There was a time when raves were illegal and held in abandoned warehouses across North America and Europe, and operated under the constant threat of a police raid. DJs would haul crates of vinyl to and from gigs where enthusiastic kids would suck on pacifiers and thrust glow sticks to the beat of underground music. Drum and bass music is a product of this time, as is Dieselboy (real name Damian Higgins), an American DJ who played a role in pushing the drum and bass scene far enough into the mainstream so that it would later have a home in clubs across the globe.
Dieselboy says the scene has changed drastically since those days and he talked about it with the Taipei Times in an e-mail interview last week. He plays at Spark next Thursday.
“There was an innocence then that is no longer there anymore,” said Dieselboy. “It felt more ‘underground’ in a way that meant it felt more secret and special. Kids seemed to care a lot more about music and new music back then.”
“[Now] I see real deejaying dying,” he continued. “I see kids putting their dollar-sign stamp on ‘performers’ that don’t do anything live on stage. I see it more being about the brand name, not the artistry.”
Dieselboy says that passion and focus have kept him ahead of the game. “As times have evolved and more and more is required of artists in order to ‘stay relevant,’ I have consistently tried to step up my game. Drum and bass is awesome and that is why it has continued to do its thing. For the new kids that entered the scene through music like dubstep, they will eventually be looking for something more challenging that drum and bass will provide.”
For him, however, things went the opposite way. He only began dabbling with dubstep after nearly two decades of strictly drum and bass. Now, his shows are known for fusing many different genres together.
“The biggest problem with drum and bass is that it is too fast for most people,” he said. “Dubstep combines the vibe of drum and bass but at a slower BPM that your average person can understand. [It] has insane sexy low end and clever sounds. It’s just fun music.”
While he has found ways to integrate variety into his shows, he feels like other DJs haven’t been so creative.
“[Back then], there were a million little rave scenes scattered all over the United States. Nowadays, it is similar but there is less diversity in the kinds of music you hear at shows.”
Much of this problem stems from the digitalization of music, says the man who pioneered vinyl culture. “One of the great things about vinyl is that it is usually pressed in limited supply,” he said. “This meant that when new music came out, the only people playing it were people that were lucky enough to find it on vinyl (which wasn’t always easy). You had to physically own the record to play the song. It gave music more value.”
“With digital music, this has now been traded for convenience,” he continued. “I love the convenience of being able to download music. It’s fast and you can pretty much find any track you are looking for. The problem is that everyone else on the Internet can also find the same music and this creates a very homogenized sound when you go see DJs because everyone has the same tracks.”
But with all that being said, there is no denying that the digitalization of music has allowed for electronic music to become mainstream, which is good for DJs old and new. “More kids are being exposed to the music I have always loved,” said Dieselboy. “Electronic music is finally having its moment.”