Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stay up [reading] forever

"Do you need all those magazines?" Well, no. Not most of them. While they offer a nice snapshot of the burgeoning 90s rave scene as it consolidated its role in 'youth culture' (not just in the UK and Ibiza), the quality of writing doesn't merit hoarding them (unlike, say, the 'inkies' in the 80s), and if I see Oakey's/Sasha's/Goldie's/Brandon Block's/Tong's (delete as appropriate) face one more time, the flashbacks will be long and brutal.
Even up to 93/94, the dance press was a relatively po faced business, concentrating mainly on the DJs and the release schedules rather than the scene around them, as this 91 Mixmag and 93 DJ illustrate. Your music was nothing if it had not been picked up by the discaires.
That was even as the style mags were shedding some of their own serious take on fashion and design and plundering rave culture for much of their copy {'Mental: Britain's best 50 clubs'). That's Sneaker Pimp's Kelli on the iD cover there (we loved them, briefly), while Keith was a frequent face on The Face and everywhere else, the press breathing a sigh of relief that rave had generated a prodigy, or at least a genuine frontman.

But it was the arrival of Muzik from IPC in late 1995 that kickstarted the sector, raising the game of the old hands and attracting publishing money and young writers to take it out of the coterie. Muzik offered wide coverage of the main genres (including jungle) without being patronising or exclusive, gave star treatment to those the various scenes already considered icons (Dave Clarke, Fabio, Roger Sanchez) and made dance feel as though it finally had the same treatment as rock and indie. Mixmag responded with ever chunkier issues (here melding the political about club drugs and anti-government protests with pisstake features on modern dancing) and former inky zines such as Jockey Slut upped their game. 'The Slut' became my favourite with its slightly more irreverent and enlightened (ie, not just dance) take on the culture, and we were forever in their debt when it reviewed our rabid and dissonant fanzine Whore Cull. By the end of the decade, all were wrestling with declining ad revenues and how to better project themselves in the rolling news environment of the web, given the rapid turnaround of tastes and trends in this live fast culture.

Quick mention here for the Shoreditch Twat, wherein the soi-disant twats taking over London's east-central areas traded injokes, made light of any derision howled at them and generally paved the way for the hipster craze we so struggle to understand now (t-shirt on this cover says 'Hoxton is dead, long live Hoxton').

But as this final quintet shows, dance mags of fairly indistinguishable hue now proliferated to ever diminishing returns, with the rave scene's problem with objectification of women evident in one. Wax was the grown-up version of Generator, another fairly po-faced techno-leaning imprint in its younger days, this edition shown offering a tidy Grooverider tape (yes, tape. it's 1996); M8 was the happy hardcore tome, produced in Glasgow, which lives on just about as the globally focused Till Late mag and site after jettisoning its lumpen ravetariat base with an earlier switch to fluffier sounds; IDJ tried to rival DJ with a focus on the equipment and the music, man, but I don't think it lasted long; Knowledge was the backpacker's favorite with its focus on the beats - d&b, hip-hop and then dubstep (its site seems to have died at the end of last year); and 7 was enjoyable for a weekly, digestible take on the scene, but DMC did not keep it going for long preferring to return its focus to Mixmag.

To the net! Where we can actually hear DJs' mixes without the bother of pressing up a CD, where social media functions allow us to rate an event (and get the tickets for forthcoming nights) and where yet more hungry writers eager to cover the scene earn even less for their crust. The big two survivors, DJ and Mixmag, have done a decent job carving out a sizeable web community while still producing a hard copy mag. Me, I don't use them - tickets etc at Resident Advisor, music off Boomkat, podcasts off Fact, with The Wire as my only - occasional - old-media music fix. That reminds me to find those smelly A5 Fact mags - don't worry, I will resist digging for the copies of Vice and Sleaze Nation.

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