as Darkangeles) I bought-in, and I devoured its music like I hadn’t had a melodic meal in months. Between the tracks on the CD, and the individual downloadable tracks trickled out by Arlin along the way, I continue to get a warm feeling any time I hear songs like the catchy and dancy Blue, the experimental sounding Baby You’re a Big Star Now and GottaLottaStatic, the artfully written and beautifully-arranged Joy, and especially the slow, emotion-steeped ballad, You Left Me Crying—a stunningly beautiful piece that remains one of my favorite songs of all-time.
He abandoned the Darkangeles name along the way in favor of Delphinium Blue—a name that stuck only a short time before it too was chucked aside in favor of using his own name. At various points, Godwin has practically denied the existence of his earlier incarnations (something he no longer does), always deftly repackaging the same material anew, adding some tracks here and there, but much to my chagrin, not really putting-out much in the way of truly new material in any great quantity.
It frankly hasn’t mattered a great deal. His early tracks, and those added to them along the way, have staying power, replete with their raw emotion and skillful arrangements, and they still deserve to be heard.
When I listen to his music, I can hear specific loops from ACID, or particular Korg synth patches, weaving their way through his tracks, as if a particular sound or pattern grabbed his attention and he proceeded to craft an entire song around it—something I can relate to in my own work.
As I said earlier, Godwin has been an inspiration for years, and I’ve always admired (or frankly envied) what he does: Working alone in a studio, he writes, arranges, sings, records and releases his own music. That’s no big deal these days, but 20 years ago, I’d argue it was pretty forward-thinking at a time when major labels dominated even more strongly, and major label record deals were still the holy grail of any musician serious about their future. (Of course, the age of the original Napster, the iPod, and so forth rather indelibly changed all that—for better or worse.)
In any case, I too have done a lot of composing and recording—but unlike Godwin, I’ve never felt satisfied enough with any of it to let it see the light of day beyond my own headphones. Godwin must somehow relate to that same feeling; in a podcast interview in 2007, he claimed to have recorded hundreds of tracks over the years—and that most of them will never be released. Perhaps it is his own perfectionism—confessed in the same interview—that accounts for the lack of new material. All I can say is: I can relate.
Late last year, somewhat out of the blue, Godwin cranked his self-promotion activities back up once again, hitting his old mailing list (which I’ve been on for an eternity) with updates. Among his most recent is the release of The Vault—as the name suggests, a collection of previously released material, demos and the like—a lot of it heard before, but some previously unreleased. You can audition all the tracks, and download them in exchange for your e-mail address at NoiseTrade, where you can also donate if you’re so inclined. Additional releases are available on iTunes and other digital media stores as well.
Here’s to hoping he finds a way to let some truly new material see the light of day soon, and add to what is still—a decade or two down the road—a truly amazing musical legacy.
Music service Spotify’s long-awaited US launch finally happened in the past week, and courtesy of Bob Lefsetz, I was afforded an invitation to use the service. After spending a few days tinkering with it, I thought I’d record my thoughts.
For those who are blissfully unaware, Spotify is a new streaming music service. They boast of having “all the world’s music” in their catalog* available for listening anytime, anywhere. Want to relive your youth to that Aldo Nova track you’ve not heard since back in the day? Search for “Aldo Nova,” and bathe in the ability to queue-up any of his releases on-demand. With a paid subscription, you gain the ability to load-up your mobile device with a bunch of music, and enjoy it on-the-go without the need for a data connection. It sounds like nirvana for most music lovers, and indeed, the service has been wildly successful in its home country of Europe. (Read more on their web site if you’re still confused.)
So what are the ups and downs? (more…)
Yeah, I know. It’s been ages since since I’ve written anything in this blog. And now we’re a whole month into 2011, and I’ve still not written anything in this blog. Until today, when I figured, “Hey! Why not blog about something?” So here we go. Anybody listening?
I suspended my dance music blogging for a pretty simple reason, really… I’m a bit disenchanted with the music industry at the moment. There, I said it. It’s not that I don’t like dance music; I listen to it pretty much from the time I wake-up to the time I go to bed. And there’s a lot of it that’s good. Some is quite good. But broadly, I’m not really seeing any innovation. Dance music today sounds pretty much exactly how it did five years ago. And about the same as it did five years before that.
Sure, we have lots of styles. We have lots of variations and sub-genres and everything else. We have largely east coast peeps (like Sirius/XM’s The Beat) spinning crummy cuts of non-melodic looped noise every-other-song, all day long, that used to be the exclusive purview of 2:30AM high-on-E-crowd-filled club sets. We have annoying trash like “Barbra Streisand” from Duck Sauce that sounds like it was made, start-to-finish, over the course of a lunch hour, and the video for it still fetches 35,000,000 views on YouTube.
Quite honestly, if this is the (dance) music people really want, I’m pretty much over it. Maybe I need to switch to country music.
Anyway, mom always told me if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. As a result, I’ve not said much lately. But truly, as a producer and musician myself, it’s really not helpful to hear comments like, “That sucks ass.” Or, “That’s crap, and I don’t listen to (or play) crap.” There’s a real difference between constructive criticism and just being an arrogant prick, and frankly, the world has too much of the latter already. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s shit, any more than if you don’t like something, it also doesn’t make it shit. (Although this news will surely come as a shock to some people, and honestly, I still think the Duck Sauce track really is crap.)
But when it comes to the arts, it really is subjective. There’s just a whole lot not to like about a lot of the music that comes across my desk, and whether what mom said was right or wrong, if I can’t say something constructive about it, or at least articulate why I dislike something, everyone really is better off with me just keeping my mouth shut. So I have been.
I am still doing my DJ and dance music stuff. You can still hear my mixshows every weekend. I’m still doing the occasional remix, in a way and a style that pleases me, and I’m still picking the music that gets played on iDanceRadio.fm to a worlwide audience who can choose to agree with my choices by tuning-in—or not, by tuning-out.
But I’m more than a little bit ready for someone to come-up with something truly new. Truly innovative. Something that elevates the art of dance music in a new and creative way. Something that’s respectful of music as an art form. Something that’s not just quick-fix fodder that titillates or stimulates or dominates for a few weeks, before fading out and never being thought about or played again. I suspect it’s going to be a long wait.
In the mean time, I’m working on several tracks of my own. Are they innovative in the way I just described? I highly doubt it. But I’ll enjoy creating it, and hopefully if you don’t like it, you’ll be charitable and give me a better critique than, “That’s crap.” If you don’t, I suppose I deserve it after my Duck Sauce comment.
Look for more regular musings here in the coming weeks, and as always, leave a comment with any thoughts you might have.
Last week, I had what I might refer to as an “minor incident” over my most recent music chart. This is not an appropriate place to talk about the situation or the details, but I will say that it distilled down to someone begin frustrated with me that I had not charted their music recently. But in responding to it, I did sort of think through charting… Why I keep one, and why I pick the things I pick. It also made me think a bit about the state of the dance music industry. Following are my thoughts on all of this.
To start with, my ego isn’t anywhere near super-sized enough to believe that my chart is very important in the grand scheme of things. Yeah, I play the occasional club set, although I’ve been far more focused on production in the past year (for a reason). And yeah, I do play parties, and special events, and that sort of thing. And yes, I reliably produce a weekly mixshow that airs on three different Internet radio stations. But none of that makes me a big “name” in this industry, and even if it did, I keep my sense of self-importance well in-check.
So why do I bother making a chart, then? I do it as a service to the industry, and for those fans (and there are some) who look to me for keep them aware of great new dance music.
- For industry, while my chart may or may not mean much by itself, if a song shows-up in my chart and that of 100 other DJs, that might be an indication that the song is gaining traction.
- As for my fans, I sort of see this as the role of a DJ, at least historically. I find out about great new music, perhaps new trends in music, and I turn my listeners onto it. I can’t do that if I don’t prepare and publish playlists (which I do, for my mixshows anyway), and if I don’t prepare and publish a chart that details how I’m seeing music at the moment.
Obviously, if you’re a musician, or a producer, or a remixer, or a record label, or a music promoter, your aim is to see your music get traction. It’s an ego trip to see a song of yours show-up in a playlist or a chart. Promoters, in particular, are paid to help ensure that happens. And when you start talking about things like Billboard charts, a lot of money changes hands to help ensure that songs appear on the chart. But even with DJs of my stature, I get hounded by promoters to listen to (and chart or list) their music. It’s just the way things work.
But what was bothersome for me about this recent “minor incident” is the expectation that I might chart a song because I “owe” someone… Whether they’re a friend, or a colleague, or they did me a favor, or whatever else, that somehow, the relationship warrants my playing-out a song, or putting it on my chart, because of that. I’m sure that’s the way a lot of (perhaps most) DJs work, but I don’t.
This goes back to the question, “What’s the role of a DJ?” Of course, it’s to play music. But if I wanted a DJ to play only the music I know, I wouldn’t need a DJ—I’d need only my iPod. It’s true, some fans just want the stuff they know. But my fans largely want me to tell them about cool new music that they can fall in love with and purchase to put on their iPods to play when I’m not around. (How do I know that? I hear from fans all the time who tell me exactly that.)
And quite frankly, I think that best serves the music industry. Turn me onto your new music, and I’ll spread the word.
However, I don’t do that because you (artist, producer, label, promoter) think I should—I do it because you’ve turned me onto product (music) that I truly believe in, am truly charged-up about, and truly want to turn other onto. And therein lies the rub; I’m not going to pretend to get excited about something, I’m going to get excited if I get excited. And if I don’t, I’m not playing the song, and I’m not charting it. It’s really that simple.
I suppose if that makes me “not a team player,” so be it. But if I don’t like the music, and if I’m not excited by it, I’m not going to pretend just because someone thinks I should.
Now, do promoters and other relationships I have influence me? Somewhat, yes, because if an industry colleague brings me a track, I’ll probably listen to it before I listen to things I get from people I don’t know. (But I’m still not playing it if I don’t like it.)
Do I show a preference in my playlists and charts for tracks I’ve personally remixed? Hell yes I do, and I’d be an idiot not to. I believe in the work that I do, I’m proud of it, and yeah, it goes on my chart in positions that reflect how I feel about my work compared to other stuff I’m playing.
My chart used to be based solely on spin counts—how often I played each track. Unless I played a ton of sets, the numbers were sort of all over the place, and not very meaningful. These days, my chart is based partially on that, but more on my personal impressions of the song relative to other things I’m playing. It’s not very complicated.
So, is my chart all that important? No, probably not. But to the extent anyone’s paying attention, and wonders why “their” stuff is or isn’t on it, or wonders how I put it together, you have your answer. And no, I don’t chart stuff just because someone thinks I should. It’s my chart, in every sense of the word. If you find it useful, great; if you don’t, then unsubscribe from my mailing list, or don’t go to my web site, and don’t bother yourself with it. It’s really quite simple in the end.
But first… Kyle is the sort of guy I’d like to be if I had my life to do over again. Well, at least from high school onward. I don’t claim to know Kyle all that well, but from the outside looking in, he strikes me as the sort of person who knows what he wants out of life, and just sorta goes and makes it happen.
I’m not the sort of person who has a lot of regrets, and I don’t regret the paths I’ve taken in life. But I do wish from time-to-time that I’d had the… Something… To have started my musical endeavors a little earlier in life. Like Kyle, when I know what I want out of life, I go and make it happen. My issue was figuring out what I wanted. But c’est la vie.
Kyle recently listened to some of my remixes for the first time, and forwarded back a surgically accurate set of reactions to them that sort of amazed me. (I still have no idea how he was able to listen to one of my tracks, and discern that I’d used a 707 drum kit on it, but anyway.)
It got me thinking about how I approach composing music—whether in the typical sense (my own songs), or when composing arrangements while remixing someone else’s track.
Here’s how I described it to Kyle in e-mail:
I dunno, to use a painting metaphor, it always feels like I’m slopping musical paint on a palette sorta willy nilly, and then sorta taking that and slapping it on a canvas. Sometimes I get lucky, and other times, the red blends with the green and you end-up with this shit-colored blob of “what the HELL was I thinking?” Then I scrape it off, throw it away, grab more paint, and hope for the best a second time. Maybe that’s how creativity works for every musician in a way, but I wish it was more deliberate, more planned, more intelligent and more informed. But perhaps I shouldn’t try and make music and creativity work like every other part of my life… It’s really not a binary, logical exercise, is it?
The point I was making is that I tend to want to make everything nice and tidy and logical and binary. DJ’ing has a nice logic to it. Computer programming has that nice binary aspect. And computer graphics strikes me as more logic-driven than creative (although of course it has creative elements too). But music?
Yeah, I work electronically. There is logic. There is a certain binary-ness to the effort. But at the end of the day (someone please make me stop saying that), it’s music, and it either works or it doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter if the beats line-up or not, or the measure counts in a block are in tidy units of 8 each, or the chord progression follows the “rules”—if it doesn’t work when your ear hears it, none of that matters. In fact, one could make the case that some of the greatest compositions by the greatest composers (the Gershwins come to mind) broke a lot of rules, and yet, not only worked, they exemplify some of the best music even written.
Interesting things to bear in mind, I suppose. Maybe I shouldn’t be so afraid of occasionally make shit-colored blobs after all.
In this age of Facebooking and Twittering, maybe it seems a little passé to roll-out a new mailing list, but that’s just what I’ve done. I’ve had a ton of requests from fans who’d like to get my weekly chart in their e-mail in-box (vs. getting a tweet and clicking to the web site), and with the number of new remixes I’ve been doing lately (not to mention the very first of my own tracks coming this quarter), perhaps many of you would like to get notifications by e-mail as soon as things are available.
So, I’m pleased to accommodate… Sign-up now! It takes a few seconds; you get to pick what you want to know about; and you can easily unsubscribe or manage your preferences at any time (there are instructions inside each mailing).
The mailing list is powered by my friends at MailChimp, so everything is compliant with industry best-practices for spam control. (To that end, you’ll need to confirm your subscription by e-mail; after sign-up, check your in-box for instructions.)
Weekly charts will start going out to this list next week, and as for the first newsletter, that’ll happen soon, too. I look forward to keeping you up-to-date the old fashioned way. (Well, I guess that would be a hand-written letter mailed to you in an envelope, but I’m not going quite that far…)
OK, so I’m a little slow with some things, but I finally got around to enhancing the old Facebook page for DJ Wesley.
- You can now get to my Facebook page and become a DJ Wesley fan there by going simply to:
This is the same “shortcut” as I use on MySpace.
- For all you texting nuts who have Facebook on your smartphone, you can also become a DJ Wesley fan by texting the message “fan djwesleymusic” to FBOOK (32665).
I’ll be using my Facebook presence more and more to keep people abreast of the exciting things happening in the months ahead, including numerous new remix and production projects (I have no less than four projects underway right now), as well as gig dates and the like, so become a fan today so you can keep up-to-date.
Have a great weekend,
For nearly a year now, I’ve been doing a live, two-hour mixshow on iDanceRadio.fm. While I enjoy doing it live, it takes a valuable weekend night away from me. It’s also largely prevented me from syndicating the show to other outlets.
Beginning this Friday, October 2nd, the DJ Wesley Friday Night House Party will be trimmed back to one hour (a customary length for mixshows), and I’ll be pre-recording it sometime during the week. I’m sure that most listeners to iDanceRadio.fm will hardly notice the change, but I wanted to give everyone a head’s-up.
Thanks for listening, and I hope you continue to catch the new, shortened show each Friday night, starting at the same time—10 Eastern, 7 Pacific.