Electronic Cities: Music, Policies and Space in the 21st Century 9789813347403, 9789813347410

This book examines Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes in 18 cities across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, North

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Electronic Cities: Music, Policies and Space in the 21st Century
 9789813347403, 9789813347410

Table of contents :
Notes on Contributors
List of Figures
1: Introduction: Electronic Music, Policies and Space in the Contemporary City
Overarching Aim
Defining Electronic Dance Music in the Urban Context
Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and Electronic Dance Music Culture (EDMC)
Intelligent Dance Music (IDM)
Subgenres, Production Technologies, Commodification, Public Policies
Defining Policies and the Governance of Electronic Music Scenes
Defining Spaces for Electronic Music
Selection of City Case Studies
Part I: Historical Electronic Music Scenes
Part II: Established Electronic Music Scenes
Part III: Emerging Electronic Music Scenes
Part I: Historical Electronic Music Scenes
2: Düsseldorf: On the Golden River Rhine
The City
The Bands
The Clubs
The Labels
The Present
3: Resisting that Fascist Groove Thang: Sheffield as the Epicentre for Electronic Music (1973–2020)
The City: Contribution to Electronic Music
The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective
Governance and Spaces
4: Berlin and Manchester Compared: An Interview with Mark Reeder
5: London’s Underground Acid Techno Scene: Resistance and Resilience in the Global City (1993–2020)
The Electronic Dance Music Revolution in London
The London Acid Techno Scene: The Sound of the Underground
The Sound of a Community
Defining Underground Culture and Music
Governance and Spaces
Public Policy and Nightlife: Recent Progress in London
Part II: Established Electronic Music Scenes
6: Overlooking the Scene: Electronic Music and Toronto’s Music City Project (1999–2019)
The City
The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective
Governance and Spaces
7: Arbutus Records and MUTEK: Two Models of Experimental Electronic Music Promotion in Montreal
The City: Contribution to Electronic Music
The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective
MUTEK and Montreal as a ‘Digital Culture City’
The ‘Arbutus Records Scene’ and the ‘Mile End’ Electronic Music
Funding and ‘Scene Governance’: Two Distinct Approaches
8: Compression Aesthetics: Transducing Segregation in the Los Angeles Beat Scene
The City
The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective
Governance of the Scene and Spaces
9: Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed Entertainment
Łódź’s Cultural History
Electronic Scene in Łódź
Governance and Spaces
10: Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018)
The City
The Electronic Scene: Historical and Spatial Perspective
Governance of the Scene and Spaces
11: Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters and Gentrification (2010–2020)
The City
The Electronic Scene
Governance and Spaces
12: “You’re Not the Boss of Me!”: The Relationship Between EDM and DIY in Australia
A Brief History of Electronic Music in Australia
The Rise of the Rave and Club Culture on the East Coast
History of Government Intervention
DIY in Action
Part III: Emerging Electronic Music Scenes
13: Cluj-Napoca, Romania: Electronic Dance Music and Local Policy (2015–2020)
The City
The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective
Governance of the Scene and Spaces
14: On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen
The City: Hong Kong
An Overview of the Contemporary Electronic Scenes in Hong Kong
EDMC in Hong Kong: XXX Gallery as a Case Study
Community Building at XXX
The City: Shenzhen
EDMC in Shenzhen
Spaces for EDMC: Oil Club as a Case Study
Audiences at Oil Club
Music at Oil Club
Community Building at Oil Club
15: Embodied Listening: Grassroots Governance in Electronic Dance Music Venues in Accra (Ghana)
Accra: A Historic Centre of Political and Cultural Afrocentrism
The Electronic Scene: Hiplife and Hip-Hop to Afrobeats
Governance of the Scene and Spaces
The Policy Gap: Building, Noise and Copyright in Ghana
Ground-up Governance, Entrepreneurship, and Community
16: Tehran, Iran: ‘Experimental’ Electronic Scene (2000–2020)
The City and the Ever-Changing Cultural Policies of the State
The Progressive Development of Electronic Music in Iran
Governance of the Electronic Music Scene in (Semi)public Spaces
The Mutations of the Listening Experience of Electronic Music in Public and Private Spaces
17: Conclusion
Electronic Music
Underground Electronic Music Scenes
Cross-pollination Between Electronic Music Scenes/Genres and Other Music Scenes/Genres in the City
Policies and the Governance of Electronic Music Scenes
Stakeholders in the Informal Development of Electronic Music Scenes
The Multiplicity of Public/Cultural Policies Affecting Directly or Indirectly EDMCs
The Different Forms of Commodification of Electronic Music in the Context of Targeted Urban Policies
Public Strategies, Real Estate Pressures and Communities’ Tactics: The Spatial Dynamics of Electronic Music Scenes

Citation preview

Electronic Cities Music, Policies and Space in the 21st Century

Edited by  Sébastien Darchen Damien Charrieras · John Willsteed

Electronic Cities

Sébastien Darchen Damien Charrieras  •  John Willsteed Editors

Electronic Cities Music, Policies and Space in the 21st Century

Editors Sébastien Darchen University of Queensland St Lucia, QLD, Australia

Damien Charrieras City University of Hong Kong Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong

John Willsteed Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, QLD, Australia

ISBN 978-981-33-4740-3    ISBN 978-981-33-4741-0 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Tony Pommell, owner of 414. 414 was a London club which hosted mostly, but not exclusively, electronic music events, famous for Acid Techno nights. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore


Sébastien Darchen would like to thank Associate Professor Glen Searle for his encouragements at an early stage of the project. He also would like to thank Dennis Remmer (Trans:Com) for writing ‘BNE—The Definitive Archive: Brisbane Independent Electronic Music Production 1979–2014’—an inspiration for studying further a wide array of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes on a global scale. He also would like to thank Stéphane Sadoux for helping us find a cover image and all the contributors for their inspiring stories. Damien Charrieras would like to thank Sébastien for inviting him to be the co-editor of this book at an early stage of the project, as well as John, and all the contributors to this volume for their time and dedication. The work presented in this volume (Chap. 14) was partially supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [Project No. CityU11614519]. John Willsteed would like to thank Sébastien and Damien for dragging him into this. He is also very grateful for the support of the School of Creative Practice, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. He is always and forever indebted to Su Crowley and Delilah Moon Willsteed, his little family—home is where the heart is.



1 Introduction: Electronic Music, Policies and Space in the Contemporary City  1 Sébastien Darchen, Damien Charrieras, and John Willsteed Part I Historical Electronic Music Scenes  17 2 Düsseldorf: On the Golden River Rhine 19 Rudi Esch and Erik Stein 3 Resisting that Fascist Groove Thang: Sheffield as the Epicentre for Electronic Music (1973–2020) 33 Paul Hollins 4 Berlin and Manchester Compared: An Interview with Mark Reeder 47 John Willsteed 5 London’s Underground Acid Techno Scene: Resistance and Resilience in the Global City (1993–2020) 59 Stéphane Sadoux vii

viii Contents

Part II Established Electronic Music Scenes  77 6 Overlooking the Scene: Electronic Music and Toronto’s Music City Project (1999–2019) 79 Sara Ross 7 Arbutus Records and MUTEK: Two Models of Experimental Electronic Music Promotion in Montreal 95 François Mouillot 8 Compression Aesthetics: Transducing Segregation in the Los Angeles Beat Scene115 Mike D’Errico 9 Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed Entertainment131 Patryk Galuszka and Ewa Mazierska 10 Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018)147 Anita Jóri 11 Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters and Gentrification (2010–2020)165 Giacomo Bottà 12 “You’re Not the Boss of Me!”: The Relationship Between EDM and DIY in Australia183 Yanto Browning, John Willsteed, and Andy Bennett Part III Emerging Electronic Music Scenes 205 13 Cluj-Napoca, Romania: Electronic Dance Music and Local Policy (2015–2020)207 Ruxandra Trandafoiu



14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen223 Alex Yiu and Damien Charrieras 15 Embodied Listening: Grassroots Governance in Electronic Dance Music Venues in Accra (Ghana)243 Leila Adu-Gilmore 16 Tehran, Iran: ‘Experimental’ Electronic Scene (2000–2020)261 Morad Moazami 17 Conclusion279 Damien Charrieras, Sébastien Darchen, and John Willsteed Index 297

Notes on Contributors

Leila  Adu-Gilmore Composer-theorist Adu-Gilmore’s compositions have been played at the Kennedy Center and Ojai Festival, singing and performing globally with over twenty releases including five solo albums. A Ghanaian New-Zealander born in London, Adu-Gilmore is passionate about black and indigenous music, decolonisation and social change. Her articles have appeared in Critical Studies in Improvisation journal and the Music Technology Cookbook (Oxford University Press), and she has presented at Zhejiang Conservatory, Huddersfield University, and EHESS and IRCAM.  Adu-Gilmore holds a BMus from Victoria University, New Zealand; a PhD from Princeton University; and is an assistant professor in New York University’s music technology programme. Andy  Bennett is Professor of Cultural Sociology in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University. He has written and edited numerous books including Popular Music and Youth Culture, Music, Style and Aging, British Progressive Pop 1970–1980 and Music Scenes (co-edited with Richard A. Peterson). He is a Faculty Fellow of the Yale Centre for Cultural Sociology, an International Research Fellow of the Finnish Youth Research Network, a founding member of the Consortium for Youth, Generations and Culture and a founding member of the Regional Music Research Group. xi


Notes on Contributors

Giacomo  Bottà  is an adjunct professor and project manager at the University of Helsinki and a member of Urbaria (Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies). He has been lecturing and researching about popular music and urbanisation in a comparative European dimension, with particular interest towards post-industrial cities, the night-time and the relation among gentrification, space and local music scenes. He has edited Invisible Landscapes: Popular Music and Spatiality (2016) and, together with Geoff Stahl, Nocturnes: Popular Music and the Night (2019). His monograph Deindustrialisation and Popular Music. Punk and Postpunk in Manchester, Düsseldorf, Torino and Tampere was published in May 2020. Yanto  Browning  is a Brisbane-based academic, record producer and musician, with a strong background in technology in music performance and production. With twenty years of studio experience, Browning has made several hundred records for a broad range of Australian bands and artists, and has also worked as a composer and producer of music for film and contemporary dance. He has researched, developed, designed and produced interactive musical spaces, investigating gestural control of electronic instruments and concepts of play, centred around the creation of active musical spaces that invite audience participation. As an educator, he has coordinated the music production programme at the Queensland University of Technology for the past five years. Damien Charrieras  is an Associate Professor at the School of Creative Media (City University of Hong Kong), one of the most prominent new media art school in Asia. His co-published paper about Hong Kong musical and visual art spaces has appeared in the journal Cities. He co-­ edits a volume on underground music-making in Hong Kong and East Asia (Palgrave Macmillan), and several papers were published on underground musical scenes and electronic music performances, with a focus on South East Asia. He has also published a report for the Hong Kong government on the development of new media expertise in the creative economy of Hong Kong (2019). As a theorist, he is also interested in a variety of topics pertaining to digital creation.

  Notes on Contributors 


Sébastien Darchen  holds a PhD in Urban Studies (2008) from INRS, Urbanisation, Culture et Société (Montréal, Canada). He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Canada Chair of the Socio-organisational Challenges of the Knowledge Economy from 2009 to 2010 and then an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. He joined the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) in 2011, where he is Senior Lecturer in Planning. His articles have been published in top-ranked planning journals: Urban Studies, Cities, and so on. In 2019, he was the main editor for Global Planning Innovations for Urban Sustainability published with Routledge. Mike D’Errico  is the director of Music Technology & Composition at Albright College and the founding director of the Albright Rap Collective. As a DJ and electronic music producer, he has performed and published on a range of topics including hip-hop, electronic dance music, virtual reality, and video games. As a musicologist, he is writing a book on music software and musical instrument design in the twenty-first century and the ways in which music technology relates to its social, cultural, and political contexts. Rudi  Esch  is a German musician, author and music consultant. As a musician, he is best known for being the bass player for industrial band Die Krupps and punk band Male. He also collaborated and recorded with La Düsseldorf ’s Klaus Dinger. His book on the electronic music history of his hometown, Electri_city—Elektronische Musik aus Düsseldorf, was published by a significant German press in 2014, with an English translation appearing in 2016. Esch is also the co-author of an authorized biography of the band DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft). Patryk Galuszka  holds a PhD in Management from the University of Lodz, Poland, and an LLM in Law and Economics from the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics and Sociology at the University of Lodz. His articles were published in journals such as International Journal of Communication, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Popular Music, Popular Music & Society, Media, Culture & Society, and Continuum:


Notes on Contributors

Journal of Media and Cultural Studies. His research interests include creative industries, popular music studies, and media economics. Paul  Hollins is Professor of Cultural Research Development at the University of Bolton and Director of the Leeds Conservatoire in the United Kingdom. He has followed his lifelong passion for contemporary music and has written and presented extensively on academic themes focused on his primary research interests, most notably in the development of punk, post-punk and electronic music more broadly. Reflecting on his ‘lived experience’ of the first wave of punk and too many years following bands and sleeping in damp railway stations has helped much of his work to date. Anita  Jóri  is a research associate at the Vilém Flusser Archive, Berlin University of the Arts (Universität der Künste Berlin, UdK). She studied applied linguistics and history, and finished her PhD thesis ‘The Discourse Community of Electronic Dance Music’ in 2017 at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. Her research interests include electronic dance music cultures, gender and diversity issues in EDM scenes, and applied linguistic methodologies. Jóri is also a chairperson of the German Association for Music Business and Music Culture Research (GMM). Ewa Mazierska  is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She has published over thirty monographs and edited collections on film and popular music. They include Popular Viennese Electronic Music, 1990–2015: A Cultural History (2019), Popular Music in the Post-­ digital Age, co-edited with Les Gillon and Tony Rigg (2019), Popular Music in Eastern Europe: Breaking the Cold War Paradigm (Palgrave, 2016) and Relocating Popular Music (Palgrave, 2015), co-edited with Georgina Gregory. Mazierska’s work has been translated into over twenty languages. She is also principal editor of Routledge Journal, Studies in Eastern European Cinema. Morad Moazami  is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford’s Oriental Institute. A former film and music critic, he specialises on the intersection between media, popular culture and ideology from 1960s’ Iran through to the present day. As an academic, his work has been published in the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies as well as in

  Notes on Contributors 


Explorations in Media Ecology. As a film and music critic, he has written for online publications such as Antiquiet, Unsung Films and Reverse Shot. François Mouillot  holds a joint appointment as a research assistant professor in the Department of Music and the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at the Hong Kong Baptist University. His interdisciplinary research is at the intersection of Music and Cultural and Media Studies. It focuses on the mediation of popular and experimental music practices primarily through their infrastructural and technological dimensions, and on contemporary identity politics in relation to these practices and other forms of popular culture. He has written on music scenes of various desindustrialised minority cultures including Hong Kong, the province of Québec in Canada, and the Basque Country. Mark Reeder  Mark Reeder grew up in Manchester, England. He is a musician, record producer, remixer and film maker. Before moving to Germany in the late 70s, he co-founded new wave band The Frantic Elevators together with Neil Moss and Mick Hucknall (Simply Red). Reeder has been living and working in Berlin since 1978. In 1981 he formed the darkwave synth bands Die Unbekannten and in 1984 Shark Vegas. He also co-managed all-girl avant-garde group Malaria! together with Jochen Hulder. He was German representative for Joy Division and legendary Manchester record label Factory Records, from 1978-1983. He is also the founder and owner of the first East German electronic music label “MFS (Masterminded For Success)” which he started in 1990. In 1991, Reeder discovered the teenage Paul van Dyk, guiding him to international DJ stardom. Reeder’s own musical career has spanned over more than four decades and has collaborated (as a remixer) with major bands such as Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cure. Sara Ross  holds a PhD from Osgoode Hall Law School, an LLM from the University of Ottawa, an LLB and BCL from the McGill University Faculty of Law, a BA Honours in Anthropology from McGill University, and a BA in French and Spanish with Distinction from the University of Alberta. During her law degrees she was the editor-­in-chief of the McGill Law Journal and later clerked at the Federal Court. Ross is a licensed


Notes on Contributors

member of the Law Society of Ontario and is a Banting postdoctoral fellow at the Schulich School of Law of Dalhousie University. Stéphane Sadoux  is trained in history at the University of Oxford and in town planning at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Université Grenoble Alpes. He is Director of LabEx AE&CC, the Centre of Excellence in Architecture, Environment & Building Cultures at the Grenoble School of Architecture, Université Grenoble Alpes. His research focuses on town planning theory, history and practice in Britain, with specific reference to utopian and resistance movements. He has taught in France, Switzerland and Britain. Erik Stein  is a musician and writer and is the former music editor for two high-end art and fashion magazines, Wound and Glass. As the frontman of electronic balladeers Cult With No Name, he has released nine critically acclaimed albums to date, including Blue Velvet Revisited with Tuxedomoon and John Foxx, the soundtrack to an award-winning feature-length David Lynch found footage documentary of the same name. He is a very keen collector of obscure electronic music, with a special interest in Australian and American Synthpunk. Ruxandra Trandafoiu  is Associate Professor of Communication and a research fellow at the Institute for Social Responsibility, Edge Hill University, UK. She is the author of Diaspora Online: Identity Politics and Romanian Migrants and the co-editor of The Globalization of Musics in Transit: Musical Migration and Tourism and Media and Cosmopolitanism. Her forthcoming book is Politics of Migration and Diaspora in Eastern Europe: Media, Policy and Public Discourse, to be published by Routledge in 2021. She has previously published on music, nationhood and migration; turbo folk, Roma identity and cosmopolitanism; and music festivals and regional identity from a transnational perspective. John  Willsteed is a musician and academic. He toured the world through the late 1980s in The Go-Betweens and has recorded and performed with many bands. He has been a guitarist in award-winning Brisbane group Halfway since 2011. He is also an award-winning composer and sound editor with over ninety film and television credits, and is Senior Lecturer in Music at Queensland University of Technology in

  Notes on Contributors 


Brisbane. He has presented papers nationally and internationally, and his academic interest is centred on concepts of curation and story-telling particularly in relation to Brisbane’s punk and post-­punk scene. Alex  Yiu  is a PhD candidate in the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. Prior to his PhD, he completed the MMus Sonic Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests include deconstructed club music, the Hong Kong underground music scene and other music-/sound-related topics with a focus on the dynamic between the global, local and the virtual. Yiu has also performed and DJ’d in numerous venues and platforms such as XXX, OIL Club, ALL Club, Sónar Hong Kong 2019, CTM Festival 2020 and NTS Radio.

List of Figures

Fig. 3.1 1973 Meatwhistle Diary. (Source: Roger De Wolf ) Fig. 5.1 Acid techno DJ Gordie, playing at UNSound Squat party, the Drome, London, November 2000 (Photo by Mattko / Matthew Smith) Fig. 8.1 Key live music venues in the formation of the beat scene (Source: The author) Fig. 10.1 Location of clubs in Budapest. (Source: The author). 1. A38 (2003–) Petőfi híd, Budapest 1117; 2. Auróra (2014–) Auróra u. 11, Budapest 1084; 3. Corvin Club (2007–2018) † Blaha Lujza tér 1, Budapest 1085; 4. Dark Side (1995–?) † Bogáncs u. 5, Budapest 1151; 5. Fáklya Klub (1995–1997) † Csengery utca 68, Budapest 1067; 6. Fiatal Művészek Klubja (1960–1998) † Andrássy út 112, Budapest 1062; 7. Flashback Studio (2019–) Bogdáni út 1, Budapest 1033; 8. Fortuna (1986–1994) † Fortuna u. 2, Budapest 1014; 9a. Gólya (2011–): old location † Bókay János u. 34, Budapest 1083; 9b. Gólya: new location Orczy út 46–48, Budapest 1089; 10. Home (2001–2006) † Harsány Lejto 6, Budapest 1037; 11. Hully Gully (1991–1996) † Apor Vilmos tér 9, Budapest 1124; 12. Hysteria Techno (?–?) † Szépvölgyi út 15, Budapest 1037; 13. LÄRM (2014–) Akácfa u. 51, Budapest 1073; 14. Merlin (1991–2011) † Gerlóczy utca 4, Budapest 1052; 15. Patex

42 66 122



List of Figures

(1998–2001) † Bocskai út 134, Budapest 1113; 16. PeCsa (1985–2015) † Zichy Mihály út 14, Budapest 1146; 17. Supersonic Technikum (1998–) Fényes Adolf utca 28, Budapest 1036; 18. Tilos az Á (1990–1995) † Mikszáth Kálmán tér 2, Budapest 1088; 19. Toldi Klub (2012–) BajcsyZsilinszky út 36–38, Budapest 1054 Fig. 11.1 Location of clubs and night clusters cited in the chapter. (Source: The author) Fig. 14.1 Flyer (2019): Events at Oil Club usually take place during the weekends and public holidays

150 166 234

1 Introduction: Electronic Music, Policies and Space in the Contemporary City Sébastien Darchen, Damien Charrieras, and John Willsteed

Overarching Aim This edited volume analyses how Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes emerge and develop in different city contexts. By city context, we refer not only to the cultural and political history of a city but also to the built environment and its transformation through planning policies or real estate actions. These elements inform the emergence and development of EDM scenes and lead to a diversity of ‘electronic cities’.

S. Darchen (*) University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] D. Charrieras City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong e-mail: [email protected] J. Willsteed Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_1



S. Darchen et al.

This volume analyses a wide range of cultural/creative policies, night-­ life regulations and planning interventions affecting the development of EDM scenes in different city contexts at four distinct levels: (1) direct funding to musicians (usually at federal level depending on the country); (2) creative and/or music policies (e.g., support for festivals) (usually at state level depending on the country); (3) planning/real estate-related policies/interventions (usually at state or local council level depending on the country); (4) policies related to the regulation of night-life. We propose an international perspective on electronic music scenes by considering historical electronic scenes in England and Germany (Part I); established electronic scenes located in Europe, North America and Australia (Part II); and emerging electronic scenes in different parts of the world including the Middle-East, Africa, South-East Asia and Eastern Europe (Part III). By electronic music, we refer to a wide range of music styles made with computers and electronic instruments (McLeod 2001). This edited volume considers in their urban settings both Electronic Dance Music or EDM (electronic music designed for dancing) and subgenres of electronic music not considered as mainstream such as Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) and other subgenres1 such as Acid Techno or Drum and Bass to cite just a few that we study under the label Electronic Dance Music Culture (EDMC). This volume shows the diversity of electronic dance music scenes, from mainstream/commercial scenes to niche/underground electronic music scene and the dynamics—related to space, public policies and underground communities’ tactics—animating them. With a focus on the post-2000s context, the public and cultural policies informing the development of EDM, the governance and policing regulating EDM, EDM’s relationship to venues and festivals as well as EDM’s techniques of production are also central to the analysis presented in this volume.

1  Introduction: Electronic Music, Policies and Space… 


 efining Electronic Dance Music D in the Urban Context The global electronic music industry was valued at US$7.3b in 2019, which includes revenues generated through music recordings, clubs and festivals, DJs and live sets, companies and brands operating within the broad spectrum of electronic music (Watson 2020), and represents a growing share of the overall music industry. Given the wide range of meanings associated with this term, it is essential to define more specifically what we mean by “electronic music”. As stated by Demers “Electronic music is not one single genre but rather a nexus of numerous genres, styles, and subgenres (techno, trance, house music, dubstep, electro to name a few), divided not only geographically but also institutionally, culturally, technologically, and economically” (Demers 2010, p. 5; see also McLeod 2001). In this section, we define the concepts associated with our definition of electronic music for this edited volume: EDM, EDMC, IDM and underground/mainstream. EDM refers to the mainstream end of the spectrum and EDM events typically take place in large open-air festivals. We also consider ‘niche’ or boutique EDM genres associated with specific practices and spaces in the city. At the extreme range of the spectrum we can use the term underground electronic scene which mostly refers to a specific community with unique cultural and aesthetic values and using spaces at the fringes of the city. Recent research on electronic music has highlighted how aspects linked to the urban context—the place-bound attributes (geography, cultural history, built environment, political context)—play an influential role in shaping those scenes as presented in the works on Vienna’s electronica (Mazierska 2019) and the work of Madrid (2008) on Tijuana’s electronic scene. The urban context in which these scenes emerge and develop is thus entangled to the concepts we use to define electronic music.


S. Darchen et al.

 lectronic Dance Music (EDM) and Electronic Dance E Music Culture (EDMC) Matos (2015) states that the term EDM originated in academia to make a distinction between EDM, which is dance and club oriented, and Electronica which evokes Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). EDM refers to popular electronic music genres such as ‘house’ and ‘techno’ bound to the visceral experience of dancing, as well as specific sites (rave parties, clubs and lately large outdoor festivals). Stubbs states that “Electronic dance music has supplanted post-rock as the new stadium rock, as popular guitar music reached a creative terminus” (Stubbs 2018, p. 9). EDM artists such as Skrillex have developed a new style and language from electronic music, accentuating directness and simplicity, and in the process filling arenas and stadiums (Stubbs 2018, p. 30). According to Stubbs (2018, p. 392), Skrillex is at the vulgar end of dubstep: he is to EDM what Kiss is to rock. Apart from Skrillex, many prominent artists perform under the banner of EDM, like Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Carl Cox and David Guetta. As stated by Stubbs: even if one can sense some grunginess in the sound of Deadmau5, EDM is associated with mainstream electronic music and is considered a “sell-out, white-out, a massive stadium-swelling cliché”; a genre that has nowhere to go; a genre that marked the point where rave and club music became over-legitimised (Stubbs 2018, p. 395). If the 1990s rave parties conjured up an image of huge off-the-grid gatherings fuelled by ecstasy and acid, the current EDM festivals appear more often than not to be a tool for city branding, promoting cultural policies and the development of entertainment districts. EDM is also associated with massive post-2010 festivals like Tomorrowland in Belgium, which was created in 2005 and hosted 400,000 people by 2019, a logistical and security nightmare. EDM in its mainstream version can be linked to larger strategies of reconfiguration of the built environment. The chapter on Cluj-Napoca in Romania (Chap. 13) gives a detailed analysis of the local strategies put in place by the Council to set up and promote two main EDM festivals Untold and Electric Castle in a rural setting. Contrary to what the term IDM might imply, beyond formulaic musical anthems, commercial clubs

1  Introduction: Electronic Music, Policies and Space… 


and large-scale festivals, EDM, as an umbrella term, encompasses many niche genres (marginal/hardcore subgenres like techno/house, trance, drum and bass)2 attractive to a smaller audience, and which as a whole constitutes Electronic Dance Music Culture (EDMC). Till uses electronic dance music culture (EDMC) to refer to “a coherent group of activities and cultural practices, including those in some nightclubs, at free parties and festivals, and focuses on non-mainstream or “niche” music genres such as trance, techno, house and drum and bass while excluding mainstream chart music, rap and hip hop” (2009, p. 170). This EDMC concept enables us to study how a specific subgenre is associated with a specific community of DJs, event organisers (with DIY values) and spaces in the city.3

Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) The book also encompasses more experimental genres which we include under the label of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). Papavassiliou in her thesis on Aphex Twin—a core IDM figure—defines IDM as “a semi-­ experimental genre of electronic music that emerged in UK at the turn of the 1990s. IDM has been described as a kind of cerebral music not appropriate for dancing” (Papavassiliou 2014, p. V). IDM is more oriented towards introspective listening. The music released by the Warp label since the late 1980s (Matos 2015, p. 354), but also the type of electronic music promoted in Montreal in the “Arbutus record scene” spatially located in Mile End (Chap. 7) or the Los Angeles beat scene (Chap. 8) and the experimental electronic music discussed in the chapter on Teheran (Chap. 16) can all, to an extent, be associated with the practices associated to IDM.

Underground/Mainstream This edited volume contributes to a better understanding of mainstream and underground electronic scenes in cities by unpacking the different


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policies and planning decisions/initiatives that influence, at different scales, their development. In his work on the Underground Dance Music (UDM) scene in New York City, Fikentscher describes “a context in which certain activities take place out of a perceived necessity for a protected, possibly secret arena that facilitates opposition, subversion, or delimitation to a larger, dominant, normative, possibly oppressive environment” (2000, p.  9). Oppressive environments may be political, social or cultural in nature (Fikentscher 2000, p.  9). Understanding underground responses to an environment—such as clustering into an underground movement or an underground scene—means acknowledging an environment with political, urban and cultural dimensions. In this edited volume, the “environment” is a city context made up of the existing built environment, cultural institutions, history and regulations that influence the development of those scenes. Like all organic ecologies, underground electronic scenes reshape and move within the city to adapt to a changing urban environment. After changes in planning policies or new laws regarding the operation of nightclubs, underground scenes move to new neighbourhoods with cheaper space opportunities available, or less restrictions around operation—noise for instance—sometimes paired with a DIY ethos (see Chap. 5 on London’s acid techno, Chap. 6 on drum ‘n’ bass in Toronto, Chap. 8 on the Los Angeles beat scene and Chap. 10 on the techno scene in Budapest). It is important to note that this volume highlights the coexistence of underground and mainstream scenes in the same city. We recognise that this dichotomy of mainstream/underground is a bit arbitrary. In between those two extremes, niche or boutique genres as illustrated in Chap. 14 on Hong Kong and Shenzhen can emerge: boutique genres that are not strictly underground but cannot be categorised as mainstream EDM. The concept of EDMC is useful as it enables us to cover a large spectrum of EDM genres.

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 ubgenres, Production Technologies, S Commodification, Public Policies This edited volume recognises the diversity in electronic subgenres but is not exploring to its full depth the ever-evolving diversity of multiple subgenres that constitute EDM.4 This diversity within EDM presents challenges for any analysis of the diverse public policies that might inform it. The music subgenre, the type of audience, the reach (mainstream or underground), all these may affect the perception of subgenres of EDM as potential objects of public policies. While not aiming for exhaustivity, this volume gives a panorama of how certain EDM subgenres lend themselves to certain kinds of public policies (from support to repression). This volume also notes the crossovers and cross-pollination between different music scenes within the same city. Esch (2016) made the point that, in Düsseldorf, electronic music emerged from a “creative milieu” in the 1970s and was certainly influenced by the punk and rock scenes. The cross-pollination between non-electronic and electronic scenes has been highlighted in recent works on the topic. For instance, in her work on Vienna electronica, Mazierska demonstrates that the city is “a site of experimentation of music and art at large” where “boundaries between genres dissolved” (Mazierska 2019, p. 53). Nowadays, different subgenres of EDM coexist in a common urban setting and inform each other (e.g., in Hong Kong, see Chap. 14). One common argument of the existing literature on electronic music is that the digitalisation of the music production chain entails a dematerialisation that makes the concrete context of production irrelevant. Some of the chapters explore how digital technologies have radically changed the production and distribution of music. While the traditional commercial music studio has been superseded by bedroom producers and digital distribution of music, as noted by Nick Prior, “an infrastructure of bedrooms, clubs, gigs, studios, festivals, rehearsal rooms, and record companies continues to be significant in the cultural life of any music scene, virtual or not” (Prior 2010, p. 400). This book also covers the impact of these new techniques of domestic production in the recent evolution of


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electronic music scenes in relation to the enduring relevance of space and urban contexts (see Chaps. 8 and 12). Research questions related to electronic music that we will discuss in the conclusion are as follows: • Is there a clear distinction between underground electronic scenes and mainstream scenes in the city? • What are the electronic music communities’ tactics to resist mainstream EDM culture and its diverse forms of commodification? • Is there cross-pollination between electronic music scenes/genres and other music scenes/genres in the city?

 efining Policies and the Governance D of Electronic Music Scenes This edited volume unpacks a range of policies affecting the development of these scenes in different city contexts. The aim is to contextualise the emergence and development of diverse electronic music scenes (from EDM to more specific subgenres) in a wide range of city contexts with specific cultural history, institutional and political characteristics that could either reduce or open up new spaces/opportunities for electronic events to take place in the city. This edited volume also considers direct subsidies to electronic artists as a way of supporting electronic scenes. Grodach (2013, p. 99) in his analysis of the rise of the Austin Music Policy (USA) states that there is not an extensive body of work studying why music policies are adopted by cities. This volume addresses this gap to some extent by analysing the political history, the conflicts and dynamics that shape policy outcomes. Therefore, planning/revitalisation and real estate interventions must necessarily be considered as having an impact on the development of electronic scenes. This edited volume focuses on cultural policies but also takes into consideration other types of regulations impacting the development of urban electronic scenes. Many of the case studies (e.g., London, Toronto, Budapest, Helsinki, Australia, Hong Kong/Shenzhen) focus for instance

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on the regulations affecting the night-time economy. Some case studies analyse particular events promoting electronic music (e.g., the Untold Festival in Romania and the Freedom Parade in Lodz) but also reference other economic development agendas, such as city branding (see Chap. 6 on Toronto). More generally, all chapters analyse the range of stakeholders active in the emergence and development of the scenes.5 For us, this constitutes the “governance of scenes”. Electronic music has permeated mainstream culture, resulting in a growing commodification of electronic urban scenes in cities. The promotion of urban electronic scenes through specific events (e.g., techno parades, outdoor festivals) and cultural policies impacting electronic scenes often serve other agendas such as city branding, economic development strategies or tourist industry development strategies. Some cities (e.g., Toronto or Detroit) see the cultural value of music as a way to construct an attractive identity or brand and use it as a way to rejuvenate the city (Rietveld and Kolioulis 2019; Ross 2017). Rietveld and Kolioulis (2019, p. 34) explain that the city and its citizens activate techno music in Detroit as a way of promoting cultural heritage and fostering the economic renaissance of the city. They refer to the “cultural value of techno music”. Some established electronic scenes in Europe such as Berlin have become destinations for techno tourism (Garcia 2015). So not only is Berlin well known for its underground clubs, it has also become a “mainstream” destination for partygoers. This approach is presented in the chapter on Cluj-Napoca (Chap. 13) and also in Lodz (Chap. 9): EDM events serve the internationalisation of the city and international tourism strategies. Seman (2011) has emphasised that music scenes are increasingly part of cultural development strategies and can be tools for economic development and catalysts for urban redevelopment. In her work on Toronto, Ross (2017) notes that subcultures are already vulnerable to commodification. Night spaces for subcultures located in the urban cores of cities are particularly targeted for their exchange value potential in attracting those deemed as creative class individuals and tourists looking for a particular aesthetic of authenticity. Discussing club culture, Thornton noted that “fashionably and trendy ‘underground sounds’ ... are authentic and pitted against the mass-produced and mass-consumed” (Thornton 1995,


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p. 117). Yet, as noted by Fikentscher (supra), a protected or secret arena might be incompatible with some public policies aiming at turning existing underground into touristic assets. Commodification and/or the eradication of underground scenes have to be analysed within this somewhat paradoxical framework considering the exchange value of night spaces. Research questions related to policies and the governance of electronic music scenes that we will answer in the conclusion are as follows: • Which stakeholders led the emergence and then the development of EDM scenes? • What are the multiple policies/regulations that influence the development of EDM scenes specifically? • What are the different forms of commodification of electronic music in the context of targeted urban policies?

Defining Spaces for Electronic Music Each electronic music scene is articulated to its local particularisms and local policies, while it is at the same time the product of global dynamics (global trends towards the creative city, for instance, or other more conjectural events such as the economic crisis affecting some cities more than others). Local authorities sometimes capitalise on the attracting power of electronic musical venues, casting these spaces as flagships of a redeveloped and reinvigorated creative city (see Balti 2017). Berghain, the famous club in Berlin, would be a prime example of a fringe vacant industrial building that turned into a marketing tool selling a flavour of “creative Berlin”. In some cases, electronic music spaces are tightly regulated, their link with drug circulation and alcohol consumption being leveraged for political purposes. Sometimes musical venues located in fringe areas of cities contribute to the subsequent gentrification of the area but are required to relocate once the rents become unsustainable for them (Charrieras et al. 2018). The “regeneration” or “revitalisation” projects become a mere real estate operation with little consideration for the musical cultures that have momentarily, sometimes famously, flourished in these places. All these struggles around spaces for electronic music

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events to rise and thrive in the city also shape and transform cultural and artistic communities in the city. Some contributions in this volume engage in the analyses of those struggles around the availability of spaces for electronic music events and practices. EDM as a genre is strongly informed by urban spaces, be they inner city clubs, industrial warehouses or outside venues in the case of rave and festivals. Urban spaces are the products of a city’s history, its topology and its geographic location; its relation to other cities at different scales; its economy and industries, its demography and modes of governance (Brabazon 2011). Pre-existing configuration of physical spaces also informs the development of musical genres. Wylie (2016) argues that the surge of musical creativity in 1960s’ Detroit was linked not only to the influx of African Americans from the southern states, but also to the fact that these families were living in two-storey neighbourhoods rather than high-rise, which created the opportunity for the ownership of pianos. The emergence of grunge music in Seattle was linked to the temperate climate of the North West that allows bands to rehearse in garages all year long. The explosion of club music in Berlin in the 1990s is linked to the significant number of vacant properties located on the former east side of central Berlin (Deck and Von Thullen 2014; Wylie 2016). In Japan, the development in the 2000s of Onkyo music, with its pauses, silences and low volume, was due to the lack of sound insulation in the performing venues of Tokyo (Novak 2010). Research questions about spaces in relation to electronic music that we will answer in the conclusion are as follows: • To what extent are current spaces/venues for electronic live events under threat in the city? • To what extent are planning or real estate interventions affecting the spatial dynamics of EDM scenes? • To what extent do cultural/music policies enable (or hinder) the development of new spaces for EDM live events in the city?


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Selection of City Case Studies The selection of cities in this book reflects the pervasiveness of electronic music across the globe. This relates to the point made by Kuhn (2015) on the flow of aesthetics to different parts of the world. In Part I, established scenes are included to provide historical context and some sense of longitudinal policymaking: Düsseldorf, Sheffield, Berlin, Manchester and London. Established, but less iconic, electronic scenes are presented in Part II, while locations whose scenes are considered not only nascent but having conflicted relationships with institutional authorities are ventured in Part III. This classification into three groups has its flaws. Primarily, these scenes are constantly developing and in a sustained state of evolution, so the classification may end up being irrelevant or wrong. Our aim was to distinguish historical scenes that had a strong influence on electronic music in the early days and scenes that are more recent (see the emergence of Ghana’s electronic scene, still rooted strongly in traditional music). There are liminal scenes not considered as historical but with a growing influence such as Toronto or Montreal with artists such as Deadmau5 or Grimes who are seen today as major acts in electronic music. This concept of influence is also constantly evolving. While we are well aware that this classification has arbitrary aspects, it enables us to establish in the conclusion if there is a link between the maturation of scenes and the type of policies sustaining/ impeding their development. The effects on the scene/industry in 2020 of Covid-19 is also included in some chapters.

Part I: Historical Electronic Music Scenes Historical scenes are where electronic music really started to grow into a distinct genre. Important US cities for electronic music like Chicago and Detroit have received significant academic attention, especially in relation to the development of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) (Matos 2015; Rietveld and Kolioulis 2019). Electronic music as a genre also developed early in other countries, tied to the development of technology among other aspects. Japan, for instance, which has a strong tradition in

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experimental electronic music (Loubet et al. 1998), has seen its electronic companies producing genre defining electronic music production mainstays such as Roland’s TB303, which contributed to the signature sound of house music in the 1990s. Belgium had the New Beat movement, and well known lax regulations concerning the opening hours of clubs, as well as pioneering DJ labels like R&S Records (Carbonnaux 2013). Italy also participated in the development of industrial music, synth heavy disco music and later house music. Our focus in this volume in relation to historical scenes is on the European cities of Düsseldorf, Berlin, Manchester, Sheffield and London. These choices build on recent research done in the field of music and urban policy for cities that can be considered as historically important in the development of electronic music scenes.

Part II: Established Electronic Music Scenes The second part on “established electronic scenes” includes scenes that started in the 1980s but cannot be considered as the birthplaces of the electronic genre. Those scenes are located in Canada (Montreal and Toronto) and in the USA (Los Angeles) and can be seen as a second wave in North America after the development of the main EDM scenes in Detroit, New York and Chicago. This part also includes case studies from Eastern Europe (Lodz, Poland) and Budapest in Hungary, which can be seen as an extension of the Berlin techno scene which emerged with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, even if the city of Budapest developed its own ecosystem and its own sound anchored in the Drum and Bass genre. The chapter on Australia includes the three main cities: Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Given the geographic isolation and the large size of the country, trans-local connections between EDM scenes in cities are paramount in the Australian context.


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Part III: Emerging Electronic Music Scenes This third and last part examines the push/pull relations between non-­ institutionalised and/or underground electronic music scenes and local governmental authorities. Although these scenes are an obvious asset in the general push towards the development of creative cities, they can also be obstacles to redevelopment projects or, even worse, instrumentalised as political tokens in the context of conservative political agendas. These tensions and conflicts are explored through the cases of several cities. One of the biggest festivals of electronic music in East Europe (Cluj-Napoca in Romania) is heralded by the local authority as a global event, thwarting its authenticity or its links with the local artists. In Hong Kong and Shenzhen two Electronic Dance Music Cultures (EDMC) are analysed. Finally, the last two chapters are on Accra (Ghana) and Tehran (Iran), in which tensions are recontextualised by larger political agendas touching on national sovereignty, post-colonialism and political regimes.

Notes 1. We also use the terms of niche genre or boutique genre. 2. What has come to be designated as EDMC for Electronic Dance Music Culture in certain academic circles, most notably in the Dancecult journal. 3. See, for instance, drum ‘n’ bass in Toronto, Chap. 6. 4. For the details on all current EDM subgenres visit Ishkur Guide to Electronic Music at www.music.ishkur.com. 5. In most cases, those stakeholders are the artists themselves in association with events promoters although there can be an overlap between the roles of DJs and event organisers.

References Balti, S. (2017). Amplified Music as Part of Urban Design: Toulouse Copes with the Inherent Complexities. Articulo-Journal of Urban Research, 15. https:// doi.org/10.4000/articulo.3412.

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Brabazon, T. (2011). Popular Music. London: Sage Publications. Carbonnaux, A. (2013, November 26). Five Reasons Why Belgians Did It Better. Noisey (Vice). Retrieved from https://www.vice.com. Charrieras, D., Darchen, S., & Sigler, T. (2018). The Shifting Spaces of Creativity in Hong Kong. Cities, 74, 134–141. Deck, F., & Van Thullen, S. (2014). Der Klang Der Familie. Berlin, Techno and the Fall of the Wall. Nordenstedt: Books on demand. Demers, J. T. (2010). Listening Through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Esch, R. (2016). Electri_City: The Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music. London, New York: Omnibus Press. Fikentscher, K. (2000). “You Better Work!” Underground Dance Music in New York City. Hannover & London: Wesleyan University Press. Garcia, L.-M. (2015). Techno-Tourism and Post-Industrial Neo-Romanticism in Berlin’s Electronic Dance Music Scenes. Tourist Studies, 16(3), 276–295. Grodach, C. (2013). City image and the politics of music policy in the “live music capital of the world”. In C. Grodach & D. Silver (Eds.), The politics of urban cultural policy: Global perspectives (pp. 98–109). London, New York: Routledge. Kuhn, J.-M. (2015). The Subcultural Scene Economy of the Berlin Techno Scene. In P.  Guerra & T.  Moreira (Eds.), Keep it simple make it fast: An approach of underground music scenes (pp.  281–286). Porto: Universidad De Porto. Loubet, E., Roads, C., & Robindoré, B. (1998). The Beginnings of Electronic Music in Japan, with a focus on the NHK Studio: The 1950s and 1960s. Computer Music Journal, 22(1), 49–55. Madrid, A. L. (2008). Nor-tec Rifa!: Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Matos, M. (2015). The Underground Is Massive. How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Mazierska, E. (2019). Popular Viennese Electronic Music, 1990–2015 A Cultural History. London, New York: Routledge. McLeod, K. (2001). Genres, Subgenres and More: Musical and Social Differentiation Within Electronic/Dance Music Communities. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 13, 59–75. Novak, D. (2010). Playing Off Site: The Untranslation of Onkyo. Asian Music, 41(1), 36–59.


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Papavassiliou, A. (2014). Une étude de l’Intelligent Dance Music: analyse du style rythmique d’Aphex Twin. Maître en musique (M.Mus.) Laval: Universite du Quebec. Prior, N. (2010). The Rise of the New Amateurs. In J. R. Hall, L. Grindstaff, & M.-C. Lo (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Sociology (pp. 398–407). New York: Routledge. Rietveld, H.  C., & Kolioulis, A. (2019). Detroit Techno City. In B.  Lashua, S. Wagg, K. Spracklen, & M. S. Yavuz (Eds.), Sounds and the City (pp. 33–53). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Ross, S. (2017). Making a Music City: The Commodification of Culture in Toronto’s Urban Redevelopment, Tensions between Use-Value and Exchange-­ Value, and the Counterproductive Treatment of Alternative Cultures within Municipal Legal Frameworks. Journal of Law and Social Policy, 27, 116–153. Seman, M. (2011). How a Music Scene Functioned as a Tool for Urban Redevelopment: A Case Study of Omaha’s Slowdown Project. City, Culture and Society, 1, 207–215. Stubbs, D. (2018). Mars by 1980. The Story of Electronic Music. London: Faber & Faber. Thornton, S. (1995). Club Cultures. Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hannover and London: Wesleyan University Press. Till, R. (2009). Possession trance ritual in electronic dance music culture: a popular ritual technology for re-enchantment, addressing the crisis of the homeless self, and reinserting the individual into the community. In C. Deacy, & E. Arweck (Eds.), Exploring religion and the sacred in a media age (pp. 169–187). Farnham: Ashgate. Watson, K. (2020). IMS Business Report 2020. An Annual Study of the Electronic Music Industry. Retrieved from https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/ dance/9419311/2020-­i ms-­b usiness-­r eport-­c ovid-­1 9-­i mpact-­g lobal-­ dance-­music. Wylie, I. (2016, February 3). From Berlin’s Warehouses to London’s Estates: How Cities Shape Music Scenes. The Guardian. Retrieved from theguardian.com.

Part I Historical Electronic Music Scenes

Flyer for a 1993 party called Nuclear Free Zone organised by the Liberator DJs, the pioneers of the acid techno scene and hosted at Club 414. (Source: Aaron Liberator)

2 Düsseldorf: On the Golden River Rhine Rudi Esch and Erik Stein

Introduction The traces of electronic music in the early 1970s are present in many cities across the globe, but few cities have as clear and potent a presence as that of Düsseldorf. Through extensive interviews with many of the remaining creatives from this unique German electronic music scene, the authors have shone a light on the relationships between the artists, the scene, and the city, and added to the significant contribution made by ELECTRI_CITY (2016). Düsseldorf ’s position in the evolution of contemporary electronic music is widely acknowledged, thanks to the global brand Kraftwerk. However, what was it about this unashamedly chic, artistic, and R. Esch (*) Dusseldorf, Germany e-mail: [email protected] E. Stein London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_2



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somewhat industrialised, city that provided the perfect petri dish for such a scene to flourish? What was the role of the bands that followed, like NEU!, La Düsseldorf, D.A.F., and Propaganda, in the development of the scene? In the years from 1970 to 1986, Düsseldorf gave rise to a rich mix of musicians and artists, most defiantly working against the mainstream. Some came from privilege and some were working class, but they all shared a deep pride in their city, which is clearly represented in the music. The music scene in Düsseldorf shares a very real relationship with the visual arts, and both are steeped in the geographical, historical, socio-­ economic, and political histories of the city. This chapter explores the pre- and post-war contexts that provided fertile ground for the Düsseldorf music scene to have evolved as it did between 1970 and 1986, when digital communication technologies insinuated the music scene. Whilst acknowledging the eminence of Kraftwerk, we examine the scene through the lens of a range of other artists who, while not having the same impact globally, had significant local impact and contributed to the city’s artistic growth.

The City To understand the electronic music scene in Düsseldorf, one has to travel back in time. The city rests on the banks of the river Rhine, and provided the setting for several artistic movements long before the arrival of electronic music. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the city was synonymous with artistic excellence. As the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire’s Palatine on the Rhine, Johann Wilhelm II and his wife Anna Maria Luisa de’Medici assembled an art collection of world renown. At this time, the opera at Düsseldorf became known as the most brilliant in Germany and composers like Handel were warmly received by his court. The opening of the city’s Kunstakademie in 1762 generated, by the mid-nineteenth century, a school of landscape painters whose identity was woven into the cultural fabric of the city. The Düsseldorf School certainly benefitted from its proximity to Brussels and Paris and many of the young Düsseldorf artists shared in their counterparts’ liberal attitudes

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and critical view of the established order. The nineteenth century similarly played host to an impressive array of classical music masters, with Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms all making Düsseldorf their home. The symbiosis between the city’s visual artists, as part of Kunstakademie, and its musical protégés has been a constant in the city’s cultural history, with the twentieth century seeing a surge in creative activity. However, rather than retaining its classical traditions, the city would move to the forefront of European avant-garde and modernism, scarred by the horrors of war but wealthy enough to nurture a scene with little or no commercial aspirations. Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter would become internationally renowned, although many more had local and national impact and were part of the city’s music story. Düsseldorf has also played an important role in the post-war fashion industry, and in 1949 hosted the world’s first fashion fair, still the largest of its kind in the world. It remains Germany’s fashion capital with over 800 showrooms. Whilst the city has an image of being industrialized, in truth it is the surrounding towns of the Ruhr valley that comprise the industrial landscape, leading to Düsseldorf being known as ‘Der Schreibtisch des Ruhrgebiets’ (‘the desk of the Ruhr valley’). And although the city’s most famous buildings include the headquarters of engineering firm Mannesmann and the so-called Dreischeibenhaus (‘Three Slices’) skyscraper which served as the offices for Thyssen Steel for many years, Düsseldorf ’s cultural heart is made up of the tiny Altstadt (‘old town’) with over 300 pubs, and the nearby Königsallee, a long boulevard that serves as the city’s own Champs-Élysées and fashion centre. As with many cosmopolitan cities, the late 1960s in Düsseldorf were a time of musical exploration, with baby boomers coming of age and indulging their post-war freedom. Some spent their time in the bars of the Altstadt and some hung out at the Kunstakademie, but all were exploring new modes of expression. Beat-influenced combos would form, split, and swap members. One of them, The Spirits of Sound, included guitarist Michael Rother, drummer Wolfgang Flür, and singer Wolfgang Riechmann, all of whom played significant roles in the city’s electronic music story.


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The Bands Meanwhile, music school friends and art scene dilettantes Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben (the son of prominent German architect, Paul, who designed the Mannesmann head office) formed the psychedelic quintet Organisation, releasing the album Tone Float in 1969, significant for being a contemporary release of original material by a Düsseldorf band. Schneider and Hütter soon left the band, becoming increasingly interested in electronic music and acquiring their first synthesizer and drum machine. Referring to themselves as Kraftwerk (power station), the duo would rehearse, record, and release three explorative albums between 1970 and 1973, with a rotating cast of supporting musicians, including drummer Klaus Dinger and Spirits of Sound guitarist Michael Rother. Dinger and Rother, who did not share Schneider’s musical vision, left Kraftwerk in 1971 to form NEU! and, importantly, took producer Conny Plank with them. Released just a year apart, NEU! and NEU! 2 were remarkable in their originality. Pioneering a rhythm that Dinger would dub as ‘motorik’ and minimalist, unadorned production from Plank, tracks such as ‘Hallogallo’ evoked epic journeys across the landscapes of the Ruhr valley. Sales did not, however, eventuate, and Rother and Dinger split after a troublesome third album Neu! 1975. But the seeds of a new music, a new version of rock, were already sown. Post-NEU!, Rother developed a successful solo career that mixed soaring guitars and electronics in way that never strayed far from his roots, while Dinger took the essence of NEU!, and with his younger brother Thomas, applied it to song writing with his new band, La Düsseldorf. In 1980, electropop group Rheingold would also pick up and carry the NEU! sound, this time into a more deliberately refined and melodic pop format. Although each of the first three Kraftwerk albums was more electronic and developed than the last, they would find their true voice in 1974 as a four-piece, with Autobahn. The landmark album, produced by Conny Plank, saw the band lurch into electronic music once and for all, with its epic title track, a 23-minute love letter to German engineering, with vocals for the first time, and made up of discrete, innovative sections.

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The album and title track became a surprise global hit, particularly in the US, though many at the time considered them a novelty band. The band’s conventional look and performance poignantly positioned them as eccentrics, something they would exploit to the extreme with an increasingly unemotional, robotic appearance. However, for those that saw beyond the novelty of Wolfgang Flür’s ‘tea-tray’ electronic drum kit on their first UK and US tour, the impact and influence was undeniable. Following the chart success and tour of Autobahn, and with the addition of electronic percussionist Karl Bartos, Kraftwerk retreated to their Kling Klang recording studio to consolidate their sound. The band worked with scientific precision to create album after ground-breaking album, from 1975’s thematic Radioactivity and Trans-Europe Express (1977) to the futurist disco of The Man Machine (1978) and proto-­electro of Computerworld (1981). Each one considerably different from the last, each highly influential and all with subtle political overtones (the references to surveillance culture in Computerworld are sometimes overlooked). Ironically, although Kraftwerk were Düsseldorf ’s biggest musical export, they became increasingly divorced from the city’s own music scene. When the four band members were sighted around town, they remained close-knit, and very rarely mixed with the locals. The success of Kraftwerk, NEU! and La Düsseldorf was embedded in their determination to forge a path rooted in German identity rather than submitting to the dominant Anglo-American paradigm. The significance of La Düsseldorf ’s 1976 eponymous debut album cannot be overstated, particularly as the band initially achieved a level of commercial success in Germany that rivalled Kraftwerk’s. The name of the band and the almost identically titled but strikingly different tracks ‘Düsseldorf ’ and ‘La Düsseldorf ’ are littered with cultural references and markers. Using the ‘motorik’ beat first pioneered by Klaus Dinger from NEU!, ‘Düsseldorf ’ begins with the sound of an airplane landing, mirroring the photo of Düsseldorf airport at night that adorns the cover. By contrast, the proto-synth-punk of the second track ‘La Düsseldorf ’ sounds slightly ahead of its time. By starting the track with stadium chants from Düsseldorf EG ice hockey games, the band makes another strong local reference, and makes a defiant choice rather than a more obvious international sport such as football.


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On London radio in early 1979, David Bowie agreed that the band could be ‘the soundtrack of the Eighties’. This imprimatur from one of the most influential musicians of the last century placed La Düsseldorf ’s debut in the same influential canon as Autobahn and Radioactivity. It is a concept album rooted entirely in local cultural identity. Significantly, it also served as the musical bridge between the austere, ‘clinical’ approach of Kraftwerk, and the next wave of the city’s electronic ‘punk’ pioneers, who would largely reject Kraftwerk as a deliberate influence. The challenging and destructive character of Klaus Dinger was something the young punks could relate to. La Düsseldorf ’s 1978 follow-up Viva manages to be rockier, more bombastic, and yet more electronic at the same time. Punk arrived in Germany against an increasingly political backdrop that was dominated by the radical left-wing terrorist organization, the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Group). In late 1977 there was such an escalation of social unrest, culminating in the kidnapping and murder of businessman and industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer, that it would become known as the ‘German Autumn’. These months shaped the next wave of youth music in Düsseldorf. Electronics in their broader sense began to be adopted by the early Düsseldorf punk musicians who would make club Ratinger Hof their spiritual home. The Solingen band S.Y.P.H. briefly boasted a young Ralf Dörper in their ranks, who was already experimenting with tapes and synthesizers and would go on to form Propaganda. And the Gevelsberg band Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.) was notably industrial in its early years, using tapes and primitive synthesizers to hammer out a dystopian vision reflecting Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity, albeit through a more aggressive lens. In 1980, the playful and anarchic Der Plan (who had released D.A.F.’s debut on their Warning label) would release its debut, Geri Reig. With a gleeful neurosis, it owed more to bands like The Residents and Devo than anything local. It was perhaps Düsseldorf ’s first true post-punk electronic album and showcased a full-blown idiosyncratic German sense of humour. Meanwhile, D.A.F. moved to London and signed with the UK’s Mute Records. Their second album Die Kleinen und Die Bösen (The Small Guys and The Bad Guys) is notable for being Mute’s first album release. However,

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it is with the subsequent trilogy of albums that D.A.F. would build their significant reputation. Stripped down, in some cases literally, the duo of Spanish-born Gabi Delgado-Lopez and Bavarian Robert Görl became Düsseldorf ’s unlikely electro heartthrobs. D.A.F.’s simple combination of ticking sequencers, pounding drums, and breathless vocals produced a music that was pure, pulsating, and highly sexual, while the lyrics were forms of word painting. Delgado-­ Lopez was quite unique in the scene, being a first-generation immigrant, which gave his confrontational delivery on tracks such as ‘Der Mussolini’ and ‘Kebabträume’ (Kebab Dreams) a degree of authentic anger and inferred political gravitas. Indeed, a line from the latter would become a rallying cry for the city’s youth: ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei’ (Germany, Germany, it’s all over). Like many post-punk Düsseldorf bands, D.A.F. rejected Kraftwerk as an influence, instead embracing the more political and extroverted stance of the punk bands and the harder edge of New York bands like Suicide. Nevertheless, a clear line can be drawn between the muscular disco of Kraftwerk’s Man Machine and the even more muscular disco of D.A.F.’s Alles ist Gut, three years later. Despite having a live drummer, D.A.F. were deliberately anti-rock, choosing to almost completely avoid using cymbals in their music to symbolize their rejection of rock music’s bombast. The band’s reign was strikingly short. They recorded three albums in 18 months, all produced by Conny Plank at Mute’s suggestion, and by 1982 they were gone. With Kraftwerk having had an international hit with ‘The Model’, and supporting it with intensive touring, there was room for change in the Düsseldorf scene. Jürgen Engler, with Ralf Dörper and Bernward Malaka created Die Krupps, and a new Düsseldorf sound. The band’s name itself gave a provocative taste of what was to come, referencing the local Krupp family dynasty who were responsible for manufacturing most of the artillery that Germany deployed in both world wars. Die Krupps’ 1981 debut, Stahlwerksinfonie (Steelworks Symphony), saw the band play on Düsseldorf ’s steel city image. Choosing to integrate metallic percussion into their sound in a way that their local peers had not, the band were at the forefront of aggressive electronic body music (EBM) in Europe and became increasingly industrial with subsequent


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albums. Co-founder Dörper would leave the band in 1982 (later to re-­ join) to create the synth-pop group Propaganda. Female musicians were all but absent from the Düsseldorf scene. Dörper’s vision for Propaganda saw the addition of two female singers, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag. Together with classically trained musician Michael Mertens (replacing artist Andreas Thein), the band signed to Trevor Horn’s ZTT label in 1984, possibly the largest UK independent of the time, thanks to the success of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Horn and producer Stephen Lipson applied ZTT’s trademark sound, and with Dörper’s strident electronics, Merten’s classical influences and Freytag and Brücken’s vocals, the band had several hits, most notably ‘Duel’. With Propaganda’s hit album A Secret Wish, Düsseldorf had launched their first electronic stars of the digital age, closing a circle that had begun only a decade or so before with NEU!

The Clubs Key to enabling Düsseldorf to grow and nurture such a prolonged electronic music scene were two clubs. Each would prove enormously influential at crucial points in the city’s cultural history. In a city whose Altstadt has one of the largest concentration of bars and clubs in the world, Creamcheese in the late 1960s and Ratinger Hof a decade later would act as beacons for the city’s aspiring (and established) artists and musicians, and subsequently as catalysts of further creativity. Opened in 1968 by Hans-Joachim Reinert and named after Frank Zappa’s fictional character Suzy Creamcheese, the club’s interior (principally designed by Günther Uecker) was an artwork in itself. A mix of flickering TV screens, tube lighting, and light projections, it was Düsseldorf ’s own Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Artists such as Josef Beuys, Ferdinand Kriwet, Lutz Mommartz, and Sigmar Polke were regulars, as was Heinz Mack, co-founder of ZERO, the international art group, while Gerhard Richter contributed a mural to the club’s interior. Creamcheese was the scene for memorable music ‘happenings’, which saw many of Düsseldorf ’s key musical figures either in attendance or actively

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participating. The re-creation of Creamcheese at the Guggenheim in New York in 2014 is evidence of its influence internationally. In keeping with Joseph Beuys’ proclamation that ‘everyone is an artist’, the vaulted cellar of the Kunstakademie became a venue for wild, night-­ long parties and vibrant debates, where students discussed the political and philosophical issues of the day, including the role of art, democracy, and the university itself in society. To Beuys, life was a ‘social sculpture’ in which everything was art—far too liberated a view for the newly elected minister for the region as well as the city’s conservative mayor. But Beuys saw art and politics as natural enemies, and he was always keen to polarize in any way he could. In 1972, Beuys was dismissed from the academy by Johannes Rau, the Minister of Science and Education, for admitting students into his class who had previously been rejected. By then it was too late, and the youthful music and arts scenes of the city were inseparably intertwined. The Ratinger Hof was located in Ratinger Straße, on the edges of the Altstadt and just a stone’s throw from where Creamcheese stood. Throughout the early 1970s, it was a gritty place, serving Altbier to the long-haired hippy locals accompanied by a predictable soundtrack of boogie and blues. But in 1974, Ingrid Kohlhöfer and Carmen Knöbel, wife of prominent local artist Imi Knöbel, took over the club. Knöbel transformed the interior with red, blue, and yellow paints, neon lights, and mirrors. Carmen Knöbel’s connection with the Düsseldorf art scene soon saw Kunstakadamie students and alumni frequent the club, including Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Jörg Immendorff, Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberger, and Blinky Palermo. With Albert Oehlen’s brother Martin DJ-ing, the Hof ’s soundtrack was soon transformed. The long hair was replaced with short, the jumpers with plastics and leather, and it became fertile ground for bands of every description, outliving Creamcheese, which closed in 1976. Gigs by Wire, Pere Ubu, and 999 at Ratinger Hof during 1978–1979 have assumed a legendary status, not unlike the infamous Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall. Pere Ubu’s Allen Ravenstine used modular synthesizers, which became a major talking point and inspiration for those that were already seeing beyond the confines of guitars and


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punk rock. With the torch-paper lit and burning bright, Knöbel left Kohlhöfer to manage the club in the early 1980s, and it eventually succumbed to the scene it had spawned, which by then had outgrown its own city.

The Labels As was the case in other cities around the world, independent record labels had an important role to play in the creation and maintenance of the underground music scene in Düsseldorf. Brain Records, a sub-label of Sweden’s Metronome, was responsible for releasing NEU! alongside many Krautrock classics. Sky Records, founded by one half of Brain, Günter, Körber, would go on to do the same. However, both were Hamburg based, and while Düsseldorf did not have a Factory Records, Ata Tak, Pure Freude, Rondo, and Schallmauer would come the closest to fulfilling the role. Ata Tak (originally known as Warning Records) was started in 1979 by Kurt Dahlke of tongue-in-cheek synthesists Der Plan. The evolution of Der Plan itself is a perfect example of the symbiosis between the city’s art and musical worlds, with Dahlke collaborating with local Art Attack Gallery managers Frank Fenstermacher and Moritz Reichelt. Early releases on the label included Dahlke, who, under the name of Pyrolator, produced a series of landmark instrumental electronic albums, beginning with Inland. Dahlke, like Eno, also added distinctive electronic touches to other artists’ work, most notably the anthemic ‘Paul ist tot’ (Paul is dead) by local heroes Fehlfarben. D.A.F. released their debut album, Produkt Der Deutsch Amerikanischen Freundschaft, on Ata Tak, in 1979, but it was somewhat removed from the music they would become best known for. Ata Tak’s Dahlke and his short-lived replacement Chrislo Haas were responsible for first introducing synthesizers into D.A.F.’s sound. Haas would go on to form EBM pioneers Liaison Dangereuses with Berliner Beate Bartel, their self-titled release matching D.A.F. for its pulsating sexual energy. Also significant were the label’s early releases for Hamburg’s Holger Hiller, frontman of the Palais Schaumburg, and the 16-year-old Andreas Dorau, who wrote and performed the hit ‘Fred vom Jupiter’ (Fred from Jupiter) with the children’s choir Die Marinas.

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Unlike so many post-punk labels that disappeared after their initial boom years, Ata Tak’s significance grew throughout the 1980s with a number of important releases that captured a scene in transition, if functioning largely under the global radar. Most important of these are perhaps the mid-1980s’ recordings of Minus Delta T, a radical conceptual art project first founded in 1978. Ata Tak’s longevity, with Dahlke at the helm, has played an important part in developing and archiving the city’s electronic underground. Complementing Ata Tak’s curation of some of Düsseldorf ’s more understated electronic acts, the record store/label Pure Freude presided over a noisier catalogue. Founded in 1979 by Ratinger Hof ’s Carmen Knöbel and Peter Braatz (aka ‘Harry Rag’) of punk protagonists S.Y.P.H., the label is best remembered for releasing the debut album of local post-­ punk supergroup Mittagspause and its strong links to members of the influential Can. However, it was also responsible for a number of electronic releases including the curious ‘Lorelei’ single by Die Lemminge, the first collaboration between Ralf Dörper and Jürgen Engler, who would later appear on the scene as Die Krupps. Franz Bielmeier founded Rondo Records in 1979, having already been notable for publishing probably Germany’s first punk fanzine The Ostrich, and being the guitarist in Mittagspause. The label closed down in 1982 but its output was prolific. Meanwhile, in close pursuit was record shop/ label Schallmauer, which also managed to release a number of ground-­ breaking records in its three short years under the guidance of brothers Lothar and Eckhard Reiger. Released by local and appropriately titled magazine Überblick (Overview), much of the city’s indie label activity was neatly captured in the 1980 compilation Denk Daran! (Think About It!). With Ata Tak and Rondo helping to finance its release, the album was significant for being the first local compilation to capture a post-punk scene which was audibly integrating more and more electronics. Through all this significant change and innovation, the internationally renowned producer Conny Plank provided a remarkable thread that linked the city’s successive electronic scenes, despite his rural residential studio lying south of Düsseldorf ’s arch-rival Cologne. NEU!, Kraftwerk, La Düsseldorf, Michael Rother, and D.A.F all passed through Plank’s hands in just a few short years. Plank importantly provided an interface


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with electronic musicians outside of Germany, producing, engineering, or contributing to landmark records by Brian Eno, Ultravox!, and Devo. While Düsseldorf musicians rarely got to meet or mix with any of Plank’s international guests (only Can’s Holger Czukay was a welcome guest at Planck’s studio), it was still fertile ground for the cross-fertilization of ideas and an opportunity for some of the most innovative musicians of the time to take away a bit of the Düsseldorf sound when they left.

The Present These waves of pioneering artists have left an indelible mark on the city’s contemporary electronic dance music (EDM) and intelligent dance music (IDM) scenes. The band Kreidler was amongst the first to establish themselves in the ‘post-Kraftwerk’ wasteland of the 1990s. Sitting somewhere between electronica, IDM, and Krautrock, since 1994, they have released 14 albums that draw strongly on their local music heritage. A number of notable contemporary EDM and IDM clubs nestle in the throng of bars in Düsseldorf ’s tightly packed Altstadt and beyond, including Poison and Tor 3, the most famous clubs at the height of techno. Meanwhile, since 2012, Baka Gaijin (Japanese for ‘stupid foreigner’, and a deliberate nod to the city’s large Japanese community) has established itself as a Düsseldorf-based independent series of dance parties and a record label, with each unique event carefully curated. On a larger scale, dance music festivals such as the Connect Festival draw international crowds. Finally, it is hard to deny the eminence of Salon Des Amateurs, opened in 2004 by Tolouse Low Trax, Aron Mehzion, and Stefano Brivio. Not only did the trio meet at the Kunstakademie, the Salon itself is situated deep within it. First conceived as an avant-garde event space, the Salon has helped maintain the interplay between the city’s arts and music scenes. Internationally renowned pianist Hauschka rose to prominence through performances at the Salon, while Erol Sarp and Lukas Vogel (aka The Grandbrothers) have found success through integrating piano with electronics to sweeping cinematic effect. As DJs, Lena Willikens and Vladimir Ivkovic are amongst the Salon’s most famous residencies and international exports.

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Conclusion As with other electronic cities, Düsseldorf ’s ability to remain pivotal in the electronic music scene for more than 15 years was a product of the qualities of the social and cultural scenes, with a dose of good fortune. Düsseldorf was and is a proud city, whose socially liberated youth were not driven by the desire to leave for somewhere bigger and better. Artists in Düsseldorf didn’t just ‘mix with the locals’, they were the locals. When the working class were disenfranchised, it was with wider society and rarely with their hometown. The concentration of social and cultural activity that was, and continues to be, facilitated by the city’s famous Altstadt provided the perfect melting pot for movements to rise and fall, and allowed for key clubs to flourish and exert influence. The most vibrant periods for the Düsseldorf art scene and accompanying creative underground coincided with little or no protection or support from the state. As is often the case, art and culture flourished when politics was looking the other way. These days, the city seems more aware of its music heritage, and tourist offices are more likely to acknowledge it. As an example, in 2017, Düsseldorf won the right to stage the Grand Depart of the Tour de France and commissioned a Kraftwerk 3D performance at the huge heritage Ehrenhof assembly of gardens and buildings on the river north of the Altstadt. Klaus Dinger perfectly encapsulated these contradictions. His originality was a golden thread running through the musical life of Düsseldorf, but he received little or no recognition or support from the state in his lifetime. Dinger lyrically summed up his view of the city in the closing seconds of ‘Düsseldorf ’ from La Düsseldorf debut: ‘In Düsseldorf, in Düsseldorf, in Düsseldorf, am gold’nen, grauen Rhein.’ (‘In Düsseldorf, in Düsseldorf, in Düsseldorf, on the golden, grey Rhine.’)

Reference Esch, R. (2016). Electri_City: The Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music. London: Omnibus Press.

3 Resisting that Fascist Groove Thang: Sheffield as the Epicentre for Electronic Music (1973–2020) Paul Hollins

Introduction This chapter explores the argument that Sheffield in South Yorkshire is a city whose electronic musical heritage should place it alongside the more recognised centres of UK music culture—London, Liverpool and Manchester. Sheffield, three hours north of London, is a city that has had a significant international influence both musically and culturally. The city evokes dystopian and utopian sentiments in equal measure, and this contradiction is captured perfectly by Coe (1994) in the novel What a Carve Up!, describing the scene accompanying his arrival in Sheffield train station. The spectacular townscape lay before me: the steelworks and factory chimneys beside the railway were shrunk into insignificance beside the sheerness of the hillsides on which the city had been so boldly raised, with phalanxes of tower

P. Hollins (*) University of Bolton, Bolton, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_3



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blocks climbing steeply to their summit. Nothing had prepared me for such a sudden, austere beauty. (Coe 1994)

Why, in the seemingly most unlikely of places, did Sheffield emerge as the epicentre of the UK electronic scene? This south Yorkshire city is perhaps best characterised by its diverse, creative yet self-deprecating population—as musician Paul Bower once described it: “Andy Warhol’s factory in the land of Bobby Knutt” (Wray 2019).1 It is also a city where some of the protagonists remain uncomfortable with any notions of “region” or “scene”. But through the evolution of the scene from the early 1970s’ pioneers and 1980s’ pop stars through to the 1990s’ dance, rave and techno scenes, and the contemporary scene of the 2020s, we can begin to gauge the value of Sheffield’s legacy. The Sheffield electronic scene first emerged in 1973 with the formation of the influential and pioneering industrial/electronic band Cabaret Voltaire by Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, who in turn inspired experimental electronic band the Future (Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh and Adi Newton) to form in 1978. With the loss of Newton and arrival of singer Phil Oakey and then Adrian Wright, the Future became the Human League. The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire with Vice Versa and Clock DVA are colloquially referred to as the “Big Four”. This pioneering Sheffield scene was small and connected. The Human League’s Martyn Ware describes Cabaret Voltaire as “a bit like big brothers” (Interview with Martyn Ware 2016). Indeed, it was Cabaret Voltaire’s founding member Stephen Mallinder who introduced Ware to electronic music by playing Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express at a party. Founder members of Vice Versa and Clock DVA were also closely acquainted with the Human League through their collective association with the creative art project Meatwhistle, which will be clarified later in this chapter. The 1980s would result in international commercialisation and superstardom for many of those involved in this pioneering scene. The Human League would split into two successful bands: the Human League and Heaven 17. Oakey and Wright enlisted Sheffield musicians Ian Burden and, later, Jo Callis, but more importantly added female singers Joanne Catherill and Suzanne Sully. This band, with producer Martin Rushent,

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recorded the internationally successful album Dare in 1981. Meanwhile, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh would form Heaven 17 with friend and fellow Meatwhistle alumnus Glen Gregory, recording several successful albums including Penthouse and Pavement and The Luxury Gap. Vice Versa with the addition of Martin Fry would later evolve into the mainstream successful band ABC whose debut album Lexicon of Love was a worldwide hit in 1982. And while the younger bands garnered financial rewards, their mentors, Cabaret Voltaire, continued to develop, releasing the critically acclaimed dystopian electronic album Red Mecca in 1981 and subsequent influential industrial funk tracks. Although the 1980s belonged to the ‘Big Four’, the 1990s saw the continuing expansion of Sheffield electronic music through the trip-hop duo Moloko and the establishment of Sheffield label Warp Records. Moloko formed in 1994 and, like Heaven 17, derived their name from the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange—while Heaven 17 was the name of a band in the book, Moloko, from Moloko Plus, was a narcotic-­enhanced milk drink. The band consisted of the two founding members, Róisín Murphy and Mark Brydon, later supplemented on tour by Paul Slowly, keyboardist Eddie Stevens and guitarist Dave Cook. Brydon was an established music producer who had previously worked closely with Cabaret Voltaire. Moloko achieved both electronic dance floor and mainstream success in the 1990s/2000s. Another key player in this story is Sheffield electronic dance label Warp Records. The label was founded in 1989 and became a significant influence in the spread of the sub-genre of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). Finally, the current electronic dance scene and contemporary bands including the International Teachers of Pop (ITOP) are discussed. The research method for this chapter comprises a combination of primary and secondary data. The primary data was drawn from a series of semi-structured personal interviews with key individuals intrinsic to the development of electronic music in Sheffield. These interviewees included Martyn Ware—founder of the Human League, Heaven 17 and soundscape artist; Ian Craig Marsh—founder of the Human League and Heaven 17; Glen Gregory—lead singer of Heaven 17 and photographer of the Human League; Bob Last—manager of the Human League; Paul Bower—member of 2.3 and creator of Sheffield post-punk fanzine Gun


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Rubber; Mark White—founder member of Vice Versa and ABC; and Adrian Flanagan of International Teachers of Pop (ITOP), Eccentronic Research Council (ERC), and The Moonlandingz. Adrian is unique amongst the local interviewees, moving from Salford to Sheffield to further his music career. The interviews provide a valuable insight into the lived experience of those at the epicentre of the emergence of electronic music across the period of study 1977–2020. Secondary data was drawn from an extensive literature review including books, periodicals, journals and web-based resources.

The City: Contribution to Electronic Music Sheffield, with a population of nearly 600,000 (Population UK 2020, February), is located in South Yorkshire in the centre of the UK, at the juncture of three large rivers—the Sheaf, the Don and the Loxley. This location made it ideal for the early working of iron and the city was, as a result, at the heart of steel blade production from as early as the thirteenth century. Steel remained the primary industry of the city until the beginning of the twenty-first century. Another wave of growth was driven by the opening of the Sheffield canal in 1819 and steel production expanded dramatically during the industrial revolution. Much of the old, established City Centre was destroyed during the Sheffield Blitz in the Second World War, and had to be totally rebuilt. The old architecture was replaced with modern buildings in the Brutalist style through the 1950s and 1960s, which complemented the industrial story of the city. Martyn Ware of pioneering bands the Human League and Heaven 17 almost romantically describes the influence of this industrial environment as one of the catalysts behind the emergence of electronic music from the city. You’d go to sleep at night and hear the drop forges hammering away like a metronome … it was like a heartbeat for the whole city. (Interview with Martyn Ware 2016)

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A view shared by Jane Antcliffe-Wilson of I’m So Hollow: The environmental influences were very strong, industrial and austere—steeped in working-class history. Imagination and vision were left to run wild in this bleak landscape. (Antcliffe-Wilson in Wray (2019))

The political history of the city is inexorably linked to its working-­ class, heavy industry background. The city’s Trades and Labour Council was founded as the Sheffield Association of Organised Trades in 1822 and the city’s Parliamentary constituencies have largely been held by the Labour Party since the 1930s. These strong left-leaning political tendencies arguably reached their zenith in the early 1980s, when Max Williams of the Yorkshire Evening Post described it as “The Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire”, and the term began being used by both supporters and detractors of the Labour-controlled Sheffield City Council. This local administration operated policies diametrically opposed to that of the national Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. These environments, both physical and political, would serve as fertile ground to nurture a bourgeoning creative music scene from which many bands grew. Stephen Mallinder is a founding member of Cabaret Voltaire, and remembers this environment well: Sheffield sought cultural redemption in and through a sonic landscape continually shaped and stretched through osmosis by the once relentless rhythms of the city’s industrial pulse and emerging popular pastimes. Sheffield’s working-class consumption and production practices grew from the dancehalls and working men’s clubs, through sixties northern soul, to eighties electronica. (Mallinder 2007)

The post-industrial brutalist architectural landscape equally served as visual inspiration. The cover of The Golden Hour of the Future, a curious retrospective mix of early electronic tracks by the Future and the Human League, released by the Black Melody label in 2002, featured the Grade 2-listed brutalist architecture of the Park Hill council housing estate. The image was not used in the stereotypically negative or dystopian sense promoted by bands like Joy Division or The Normal, or invoking Fad


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Gadget’s bleak outlook, but in a more positive sense. The Human League was presenting a vision of hope. Paul Bower, the founder of seminal Sheffield punk band 2.3 and co-­ founder, with Adi Newton, of the influential Gunrubber2 fanzine, endorses this positive perspective. He suggested that in the mid-1970s, employment in heavy industry in Sheffield was still very good: You could quit a job on the Friday, find and start a new one the following week … It wasn’t that desperate at all; the unemployment came much later with Thatcher and the destruction of the steel industry. (Interview with Paul Bower 2017)

This positive view of Sheffield is challenged, though, by Adrian Flanagan from ITOP: Sheffield was a shit hole when I first moved here. All it influenced me to do was to want to leave. The city centre was horrible, the least inviting city centre I’d ever been to—it’s pretty nice now though! I think also because I wasn’t born here, I don’t fall into that old romantic bullshit of hearing the steel works in the background and the drop forges and going to bed at night dreaming of making a kick drum that sound like steel being crushed. I don’t believe that line at all! I think they just didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and it came out sounding like a horrible metallic noise. (Interview with Adrian Flanagan 2020)

As much as local industry is recognised as important to the development of Sheffield electronic music, arguably politics is equally influential. Without exception, the interviewees shared the common thread of broadly socialist principles, which underpinned their political perspective on the city and the development of their music. Consistent with this highly charged political background were electronic dance pioneers Heaven 17, formed immediately after the break-up of electronic music pioneers the Human League. Their song lyrics from the early 1980s reflect disquiet in relation to the social context of their work and are exemplified by their first commercial release, the 150 beats per minute (BPM) track: “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang” (Ware 1981).

3  Resisting that Fascist Groove Thang: Sheffield… 


Prior to the emergence of these pioneering electronic bands the city had boasted little in the way of contemporary musical heritage. Perhaps its most famous musical exports up to this point were the 1960s’ pop star Dave Berry3 and the 1970s’ rocker and the 1980s’ balladeer Joe Cocker.4 At the same time, Sheffield did have a thriving night club scene in the 1960s, dominated by venues including Club 60 and The Esquire, both owned by Terry Thornton, and Peter Stringfellow’s Mojo Club.

The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective Electronic music in Sheffield is still most associated with the 1970s’ pioneers such as Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League; with the 1980s’ global success of the Human League, Heaven 17 and ABC; and in the 1990s with Moloko and the influential Warp Records catalogue. The Warp label was founded in Sheffield in 1989 by Steve Beckett, Rob Mitchell and Robert Gordon. During the 1990s it was home to a roster of acclaimed innovative electronic bands including Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Forgemasters, Luke Vibert, Squarepusher and LFO.  The labels first Artificial Intelligence compilation album in 1992 launched the genre that was to become known as IDM (intelligent dance music). IDM was framed as “intelligent” or passive listening, as opposed to the physically active established rave culture, and was to prove extremely popular in the USA. However, controversially, this IDM tag was rejected by many of the artists on the album. In the late 1980s, the dance club Jive Turkey was established on the top floor of Mona Lisa’s restaurant, with DJ Richard Barratt (aka Parrot) and, later, Winston Hazel, who would introduce the new sounds of electro music. The club was supported by Richard H. Kirk and Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire and was a direct influence on the subsequent arrival of Warp Records. Kabal was an electronic clandestine dance club, which was supported by the likes of Róisín Murphy of Moloko, and ran for a period of fifteen years between 2001 and 2016. Informal, bordering on illegal, the club did not have a permanent location. Events were organised across Sheffield, in warehouses, restaurants, railway arches, deconsecrated churches,


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studio complexes, empty spaces and even a former funeral parlour. The Kabal events took place roughly twice a year for the first five years, though Kabal’s notoriety grew after events were staged at the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel in Walkley, a suburb located northwest of the city centre. The sets consisted of electronic music, techno, house, and old drum and bass sounds. The resident DJs were Peter Pipes, Winston Hazel and Tom Bell (aka Toddla T). Hazel, like the electronic pioneers before him, drew inspiration from Sheffield’s industrial past, in particular the steam hammers, which would reverberate up the Don valley: That clang has got so much clarity on the top end, but the subsonic resonance was relevant right across the city. (Interview with Winston Hazel 2017)

Not surprisingly, as the events became legitimised through the acquisition of licences called TENs (Temporary Event Notices), enthusiasm for the concept lessened and the evenings lost their gloss, although during the Tramlines Festival, held every year in Sheffield since 2009, the organisers hold dance club events curated by the clubs and DJs from the early 2000s. Another significant venue was Niche nightclub, originally managed by Mick Baxendale and later by Chris Bailey. The club opened in the early 1990s and closed in 2005, largely due to police pressure as a result of continued violence, highlighted when Baxendale was murdered outside the club during an altercation in October 1998. The club was most famous for spawning its own musical genre, Bassline. Other musical development initiatives have included the establishment, by Liam O’Shea, of Hope Works, located by the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. Hope Works is a space for music, art and creative industries, providing facilities for recording, engineering and music production coupled with rehearsal room facilities and music industry related activities. The organisation is dedicated to the people of Sheffield and to promoting, nurturing, developing and connecting talent. Delicious Clam, a live venue located in central Sheffield, is a further example of a local initiative and houses a non-profit record label and recording studio. Originally located in the Sheffield Cultural Industries Quarter, in 2016, the organisation, ironically, faced eviction from their premises in the face

3  Resisting that Fascist Groove Thang: Sheffield… 


of redevelopment of the space for domestic dwellings. But despite the success or failure of these projects, in the twenty-first century, the electronic music scene in Sheffield has largely reverted to the underground, reflected in the growth of an extremely healthy and growing electronic music club scene. Sheffield’s history shows us that when the political environment is challenging, electronic pop groups emerge from the youth of the city. Describing themselves as ‘a bona fide 125 bpm cuddle for the masses!’ the latest in this fine tradition are the self-deprecating International Teachers of Pop (ITOP) who burst on to the electronic music/dance scene in 2019 with their self-titled first album, constructed on authentically ancient analogue synthesisers and drum machines. Consistent with the electronic music pioneers of Sheffield, the album was infused with Giorgio Moroder beats, a sprinkling of South Yorkshire humour and politics, and as a bonus single, the gloriously entitled ‘Re-moaner Mix’ of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ (a sarcastic reference to the ongoing Brexit debates occurring in the UK at the time of release). I don’t care about scenes but there’s lots of people doing genres—bassline, bleep, electro pop, drone, acid house, experimental avant-garde … You can see all this in clubs like Kabal, Hope Works, Audacious Art Experiment/Hatch, Delicious Clam … that’s what is so good about the city … it’s musically quite an eccentric and eclectic musical landscape and I think that rubs off on my projects more than, say, one particular genre … I never give that a thought, I don’t have much time for regionalism … It narrows my psychic & cultural landscape … I often ask myself though … am I growing or in decline? I’d say both! (Laughs.) (Interview with Adrian Flanagan 2020)

Governance and Spaces The Sheffield City Council has a history of investment in the creative sector, a necessity which Mallinder notes: The absence of a dynamic commercial or entrepreneurial sector necessitated a visible and pro-active role from the municipal sector and considerable public


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funding. Such approaches fed into planned strategies and specific zoning rather than the organic, laissez faire procedures, built on existing areas and economies, which characterized Manchester’s later regeneration. (Mallinder 2011, p. 110)

One very early example was the support offered to Meatwhistle. This club was established in 1972 by performance artists Chris and Veronica

Fig. 3.1  1973 Meatwhistle Diary. (Source: Roger De Wolf)

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Wilkinson and closed in 1977. Initially the club was hosted in the Crucible Theatre, but later moved to a former Grammar School site in Hollis Road. As indicated in an early flyer (Fig. 3.1), the events diary for 1973 featured an eclectic mix of avant-garde, arts-based activities. Adi Newton, founder member of the Future, which preceded the Human League, described his experience with Meatwhistle, and of forming experimental bands with Martyn Ware and Craig Marsh: Meatwhistle was a ‘Thelemic Castle’5 for those early pioneers of Electronic, Ambient, Industrial, Minimal, Electro etc. … Meatwhistle was not a material resource, but more a mind space where concepts and ideas could be given full reign and experimented with … Instead of the theatrical experiments explored there, some of us went into the realm of sound, with an ensemble named the Dead Daughters. Existing for one fleeting performance, this surrealistic band featured Martin Ware, synthesizer; Ian Craig Marsh, synthesizer; and myself (Newton) on tape machines, tape loops & treatments. (Interview with Adi Newton 2017)

The Conservative Thatcher government enacted or continued policies in the 1980s which resulted in the collapse of both the steel and coal industries in Sheffield and much of the industrial UK. Even forty years later, the outcome of these policies is evident in the abundant derelict and abandoned industrial buildings—factories, storage facilities and warehouses—scattered across the city (Di Gaetano 1999). These spaces still remain cheap to acquire for those wanting to create music venues either permanently or in short-term arrangements. As a direct result Sheffield continues to house a thriving warehouse scene. Mainstream clubs such as DQ and The Leadmill are located in former factory sites, but it is the emergence of temporary clubs that characterises the current scene, prompted largely by a constructive council approach in the application of Temporary Event Notices (TENs). These notices provide the applicant with the ability to sell alcohol for up to seven days in an unlicensed venue and to host an audience of up to 500 people. At the time of writing, the impact of COVID-19 and the UK lockdown have yet to be fully understood, but they have delivered a


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significant challenge to the live music industry including the burgeoning electronic dance scene.

Conclusion Why in seemingly the most unlikely of places did Sheffield emerge as the epicentre of electronic music? Specific policy initiatives supported the development of the scene such as the TEN notices were successful in providing the basis for electronic underground gatherings to thrive and to take advantage of the available and low-cost industrial spaces. The Sheffield City Council’s riposte to the high unemployment created by the de-industrialisation that occurred under the successive ‘Thatcherite’ conservative governments of the 1980s was to instigate a range of policies and initiatives designed to establish the music sector as an integral part of the greater creative and cultural industries. Though Sheffield’s industrial legacy was not unique to the city, with both Manchester and Liverpool experiencing similar declines, the council’s proactive approaches included: establishing a Cultural Industries Quarter in 1994 (Montgomery 2004); creating and supporting the establishment of The Leadmill, a city centre live concert venue, in 1980; supporting Red Tape Central, a recording studio and practice rooms that significantly provided music education; and supporting the £15million development of the largely UK National Lottery-funded National Centre for Popular Music. Less successfully the contemporary music and culture museum opened in March 1999 and then closed in June 2000 due to a lack of visitor numbers, nevertheless this intervention was indicative of the council’s attempts to develop and capitalise on the city’s musical heritage (which by 1999 was firmly established). The site was subsequently purchased by Sheffield Hallam University as a home for the Student Union in 2003. Sheffield City’s approaches and policies focussed on regeneration in the post-industrial environment to counteract the impacts of the shattering of community cohesion previously bound by decades of the dignity of shared manual labour. Responding to the local music history—the electronic music for which Sheffield had become famous—the creation,

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development, production and consumption of music became a central pillar of cultural policy. At the core of this policy was the creation of a cultural precinct as well as a range of initiatives positively targeted to promote music at the epicentre of what were then termed creative and cultural industries. In the decades since these initiatives were launched, regional interventions to support the creative music industry have achieved mixed results. Earlier small-scale support of arts initiatives such as Meatwhistle proved successful in realising the potential of local creative arts, but this was largely due to the enthusiasm and generosity of founders Chris and Veronica Wilkinson. This project provided the nucleus of an emergent electronic music scene whose influence would continue into the twenty-­ first century. Meatwhistle was a timely opportunity for those early developers of electronic music, the makers of Ambient, Industrial, Minimal, Electro and so on. Meatwhistle was not so much a material resource, but more a place where concepts and ideas could be given full reign to develop and grow. Other initiatives, including the support of The Leadmill venue and the Hope Works project, have provided lifeblood to the music scene in the city. But at the same time, significant investments in initiatives like the National Centre for Popular Music proved catastrophic failures. Sheffield’s industrial legacy, that of large, open, accessible and cheap space, has been at the core of its musical development (Moss 2002). This resource has enabled generations of Sheffield electronic musicians to thrive, from pioneers like Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League to the current warehouse electronic dance scenes. While these conditions remain in place, electronic music will continue to grow, paradoxically due to and in spite of local government policy intervention.

Notes 1. Bobby Knutt was a Sheffield-born comedian and actor popular in the ‘Working Men’s Club’ and cabaret scenes of the UK. He was a popular entertainer who was a main stay of light entertainment television in the 1970s, as well as soaps like Emmerdale and Coronation Street.


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2. Gunrubber was a Sheffield-based fanzine and published seven issues between January and December 1977. 3. Dave Berry (b.1941), a Sheffield-born pop singer whose top-ten 1960s’ hits included ‘Little Things’ and ‘The Crying Game’. 4. Joe Cocker (1944–2014), a Sheffield-born rock and soul singer, who appeared at Woodstock in 1969 and had a string of hits through the 1970s and 1980s. 5. Thelemic Castle is a reference to Thelemic mysticism, developed by Aleister Crowley in the early part of the twentieth century.

References Coe, J. (1994). What A Carve Up! Viking: UK. Di Gaetano, A. A. (1999). Urban Governance and Industrial Decline: Governing Structures and Policy Agendas in Birmingham and Sheffield, England, and Detroit, Michigan, 1980-1997. Urban Affairs Review, 34(4), 546–577. Gregory, G. Craig Marsh, I. & Ware, M. (1981). We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang [Recorded by H. 17]. Sheffield Mallinder, S. (2007). Sheffield is not Sexy. Nebula, 4(3), 292–321. Mallinder, S. (2011). Movement Journey of the Beat. Murdoch University WA, School of Media Communication and Culture. Perth: PhD thesis Murdoch University. Montgomery, J. (2004, February). Cultural Quarters as Mechanisms for Urban Regeneration Part2 : A Review of four cultural quarters in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Planning, Practice and Research, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.108 0/0269745042000246559. Moss, L. (2002). Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter 20 Years On: What Can Be Learned from a Pioneering Example. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 8(2), 211–219. Population UK. (2020, February). Retrieved from UK Population: https:// www.ukpopulation.org/sheffield-­population/. Wray, D.  D. (2019, December 13). Sheffield’s Post-Punk Explosion: Synths, Steel and Skinheads. The Guardian. Retrieved March 2020.

4 Berlin and Manchester Compared: An Interview with Mark Reeder John Willsteed

We spoke to Mark early in 2020, and again in August, after the lockdowns.

Q.  Is the electronic music scene becoming increasingly commodified, especially in relation to the scene in Berlin? I have always believed that once you sell your music, then you have entered into the commercial world. It doesn’t matter that you believe that your music is cool and underground or not; if you sell your music, then you are already on the path of commercialisation. That is a fact. The dream every artist has of being recognised, being successful and selling loads of records and having sell-out gigs, but remaining underground, is ignoring a basic truth—by the time they have reached that point, they are, or have become, commercial. Q.  Could you speak to the difference between underground/independent and commercial/popular?

J. Willsteed (*) Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_4



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The difference between underground and commercial (or popular) is blurred. I would say there is no real difference between the two, except perhaps for style and presentation. In the 1960s and 1970s, bands like Deep Purple or Pink Floyd were considered the progressive underground, but they both had chart hits like ‘See Emily Play’ or ‘Black Night’. So, does that popularity make them less underground? We all know what commercialisation is, but how do you define the underground? Maybe it’s an acceptable term to distance one type of artist from another? It’s cool to be underground, but it’s not cool to be commercial. Yet where do you draw the line? Underground can simply mean a small group of people no one knows about (yet); just doing their own thing; selling 25 copies of their latest 12" and struggling to survive. Does that fact alone make them cool, credible underground artists? What happens when, suddenly, they release a track that goes through the roof and sells 250,000 copies? They get millions of clicks on social media and everyone wants a piece of their cool and credible action. What does that make them? Are they still underground? Or are they commercial pop? Even though the music they are making is still exactly the same, when they sold 25 copies and didn’t have enough money to buy a cup of coffee? I think maintaining credibility, on the other hand, is much more important. If people buy your records and go to your shows because they really like you, and you touch a particular nerve, and you are able to attract the masses because they like your music, well that is fine too. Bands like Depeche Mode or New Order have managed to have immense commercial success without compromising their ideals or their overall sound and seem to have remained true to their ideals. They are often mentioned as inspiring by hundreds of artists the world over; they have number one selling albums, but are they considered commercial? Not really. Q.  How would this apply to the Manchester scene that you were involved in back in the late 1970s and early 1980s? The underground music scene in Manchester was always one of desperation. In the 1970s we wanted to make credible sounding music, but at the same time be successful, and if you could, have that hit record which would enable you to escape the misery of Manchester. In the

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twenty-first century, Manchester has become a much more cosmopolitan city, probably the most international city in the UK. The city’s musical image is inspirational. Q.  Was there cross-pollination between electronic music scenes and other music scenes? In the past, there certainly was. I remember seeing Tangerine Dream in Manchester in 1977, when Edgar Froese played an electric guitar on stage that he had bought that afternoon. This caused a bit of a sensation— bringing a traditionally rock instrument into a purely electronic band. In Manchester in the 1970s synthesizers were very expensive and most bands couldn’t afford such exotic instruments, whereas a Farfisa Organ was much easier to obtain. Germany was leading the way in electronic music, but we thought bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream or Cluster were complicated and futuristic. Having limited access to electronic instruments, we had no idea of what synthesizers could actually do. Bernard Sumner from Joy Division made his own Transcendent synthesizer from a kit, which cost a fraction of the price of a MOOG. Although it sounded nothing at all like a MOOG, Roland or Korg, it added a futuristic, otherworldly atmosphere to the sound of the band, and separated them from the traditional punk band set-up. With the arrival of affordable synths like the Korg MS20, Sheffield bands like The Human League and Cabaret Voltaire embraced electronics as part their sound. Punk was experimenting. Bands like Suicide were punk played with keyboards and rhythm boxes. At the dawn of the 1980s, John Foxx was having UK chart success with ‘Underpass’ and Gary Numan was asking ‘Are Friends Electric?’ Synthpop was leading us in a new musical direction. And cross-pollination wasn’t just about electronic and rock or punk. Brass instruments came into the scene from reggae—in Manchester during the punk era there were lots of reggae bands supporting punk bands. This was like Berlin in the early 1980s, where the scene was small enough to allow everyone to intermingle ideas and sounds. There were no limits as to what kind of music you made. Traditional 1-2-3-4 punks were on stage with abstract avant-garde artists and all of it was accepted.


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That thirst for adventure doesn’t seem to be so prevalent in the current electronic scene. In the early days of techno, everything was connected. House and Techno performed side by side with Ambient electronic— there were no boundaries. Today, there are boundaries. Any techno sub-­ genre has to adhere to a certain structure and sound to be accepted. Personally, I’ve always liked to mix things up, but most people are purists and the mere thought of having, say, guitar on a techno track, is almost unthinkable. Ironically, electronic musicians like to believe that they are innovative, or cutting-edge in some way, but the sad fact is that the scene can be conservative and regimented. If your track doesn’t have the right elements deemed necessary for DJ use, it falls through the cracks. Thankfully, there are always adventurers who cross the boundaries, but they are in a minority. I think the devoted fan sticks to one genre of electronic music (Trance, Techno, House, Ambient or Analogue), and this has had an effect on the structures and sounds of new music. This is especially noticeable when a computer algorithm makes choices (like an A&R robot!), not only defining a track as House or Techno but also deciding whether it’s worthy of a place on DJ streaming platforms. This is in direct contrast to the 1980s, where there was a wider acceptance of musical diversity and individuality. Nothing was too outlandish or otherworldly and genres like disco and electronics walked hand-in-hand with industrial or experimental. Sensing this freedom in the Berlin new wave scene, my own band Die Unbekannten embraced synths, sequencers and drum machines in the early 1980s and attempted to mix punk-rock ideas with soul and disco at a time when not having a live drummer was frowned upon. Back in the 1970s, Manchester had a reputation for innovative sounding bands—the usual guitars, drums and bass but with something special thrown in to make it interesting. After Bernard Sumner experienced the beginnings of the Hi-NRG scene of early 1980s’ Berlin, he took these sounds back to Manchester. New Order, who were then seen as pretty cutting-edge, mixed electronic elements like sequencers and synths and managed to teach white boys how to dance without being ‘disco’, but in reality, they’re a traditional band set-up with added sequencers and a drum machine.

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In Berlin in the early 1990s we had moved away from the traditional image of a band, and our scene was made up mainly of solo performers, DJs, or at most a duo with a simple synth stage set-up, whereas Manchester was ravin’ it up with Madchester bands like Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses. These bands drew their ecstatic, enthusiastic sounds from the acid-house scene, but were still sticking with the traditional line up of guitars, drums and bass, whereas Berlin had become entirely electronic, with Atari, Cubase and C64, Roland and Korg. Q.  Berlin is a place for tourists to go clubbing but is it still a magnet for electronic artists? Yes, of course. In Berlin you can meet other people who are also in a similar situation and are equally as creative. Everyone has plans and ideas. You can pool those ideas and gain inspiration off each other and go places you never dreamed of. You can mix art and music and IT and all the rest of it. You can go clubbing and meet all kinds of people. Berlin offers the possibilities to realize these ideas. We have such an abundance of great venues and fascinating locations too. Q.  Are there contextual factors: such as other forms of arts in the city, or a specific creative “milieu” that might explain the thriving electronic scene in Berlin? Art, film, fashion and music scenes have always gone hand-in-hand in Berlin. Berlin had a thriving film industry after World War 1. From the 1930s, music and film were intrinsically connected to one another, and to the contemporary fashions of the day. In 1980s’ Berlin, the so-called avant-garde scene was a mixture of film makers, musicians and fashionistas with a touch of theatre. Notorische Reflexe is a good example, promoting themselves as multimedia and wearing atomic power station-style paper overalls during their performances. When the techno scene started, and new technologies in film and music making emerged, we also saw new fabrics and printing techniques becoming available to fashion designers, leading to all kinds of sci-fi styles, like rainbow reflective printing, or silver backed cloth and neon hair colouring.


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Today, mainstream fashion imagery has become stagnant. People are still out there designing and being creative, and you can see that in the many fashion shops in Berlin, but most of it is for the niche; for those few who still dare to dress up and go out. There are no obvious fashion trends connected to a musical style like there were in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s or even 1990s, when fashion defined a particular musical genre. You might see a hairstyle capturing the imagination of a season (such as Ariane Grande’s ponytail!) but it isn’t necessarily connected to any particular musical style. It seems a Ramones or Unknown Pleasures t-shirt has become a cultural statement as well as a fashion item, but sadly many who wear these shirts have probably never heard the bands they are wearing. In fact, techno fashion was basically a t-shirt. Understandable really, because when you are in a packed club, piled up and sweating profusely, the last thing you want to be wearing is some expensive designer shirt. You need freedom of movement. I remember Sven Väth in the early 1990s promoting the idea of the faceless/fashionless DJ. He claimed it was unimportant how you looked, that a DJ could just wear a t-shirt and jeans. Of course, he himself stood out like a sore thumb with his chain-­ mail t-shirt, silver trousers, goatee and man-bun! But really, art and music in Berlin are inseparable. After historical tourism, most people come to the city to go clubbing, but once here, they discover a whole new scene. It depends on what you are into. We had Techeles in Berlin’s Mitte, a squatted former theatre building which became a microcosm of underground art in the 1990s. After it was purged of its artists, they all had to rethink their strategies and move elsewhere. It was sad at the time, but such drastic measures also help to force the scene to reinvent itself. I don’t think we really have one particular art-­ milieu so to speak, as the whole city is that. You have areas like Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg where things happen, and people gather. The electronic music scene is scattered through the city. Q.  What are your impressions of the scene in Manchester now, compared to the past? I was recently in Manchester, DJing at a fairly newish club called YES. It had a series of rooms, spread on several floors, each dedicated to live music or dance. Upstairs in the live pink room, A Certain Ratio were

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celebrating their 40th anniversary, and in the basement, there was a hip-­ hop evening. The ground-floor entrance had a restaurant—this was the room I had to DJ in. It was quite strange DJing to people while they were stuffing their faces with food. Later, they cleared the tables away so the people could dance. This seems to be the norm in Manchester now. It all appeared very improvised and reminded me of the SB disco under the TV tower in communist East Berlin, which was a worker’s canteen during the day and a disco in the evening. There you could dance the night away to Kool and the Gang, while inhaling the aroma of braised steak and cabbage. I guess this is perhaps the only way a club can survive in Manchester these days. The city has become a very different place to the city I left back in 1978, or even since the start of the millennium. Maybe it also has something to do with the way young people consume music? Today, Manchester has hardly any record shops. Back then, the city had a great selection of record shops, loads of little clubs and venues and discos. Q.  Were there other changes to the city and its nightlife? And are you aware of any intervention by local council or national government? Now Manchester seems only to rest on its laurels. It prides itself on being the home of punk rock and The Haçienda, but it seems there’s really nothing like that in Manchester anymore. Electronic musicians are finding it more and more difficult to find a place to party. Where the city was historically eager to experiment and take a chance, everything is played safe nowadays. The city planners certainly have no time for experimenting with electronic entertainment. For a city that has a heritage of great music and greater musicians, from my conversations with other artists, it’s becoming much harder to find anywhere other than a place that isn’t just food and drink and having a DJ in the bar. At the turn of the millennium, I thought the city had a lot of cool, underground clubs as well as some commercial clubs. These days, it seems only like the Warehouse project under Piccadilly station has survived. This is a true underground club in every sense of the word and probably one of the best in Britain. Of course, there are plenty of places playing pop, rap and hip hop, but Manchester no longer has a vibrant underground electronic club scene like it had in the late 1980s and 1990s. Even traditional rock bands have difficulty in finding places to play. Naturally, this also forces bands to be


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creative and utilize buildings on the outskirts of the city, like former churches or factories as locations. Alan Hempsall, of Crispy Ambulance, recently decided to start a new experimental electronic festival called Subliminal Impulse. He wanted to provide a platform for young electronic musicians in Manchester. He had real difficulty in finding locations willing enough to present the young unknown bands. Since the pandemic, bricks and mortar venues are apparently able to apply for aid, but these are simply government loans. There seems to be nothing proposed for artists. Something that I find disgraceful, especially when you consider how important the British music industry is, not only for maintaining the creative image of the country, but also for the revenue it generates. Q. How would this compare to opportunities in Berlin? Well, in Berlin there are scores of record shops varying from new to second hand, and each transgresses all genres of music. We have spontaneous open-air gigs and festivals in the summer (something you can’t have in Britain, due to the Criminal Justice Bill that was passed in the mid-1990s). The main reason for the success of Berlin’s nightlife is the fact the city has a 24-hour economy and we don’t have a drinking curfew, like in Britain. So, bars and clubs can be open every day or all weekend if they desire. The Berlin club scene is as vibrant as ever. The techno scene is constantly evolving as new people come to the city to play. It has spawned analogue synth parties in derelict buildings, and ambient modular synth performances by brilliant artists like Prague’s Oliver Torr in abstract art galleries. It’s not only about Berghain or Tresor, although these two magnificent clubs are the first point of contact for many looking for the “real deal”. Once here, people discover there are other great clubs scattered around the town, like the Griesmuhle club in Neukoelln, which hosts retro-techno parties, as well as full-on-contemporary techno parties, or the fascinating Berlin Atonal festival in Kraftwerk Berlin, the former power station. In relation to these urban spaces, the sad fact is that most property speculators feel it is necessary to close a club or venue, tear it down and redevelop it into office space, without taking into consideration that the whole reason Berlin is cool and attractive is because of the very places

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they are tearing down. The old Tresor club suffered from this fate. However, not all is lost. I know of a woman in Berlin who bought an entire house block, so that it could be used as cheap and affordable artistic space in an area that is considered prime real estate. Q.  Are there any post-Covid policies to sustain electronic artists (or the arts in general) in Berlin? After the announcement in 2019 of how much the Berlin club scene alone generated in 2018 (€1.4 bn) the government have taken a far more serious approach towards the importance of our city’s music and club scene, especially considering the loss of income during the pandemic. It has forced the government to consider what a permanent loss of our city’s nightlife could mean long term for Berlin, and they are currently in negotiations with the clubs and venues, on how they can alleviate their current financial situation, so that they are not forced to close their doors indefinitely. As far as artists go, when the pandemic arrived the German government made it possible for the self-employed—and this includes artists— to apply for funding to help them through the initial phase of the lockdown. The government is also developing strategies to assist artists and entertainment businesses in the long term. During the pandemic, I would have liked to have seen the government freeze all rents and utilities for the duration of the lockdown. After all, if you are not earning money, how can you be expected to spend it? Many have not only lost their jobs or businesses, but their careers. Governments should seriously consider creating a financial safety net for all artists in the event of situations beyond our control such as the Covid-19 pandemic. They need to guarantee all artists a basic minimum living wage. Of course, an applicant would have to meet certain artistic criteria to be able to apply for such government assistance. Governments also need to ensure artists don’t lose their creative spaces or homes to greedy or unsympathetic landlords. Q.  To what extent have planning or real estate interventions had an effect on the scene?


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It is nothing new for real estate speculators to jump on property that has been turned from an unusable derelict ruin into a cool club or venue. It is always tragic when a venue is forced to close but forced change can also be a creative opportunity—you have to be prepared to adapt and it can make the stuff of legend. Both The Haçienda in Manchester and Tresor in Berlin were sold off to developers. These closures had an obvious effect on the local musical landscape, but only in the short term. After the shock had subsided, the scene reinvented itself, as other venues seized the chance to provide an alternative. Sadly, The Haçienda closed its doors forever, as the city geared itself around office space and luxury apartments, whereas Tresor found a new home in the Kraftwerk. Q. Are there policies that may hinder such development of new spaces? Always. Some politicians just don’t understand the importance of nightlife to the cultural image of their city. They see clubs or venues as sordid drug dens, places of debauchery or money laundering. There are, however, some politicians who do get it. Berlin has always held an open mind towards its nightlife—after all, the success of the city has been built upon the fact that it’s open 24 hours. It’s also important to note that there is no drinking curfew, a really essential aspect of the city and how it functions. In many progressive cities, like Amsterdam or Budapest, they have introduced a night mayor, whose remit is the nightlife of the city. This is a really positive move and shows that they take their nightlife seriously. Q. What is the scene like since the lockdowns? Well, for the club scene, it is much like everywhere else. I think the local government, though, have finally woken up and will be investing much more into our artistic cultural sector the moment it is possible to open clubs and venues again. They have already given institutions like Initiative Musik massive financial support for artists. More broadly, this is the turning point that I thought would eventually happen. After 30 years of techno, it was on the brink. I believed something new was on the horizon. Obviously, I didn’t think it would be exactly like this. I imagined that it would be a natural generational progression which would force the musical change, but as it happens Covid-19 has been the catalyst.

4  Berlin and Manchester Compared: An Interview with Mark… 


Every club is closed, and there are no open-airs, no festivals. Club music has been relegated to online DJ sets. I think this situation is having a profound effect on the way people consume contemporary music and especially what we perceived as the club scene. Yet it is the new music that’s being produced that will shape the future. The current lockdown has created a scenario where we have desperate DJs playing from home or streaming from some room with decks in the hope that people won’t forget them. People are becoming more and more nostalgic and are constantly looking back at the good times before lockdown. The desire to dance together and hug and hold will be what defines the sound of the next musical generation. There is a trend of creating a retro-modern style of dance and people have been into things like “Ten Albums That Have Changed My Life” challenges on social media. This revisiting of the sounds of the creative 1980s, the deaths of electronic idols like Gabi Delgado and Florian Schneider, has triggered new interest in going back to those retro sounds (see bands like Rue Oberkampf ). The technology is cheap and easy to get, and people are working out how to make this kind of retro-dance music. Dance music you can enjoy at home. The sounds of the past becoming the sounds of the future.

5 London’s Underground Acid Techno Scene: Resistance and Resilience in the Global City (1993–2020) Stéphane Sadoux

Introduction A quarter of a century ago, Lovatt (1996) claimed that the night-time economy was increasingly being put forward by cities as a key component of their marketing strategies. Annual admissions to UK clubs rose from 142 million in 1993 to 199 million in 1998 and Hobbs et  al. (2000) predicted they would reach 238 million by 2002. Whilst the UK had arguably turned into clubland by the early 2000s, admissions dropped by 23% between 2010 and 2015 (Mintel 2016). In an alarming press release published in 2016, Mayor Sadiq Khan said that over an eight-year period, London had lost over half of its nightclubs (Mayor of London 2016). He had pledged to fight for nightlife venues in his manifesto, and as Mayor he reacted to club closures: following two drug-related deaths, flagship club Fabric was shut down after Islington Borough Council revoked its licence. S. Sadoux (*) University of Grenoble, Grenoble, France e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_5



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Although club closures in London have been widely commented on in the media, academic enquiries into the subject are to date relatively scarce. A recent exception is a paper by Garcia (2018) in which nightlife in London and Berlin is examined, with its troubles seen as a symptom of gentrification and the struggle for urban space. In addition, Garcia (2018) identifies an underground culture that operates in specific urban spaces. This chapter focuses on such a culture and community, namely the 25-year-old London acid techno scene. It provides an overview of its history and highlights the coexistence, in London, of the mainstream and the underground; of licensed and illegal events and venues. It examines the ways in which public policy has recently attempted to embrace and safeguard nightlife. The chapter ends with a case study of Club 414, whose history illustrates the evolution of planning frameworks and the apparent inability of current public policy to fully counter real estate pressures, notwithstanding the progress made in recent years. Three types of sources underpin this research. First, key documents related to planning and culture, published by public authorities and ad hoc bodies, whose content highlights recent shifts in public policy with regard to nightlife and clubs. Second, planning applications and subsequent reports on decisions which show how policy is implemented through development control and how such regulation has evolved in the light of shifts in policy orientation. Third, interviews with a range of stakeholders, which were carried out between 2018 and 2020. Interviewees include local authority staff who have been involved in either planning or cultural policy in London; club owners who have been affected by real estate pressure; and music producers, DJs and events promoters who have played a key role in the London acid techno scene since it emerged in the early 1990s.

 he Electronic Dance Music Revolution T in London The birth of acid house is regularly referred to as the UK’s greatest music revolution since the birth of rock and roll or the explosion of punk: its huge impact on music and youth culture broke down ethnic, geographic,

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sexual, class and cultural divides (Bainbridge 2013). This genre, which originally appeared in Chicago, is a great example of the pivotal role of technology in music production: its sound is shaped by the Roland TB-303 synthesiser. The machine, released in 1982, was designed to act as a bass guitar, but by distorting it, artists produced a unique squelching sound that revolutionised electronic music. Acid house derived from house but was harder and incorporated the distinctive TB-303 generated sequences. It was instrumental in shaping the early rave scene. Several London venues opened by DJs, most notably Danny Rampling’s Shoom and Nicky Holloway’s Trip, contributed to spreading it from the late 1980s. Alongside the apparition of these new ad hoc venues, established clubs which had built their reputation in other genres started to host acid house and other electronic music events. Several areas became clubbing hotspots, particularly the run-down and warehouse-dominated King’s Cross neighbourhood: six-room Bagley’s Studios opened in 1991, while The Cross, taking over six storage arches in the Goods Yard, was launched two years later. Notwithstanding the acid house craze, parties then reflected the eclectic nature of the nascent rave culture, based on a blend of genres, including techno, trance and house. In the West End, the Velvet Rooms were famous for house and techno nights curated by Carl Cox, and contributed to the emergence of London’s drum and bass scene. The End, launched by DJs Mr C and Layo Paskin, was also notorious for hosting techno, house, drum and bass and breakbeat nights. Turnmills opened in Farringdon in 1990 and became the first British venue with a 24-hour music licence. A decade later, Fabric opened nearby. Another clubbing hotspot was Brixton: The Fridge hosted trance nights, with DJs such as Mark EG and Mark Sinclair, whilst the George IV and Club 414 held non-stop events on weekends. Licensed venues thus flourished in various neighbourhoods, although most were located in the central and inner city. Yet, the electronic music revolution in London did not merely take place in licensed venues: illegal events were regularly being held throughout the city.


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 he London Acid Techno Scene: The Sound T of the Underground Although the birth of acid house was decisive in popularising electronic dance music in London, it has overshadowed another significant aspect of the city’s cultural history: the rise of the squat scene and the associated emergence of acid techno. Pioneers not only occupied urban spaces illegally for organising parties: many lived in buildings they did not own or rent. Squatting was not only a financial necessity: it was also a political act, a reaction against inequalities. Forty years ago, Kearns claimed that Britain was the cynosure and prototype of squatting in Western Europe and that squatters “resisted, and subsequently rejected, bureaucratic abuse and discrimination in the housing system, devising alternative, innovative strategies for attaining their goal of shelter” (Kearns 1981, p. 148). In the early 1990s, the widespread availability of empty buildings in London and assistance provided by the Squatter Advisory Service facilitated this way of life. So did Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, whereby the use of violence to enter a building which is known to be occupied creates an offence. “We had the law on our side” recalls Chris Liberator, a DJ, producer and pioneer of the London acid techno scene, who, together with Aaron Liberator and Julian Liberator founded the Stay Up Forever record label in 1993 (Interview with Chris Liberator, 20/12/2020). Aaron Liberator explains that although these artists, who met in marginal spaces, came from different backgrounds, they were drawn to the same type of rave music and felt out of place in what they call commercial events: they described themselves as ‘misfits’. This feeling of not belonging to the legal and commercial scene led them to embark on their own journey for music production and event organisation. They appreciated the sound of European acid trance, but did not endorse its extensive use of melody and keyboards. They enjoyed the hard edge of Detroit’s Underground Resistance productions, but found them too slow. The sound they were longing for simply did not exist (Interview with Aaron Liberator, 27/06/2019).

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The Sound of a Community The birth of London acid techno can be seen as the artistic incarnation of DIY: DJ and producer D.A.V.E. the Drummer, another pioneer of the scene, explains that it was initially produced in home studios with low budget equipment rather than expensive professional studios (Interview with D.A.V.E., 24/05/2020), whilst Chris Liberator adds it was the outcome of a process whereby technological boundaries, such as the desire to layer several TB-303 sequences, were gradually pushed (Interview with Chris Liberator, 20/12/2020). The distinctive sound of London acid techno is characterised by heavily distorted, bright and often screaming TB-303 sequences and the use of analogue drum machines, particularly Roland’s TR-909. Producers and followers often describe it as pounding and filthy. As Darc Marc explains: “With acid techno, you have to distort to get that punk rocky sound. But people were distorting guitars before, it gives the energy” (Interview with Darc Marc, 06/08/2020). This statement is far from insignificant: prior to pioneering London acid techno, a number of artists were musicians in bands and some, including Chris Liberator and acid techno producer Geezer, were, and still are, involved in punk rock. According to DJ and producer Sterling Moss, tracks produced by such artists are distinctive because they are built like songs (Interview with Sterling Moss, 28/06/2019). Cross-fertilisation occurred between techno, house and trance, but London’s acid sound is partly a hybridisation of electronic music and punk rock. Productions do not always include vocals yet when they do, D.A.V.E. the Drummer explains they “add a certain element of comedy to take the serious edge off, because music can get overly pompous” (Interview with D.A.V.E, 24/05/2020). Although DJ and producer Acid Steve similarly suggests the music “doesn’t take itself too seriously”, he acknowledges that many tracks carry strong political messages (Interview with Acid Steve, 21/12/2019). This point is illustrated by Rowland the Bastard’s “Destruction” (Smitten, Destruction, 2001) which opens with an excerpt of George Bush’s speech following 9/11, D.A.V.E. the Drummer’s recent ‘Hey Trump’ (Hydraulix, Hey Trump, 2020), featuring samples of a crowd demonstrating, ‘Fuck the Tories’ by Lee S. and


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Benji303 (EG303, Fuck the Tories, 2019) and ‘Crimes of the Government’ by Acid Steve (Pounding Warehouse, Crimes of the Government, 2020). London’s acid techno reacts to local, national and international affairs, and rejects violence and austerity, yet its political dimension is also a paradox: according to Geezer, “music has always been a good way of getting your political views across, however, it is about unity, expression and freedom, whereas politics are about control, money, etc. so they shouldn’t really co-exist”. He adds, however, that the current context of austerity is the basis for many of his productions being politically motivated (Interview with Geezer, 27/03/2020). Acid techno flourished on several London-based labels from 1993 onwards, most notably Stay Up Forever, Routemaster and Smitten. D.A.V.E. the Drummer explains that their community believed acid techno was “a London thing and this appears in the records a lot” (Interview with D.A.V.E., 24/05/2020). This intertwining of music and the city is indeed apparent in a number of ways. First, in track names, as exemplified by ‘Nothing Can Save Us, London!’ (Star Power, Nothing Can Save Us, London!, 1994), ‘London Acid City’ (Lochi, London Acid City, 1996) and ‘London Has Fallen to the Aliens’ (Sterling Moss and Steve Mills, London Has Fallen to the Aliens, 2015). Second, it appears in lyrics: ‘One Night in Hackney’ (Dynamo City, One Night in Hackney, 2004) tells the ‘story of a young man who visited London for the first time’ and attended an underground party. Third, through the artwork: for example, Routemaster Records is named after London’s traditional double-decker bus, which appears in the logo and graphics for the label. For a number of years, label founder Lawrie Immersion’s studio was located in such a vehicle which was driven each weekend to a new squatted location, made available by the high number of vacant buildings in a context of industrial decline. Yet, interviews reveal that for most artists, London is viewed as a community more than a place—a claim perfectly illustrated by Aaron Liberator’s comment: “Certain individuals come together, and it becomes the sound of the city. It’s the people, not the city” (Interview with Aaron Liberator, 27/06/2019). Although London’s acid techno producers and DJs eventually started playing in licensed venues, they mostly operated in the squat party scene. The Liberators’ first event was hosted in Julian Liberator’s squat in 1990.

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Chris Liberator explains “there was a techno rave on the first floor, and a hole cut in the floor with a fireman’s pole leading to the basement where punk bands were playing, and a big fire in the garden serving as a chill out” (Interview with Chris Liberator, 20/12/2019). This recollection sums up the milieu’s modus operandi and values: musical eclecticism, DIY and the illegal occupation of spaces for housing and events. Squat parties were, and arguably still are, the backbone of London’s underground scene. As Darc Marc points out: “in the early days, people tried to run club nights but you couldn’t compete with the squat parties. You would get all types of sound systems in one place—ambient, techno, jungle and so on” (Interview with Darc Marc, 06/08/2019). DJ and producer Jeff Amadeus, known for his three-deck vinyl sets, similarly explains the squat scene was such that he did not wish to play anywhere else (Interview with Jeff Amadeus, 05/08/2019). Throughout London, a number of iconic sound systems, including Underground Sounds, Manik, Hackney Sounds and Malfaiteurs have been relentless in organising such events. These nights are free, although donations on the door are a tradition. Rycroft (2003) claimed resistant groups rarely operate in a theoretical vacuum, and suggested that London hosted the vast majority of Britain’s underground and counter-cultural activities in the 1960s. Over the past quarter of a century, the London acid techno scene has been a striking example of this trend, as illustrated by the words of acid techno DJ Gordie, a figurehead of the London squat party scene, who passed away in May 2020, and was still performing at the age of 70 (Fig. 5.1). He remembers watching Margaret Thatcher on television, during the M25 raves: “I couldn’t understand why it scared her that people could come together and enjoy themselves. This is our weekend—it’s nothing to do with you. We play your game all week, so leave us alone at the weekend”. The urban context of the 1990s facilitated the illegal occupation of space in London: Gordie recalls that “in Stratford there was a warehouse shutting down every week and we’d be in there”. The area, since redeveloped for the London Olympics, was a rave hotspot and Gordie argues that this was partly due to the fact that one could then communicate with authorities: “If you don’t upset the police you’d be surprised at how much you can get away with” (Interview with DJ Gordie, 21/12/2020).


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Fig. 5.1  Acid techno DJ Gordie, playing at UNSound Squat party, the Drome, London, November 2000 (Photo by Mattko / Matthew Smith)

Defining Underground Culture and Music As part of this research, DJs and producers who identify with the underground scene were asked to share their understanding of the term “underground” (Interviews with Chris Liberator, Aaron Liberator, D.A.V.E. the Drummer, Sterling Moss, Darc Marc, Acid Steve, Gordie, Jeff Amadeus, Sarah Monument, Gizelle Rebel Yelle, Tchie, Matthieu-F, Biri, Geezer, Paul Elemental, Jack Majic). They argue the underground’s raison d’être is culture, rather than money. As a community, the underground is described as inclusive, tolerant and close-knit, but also as one characterised by the proximity between the public and artists. It is also defined as much by what it is not, as by what it is, in that the underground involves a rejection of the mainstream, mass consumption and homogenisation. Artists acknowledge some productions are not easy to find, but suggest this as a consequence of the community’s history, rather than an aim in itself. They claim the underground provides an arena which is not

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deconstructed by mass media, and allows them to stretch their creativity, and they clearly see the underground as a place where artistic innovation occurs. Many emphasise the importance of learning by doing rather than through a formal training process. Most importantly however, many express the view that the underground represents those who are dispossessed and disillusioned by society. The underground adheres to specific values, including non-conformity and the rejection of authority: the underground is raw, uncensored and follows its own rules. It is also seen as a rejection of existing social, economic and political structures that are deemed unfair and destructive. Most interviewees trace the origin of London’s underground scene to the explosion of illegal parties in the early 1990s and refer to the week-­ long Castlemorton Common rave in 1992 as a milestone. Such events are interpreted as a reaction to what was then perceived as excessive oppression by the Establishment.

Governance and Spaces Electronic dance music in London flourished in a range of places. Ironically, licensed and illegal parties and venues have, to a certain extent, been subject to similar pressures and threats, in particular from urban regeneration and real estate pressure. Not all licensed club closures are a collateral damage of urban policy and change: The Fridge was shut down due to underage drinking, and Fabric temporarily lost its licence due to drug-related fatalities. Notwithstanding these cases, numerous examples have highlighted the impact of urban change on nightlife and culture. The regeneration of King’s Cross can be blamed for the closure of Bagley’s and The Cross. In Hackney, the Four Aces was subject to a compulsory purchase order for similar reasons. The London Astoria was pulled down in 2009 when Tottenham Court Road tube station was rebuilt as part of the Crossrail project. Interviews reveal that artists do not criticise urban renewal per se, but lament the excesses that lead to gentrification. Acid Steve sees the latter as “the stage after improving an area, when it is modelled for the mainstream and chains come in” (Interview with Acid Steve, 21/12/2019).


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Concern over built and cultural heritage is also expressed by Aaron Liberator who sees gentrification as “the removal of a community and its replacement with something that is very much about the now” (Interview 27/06/2019). In London, urban regeneration and renewal has, since the late 1990s, led to a dramatic rise in property values. As an example, Land Registry data shows that the median house price in London was £77,000  in 1996 and £364,000  in 2014 (Marsden 2015). Darc Marc points out that this process also affects artists who are unable to afford to rent studio spaces (Interview with Darc Marc, 06/08/2020). According to DJ and producer Gizelle Rebel Yelle, gentrification “is about making things nice and aesthetic, it is about what business stakeholders think is best for themselves—they are not helping the locals and the poorer communities who are part of the local heritage” (Interview with Giselle Rebel Yelle, 20/06/2020). Such processes cause consternation in the underground community: according to Chris Liberator, “there is not enough housing, there are not enough clubs, but many new developments are empty” (Interview with Chris Liberator, 20/12/2019). The need for housing and infrastructure is not denied, rather, artists express concern over what they see as the excess of a process that, in the end, does not address needs.

 ublic Policy and Nightlife: Recent Progress P in London Although Mayor Sadiq Khan has taken a pro-active approach to safeguarding the city’s night-time economy, this should not overshadow the work carried out by previous Mayors. In 2010, Ken Livingstone proposed live music venues be integrated in the Mayor’s planning strategy. He also suggested appropriate discussion opportunities be provided to allow local authorities to work with the industry and the Mayor. Mayor Johnson set up a Music Venues’ Task Force, which published a rescue plan for London’s Grassroots music venues, defined as “cultural spaces, risk-takers, hubs of innovation and place-makers” (Greater London Authority 2015). The report claimed that existing planning, licensing

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and fiscal policy was struggling to address these venues’ needs whilst catering for both businesses and residents. In addition, it listed the main reasons for venue closures: the need for more housing, rising property values and the role of planning frameworks, showing that, at the time, only 3 of the 33 Local Plans (Brent, Bromley and Camden) explicitly referred to music venues. The temporary Permitted Development Right introduced in 2013 allowed developers to convert office space into housing without full planning permission and some existing venues consequently faced noise complaints from residents who moved in nearby. At the time, the Agent of Change principle, whereby developers are responsible for addressing noise issues when providing new homes next to existing venues, was not enforced. Gudrun Andrews, currently Planning Strategy and Policy Manager for the Borough of Lambeth, who previously worked for the London Legacy Development Corporation, acknowledges that the night-time economy is much broader than what many planning policies have considered it to be. She argues that although planning must address mitigation, it should also promote the night-time economy (Interview with Gudrun Andrew, 15/01/2020). Considerable progress has been made in recent years and legislation and policy frameworks have gradually taken on board the need to address nightlife. The cultural value of grassroots venues is now recognised: a progress report recently acknowledged the risks that venues take with their cultural programmes (Mayor of London 2017c). Many non-­ corporate venues can be considered grassroots venues: a nightclub is indeed a place of innovation in which amateur, new and up-and-coming artists can test new ideas in front of an audience (Moore 2016, p. 52). The government embedded the Agent of Change principle in the legally binding National Planning Policy Framework in 2018, thereby requiring local planning authorities to take it into account when assessing planning applications. At the Greater London level, supplementary Guidance dealing with the night-time economy has been published (Mayor of London 2017a) along with a Cultural Infrastructure Plan (Mayor of London 2019). Progress has also been made in facilitating forums for discussion between stakeholders. In November 2016, the Mayor appointed TV presenter Amy Lamé as Night Czar, to encourage stakeholders to work in the


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same direction. A Night Time Commission, set up in 2017, brings together representatives from local authorities and organisations involved in the night-time economy such as Transport for London and nightclub owners and was appointed to assist in the implementation of the Mayor’s 24-hour city vision (Mayor of London 2017b). The Mayor also set up a Culture at Risk Office, to work on individual cases of venues under threat. Progress has been undeniable: policy guidance and frameworks have evolved and ad hoc bodies have been set up. Yet the implementation of Kahn’s vision is still hampered by institutional structures. As Ed Bayes, Culture at Risk Officer (2017–2019), explains, London has limited policy levers compared to other world cities, especially regarding rent and taxes. He adds, however, that the Mayor’s powers were used in new ways to keep venues open, by strengthening planning policy, funding new infrastructure and forming partnerships with industry and campaigning groups. In the first two years, the Culture at Risk Office provided assistance to over 300 spaces and Bayes argues this led to a stabilisation in the number of grassroots music venues, pubs and LGBT+ venues for the first time in over a decade (Interview with Gudrun Andrew, 20/06/2018). Notwithstanding such progress, artists still express concern. As an illustration, Acid Steve says: “When I read about Berlin where rents have been controlled and areas set aside for entertainment, I feel that not much is done in London. The city is having its guts torn out” (Interview with Acid Steve, 21/12/2019). In June 2019, Club 414 closed after operating for over 30 years. The venue opened in 1985, within a few years of the 1981 Brixton riots, when the Metropolitan Police and black youth clashed in the context of economic recession. Club 414 originally opened as a reggae venue, but rapidly moved on to electronic music. The area was, by then, so run down that very few people were prepared to invest in it: business owners Louise Barron and Tony Pommell reveal that the club was set up with the support of public subsidies, from a programme targeted at members of the black population who wished to set up their own business (Interview with Louise Barron, 31/07/2018). Although events at Club 414 catered for various genres, particularly hard house and trance, the club regularly hosted acid techno nights organised by artists who were equally active in the squat party scene, in

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particular the Liberator DJs. It was one of the few venues in London to benefit from a 24-hour licence. The club was called ‘home’ by regulars and was described as a unique place, not least because Barron and Pommell had been running it since it first opened. The club was in many respects an underground venue: it was designed and built by the owners and members of the electronic music scene, and ravers appreciated the fact that events were run “for the music and partying, not the money” (Interviews with clubbers, 24/05/2019). The average entry price was £5, considerably lower than most clubs in London and admission was free for keyworkers, such a hospital or fire brigade staff, after their shifts. The venue played a key role for the local community, not least through informal nocturnal policing. Business owners Barron and Pommell did not, however, own the premises. In June 2015, a planning application was submitted by their landlord Market Row Ltd, for a change of use from nightclub and bar to retail on the ground floor; and from ancillary residential and office to residential flats on the first and second floors. In response to the public consultation process, over 450 letters of objections were received, as well as 3 petitions with over 2000 signatures. Many of these, however, lamented the possible loss of the venue and did not put forward land-use related arguments. Lambeth Borough Council granted permission in September 2015. The business owners took the case to the High Court, on a number of grounds, including the fact that the Council was believed to have failed to take into account a number of material considerations, particularly its emerging Local Plan, in which the need to safeguard Brixton’s nightlife was clearly addressed. The case was granted permission for a judicial review to proceed in December, and the High Court quashed the planning permission in May, 2016: Lambeth Council acknowledged it had failed to take into account its own emerging Local Plan, which was ironically adopted a few days after permission was granted. The battle was however not over. A second planning application was submitted in July 2017 by Be At One Ltd, who were considering renting the premises (Interview with Louise Barron, 26/05/2020): the proposal was for a change of use from nightclub to cocktail bar. The Officer report, published in December 2017, recommended refusal, arguing that the nightclub was “protected as recreational and cultural use” under policies ED11 and 4.6 of the


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Lambeth Local Plan, but also that “its loss would result in a use which makes an important contribution to the culture of Brixton Town Centre”. It also highlighted that the venue was “one of few remaining nightclubs within London”. In addition, the report acknowledged that no supported statements cited “the nightclub as a bad neighbour or as causing negative impacts on the amenity of the area” (London Borough of Lambeth 2017, p. 13). The High Court decision and the outcome of the second planning application show that development planning and control have taken on board the need to safeguard licensed venues. Notwithstanding this progress, Club 414 closed in June 2019, after the lease expired and the landlord refused to renew it. The premises were sold to Hondo Enterprises, who own the neighbouring Brixton Market and define themselves as a “property investment, development and asset management company specialising in opportunistic and value-added transactions in Central London” (Hondo Enterprises 2020). The club’s closure came as a shock for the local community, artists and ravers, most of whom had been regulars for decades. Hondo however explains that they were “aware of Club 414’s unique role in London’s electronic music scene and absolutely want to keep Club 414 as a nigh-time venue for many years to come”. They wish to “protect and enhance the special character that has made the club so popular while also investing in it to continue hosting thousands of clubbers every year”. They have had “a number of discussions with various operators, including the previous managers of Club 414 about potential future involvement in the club”. Taylor McWilliams, Managing Partner of Hondo and co-owner of DJ “party brand” Housekeeping, has explained that dance music is a “huge part of his life” and that “the acid-techno family that Tony and Louise had created within Brixton was world renowned” (Interview with Hondo representative, 25/03/2020). The club has, to date, not reopened. Club 414 was not only an icon of London’s underground scene, it also became the symbol of resistance— not against licensing issues, as was the case with Fabric, but against urban change. It had gained support from Night Czar Amy Lamé, who told Time Out magazine the club was “a bit of Brixton realness” (Time Out 2018). Although this case shows that planning policy and its enforcement can play a role in safeguarding venues, it nonetheless demonstrates

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that existing frameworks are powerless when risk is related to leases. Lawyer and licensing expert Philip Kolvin, who chaired the Night Time Commission before resigning due to what he perceived as a lack of independence of the body, holds similar views and argues that “the relationship with landlords, including on matters of rent, lease termination and neighbouring development is a crucial one for the leisure industry as a whole” (Interview with Philip Kolvin, 14/03/2020).

Conclusion Debates related to club closures in London have mostly focused on licensed venues. The dramatic fall in numbers has led public authorities to better adapt governance and legislation. As is the case in most cities however, London’s electronic dance music scene is both mainstream and underground. Allington et al. (2015) have claimed most producers can only monetise their art through regular DJing and that electronic dance music is characterised by a strong link between producers, consumers and places. The research set out in this chapter confirms such a view, both for legal and illegal venues and events. Although London still has numerous nightclubs, the prevalence of mainstream and corporate venues threatens the development and survival of experimental or niche sub-genres. New public policy has arisen from a crisis and current action is curative rather than preventive. The first victims of urban regeneration are venues which are natural homes for underground artists and ravers. A recent article published in The Times claimed that “with clubs closing all over Britain and festival tickets costing hundreds of pounds, illegal raves are back” (Bannerman 2018). Such a phenomenon is, in a sense, unsurprising, and the gradual closure of underground-friendly licensed venues in London may encourage the milieu to further reconnect with its marginal and illegal roots: as an organic and long-established network, it is far more resilient than institutions and businesses such as clubs. By partly operating on the basis of the illegal occupation of spaces to host events, the underground scene frees itself from legal constraints and from issues related to the availability of venues. On 14 July 2020, The Times


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reported a further resurgence of illegal raves as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and wondered whether the lockdown will cause a third “Summer of Love” (Armstrong 2020). A product of the squat scene, London’s acid techno genre and underground community emerged a quarter of a century ago. It has a specific scene and crowd of followers. Although marginal, a cross-over with the mainstream scene is nonetheless occurring as world famous DJs have recently been playing tracks released on some of London’s key underground labels. A new generation of artists and younger audiences are discovering and following the underground sound of the global city, throughout Europe and Latin America, where members of the London scene now play regularly. Time will tell if recent policy inflexions will allow the city to reverse the venue closure trend and cater for its diverse nightlife. As Acid Steve explains, “this is London, any culture that is worth anything should have the space to grow here” (Interview with Acid Steve, 21/12/2019). Acknowledgement Stéphane Sadoux would like to acknowledge that his research was funded by the IDEX Université Grenoble Alpes IRS Programme, as part of the ‘Plans for Tonight: A Comparative Study of Subcultural Resistance in London and San Francisco’ project, led by Michael Foley and Stéphane Sadoux.

References Allington, D., Dueck, B., & Jordanous, A. (2015). Networks of Value in Electronic Music: Soundcloud, London, and the Importance of Place. Cultural Trends, 24(3), 211–222. Armstrong, S. (2020, June 14). Illegal Raves Are Back: Will Lockdown Herald the Third Summer of Love? The Times. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes. co.uk/article/illegal-­raves-­are-­back-­will-­lockdown-­herald-­the-­third-­summer-­ of-­l ove-­s 9d2sphc7?fbclid=IwAR3UhDgsBj2acfQz4pqQPTRTRADF DPO4-­IGNoiVWjZKjl9E9IBLRukecHgE. Bainbridge, L. (2013). Acid House: The True Story. London: Omnibus Press. Bannerman, L. (2018, June 23). The Raver Returns. The Times, 26–31. Garcia, L.-M. (2018). Agonistic Festivities: Urban Nightlife Scenes and the Sociability of “anti-social” Fun. Annals of Leisure Research, 21(4), 462–479.

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Greater London Authority. (2015). London’s Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan. The Mayor of London’s Music Venues Task Force / Greater London Authority. Hobbs, D., Lister, S., Hadfield, P., Winlow, S., & Hall, S. (2000). Receiving Shadows: Governance and Liminality in the Night-Time Economy. The British Journal of Sociology, 51(4), 701–717. Hondo Enterprises. (2020). About. Retrieved from https://hondo-­ enterprises.com/. Kearns, K. C. (1981). Urban Squatter Strategies: ‘Social Adaptation to Housing Stress in London. Urban Life, 10(2), 123–153. London Borough of Lambeth. (2017). Delegated Register 17/03737/FUL, Use of the Premises as a Cocktail Bar (Use Class A4). Lovatt, A. (1996). The Ecstasy of Urban Regeneration: Regulation of the Night-­ Time Economy in the Transition to a Post-Fordist City. In D.  Wynne & J. O’Connor (Eds.), From the Margins to the Centre. Cultural Production and Consumption in the Post-Industrial City (pp.  141–168). London and New York: Routledge. Marsden, J. (2015). House Prices in London—An Economic Analysis of London’s Housing Market. London: Mayor of London’s Press Office. Mayor of London. (2016, September 7). Mayor of London’s Response to Islington Council’s Decision to Revoke Fabric’s Licence [Press Release]. Retrieved from https://www.london.gov.uk/press-­releases/mayoral/fabrics-­licence-­revoked. Mayor of London. (2017a). Culture and the Night-Time Economy. Supplementary Planning Guidance. Greater London Authority. Mayor of London. (2017b). From Good Night to Great Night. A Vision for London as 24-hour City. Greater London Authority. Mayor of London. (2017c). Rescue Plan for London’s Grassroots Music Venues: Making Progress. Greater London Authority. Mayor of London. (2019). Cultural Infrastructure Plan: A Call to Action. Greater London Authority. Mintel. (2016). Nightclubs—UK. London: Mintel. Moore, M. (2016). Nightlife as Form. Theatre, 46(1), 49–63. Rycroft, S. (2003). Mapping Underground London: The Cultural Politics of Nature, Technology and Humanity. Cultural Geographies, 10(1), 84–111. Time Out. (2018). Amy Lamé’s 5 Ways to Have the Best Night Out in London. Retrieved from https://www.timeout.com/london/things-­to-­do/amy-­lames­5-­ways-­to-­have-­the-­best-­night-­out-­in-­london.

Part II Established Electronic Music Scenes

Flyer for a party held at Lärm night club in Budapest on 15/02/2020 and organised by OMOH community. (Source: OMOH, graphic designer: Szilveszter Jenei)

6 Overlooking the Scene: Electronic Music and Toronto’s Music City Project (1999–2019) Sara Ross

Introduction From the Twilight Zone to the Guvernment, intimately interconnected with Toronto’s electronic music scene, the scene’s development, and its growth are the numerous iconic spaces of electronic music in the city that have existed over the years—many of them characterised by their classification as ‘afterhours’ spaces. Some spaces were characterised by their temporary ephemeral nature (such as those within post-industrial districts and warehouses available for raves and pop-up electronic dance music [EDM] events running past sunrise) and some others persisted for many years before their eventual displacement. Within the landscape of Toronto’s electronic dance music scene, the longevity and prominence of the electronic dance music subgenre drum ‘n’ bass has been particularly influential within the development of the

S. Ross (*) Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_6



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North American electronic music landscape and the flourishing of drum ‘n’ bass scenes across Canadian cities, such as Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton. While bass is a characteristic of electronic dance music generally, as the term itself indicates, bass is central to the drum ‘n’ bass genre, which is usually characterised by a BPM (beats per minute) range of 150–180. With roots in breakbeat music, its noticeable dub and reggae influences, and frequent sampling and integration of manipulated noises and effects, the syncopated bass-heavy cadence of drum ‘n’ bass distinguishes it from the steady rhythms that commonly characterise other electronic dance music genres. Beyond its recognisable bass lines and generally dark but funky aesthetic (Cummins 2008, pp.  16–17; Ross 2020, p.  96), today’s drum ‘n’ bass features a range of subgenres from atmospheric liquid and melodic drum ‘n’ bass to the more heavy, driving, and dark sounds of neurofunk. Connected to drum ‘n’ bass is a dedicated subculture of DJs, event promoters, producers, fans, dancers, and so on, who do not necessarily cross over into the overarching electronic dance music scene, which results in a music community that is distinct from a city’s electronic dance music scene. Focusing primarily on the twenty-year period between 1999 and 2019 and drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, historical, and legal research conducted between 2014 and 2018, this chapter will consider Toronto’s music policy developments alongside the history of displacement of electronic music spaces in Toronto. While the increased attention paid to establishing a robust “Music City” policy for Toronto in the late 2010s was largely structured to harness the economic benefits that a vibrant music scene can bring to a city (Titan Music Group 2012; Toronto Music Advisory Council 2016), electronic dance music and some of Toronto’s particularly strong electronic dance music subgenres like drum ‘n’ bass have often fallen through the cracks of these ‘Music City’-oriented policies. Increased recent attention paid to the displacement and marginalised treatment of DIY (Do-It-Yourself ) spaces arose only after significant pressure exerted by this music community and it remains to be seen how these policies will benefit the electronic dance music and drum ‘n’ bass scenes in Toronto. Two main developments that ultimately grew out of Toronto’s ‘Music City’ aspirations during the period in question are the so-called Agent of Change principle and the amendments to Toronto’s

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noise bylaw. These both attempts to better account for the preservation and encouragement of music venue sustainability while the city’s urban core redevelops and mixed-use complexes that include residential communities face the sound amplification realities that proximity to a music venue may entail (By-law 878-2019; Tanner 2018).

The City Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Canadian province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in North America. The population of Toronto proper is approximately 2.7 million (as of the 2016 Statistics Canada census), and the population of the Greater Toronto Area (comprising Toronto and twenty-five suburbs) is around 6.4 million (also as of 2016). Located on the western side of Lake of Ontario, the City of Toronto also sits on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. Toronto is known for its demographically diverse, multicultural neighbourhoods, and as a vibrant international centre for business, technology, and art. It is seen as one of Canada’s major cultural centres and a focal point of the Canadian music industry as well as destination for international touring artists (Toronto Music Advisory Council 2016, p. 1). The economic contribution of Toronto’s music sector has been estimated to contribute about $700 million per year, which places it as one of North America’s top-five largest music markets (Toronto Music Advisory Council 2016, pp. 2–3). It is home to a number of large annual music festivals like North by Northeast (NXNE), Canadian Music Week, as well as EDM-focused festivals like the Digital Dreams Festival (now known as the Bud Light Dreams Festival), Veld, and Electric Island. Since past industrial areas in Toronto played a role in housing its early electronic music scene, the city’s post-industrial shift that led to redevelopment initiatives along Toronto’s waterfront as well as in neighbourhoods such as the Junction Triangle contributed to the gradual and ongoing displacement of the spaces where the early scene flourished (Boles 2016; Darchen 2013; Ross 2020, pp. 120–121; Wynveen et al.


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2014). The emergence of Toronto’s electronic scene included iconic venues as well as the influential DJs whose names are inextricably linked to them. Mark Oliver, for example, one of the pioneers of Toronto’s early rave scene continues to be a well-known figure. On the other hand, Chris Sheppard, a nightclub and radio DJ who exerted a major influence on the Canadian electronic dance music scene in the 1980s and 1990s, is no longer involved. Other internationally acclaimed figures from the Toronto scene include Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) and his trademark mouse head as well as Sydney Blu, who was the first female DJ/producer in Toronto to hold a residency at Toronto’s Guvernment complex. There are also lesser known but still regionally influential figures still heavily involved in the local scene like Deko-Ze (Michael Babb). Other noteworthy/influential electronic acts that have grown out of Toronto over the years include the electronic music duos Zeds Dead, Keys and Krates, and MSTRKRFT. In terms of Toronto’s well-known figures in drum ‘n’ bass, some gained a significant following over the years but are no longer active in the scene, like Freaky Flow. Others, like DJ/Producer Marcus Visionary (Marcus Sills), remain active in curating the drum ‘n’ bass landscape in Toronto.

The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective Early raw warehouse-style venues in Toronto like the unlicensed afterhours club Twilight Zone (1980–89), 23 Hop (1990–95), or RPM (1985–95) were influenced by the sounds of the New York, Chicago, and UK music scenes. These venues provided space for the electronic scene to take shape in Toronto and increasingly disengage from the sounds of rock n’ roll as the resident DJs of these venues increasingly turned to the more underground sounds of rave music (Benson 2015, pp. 162–163). As the 1990s began, a rave scene developed that also utilised a variety of warehouses and large event spaces where the locations of events would often only be revealed by calling a phone number within 24 hours of the event. These raves attracted an increasingly large attendee base as the electronic scene began to enter the mainstream of the Toronto music scene, and the venues providing a home for electronic music shifted spatially from the

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area between Yonge Street, Davenport Road, and Richmond Street East to a denser concentration along Richmond Street West, Adelaide Street West, and King Street West, largely between University Avenue and Bathurst Street, and generally within what is now known as Toronto’s Entertainment District. Here, Toronto’s underground rave culture transitioned into the mainstream as the twenty-first century took hold. Within all of this, at a time where in many other Canadian cities drum ‘n’ bass would usually only be featured in a side room or basement room at raves or clubs, and in the smaller print on the flyers promoting these events, drum ‘n’ bass would often be the central feature of events in Toronto. As the organisers for BassWeek—which was held annually between 2011 and 2018—described the scene in Toronto: Since the early 90’s, Toronto has had the reputation for having the best drum & bass and break beat events in North America. The biggest names in the genres always ensured they had Toronto on their tours and constantly praised the dedication and energy of the fans. (BassWeek 2020, May 15)

In the earlier years though, RPM—spatially removed from the other venues with its location along Toronto’s then still industrial waterfront within the East Bayfront Precinct—had a particularly influential role with its successful warehouse-to-club transformation that answered a growing need for more reliable and licensed spaces (Benson 2015, p.  160). It later became the Guvernment in 1996, which was Canada’s largest nightclub and at the forefront of the electronic scene in Toronto for nearly twenty years. As Chris Sheppard—one of the early pioneers of the scene in Toronto, DJ, and radio personality who played a key role in popularising electronic dance music on-air in Toronto as well as on late-­ night Canadian radio—notes, “RPM spawned club culture as we know it today in many ways … Most of today’s players came to RPM to see how it was done. The people, lights, sound, art—RPM’s vibe was second to none” (Benson 2015, p. 163). Among many others, DJs that honed their craft there included both Chris Sheppard and Mark Oliver. One of the most challenging periods the scene weathered was the “Rave Ban” years. Following the drug-related death of Allan Ho, a


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twenty-year-old attending a rave in an underground parking garage in October 1999, Toronto City Council introduced Bill 73 (the “Raves Act”) in the early 2000s, which sought to ban the performance of electronic music taking place after 3 am (City of Toronto 1999; Walcott 2000).1 Members from across Toronto’s electronic dance music community—including the Toronto Dance Safety Committee and the Toronto Rave Information Project as well as the newly formed Party People Project (P3)—came together to protest the rave ban and to work towards dispelling the myths and negative public opinion about the electronic dance music scene that proliferated in the media after Ho’s death (ioppoi29 2006a, b). As one example: 12,000 people attended a protest in front of Toronto’s City Hall the day before City Council ultimately voted to reverse the rave ban on September 2, 2001 (Abbate and Ubha 2000; Thousands Dance at Rave Protest 2000). It was during this crackdown on raves when abandoned warehouses and other unlicensed spaces became increasingly unavailable as an option that raves were largely pushed into 19+ nightclubs. At this time, Guvernment, as the largest, licensed venue that operated legally in Toronto, provided the ideal space for production companies to continue to hold events and host international DJs. Over a decade later, and again drawing on the investigation into Allan Ho’s death, another motion proposing a “rave ban” was introduced by Toronto City Council in April 2014. This time the motion focused on electronic dance music events taking place on Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds (Gerster 2014; Kinastowski 2014; Shrybman 2014). This time, however, City Council overturned the ban the following month when “[t]he vast majority on [city] council agreed that targeting a specific subculture is absurd” (Armstrong and McAllister 2014; Boles 2014a; Pagliaro 2014; Spurr 2014). Since that time, damaging barriers have continued to be systematically erected that target music venues catering to electronic dance music within Toronto’s neighbourhoods, which have led to further displacement via zoning bylaws, dance floor moratoriums, noise restrictions, entertainment venue permitting and liquor licensing, and so on (Boles 2014b). More recently, there has been a trend away from indoor venues and towards outdoor day events and festivals, which has accompanied

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redevelopment processes that see previously undesirable areas of the city that were home to the scene become sites for redevelopment into mixed-­ use zones and condominium development (Lehrer and Laidley 2008; Lehrer and Wieditz 2009). Increased property taxes levied on spaces based on their highest and best use rather than their current existing use continue to exacerbate the problem. Since the beginning of the new millennium, there has also been a greater focus on events featuring high-profile EDM acts, high production value, and elevated ticket prices at electronic music events as well as within nightclubs such as REBEL that cater to EDM acts, which has made these types of EDM acts, venues, and events less accessible to many. However there is still a vibrant scene that resists commodification and attempts to remain more affordable and accessible, largely through the use of unconventional spaces such as record stores outside of business hours, gardening supply stores, bike repair shops, indoor skate ramps, boxing clubs, and private residences—often with the address and location limited to a ‘those who know’ basis, in order to continue to hold (frequently unlicensed) events and to showcase lesser known DJs. While this is also true for the drum ‘n’ bass scene and drum ‘n’ bass production companies as well as other core production companies catering to various other electronic music subgenres that hold events in a variety of spaces on an event-oriented basis, the survival of the underground element of the electronic scene can also be seen with the longevity of Toronto’s infamous afterhours club Comfort Zone (recently rebranded as a “Performing Arts Studio”, available for rental and other events). It reopened at the beginning of 2020, subsequent to its displacement from its former location at College and Spadina in the basement of the infamous Waverley Hotel and adjacent to the iconic Silver Dollar Room live music venue. Comfort Zone’s new location in Parkdale is indicative of the more recent locational shifts for these kinds of music venues as they seek affordable space within proximity to Toronto’s downtown core. Another area of resistance to commodification and mainstream electronic music is visible within Toronto’s vibrant DIY scene where a variety of music forms and scenes co-exist but where electronic music and experimentation with its various forms is prominent. The DIY community has been active in pushing Toronto City Council and its Toronto Music


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Advisory Council (TMAC) to more actively and meaningfully acknowledge Toronto’s music scene and music spaces outside of conventional spaces of music such as concert halls, opera houses, live music venues catering to non-electronic music genres, and spaces that operate in a conventional daytime-oriented, licensed manner.

Governance and Spaces Over the years, those involved in curating the electronic dance music and drum ‘n’ bass scenes have changed, but certain key figures remain. There is significant overlap between the role of DJ, event promoter, and music producer in Toronto, especially amongst those involved in the electronic scene, or subsets of the scene such as the drum ‘n’ bass scene. In terms of creating permanent spaces that have housed Toronto’s vibrant electronic music scene over the years, the role of Charles Khabouth and his production company INK Entertainment has been significant. He opened the warehouse-reminiscent nightclub Club Z in 1984 near Yonge and Wellesley, which, in addition to afterhours clubs like the Twilight Zone, was one of the first clubs in Toronto where music inspired by the electronic music scenes of New York, Detroit, and Chicago scenes could be heard. He later opened what became the Guvernment complex, which presided over Toronto’s electronic music scene for nearly two decades, and recently opened the REBEL nightclub and concert venue. With rapid densification, ongoing redevelopment projects, and gentrification processes taking place in Toronto’s downtown core, the Entertainment District, the waterfront, and former industrial areas like Liberty Village, remnants of the scene can still be seen within proximity to the general downtown area as well as farther from the urban core in neighbourhoods including Parkdale, the Junction Triangle, and the Port Lands. Other parts of the scene exist wherever suitable space for pop-up events can be located around the city, as it is increasingly difficult for space to be secured to hold electronic music events or viably operate an electronic music-oriented venue. A recent and particularly relevant example of the intersection between Toronto’s redevelopment plans and cultural policy—such as its Music

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City initiative—has been the redevelopment of the East Bayfront Precinct, which led to the displacement of the Guvernment complex, affecting both the drum ‘n’ bass scene and Toronto’s electronic scene more generally. While Guvernment’s former space within the East Bayfront Precinct was privately owned and not part of the sections of land owned and administered by Waterfront Toronto (an arm’s length public corporation created in 2001 as a partnership of the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, and City of Toronto), the mixed-use condo development ‘Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts’ that replaced Guvernment was intended to complement the City’s vision of a rejuvenated, cleansed, and creative-city-oriented portion of the waterfront transformed from its industrial past by including, in addition to residential and office towers, a “home to student innovation and a hub for the creative industries” (Groundbreaking Plans Unveiled 2015). As noted, one of Toronto’s recent culture-based redevelopment and growth strategies is its Music City initiative, which led to its 2013 decision to create the first incarnation of the Toronto Music Advisory Council (TMAC), now in its second incarnation; a ‘music-city alliance’ with Austin, Texas; a music office along with a music sector development officer; and the eventual adoption of the TMAC-generated official ‘Toronto Music Strategy: Supporting and Growing the City’s Music Sector’ in 2016. In essence, much of the recommendations developed through these efforts to capitalise on Toronto’s music assets (like its electronic music scene), and grow Toronto into and sustain it as a major Music City, revolved around the creation and implementation of music- and musician-­friendly policies and the removal of barriers to their flourishing. This, for example, included attention to bylaws and regulations affecting the flourishing of musicians and music venues and spaces, like attention to existing noise regulations and noise mitigation strategies, logistical matters like loading zones outside of music venues, better planning for transportation availability to attend music events, and other means of audience development both locally and from a music tourism perspective (Toronto Music Advisory Council 2016). While these efforts at least resulted in attention to Toronto’s music assets, an alarming spike in the closure of music venues—many of which included spaces for Toronto’s electronic music scene—at the beginning of


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2017 was one of the indications that these Music City policies were more aspirational than effective. At that point, the Music City initiatives and Music Strategy were primarily oriented towards the future growth of music in Toronto, and seemed to overlook sustaining existing music scenes and venues—especially scenes and music like the electronic music scene that do not necessarily fall neatly into conventional interpretations of live music. Further, post-Guvernment, the lack of venues that can accommodate a large crowd of the 2000–3000 range—larger than a typical nightclub capacity but not as large as a stadium—remains problematic, especially for more marginal genres of electronic dance music (Benson 2015, p. 496; Boles 2015). However, increased attention by TMAC as well as Toronto City Council to the “night-time economy” and its intersection with music in Toronto, Toronto’s Music City aspirations, and the necessity to engage with the ‘other 9 to 5’ is clearly visible in its 2019 Toronto Nightlife Action Plan. This plan also notably places an emphasis on “do-it-yourself (DIY) pop up music venue challenges”, their cultural and community role as well as artistic and musical value (General Manager, Economic Development and Culture 2019; Sethi 2018). A description of DIY spaces provided in the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Division’s 2018 study and report “DIY Events in Toronto: Understanding Challenges to Access and Space” (p. 3) will quickly transport any member of Toronto’s early rave and electronic scene back to the days of unconventional spaces and warehouse venues where the scene grew, and even the fateful parking lot rave attended by Allan Ho that led to the rave ban in the early 2000s: The term ‘DIY events’ (‘do-it-yourself ’) refers to arts and cultural events that use unconventional spaces. The spaces are considered unconventional as a space, not intended for assembly occupancy, is repurposed into a live performance venue. Spaces range from warehouses and factories to vacant stores, rooftops, parking lots and laneways. Some spaces are industrial, others commercial or residential; some are outdoors and others indoors. Any space has the potential to be repurposed for a DIY event and become a DIY venue.

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In terms of policy recommendations, the report regarding DIY events emphasises access to space as a key concern and the future steps that are required for the City to address this need through developing a centralised permitting process for arts, culture, and music events occurring in unconventional spaces. The report also presents specific steps that various City divisions can take to develop an infrastructure for access to space for DIY events as well as linked concerns regarding the safety of these spaces in terms of Fire Code compliance, accessibility in terms of transit, viability in terms of noise and sound output during night-time hours, and regulation and licensing in terms of special occasion permitting and alcohol service (Sethi 2018, pp. 7–11). These recommendations are notable considering that access to affordable space is a key challenge for the flourishing of the electronic music scene and community subgenres like drum ‘n’ bass. Nonetheless, greater attention to addressing the ramifications of increased land values that result in increased property taxes assessed according to Ontario’s “highest and best use” tax assessment matrix will also be required—which has been taken on by the second incarnation of TMAC at the outset of its tenure in the second half of 2019 (Toronto Music Advisory Council 2020). At the same time, the Toronto Nightlife Action Plan adopted by the City notes that part of its role in supporting and sustaining diverse music, music venues, lifestyle choices, and culture at night in Toronto involves recognising the significant role that the noise they emit at night is a factor that has led and continues to lead to their displacement (2019, p. 6). This gesture led to one of the most significant changes that the first iteration of TMAC was able to secure for nightclubs and other music venues in Toronto—the application of the Agent of Change principle. The Agent of Change principle functions to restrict conflicts regarding noise that can arise between incoming occupants of newly constructed residential communities in areas with a pre-existing music venue or venues (Ross 2020, pp. 210–214). Near the end of the first iteration of TMAC’s tenure, TMAC was able to have the City put the Agent of Change principle into place, such that “[d]uring 2018, the Toronto Music Office reviewed and provided comments on many development applications, alerting city planners to the presence of nearby music venues, requiring developers to include advisory clauses about nightlife activity on offers of


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purchase and lease, and notifying venues likely to be affected by nearby developments” (Toronto Nightlife Action Plan 2019, p. 6). Further legislation and policy developments relevant to the decades of challenges relating to noise and amplified sound emission that have been faced by electronic music spaces, nightclubs, afterhours venues raves, festivals, attendees, and musicians in Toronto include the City’s revised noise bylaw that came into effect on October 1, 2019, that takes a more objective approach in acknowledging the interests of Toronto’s music community when faced with noise complaints related to its amplified sound emissions during events (By-law 878-2019; Toronto Nightlife Action Plan 2019, p. 6).

Conclusion While no current cultural policies in Toronto target electronic music specifically, existing music policies in place and under development in Toronto ultimately affect the electronic music community alongside live music in the city more generally. These existing policies have largely grown out of Toronto’s place (re)branding and economic development strategies fashioned through a culture-led ‘creative city’-inspired approach that has sought to capitalise on Toronto’s music assets, including its vibrant electronic music community and history. Initial attention and policies paving the way towards the goal of securing status as a renown ‘Music City’ focused primarily on more mainstream musical venues and experiences surrounding non-electronic music. However, developments stemming from Toronto’s establishment of TMAC, an official Music Strategy, and Music Office have eventually come face-to-face with the needs of the remaining less-commercial and underground electronic music community in Toronto that can be seen within the DIY community, venues, and events. This has caused a pivot in Toronto’s musicrelated policies as regards music venues where the use and importance of unconventional spaces, warehouses, pop-up events, and so on—the breeding ground of raves and electronic music—are matters that the City Council is now investigating in terms of positive support and

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sustainability. This is a change from past attempts to ban electronic music event spaces, and their associated subculture, such as that which occurred during the ‘rave ban’ years in the early 2000s. General policy developments now under consideration in Toronto surround noise emission in newly developed residential communities within proximity to existing or future music venues, displacement due to increased land values and property taxes, safety in terms of building code compliance, regulation and licensing in terms of event permits and alcohol service, access to 24-hour public transportation, and addressing overarching barriers to accessible and sustainable spaces for music events.

Note 1. Bill 73, the ‘Raves Act’, defined raves as “an event with all of the following attributes”: 1. Any part of the event occurs between 2 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. 2. People must pay money or give some other consideration to participate in the event. 3. The primary activity at the event is dancing by the participants. 4. The event does not take place in a private dwelling.

References Abbate, G., & Ubha, R. (2000, August 2). Ravers Rally on Eve Before Council Vote. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail. com/news/national/ravers-­rally-­on-­eve-­before-­council-­vote/article1041627/. Armstrong, J., & McAllister, M. (2014, April 17). Exhibition Place Ban on Electronic Music Events Prompts Backlash. Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/1265837/no-­more-­electronic-­music-­events-­at-­ exhibition-­place-­city-­says/. BassWeek. (2020, May 15). About. [Facebook profile]. Retrieved May 15, 2020 from http://www.facebook.com/bassweek.ca/about/.


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Benson, D. (2015). Then & Now: Toronto’s Nightlife History. Toronto: Three O’Clock Press. Bill 73. Raves Act 2000 (Ont). Boles, B. (2014a, May 15). Fight for Your Right to Party. Now Toronto. Retrieved from https://nowtoronto.com/music/fight-­for-­your-­right-­to-­party/. Boles, B. (2014b, June 5). Toronto’s War on Dancing: DJ Culture Facing Attacks from Right and Left at City Hall. HuffPost Music, Canada. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/06/toronto-­war-­on-­dancing_n_ 5227816.html. Boles, B. (2015, January 25). The Beat Finally Stops at the Guvernment. Now Toronto. Retrieved from https://nowtoronto.com/music/the-­beat-­finally­stops-­at-­the-­guvernment/. Boles, B. (2016, May 30). An Oral History of the Legendary 80s Club That Introduced Toronto to House Music. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice. com/en_ca/article/gvndej/the-­t wilight-­z one-­c lub-­t oronto-­h ouse-­ oral-­history. By-law 878-2019 (Toronto). Amending Toronto Municipal Code, c 591, Noise, made under City of Toronto Act, 2006, SO 2006, c 11, Schedule A. City of Toronto. (1999). Establishment of Late Night Entertainment Event Protocol (Including Raves) and Co-ordinated Response to Inquest Recommendations into the Death of Allen Ho. Cummins, J. (2008). Ambrosia About a Culture: An Investigation of Electronica Music and Party Culture. Canada: Clark-Nova Books. Darchen, S. (2013). The Creative City and the Redevelopment of the Toronto Entertainment District: A BIA-Led Regeneration Process. International Planning Studies, 18(2), 188–203. General Manager, Economic Development and Culture. (2019, June 19). Strengthening Toronto’s Night-time Economy. (Report for Action EC6.8). Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ec/bgrd/backgroundfile-­134446.pdf. Gerster, J. (2014, April 11). City Bans Electronic Dance Music Events from Exhibition Place. The Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/ gta/2014/04/11/city_bans_electronic_dance_music_events_from_exhibition_place.html. Groundbreaking Plans Unveiled for Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts at Former Guvernment Entertainment Complex. (2015, March 26). Business Wire. Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/ home/20150326006250/en/Groundbreaking-­Plans-­Unveiled-­Daniels-­ Waterfront%2D%2D-­City.

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ioppoi29. (2006a, December 12). idance—A Documentary (temp.) PART 2 of 2. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/XzDsV1t_2NA. ioppoi29. (2006b, December 13). idance—A Documentary (temp.) PART 1 of 2” [Video File]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/iI6La8iBrOk. Kinastowski, A. (2014, June 17). Electronic Dance Music Concerts—Supplementary Report—Appendix F. (Staff Report Action Required). Retrieved from https:// www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2014/mm/bgrd/backgroundfile-­71302.pdf. Lehrer, U., & Laidley, J. (2008). Old Mega-Projects Newly Packaged? Waterfront Redevelopment in Toronto. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32(4), 786–803. Lehrer, U., & Wieditz, T. (2009). Condominium Development and Gentrification: The Relationship between Policies, Building Activities and Socio-Economic Development in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 18(1), 140–161. Pagliaro, J. (2014, May 5). Council to Hear Motion to Reverse Ban on Electronic Music Events at Exhibition Place. The Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2014/05/05/council_to_hear_motion_to_reverse_ ban_on_electronic_music_events_at_exhibition_place.html. Ross, S. (2020). Law and Intangible Cultural Heritage in the City. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Sethi, N. (2018, August). DIY Events in Toronto: Understanding Challenges to Access and Space. Report to the City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture Division. (EC6.8 Attachment 2). Retrieved from https://www. toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ec/bgrd/backgroundfile-­134956.pdf. Shrybman, C. (2014, April 16). Toronto’s Electronic Dance Music Community Calls Foul After Exhibition Place Ban. National Post. Retrieved from https:// nationalpost.com/news/toronto/torontos-­e lectronic-­d ance-­m usic-­ community-­calls-­foul-­after-­exhibition-­place-­ban. Spurr, B. (2014, May 8). Council Overturns Ban on Electronic Dance Parties. Now Toronto. Retrieved from https://nowtoronto.com/news/ council-­overturns-­ban-­on-­electronic-­dance-­parties/. Statistics Canada. (2017). Toronto population count Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population. Retrieved from http://www12statcan.gc.ca. Tanner, M. (2018). Summary: City-approved Venue Protection Measures Including TOcore and “Agent of Change”. (Re: MA13.5). Retrieved from https://www. toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2018/ma/bgrd/backgroundfile-­117429.pdf. Thousands Dance at Rave Protest. (2000, August 2). CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thousands-­d ance-­a t-­r ave-­p rotest­1.200876.


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Titan Music Group. (2012). Accelerating Toronto’s Music Industry Growth: Leveraging Best Practices from Austin, Texas. Music Canada. Retrieved from http://musiccanada.com. Toronto Music Advisory Council. (2016). Toronto Music Strategy: Supporting and Growing the City’s Music Sector. Toronto: Toronto City Council. Retrieved from http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item= 2016.ED10.7. Toronto Music Advisory Council. (2020). Strategies for Assisting Live Music Venues. (MA3.2). Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/ mmis/2020/ma/bgrd/backgroundfile-­146345.pdf. Toronto Nightlife Action Plan. (2019). (EC6.8 Attachment 1). Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ec/bgrd/backgroundfile-­134955.pdf. Walcott, R. (2000). Everyone has the Right to Party. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/everyone-­has-­ the-­right-­to-­party/article768982/. Wynveen, A., Nader, B., Rowan, C., Hilbrecht, C., & Miller, K. (2014). Not Zoned for Dancing: A Comprehensive Review of Entertainment in Downtown Toronto. Toronto: Office of the Chief Planner.

7 Arbutus Records and MUTEK: Two Models of Experimental Electronic Music Promotion in Montreal François Mouillot

Introduction According to the Tourisme Montréal website (the city’s official tourism board website), Montreal has been one of North America’s primary hub for electronic music activity since the 1960s. Montreal is a city “constantly experimenting with new technologies and sonic styles” (Faden 2017). This official discourse is often echoed by electronic music practitioners themselves. These stakeholders point to Montreal’s bilingualism and European flair, deep-rooted connection to eclectic electronic music forms going back to the city’s disco fever days in the 1970s. The presence of a variety of underground ‘micro-scenes’ and their supporting institutions—labels, venues, parties, and so on—as well as a host of music festivals—either entirely or partially dedicated to electronic music—illustrates the city’s privileged relationship to a broad range of electronic music styles (Dunlevy 2019). F. Mouillot (*) Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_7



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In other words, electronic music has been explicitly and ubiquitously embraced in the city. Globally, Montreal has consistently been recognised for a specific subset of ever-evolving electronic music that connects experimentation, innovation, and ‘underground’ activity. This chapter analyses two entities promoting different forms of experimental electronic music in Montreal: the MUTEK festival and the ‘do-it-yourself ’ scene connected to Arbutus Records. Rather than analysing ‘experimental electronic music’ as a musical genre or style with putatively identifiable musical features, this chapter approaches the practice of electronic music in Montreal through the lens of what Benjamin Piekut has termed ‘experimentalism’: “a network of discourses, practices and institutions” (2011, p.  7) continuously performed by a variety of actors in the creation of music that favours artistic innovation and risk-taking, that sometimes shows an avant-garde sensibility, and that usually valorises creativity over commercial potential. Using interviews conducted in 2019 with former MUTEK festival curator Patti Schmidt and Arbutus Records’ founder Sebastian Cowan as well as fieldwork undertaken in Montreal between 2013 and 2017, this chapter shows how the kind of musical experimentation long associated with Montreal’s musical culture has evolved in different directions with the rise of electronic music practices. The example of MUTEK shows how, on the one hand, innovative electronic music has gradually become more involved with the city’s strategies to re-brand itself as a digital culture metropolis through both the revitalisation of some of its spaces for the purpose of cultural activity and various forms of investment in digital culture economies. On the other hand, the case of the scene connected to micro-independent label Arbutus Records highlights how experimental electronic music fringing with popular music aesthetics has come to be inscribed in and to extend the histories and spaces of Montreal’s DIY music scene that emerged in the 1990s. Taken together, the examples of MUTEK and of the Arbutus Records scene, show how various forms of experimental electronic music in Montreal have developed distinct operational models of ‘scene governance’ that are both embedded in the city’s contemporary broader official and informal cultural policy frameworks.

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The City: Contribution to Electronic Music Compared with many other large North American cities, Montreal—an island located within the Saint-Lawrence river in the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada—has been termed a “low-cash music economy” (Sterne and Razlogova 2019, p. 6). Electronic music activity is supported through a large number of official and grassroots institutions responding to the city’s specific linguistic, cultural, economic, and even seasonal dimensions. Although no definitive list of factors can account for the development of its electronic music activity, core aspects of the institutional and cultural life of Montreal as well as specific local economic and political developments have been identified as central to the evolution of Montreal’s musical landscape in the past two decades. Scholars have emphasised the slowness with which Montreal emerged out of the economic depression affecting North America in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This resulted in an abundance of living and arts-related spaces whose rent prices—although they have risen steadily—have remained relatively affordable for independent cultural workers with lowpaying jobs or contract-based salaries (Cummins-­Russell and Rantisi 2012; Stahl 2001). The same scholars have pointed to the post-secondary educational landscape of the city—four universities offering some the cheapest tuition fees in North America—as well as the diversity of cultural offerings underpinned by a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude attributed to the city’s primarily Francophone environment as elements contributing to Montreal’s cultural vitality. Furthermore, as part of its strategy to assert Quebecois cultural distinctiveness in the broader Anglophone Canadian and American contexts, the provincial government of Quebec has long established robust arts and culture funding programmes which, for artists based in Montreal (and elsewhere in the province), complement federal Canadian funding opportunities for the arts. Along with these factors—which have most directly benefitted the kind of independent, underground, and experimental music further discussed below—the diversity of expressions in various fields of electronic music can also be seen as one of the results of a broader policy turn


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towards the digital arts operated by the province since the late 1990s. As the province’s economic centre and as the symbol of Quebec’s cultural European/American hybrid modernity, Montreal has naturally crystallised the Quebecois push towards the development of digital culture. As Valiquet outlines: “Real and imaginary had […] worked together to stage Montreal as the natural home of Quebec’s—and by extension Canada’s— digital revolution” (2019, p. 158). Public funding for the Arts has been complemented by a host of strategies targeting the private tech industries sector which have included tax rebate policies aimed at the implantation of international digital technology companies/start-ups in the city. In addition, marketing campaigns within the global tech industries have pushed the reputation of Montreal’s home-­grown digital firms for being able to meet the need of both North American and European clients, and digital culture companies have received increased general political provincial and municipal support. Although they may not directly influence electronic music-making in the city, these private-­sector-­oriented strategies have contributed to the establishment of Montreal as a digital culture hub. In many ways, they have also enhanced the general interest of the local population in the development of digital technologies and their implication for all branches of the cultural sectors, including music.

The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective As in many other global cities, electronic music in Montreal might be divided between three main strands, which have benefitted to varying degrees from the specific cultural, economic, and policy environment outlined above. The first of these strands is perhaps one of the longest standing ones in Montreal. As pointed out by Valiquet, “the last decades of the twentieth century […] saw Montreal earn a reputation as one of the main hubs of the transnational electroacoustic circuit” (2019, p.  159), with research studios and centres reflecting both ‘European’—at the Conservatoire de Montréal and the Université de Montréal—and ‘North American’— mainly at McGill University—approaches to academic electronic music. Artistic activity and research in electronic music was further developed in

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the city in the 1990s through the creation of infrastructures such as the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) in 1995, the OBORO centre— founded in 1982, and launching its New Media Lab in 1996—and the Studio XX—founded in 1996 as a bilingual feminist/queer/trans/non-­ binary media arts artist-run centre (which also founded the HTMlles festival in 1997). It is also important to mention the establishment of digital media programming at pre-existing arts centres such as the (now defunct) Ex-Centris and the Festival International du Nouveau Cinéma et des Nouveaux Médias de Montréal between 1997 and 2001 that incubated the MUTEK festival described below. More commercially oriented forms of electronic music as well as those connected to new media arts practices in Montreal, developed most prominently starting in the late 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s. Large-scale platforms dedicated to electronic dance music—such as the Piknic Électronik weekly electronic music festival (established in 2003), and its winter counterpart IGLOO fest (started in 2007)—complemented the city’s existing dance club scene1 and became hallmarks in Montreal’s mainstream popular music landscape. The local presence of electronic arts (digital developments applied to performance, installation, conceptual art and video, as well as music) was consolidated through the establishment or the extensions of notable artist-run centres such as Eastern Bloc (created in 2007). It is also important to mention the festival Sight and Sound, new media (including electronic music) programming at the multifunction arts space Centre Phi, and the contemporary art and technologies ELEKTRA International Digital Art Festival (started in 1999). The third strand in Montreal’s electronic music scene is connected to the city’s DIY ‘underground’ supported by the activities of a host of small-scale collectives and independent infrastructures (such as recording labels, live clubs, and unlicensed venues). Among such structures, notable record labels dedicated to various styles of electronic experimental music—whether abstract and ‘noisy’, or fringing with more commercial forms of popular music—have included Alien8, Ninja Tunes, and empreintes DIGITALes among others, with live electronic music taking place in venues and festivals connected to Montreal’s experimental rock, free improvisation, and noise scenes (Casa del Popolo/Sala Rossa, Suoni per il


F. Mouillot

Popolo), as well as unofficial spaces such as (now closed) La Brique and Lab Synthèse. The MUTEK festival and the scene linked to Arbutus Records which I further analyse below might be seen to have emerged through the stylistic and structural ‘cracks’ and overlaps that exist between these strands of electronic music practice in Montreal.

MUTEK and Montreal as a ‘Digital Culture City’ The MUTEK festival was created in 2000 as a unique event combining elements of cutting-edge electronic music and digital culture festivals, as well as contemporary art world happenings. Over the course of its existence, it has established international ‘satellite’ events in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States, and created local partnerships through the co-hosting of events with other music festivals, both mainstream (e.g. PikNik Élektronik) and left field (e.g. Suoni per il Popolo festival). MUTEK was born out of founder and artistic director Alain Mongeau’s and Eric Matson’s experiences with academic artistic research, international rave culture (Trandafir 2017), and as noted on its website, a vision to establish infrastructures dedicated to the promotion of both experimental and “playful”, “visionary” electronic music and audio-visual art culture in the North American context (MUTEK, n.d.). Since its inception, the festival has been a grassroots initiative aimed at providing a platform for local Montreal, Quebecois, and Canadian electronic independent/experimental artists to connect with and perform alongside established international electronic artists. Over the years, the festival has consistently aimed for parity between Canadian and international artists. This was a direct consequence of its reliance on federal and provincial funding bodies (further detailed below) that require the inclusion of Canadian and Quebecois artists on the event’s bill. In its early days, it helped nurture a scene for Montreal experimental electronic musicians: “MUTEK was central during [the] period of 2000–2005 in generating a community of producers within the City of Montreal, consisting of artists who came to the city from elsewhere, in part because of MUTEK (such as Mike Shannon, The Mole, Mitchell Akiyama,

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Deadbeat, Tim Hecker and Jeff Milligan, among others) as well as supporting the locally raised (such as Vincent Lemieux, Skoltz_Kolgen, Martin Tétreault, Akufen, Ghislain Poirier and Egg—among many others)” (van Veen 2009, p. 100). In spite of the fact that a significant number of electronic artists from this local scene as well as from other parts of Canada moved to Berlin between 2004 and 2008 (van Veen 2009; Interview with Patti Schmidt, 21/08/2019), MUTEK’s reputation kept on growing, and the festival increasingly benefitted from the city’s late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century investments in the cultural and digital technology sectors. In the early 1990s, the municipal government had begun re-­developing its former industrial port area (known as ‘the Old Port’) to accommodate the implantation of high-tech and new media companies, and the general success of this project paved the way for future similar revitalisation initiatives promoting economic restructuring. As mentioned above, in the early 2000s, Montreal’s municipal government further laid out an ‘action plan’ framing culture and new technologies as key development tools for Montreal’s future. The plan, officially adopted at the Montreal Summit in 2002, was set to take place between 2005 and 2015 with the aim to diversify funding streams for arts and culture, providing greater access to culture, and investing in cultural infrastructures. It has since been prolonged and expanded through the adoption of a new plan covering the development of the city between 2017 and 2022 (Koromyslova 2017), where MUTEK is now mentioned (Manthey 2019, p. 5). As part of the initiative to further develop cultural infrastructures, a portion of the city’s downtown area near the historic entertainment known as the Red Light district area was re-branded and re-developed under the name ‘Quartier des Spectacles’, a culture-led regeneration project “with the goal of establishing the presence of major festivals in the downtown area and showcasing its cultural institutions and performance venues” (Quartier des Spectacles Montréal 2020). The initiative led to the creation of a variety of public spaces: the ‘Place des festivals’, a vast square dedicated to largescale open-air performances and a variety of public and private real estate projects with a cultural focus (e.g. 2-22 building) (Darchen and Tremblay 2013). Since then, the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’ has become the most visible area for arts and culture entertainment in Montreal, a flagship


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location that accounts for half of the total performance arts events’ attendance in Montreal, and a fourth of the total attendance of similar events in the entire province of Quebec.2 Although it has never been officially a part of the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’, MUTEK has gradually been associated to cultural initiatives happening within this project. The majority of MUTEK’s primary music events of the last few years—the ‘A/V Visions’, ‘Expériences’, ‘Nocturne’, and ‘Play’ concert series—took place in venues located either in or around the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’, such as the Monument National, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, the SAT, and the Esplanade on Place des Arts. MUTEK’s ‘chain of value’—including “the festivals’ ability to identify and incorporate expertise in digital creativity, to bring attention to local and Canadian artists and to attract audience from outside of the city”—was examined in a study focusing on the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’ led by the cultural industries department of the City of Montreal at the end of the 2000s (2010, p. 76). In spite of the official acknowledgement (by the above study, among others) that the festival contributes to the municipal government’s plan to establish Montreal as a digital arts capital (ibid.), the year-to-year financial situation of the festival has historically not been secured.3 It is funded primarily by public money drawn from all levels of local government—municipal, provincial, and federal—but it competes for this funding with a great other number of cultural actors and events including approximately 100 cultural festivals per year. The city’s festival ecosystem is therefore saturated, and the larger economic dividends of bigger festivals tend to overshadow the cultural and social significance of smaller events such as MUTEK, the Suoni per il Popolo festival, or the Fringe festival. Schmidt, at the end of the 2000s, argued that “revenue has been the bottom line when it comes to proving relevance when government funding is involved” (2010, p. 75) and further explained the difficulty in presenting the festival to governmental funding bodies, as well as to the media: “[MUTEK is] an emergent cultural form which poses challenges to the existing division of artistic disciplines within funding policy; electronic music and media are often too narrowly defined as “dance music” by the Canada Council for the Arts, or considered too “conceptual” for FACTOR grants, the traditional fund supporting recorded music. A

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recent city-based report noted how all three levels of government funding seem to randomly and arbitrarily designate the festival as either media art or music, passing the festival back and forth between councils” (ibid., pp. 22–23). Since then, the combination of the festival’s popular success and the refining of its ‘positioning’ to both granting agencies and the media has allowed the event to maintain similar amounts of public funding year-on-year (Renaud 2019), an accomplishment for a small festival.

 he ‘Arbutus Records Scene’ and the ‘Mile T End’ Electronic Music In the following section, I take Arbutus Records as a focal point through which a multiplicity of activities have been linked during the emergence and consolidation of a scene. These activities include some that existed prior to the foundation of the label (like various events that took place at the infamous and now defunct Lab Synthèse loft space), and some others that now take place in parallel to record releases, such as the n10na’s radio broadcasts and various parties organised by people involved with the label. Sebastian Cowan, a Vancouver transplant trained as a sound engineer, founded Arbutus Records in 2009, to promote artists associated with a relatively short-lively yet influential loft warehouse space known as Lab Synthèse (Olbrich 2013). The space operated near the neighbourhood of Mile End in Montreal between 2007 and 2009 and hosted live music events, art exhibitions, and free weekly film screenings and incubated Montreal-based musicians seeking to produce experimental electronic pop music following a ‘Do-It-Yourself ’ ethos. Though Arbutus’ mandate (like that of Lab Synthèse) has primarily been to nurture a local community of artists and their activities, several musicians associated with the label and its scene—such as BRAIDS, Majical Cloudz, Sean Nicholas Savage Blue Hawaii, or Mac Demarco—have left to establish more international careers. The scene also gained international mainstream visibility through the commercial and critical success of one of its artists, Grimes, and her fourth album Visions which came out in 2012 through Arbutus Records and 4AD.


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The story of Arbutus Records and Lab Synthèse illustrates another approach in nurturing and promoting experimental electronic music practice in Montreal, one connected to the longer history of DIY underground music in the post-industrial turned bohemian neighbourhood of Mile End. Located northwest of the historic Francophone residential and commercial district of the Plateau, east of the French middle- and upper-­ class residential town of Outremont and south of industrial railway tracks—and generally one mile away from the downtown of the city— Mile End is quintessentially liminal. Having been home to successive waves of European immigration—Jewish, Greek, Portuguese—throughout the twentieth century, it is one of Montreal’s most ethnically diverse residential neighbourhoods (Rantisi and Leslie 2010). Because of its proximity to the railway, Mile End was also historically a manufacturing district for the textile industry. In the 1980s, the economic downturn that swept across the city forced many of its factories to close down, which resulted in a large number of the neighbourhood’s residential, commercial, and industrial spaces becoming vacant and available at an affordable rent. The combination of Mile End’s relative off-centre location and the affordability of different kinds of spaces subsequently led to its ‘rediscovery’ as a haven by cultural actors relocating from other gentrifying parts of the city such as le Plateau. As Rantisi and Leslie explain: “By the 1990s the rich and diverse architecture and the affordable rents made the neighbourhood an appealing site for artists, writers, and independent musicians” (2010, p. 2833). In many ways, Lab Synthèse and Arbutus Records took over a previous generation of independent cultural workers that became associated with Mile End in the 1990s. Cowan and his collaborators were particularly inspired by the ethos and accomplishments of music structures such as Constellation Records (Interview with Sebastian Cowan, 24/08/2019; Olbrich, 2013), the local ‘noise’ music scene (Olbrich 2013), and groups such as Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade (themselves incubated in some of the infrastructures set into place by the Constellation Records scene) (Interview with Sebastian Cowan, 24/08/2019). Don Wilkie and Ian Ilavsky, two Anglophone Canadians who had relocated to Montreal and identified an infrastructural void for local ‘Anglo-bohemian’ musicians trying to operate outside the mainstream

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national and international music industries established Constellation Records in 1997. In the following years, the micro-independent label provided a local, artist-oriented, fiercely DIY, and anti-corporate recorded platform for a scene that would become emblematic of the Montreal and ‘Mile End’ indie music across the world (most notably through the post-­ rock sound of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and later bands that relied on the infrastructures established by the label and their associates).4 Although Constellation Records inscribes its practices in a longer history of Anglo-American post-punk and hardcore punk (Mouillot 2018), their operations in Montreal influenced the making of do-it-yourself experimental music actors across a variety of music genres, including Arbutus Records. Constellation Records (like many other independent cultural workers who relocated to Mile End since the 1990s) established their practice through a combination of the specific spatial characteristics of Mile End—its mixed residential, commercial, and residual industrial infrastructures—and the open streetscapes of the neighbourhood—with the socio-economic conditions at the time (the 1990s), which generated a “sense of intimacy central to the creation of an underground economy that depends on low-cost, word-of-mouth networking to exchange codified information (about employment opportunities or about underground cultural events)” (Rantisi and Leslie 2010, p. 2837). The emergence of Arbutus Records has been influenced by the intimacy and the community-oriented ethics that stemmed out of the spatial and socio-economic characteristics of the 1990s ‘Mile End independent music scene’ as well as by the general DIY operational principles set into place by the early actors of this scene. But the genesis of Arbutus Records is also linked to another set of formal policies that highlight Montreal’s diversity in terms of zoning regulations and their effects on cultural practices. The private building that housed the Lab Synthèse (a former industrial space converted into a loft rented by Cowan and other associates) was technically located in Outremont, a previously independent city that merged with the Montreal municipality in 2000. While directly adjacent to the Mile End neighbourhood, Outremont still follows a different set of permit and zoning regulations. As Cowan recounts, officially being just a few feet outside of Mile End influenced his method of organising grassroots live electronic music events:


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The fact that we were in Outremont had a profound effect on me and Arbutus, because in Outremont there are no reunion permits, so there are no temporary alcohol permits. There are no licensed bar in Outremont as far as I’m aware of, there are only restaurants. So everything I was doing initially [with Lab Synthèse] was illegal. Once we started to receive police attention [for live music activity and parties], I looked into the possibility of doing it legitimately, you know, like getting permits and zoning or whatever, only to discover that this isn’t even permitted within Outremont, and that I had no chance. […] And that was the reason for deciding eventually to shut down the venue and focus full time on Arbutus. (Interview with Sebastian Cowan, 24/08/2019)

F unding and ‘Scene Governance’: Two Distinct Approaches In the following section, I highlight the ways in which, despite their connection to the promotion of the local Montreal experimental electronic music communities, MUTEK and Arbutus Records have developed distinctive operational strategies and practices in regard to the governance of their respective scenes. Such principles result from the interlocking of various cultural influences emerging from the broader historical and cultural context of the city outlined above, as well as influences generated by the scene actors themselves, zoning constraints as well as radically different funding mechanisms. Since its inception, the MUTEK festival has primarily been financed with public funding. This reliance has further developed since the late 2000s which has contributed to an increase in the festival’s budget, now over 1  million Canadian dollars (Interview with Patti Schmidt, 21/08/2019). The improvement of the festival’s financial situation is related to the overall increase in public money being made available for the arts since a Canadian federal change of government in the late 2000s, the organisers’ ability to secure larger and slightly longer grants at both the federal and provincial levels of government (from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Québec respectively),

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as well as the development of strategies aligned with the city’s and province’s cultural tourism sector—including, but not limited to, the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’ initiative—which has promoted the festival’s national and international visibility. Culture and tourism are two of Montreal’s biggest contemporary industrial sectors,5 and 50% of MUTEK’s audiences are from outside of Montreal (Renaud 2019). For many of these ‘out-of-­ town’ audiences—coming mainly from other parts of Canada and the Eastern seaboard of the United States (but sometimes further)—MUTEK is not a side-attraction to their visit to Montreal but rather the destination in itself, with Montreal providing added value through its culturally rich backdrop. Both the city and the festival have capitalised on the different ways in which MUTEK functions as part of Montreal’s overall summer cultural events ecosystem, as well as its own attraction for electronic music festival ‘tourists’. According to Schmidt: “The relationship between the MUTEK festival and the City of Montreal may be seen as one of mutual advantage and exploitation. Attendance statistics continue to encourage the relationship with Tourisme Montreal while the festival continues to engage with the physical spaces of the city and expand its reach at both the international and local levels” (2010, p. 87). The festival’s extensive reliance on public funding—which requires that the festival keeps two staffs year-round whose task is to write grant applications (Manthey 2019)—makes it ideally suited to operate in the highly visible, government sanctioned ‘Quartier des Spectacles’, as well as to serve as a ‘flagship’ event in the city’s broader portfolio of activities promoting digital culture innovation. By contrast, the case of the scene linked to Arbutus Records points to a model of electronic music policing shaped by the geographic and infrastructural make up of Mile End, a bohemian neighbourhood which has helped shape what Catherine Gingras (2019, p. 354) has called an “alternative industry” defined initially by independent rock music tropes and specific modes of DIY music production. Unlike MUTEK, it has operated for most of its existence without public or private funding. As Sebastian Cowan recounts, financing the various scene activities he spearheaded was possible in the socio-economic context of Montreal in the late 1990s to mid-2000s:


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None of [my] projects ever had financing. I was fortunate to have no debts as a young adult, and Montreal was a very cheap place in 2007. With a part time job as a busboy, and then later a sound technician at live music venues, I was able to afford my $300/month rent, whatever food or limited luxuries, and have enough left over to pay for a small run of CDR’s. This is to say, I had a lot of time. [Different projects such as] Lab Synthèse, Arbutus Records, and [radio project] n10.a’s all started with virtually no capital investment and grew rather by the time invested in them by the individuals involved. (Interview with Sebastian Cowan, 24/08/2019)

However, Arbutus Records has benefitted from government funding for some of its projects in the past five years and has received both provincial (SODEC) and federal (FACTOR) grants in 2019 (ibid.). More broadly, Sebastian Cowan highlights that most of the initiatives he pursues that are international in scope—such as Arbutus Records—generally receive relatively good funding support. However, initiatives that he is trying to set into place for the benefits of his local projects, such as Lab Synthèse, or more recently his online community radio project n10.as, are not always being recognised or funded as well (Interview with Sebastian Cowan, 24/08/2019). Taken together, the cases of MUTEK and of Arbutus Records point to a situation where experimental electronic music ventures with a potential to generate greater visibility for Montreal culture nationally and internationally tend to attract more public financial support. Beyond the funding component, both MUTEK and Arbutus Records highlight that some aspects of the policing of electronic music in Montreal present challenges to their day-to-day activities. For example, Sebastian Cowan identifies generally ‘hardline’ and relatively conservative attitudes towards ‘do-it-yourself ’ electronic music live music events. Examples of this are: 1. The city’s ‘elite’ police squads shutting down parties around 3 a.m. or even 2 a.m., the closing times for live music venues and liquor sales at bars respectively and 2. The impossibility to obtain late-night drinking permits at cultural events. These limitations also affect the activities of ‘above ground’ experimental electronic music events such as MUTEK, albeit to different degrees. As Patti Schmidt explained, the

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MUTEK festival has always been able to obtain one of the very limited numbers of municipal late-night event permits for the festival’s one yearly all-night programme (albeit always at the late minute, therefore causing difficulty in finalising event planning) (Interview with Patti Schmidt, 21/08/2019), likely due to the more official nature of the festival, and its higher economic and media profile. The ways in which MUTEK and Arbutus Records respond to funding opportunities as well as to zoning and licensing policies has had contrasting effects on how their activities might be said to be governed. On the one hand, the availability of public money and real estate officially designated for cultural activity by Montreal have helped MUTEK to grow, albeit in ways that have to take into account at least some of the government’s expectations as to what ‘electronic music’ should be. The festival must remain flexible to the ways funding bodies prioritise or change grant allocation (Manthey 2019, p. 6) and appealing to an audience of “psychedelic technohipsters” (van Veen 2009, p. 101) likely to participate in the other cultural activities the city has to offer. At the same time, the emergence of Arbutus Records following the closure of Lab Synthèse and the redirection of its actors’ efforts towards the label shows that various zoning and licensing policies have contributed, to some extent, to shaping the very orientation of the ‘do-it-yourself ’ electronic music scene towards recorded music and other kinds of activities rather than towards live music.

Conclusion The two case studies examined in this chapter highlight that electronic music experimentalism in Montreal has evolved in at least two distinct directions that clearly reflect Montreal’s contemporary cultural landscape. On the one hand, since its beginnings, the MUTEK festival has emphasised what Schmidt refers to as “respectability politics”: electronic music presented at the festival is not so much “dance music” or “fun music” so much as it is “art” (Interview with Patti Schmidt, 21/08/2019). Presenting electronic music in such terms has been a key strategy for the festival to


F. Mouillot

secure public funding, and it has allowed to more tightly integrate the event with some of Montreal’s infrastructure-related and cultural policies (e.g. ‘Quartier des Spectacles’) and more broadly related to Montreal’s creative city agenda. On the other end, the scene associated with Arbutus Records locates itself within and extends a tradition of well-established and influential ‘do-it-yourself ’ practices that have grown overtime into a set of what Miranda Campbell has called “informal policies based on shared values of cooperation and negotiation, individual expression, and sustained human investment in small-scale infrastructures and in  local artistic communities” (2013, p. 157). In spite of their distinctive histories and orientations, the two scenes are also interconnected. They aim at promoting electronic musicians with similar innovative sensibilities and unique musical identities, regardless of the styles in which they operate. Montreal’s experimental electronic musicians might have varying ties to both MUTEK and Arbutus, as some of the music promoted by Arbutus Records also falls under MUTEK’s purview (i.e. fringe popular electronic music) and vice versa. The label and the festival also evidently offer complementary opportunities for artists, the former promoting recorded music and the latter live performances. For example, an artist such as Ben Neville might release some of his music through Arbutus Records or perform at parties organised by the Arbutus collective, while also taking advantage of the temporary increased exposure and networking opportunities associated with playing at MUTEK. In other words, although they are different from one another in relation to size, style, activity, structure, and operational tactics, Arbutus and MUTEK both rely on and contribute to the vitality of local communities’ experimental electronic music practices. It is perhaps most importantly through the work of such communities—taking shape at MUTEK events or through the informal network of Mile End’s cultural infrastructures—that the City of Montreal has increasingly based its official recognition of the value of experimental electronic music practices.

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Notes 1. As Will Straw has pointed out, there is a long history of dance clubs in Montreal. 2. In a study on entertainment venues, Montreal’s municipal government in partnership with the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’ and the Tourisme Montréal agency reported that more than 1.7 million spectators attended events in the ‘Quartiers des Spectacles’ in 2016 (Ville de Montréal-Cabinet de la mairesse et du comité n.d.). 3. For the better part of the 2000s, the festival’s “substantial debt” was carried by Mongeau personally. 4. It is worth noting that, although the label earned its reputation for music that might be labelled ‘experimental rock’, its latest releases have embraced a variety of electronic music aesthetics. 5. In 2014, cultural festivals alone attracted 7.5  million attendees, with 2.3 million ‘cultural tourists’ (visitors travelling to Montreal and attending cultural events) spending over 1.1 billion Canadian dollars.

References Campbell, M. (2013). Out of the Basement Youth Cultural Production in Practice and in Policy. McGill-Queen’s University Press. Cummins-Russell, T.  A., & Rantisi, N.  M. (2012). Networks and Place in Montreal’s Independent Music Industry. Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe Canadien, 56(1), 80–97. Darchen, S., & Tremblay, D.-G. (2013). The Local Governance of Culture-Led Regeneration Projects: A Comparative Analysis Between Montreal and Toronto. Urban Research & Practice, 6(2), 140–157. Dunlevy, T. (2019, August 17). From Île Soniq to Mutek, Montreal is an electronic music haven. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from https://montrealgazette.com/ entertainment/music/from-­ilesoniq-­to-­mutek-­montreal-­is-­an-­electronic­music-­haven. Faden, R. (2017, December 14). Get to know Montréal’s electronic music scene. Tourisme Montréal. Retrieved from https://www.mtl.org/en/experience/ electronic-­music-­montreal-­101. Gingras, C. (2019). L’identité montréalaise et la scène musicale indépendante locale (1995–2013): Des représentations à l’expérience du territoire. Phd, Université


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du Québec, Institut national de la recherche scientifique. Retrieved from http://espace.inrs.ca/id/eprint/8795/. Koromyslova, N. (2017). Montréal veut accroître les retombées économiques de la culture. Le Devoir. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.ledevoir.com/ culture/495074/politique-­culturelle-­montreal-­veut-­accroitre-­les-­retombees-­ economiques-­de-­la-­culture. Manthey, N. (2019). Mutek Montréal  – A Focal Organisation Within a Trans-­ local Cultural Ecology. Cultural Value Networks. Mouillot, F. (2018). Distribution ambiances magnétiques etcetera and Constellation Records: DIY Record Labels and the Montreal Experimental Music Scene. McGill University. Retrieved from https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/theses/ q811kn23p. MUTEK. (n.d.). About. MUTEK; MUTEK.  Retrieved May 23, 2020, from http://www.mutek.org/en/about. Olbrich, S. (2013). The Warehouse Pop of Arbutus Records. Dazed. Retrieved from https://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/16593/1/arbutus. Piekut, B. (2011). Experimentalism Otherwise – The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits. University of California Press. Quartier des spectacles. (2020). History and Vision. Retrieved from https://www. quartierdesspectacles.com/en/about/history-­and-­vision/. Rantisi, N. M., & Leslie, D. (2010). Materiality and Creative Production: The Case of the Mile End Neighborhood in Montréal. Environment and Planning A, 42(12), 2824–2841. https://doi.org/10.1068/a4310. Renaud, P. (2019). MUTEK, l’agent de changement. Le Devoir. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.ledevoir.com/culture/arts-­visuels/560734/mutek-­l-­ agent-­de-­changement. Schmidt, P. (2010). Québec Electric: Montreal, Mutek and the Global Circuit. Retrieved from https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/theses/3r075034 8?locale=en. Stahl, G. (2001). Tracing Out an Anglo-Bohemia: Music Making and Myth in Montréal. Public, 22–23. Retrieved from http://public.journals.yorku.ca/ index.php/public/article/view/30328. Sterne, J., & Razlogova, E. (2019). Machine Learning in Context, Or Learning from LANDR: Artificial Intelligence and the Platformization of Music Mastering. Social Media + Society, 5(2), 1–18. Trandafir, L. (2017). Alain Mongeau and Patti Schmidt on the MUTEK Legacy. LANDR Blog. https://blog.landr.com/mutek-­legacy/.

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Valiquet, P. (2019). Remediating Modernism: On the Digital Ends of Montreal’s Electroacoustic Tradition. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 144(1), 157–189. van Veen, T. (2009). Convergence and Soniculture: 10 Years of MUTEK. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, 1(1), 95–117. Ville de Montréal-Cabinet de la mairesse et du comité. (2019). Culture et développement économique—Montréal, le Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles et Tourisme Montréal dévoilent une étude sur les retombées commerciales des salles de spectacles. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.newswire.ca/fr/ news-­r eleases/culture-­e t-­d eveloppement-­e conomique-­m ontreal-­l e-­ partenariat-­du-­quartier-­des-­spectacles-­et-­tourisme-­montreal-­devoilent-­une-­ etude-­s ur-­l es-­r etombees-­c ommerciales-­d es-­s alles-­d e-­s pectacles­867305797.html.

8 Compression Aesthetics: Transducing Segregation in the Los Angeles Beat Scene Mike D’Errico

Introduction For the past forty years, hip-hop DJs and producers have translated urban policies and politics into aesthetic and formal characteristics of their music, reclaiming public space by reworking sonic space. Looped breakbeats at the dawn of hip-hop in the South Bronx served to mediate splintered communities after the Cross-Bronx Expressway ploughed through homes and neighbourhoods (Ewoodzie Jr. 2017). In early 1990s’ Los Angeles, laid back g-funk provided a utopian soundscape for what the city could be post-Rodney King and the Los Angeles riots (Quinn 2005). Stuttered vocals in New Orleans bounce music echo the disruption caused to local businesses in the wake of the I-10 bridge being built over the Treme neighbourhood (Crutcher Jr. 2010). As the tenth most segregated metropolitan area in the United States, Los Angeles has a well-documented history of regulation, discrimination, M. D’Errico (*) Albright College, Reading, PA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_8



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and structural inequality that has fragmented the city and confined people of colour to areas with poor public services: from mid-twentieth-­ century racial covenants that prevented people of colour from purchasing homes in certain neighbourhoods to the more recent subsidisation of global capital by the city without a clear funnel for how residents might benefit. Urban design and planning policies have played a huge role in both the city’s segregated neighbourhoods and the suburban sprawl and traffic that has characterised Los Angeles (Davis 1990). Thus the contradictions that draw so many people into the city, while pushing so many others out: the vastness of the Pacific Coast against a massive homeless population crowded into Skid Row; night-time cruising along Mulholland Drive against the worst traffic in the country; the noise of Los Angeles County against the stillness of the desert just an hour away. Southern California is built on these dynamics of compression and expansion. This chapter looks at the ways in which hip-hop producers in the Los Angeles “beat scene” during the first decades of the twenty-first century have used audio compression in their mixes in an effort both to reify explicitly the sound of the city and to critique implicitly the gentrification, population growth, and social segregation that continue to splinter cultures and communities. While compression is often used as a subtle effect to foreground certain musical elements by reducing their dynamic range, artists such as Flying Lotus and Tokimonsta push the effect to its limit, creating crowded soundscapes in which disparate tracks continuously fight for space in the mix.1 As such, compression can be heard as a sonic analogy of the crises of space that Los Angeles continues to face in terms of housing, traffic, labour, and musical communities, too (James 2019). Based on seven years of ethnographic research with the beat scene, the chapter uses the concept of transduction as an analytical methodology for connecting the politics of urban planning in the era of gentrification with the aesthetics of music production in the digital age.

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The City When most people think of Los Angeles, two seemingly unrelated things likely come to mind: traffic and the American Dream. As one of the largest metropolitan area in the United States, Los Angeles is consistently ranked as having some of the worst traffic in the country. The sprawling suburban geography has made car ownership a necessity for Angelenos, and the gridlock can be felt far beyond the borders of Los Angeles county into the desert suburbs of San Bernardino and Riverside. The social life of the city—the start of dinner conversations, family trip planning, enjoying casual drinks with friends—is often framed, literally, with traffic foregrounded. It’s important not simply as a ubiquitous inconvenience for local residents; it defines the social and cultural values of the city— constantly in motion, a city of migrants pushing against the gridlock, struggling for their big break to make a better life for their families back home, or from their isolated suburban existence in the American Midwest, or from Los Angeles itself. The traffic patterns of the city have come to define the aesthetics and values of its musical communities, as well. In the 2000s, especially, Los Angeles became a global hub for electronic dance music and hip-hop, as DJs and producers from around the world relocated in the city on the eve of the coming EDM explosion in the latter part of the decade. Los Angeles-based Dance music record labels and artist collectives like Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak, Diplo’s Mad Decent, Skrillex’s OWSLA, and Deadmau5’s mau5trap reflected the increased value being placed on electronic dance music inside and outside of Los Angeles both during and after the 2008 recession (Yoshida 2018). To this day, there are no signs of it slowing down. From 2018 to 2019, the Forbes list calculated the annual earnings of Steve Aoki at $30 million and Diplo at $25 million, both trailing almost $20 million behind The Chainsmokers and Marshmello. Diplo, in particular, reflects the prototypical neoliberal entrepreneur of contemporary globalisation; the cosmopolitan rambler often accused of being a ‘culture vulture’ for his neo-colonialist ‘discoveries’ of local dance music from around the world which ultimately gets filtered through the


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Mad Decent success formula and homogenised into viral hits that play well with white ravers from Minnesota (Tucker 2017). Thus, the tension at the heart of Los Angeles’ music life: on the one hand, it is a place that young people from around the world dream of moving to; on the other hand, it is a place from which many of the hundreds of thousands of suburban youth who currently live there hope to escape. In the 2015 EDM drama We Are Your Friends—a movie described as “a kind of variation on Saturday Night Fever set in the world of electronica”—Zac Efron plays Cole, a 23-year-old living in the San Fernando Valley who never went to college so he could focus on his dream of becoming a DJ (Ebiri 2015). Star-struck by a superstar DJ named James and his lavish lifestyle in the Hollywood Hills, Cole and his friends do everything they can to feed off of those around them in their quest to escape from the suburbs. They take on part-time jobs preying on working-­ class homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages, leech drugs, and resources from the EDM elite, and Cole even tries to steal James’ girlfriend throughout the movie. In the end, Cole gets to live out his dream despite those he walked over to pursue it, and he reminds the viewer constantly that all it took was his laptop, some talent, and one track. The movie highlights the increasing interrelationships between EDM culture and the business model of the entertainment industries post-2008, as well as the desire for many DJs and producers to escape this model and pursue the American Dream unfettered by the perceived creative limitations imposed by the ‘mainstream’ electronic dance music industry. Electronic dance music is naturally attracted to Los Angeles at the same time that it wants to break free from it.

The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective Despite the 1% of DJs and producers that have come to define electronic music in Los Angeles, there are equal numbers of musical and artistic communities that view their work as explicitly antithetical to the ­mainstream values of EDM in the new millennium. The Los Angeles ‘Beat Scene’—a loose collective of rappers, beatmakers, DJs, and dancers who specifically locate themselves outside of the Hollywood

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bubble—provides an early example of one such community. On a cultural level, the scene can be heard as a direct response to the musical and social homogenisation of electronic dance music perceived by many musicians and fans as a result of the global EDM boom. In terms of compositional style, many producers working in the beat scene make every effort to push their rhythms off the musical grid, defining what would eventually become known as the “seasick” or “wonky” sound in electronic dance music (Brøvig-Hanssen and Danielsen 2016; D’Errico 2015). On a social level, the scene literally locates itself off the geographic grid of Los Angeles, hosting club nights on the fringes of the city and county. The aesthetic gesture of moving ‘off the grid’ defines much of the history and evolution of the beat scene, as well as electronic music in the first decades of the twenty-first century, more broadly. Tracing the history of such a recent scene can be difficult. In the decade since I began studying and working with this community, countless DJs, producers, and other artists have emerged from DIY roots through the ranks of the industry to become fan favourites in the electronic music ‘underground,’ while others have maintained close ties to local neighbourhoods in Los Angeles with seemingly no interest in ‘breaking out.’ An increasing number of journalistic features have emerged which attempt to outline the history of the scene, most telling the stories of different key players, but ultimately focusing on innovations in music production within the community (Brown 2009; Patrin 2015). Regardless of who is telling the story, one name comes up as a pivotal figure: J Dilla. Most of Dilla’s career was spent in Detroit, where he established his signature off-kilter swing and multi-layered, sample-based drum kits. Early production credits from the mid-1990s include beats for groups such as The Pharcyde, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest, each foreshadowing the experimental sampling and drum sequencing techniques that would come to define the Dilla style for so many producers. “Bullshit,” from The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia (1995), is typical of Dilla’s early sound, reflecting a strong jazz influence with chord extensions on the Fender Rhodes electric piano, played over a minimalist boombap drum beat with a thick backbeat fattened up with multiple layers of snare samples sequenced slightly apart from each other. On Slum Village’s ‘Fantastic,’ the opening track of Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1


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(1996), Dilla immediately expresses his love for the Akai MPC drum machine and sampler, starting the record with four counts of the MPC’s signature metronome click, followed by a tight drum beat with a filtered kick sequenced with a heavy amount of swing. This causes the entire pattern to feel inarticulate and disjointed (Exarchos 2019). Even early on, Dilla’s aesthetic was defined by constantly pushing the limits of technology and going against standard sampling and sequencing conventions, while highlighting the humanising features of music-making throughout the long history of black popular music (Exarchos 2018). Fast-forward to 2004, which arguably marks the birth year of the Los Angeles beat scene, and an important time in Dilla’s life, he finished a European tour, had his second kid, lost his record deal with MCA, had most of his recording gear destroyed in a basement flood, and was diagnosed with lupus, the rare blood disorder that would take his life two years later (O’Neill 2016). It makes sense, then, that Dilla would participate in the long history of Americans who travelled west to pursue what they saw as the final frontier of the country; the comforts of the Los Angeles basin sheltered from the unforgiving desert just over the hills, a land of seemingly endless possibilities and sunshine. J Dilla released his final beat tape, Donuts, just days before he died on February 10, 2006. The album defies standard hip-hop production practices: Dilla samples vintage TV advertisements and children’s music as much as the undiscovered soul and classic rock records hip-hop heads might expect. He uses irregular and extended repetitions of short loops to build tension rather than to provide a backing track for a rapper, and he often chops his samples after the initial transient peak of the sound, thwarting the listener’s expectations of groove and reifying the micro rhythmic nuance that is almost unanimously attributed to Dilla’s style (Ferguson 2014). Rewind back to 2004. Los Angeles DJ and artist Kutmah and his friend Oka-San begin Sketchbook, a Tuesday night hip-hop series dedicated to underground music and collaborations with artists across media. Kutmah describes the alternative nature of the event: “It was just drinking Hennessy at 9 o’clock. We’d get there around 8, set up, I’d print up Xerox copies of my sketchbook, make a collage really quickly. I had made a sign that said ‘No Requests’, a massive sign so no-one could get it wrong. It was a nice little thing, dancefloor was tiny and if you had 3

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people dancing it was fun” (Fintoni 2013). Not only was Dilla on heavy rotation during Sketchbook events, but many of the club nights resident DJs—Nobody, Take (now Sweatson Klank), and especially Ras G— reflect a strong Dilla influence in their own work. As an audience of artists and music-makers, many of the Sketchbook attendees came specifically so they did not have to dance, or hook up, or engage in the standard social rituals of club culture, and this feature would become the lasting legacy of Sketchbook. When the series started to fizzle out a couple of years later, the emerging scene of underground artists, producers, DJs, and hip-hop beat heads would seek out a new club night on the other end of town, equally attuned to the finer nuances of the low-end frequency band. Eight months after J Dilla’s passing and the release of Donuts, DJ, producer, and audio engineer Daddy Kev started what would become one of the most infamous weekly club nights in the history of electronic dance music: Low End Theory. Kev had been a fixture in the Los Angeles scene since the late 1990s when he founded the rap and drum ‘n’ bass label Celestial Recordings and started the Konkrete Jungle weekly drum ‘n’ bass night. In 2004, he founded Alpha Pup Records, an independent label and digital distributor that would become home to many members of the beat scene including Nosaj Thing, Jonwayne, Dibiase, Take, Dot, Nocando, Astronautica, and more. The melting pot of all of these forces—Dilla’s passing, Sketchbook fans and residents looking for a new home, the reputation of Alpha Pup in the world of alternative electronic music—led to the formation of Low End Theory in 2006, and the vibe of the event reflected this emerging history. Like Sketchbook, Dilla’s music provided a ubiquitous soundtrack for the night, and an audience of DJ-producers themselves ensured the event was curated with the goal of fostering experimental underground production styles. From its founding in 2006 until its eventual closure in 2018, LET remained rooted at The Airliner, a small bar at the north-eastern border of Downtown Los Angeles, reflecting the desires of the club affiliates to maintain underground status even after the event became one of the biggest club nights in the city (Fig. 8.1). With a weekly residency that quickly became a global hub for experimental electronic music DJs and


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Fig. 8.1  Key live music venues in the formation of the beat scene (Source: The author)

producers, many involved in the beat scene would soon release albums that would define the Los Angeles sound for a worldwide audience. In the years leading up to the release of his genre-defining album Los Angeles (2008)—and during the time J Dilla was completing Donuts for release with the company—Steven Ellison worked as an intern for the Los Angeles-based independent record label, Stones Throw. After spending so much time at Stones Throw soaking in Dilla’s production techniques, and two years as a mainstay performer and audience member at Low End Theory, FlyLo’s Los Angeles serves as a sonic snapshot of the beat scene’s emerging aesthetic. Some techniques, like the unquantised drum beats and intentionally sloppy sampling, are reflective of Dilla’s influence. Others, such as the multi-layered ambient textures, synthesizer modulations that spread across the frequency and pitch spectrum, and trippy vocal tracks, are a testament to the tension at the heart of the beat scene. At once a local community that defined the sound of Los Angeles in first decade of the twenty-first century, it was becoming increasingly a global hub for underground electronic dance music. Of the innovative production techniques that defined the beat scene sound in Los Angeles, FlyLo’s exaggerated use of compression is the album’s

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most lasting legacy. As a fundamental concept in digital audio, compression refers to two different processes. First, lossy data-compression refers to the process used to reduce the storage size of digital audio files by partially discarding some of its data, often for the purpose of quicker distribution over peer-to-peer networks (Sterne 2012). Second, sidechain compression (a ubiquitous technique in both Los Angeles and EDM more broadly throughout the 2000s and 2010s) is an audio engineering term in which the person mixing the music applies a dynamic signal processor known as a compressor to one track in the mix, which then gets triggered by another element in the mix. The result is a self-regulating mix in which the introduction of certain elements (e.g. a kick drum) will lower the volume and “duck out” other elements (e.g. a bass or synthesizer) (Hodgson 2011). In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs claims that city living has the capability of offering a constant sense of discovery and surprise and that self-regulating communities result from communal participation in public life (Jacobs 1961). A fundamental argument of this chapter is that musical communities, the Los Angeles beat scene in particular, use sound to regulate their goals and values, and thus reflect the social, cultural, and geographic space from which they emerge. Through the ways in which it allows a collective group of sounds to self-regulate, makes space for all sonic elements to be heard in a mix, and reduces actual audio file size so the music can be spread optimally, compression can be heard as a sonic signifier and metaphor for Los Angeles’ social, cultural, and political geography, as well as a transducer of the beat scene’s underground politics. I call this compression-as-metaphor concept “compression aesthetics,” and I see it as a sort of aesthetic policy that both governs communities of music-makers and reflects and critiques the problematic history of space, housing, and urban policy in Los Angeles.

Governance of the Scene and Spaces It would be irresponsible to discuss urban policy and black popular music in Los Angeles without acknowledging the significant role racial segregation has played in the geopolitical formation of the city. Most of these


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problems arose in the early to mid-twentieth century with the promotion in Los Angeles of racially restrictive covenants—contractual agreements that prohibited the purchasing or leasing of property by black people (Reft 2017). Despite common rhetoric during this time emphasising the importance of ‘free markets’ and governmental deregulation, federal rules often placed restrictions on home ownership by minorities. Even when non-whites were able to purchase homes, policies often pushed them into older buildings, then restricted access to home loans that could help maintain those buildings. In the mid-1930s, after the formation of the New Deal, “Redlining” maps specifically targeted POC communities in the city as “risk” populations, promoting even greater racial homogeneity in neighbourhoods. When the Supreme Court declared racial covenants legally unenforceable in 1948, white homeowners violently attacked black homes. It was not until 1953 that a second Supreme Court ruling ‘officially’ put an end to racial covenants. Well into the 1950s, home loans continued to discriminate against non-whites, and more violence against black homes pushed many non-­ whites out to suburbs like the San Fernando Valley, while wealthier residents stayed in places like Compton or Boyle Heights, places which, in turn, became highly segregated. In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, highway construction and urban renewal policies ploughed through communities like Boyle Heights, displacing many of its residents. In 1963, the Rumford Act attempted to remedy these problems by enabling the Fair Employment Practices Commission to intervene if a manager or homeowner was found to have refused rental or sale of a property due to race. However, the rhetoric of free markets and personal freedom won over the majority of whites in the state, who stood behind Proposition 14, a referendum that would declare the Rumford Act null and void. While Prop 14 ended up getting defeated by the Supreme Court in 1967, discriminatory market practices and segregated housing have come to define the social, cultural, and political geography of the city even to this day. Most people do not talk about racial segregation when they talk about Los Angeles. As I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, most conversations about Los Angeles end up coming back around to traffic. Without knowing the history of racial segregation in the city, though, it

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would be impossible to see how traffic is mostly a product of that history. Like compression, traffic is an allegory that reflects the urban geography of the city, and allows us to address more fundamental questions: why has gentrification been so strong and damaging and why—despite the alleged capital pouring into Los Angeles from global interests—does the city of Los Angeles “suffer the highest levels of crowding, the greatest levels of poverty, the least affordable housing, the lowest homeownership rates and the second-largest concentration of homeless in the nation” (Kotkin and Toplansky 2019)? The truth is, Los Angeles reached capacity decades ago. The failure of gentrification in Los Angeles is a result of attempts to create city-­ sanctioned, high-density housing complexes in key areas (Kotkin and Toplansky 2019; Sloane 2012). For example, attempts to densify high-­ traffic transit areas have mostly backfired because this boosts housing prices while discouraging actual public transit (since poorer people, in turn, end up needing to buy cars). As a result, traffic just keeps getting worse. This history of racist urban policies had no explicit effect on the social and cultural construction of the beat scene crowds that congregated around the venues listed in Fig. 8.1. In general, beat scene events hosted a much more diverse demographic makeup than other musical communities in the city (Los Angeles rock and EDM scenes in the 2010s were more homogenously white), and traffic patterns had little effect on the actual mobility of beat scene crowds. However, there was often talk about how the beat scene reflected the literal sound of Los Angeles: not just the music being made by the electronic music community within the space of the city, but the sound of the geopolitical makeup of the Los Angeles basin itself. Here, we start to get to the implicit relationship between automobile traffic—the product of a workforce necessarily mobile in terms of its labour, yet immobile socially and financially—and audio compression—the product of optimising the mobile distribution of audio files while reducing the financial gains of the workers who create those files. Compression aesthetics—the audible attempt to ensure individual elements cut through a dense mix of sounds—reflects a core critique of urban policy in the city.


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Often, the blame for these types of issues gets pinned on the usual suspects in urban policy. For example, the ways in which zoning ordinances have caused an increase in “out-migration” and lower home ownership rates. People have known this for years, and Los Angeles has always been partly defined by its transient nature, a place where many move to but few ever settle. The beat scene itself is a testament to this: a mass of drifters who spent a decade looking for an artistic home in Los Angeles. While Low End Theory closed its doors in 2018 due to “family obligations,” “work demands,” and “life,” the musical and aesthetic influences of the scene continue to resonate in the fringes of contemporary electronic dance music, jazz, and hip-hop (Holbrook 2018).

Conclusion Throughout this chapter, I have made clear how the stakeholders involved in fostering the community work to ensure the beat scene maintains an ‘underground’ image. Significantly, this ‘underground’ aesthetic thrived largely as a result of the lack of cultural policies developed by the city of Los Angeles to foster artistic communities like the beat scene. The DJs and producers most closely aligned with the scene come from fringe traditions in hip-hop and electronic dance music, and they perpetuate this outsider status in their musical and marketing aesthetics. The performance spaces, like The Airliner, reify this outsider status, either existing at the limits of the city, or within small enclaves outside of the Hollywood club ecosystem. As such, the beat scene participates in a long lineage of hip-hop communities that use the aesthetics and rhetorical values of being ‘underground’ as both a statement embracing the adaptation of musical styles that push against a perceived ‘mainstream,’ as well as a powerful reclamation of material space (Forman 2002). As a music that so often emerges in the wake of deindustrialisation, hip-hop has provided some of the most vocal critiques of urban policy around the world. In Los Angeles, hip-hop has reflected a dichotomy of automobility. For hip-hop artists and commuting Angelenos alike, emphasis is placed on markers of material wealth, like cars, as a means of both imagining and realising upward social mobility, as well as celebrating actual mobility,

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which is not always a luxury available to working-class people. Despite this, and here’s the dichotomy, cars in Los Angeles actually prevent class mobility by using more than 60% of the land in the city (Manville and Shoup 2005). Compression, as employed by members of the Los Angeles beat scene, reflects the tensions and dichotomies at the heart of the city’s urban design: open suburban space versus urban density, class-based topographies as the rich live in the hills and an increasing homeless population occupies the streets, and the immobility of global capital funnelling into the city without trickling down to its inhabitants. In many ways, these urban politics of abandonment have come to define the cultural brand of hip-hop and club culture in Los Angeles, just as they have for so many cities around the world (Chang 2005). Just as compression limits the dynamic range of audio waveforms and sonic elements of a collective mix, histories of segregationist real estate policy and gentrification have immobilized many of Los Angeles’ inhabitants. Within the Los Angeles beat scene, compression functions as a sonic analogy of the crises of space that Los Angeles continues to face, simultaneously a reification and critique of urban policy that has, for so long, attempted to compress actual populations while keeping social and cultural communities apart.

Note 1. While a constellation of electronic music producers and DJs contributed to the formation of the ‘beat scene’ sound in Los Angeles, the music of Flying Lotus encompasses the variety of musical trends embraced by the community. In his 2008 LP, Los Angeles, he exaggerates the off-kilter drum sequencing techniques of pioneers like J Dilla, he embraces sidechain compression on the kick drum as a method of gluing the mix together (see also Ras G, Brotha from Anotha Planet (2009)), and he uses ambient textures and noise for both rhythmic effect and layered atmosphere (see also Teebs, Ardour (2010); Baths, Cerulean (2010)). Other general musical markers of the scene include the use of retro video game sounds (Dibiase, Machines Hate Me (2010); Jonwayne, Bowser (2011)), experimentation with new or niche production technologies (Daedelus, Live at Low End Theory (2008)), and a strong jazz influence (Thundercat, Apocalypse (2013)).


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References Brøvig-Hanssen, R., & Danielsen, A. (2016). Digital Signatures: The Impact of Digitization on Popular Music Sound. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Brown, A. (2009, October). Low End Theory: High-concept music. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/04/entertainment/ca-­low-­end-­theory4. Chang, J. (2005). Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. London: Picador. Crutcher, M.  E., Jr. (2010). Tremé: Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighbourhood. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. D’Errico, M. (2015). Off the Grid: Instrumental Hip-Hop and Experimentalism after the Golden Age. In J. A. Williams (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop (pp. 280–291). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Davis, M. (1990). City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. London and New York: Verso. Ebiri, E. (2015, August). We Are Your Friends Works. I Can’t Believe It, Either. Vulture. Retrieved from https://www.vulture.com/2015/08/movie-­review-­ we-­are-­your-­friends.html. Ewoodzie, J.  C., Jr. (2017). Break Beats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip-Hop’s Early Years. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Exarchos, M. (2018). Sample Magic: (Conjuring) Phonographic Ghosts and Meta-Illusions in Contemporary Hip-Hop Production. Popular Music, 39(1), 33–53. Exarchos, M. (2019). Boom Bap Ex Machina: Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Akai MPC.  In R.  Hepworth-Sawyer, J.  Hodgson, & M.  Marrington (Eds.), Producing Music (pp. 32–51). London: Routledge. Ferguson, J. (2014). J Dilla’s Donuts. New York: Bloomsbury. Fintoni, L. (2013, March). ‘Prince came to my club’: The Birth of the L.A. Beat Scene, as Told by Kutmah. FACT. Retrieved from https://www.factmag. com/2013/04/03/prince-­came-­to-­my-­club-­the-­birth-­of-­l-­a-­beat-­scene-­as-­ told-­by-­kutmah/2/. Forman, M. (2002). The ‘Hood Comes First’: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Hodgson, J. (2011). Lateral Dynamics Processing in Experimental Hip Hop: Flying Lotus, Madlib, Oh No, J-Dilla and Prefuse 73. Journal on the Art of Record Production, (5).

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Holbrook, C. (2018). Los Angeles’ Low End Theory Announces Its Closure. Mixmag. Retrieved from https://mixmag.net/read/los-­angeles-­low-­end­theory-­announces-­its-­closure-­news. Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New  York: Random House. James, R. (2019). The Sonic Episteme: Acoustic Resonance, Neoliberalism, and Biopolitics. Durham: Duke University Press. Kotkin, J., & Toplansky, M. (2019, January). Gentrification Is Failing in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved from https://www.dailynews. com/2019/01/26/gentrification-­is-­failing-­in-­los-­angeles/. Manville, M., & Shoup, D. (2005). People, Parking and Cities. Journal of Urban Planning and Development, 131(4), 233–245. O’Neill, C. T. (2016, March). J Dilla’s Last Album Is Both a Debut and a Finale. The Village Voice. Retrieved from https://www.villagevoice. com/2016/03/22/j-­dillas-­last-­album-­is-­both-­a-­debut-­and-­a-­finale/. Patrin, N. (2015, September). The Golden Dawn: L.A.  Beat Scene Origins. Pitchfork. Retrieved from https://pitchfork.com/features/pitchfork-­ essentials/9716-­the-­golden-­dawn-­la-­beat-­scene-­origins/. Quinn, E. (2005). Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap. New York: Columbia University Press. Reft, R. (2017, September). How Prop 14 Shaped California’s Racial Covenants. KCET. Retrieved from https://www.kcet.org/shows/city-­rising/how-­prop-­14-­ shaped-­californias-­racial-­covenants. Sloane, D. (2012). Planning Los Angeles. Chicago: American Planning Association. Sterne, J. (2012). MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Durham: Duke University Press. Tucker, B. (2017, July). Cultural Appropriation and Sugar Drinks. Africa is a Country. Retrieved from https://africasacountry.com/2017/07/sunday-­read-­ cultural-­appropriation-­revisited. Yoshida, E. (2018, April). Avicii and EDM’s Promise of Post-Recessional Excess. Vulture. Retrieved from https://www.vulture.com/2018/04/avicii-­and-­edms-­ promise-­of-­post-­recessional-­excess.html.

9 Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed Entertainment Patryk Galuszka and Ewa Mazierska

Introduction This chapter examines the history and the present day of popular electronic music in Łódź,1 which is the third largest city in Poland (after Warsaw and Cracow). We focus on the period from the 1990s when the electronic scene was born in Łódź to the present day. In our investigation we pay attention to artists connected to the city, the spaces in which they perform and the fans of electronic music who could enjoy their favourite genres, such as clubs and music festivals and the genres which took root in Łódź, particularly drum’n’bass. We also present the legal framework and initiatives of local politicians, which affected, positively or negatively,

P. Galuszka (*) University of Lodz, Łódź, Poland e-mail: [email protected] E. Mazierska University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_9



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the development of ‘Electronic Łódź’. We also try to establish whether there is a specific fit between the city and the subgenres of electronic music which has flourished there. Our chapter draws on the history of Łódź, as well as research on what we can term ‘musical cities’, and the concept of music ecologies.

Łódź’s Cultural History For almost four centuries, Łódź remained a small village near the Piotrków road and in 1810 it had only 514 inhabitants. The situation changed rapidly when the textile industry started to develop in Łódź and the neighbouring settlements. One reason for that is its location on the border between German and Russian parts of the partitioned Poland.2 This meant that it was a perfect place for German craftsmen to settle and sell their products to Russia, with its practically unlimited market. In the period before 1815 (when, following the Treaty of Vienna, Łódź became part of the Russian empire), Germans received various incentives to settle there, including tax exemptions. Another factor was the large number of small rivers and streams which were essential for setting up mills which used waterpower (Olga i Daniel n.d.). This led to the rapid development of Łódź’s population, as many peasants from nearby villages moved there as work in the factories was more profitable than in the fields. Here one can see a similarity between the development of Łódź and industrial centres in England, especially Manchester, during the industrial revolution. Thanks to industry Łódź became the most developed region of the Kingdom of Poland and a magnet for entrepreneurs from the whole Russian empire, including many Jews. By the end of the nineteenth century Łódź was the most multi-ethnic town in old Poland and one of the most multi-cultural and multi-lingual towns in Europe. The most dynamic period in the development of Łódź was from 1865 to 1914. This period is covered by Polish Nobel laureate, WŁadysŁaw Reymont, in his novel Ziema obiecana (The Promised Land, 1897–1898). The Promised Land tells the story of three close friends and ruthless young industrialists: a Pole, a German and a Jew, struggling to build their own

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factory, where ruthless worker exploitation and competition between industrialists is the order of the day. In 1914 Łódź’s population reached 500,000 people. The First World War ended this growth as German occupiers requisitioned machines and raw material for producing textiles, which led to high unemployment. However, after 1918 the city resumed its growth thanks to a migration of peasants and Jews from other parts of Russia. In 1921 there were 450,000 people living in Łódź, including 30% Jewish. By 1939, Łódź’s population reached 680,000 people. The Second World War had a similar effect as the First World War on Łódź, leading to the city’s decline. In 1946, its population went down to only 372,000. However, what was different in comparison with the end of the First World War was the change in the ethnic composition of the city, with the Jewish and German inhabitants being decimated: the former due to ethnic cleansing in the ghettos and death camps; the latter due to post-war expulsion or fear of it on the part of German inhabitants. Hence, from being one the most multi-ethnic towns in Poland, Łódź became—like the rest of Poland—mono-ethnic. During 1945–1948, it became the temporary capital of Poland due to Warsaw’s near annihilation, following the Warsaw Uprising. This resulted in Łódź’s culture flourishing—in 1948 the Film School was opened, which in due course produced such famous graduates as Roman Polanski. In 1959, Łódź had once again 700,000 people, hence exceeding the peak from the interwar period. The post-war period was relatively prosperous for Łódź, as it preserved its position as the main centre of producing textiles in Poland. It also had one of the highest levels of female employment because women were disproportionally employed in textile factories. By the same token, Łódź was particularly strongly hit when state socialism was dismantled in Poland at the end of the 1980s. Many textile factories were closed down due to being unprofitable. In due course, the problems were exacerbated by the collapse of trade with the old Soviet Union, where historically much of the products of Łódź’s factories was sent. Since then, the town has suffered from a perpetual crisis, which has several dimensions: economic, social and cultural. Until recent years, it had a high unemployment rate, with the highest recorded in 2003 at 19.1% (Zajdel 2009) and was marred by an exodus of young people, who migrated to more


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prosperous towns, principally Warsaw, or commuted there for work, or moved abroad. This resulted in a weak identification of the inhabitants with the city, worsened by the fact that the external perception of Łódź is largely negative, as a city which, despite being large, is provincial and post-­industrial, not in the sense of overcoming its industrial past, but being unable to transcend it. Faced with such internal and external perceptions, the city authorities tried to overcome it, by reinventing Łódź as a city of culture, which is a frequent strategy of post-industrial towns in Europe (Galuszka 2017). Such an opinion is not without basis, given that there are 24 universities and colleges in Łódź and its population of students approaches 100,000 people. In 2011, the authorities started to promote its new image as a capital of creative industries, which also includes music. The most important element of this strategy is Nowe Centrum Łodzi (the New Centre of Łódź) project, which includes regeneration of approximately 100 hectares in the vicinity of Fabryczna railway station. The project primarily envisaged that next to a new multi-modal transportation hub the ‘business quarter’ and the ‘cultural quarter’ would be built. After several years the project was scaled down due to high costs (Galuszka 2017). The main element of the multi-modal transportation hub—the new Fabryczna railway station—was opened in December 2016, while some business and cultural spaces are still being built. Although the New Centre of Łódź project is less ambitious than previously planned, it is not the only large-­ scale investment project realized in Łódź in recent years. In general, during the last decade, Łódź, for the first time in many years, has experienced steady growth, which is manifested, for example, with a falling unemployment rate which in April 2019 was 5.4% (Markiewicz 2019).

Electronic Scene in Łódź From the early 1990s, Łódź had the most significant electronic scene in Poland, along with Poznań and Szczecin. Unlike these other two cities, which benefited from proximity to Germany (it is closer from Szczecin and Poznań to Berlin than to Warsaw) by bringing DJs from these towns and travelling there frequently, Łódź, however, developed its electronic scene independently from such direct influences.

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The first sign of the birth of a scene were techno parties organized in the student clubs 77 and Szafa. The DJs working there, Amnesia Crew and Rebus, played hip-hop, jungle and UK-type hardcore. The year 1994 saw the opening of the club New Alcatraz, in the old factory hall of a textile mill on Piotrkowska 138/140, managed by SŁawomir Żak and Robert Jakubowski, two young men, who lived for some time in London and visited clubs and attended raves there. New Alcatraz, as its very name suggests, was styled as a prison. Its unique atmosphere attracted visitors from all over Poland and abroad, making it one of the most popular clubs in Poland. Paradoxically, this was also a reason why the club was closed down. Following complaints from people living in the neighbouring buildings, the council decided that all activities of the club have to finish by midnight. Given that midnight is a time when the real fun only begins for clubbers, after only two years of activities Żak and Jakubowski decided to close down New Alcatraz (Jamka 1997, p. 18). Currently, the area of Piotrkowska Street, where New Alcatraz was situated, is part of the larger cultural and commercial ‘Off Piotrkowska Centre’. Żak and Jakubowski were also behind the largest electronic music event in Łódź of the 1990s and arguably the whole of Poland: the techno parade ‘Parada Wolności’ (Freedom Parade). The parade marched through the previously mentioned Piotrkowska Street, the longest high street in Europe. Initially, it was meant to be merely an addition to the large techno event, organised regularly in the sports hall, but its success encouraged the organisers to repeat it (Kaazetka 2001, p. 44). The first Freedom Parade took place in 1997, had five trucks with equipment and attracted 8,000 visitors; three years later the number of visitors was between 28,000 and 30,000. The parade included a competition for DJs and a Mega Party in two sports halls (Kaazetka 2001, p. 47). Judging by its coverage in the press, during its existence, this was the most important event in the calendar of Polish techno fans. In common with the Love Parade in Berlin, the Freedom Parade had political connotations: it celebrated the political freedom enjoyed by Poles after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, including greater sexual and personal freedom, reflected in outrageous clothes and make-up. The Parade was discontinued due to objections that then Mayor of Łódź, Jerzy Kropiwnicki, had against this event, largely disrupting the peace of people living nearby (Kubik 2016).


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In the second part of the 1990s another important site for fans of electronic music became Forum Fabricum, opened in 1999 in, as its very name suggests, an old factory. It was set up by two young artists from BiaŁystok, Ola Nieścier and MichaŁ Strokowski. The club offered not only music but also independent art in many incarnations. It closed down in 2003, partly due to a rise in rent and partly because of exhaustion of its formula (Kowalewicz 2003). The subgenre which particularly flourished in Łódź is drum’n’bass and its pioneer in this city and one of the main representatives is DJ Dukee, described in an article in Laif, the main magazine, specializing in club culture, as a “prince of Polish underground” (Mustowski 2001, p. 25). His career is linked to the previously mentioned club New Alcatraz. Dukee’s fascination with electronic music began in 1992, when he first listened to UK hardcore (later re-named old skool). In the mid-1990s he started playing drum’n’bass with a member of Amnesia Crew, MC Adi, with whom he created the band Friday Crew. In the second half of the 1990s they organized nearly 100 events dedicated to this subgenre and, to a smaller extent, old skool. In 1999 they parted ways and Dukee became the leader of a new collective Weekenders Crew, which played in Bagdad Café and Forum Fabricum (Mustowski 2001, p. 25). In an interview published in 2001, DJ Dukee claims that it is not an accident that drum’n’bass found fertile ground in Łódź because this music reflects the irregular, nervous pulse of the city, perfectly captured in Reymont’s novel and the fact that people living there lack banality (Mustowski 2001, p. 25). Although such assertions should be taken with caution, as they are impossible to disprove, one agrees that there is a fit between the post-­ industrial landscape of Łódź and its favourite music. One can also notice a similar explanation for the development of electronic genres in other post-industrial cities such as Detroit and Berlin: on all occasions, the heavy electronic sound was regarded as reflecting the memory of the actual sounds of the city. A sign of the popularity of drum’n’bass in Łódź and its prestige as the capital of this genre was the organisation from 2002 of a competition for musicians and fans specialising in it, which attracted produders and fans from all over Poland.

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After the end of the Freedom Parade, the most important, albeit less heavily attended, event in electronic music taking place is the festival Soundedit (full name International Festival of Music Producers and Sound Designers), which has taken place in Łódź since 2009. Although it is not an electronic festival as such, it has electronic associations by the very fact of using the word ‘producers’ in its name. It is the brainchild of Maciej Werk, a popular electronic musician and journalist from Łódź, who began his career in the 1990s and achieved national success with his electronic hardcore project Hedone, which released several critically and commercially successful records. On the website of Soundedit we can read: ‘[Soundedit] is a unique event. It is the only event entirely dedicated to one of the most creative professional groups—music producers. They may be standing in the shadow of the big stars but they are the ones responsible for the final shape of the recordings we listen to every day’. Next, the website announces, in a somewhat self-colonialising way: Soundedit is a place where… Polish artists have the opportunity to meet the world’s greatest music industry representatives. By exchanging experiences, they are able to raise the quality of their work. The most important music producers are awarded the statuette of ‘The Man with the Golden Ear’. Dreamt of by many, awarded to few. So far, thirty-one ‘Men with the Golden Ear’ statuettes were handed out to outstanding Polish and foreign producers. (Soundedit Festival 2019) Despite the suggestion that it is Polish musicians who need to learn from their foreign (read: western) counterparts to raise their standard, in reality it is one of the few festivals where Polish electronic musicians are truly recognised, with the ‘Man with the Golden Ear’ being awarded to such producers as Grzegorz Ciechowski, WŁadysŁaw Komendarek and Marek Biliński. In a way typical for contemporary festivals, Soundedit not only presents music but also offers workshops for upcoming musicians and meetings with artists. Soundedit receives financial support from the city authorities (currently 3,000,000 Zloties per year, about USD 812,000) which allows it to invite foreign guests, as well as plan ahead, as the authorities treat it as a prestigious project.


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Although names of electronic music clubs change, the group of a dozen or so people who animate Łódź’s electronic music scene is relatively stable. One of the most important clubs of the last few years is DOM which is located in the aforementioned Off Piotrkowska Center. It is run by long-time DJs and musicians such as club music pioneer Rebus, Wiktor Skok (DJ, performer and vocalist of band Jude), Kuba Wandachowicz (bassist of rock band Cool Kids of Death) and Robert Tuta (from industrial rock group Agressiva 69). Before we proceed with showing how the city’s policies affect development of the music scene in Łódź, it should be noted that some aspects of its development are a result of general changes taking place in the Polish economy and society. After joining the EU in 2004 Poland experienced fast economic growth (only slightly slowed down during the crisis of 2008), which sustainably increased the income of a large part of population. This allows music lovers to spend more money, although there is no reliable data which would show that this money is spent on clubbing, and not on other attractions, such as music festivals. At the same time the demographic situation in Łódź, and the whole of Poland, is different than it was in the 1990s. People who as teenagers or young adults attended the Freedom Parade are in their forties and do not necessarily go clubbing as often as they used to (although, again, there is no reliable data which would prove this). Contrary to this cohort, today’s teenagers and young adults represent demographic decline, and despite being more affluent are definitely less numerous than the ‘Freedom Parade generation’. This affects the character of today’s clubbing scene which reminds less of rave-­ like events of the 1990s, and more regular, institutionalised entertainment businesses with occasional alternative culture influences, like the case of club DOM.

Governance and Spaces In order to discuss how governance has affected electronic music in Łódź, it is useful to introduce the concept of music ecology, understood as a set of political, economic, social, cultural and material conditions in which musicians and other musickers operate (Behr et  al. 2016; Terrill et  al.

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2015; Van der Hoeven and Hitters 2019, 2020). The advantage of this term is that it allows a holistic approach to the connections between diverse actors, such as politicians, urban planners and the conditions in the music sector. As Terrill et al. argue: Government policies have a direct impact on the ability of music businesses such as live performance venues, recording studios and rehearsal spaces to operate sustainably. Business licensing, liquor licensing, transportation planning and parking, as well as land-use planning all have an impact on the health of the music economy. Compliance requirements should be appropriate without becoming a barrier to doing business. (2015, pp. 13–14)

Due to historical circumstances, such as centralisation of power in the hands of the communist party and central government, local governments in Poland are relatively new actors in the field of cultural policy-­ making. Theoretically we can trace the more active role of local governments to 1989 when political and economic transformation begun. In practice, culture was not at the forefront of the transformation, and it was seen as a field which can bring savings rather than profits or non-monetary benefits such as development of tourism. After 1989, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage ceased to be the central manager of culture, gradually transferring most of its competences to local governments. Within the last 30 years there has been a decrease in the number of functioning cultural institutions, privatisation of some of them and adaptation to the market mechanism of those that have not been privatised, and the emergence of private entities undertaking cultural activities (Karna 2008, p.  31). This was part of the wider decentralisation and privatisation processes taking place in Poland after 1989. From local governments’ point of view, this meant, on the one hand, the need to take on the cost of maintaining regional cultural institutions (such as theatres and museums), and on the other, it opened up the opportunity to create their own cultural policies. In practice, local governments have obtained the following tools for shaping cultural policy:


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• Organising and running their own cultural institutions (taken over as a result of decentralisation or established from scratch). • Outsourcing cultural tasks to external organisations: NGOs or business entities, which in each of these cases are governed by separate legal provisions. • Granting subsidies to national cultural institutions located in the area managed by local government. • Organising competitions and support programmes and allocating scholarships to individual artists. • Investing in cultural infrastructure. • Other tools, for example participatory budget (Szulborska-Łukasiewicz 2019, pp. 55–56). These tools provide quite a wide range of possibilities for shaping local cultural policy, the most significant limitation being of a financial nature. In the structure of the City of Łódź Office there are two institutions directly responsible for local cultural policy. The first, WydziaŁ Kultury (Division of Culture), is responsible for creating the city’s cultural policy and functioning of institutions such as theatres, museums and houses of culture. The second, Łódzkie Centrum Wydarzeń (the Łódź’s Centre of Events, hereafter: the ŁCW), is responsible for coordination of live events such as festivals, concerts and public performances taking place in Łódź. While the Division of Culture has been part of the city’s structure for many years, the ŁCW is a relatively new institution. It started its operations in 2015 to improve coordination and management of large events, produce its own events and enlarge the portfolio of events aimed at making leisure time in Łódź more attractive. The ŁCW took over some competences of WydziaŁ Kultury and Biuro Promocji (Promotion Office) which shows that decision makers were aware of the significance of culture in building the city’s brand image. There is a division of competences between the Division of Culture and the ŁCW: the former plays a strategic role and deals more with ‘high culture’, while the latter is responsible for day-to-day operations and ‘popular culture’. Nevertheless, in many cases these two institutions work together, which was put by our respondent in the following words:

9  Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed… 


The first impulse comes from the office of the president and then it is a collective work. There is an idea that is the leitmotiv and it is being ­developed by all of us. There is a whole team that is working on it … by teamwork I mean it is two-way communication [between the Division of Culture and the ŁCW]. (Interview with Maciej Łaski, 31/01/2020)

Because live music is one of the main leisure activities that can be enjoyed by city dwellers, its selection and co-organisation of performances become one of the main tasks of the ŁCW. This raises a question about the electronic music heritage of Łódź: is it capital that can be employed by the city at a strategic level? This would require certain policies aimed at supporting this particular music genre, compared both to other types of music as well as other fields of (popular) culture. Taking into account the limited funds that the city can spend on culture, electronic music does not seem to be the city’s priority. Although as we showed earlier, Łódź has some remarkable electronic music heritage, it is also more strongly associated with other creative activities: film and design (which is expressed in official documents, e.g. report “Kultura w województwie Łódzkim. Stan i uwarunkowania rozwoju” [Culture in Łódź Region: Its State and Perspective, published in 2018]). A particularly strong association with film was reflected, for example, in UNESCO’s decision to award the title of the City of Film to Łódź, in 2017. From a marketing point of view, this leaves less space for music at a strategic level of the city’s brand management. Our respondent put this in the following way: Until now it is said that the drum’n’bass scene is the strongest in Łódź. People who are interested in this type of music say that the best and biggest drum’n’bass events are in our city … if the private sector copes well with this form of music and this form of functioning, we are not to disturb them. (Interview with Maciej Łaski, 31/01/2020)

Applying Cloonan’s typology, we can argue that this approach to music represents “the benign” type of cultural policy: the city is “generally content to let the music industry go about its daily business uninterrupted” (1999, p. 204). At the same time, Łódź’s approach to film seems to be closer to what Cloonan called “promotional” type of cultural policy: film


P. Galuszka and E. Mazierska

should be the first association that one has when seeing the name of the city. This could explain why in the New Centre of Łódź project, audiovisual arts such as film and comic books, computer games and educational projects play a more prominent role than music (Afeltowicz Gądecki et al. 2018). When commenting on the electronic music heritage of Łódź, our respondent argued that music preferences change quickly and the popularity of genres fluctuates. Therefore: there is no need to [come back to Łódź’s techno times] and there is no need to create hype about it. One should monitor trends and draw conclusions based on such observations. We were once compared with Manchester and London but I believe we’re closer to Berlin… and why would factory Łódź [Łódź fabrykancka] be linked to electronic music? We also need to understand that what was once done in the 1990s … [today may not make sense because the world has changed]. (Interview with Maciej Łaski, 31/01/2020)

Such words suggest that Łódź’s authorities, despite comparing Łódź in the above citation to Berlin, do not appreciate the city’s electronic music past as heritage, unlike in Berlin, where some electronic clubs receive cultural status commensurate with opera houses (Connolly 2020; Oltermann 2016). This does not mean, however, that Łódź completely cuts it off from its electronic music traditions. The aforementioned Soundedit festival is supported financially by the city and is treated as one of Łódź’s strongest assets. There are several musical events organised, co-organised or co-financed by the ŁCW which are aimed directly at providing leisure to city dwellers and tourists. Two examples are Songwriter Łódź Festival (a series of small acoustic open-air performances taking place on a weekly basis during summer months on Piotrkowska street) and Birthday of Łódź (large open-air concerts with an attractive line-up organised once a year). During these events, electronic music is treated equally with other genres. In general, the city’s policy towards popular music seems to take into account that Łódź has good infrastructure (both private and public venues) which should be used to provide city dwellers with attractive leisure. In due course, the positive experience will help build a positive image of the city. The live sector seems to be preferred over the recording industry as the vicinity of Warsaw makes the development of the latter particularly

9  Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed… 


difficult because labels prefer to have headquarters there. Following the benign type of cultural policy (Cloonan 1999), the city declares being supportive towards the development of music clubs (our respondent briefly described this policy as “support and help”). There are no zones where the opening of clubs is encouraged: anyone can run a place with live music under general rules (fire and sanitary regulations, etc.). In other words, with regard to music there is no particular night-­time policy. While it may be treated as an intentional policy of openness, it is also possible that it is the result of deeper problems with defining the goals of cultural policy. If this second explanation is true, it would be a problem that goes beyond the borders of Łódź and also affects other local governments in Poland. In general, the place of popular music in cultural policies of self-governments in Poland is determined by two factors. First, understanding of what counts as ‘culture’, in particular culture that should be financed from taxpayers money. This understanding is shaped by the distinction between high and low culture which has its roots in the past, as argued by Pasternak-Mazur “[n]ot only the organizational framework of contemporary Polish culture and its perceived mission and purpose, but also divisions and hierarchies in music, are deeply rooted in conceptualisations formulated in the previous system or earlier (in the nineteenth century)” (2020, p. 18). Such understanding, even if not explicitly expressed in city’s strategic documents, is manifested through benign cultural policy and two-pronged structure adopted in the City of Łódź Office with ‘high-culture’-oriented WydziaŁ Kultury responsible for strategic decisions and “popular culture”-oriented ŁCW responsible for execution. Second, the reception of concepts such as ‘creative industries’, ‘creative class’ and ‘night-time economy’, which were first popularised in the West, also after some time started to gain traction in Poland. It should be emphasised that ‘reception’ does not mean ‘application’, but rather cherry-picking of some ideas chosen by local politicians, administration, the media and interested stakeholders based on complex intersections of their own interests and understanding of the role of culture in the contemporary city. Analysis of strategic documents, such as “Program rozwoju kultury w województwie Łódzkim na lata 2014–2020” (The Plan of the Development of Culture in the Łódź region in the years 2014–2020), suggests that although the term ‘creative industries’ is willingly used, its


P. Galuszka and E. Mazierska

understanding is at times sketchy and lacks deepened analysis, especially reference to how these industries were developed in other post-industrial cities. Our respondent revealed that he was going to analyse the cases of Berlin, Bristol and Austin Texas, but clearly such analysis should have been done earlier.

Conclusion In conclusion, we argue that in the early 1990s Łódź gained the position of one of the main centres of electronic music in Poland and has retained this position to the present day. This is despite limited support from the local government (and lack of the support from the central government) for electronic music and popular music at large. Instead, Łódź’s successes in this field owe to the dynamisms of artists and fans. This limited support can be attributed to three factors. One of them is the overall low budget on culture, in part reflecting the fact that Łódź started to struggle economically post-1989. Another reason is that the authorities prioritise creative industries with longer tradition than electronic music, such as design and film production, given that Łódź hosts the first Polish film school. Third, in the 1990s electronic music scenes were seen as problematic, largely due to being noisy, which constituted a problem, given that music clubs were located in the residential areas. As for music itself, we noted two specificities. One is interconnections between electronic genres and other music genres such as industrial rock; the second is predilection to ‘heavier’ subgenres of electronic music, most importantly drum’n’bass.

Notes 1. We use here a Polish spelling of ‘Łódź’, the city is also known as Lodz. 2. Following the loss of economic and military power, Poland was partitioned three times in the second half of the eighteenth century, between its neighbours, Russia, Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. As a result of the third partition in 1795 Poland lost its statehood and regained sovereignty only in 1918.

9  Electronic Łódź, Poland: From Freedom Parade to Managed… 


References Afeltowicz, Ł., Gądecki, J., Olechnik, K., Szlendak, T., & Wróblewski, M. (2018). Efekt Bilbao / kult cargo. Nowe instytucje kultury w Polsce. Elbląg, Poland: Elbląskie Towarzystwo Naukowe. Behr, A., Brennan, M., Cloonan, M., Frith, S., & Webster, E. (2016). Live Concert Performance: An Ecological Approach. Rock Music Studies, 3(1), 5–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/19401159.2015.1125633. Cloonan, M. (1999). Pop and the Nation-State: Towards a Theorisation. Popular Music, 18(2), 193–207. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143000009041. Connolly, K. (2020, February 12). Berlin’s Nightclubs Fight for Same Cultural Status as Opera Houses. Retrieved from The Guardian website: https://www. theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/12/berlins-­nightclubs-­fight-­for-­same-­ cultural-­status-­as-­opera-­houses. Galuszka, J. (2017). Examining Patterns of Policy Change in a Post-socialist City: The Evolution of Inner-city Regeneration Approaches in Łódź, Poland, After 1989. Town Planning Review, 88(6), 639–644. Jamka, E. (1997). Muzyczne więzienie. Plastik, 6, 18. Kaazetka. (2001). Łódź techniczna tańczy. Laif, 2, 40–47. Karna, W.  J. (2008). Zmiany w zarządzaniu publicznym instytucjami kultury. Kraków, Poland: WUJ. Kowalewicz, K. (2003, May 19). Koniec klubu Forum Fabricum. Retrieved from Gazeta Wyborcza website: http://lodz.wyborcza.pl/lodz/1,35135, 1485996.html. Kubik, J. (2016, August 1). Parada Wolności w Łodzi. To byŁ taniec mŁodości i wolności. Retrieved from Express Ilustrowany website: https://expressilustrowany.pl/parada-­wolnosci-­w-­lodzi-­to-­byl-­taniec-­mlodosci-­i-­wolnosci-­ zdjecia/ar/c1-­10468270. Markiewicz, W. (2019, June 6). Rekordowo niska stopa bezrobocia w Łodzi. Retrieved from Urząd Miasta Łodzi website: https://uml.lodz.pl/aktualnosci/ artykul/rekordowo-­niska-­stopa-­bezrobocia-­w-­lodzi-­id28402/2019/6/6/. Mustowski, O. (2001). DJ Duke: Ksiaze lodzkiego undergroundu. Laif, 8, 25. Olga i Daniel (n.d.). Dlaczego w Łodzi rozwinąŁ się przemysŁ wŁókienniczy? Retrieved from Bujam sie w Łodzi website: https://bujamsiewlodzi.pl/ dlaczego-­lodzi-­rozwinal-­sie-­przemysl/. Oltermann, P. (2016, September 12). High Culture Club: Berghain Secures Same Tax Status as Berlin Concert Venues. Retrieved from The Guardian


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website: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/12/berlins-­berghain-­ nightclub-­classed-­as-­culturally-­significant-­venue. Pasternak-Mazur, R. (2020). No Country for Sheer Entertainment: Cultural Politics of Socialist Poland, Its Conceptual Scheme, and Vision of Popular Music. In P.  Galuszka (Ed.), Made in Poland: Studies in Popular Music (pp. 17–35). New York, NY and London, UK: Routledge. Soundedit Festival. (2019). Retrieved from Soundedit website: https://soundedit.pl/en/about-­festival/. Szulborska-Łukasiewicz, J. (2019). Dokąd zmierzamy? WokóŁ instytucji sektora kultury w Polsce. In E. Kocój, J. Szulborska-Łukasiewicz, & A. Kędziora (Eds.), Zarządzanie w sektorze kultury. Między teorią a praktyką (pp. 49–69). Kraków, Poland: WUJ. Terrill, A., Hogarth, D., Clement, A., & Francis, R. (2015). The Mastering of a Music City. Retrieved from IFPI website: http://www.ifpi.org/downloads/ The-­Mastering-­of-­a-­Music-­City.pdf. Urząd MarszaŁkowski Województwa Łódzkiego. (2018a). Kultura w województwie Łódzkim. Stan i uwarunkowania rozwoju. Retrieved from Urząd MarszaŁkowski website: https://www.lodzkie.pl/files/283/Diagnoza_ Kultura_w_wojewdztwie_dzkim.pdf. Urząd MarszaŁkowski Województwa Łódzkiego. (2018b). Program rozwoju kultury w województwie Łódzkim na lata 2014–2020. Retrieved from Urząd MarszaŁkowski website: https://www.lodzkie.pl/kultura/program-­rozwoju-­ kultury/download/316_7458572b6a54584a6b4e20e0b40fbf92. Van der Hoeven, A., & Hitters, E. (2019). The Social and Cultural Values of Live Music: Sustaining Urban Live Music Ecologies. Cities, 90, 263–271. Van der Hoeven, A., & Hitters, E. (2020). Challenges for the Future of Live Music: A Review of Contemporary Developments in the Live Music Sector. In E.  Mazierska, L.  Gillon, & T.  Rigg (Eds.), The Future of Live Music (pp. 34–50). New York, NY and London, UK: Bloomsbury. Zajdel, M. (2009). Bezrobocie w Łodzi w Okresie Transformacji (Wybrane Aspekty). Studia Prawno-Ekonomiczne, LXXIX, 241–252.

10 Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) Anita Jóri

Introduction Budapest is an interesting case study, because it has an established electronic dance music (EDM) culture, which has not yet been researched widely. These days it continues to change and is becoming one of the important electronic music centres in Europe. This chapter follows the timeline of the techno1 scene between 1988 and 2018, but mainly focuses on the post-2000 context by analysing the principal factors shaping the scene based on individual stories and reports from promoters and clubs, in order to better understand the phenomenon of gentrification and its effects on the scene. Moreover, this chapter will show how the scene evolved from underground clubs to more mainstream events and then turning back again to DIY/underground events, at least to a certain extent. It also highlights how local governments played an important role in this process. A. Jóri (*) Berlin University of the Arts, Berlin, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_10



A. Jóri

Theoretically, this analysis draws from the literature in cultural studies on music scenes (Peterson and Bennett 2004), more precisely on local music scenes, as well as research on electronic music scenes in relation to gentrification (Gotham 2010; Kovács et  al. 2013), gentrification of nightlife (Hae 2012), and commodification (Ross 2017). By gentrification, I refer to a “profit-driven, upscale/corporate forms of nightlife” (Hae 2012, p. 6) that results in the marginalisation of subcultures, alternative scenes, and underground nightlife venues (Hae 2012). This also pushes commodification forward: nightlife venues are handled as objects of trade. For example, they are often sold to (mainly international) investors, and they are also targeted for their exchange value (Ross 2017), for instance, by popularising or advertising them in mainstream tourism campaigns. In Budapest local governments play a crucial role in either preventing or supporting these processes. This core analysis is supported by an ethnographic study that is based on interviews and secondary data analysis. The semi-structured interviews are with three promoter teams and a club manager, while secondary data includes documentation such as journalistic articles and interviews, websites, social media platforms, and online forums. To place myself in this Hungarian scene, I used to live in Budapest but moved to Berlin in the early 2010s. I can be seen as both an outsider and an active member of the Hungarian cross-pollinating music scenes on the period studied.

The City Hungary has mostly been famous for its folk music or modern music that has folk elements in it—mainly popularised by the collections of Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók in the beginning of the twentieth century. After WWII, the Communist regime did not support new artistic or experimental practices. As a result, many talented musicians, including György Ligeti, emigrated to western countries (Kollega Tarsoly et al. 1996), even though Hungary was touted as ‘the happiest barrack’ in the Soviet Bloc during János Kádár’s ‘Goulash Communism’.

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


Budapest has always been an important cultural hub in Hungary’s life, which did not change during the Communist era. This is partly due to the fact that the country has been extraordinarily centralised: of the 9.7  million2 Hungarian citizens, 1.7  million live in Budapest (KSHa 2019); all roads and railways run into the capital; all ministries and other governmental authorities, including the parliament, are based in Budapest, and so on. In comparison, the second biggest city of the country is Debrecen with 206,000 citizens (Csomós 2010). It follows that Budapest is also the most important centre for electronic music in Hungary. Geographically, Budapest is divided into three main parts: Buda and Óbuda on the west side of the River Danube and Pest on the east. Historically, Buda and Óbuda have been the quieter parts of the city, with older generations of inhabitants. Pest, the largest of the three, has always been the more vibrant, and a home to younger generations of Hungarians. Therefore, we can find more music venues and clubs in Pest, as it can be seen in the map (Fig. 10.1). Also, Budapest has 23 districts, named after their ordinal numbers in Roman numerals (e.g. District I, II, III), with their own local governments that enjoy a high level of autonomy in implementing social policies and regulation plans (Kovács et al. 2013). Club operations also belong to their scope of action. Looking at the history of Hungarian electronic music, one of the pioneers was Iván Patachich who composed tape music in the 1950s. By the 1960s, influenced by the Studio for Electronic Music of the West German Radio (‘WDR’) in Cologne, some local composers started to experiment with electronic music (Elektronische Musik). The composers were László Dubrovai, Zoltán Pongrácz, and Iván Székely. Új Zenei Stúdió (New Music Studio) was also an important institution that attracted musicians who were interested in experimental electronic compositions. The aim of founders Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Jeney, László Sáry, Albert Simon, and László Vidovszky was to bring the sound of Musique Concrète and Elektronische Musik to Hungary and establish a new stream of musicians who were open for experiments and new types of composing techniques (McLay 1982). One of the mid-­1980s’ milestones in the development of Hungarian electronic music, László Hortobágyi’s ambient and


A. Jóri

Fig. 10.1  Location of clubs in Budapest. (Source: The author). 1. A38 (2003–) Petőfi híd, Budapest 1117; 2. Auróra (2014–) Auróra u. 11, Budapest 1084; 3. Corvin Club (2007–2018) † Blaha Lujza tér 1, Budapest 1085; 4. Dark Side (1995–?) † Bogáncs u. 5, Budapest 1151; 5. Fáklya Klub (1995–1997) † Csengery utca 68, Budapest 1067; 6. Fiatal Művészek Klubja (1960–1998)  †  Andrássy út 112,  Budapest  1062; 7. Flashback Studio (2019–)  Bogdáni út 1,  Budapest  1033; 8. Fortuna (1986–1994) † Fortuna u. 2, Budapest 1014; 9a. Gólya (2011–): old location † Bókay János u. 34, Budapest 1083; 9b. Gólya: new location Orczy út 46–48, Budapest 1089; 10. Home (2001–2006)  †  Harsány Lejto 6,  Budapest  1037; 11. Hully Gully (1991–1996)  †  Apor Vilmos tér 9,  Budapest  1124; 12. Hysteria Techno (?–?)  †  Szépvölgyi út 15,  Budapest  1037; 13. LÄRM  (2014–)  Akácfa u. 51, Budapest 1073; 14. Merlin (1991–2011) † Gerlóczy utca 4, Budapest 1052; 15. Patex (1998–2001) † Bocskai út 134, Budapest 1113; 16. PeCsa (1985–2015) † Zichy Mihály út 14, Budapest 1146; 17. Supersonic Technikum (1998–) Fényes Adolf utca 28, Budapest 1036; 18. Tilos az Á (1990–1995) † Mikszáth Kálmán tér 2, Budapest 1088; 19. Toldi Klub (2012–) Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 36–38, Budapest 1054

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


experimental album Transreplica Meccano (1986), was made with the legendary sampler-synth Ensoniq Mirage (Kömlödi and Pánczél 2001). After its emergence among an established, but still limited, circle of classical electronic music composers, early forms of EDM reached Hungary in the second half of the 1980s. Probably one of the first public events where such music was played was the birthday party of the iconic and experimental fashion designer Tamás Király at Fiatal Művészek Klubja (Young Artists’ Club) in September 1988. Two techno DJs from the famous Amsterdam club Roxy played a kind of music that was completely new for the Hungarian audience (Füstös 1998) and kick-started the period being discussed in this chapter. As mentioned earlier, Hungarian EDM culture has not widely been researched. One can find related academic research from a cultural studies perspective—Bátorfy (2007) argues about the negative connotations of electronic music scenes in Hungary; education—Mészáros (2003) and Horkai (2010) highlight pedagogical aspects of young electronic music scene members; ethnography—Horkai (1999) was one of the first scholars who wrote about EDM subcultures in Hungary based on her field research; anthropology—Angyalosy (2010) summarises the numerous community cultures of the Hungarian underground techno scene; and even applied linguistics—Jóri (2013) discusses the use of language in Hungarian virtual scenes that are related to electronic music. However, there is no comprehensive work that surveys the history and development of the Hungarian EDM scenes. Therefore, I had to use journalistic articles and existing documentaries (Füstös 1998; Papp 2002) to reconstruct this history. The semi-structured interviews with diverse stakeholders came to support the conclusions drawn from these different sources.

 he Electronic Scene: Historical T and Spatial Perspective In this section I focus on the historical development of Budapest’s underground techno scene and club culture in the 1990s and highlight their evolution towards commercialisation in the early 2000s.


A. Jóri

After the Revolutions of 1989, the German techno scene began to play an important role in forming its Hungarian counterpart, and Budapest became the centre of both legal and illegal techno parties. In the early 1990s, there were many small underground events with few participants, as well as large events with thousands of people. In the mid-1990s, for example, the series Rave Olympia, held in a football stadium in District III, and Mayday in the legendary hangar Petőfi Csarnok (or PeCsa) were organised in the style of German events. In the 1990s, the following clubs were important in playing techno and sometimes house music: Dark Side, Fáklya Klub, the above-mentioned Fiatal Művészek Klubja, Fortuna, Hully Gully, Hysteria Techno, Supersonic Technikum, and Tilos az Á (see their locations in Fig. 10.1) of which only Supersonic Technikum is still functioning. Based on my secondary data analysis,3 it appears that these clubs did not function throughout the whole week, but mostly over the weekend with an occasional evening on a weekday. Moreover, most of them, except Supersonic Technikum and Hysteria Techno, not only focused on techno or EDM in general but also hosted events in other genres, like rock music. This is due to the persistent lack of cultural, political, and private support—until recently—for these events (Papp 2002). It was also true that members of the scene could not afford to go to these events every weekend. There were also underground open-air events too, for example, the legendary series of Frankhegy (Bendover 2019), organised by Dork and Kozma, on one of the Buda Hills. Tilos Rádió4 was an important radio channel that played techno. Three DJs—Kalt, Sinko, and Wamzer—were instrumental in shaping the taste of early listeners of techno music (Batta 2008). The fanzine FREEE Magazin (1995–2009), founded by the techno pioneer DJ Budai was also an extraordinary source of information for techno fans. Its topics included clarification on electronic music genres; writings on lifestyle and drug use; as well as DJ charts (Bátorfy 2011). Two authors of the fanzine, Ferenc Kömlödi and Gábor Pánczél (2001), published the book Mennyek kapui. Az elektronikus zene évtizede (Heaven’s doors. The decade of electronic music) about the development of EDM scenes in the 1990s. This book defined music genres and summarised the

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


most important international and national musicians’ discographies and can still be considered a milestone publication on the subject in the Hungarian language. Sándor Bernáthy (1949–2012) and his son, Zsiga Bernáthy, established the duo Bernáthy & Son in 1994 producing techno music, and they were also the first Hungarian musicians to play at the Love Parade (Bernáthy & Son n.d.). Sándor Bernáthy also founded the earlier mentioned club Supersonic Technikum at the former Golberger Textile Factory in Buda in 1998. It was one of the first Hungarian clubs to have a clear profile on techno, from 2002 it opened its floors to metal, punk, and hardcore bands, losing its position within the scene. Along with the Bernáthys, a list of influential DJs of the 1990s includes names like Chriss, DJ Jutasi, DJ Kühl, Tommyboy, and Slam Jr. The 1990s were fruitful years in the underground techno music scene in Budapest. However, this swell of activity in the scene during this decade did not lead to the establishment of a stable underground club culture. Clubs were only open temporarily and only a few of them focused on techno music. In the early 2000s, electronic music parties across diverse electronic genres were growing and new underground clubs were opening to house these events. At the same time, the budding techno scene in Budapest had started to crumble and collapse (Batta 2008; Papp 2002). Following international trends (Siokou and Moore 2008), one could see the first effects of the commodification and commercialisation of the electronic music scene, where mainstream clubs such as Bed Beach, Coronita, and Dokk Beach had opened on Hajógyári Island. Apart from the series of parties in Home Club (see Fig. 10.1), there were very few events focusing purely on techno music. Most of the events focused on mixed electronic genres, for example the parties in the Labyrinth of Buda Castle or in the Valley of Etyek. Though according to Batta (2008), techno has always been mixed with house in Hungary since the mid-1990s. One can gather from the timeline of the scene that the tradition of bigger events with thousands of visitors, originally rooted in rave culture, continued to occur after the millennium but in a commodified and commercialised version. The best example is the German event Mayday Comes


A. Jóri

to Budapest, which was reiterated five times between 2002 and 2009, with up to 10,000 participants on each occasion. A similar Hungarian event series, Hyperspace, was initiated in 1996 by the promoter team of Deadcode Production, with the first events in Budapest held in 1998 in the industrial venue Patex (see its location in Fig. 10.1). It was an abandoned warehouse of a textile and cosmetics company, subsequently sold to international investors (Sundance n.d.) and functions now as a luxury business centre. Hyperspace was forced to move to Complex in Szentendre, a city near Budapest, and later to SYMA Arena, which was eventually bought by the state (Április végén 2016) and merged into BOK Sportcsarnok in 2016. By 2010, however, Hyperspace had moved to the centre HUNGEXPO—where the Mayday events were held in the 2000s—which is still the main location of the event today (Deadcode Production n.d.). Hyperspace has presented the most influential and popular international techno DJs and producers, including The Advent, Adam Beyer, Marco Carola, Dave Clarke, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Johannes Heil, DJ Hell, Chris Liebing, Derrick May, Jeff Mills, DJ Rush, and Sven Väth, who were priced beyond the capacity of smaller promoter teams. As well as managing other large events with thousands of participants Deadcode has also developed good sponsor relationships. In this sense, according to Chatterton and Hollands’ (2003) definition, Hyperspace and Deadcode are mainstream event organisations because they are profit-oriented and less focused on accessibility and creativity. For instance, contrary to other EDM venues, Hyperspace charged relatively high entrance fees from the beginning—in 2009, the event cost was 5.990 HUF (18 EUR), which was quite expensive, considering the average monthly salary in Budapest was 200.000 HUF (590 EUR) before taxes (KSHb 2019).

Governance of the Scene and Spaces As underground techno events were declining in the first decade of the twenty-first century (Batta 2008) with the rise of commercial dance music, promoters were joining forces with the ambition to change this situation. In this section I will examine the activities of some of these

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


teams to reveal how they were influenced by processes of commodification and governmental decisions. Furthermore, I will analyse different cases of venues in order to illustrate changes in the scene due to gentrification. In 2005, three DJs—Crimson, Chrom, and Isu—founded the organisational team Lick the Click! focusing on minimal music, including techno (Lick the Click! n.d.). Initially, they organised parties at Merlin (see Fig. 10.1), Budapest’s main theatre for English language drama. After the venue closed in 2011 as part of a local government regeneration programme, the theatre company moved to another location, and the club nights had lost a home. However, in January 2020 the new Lord Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, announced the renovation of the theatre with the aim of giving it back to its audience (Budapestvideó ponthu 2020). Merlin may once again be a home for the electronic music scene. Another techno series, Technokunst, initiated by Isu and Dork “with the expressed aim of bringing quality—instead of commercial—techno back to Hungary” (Technokunst n.d.) has been running since 2010. LÄRM (see Fig. 10.1), one of their locations, is an underground techno and house club in the heart of Budapest (LÄRM n.d.) and may be the only venue that specialises in these genres. It is located in the so-called Party Quarter (Bulinegyed) of District VII, operating as a club within the party complex Instant-Fogas. As the website of the complex suggests, “Explore Europe’s biggest ruin pub and party complex in the heart of Budapest!” (Instant-Fogas n.d.). Instant-Fogas has seven clubs operated by different promoter teams with diverse music genres and concepts, from rock through R’n’B to Latin music. As it is advertised in tourist guides, many of the visitors to the complex are tourists and it is one of the few places in Budapest that is open every day. BRVTAL, another promoter team at LÄRM, was founded in 2018 and started out as a complex art project. Its team—Zsófia Cséve, AGA2L, and Maximillian Sinclair—focuses on harder, darker, and faster techno subgenres, as BRVTAL’s name and design suggest. Their events are well frequented, with about 400 visitors—more than the capacity of LÄRM (Interview with Maximillian Sinclair, 23/02/2020). As is standard practice among promoter teams in Budapest, they invite one international DJ or producer as a headliner for their events. Without these international names it is difficult to stage successful dance music events in Budapest


A. Jóri

(Interview with Maximillian Sinclair, 23/02/2020). According to my interviewees, the headliner receives most of the income from the night meaning the local DJs are underpaid for their work (Interview with Maximillian Sinclair, 23/02/2020; Interview with Alexandr and Menishu and Klayman, 29/02/2020). OMOH was founded in 2016 to support the queer techno scene in Budapest. Their aim was to establish an LGBTQIA+ community-focused party series based around techno music. The promoters are Alexandr and Menishu who, in setting up the team, were influenced by Berlin’s nightlife and events like Buttons, Herrensauna, and Lecken. At the centre of their concept is that they invite only queer musicians (Interview with Alexandr and Menishu, 29/02/2020). Their first events were at Corvin Club (see Fig. 10.1) but in 2018, after a police raid in which drugs were found on 7 club visitors out of 690 in total (Jánossy 2019), the council of District VIII shut the venue. The club management appealed this decision multiple times but was unsuccessful. The real reason for the club’s closing was, however, less dramatic, and more in line with urban regeneration trends. The club operated on the top floor and rooftop of a historical department store whose façade was in disrepair, and shortly before its shutdown, the local government announced that the state was to support the renovation works with 300.000.000 HUF (900,000 EUR) (Visszanyeri patinás 2018). The case of Corvin Club can be noted as a typical example of ‘façade gentrification’ that targets buildings with good locations and attractive architecture (Marcinczak and Sagan 2011, cited in Kovács et  al. 2013). However, according to Kovács et  al. (2013), Budapest follows different patterns of gentrification than other cities in Western Europe: it concentrates only on smaller areas of the inner city, including District V, VI, VII, and VIII. Blaha Lujza Square, where the club used to operate (see Fig. 10.1), is definitely part of this downtown gentrification trend. The closing of the club was devastating for OMOH, but they found a new home for their events at LÄRM. To avoid unwanted visitors and tourists, they use Facebook events as guest lists, so only the people who contact them through social media or email receive invitations. This also allows them to keep their club space safe, which is very important for LGBTQIA+ communities (Interview with Alexandr and Menishu,

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


29/02/2020). They stage events with international headliners and also create popular line-ups that are totally local artists—not at all common in the Budapest scene. As Alexandr states, “we are the only promoter team at LÄRM which can fill up the club at these events with as many participants as we would have with an international headliner” (Interview with Alexandr and Menishu, 29/02/2020). In this way, OMOH became an important trendsetter as well as encouraging others to support local underground artists. It is important to mention that OMOH has a translocal connection (Peterson and Bennett 2004) with Berlin: with the collective Lecken they organised a 2019 event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Boxler 2019). Also, their events are now extended with an after-hour event in a sauna as a way of keeping the night going, since the clubs have to close at 6 a.m. in most of Budapest’s districts, as opposed to Berlin where events can last for many days. According to all of the interviewees,5 LÄRM has been threatened with closure for some time. If it really closes down, it will be a victim of ‘tourism gentrification’ (Eldridge 2019; Gotham 2010—explained later), as it doesn’t really fit into the ‘touristic’ profile of Instant-Fogas and the Party Quarter in general. Likewise, Gólya was forced to move out from the gentrified area of Corvin Quarter in District VIII as part of a 22-hectare urban rehabilitation programme. As part of this development, apartments, offices, a fitness centre, and a shopping centre were built in the Corvin Promenade by international investors and property developers (Corvin Promenade n.d.). Gólya is a co-operative bar and community house, which also hosts music events (Short Description n.d.). With the help of a fundraising campaign, they were able to buy a new building in District VIII, but definitely further away from the city centre (see Fig. 10.1). However, Gólya is a positive example of a community-based DIY movement, which might point the way for other threatened venues: As stated in their mission (Mission n.d.), they maintain good communication with their neighbours to avoid misunderstandings and reputational damage. Zena, club manager of Flashback Studio (see Fig. 10.1) and booking agent at Cutoff Agency, has an interesting position in the local scene, since she has an international background and arrived as an ‘outsider’.


A. Jóri

Zena worked with the manager of LÄRM on a proposed club project called Vajda, but it was blocked from opening by the District VIII government. She also expressed worries about “the recent ruling from the city government that demands all bars and clubs to shut down after midnight in the inner city due to noise complaints from residents, among other issues” (Interview with Zena, 11/03/2020). Similar restrictions were recently announced by the authorities of District VII about the touristic Party Quarter (see more in Juhász 2020); however, the decrees are not yet published. Zena also expressed her opinion on the broader issue of regulation: I think the clubbing industry has a bad rap here due to the government’s own actions—allowing corporations to run unchecked and focusing only on attracting stag dos and droves of drunken tourists from all over the world … No wonder people hate anything to do with clubs. If they had proper regulations and could operate in more reasonable locations, then the locals wouldn’t have such a bad impression of this scene. (Interview with Zena, 11/03/2020)

Zena’s view reflects the opinions of promoters who suffer the effects of this ‘tourism gentrification’, where mainstream tourism seeps into underground sites without understanding or respecting the scene’s identity and ‘code of conduct’. The appearance of such phenomenon is closely related to political decisions, such as advertising Budapest as a low-cost party destination or financially supporting those venues that welcome mainstream tourism. A potent example is the transformation of Budapest’s ruin bars into a tourist attraction. From the conducted interviews, I know that there are many illegal parties operating in the suburbs of Budapest these days, mostly in abandoned buildings or open-air venues in the warmer months. However, these events function under constant threat of police interference, and many legal promoter teams have distanced themselves from these illegal parties because of the inherent risk. On the other hand, this spreading out to new areas and neighbourhoods, since there are not so many spaces left for underground parties in the city centre, is a very positive sign of a clever underground music scene.

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


Conclusion This research has highlighted that urban regeneration programmes leading to gentrification and the commodification of EDM events have both strongly influenced the development of Budapest’s techno scene. These processes lead to the closure of clubs because of the growing presence of international corporate investors and property developers in central areas (Kovács et al. 2013). The discussed 30 years highlight many local characteristics of Budapest’s techno scene and the role of gentrification and commodification in the development of the scene. By describing examples6 of club closings, different types of gentrifications such as “façade gentrification” (e.g. in the case of Corvin Club), “tourism gentrification” (e.g. LÄRM), or gentrification that is initiated by (mostly international) investors (e.g. Gólya) or local governments (e.g. Merlin) were all identified. “Tourism gentrification” will definitely have more influence on EDM scenes in the future because Budapest’s inner city is going through a spatial transformation and tourism is booming more than ever before (see official data in KSHc 2020). Clubs will need to be prepared for these changes, which might mean moving to new areas, just like the above-mentioned illegal events or clubs such as Flashback Studio or Gólya. On the other hand, these emerging events and locations are also landmarks in the history of Budapest’s underground electronic music scenes—symbolising the next generation of promoters trying to escape from phenomena such as gentrification, commodification, or governmental decisions. Although these effects are profound, there are no special policies in Budapest that relate only to electronic music scenes, since governmental decrees target all types of venues: clubs, concert halls, community houses—any venues that holds music events. As an example, the cultural community centre Auróra (see Fig. 10.1) has been under threat on multiple occasions (Jánossy 2019).7 Additionally, licences can be rejected or postponed for various reasons, making it impossible for club owners to plan successfully (see the case of Vajda). Furthermore, to mention another local characteristic, the historical examples—Mayday comes to Budapest, Hyperspace, OMOH—show that Germany, and especially Berlin, has a strong effect on Budapest’s scene.


A. Jóri

Not only because Berlin is the traditional techno capital in Europe, but it is also relatively close. The Hungarian scene members can easily visit the German capital, for instance, Alexandr from OMOH frequently travels to the German capital and Menishu lives there (Interview with Alexandr and Menishu, 29/02/2020). The influence of Berlin’s nightlife, be it new trends, new music, or making new connections with local communities can easily be seen, for example, the above-mentioned OMOH event in Berlin organised with the promoter team Lecken. It is also important to note that the Hungarian scene is, for the most part, not politically active.8 There have been no cases of protests or petitions against any of the earlier mentioned club closings which is indicative of passive acceptance of local government decisions. But the tendency towards political and critical discussions is slowly changing, with more public panel discussions being organised—more speaking up. This may be because of the above-mentioned Berlin influences on diverse, partly political, topics, or it may be that the underground music scene in Budapest has simply found its voice.

Notes 1. Techno is understood here as one of the genres of EDM, historically coming from Detroit and having different subgenres, such as minimal techno, industrial techno and hard techno. 2. However, the population of the county has drastically decreased due to the decreased birthrate and the continuous emigration of the younger generations. 3. Including related documentations such as journalistic articles, interviews, other online sources (e.g. forums). 4. It also played an important role in the 1995 liberalisation of the airwaves in Hungary (Csejdy 1995). 5. I received this information from the interviewed promoter teams. 6. Many more examples could have been described in this chapter, but due to the limited scope of this research I tried to focus only on the most important ones. However, in the attached map I tried to illustrate the ­territorial changes by including as many clubs as I could.

10  Budapest, Hungary: Techno Scene (1988–2018) 


7. More case studies are presented in Jankovics (2018) and Memento a nem (2015). 8. Maybe except for the movement Több technót a parlamentbe! (More techno to the parliament!), which started in 2012 and made the request for The National Techno Radio, the need for the right of immunity for the DJs, and the programme Every Town Deserves a DJ at the Parliament (Több technót a parlamentbe! n.d.).

References Angyalosy, E. (2010). “Egy éjszaka a föld alatt…” Az underground technozene köré kialakult csoportkultúra antropológiai elemzése. In A.  Gergely (Ed.), Zene és/vagy politika (pp.  13–30). Budapest: MTA Politikai Tudományok Intézete Etnoregionális és Antropológiai Kutatóközpont. Április végén bezár a Syma-csarnok. (2016). Retrieved from https://index.hu/ belfold/2016/04/12/aprilis_vegen_bezar_a_syma-­csarnok/. Bátorfy, A. (2007). Az elektronikus zánczenei kultúra mint ellenségkép Magyarországon. Beszélő, 12(1), 104–112. Bátorfy, A. (2011). Freee: Egy szubkulturális sajtótermék és a magyarországi elektronikus zenei kultúra párhuzamos története. In T. Tófalvy, Z. Kacsuk, & G. Vályi (Eds.), Zenei Hálózatok. Zene, műfajok és közösségek az online hálózatok és az átalakuló zeneipar korában (pp. 227–244). Budapest: L’Harmattan. Batta, B. (2008). HOVÁ TŰNT A TECHNO? Klubosodás; professzionalizáció; trendmozgás és egy elektronikus zenei alapító műfaj minimálissá zsugorodása. Retrieved from https://www.prae.hu/article/1585-­hova-­tunt-­a-­techno/. Bendover. (2019). Legendás bulik – Frankhegy. Retrieved from https://primate. hu/legendas-­bulik-­frankhegy/. Bernáthy & Son. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/pg/bernathy/about/?ref=page_internal. Boxler, J. (2019). “Wir wollen die technosexuelle Befreiung!” DJ Alexandr vom queeren Budapester Party-Kollektiv OMOH im Interview. Retrieved from http://dasfilter.com/gesellschaft/wir-­w ollen-­d ie-­t echnosexuelle-­ befreiung-­d j-­a lexandr-­v om-­b udapester-­q ueeren-­p arty-­k ollektiv­omoh-­im-­interview. Budapestvideó ponthu. (2020, January 22). A kultúra napján [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhJzolr0d1E&feature= emb_logo.


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Chatterton, P., & Hollands, R. (2003). Urban Nightscapes: Youth Cultures, Pleasure Spaces and Corporate Power. London: Routledge. Corvin Promenade. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aboutcorvin.hu/en/ corvin_promenade/. Csejdy, A. (1995). DAFKE. Retrieved from https://tilos.hu/page/sajto-­1995. Csomós, G. (2010). Területi egyenlőtlenségek Magyarországon: az ESPONelemzés adaptálása a tervezési-statisztikai régiók policentrikusságának vizsgálatához. Retrieved from http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/terstat/2010/02/ ts2010_02_04.pdf?lang=hu. Deadcode Production. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/pg/ DeadcodeProduction/about/?ref=page_internal. Eldridge, A. (2019). Strangers in the Night: Nightlife Studies and New Urban Tourism. Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 11(3), 422–435. Füstös, Zs. (dir.). (1998). Techno: az egyén diadala. Budapest. Gotham, K. F. (2010). Tourism Gentrification: The Case of New Orleans’ Vieux Carre (French Quarter). In J.  Brown-Saraceno (Ed.), The Gentrification Debate (pp. 145–163). New York: Routledge. Hae, L. (2012). The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City. Regulating Spaces of Social Dancing in New York. New York and London: Routledge. Horkai, A. (1999). Screenagerek. A techno kultúra megjelenései a mai Magyarországon. Budapest: MTA-PTI Etnoregionális Kutatóközpont. Horkai, A. (2010). Kapcsolatok. Az ifjúság társadalmi kötődéseinek narratívái. Educatio, 2, 264–273. Instant-Fogas. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://instant-­fogas.com. Jankovics, M. (20.07.2018). Egy rakás kultikus hely zárt be az elmúlt nyolc évben. Retrieved from https://24.hu/kultura/2018/07/20/egy-­rakas-­kultikus­szorakozohely-­zart-­be-­az-­elmult-­nyolc-­evben/. Jánossy, V. (2019). A Corvintetőnek esélye sem volt a túlélésre. Retrieved from https://24.hu/kultura/2019/05/23/corvinteto-­j ozsefvaros-­b laha­corvin-­aruhaz/. Jóri, A. (2013). “A Facebook, a MySpace vagy a Last.fm? Hol attendingoljam magam az eseményre?”  – Avagy a közösségi portálok nyelvhasználata. In T. Gecső & C. Sárdi (Eds.), Az interkulturális kommunikáció elmélete és gyakorlata (pp. 127–132). Budapest: Tinta Könyvkiadó. Kollega Tarsoly, I., Bekény, I., & Dányi, D. (1996). Magyarország a XX. században. Szekszárd: Babits.

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Kovács, Z., Wiessner, R., & Zischner, R. (2013). Urban Renewal in the Inner City of Budapest: Gentrification from a Postsocialist Perspective. Urban Studies, 50(1), 22–38. Kömlödi, F., & Pánczél, G. (2001). Mennyek kapui. Az elektronikus zene évtizede. Budapest: Re:Creation. KSHa. (2019). Népesség a település jellege szerint, január 1. Retrieved from http:// www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xstadat/xstadat_eves/i_wdsd001.html. KSHb. (2019). Gazdaságilag aktívak, bruttó átlagkereset, reálkereset (1960–). Retrieved from https://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xstadat/xstadat_hosszu/h_ qli001.html. KSHc. (2020). Turizmus, vendéglátás. Retrieved from http://www.ksh.hu/ turizmus-­vendeglatas?lang=hu. Lick the Click! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/pg/licktheclick/about/?ref=page_internal. LÄRM. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://larm.hu/info. Marcinczak, S., & Sagan, I. (2011). The Sociospatial Restructuring of Lódz, Poland. Urban Studies, 48(9), 1789–1809. McLay, M. (1982). Experimental Music in Hungary: The New Music Studio. Contact, 24, 11–17. Memento a már nem létező budapesti kulthelyekről. (2015). Retrieved from https://welovebudapest.com/cikk/2015/9/16/memento-­a -­m ar-­n em-­ letezo-­budapesti-­kulthelyekrol-­i-­resz. Mészáros, G. (2003). Techno-house szubkultúra és iskolai nevelés. Iskolakultúra, 9, 3–63. Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://golyapresszo.hu/golya-­2/mission/. Papp, G. Zs. (dir.). (2002). Partik népe. Budapest: Bologna Film. Peterson, R. A., & Bennett, A. (2004). Introducing Music Scenes. In A. Bennett & R.  A. Peterson (Eds.), Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual (pp. 1–15). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Ross, S. (2017). Making a Music City: The Commodification of Culture in Toronto’s Urban Redevelopment, Tensions between Use-Value and Exchange-­Value, and the Counterproductive Treatment of Alternative Cultures within Municipal Legal Frameworks. Journal of Law and Social Policy, 27, 116–153. Short Description. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://golyapresszo.hu/golya-­2/ short-­description/.


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Siokou, C., & Moore, D. (2008). ‘This is Not a Rave!’: Changes in the Commercialised Melbourne Rave/dance Party Scene. Youth Studies Australia, 27(3), 50–57. Sundance. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sundance.hu. Technokunst. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://technokunst.hu/about/. Több technót a parlamentbe! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facebook. com/tobbtechnot/. Visszanyeri patinás homlokzatát a Corvin Áruház. (2018). Retrieved from https://jozsefvaros.hu/hir/5568/visszanyeri-­p atinas-­h omlokzatat-­a ­corvin-­aruhaz.

11 Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters and Gentrification (2010–2020) Giacomo Bottà

Introduction The Helsinki City Museum inaugurated Helsinki Clubbing: Thirty Years of Smoke and Strobe in March 2018. Open until September of the same year, the exhibition celebrated the past and present of Helsinki electronic music, through pictures, artefacts, videos, sounds and the words of local DJs and producers. It also set the beginning of electronic music clubbing in Helsinki to thirty years back, in the late 1980s. This was the time, when the first rave parties and the first techno clubs in discotheques of the city centre emerged and when Lepakko, the first non-commercial venue in Finland opened in 1979, began to schedule electronic music events, becoming the scene hotspot (pHinn 1995). While the exhibition was open during the daytime in the heart of the city centre, the bass drum was pumping its four-on-the-floor at night in Kallio (see Fig. 11.1). A dense formerly working-class area, north to the centre and administratively made of three separate districts, Kallio,

G. Bottà (*) University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_11



G. Bottà

Fig. 11.1  Location of clubs and night clusters cited in the chapter. (Source: The author)

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


Sörnäinen and Alppiharju. Kallio has transformed itself in the last ten years into a Nordic hipster paradise citizens and politicians alike were waiting for. There is an apparent ambivalence between memorialisation and heritage taking place in the city centre, while the actual ‘every night’ of electronic music moved out from there. This chapter identifies this tension and tries to make sense of the Helsinki night, within the temporal framework of the last ten years. Roughly from 2010, in fact, the city efforts to create denser housing and more integrated transportation system have gone hand in hand with the development of the contemporary electronic music scene and its exclusive location choices. It looks like contemporary Helsinki as a ‘growth machine’ partly depends on electronic music and on the latter’s ability to commodify obsolete and transient spaces at night. Lately, the night has gained interest as a field of research, for instance, within the urban studies. On the one hand, the night-time economy (NTE) has become a catchword and an instrument to examine contemporary post-industrial urbanisation (Shaw 2014; Yeo and Heng 2014). On the other hand, the 24-hour city paradigm has conquered and transformed the night into an experimental space for commodification, creative entrepreneurship and capital flows (Crary 2013). Several cities around the world, such as Amsterdam, New York City, Paris, Cali, Berlin and Tbilisi hired or elected ‘night mayors’ and night commissions (Seijas and Gelders 2020). Helsinki, too, has recently established a yöluotsi, a night liaison. These institutional actors have become the symbols of the above-mentioned contradictions as soft diplomats that brand their cities as exciting creative hubs that never sleep (Seijas and Gelders 2020), while having to take care of governing their ‘every night’, also in regard to noise disturbance mitigations and financial club crises. The night maintains complex and ambivalent features, which cannot be understood solely as an economy (Shaw 2014). Although a healthy and therefore audible nightlife can be seen as an effect of policy liberalisation, night noise can also generate new inequalities (Casey et al. 2017). The night reveals the artificiality of urban life and creates alternative ecologies and economies in ambiguous zones (Stahl and Bottà 2019). What happens at night plays a significant role in urban issues such as social exclusion, stigmatisation, displacement, gentrification and


G. Bottà

precariousness (Kolioulis 2018). At the same time, as we will see here, the night can also become an experimental field to test new forms of liberalisation and/or control as well as sanitisation and/or festivalisation of urban living. My method is qualitative and based on the one hand on interviews with DJs and on the other on the analysis of policy documents, public and private branding campaigns and participant observation in Helsinki over time, both at electronic music events and in selected districts, in relation to the current wave of urbanisation. Moreover, I have worked in the last months of 2019 in close connection to LiveFIN ry, the Finnish network of music events, for a project, which put me in close contact with the live music industry in Helsinki. My main analysis is content-based and apt at discovering synergies, conflicts and power-relations, which are at the basis of current Helsinki urbanisation, its ‘every night’ and its electronic music scene.

The City Helsinki’s contribution to mainstream electronic music has a clear connection to the technological optimism, which took over the country across the turn of the millennium thanks to Nokia. The mobile telephone company brought the whole country into an economic upswing after lama, the 1990s economic recession, which followed the end of the Soviet Union, one of the country’s main commercial partners. In 2009 Nokia still accounted for 1.6% of the country’s gross domestic product (Ali-­ Yrkkö 2010, p. 4). In 2000, the hip-hop/electronic music act Bomfunk MC’s topped the charts across the world with the hit ‘Freestyler’, first released in 1999 in Finland. Its music video, set in the Helsinki Metro Line (the Hakaniemi station in particular) portrayed Helsinki as a futuristic city of bare materials and basic colours, able to be manipulated and augmented through consoles. On the same year, Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ followed the same path in the charts across the world. In the video, the Finnish DJ sits with headphones on and witnesses a robbery and chase, mostly happening on the Helsinki Senate Square, the most touristic spot of the city (Jokela 2014),

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


with the iconic white cathedral. Both song videos showed the big technological faith that Helsinki maintained through the years and that still is at the basis of the on-going city development. However, they focused on obvious landmarks, the Senate Square and the Metro Line, using them as a sort of background for the electro bangers, but hiding the city, its inhabitants and its districts, some of which were still recovering from the 1990s’ recession. The capital of Finland has a population of approximately 650,000 inhabitants. It is located in the extreme south of the country, by the Baltic Sea, within a metropolitan area of more than one million inhabitants (in a country of five million), which includes the municipalities of Espoo (second biggest city of the country), Vantaa and Kauniainen. Swedish King Gustavus I founded the city in 1550, in an attempt to compete commercially with the strong Hanseatic League cities; however, Helsinki remained for centuries a small village, sometime victim of pestilences and fires, while the most important Finnish city was Turku, on the west coast (Bell and Hietala 2002). Finland was moved from Swedish to Russian power (1809), and Tsar Alexander I appointed Helsinki the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland (1812), mostly owing to its vicinity to the Russian border in comparison to Turku. The Russian tsar called Carl Ludvig Engel, a Berliner architect operating in Tallin, to design the 4000-inhabitant city anew, so that it could become a capital expressing the enlightenment of the tsarist ruling power. Helsinki’s development consolidated once the country became independent in 1917, maintaining through its history a few important continuities, first and foremost in relation to municipal-­ led planning, land owning and technological innovation. Helsinki municipality owns approximately 70% of its land. Moreover, Finnish municipalities detain the sole right to plan and their plans have legal power. The involvement of private developers is regulated by deals and contracts, by land leases and less often by the city selling the land (Haila 2008). The last Helsinki strategy, which is guiding the city planning from 2017 to 2021 aims at making it the most functional city in the world, in terms of mobility, sustainability, safety and services. It is interesting to note in the strategy document, a reference to “a faster and more agile


G. Bottà

organisational culture through controlled change of rhythm” (City of Helsinki 2019, p. 13). Regarding planning, the website ‘Helsinki New Horizons’ (City of Helsinki 2020a) showcases thirteen redevelopment areas for housing, services and work across the whole city, revealing what can only be defined a construction boom. In 2018 the number of dwellings under construction went to 10,000 and the granted permits were 7,000. In 2019 a total of 1.23  million floor square metres was under construction (City of Helsinki, Executive Office, Urban Research and Statistics 2019). Significant here is the district of Kalasatama, in close proximity to the above-mentioned Kallio and built in an area previously occupied by a cargo port and an abattoir (see Fig. 11.1). This district is a test bed for smart innovations and has a strong vertical feel, thanks to Redi, a complex of eight high rises under construction, comprising a mall. The whole transportation system of the city is also being redesigned to allow public and light transportation across the city and towards the centre, with the establishment of the so-called city boulevards, with the greater aim to make the city carbon neutral by 2035.

The Electronic Scene Erkki Kurenniemi founded the Electronic Music Studio for the Department of Musicology at the University of Helsinki in 1961–1962, in one office of the Porthania building, right in the city centre campus. He started building Do-It-Yourself electronic music machines and collaborated with other musicians and performance artists, live and in studio, and recorded minimal digital compositions under his own name (Ojanen et  al. 2007). Kurenniemi developed a multifaceted maverick career, mixing automation, digital and media art and research, while maniacally documenting his own life in a gigantic archive of pictures, videos, texts and artefacts (Taanila 2002). Among the admirers of his intransigent production we can name Finnish electronic music act Pan Sonic (initially known as Panasonic), who also played some live shows with him, for instance, in an occasion of an artist’s retrospective in 2002 at Kiasma Museum in Helsinki.

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


Pan Sonic are among the most known acts from the Sähkö label, founded by Tommi Grönlund in the mid-1980s in Turku (Ryce 2019). More or less in the same years, Jori Hulkkonen also began recording tracks and founded with others the record label Lumi in Kemi, while in Helsinki Kim Rapatti created Dum Records (pHinn 1995). Helsinki was elected in 2000 European Capital of Culture, which allowed an unprecedented inflow of creative and financial forces for cultural production (Heikkinen 2000). In this period, new acts appeared in the city, for instance, Imatra Voima, Op:l Bastards, Giant Robot, Jimi Tenor and Vladislav Delay. Some of these bands and artists developed a scene around the so-called Skweee, a micro genre, which spread between Helsinki and Stockholm and became the subject of the documentary We Call It Skweee (Patierno and Giese 2009) before being absorbed into dub step. Several of these musicians are still active today in acts such as K.X.P. Throughout the early 2000s, electronic music in Helsinki clustered in the Keskusta, the city centre and in the neighbouring district of Punavuori, which is nowadays known and branded as ‘design district’. In particular Iso Robertinkatu, shortened into Iso Roba, became the night mile, where electronic music bounced out of several clubs and bars including, We Got Beef, DTM, Swengi, Black Door and Rose Garden (see Fig.  11.1). The article about Punavuori in the Vice guide to Helsinki, published by the Vice media concern in 2007, with the support of the Helsinki Convention and Tourist Bureau, described Iso Roba in these terms: “This place transforms during summer and fills up with good bars and general ruckus. Weekends are a bit crazy since all the places worth going to are door to door” (Vice 2007, p.  42). Moreover, it stated how “Punavuori is, as opposed to Kallio, packed with excellent record stores, book stores, antique shops, bars, art galleries, restaurants and fashion outlets, as well as hot and loose women and men” (Vice 2007, pp. 41–42). Venturing into Iso Roba today, even at night, gives a very different impression. The above-mentioned clubs are gone and Jacky, which took the place of We Got Beef, is a fancy lounge with after-work aperetivo. Especially after 2013, the street started losing its ‘bohemian’ street level activities. The first to leave was the Stupido record shop, soon followed by the clubs, due to lack of customers, to street works and renovations, to the noise complains of residents and to rising rents in the city centre (Tervo 2013).


G. Bottà

Despite calls to arms to do something about it (Kivinen 2014), Helsingin Sanomat, the main newspaper of the country, declared 2017 that the carnival street was dead (Joonas 2017).

Governance and Spaces As seen before, until recently, the Helsinki night, as a time of sociability and leisure, has been a priority of the city centre and Punavuori and of their ability to accommodate theatre houses, restaurants, student unions, clubs, party miles and concert halls. However, a night-time ecology of Helsinki does not end with the city centre: a ‘confetti’ night-time ecology of lähipubit (neighbourhood pubs), karaoke bars and clubs has also existed for years, offering music entertainment across suburbs and neighbouring towns (Sulkunen et al. 1997). A side product of the 1990s’ recession, this kind of pub spread around the lähiöt, suburban districts, sometimes stigmatising the districts altogether as seeds of alcoholism and social stagnation. Kallio was definitely a forerunner in these terms, having been the traditional hotspot for illicit traffics, ranging from black market cigarettes to cheap unlicensed alcohol, from drugs to prostitution and therefore the most likely place to become the hotspot for the ‘scene’. With scene, I am referring to the tight and highly networked social ambience, which allows the performing of a “good night out” (Straw 1991, 2001). This shift of the night centre has of course not happened in a vacuum. Parallel to this, the much announced gentrification of Kallio and Vallila became noticeable, for instance, in the rising rents and real estate value, and in the change of population (Tani 2001; Lilius 2019), but also in the way these districts began to be branded (Bottà 2010; Helsinki Marketing 2020; Visit Finland 2020). This has happened in connection to the redevelopment of the above-mentioned neighbouring Kalasatama. The former industrial shore, in close proximity to Kallio, has been redeveloped into a brand new and smart district, as shown before. The well-known Flow Festival takes place in Suvilahti, a former power station located on the fringes of Kalasatama and nowadays property of Kiinteistö Oy Kaapelitalo, a real estate company and ‘cultural incubator’ owned by the

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


City of Helsinki. The company also runs the Kaapelitehdas, Cable Factory, which is the largest cultural centre in Finland and has secured another gigantic (for the size of Helsinki) former industrial space in Vallila, to be turned into a cultural space (Oksanen 2019). The private sector has followed closely the city intervention into Kallio and Vallila and has acted according to four different strategies: 1 . Clustering of new clubs into the area; 2. Opening of subsidiary venues; 3. Artificial move of whole premises (and supposedly its atmosphere) from the centre to Kallio/Vallila; 4. Experimenting with temporary uses. The most interesting experience has been the so-called kompleksi, a cluster of electronic music clubs in the so-called Elanto block (see Fig. 11.1). This block represents the main magnetic pole, which shifted electronic music consumption away from the city centre. Within a few metres from each other, we find Kaiku, Siltanen, Kuudes Linja and Post Bar, reproducing the ‘mile’ feeling of Iso Roba, with the difference of being in a secluded courtyard instead of along a walking street. They are all clubs with a busy calendar of DJ sets, with Kuudes Linja also targeting indie and hip-hop audiences. The restaurants Onda, Tanner and Väinö are also located in the same block. Toni Rantanen, who is also behind Flow Festival and a respected DJ with the moniker Lil Tony has masterminded the whole area, while also opening Ääniwalli, about two kilometres away, in industrial Vallila (see Fig. 11.1). DJ and cultural producer Erkko explained to me that what is happening is that: The kompleksi is already spreading to the next block, because there is this Beerger and they have club nights downstairs, they even had some after parties, as if they are part of the same scene… they have this basement space with a decent sound system. (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020)

At walking distance from this complex, down by the seaside and after crossing the Sörnäisten rantatie, it is possible to see the Merikerho, a club


G. Bottà

opened inside a former commercial vessel by Tapio Mäkelä, who previously run the M-Bar in the city centre (see Fig. 11.1). On the venue’s Facebook pages Tapio writes that: The cultural centre of Helsinki has shifted. It is now in Hakaniemi-­ Merihaa-­Kallio-Sörnäinen-Suvilahti-Vallila. Of course, the downtown has the large cultural institutions, but I am talking about living culture of arts and music, street art, and making new things happen. The gas clocks will host ELMU and The Helsinki Youth Office live venue. The Flow festival has permanently transformed how we see the area. Bustling bars and clubs, restaurants, artisan shops in the region make this the living hub. So yes, this is the perfect spot to be in, don’t you think? (Mäkelä 2018)

The silencing of Punavuori and the rise of Kallio happened in a particular moment in Helsinki history, where liberalisation and deregulation, to be understood as enhanced flexibility in drafting and applying policies regulating the night and cultural life in general, rose considerably, together with civic activism (Mäenpää and Faehnle 2017). This happened as a top-down strategy, with a new generation of politicians and public administrators with subcultural, ecologist and DIY backgrounds getting into top positions (the Green Party was the second most represented party and got 21 seats in the 2017 municipal elections). Moreover, it has been a bottom-up expression of entrepreneurs and citizens willing to bring Helsinki towards more central European standards (with Berlin and Amsterdam in mind) in terms of everyday life, urban culture and night leisure, something that they felt the city centre was unable to provide. A turning point for this was the Restaurant Day (Savela 2016), which started as a street protest orchestrated on Facebook in 2011. Three friends decided to act against what they considered too strict regulations concerning restaurants and street food vending by illegally serving food from a cargo bike on the street and inviting people to follow them. This event quickly took over as several ‘restaurant days’ a year were organised, letting people experiment with public and private spaces, ranging from parks to living rooms, from own backyards to vacant industrial spaces, while the city took pride in it. The event turned global, thanks to a dedicated website (www.restaurantday.org) and was partly dismantled by the

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


main founders, who decided to turn ‘every day into a restaurant day’. According to Savela (2016), this happening turned food into the main actor in a network, which encompassed real and digital spaces, municipal regulations, national policies, understandings of urban culture, and local enactments of global trends. What we are experiencing right now is an increased agency played by electronic music and the night in this network, as a sort of substitute for what food has been. Both the top-down liberalisation and deregulation and the bottom-up activism have influenced the electronic music scene and its ‘every night’. As noted by DJ Erkko: I think it is connected to this opening up of the whole city, and this restaurant day… if you look at Helsinki ten years ago it was a much more boring place, it is not just commercial gentrification stuff but also citizen taking action to make the city more lively, those are related. We have this new generation that see that they have the possibility and just do it. (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020)

The attention towards night governance and liberalisation has also fuelled some important legislative changes, which went into action in January 2019. The first is connected to the opening hours of clubs and bars, which were extended from 4 to 5 a.m., and the second with the selling of alcohol in supermarket, whose alcohol content rose from 4.3 to 5.5% (with the most alcoholic beverages sold exclusively in the Alko state monopolies). Especially the change in opening time is seen positively by both my interviewees: according to DJ Erkko, “it used to be that the club closed at peak, the climax is always in the end and it might even be that it is quite short, that you have been playing until 2:00 AM and then it is over, but now there is also a bit of plateau in the end” (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020). DJ Indigo, active also as a VJ (visual jockey, someone taking care of live visual performance through projectors) refers to the fact that “if it would be around the clock it would not be so much about the moment, one hour before the closing time, it seems that it is always one hour before closing time that the most people are into it” (Interview with DJ Indigo, 04/02/2020).


G. Bottà

DJ Erkko, in reference to Kaiku, the main club within the complex, says that: It is just a little bit a matter of chance, randomness that the main venue there happens to be an electronic music club, because I think many of the people going there, the function of their going out, is more resembling going to a night club, which means you have a few drinks before or you go to a bar and then you want to continue to a late night venue but they are not that much going there for the music. (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020)

Somehow, we are already experiencing the ‘mainstream-isation’ of electronic music and of its Kallio enactment, with consequences in terms, for instance, of safe spaces. DJ Indigo refers to the fact that mainstream teenagers might happen to be in Kaiku and act in discriminating ways because “they heard that this is a good public place and they don’t know anything else, but that happens when things grow” (Interview with DJ Indigo, 04/02/2020). Because of this, the electronic music scene has started generating informal spaces for electronic music consumption. Both DJ Erkko and DJ Indigo have been talking about ‘underground clubs’ and ‘illegal clubs’ referring to not licensed spaces, which are rented to host non-mainstream electronic music events, without any further permit and acting therefore outside the law. These clubs are moving even further to the east and north of the city centre, somehow anticipating the next real estate expansion: There are three or four basic places that have underground clubs every now and then and then there are events that take place—sometimes people rent a place and sometimes there could be abandoned places where there are illegal parties (…) Squat parties are not every weekend, but the others are, you could find some underground party every weekend. (Interview with DJ Indigo, 04/02/2020)

The electronic music scene at this point seems to have a supply of spaces, which is “in a way bigger than the demand” (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020).

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


However, the illegal parties and remote places respond to the needs of safe spaces with no discrimination policies, no particular licensing or opening hour limitations, little economic exchange, pure devotion to the bass drum and creative freedom. For instance, DJ Indigo refers to the chance in one of these illegal clubs to “do projection mapping… like put videos everywhere on the ceiling, on walls on people and usually in clubs it is just video screens” (Interview with DJ Indigo, 04/02/2020). Surprisingly, for the moment, the police has never intervened, even if ‘I am sure they know, some of those are social media events, they might not put the location exactly but still I think the police knows, but they just let them be’. (Interview with Lehtinen, 23/01/2020)

DJ Indigo refers to an event where: “although the police came, they (the organisers) just showed that everything is working here and we have everything under control and they didn’t need to stop the party” (Interview with DJ Indigo, 04/02/2020).

Conclusion The night ‘ecology’, from illumination to opening hours, from the promise of something forbidden to club locations, is artificial and therefore reflects material forces involved in its planning, execution and control. Municipalities and the state in Finland own a great portion of urban land. This has had an impact on how the social mix, welfare and planning have been implemented and preserved through the years and how urban inequalities have been tamed. However, lately, Helsinki has often taken up other more entrepreneurial roles, studied, for instance, in the creation of housing hubs to attract wealthy residents (Hyötyläinen and Haila 2018) or in the mobilisation of ‘culture’ in dedicated incubators as a planning strategy (Krivy 2012). This newly found attitude, which relies on the synergy of top-down liberalisation and grass-root activism, played a role in defining the spatial shift of the night-time cluster from the centre into Kallio and beyond. However, the fact that this brought electronic music to the forefront seems more connected to external logics, such as


G. Bottà

the taste of Nordic urbanites and to the repurposing of a winning club cluster formula already tried in Punavuori. Moreover, shortly after finishing the first draft of this chapter, the Finnish state introduced the Emergency Powers Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting people assembly in public to ten and closing down restaurants and bars. A ban on mass events of over 500 people also affected the organisation of summer festivals, at least until August 2020. With all clubs locked and the festival season in serious danger, some DJs and producers started streaming their sets on social media, just like in other countries and even the long forgotten virtual world Habbo has resurfaced from oblivion to host virtual ‘underground clubs’. Live music and the night-time economy are in serious danger, with an estimated 90 million euro loss in the whole of Finland between March and May 2020 (LiveFIN ry 2020). A few cultural foundations, such as TOP and Kone, have developed emergency short-term cultural grants for artists and cultural producers. Several electronic musicians applied for these funds, questionable is of course the strategy of putting cultural workers in competition for these grants instead of developing more coherent strategies, such as what has happened, for instance, in Berlin (Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa 2020). A national strategy for bars and restaurants (including clubs and live music venues) is currently being developed, while still unsure is the reopening schedule. The city of Helsinki has developed payment waivers and refund, and some exemptions for rental payments to entrepreneurs (City of Helsinki 2020b). However, many people working within the electronic music scene will probably fall out of these schemes, due to their working status being into a shady area as students, part-time workers or officially registered as unemployed, while more institutionalised artists in the realm of plastic arts, classical music and theatre, for instance, will be privileged. Salla Vallius, the yöluotsi (night liaison), started working at the City of Helsinki at the beginning of April 2020, her role to coordinate and enhance night-time activities are probably being put deeply at stake by this alarming situation. What the on-going crisis reveals is that the ‘elective affinity’ between electronic music and urban development was built upon unsustainable preconditions, with a strong subordination of the former into creating an

11  Helsinki, Finland: Liberalisation, Shifting Night Clusters… 


exploitable buzz for the new developments. Without dedicated recovery policies, specifically aiming at the night time and targeting the precarious working conditions within electronic music, a return to the pumping basses of the past seems difficult to achieve.

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Seijas, A., & Gelders, M. M. (2020). Governing the Night-Time City: The Rise of Night Mayors as a New Form of Urban Governance After Dark. Urban Studies, OnlineFirst 1–19, https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098019895224 Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa. (2020). Corona. Hilfsmaßnahmen für Berlins Kultur und Kreativwirtschaft. Retrieved April, 29, 2020 from www. berlin.de/sen/kulteu/aktuelles/corona/. Shaw, R. (2014). Beyond Night Time Economy: Affective Atmosphere of the Urban Night. Geoforum, 51, 87–95. Stahl, G., & Bottà, G. (2019). Introduction: Because the Night…. In G. Stahl & G.  Bottà (Eds.), Nocturnes: Popular Music and the Night (pp.  1–18). Palgrave Macmillan. Straw, W. (1991). Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music. Cultural Studies, 53, 368–388. Straw, W. (2001). Scenes and Sensibilities. Public, 22–23, 245–257. Sulkunen, P., Alasuutari, P., Ritva, N., & Kinnunen, M. (1997). The Urban Pub. Helsinki: Stakes. Taanila, M. (dir.). (2002). Future Is Not What It Used to Be [Motion Picture]. Tani, S. (2001). Bad Reputation Bad Reality? The Intertwining and Contested Images of a Place. Fennia International Journal of Geography, 179(2), 143–157. Tervo, T. (2013, October 6). Iso-Roba on vaarassa tyjjentyä. Helsingin Uutiset. Vice. (2007). Punavuori Pub Life. Vice Guide to Helsinki (Special). Visit Finland. (2020). Kallio a Vibrant Helsinki District. Retrieved March 10, 2020, from www.visitfinland.com/article/vibrant-­helsinki-­district-­kallio. Yeo, S.-J., & Heng, C.  K. (2014). An (Extra)ordinary Night Out: Urban Informality, Social Sustainability and Night-time Economy. Urban Studies, 51(4), 712–726.

12 “You’re Not the Boss of Me!”: The Relationship Between EDM and DIY in Australia Yanto Browning, John Willsteed, and Andy Bennett

Introduction In this chapter we look at how the history of electronic music scenes in Australia’s three eastern state capitals (Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane) has shaped their dance music scenes, examine how these cities have reacted in different ways to the commodification of cultural production and consumption promoted in ‘creative cities’ style policy (Florida 2005), and explore how Australia’s east-coast electronic music producers and promoters have negotiated the contested nature of sites used for dance music events (Bird 2016; Gibson and Pagan 2000; Gibson 1999). Rather than discussing the response of the economy or the industry, we will examine how makers and participants respond to such changes in both policy and regulation. As will be illustrated, the evolution of a Y. Browning (*) • J. Willsteed Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] A. Bennett Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_12



Y. Browning et al.

trans-­locally primed, streamlined and profit-motivated creative economy as depicted by Florida (2005) has been met with significant resistance in some quarters of the music industry, particularly those which continue to observe and practice a DIY ethos inspired by punk and carried forward by indie and dance music cultures (Bennett 2018). Historically, many cultural phenomena that find their way into the mainstream sphere of production and consumption are drawn from the underground or various forms of fringe and alternative (sub)cultures (Bennett and Guerra 2019). Electronic music, including electronic dance music (EDM), is no different, and is driven by DIY aesthetics and processes. It is this DIY attitude which took new technologies and fuelled the birth of the electronic dance music scenes in Australia’s capital cities (Montano 2009), as well as various ensuing waves of cultural change, including the rise of illegal warehouse parties and ‘bush doofs’ in the 1990s and 2000s (Canosa and Bennett 2020; Luckman 2003) and widespread home/portable production in the 2000s and 2010s. At the same time as this creativity energised EDM culture, concerns around drug- or violence-related deaths at EDM clubs and festivals have been used as a justification for increased regulation, limiting the horizon of possibilities afforded to the DIY artists and promoters that continuously shape both local and national electronic music scenes. Taking into account the fact that much of the DIY cultural sector is itself becoming a robust scene of trans-locally connected and increasingly professionalised cultural production (Bennett and Guerra 2019), in this chapter, we offer a comparative account of how this scenario has played out among the local EDM scenes in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. The acronym EDM only became widely used decades after the initial rave movement, and the term is absent from most literature pre-2008 or so. Rave and EDM’s association with DIY culture, oppositional or subversive politics and drug use, along with the subcultures that have emerged in support of the production and presentation of these forms, have made dance music a topic of interest for researchers and policy-­ makers alike. Here, we hope to show that this broad field of electronic music is built on DIY practices that have their roots in earlier forms of localised experimental practices. This chapter, then, will serve to illustrate how the tensions between DIY culture and regulatory intervention have

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shaped Australia’s history of contemporary electronic music practice, and examine how the histories of these three cities set the scene for uniquely local manifestations of rave and club culture. It will trace the efforts of the subcultural, independent producers at the centre of these scenes in maintaining their cultural identities in the face of increased political interference and mass-market commodification.

A Brief History of Electronic Music in Australia The eccentric Percy Grainger (1882–1961) may well be the father of electronic music in Australia. Experiments with ‘free music machines’ dominated his thinking from the late 1930s, and the Grainger Museum in Melbourne is home to a range of mechanical and electrical oddities. According to Baker, Grainger’s musical legacy “helped to profile Melbourne with significant music heritage, one that also had an impact in the Western world” (Baker 2018, p. 112). By first modifying existing instruments and then designing and constructing purpose-built machines, Grainger and his collaborators were at the forefront of experimental, DIY music culture in Australia. A generation later, Ron Grainer, who possessed a prodigious talent like Grainger, was born in North Queensland. Grainer’s distinctive theme music for long-running BBC science fiction series Dr Who (see Jenkins and Tulloch 1995) is Australia’s strongest tie to electronic music as it progressed through the 1960s and beyond. Arranged and produced by Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1963, it brought electronic music into living rooms all over the world (Butler 2014). By the late 1970s, using the wave of DIY energy that fuelled punk, many Australian artists began making new music and setting up small studios using the affordable synths and home multitrack recorders which had appeared in the local market. In Sydney, the Surry Hills studio MSquared stands as a fine example of this open culture. Run from 1979 to 1983 by Mitch Jones and Michael Tee, it was home to music by Scattered Order, The Systematics and The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast among many others, with 35 vinyl and cassette releases, while on Sydney’s North Shore, Tom Ellard (Severed Heads) moved from the DIY arsenal


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of the 1970s—tape machines and loops—to the 1980s’ staples of sequencers and samplers. Meanwhile, Brisbane’s somewhat culturally isolated position as the capital of Queensland, a state captive to a corrupt, arch-conservative government during the 1980s (see Stafford 2006), no doubt helped the city preserve musical forms that had drifted out of fashion in other territories, notably punk and new wave. Perhaps due to Brisbane’s history with band culture, many of the city’s successes with electronic sounds were found in live groups, unlike in Sydney, where a ‘cabal’ of five, mostly ex-pat British DJs were key in the city’s emerging dance music culture. In Brisbane, electronic sounds were often assimilated into more abrasive, experimental, guitar-based music, such as Xero or Pork in the 1980s, and bands like Regurgitator in the 1990s. As these bands were forming from the post-punk angularity, Sydney company Fairlight was creating the first digital sampling instrument, the CMI, released in 1979 (Harkins 2015). The CMI (Computer Musical Instrument) altered the tone and texture of popular music in the early 1980s as artists made dramatic use of Fairlight sampling in their work. This revolution in production was initially only available to the academies and commercial music’s top tier; with a list price of around US$25,000, the sampler cost approximately the same as a house in Sydney at the time. Nonetheless, forward-looking musicians who could afford the instrument were early adopters, and the initial client list included Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Herbie Hancock. Although it was out of reach for the average musician, the Fairlight was a beacon of DIY light, demonstrating the self-sufficient production possibilities afforded by new digital technologies. Within a couple of years, E-mu’s ‘Emulator’ sampler was released, followed by the hugely successful Emulator II in 1984, a device with a starting price tag that was a quarter of the Fairlight. These instruments, along with Roland’s early 1980s’ commercial flops, the TR808 and TR909 drum machines, and TB303 bass synthesiser, would go on to form the backbone of a new breed of DIY electronic music production that would provide the soundtrack to the so-called second summer of love and acid revolution of the late 1980s (Redhead 1990). Taking inspiration from disco and Chicago’s house music scene, acid house heralded the arrival of electronic dance music into the mainstream. Australia’s three east-coast capitals,

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with vastly different histories of club culture, would embrace this new form in different ways, and at different times. Melbourne’s post-war Mediterranean immigrant wave had set the scene for a burgeoning disco movement in the late 1970s. Nightclub owner Sam Frantzeskos was inspired by Studio 54 in the development of Inflation Nightclub in November 1979, and by the early 1980s, “‘Italian Disco Nights’ had become the ‘vogue’ for Italian-Australian youth in Melbourne” (Fleckney 2018, p.  31). While the disco producers of the 1970s were saddled with expensive session musicians and studio costs, Italo-disco producers could self-produce entire tracks from modest home studios, an approach that still defines much of EDM production today. The music of the clubs was soon assimilated into popular culture, and Melbourne became host to Australia’s first ‘superclub’, with the Metro opening in 1987. A few years later, embracing the rave culture that had emerged from Ibiza and the UK, the city boasted the Southern Hemisphere’s largest dancefloor, with a British ex-pat husband and wife team, Heidi and Richard John, developing the Global Village art space and the Melbourne Underground Development (MUD) organisation, whose events epitomised the DIY ethos that defined early Australian rave culture (Fleckney 2018).

 he Rise of the Rave and Club Culture T on the East Coast The rave movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s across the UK involved unauthorised, large-scale events taking place in re-purposed, untraditional venues (John 2015). It featured repetitive electronic beat-­ based music that fused elements of Chicago’s ‘acid house’ music and Detroit’s ‘techno’ and coincided with the widespread use of the psychoactive drug MDMA (Malbon 1999). Although Rave was built on a DIY culture far removed from the traditional music industry, by the early 1990s mainstream record labels were fast to latch onto the burgeoning scene (Reynolds 1998). Dance music would be assimilated into the commercial music sector over the following decades. The term ‘rave’ is thus


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still typically employed to describe a dance music event that exists, or maintains the illusion of existing, on the periphery of regulatory boundaries, initially motivated by aims of shared, communal experience over profiteering. The term has slipped out of common use to describe a type of music. Across Europe and North America, early club culture had been synonymous with Gay culture (Rietveld 1997), and while this was true to a certain extent in Melbourne, where the Mediterranean Italo-disco scene co-existed with a queer club scene, in Sydney, the rise of electronic music-­ based dance parties was intimately tied to the gay scene. From the early 1980s, two venues located in Sydney’s showgrounds, the Hordern Pavilion and Royal Hall of Industries, played host to Mardi Gras fundraising events and post-parade parties, while the Mardi Gras Parade itself went from a civil rights protest in 1978 to an extravagant and essential event on the Sydney Calendar with over 500,000 spectators and 12,500 marchers in 2019. The music that so often accompanied these parties, and the march, was Hi-NRG, similar in many ways to the Italo-disco sound Melbourne had embraced, incorporating elements of disco and funk, but fusing them with an up-tempo, metronomic, and heavily synthesized form that was built for the dancefloor and embraced by the queer community. Sydney’s weather and beaches also made it a more attractive destination than Melbourne for tourists and backpackers, and the city’s electronic music scene became increasingly influenced by a wave of UK migration, working holidaymakers who had experienced the rise, and swift fall, of rave culture in England (Gibson and Pagan 2000). In the UK, a familiar pattern had emerged: a cycle of DIY parties that became commercial enterprises, which attracted the attention of politicians and the police, who then shut them down, forcing the scene to adapt or migrate (Redhead 1990). After Thatcherite England dismantled the English rave scene in the early 1990s (McKay 1996), expat Brits involved in the second summer of love would travel to Australia, often via India and Southeast Asia, before settling in Sydney on a two-year tourist visa. Their experiences, first with Britain’s rave scene, and then with the full-moon outdoor parties of places like Goa and Ko Pha Ngan, would shape Sydney’s burgeoning post-Hordern rave scene, a scene that was initially made up of 80% British expats (Poe 2016). The DIY nature of

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these early parties meant that details would be available only via a phone line on the night, and venues included film studios, art museums, warehouses, and underground car parks, all disused during the weekend in cities that had not yet experienced inner-city urban renewal and gentrification. Police interference with these early rave parties was mitigated by deceit and outright bribery, with ploys including claiming that the warehouse party was a music video shoot, and with these parties taking place in a time with less transparency and accountability in the authorities, “a brown paper bag deposited at a prearranged location could mean that your party went all night” (Smart, cited in Poe 2016). Brisbane’s contribution to this growth in DIY rave and club culture had distinct localised aspects. The electronic pop/dance group Boxcar formed in the mid-1980s and while they experienced only limited success in their hometown, by 1990 the band had managed three Billboard dance top 20 hits. Live electronic group Vision Four 5 was a mainstay of the 1990s’ Australian rave culture and was one of the country’s first groups to tour and perform ‘live’ at rave events, rather than performing DJ sets. Whilst a fertile DIY and underground dance music community underpinned the growth of Brisbane’s dance scene in the mid to late 1990s, widespread embrace of rave culture occurred later in either Sydney or Melbourne. It was Brisbane’s proximity to the northern rivers of New South Wales that presented opportunities for those ‘in the know’ to participate in a growing bush doof scene just south of the Queensland/New South Wales border, where a series of legal and illegal dance parties took place in Byron Bay and the surrounding hinterland, partly driven by “ex-­ Sydneysiders who fled in response to police crackdowns on free parties in inner-city parks in 1995” (Gibson 2009, p. 77). While Sydney and Melbourne’s larger urban footprint allowed for more localised pockets of clubs and live music venues spread throughout the inner-city suburbs, the Brisbane music scene’s concentrated pocket of venues left the city’s entire music scene vulnerable to encroaching residential redevelopment (Flew 2008). This density of music venues was one of the reasons for the development by the Brisbane City Council of the Valley Music Harmony Plan in 2002 and then the Special Entertainment Precinct in the Brisbane City Plan in 2014. These quite


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specific, state-based strategies had their roots in a broader, and older, sweep of progressive policies.

History of Government Intervention The Whitlam federal Labour government came into power in 1972 and laid strong foundations for a growth spurt of cultural activity in Australia. The Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Film Commission, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, minimum Australian content on commercial radio, the introduction of FM and multicultural radio, community radio and television licenses, the abolition of university fees and a significantly expanded social welfare system were all enacted in the three short years before the government was dismissed. One result of these changes in the 1970s and into the 1980s, when combined with the high youth unemployment of this period, was a swell of subcultural activity. The financial support gave unemployed young people options— big share houses or re-purposed shops in the inner suburbs, practice rooms, artist-run spaces and galleries in recently vacated urban warehouses, and the money to buy gear and release cassettes and vinyl, just as the dire job situation gave them another essential commodity—time. Sustaining the unemployed had far-reaching cultural consequences: They made the dole liveable. There were … thousands of people all over Australia living on the dole and making up bands … it was like an arts grant. (Grant, cited in Fleckney 2018, p. 46)

The products of this activity are clearly stamped with the hallmarks of DIY approaches to culture-making. Geography separated Australia from the European/American axis and young artists gathered influences when and where they could, re-purposing and re-inventing as they went. And although the grand plans of the short-lived Whitlam government, beautifully symbolised by the purchase of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles for $1.3m (currently valued at $350m), helped to support both ‘legitimate’ musicians through the arts grants administered by the Australia Council as well as the unintended effects of the dole, a variety of federal and state

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governments and local councils in the ensuing decades have been less supportive. There is a tendency for real estate developers and entitled inner-city residents to attempt to influence local government to the detriment of venues and clubs, and although music styles and modes of live delivery changed between the 1970s and the 2000s and beyond, these tensions are ongoing. Indeed, with the neo-liberal idealism that has defined Australian politics over the past thirty years actively working to dismantle the welfare state and stigmatise recipients of financial assistance, commercialisation of cultural output has become far more essential to those working in the field today, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the inner-city clubs. The urban venues that emerged during the growth and ‘straightening’ of dance music became hubs of DIY-driven club culture, with promoters organising nights to cater for specific musical sub-genres, and booking appropriate local or interstate/international DJs and live acts. The touring national and international headliner EDM acts frequently inhabited a world entirely separate from that of the major record companies, self-­ managed, with independently owned DIY production facilities that rendered the model of a record label as gatekeeper to the recording studio redundant. Independent labels surfaced to self-release tracks first as limited-­run vinyl releases, dance music’s early medium of choice, and then as digital releases, on digital platforms such as BeatPort, designed specifically around the dissemination of club-based sounds. On balance, this approach had many similarities with the underground punk scene of the 1970s and 1980s, and with the “cowboy labels, self-­ cobbled studios, and sound system parties” of British Jamaican record culture (Reynolds 1998, p.  115). Additionally, the rave scene grew in parallel with the internet, allowing for digital releases that were able to access a far wider audience in comparison to the earlier model, whereby analogue cassette and vinyl media had to be either shipped to a series of sympathetic independent record stores or mailed out to fans individually. The internet also provided a new means of computer-mediated communication, whereby rave events could be organised and publicised, in support of the “illegal appropriations of urban spaces for dance venues” (Gibson 1999, p. 19).


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Remaining out of sight was essential for some promoters, particularly those poorly equipped to deal with regulatory barriers. The industry in the beginning was self-regulated, and although the raves and bush doofs had the sheen of ‘alternative’ about them, their growing popularity attracted both formal and informal business interests. Rave’s ethos of ‘Peace, Love, Unity & Respect’ (PLUR) was at least partly derived from the effects of the drug MDMA, and club culture has always had an implicit link to drugs such as ecstasy, meth-amphetamines, ketamine, and cocaine (Thornton 1995). Some have argued, at least in Australia, that dance music’s shift from the clubs to the rave scene was at least partly motivated by creating an environment more welcoming to those who preferred ecstasy over alcohol (Fleckney 2018). Logically, business interests associated with the production and supply of these drugs would therefore also be motivated to ensure a scene that provides them with a growing customer base succeeds, and while a DIY ethos can quite easily be maintained in the production and dissemination of recorded works, the presentation of these works in large-scale events that require up-front capital to fund equipment and venue hire attracted investment from vested interests in the black-market economy. Dance music’s early days, before becoming somewhat assimilated into the major-label record industry, was thus bifurcated, with small enterprise, trans-locally linked DIY producers self-producing and self-releasing club tracks, but with the natural home of these tracks being large events that were often, at least partly, funded by drug money. The contradictory nature of a movement that had initially been built on repurposed hippy ideals from the 1960s was not lost on those behind the scenes: Sure, you’ve got hippies and peace and love and all this shit, but it’s run by drug dealers. [It’s] the most controversial, back-stabbing piece of shit scene you’ll ever find. It’s a business, like any other. The whole peace, love and all that sort of shit—it’s Santa Claus. (McKenzie-Murray 2019, para. 8)

Higher profile, ostensibly commercially successful ventures were not immune from the influence of criminal drug networks. Earthcore, established in 1992 and one of Australia’s largest and longest running EDM and electronic music festivals up until its closure in 2018 after the death

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of founder Spiro Boursine, was the subject of frequent and persistent rumours that it was at least partly funded by drug money, with police concerned the event was used by drug dealers for money laundering purposes (McKenzie-Murray 2019). The experiences of several business associates and sub-contractors associated with Earthcore over its twenty-­five-­year history suggest it was built less on a model of ‘do it yourself ’ and more along the lines of ‘get someone else to do it for you under the threat of violence’ (McKenzie-Murray 2019). While the authorities to a large extent ignored the early days of rural-­ based rave events, until a spate of drug-related deaths across New South Wales inspired the introduction of questionable strip-searching practices across the state (Allman 2019, 2020; Fox 2019), they were bound tight to the club scene in the cities. One of the biggest media attention-­grabbers in the last twenty years, particularly around elections, has been the issue of violence, with a number of deaths occurring in and around clubs in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. All three cities have dealt with alcohol and drug-related violence differently. Lockout laws—whereby patrons are not able to enter clubs and venues between set times—have been enacted with varying degrees of success. In June 2008 Victoria brought in the 2 a.m. lockout trial in order to prevent club-hopping between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The three-month trial was never extended, though the Victorian government brought in regulations through VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal) that designated music venues (live or recorded) as ‘high-risk’ forcing any Melbourne venue presenting live music to provide two security personnel for the first 100 patrons. This had little effect on the larger dance clubs on but was a financially untenable position for most small music venues, numbering nearly 600 across the state. A rally in January 2010 protesting the regulations, energised by the imminent closure of the Tote Hotel, an iconic live music venue, drew nearly 5000 people to the hotel, while a further rally—SLAM (Save Live Music Australia)—in February outside Parliament in the Melbourne CBD attracted nearly 20,000, leading to the development of a Live Music Agreement and the eventual re-opening of the Tote. One aspect of the response to these laws is the differentiation implied in the discourse between live music and recorded music. The rallies were arranged by the live music industry, with high-profile musicians


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performing, drawing media attention and eventually forcing some leniency for live rather than recorded music venues. One of the arguments used was that live music venues were, broadly, safer, and that the dance clubs presented higher risks, but “despite arguments that late night licensed venues with live music present at lower risk of harms than other late-night venues, there is little research applicable to this question” (Cook and Wilkinson 2019, p. 270). The outcome, though, was positive. Melbourne had to contend with crippling state interventions in 2010, but through the SLAM movement was able to find a regulatory middle-­ ground, and the city, until COVID-19, boasted a strong night-time economy. The city became the self-proclaimed ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ in 2017, as a result of the city’s music venue to resident ratio (Newton and Coyle-Hayward 2018), an achievement that would not have been possible under the prior regulatory framework. Similar laws in response to alcohol and violence were enacted in Sydney in 2014 and applied to Kings Cross and the CBD. In areas known for decades to be all-night drinking spots, alcohol service was closed at 3 a.m. The costs were considerable from the perspective of the clubs, bars, and related businesses, and resulted in a significant backlash from the broader Australian music industry. A net loss of 176 venues in Sydney in the four years following the introduction of the 2014 lockout laws (Davies 2018) illustrates the fundamental role civic policy plays in determining the horizon of possibilities afforded to a city’s music makers. It was not only the lockout laws that forced some of Sydney’s EDM community to return to their underground roots. Residential development in areas that had historically been entertainment hubs created an additional obstacle for music venues, with Sydney lacking the council support mechanisms used in Melbourne’s agent-of-change principle (McArdle et al. 2014, pp. 2–14), or Brisbane’s designated entertainment precinct. As a result, noise complaints in newly gentrified areas of Sydney were responsible for shutting down events that were part of city-wide festivals nominally supported by the New South Wales state government, with an official show for Sydney’s flagship Vivid festival being shut down after just four songs when nearby residents of a King’s Cross venue registered noise complaints at 9 p.m. (Hennessy 2017). Sydney’s lockout laws, however, may have re-­ invigorated the local DIY dance music community, with promoters such

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as Vibe Positive harkening back to rave’s early days with their ‘Full Bloom’ secret location warehouse parties, and some DJs celebrating EDM’s return to the underground, where they can now again find “raves tucked away in the valley of a park, or in the backstreets of the inner-west” (DJ Andy, cited in Agnew 2020). Brisbane’s lockout laws have been less draconian than Sydney’s, with the initial 1 a.m. lockout subsequently abandoned, instead applying a 3 a.m. service closure with the use of ID scanners coming into effect in mid-2017  in the state’s fifteen ‘safe night precincts’ (SNPs) which are managed by local boards. The most significant of the SNPs is the Valley Entertainment Precinct, just north of the city centre. The Brisbane City Plan sets out the parameters of the precinct and focuses on protecting and supporting venues in a concentrated area (2014). Whilst this approach has created one of the highest densities of live music venues in the world, it has also resulted in a distorted distribution of venues across different suburbs across the city (Homan 2014). Brisbane’s suburban sprawl may make the city as comparatively large in absolute area as almost any other Southern Hemisphere conurbation, however, the relatively small inner-city suburb of Fortitude Valley plays host to an overwhelming majority of the city’s venues. This is a trend that is often at odds with the way that live/recorded music has previously been consumed, which is in local pubs and clubs and other, often informal DIY venues (see Bennett and Rogers 2016), such as private houses and old warehouses. In the contexts of genres such as punk, hardcore, and EDM, such DIY venue characteristics remain central to shared cultural norms and aesthetics governing notions of authenticity and sincerity. Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of the underground rave and bush doof culture in comparison to the more commercially focused contemporary EDM scene is the use of DIY informal, often illegal or quasi-legal venues to host the parties, to the point where the term ‘rave’ is often used by attendees to differentiate these ‘authentic’ events from the commercially orientated and regulated ‘dance parties’ that take place in council-approved and licensed clubs, halls, and sporting venues (Siokou and Moore 2008). Even though the production of events supporting EDM in Australia have increasingly been the subject of local and federal regulation, and have been assimilated into a more mainstream commercial leisure


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economy, a healthy subculture of creative practitioners unfettered by the expectations of the mainstream music economy has been maintained by the rapid rise in home recording and production. This is a largely DIY activity which we will explore in the next section, but it must be noted that even though you can make a worldwide EDM hit in your bedroom with nothing but a PC, music software, and some headphones, once a party or event hits a certain size, it becomes unmanageable from a DIY perspective. Thus, in many ways rave’s success was also its downfall: a subcultural phenomenon that became so popular it could no longer be contained to a peripatetic and opportunistic existence, a form of oppositional counter-culture whose opposition initially didn’t really care enough to engage, but then, after a series of drug-deaths and media beat-ups, suddenly cared a little too much. The production of dance music may have maintained a core DIY ethos, but the live events where this music was delivered were quickly seen by the market as having far more economic value than the recorded work. A shift to the mainstream also meant increased attention from authorities, with governments keen to be seen to be doing everything in their power to keep young adults safe from the ever-present dangers associated with club music.

DIY in Action As the foregoing sections of this chapter serve to illustrate, the history of EDM from its inception, and its earlier roots in electronic disco, draw on significant traits of DIY culture and practice. While the physical spaces of EDM, venues and festivals, have become increasingly regulated over the years, the music-making practices associated with EDM have retained a DIY quality and in many cases have become increasingly more DIY-­ centred due to the ongoing development of digital technology (Bennett 2018). In the space of thirty years, the so-called bedroom producer scene has developed into a space where music of a professional standard can be composed, recorded, produced, and disseminated, often using a single laptop computer (Bürkner and Lange 2017). From Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie’s DIY digital samplers of the 1970s, designs that would go on to shape many of the vital electronic music

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instrument innovations of the following decades, to the Melbourne Underground Development’s warehouse rave/art spaces, to the (perhaps apocryphal) story of Australia’s internationally renowned EDM star Flume building a career from free software found on a promotional disc attached to a cereal packet (Quackenbush 2017), an attitude of self-­ sufficiency and self-reliance has defined much of Australia’s electronic dance music history. As a country geographically isolated from the European/North American markets, Australian EDM producers such as Flume, Alison Wonderland, Will Sparks, Timmy Trumpet, and Nervo have nevertheless been able to build international success. Some, such as Sydney’s Flume, have negotiated success as an independent while others, such as Melbourne’s Nervo, have built a career with support from a major record label. Regardless, the current digital landscape offers a promise to all content creators, EDM producers included: you can make it all by yourself, and if it’s good enough, it will find an audience. Much has been said about the apparently liberating impact of this on music artists who no longer have to vie for the attention of record companies but are instead free to find their audience via audio streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, or Bandcamp (Autio 2019; Eiriz and Leite 2017), or even YouTube and Vimeo. Several, such as BeatPort, Mixcloud, and Soundcloud, are designed specifically for the digital distribution of club tracks or DJ mixes. Inevitably, of course, such ‘liberation’ has also seen a growing pool of music creators competing for the same audience and contributing to the situation whereby the supply of new music likely outstrips demand. That said, this ‘new music industry’ landscape can and does allow new artists to break through including in the field of EDM. Indeed, with the emergence and rapid global escalation of the COVID-19 virus during the first half of 2020, the significance of digital music-making took on a new and critical resonance as public spaces were closed off and social distancing rules (including stringent lock downs) imposed across Australia and other parts of the world. As established music artists such as the Rolling Stones performed online renditions of their most coveted tracks, the spectre of the ‘virtual’ rock venue or dance club loomed large. This seems at odds with the notion of the ‘collective experience’ in the live rock/pop or DJ/club context, which has previously


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been envisaged as a pivotal form of cultural life. For example, in relation to EDM, researchers such as Bennett (1999) and Malbon (1999) have emphasised the distinct forms of neo-tribal bonding that occur in dance club settings as fans share in a sense of temporal collective identity. Such an interpretation has also been applied in the context of the contemporary pop/rock music festival (see, e.g. Cummings 2006). The great unknowns at present are when the live music event will return to a physical face-to-face setting and how, in the absence of such a return, music creators and audience will adjust to an exclusively online context. In certain respects, the spectacle of an online music event is not a new phenomenon. Artists have been streaming live performances for at least five years (Swarz 2020), and, certainly, in the midst of COVID-19, there are many examples of dance/electronic events streamed as fundraisers (Bain 2020) as well as clubs that have been live-streaming as a way of keeping DJs in work (Masige 2020). Moreover, in the sphere of EDM there has been a move to revive heritage dance club events using existing old digitised video footage of DJ performances from the 1980s and 1990s (see Armour 2018). Given the likelihood of a situation whereby either large-scale events such as raves are banned or numbers are restricted and social distancing rules imposed, the collective effervescence created through the intense socio-spatial assembling of raves and similar dance events may take inspiration from new, online representations of EDM. In this context, the informal ‘house party’ may once again take a central role as a space in which a DIY assortment of sound system, turntables, screens, and other audio-visual effects come to the fore. The instance of informal DJ shows staged from apartment balconies for the benefit of passers-by in city suburbs is a significant early indicator of a changing world at a local level; a world where the production, performance, delivery, and consumption of dance music are all happening at a personal level, in personal spaces, and where digital connections have superseded other forms in response to an unprecedented change in social behaviours.

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Conclusion For the Australian DIY music producers and promoters working within the multitude of sub-genres that constitute ‘rave’ and ‘club’ forms, cultural production and maintenance has been impeded by a targeted media campaign highlighting drug-related deaths to dance music events (Gibson and Pagan 2000), an authoritarian approach of police-led strip-searches taking place at dance music festivals in an attempt to curb drug use amongst dance music festival attendees (Allman 2019, 2020), lockout laws ostensibly designed to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence in inner-city entertainment hubs forcing vital venues to shut down (Dumas 2016), and gentrification impacting the viability of music venues in areas approved for residential development (Homan 2014). Further, those in the fringe sub-cultures responsible for energising local underground dance music scenes have been forced to additionally negotiate the assimilation of ‘corporate clubbing’ into an increasingly rapacious leisure industry (Siokou and Moore 2008; St. John 2001). In addition to these tensions, the 2020’s global pandemic has created an intractable problem for those involved in organising and promoting the live events, both fringe and mainstream, that have defined EDM and all of its earlier relatives over the past thirty years. Further, the shift to an online space may lead to a dissolution of the manifestly local in dance music culture. Over the history of rave into EDM across Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, each city maintained a sense of identity in the way certain genres or sub-genres were celebrated, in turn creating a recognisable scene that would then inspire and inform the practices of the next wave. Melbourne’s predominant techno scene spawned from the early guard’s love affair with all things Detroit. Sydney’s gay scene fusing with a wave of ex-pat Brits recently exiled from the acid house music of the second summer of love shaped the city’s house music sound. Meanwhile, Brisbane’s position as the youngest child amongst the trio left the city’s music makers free to pursue a more experimental approach, less directly influenced by the music of specific American cities or exiled British backpackers. The internet tends to flatten distance, and even pre-COVID, there has been a shift in dance music culture’s primary means of access


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from the local (physical record stores and peer-groups) to the virtual (online record stores and forums). The histories of Australia’s three eastern capitals have left indelible marks on the dance music cultures of each of the cities. However, with the DIY ethos that invigorates so much of the cultural output increasingly shifting to a virtual setting, it remains to be seen how this shift will impact the local. Electronic dance music culture has been defined by an oppositional political ethos, by an attitude of ‘you’re not the boss of me!’ The next stage may be defined by determining who the boss actually is these days.

References Agnew, C. (2020). Sydney’s Nightlife Scene Reflects on the City’s Lockout Laws. Retrieved Jul 30, 2020. https://i-­d.vice.com/en_uk/article/dyg747/ sydney-­lockout-­laws-­repeal-­nightlife Allman, K. (2019). Report Shows 20-fold Increase in NSW Police Strip Searches. LSJ: Law Society of NSW Journal, 59, 1. Allman, K. (2020). Police Conduct: Strip-search Report Flies Under the Radar. LSJ: Law Society of NSW Journal, 67, 1. Armour, Z. (2018). Dedicated Followers of PaSSion (1995—Present): Seasoned Clubbers and the Mediation of Collective Memory as a Process of Digital Gift Giving. In A.  Hardy, A.  Bennett, & B.  Robards (Eds.), Neo-Tribes: Consumption, Leisure and Tourism (pp. 137–152). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Autio, A. (2019). The Effects of Digital Music Streaming on the Revenue Models of Independent Musicians. Honours Thesis, University of Oregon. https://ir.librar y.oregonstate.edu/concern/honors_college_theses/mk61rp730 Bain, K. (2020). How COVID-19 Has Affected the Global Dance Music Industry. Retrieved Jul 26, 2020, from https://www.billboard.com/articles/ news/dance/9419311/2020-ims-business-report-covid-19impact-global-dance-music. Baker, A. (2018). Melbourne (1835-1927): The Birth of a Music City. Journal of Australian Studies, 42(1), 101–115. Bennett, A. (1999). Subcultures or Neo-Tribes? Rethinking the Relationship Between Youth, Style and Musical Taste. Sociology, 33(3), 599–617.

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Bennett, A. (2018). Conceptualising the Relationship Between Youth, Music and DIY Careers: A Critical Overview. Cultural Sociology, 12(2), 140–155. Bennett, A., & Guerra, P. (Eds.). (2019). DIY Cultures and Underground Music Scenes. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. Bennett, A., & Rogers, I. (2016). In the Scattered Fields of Memory: Unofficial Live Music Venues, Intangible Heritage and the Recreation of the Musical Past. Space & Culture, 19(4), 490–501. Bird, S. (2016). Dancing in the Streets: Political Action and Resistance in Melbourne. Journal of Musicological Research: Street Music: Ethnography, Performance, Theory, 35(2), 128–141. Brisbane City Council (BCC). Brisbane City Plan (2014) https://www.brisbane. qld.gov.au/planning-­a nd-­b uilding/planning-­g uidelines-­a nd-­t ools/ brisbane-­city-­plan-­2014 Bürkner, H., & Lange, B. (2017). Sonic Capital and Independent Urban Music Production: Analysing Value Creation and “Trial and Error” in the Digital Age. City, Culture and Society, 10, 33–40. Butler, D. (2014). “Way out-of This World!” Delia Derbyshire, Dr Who and the British Public’s Awareness of Electronic Music in the 1960s. Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies, 9(1), 62–76. Canosa, A., & Bennett, A. (2020). Urban Vibes in a Rural Setting: A Study of the Bush Doof Scene in Byron Shire. Journal of Youth Studies. https://doi. org/10.1080/13676261.2020.1730772. Cook, M., & Wilkinson, C. (2019). How Did Live Music Become Central to Debates on How to Regulate the Victorian Night-time Economy? A Qualitative Analysis of Victorian Newspaper Reporting Since 2003. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 26(3), 265–272. Cummings, J. (2006). It’s More Than Just a T-shirt: Neo-Tribal Sociality and Linking Images at Australian Indie Music Festivals. Perfect Beat, 8(1), 65–84. Davies, B. (2018). Lockout Laws “An International Joke”, Sydney the “Broken Link”, Parliamentary Inquiry Told, The Music Network, https://themusicnetwork.com/lockout-­laws-­an-­international-­joke-­parliamentary-­inquiry-­told/ Dumas, D. (2016). Going, Going, Gone: 10 Iconic Bar Closures and Moves in Sydney. The Sydney Morning Herald, March 14. Eiriz, V., & Leite, F. (2017). The Digital Distribution of Music and Its Impact on the Business Models of Independent Musicians. The Service Industries Journal, 37(13-14), 875–895. Fleckney, P. (2018). Techno Shuffle : Rave Culture & the Melbourne Underground. Melbourne: Melbourne Books.


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Flew, T. (2008). Music, Cities and Cultural Policy: A Brisbane Experience. In G.  Bloustien, M.  Peters, & S.  Luckman (Eds.), Sonic Synergies  : Music, Technology and Community, Identity. Surrey, UK: Ashgate. Florida, R. (2005). Cities and the Creative Class. New York, NY: Routledge. Fox, A. (2019, December 3). NSW cop didn’t understand strip-search law. AAP General News Wire. http://search.proquest.com/docview/2321056388/ Gibson, C. (1999). Subversive Sites: Rave Culture, Spatial Politics and the Internet in Sydney, Australia. Area, 31(1), 19–33. Gibson, C. & Pagan, R. (2000). Rave Culture in Sydney, Australia: Mapping Youth Spaces in Media Discourse. Retrieved Jul 15, 2020, from http://www. snarl.org/youth/chrispagan2.pdf. Gibson, C. R. (2009). Place and Music: Performing “The Region” on the New South Wales Far North Coast. Transforming Cultures eJournal, 4(1), 60–81. Harkins, P. (2015). Following the Instruments, Designers, and Users: The Case of the Fairlight CMI. Journal on the Art of Record Production, 10, 2. Hennessy, J. (2017). Noise Complaint Shuts Down Vivid Live Gig in Kings Cross Before 9:30PM, Pedestrian TV, https://www.pedestrian.tv/music/ noise-­complaint-­shuts-­down-­vivid-­live-­gig-­in-­kings-­cross-­before-­930pm/ Homan, S. (2014). Liveability and Creativity: The Case for Melbourne Music Precincts. City, Culture and Society, 5(3), 149–155. Jenkins, H., & Tulloch, J. (1995). Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek. London, NY: Routledge. John, H.  R. L. (2015). UK Rave Culture and the Thatcherite Hegemony. Cultural History, 4(2), 162–186. Luckman, S. (2003). Going Bush and Finding One’s “Tribe”: Raving, Escape and the Bush Doof. Continuum, 17(3), 315–330. Malbon, B. (1999). Clubbing: Dancing, Ecstasy and Vitality. London: Routledge. McArdle, S., Lee, G., & Hui, E. (2014). Live Music and the ‘Agent of Change’ Principle, Inter.Noise Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 16-19 November. McKay, G. (1996). Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance Since the Sixties. London: Verso. McKenzie-Murray, M. (2019). All Tomorrow’s Parties: The Life and Death of Spiro Boursinos, Impresario of Rave Culture’s Pioneering Event Earthcore. Retrieved Jun 7, 2020, from https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2019/september/1567260000/martin-­mckenzie-­murray/all-­tomorrow-­s-­parties#mtr. Masige, S. (2020). Nightclubs Are Turning to Live-streaming to ‘Keep the Party Going’ and Ensure DJs Are Paid Through the Coronavirus Shutdown. Retrieved Jul 26, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nightclubs-­ coronavirus-­livestreaming-­djs-­2020-­4

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Montano, E. (2009). DJ Culture in the Commercial Sydney Dance Music Scene. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, 1(1), 81–93. Newton, D., & Coyle-Hayward, R. (2018). Melbourne Live Music Census 43 Report. Melbourne: Music Victoria. Poe, J. (2016). Oral History of the Sydney Rave Scene, 1989-1994. Retrieved Jun 30, 2020, from https://www.redbull.com/au-­en/oral-­history-­of-­the-­ sydney-­rave-­scene-­1989-­1994. Quackenbush, C. (2017). ‘I Like to Keep People Guessing.’ Flume Talks to TIME About Music, L.A., and Finding Inspiration in a Cereal Box, TIME, https://time.com/5073266/flume-­skin-­interview-­music-­dj-­harley-­streten/ Redhead, S. (1990). The End-of-the-Century Party: Youth and Pop Towards 2000. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Reynolds, S. (1998). Generation Ecstasy into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. London, NY: Routledge. Rietveld, H. (1997). The House Sound of Chicago. In S. Redhead, D. Wynne, & J. O’Connor (Eds.), The Clubcultures Reader: Readings in Popular Cultural Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. Siokou, C. (2002). Seeking the Vibe : The Melbourne Rave Scene. Youth Studies Australia, 21(1), 11–18. Siokou, C., & Moore, D. (2008). “This Is Not a Rave!”: Changes in the Commercialised Melbourne Rave/Dance Party Scene. Youth Studies Australia, 27(3), 50–57. Stafford, A. (2006). Pig City: From the Saints to Savage Garden. St Lucia, QLD: University of Queensland Press. St. John, G. (2001). Free NRG: Notes from the Edge of the Dance Floor. Altona: Common Ground. Swarz, J. (2020). Live-streamed Performances Are Surging Among Musicians During Coronavirus Crisis, MarketWatch 23/3/20. Retrieved Jul 26, 2020, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/live-­streamed-­performances-­are-­ surging-­among-­musicians-­during-­coronavirus-­crisis-­2020-­03-­23. Thornton, S. (1995). Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Part III Emerging Electronic Music Scenes

Flyer for Absurd TRAX presents Aïsha Devi at XXX Gallery on 03/11/2017. (Source: Provided by Absurd TRAX, Designed by Suze Chan)

13 Cluj-Napoca, Romania: Electronic Dance Music and Local Policy (2015–2020) Ruxandra Trandafoiu

Introduction The city of Cluj-Napoca in Romania has never had, until recently, an electronic dance music (EDM) scene. Romania’s isolation from Western music during communism has nevertheless left musicians and audiences with a strong desire to reconnect musically after 1989. Thereafter, the slow emergence of a small and largely underground music scene rapidly accelerated with the arrival of two major EDM festivals. Organised in 2015 in conjunction with Cluj European Youth Capital series of cultural events, Untold won the Best Major Festival accolade at the European Festival Awards that very year and has since counted Avicii, Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Ellie Goulding, Black Eyed Peas, Morcheeba and Tinie Tempah among its guests, growing to 375,000 participants and 200 acts in 2019. Untold takes over the city centre for four days at the beginning of each August, requiring the backing of the mayor’s office and R. Trandafoiu (*) Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_13



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the local administration. Meanwhile, the nearby village of Bonțida and the Bánffy Castle domain have hosted the Electric Castle festival since 2013 which focuses on electronic music but also attracts a blend of genres, among them indie and rock. Florence and the Machine, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Rudimental have played the festival, which, after being nominated seven years in a row, finally won Best Medium Festival at the European Festival Awards in 2019. Having two successful EDM festivals in close proximity and a month apart has created an interesting urban-rural dynamic in relation to electronic music. Untold has become known as a vehicle for internationalisation, rebranding the city and proposing it as a tourism destination, while Electric Castle has remained more in tune with the local community and its concerns for heritage preservation, a greener agenda and sustainability. This chapter analyses the approaches taken by these two EDM festivals in relation to the way music shapes identity and place. The analysis is underpinned by a historical approach looking at the development of electronic music in Romania more generally and taking into account local and European cultural policies, as well as audience research pertaining to the period 2015–2020. This case study shows a tendency to institutionalize festivals (Gibson and Connell 2012, p. 20) in the service of branding or regional development. As Gibson and Connell rightly point out, it is important to look at the way ‘interrelationships’ between economic, environmental and cultural aspects of festivals (Gibson and Connell 2012, p. 5), as well as the contextual drivers of local policy and support of the local administration (Mair and Laing 2012, p.  694), shape music and taste, especially as Cluj offers the unique advantage of comparative music research in both urban and rural settings.

The City A city of 450,000 inhabitants located in the multicultural region of Transylvania, North-West Romania, Cluj-Napoca is seen as the unofficial capital of the region. Starting life as a Roman settlement called ‘Napoca’ in AD 106 and having belonged once to the Austro-Hungarian empire,

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Cluj is today a university city, with a student population of almost 100,000 and a recognised cultural scene. Its philharmonic and music conservatory, two operas, theatres, concert halls and music clubs have consolidated its reputation as an elite musical centre, which nevertheless had to rediscover and reinvent itself culturally after the fall of communism in 1989. One of the first international music acts to arrive was Scorpions, signalling the beginning of a period of reconnection to Western music, with audiences also travelling to nearby Budapest or Vienna for musical experiences that were absent or prohibited during communism. TIFF (Transilvania International Film Festival) began its life in 2002 and grew into Romania’s most important film festival while Jazz in the Park was established in 2013, further cementing Cluj’s reputation as a cultural hub with a young and vibrant atmosphere and a taste for diverse cultural activities. Local entrepreneurs and event organizers, such as the group Fapte who organises Jazz in the Park or the Share Federation who initially developed the Untold EDM festival in 2015, combined forces with the municipal council, who were eager to rebrand the city as a tourism and cultural destination, contributing sponsorship, the hiring out of public facilities and favourable licensing arrangements. Untold, the largest EDM festival in Eastern Europe, was therefore the outcome of a bottom-up initiative driven by commercial incentives and a top-down rebranding exercise which received the support of mayor Emil Boc and the local city administration in terms of logistics and security, use of public facilities and initial financial investment. Cluj’s festival fortunes were also revived by being named European Youth Capital (EYC) in 2015 as part of a programme run by the Council of Europe since 2009. This led to the redevelopment of the sports facilities adjacent to Central Park, including a large football stadium and an indoor sports arena, the revitalization of the music scene in desperate need of new venue facilities, enhanced youth involvement in community life via sports and music and increased international visibility. Cluj became temporarily the poster child for ‘fostering youth participation at the local level’ and enhancing regional cultures and economies, a key purpose of the EYC initiative (Cosma et al. 2016, p. 181). At community level, it answered a real desire for more concerts, cultural and sports


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events, fairs and exhibitions, but also, crucially, experiences designed to enhance ‘living in the moment’, as a survey conducted with local residents in 2015 revealed (Cosma et al. 2016, p. 184). Event marketing has long linked the notion of desirability with that of ‘experience’ (Pine and Gilmore 2011, p. 17; Getz and Page 2020, p. 247). An electronic music festival with its technologically mediated enhanced experiences answered the audience’s aspirations, yet it was also backed by a political appetite able to translate into appropriate cultural management. In 2015 the local municipality invested €400,000 in the organisation of the first Untold festival, a non-returnable fee paid to the Share Federation, the first organisers of the festival, which was controversial (Florescu 2019), but allowed the organisers to buy the high-profile talent needed to attract music tourists. The local administration justified the investment on the basis that culture is an ‘engine for urban regeneration’ (Pavelea 2017, p. 79), a view confirmed in the city’s development strategy 2014–2020 (CMPG 2013). Although this policy document also noted that a emerging tendency to organise ‘spectacular’ cultural events, such as festivals, which mostly benefited the city centre and were short-­lived (CMPG 2013, p. 532), it also stipulated that such festivals remained an important conduit for internationalisation. The arrival of electronic music in Cluj-Napoca via festivals allowed the previously scarce underground electronic music scene to connect the dots between the 1970s pioneer and experimenter Rodion Roșca and emerging new talent such as Mihigh, one of the oldest resident DJs of Club Midi; Előd Német (DJ Dodo), the founder of the first ever electronic music production course in Cluj; Alex Nemes, and Macarie and Marwan, recurrent guests at Untold.

The Electronic Scene: Historical Perspective The communist period and the 1970s, in particular, were defined by a ‘desynchronisation’ of Romanian music, which broke forcibly away from the international musical context (Ţimonea 2015). Exceptions were short-lived. Cornel Chiriac, a jazz musician who promoted Western hits as part of a programme which he began producing and presenting in

13  Cluj-Napoca, Romania: Electronic Dance Music and Local… 


1967 for Radio Bucharest, saw his show banned in 1968. Chiriac defected to the West and, from 1969 to his untimely death in 1975, his show ‘Metronom’ was a cult classic on Radio Free Europe. He not only played Western music but also promoted the best Romanian bands of the time such as the ethno-rock group Phoenix, thus acting as a bridge between West and East in terms of music promotion and mediating the audience’s tastes. During this time Electrecord, Romania’s only record label, became a ‘propaganda instrument’ during the communist regime (Rusu 2020) producing and selling Romanian folklore, classical music and ideologically safe pop or ‘muzică ușoară’ (easy listening). The communist regime would not have allowed Electrecord to buy foreign music, so Western music was imprinted only when exchanges could take place, but electronic music remained entirely absent from such occasional swaps (Ralston 2017). Even after the fall of communism, current Electrecord director Cornelia Andreescu acknowledges, the Romanian market was slow to catch up (Rusu 2020). The political context established during decades of communism created a musical vacuum that the few Romanian bands of the time could not fulfil. Rock bands such as Telegraf, Compact and Semnal M emerging from Cluj-Napoca in the 1970s did little to dent the dominance of the politically safe traditional folklore which the regime promoted. Although attempts were made to emulate sounds which came via smuggled records from ‘the West’ and by listening to foreign radio stations, electronic music only truly arrived after 1989. The exception was Cluj’s biggest record collector, synthesizer maker and ‘sound experimenter’ Rodion Roșca (Runcanu 2017). Using synthesizers put together by Roșca himself, who acted as an ‘alchemist’ (Runcanu 2017), Roșca’s band Rodion GA experimented in the 1970s with electronic sounds that would have been unfamiliar to Romanian audiences (Hann 2018), mixing progressive rock, psychedelic, metal and electronic music. Roșca composed around 70 songs in his flat, but his only album Behind the Curtain—the Lost Album took until 2014 to see the light, and he received his first public recognition through an honorary prize at Cluj Blues Fest in 2019. He remains largely unknown to Romanian audiences.


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Nationally, despite exchanges of pirate copies of Western music, clandestine parties and discotheques organized in resorts along the Black Sea coast during the communist period, there was little exposure to electronic music. DJ Vasile became one of the genre’s pioneers when Studio Martin, co-owned by DJ Vladone, opened in 1994 in Bucharest. In parallel with La Mania raves on the Black Sea coast, Bucharest thus represented the birth of clubbing culture. Charismatic DJs such as Rhadoo, Raresh, Cezar or Praslea found a ‘blank canvas’ and ‘sponges’ ready to absorb the new sounds (Ralston, 2017). Online networks such as understand.ro and night.ro became essential in sharing music and advertising party venues, mostly underground. The genre also began to get air time on radio stations such as ProFM. ‘Influenced by these parties, this small community of Romanian DJs began experimenting with styles, playing any music they could get hold of. Praslea was playing hard techno, while Rhadoo was playing a hybrid of techno and breakbeat’ (Ralston 2017), but outside recognition only came in the mid-2000s, when Ricardo Villalobos, the Chilean-German electronic producer, discovered the Bucharest scene and its specific ‘sound aesthetic’ (Ralston 2017). Ensuing residences in Ibiza by DJs such as Petre Ispirescu and Rhadoo allowed access to new music. Artists like the duo Manager and Pascovski V. (Mihai Dragu and Victor Pascovski) were signed by famous Dutch label Spinnin’ Records. In turn, this international exposure influenced the Romanian electronic scene, which began to be known for its simple, introspective style which gave it a cult status packaged as the ‘ro-minimal’ subgenre of ‘minimal tech-house groove and clipped drum programming’ (Beyond Rominimal: Inside Romania’s Alternative Techno Scene 2017). Benefiting only from minimal promotion of ‘sunrise’ parties in pop-­up venues, ‘Ro-minimal has had a substantial impact on the wider landscape of underground electronic dance music’ (Ralston 2017). As its endorsers are keen to point out, it ‘established itself as a global phenomenon, leading young producers across the world to copy the music. Just as some set out to replicate the sound of Berlin techno or Chicago house, many artists are now following the recipe of Rhadoo, Raresh, Petre Inspirescu, Cezar, and company. It’s a small circle with tremendous international appeal’ (Ralston 2017). However, the scene has also been accused of patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, nationalism and anti-Roma racism.

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Rokolectiv festival founder Cosmin Tapu described it, for example, as a style that never evolves and is ‘stuck in its own bubble’ (Beyond Rominimal: Inside Romania’s Alternative Techno Scene 2017). However, it prepared the ground for new names, such as the Khidja duo with their ‘trippy productions and skilful blend of influences’, ranging from ‘krauty electronics to wave and disco’, bands like Utopus or Borusiade, the ‘snarling acid jams’ played by The Holy Fix and DJs like Dragos Rusu (Beyond Rominimal: Inside Romania’s Alternative Techno Scene 2017). Women like Chlorys, Admina, Cosima Opârtan and Aleksa Alaska are also beginning to make their mark. Ourown is a Bucharest-­based distributor of electronic music, and several DJs co-own The Attic, a magazine and online platform that live streams videos of DJ sets. Bucharest now has a rich underground scene with Control Club, Misbits, Eden, Kristal Club and Guesthouse as the most popular club venues while EDM festivals like Sunwaves, 3 Smoked Olives Island Festival, Awake, Dakini, Rokolectiv, Summer Well, Waha and Fall in Love are mushrooming. As the Bucharest underground electronic music scene began to thrive, the electronic scene in Cluj-Napoca remained confined to small club events. Club Midi opened in 2008 as the first electronic music club in Cluj, later joined by L’Autre Café, Form Space and Club Boiler. As Edmond Lenarth, the organizer of Electric Castle explained, it was from deprivation that EDM festivals emerged, shifting EDM from the underground and the margins towards the centre and the mainstream: ‘we didn’t want a festival with only electronic music, something exclusively thematic, since some of us were fans of rock or alternative’ (Stanciu 2017). This approach suited Romanian bands like Subcarpați, who play a mix of hiphop, folklore and electro. From this point, electronic music in ClujNapoca took two main paths, recurrently converging and diverging, with the rurally organized Electric Castle and the city centre-based Untold. Although Cluj has been home to the Delahoya electronic music festival since 1997, promoting a mix of trance, techno, house and drum and bass, and the smaller Mioritmic since 2012 in the Hoia ethnographic open-air museum in Cluj, Electric Castle and Untold are of different scale and conception. They were once pitted against one another, with


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Electric Castle seen as the more community-based festival, in the service of architectural salvage and local redevelopment, promoting more diverse musical line-ups and cross-­pollination between music genres and between music and other arts. Meanwhile, Untold came under criticism for booking big stars, already available at other similar festivals, promoting only a minority of homegrown talent and adopting a ‘theme park’ approach (Trandafoiu 2019). Their evolution shows however some crossing of paths especially in terms of greening and sustainability. Moreover, both are now characterized by a hybridization of genres, evident in Robbie Williams’ appearance at Untold and Florence and the Machine and Limp Bizkit at Electric Castle in 2019. There is also crossover in terms of both artists and audiences. Romanian bands like Alternosfera, Subcarpați, Șuie Paparude and Grimus have played both festivals several times. A 2017 survey found that almost half of the participants attended both festivals (Moisescu 2018, p. 2), confirming the trend of rural festivals attracting a metropolitan audience willing to travel (Gibson and Connell 2012, p. 34). There is room for growth in both festivals, Untold reaching 375,000 attendees in 2019 and Electric Castle 130,000. Untold’s organizers have also been running the Neversea festival on the Black Sea coast since 2017 and recently, although before the emergence of the pandemic, Electric Castle organizers announced that the new FORM Days festival would take place in 2020 near the village of Gilău, not far from Cluj-­Napoca. It was initially envisaged as a small festival with only 10,000 attendees, combining art and music (electronic, drum and bass, rock and rap), lights installations, stand-up and theatre. It takes place on another Bánffy estate (similar to Electric Castle), some of the profits going towards turning the ruins of the manor house into an arts centre, financed mainly by a €5m Creative Europe grant from the EU’s European Fund for Regional Development. These examples show that the local administration remains committed to local development and internationalisation through festivals.

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Governance of the Scene and Spaces Striking a balance between market viability and reputation, on the one hand, which often means catering for the tastes of international music tourists, and establishing an ethical and nurturing environment, on the other hand, that would develop and enrich the local music scene, is not always easy. Electronic music development in Cluj-Napoca is symptomatic of the dilemma of transnational culture, caught between local specificity and global aspirations, leading to diverse manifestations. It is in this context that the social impact of Cluj’s EDM festivals needs to be examined, starting from the premise that a festival can act as an ‘agent affecting change in peoples’ lives’ (Wallstam et al. 2018, p. 4). Untold has created controversy from the very beginning, starting with Cluj municipality’s financial contribution to the first edition of the festival in 2015, which raised questions around public money used for investment or sponsorship (Arambasa 2016, p. 45; Florescu 2019). Although the financial partnership ceased once EYC2015 was over and the festival took off, the local municipality’s support for the festival has continued. Untold organizers are charged only 70,000 euro for the hiring of significant public facilities over four days (Moisescu 2019, p. 2), which shows the local administration’s commitment to the festival, but has done little to silence the criticism. Questionnaires with attendees highlighted that by its second year, Untold was being blamed for causing ‘high noise levels […] overcrowding, traffic and parking problems, alcohol use, the disruption of the locals’ lifestyle and environmental issues’ (Arambasa 2016, p.  48). Another more complex study with 2000 participants which also included Electric Castle, conducted in 2017 and then repeated in 2019, found that in 2017, both Untold and Electric Castle had a positive economic impact for business, tourism and services, yet the social impact was somewhat negative in Untold’s case, mainly because of the festival’s monopolizing of leisure facilities (Moisescu 2018, p.  3). Residents’ unhappiness with Untold was expressed in 2019 via a petition on Change.org to cancel the festival. The local administration responded by asking Untold organisers to invest back into the community, and in 2019 one million lei (just over


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€200k) were spent in replanting and redeveloping some of the facilities in Central Park, €65k on repairing the pitch of the stadium and €80k on new facilities for the Children’s Hospital located nearby. This example supports the argument that the community’s quality of life, wellbeing and social capital should be the main consideration of policymakers when establishing events mean to brand a location as a ‘destination’ (Wallstam et al. 2018, p. 4), and will help to prevent negative attitudes. Yet licencing has ignored this concern. As commentators have eagerly pointed out, ‘venues operate an ‘open till the last client’ policy meaning there’s no last call on the bars’, while ‘Electric Castle Festival is one of the only festivals in Europe to operate a 24-hour license, making it a place where the night, the after-party, and the after-after-party can all be rolled into one’ (Wojciechowski 2017). Electric Castle’s rural location might be an advantage, as it is Untold which is accused of noise pollution, amount of waste and traffic issues (Moisescu et al. 2019, p. 492), while Electric Castle is often praised for its ‘eco’ credentials, such as ‘zero waste’. The greening and sustainability agendas have been the winners of the informal competition between the two festivals for community backing and patronage. Both festivals have had to put greening at the top of their community-friendly agenda in a context in which community concerns have begun to impact on the way both corporate organisations and local urban administrations plan and run public events. Electric Castle donates part of the profits towards the long-term conservation of the sixteenth-century Bánffy Castle where the festival is staged, recently renovated after being placed on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. As a ‘zero waste’ festival, Electric Castle only accepts recyclable goods and packaging on the premises since 2018, and in order to maintain its community-oriented credentials, in March 2019 the festival’s organisers planned a volunteering day during which a million trees were planted in Gheorgheni Forest, near Cluj. In 2018 Untold responded by signing a partnership with the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety pledging enhanced recycling facilities and educational programmes, in the bid to become a green festival. The main sponsors, Kaufland, Ursus Breweries and Coca-Cola, paid for additional recycling

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and information points, while Jaguar began to use electrical SUVs for the artists’ transport. While residents’ wellbeing remains a challenge for a festival of Untold’s size in a city centre location, organisers and local city administrators are under pressure to attract the musical talent that would increase international visibility and audience numbers. In an interview with Virgin Radio Romania in 2017, Adrian Chereji, Untold’s Director of Marketing and Communication, explained that bringing top artists remained a challenge, despite the festival’s established reputation (Chereji 2017). In 2019, among the 200 performers, the headliners included Armin van Buuren, Martin Garrix, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Steve Aoki and Robbie Williams. Previous research found that participants were happier with the Untold line-up than they were with Electric Castle’s (Moisescu 2018, p. 4). Particularly younger and better educated attendees looked favourably upon Untold’s beneficial impact on Cluj’s visibility nationally and internationally (Pavelea 2017, p.  92). The festival’s international standing was confirmed in 2018 when YouTube partnered Untold to stream concerts live and sponsored a vloggers’ area backstage. Yet, over the years, Electric Castle has also attracted top acts like Bastille, The Prodigy, Bring Me the Horizon, Sigur Rós, Skrillex, Bonobo, Paul Kalkbrenner and Fatboy Slim. Visibility and international standing also matter for the local administration, keen to see Cluj included in the international tourism circuit, which also benefited, indirectly, techno-music tourism. Untold was the first brand to be awarded the ‘Ambassador of Romanian Tourism’ title by the Department of Tourism while the Transylvania All Inclusive programme encouraged visitors to make Untold one stop on a tour that included other historical and cultural sites offered as a discounted package. Such partnerships allowed Untold to double the number of foreign attendees between 2017 and 2019, who made up 20% of the total 372,000 participants, spending €45m in Cluj in 2019 (Moisescu 2019, p. 2). Electric Castle’s growth has been slower, but steady, from just over 30,000 attendees in 2013 to 150,000 in 2019. One point of contention has been the festivals’ lack of support for local acts, more pronounced in Untold’s case. The main stages are dominated by international bands and DJs, while the Romanian input is ensured in


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both festivals by safe bets that are certain to attract the crowds, such as Subcarpați, Șuie Paparude or Macanache, although the smaller stages may include many more (Golan, Sublee, Herodot, Magda, Cosmjn, etc.). The challenge is tougher in Untold’s case, because of its necessity to remain at least at current levels of international reputation and attendance. This was achieved partly through the hybridization of the music offering. Electronic music is very much at the core of the two festivals analysed here but is often sold as part of a much bigger package of diverse musical genres and technological and spatial experiences, which carry the danger of weakening specificity. However, despite the festivals acting as an annual focal point rather than a continuous activity, they are cultivating a taste for electronic music evidenced by the number of venues and events peppering Cluj’s musical life. The establishment of FORM Days in Gilău, a village near Cluj, in 2020, shows a sustained appetite for EDM and its ability to create unique party experiences. This initiative is supported by entrepreneurs previously involved with the Delahoya Festival and Boiler Club, in collaboration with Centrul de Interest art collective in Cluj-Napoca and the Cluj County local administration, keen to bring back into public use dilapidated heritage sites and give added inventive for national and international tourists to come. Although the policies outlined here were not specifically designed to support the development of EDM, they have mainly benefited from this music genre. On the part of the local administration, the initial desire was to tap into European cultural initiatives and EU funding opportunities as a vehicle for rebranding the city and place it on the international map of up and coming cultural tourism sites. EDM festivals suited this intent due to their inherent international profile and the appetite for travel of EDM fans. The initiatives also tapped into the specific zeitgeist of a public that had been cut off from international culture and was denied access to electronic music during the communist period. Consequently, the blend of policies is unique to Cluj’s specific cultural and historical environment.

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Conclusion It may be difficult to explain the great success of EDM music festivals in Cluj and Romania in the absence of history and tradition. Yet this success is undeniable in the presence of an EDM scene that only thirty years ago was completely absent, yet now boasts several major festivals with top international acts and growing attendance, a thriving club circuit and a rich online presence. The relatively recent success of EDM festivals, in particular, rests on an attractive entertainment package for various age groups that includes music-related and non-music-related activities and spaces, as well as clever marketing, which aims to quench the thirst of Romanian audiences for Western music genres that were previously forbidden. A hybrid offering has managed to move electronic music from the underground and the margins into the mainstream. Although, as Cluj local administration’s own analysis reveals, there is some danger of festivalisation—creating short-lived hot points of interest—festivals can also cultivate long-term musical tastes which help establish a following for local talent. Festivals also help to reimagine local identity in an international context. Cluj-Napoca is not unique in its quest to use music or cultural events as a conduit for rebranding and internationalisation. It is, however, unique in the context of post-communist cultural policies that have tended to be tame and small scale, have lacked clear direction and management, and have resulted in Romanian audiences migrating to other national and international spaces of music circulation and consumption, from YouTube to concert arenas in other countries, while Romanian musicians remained confined to Romanian-dominated small-scale audiences. Of course, EDM’s inherent internationalism might have helped EDM festivals propel the city of Cluj-Napoca and the wider region onto the international festival circuit. However, it is important to note the necessity for clear intervention by local administrations in the absence of pre-existing structures and practices in a post-communist context that may include favourable licensing, initial sponsorship, clear policies for sustainability and environmental protection, as well as social and financial reinvestment plans into the local community. A cycle of sustainability


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needs to emerge that includes positive experiences, committed audiences, profits, redevelopment schemes and ethical concerns. Disruption has to be mitigated by conservation and greening projects, particularly in the current context in which greening is now a means of promoting ‘socially desirable messages’ that respond to consumer demand and a desire to educate (Mair and Laing 2012, pp.  684, 692). Festivals have to be ‘hybrid’ affairs ‘gluing’ temporarily ‘various stakeholders, economic transactions and networks’ (Gibson and Connell 2012, p. 9) in a crossover of aims. Cluj’s success lies therefore in strong political will at the level of the mayor’s office and the local administration; ability to respond quickly to European initiatives concerning regional development and heritage preservation; the provision of favourable arrangements to local entrepreneurs; and the ability to get the local community on board. Cluj-Napoca has thus proved particularly successful in this enterprise due to its existing cultural infrastructure and business acumen.

References Arambasa, C. M. (2016). How Can Different Perceptions of Stakeholders Involved in the Organization of a Festival Influence the Future Development of a Destination? Case Study: Untold Festival (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), Master Thesis in Global Tourism Development, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark. Beyond Rominimal: Inside Romania’s Alternative Techno Scene. (2017). Electronic Beats, 21 April. Retrieved from https://www.electronicbeats.net/ beyond-­rominimal-­guide/. Chereji, A. (2017). Interview on Virgin Radio Romania. Retrieved from https:// www.facebook.com/VirginRadioRomania/videos/10155137084071855/. Cosma, S., Bota, M., & Fleşeriu, C. (2016). Motivations in Attending a Major Event: The Case of Cluj-Napoca European Youth Capital, Paper Presented at the International Scientific Conference Information Society and Sustainable Development, “Constantin Brâncuşi” University of Târgu Jiu, Gorj Romania, Conference Proceedings Academica Brâncuşi House Publisher. CMPG (Cluj Management and Planning Group). (2013). Strategia de dezvoltare a municipiului Cluj-Napoca, 2014-2020 (Development Strategy of

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Cluj-Napoca Municipality, 2014-2020). Retrieved from http://cmpg.ro/wp-­ content/uploads/2015/05/strategie-­cluj-­napoca-­2014-­2020.pdf Getz, D., & Page, S.  J. (2020). Event Studies: Theory, Research and Policy for Planned Events. London: Routledge. Gibson, C., & Connell, J. (2012). Music Festivals and Regional Development in Australia. Farnham: Ashgate. Florescu, R. (2019). Prima ediţie a Untold, finanţată pe baza unor documente false de Primăria Cluj. Un milionar local a “salvat” festivalul, dar i-a “îngropat” pe organizatori (First Untold edition financed through false documents by Cluj townhall. A millionaire “saved” the festival, but buried the organizers), Adevărul Cluj-Napoca, 23 August. Retrieved from https://adevarul.ro/locale/ cluj-­napoca/prima-­editie-­untold-­finantata-­primaria-­cluj-­baza-­documente-­ false-­salvat-­evenimentul-­milionar-­local-­i-­a-­ingropat-­organizatori-­1_5d5fbb5 b892c0bb0c6d9f7f9/index.html Hann, M. (2018). Rodion GA: the lost musical superstar of Ceaușescu’s Romania, The Guardian, 11 April. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian. com/music/2018/apr/11/rodion-­g a-­lost-­musical-­s uperstar-­of­ceausescu-­romania-­rodion-­rosca Mair, J., & Laing, J. (2012). The Greening of Music Festivals: Motivations, Barriers and Outcomes. Applying the Mair and Jago Model. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 20(5), 683–700. Moisescu, O. I. (2018). Analiza experienței festivaliere și a impactului local al festivalurilor Untold și Electric Castle în anul 2017 (An analysis of the festival experience and the local impact of Untold and Electric Castle in 2017), Research Report, July. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/ publication/326540991_Analiza_experientei_festivaliere_si_a_impactului_ local_al_festivalurilor_Untold_si_Electric_Castle_in_anul_2017 Moisescu, O.  I. (2019). O scurtă analiză a impactul economic al festivalului Untold (A short analysis of the economic impact of Untold festival), Research Report, 7 August. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/ publication/335023114_O_scurta_analiza_a_impactul_economic_al_festivalului_Untold_2019_versus_2017 Moisescu, O., Gică, O., Coroș, M., & Yallop, A. (2019). The UNTOLD Story: Event Tourism’s Negative Impact on Residents’ Community Life and Well-­ being. Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, 11(5), 492–505. Pavelea, I.  M. (2017). Analiza impactului social al festivalului Untold asupra rezidenților municipiului Cluj-Napoca (Analysis of the social impact of Untold festival on the residents of Cluj-Napoca city). Revista Transilvană de Ştiinţe Administrative (Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences), 40(1), 78–95.


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Pine, J., & Gilmore, J. (2011). The Experience Economy, Updated Edition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Ralston, W. (2017). Sunrise in Bucharest. Berlin ¼ Quarterly. Winter, Berlin: Cycling Bear Publishing. Runcanu, T. (2017). Istoria rock-ului clujean: Câteva dintre numele reprezentative ale Clujului (The history of Cluj rock: A few representative names), Actual de Cluj, 4 November. Retrieved from https://actualdecluj.ro/ istoria-­rock-­ului-­clujean-­cateva-­dintre-­numele-­reprezentative-­ale-­clujului/. Rusu, D. (2020). Interviu—povestea casei de discuri românești Electrecord (Interview—the story of Electrecord production house), 23 January. Retrieved from https://www.electronicbeats.ro/povestea-­casei-­de-­discuri-­romanesti­electrecord/. Stanciu, E. (2017). Interview with Edmond Lenarth, 12 July. Retrieved from https://ardealnews.ro/2017/07/12/aproape-­t otul-­d espre-­e lectric­castle-­2017/ Trandafoiu, R. (2019). Tale of Two (or #EverMore) Festivals: Electronic Music in a Transylvanian Town. In E. Mazierska & Z. Győri (Eds.), Eastern European Popular Music in a Transnational Context. Beyond the Borders (pp. 213–237). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Ţimonea, D. (2015). Rock-ul românesc din perioada comunistă. Care au fost cele mai mari formaţii si ce credea Nicolae Ceaușescu despre imitarea unor modele vestice (Romanian rock during the communist period and what Nicolae Ceaușescu though about imitating Western models), Adevărul, 15 November. Retrieved from https://adevarul.ro/locale/alba-­iulia/rock-­ul-­romanesc-­ perioada-­comunista-­fost-­cele-­mai-­mari-­formatii-­credea-­dictatorul-­nicolae-­ ceausescu-­despre-­imitarea-­modele-­vestice-­1_564726307d919ed50e37804b/ index.html. Wallstam, M., Ioannides, D., & Pettersson, R. (2018). Evaluating the Social Impacts of Events: In Search of Unified Indicators for Effective Policymaking. Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. https://doi.org/1 0.1080/19407963.2018.1515214. Wojciechowski, R. (2017). Cluj-Napoca: The Undiscovered Music Capital at the Heart of Romania’s Music Culture, Gigwise 15th June. Retrieved from https://www.gigwise.com/features/110085/cluj-­napoca-­music-­capital-­at­the-­heart-­of-­romania’s

14 On the Fence: Electronic Dance Music Cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen Alex Yiu and Damien Charrieras

Introduction The objective of this chapter is to study, through the analysis of two venues, this emergence of two distinct Electro Dance Music Cultures (hereafter EDMCs) in two different city contexts. The two cities are only 27 km apart, but are very different from political, social, cultural, and spatial perspectives. EDMC refers in this chapter not only to a group of non-mainstream electronic music genres such as drum ‘n’ bass, trance, and some marginal streams of techno/house but also to a set of cultural practices (at free parties, in nightclubs, and at festivals) (Till 2009, p. 170). As we will explore in this chapter, EDMC is taking a specific form in relation to the characteristics of the Hong Kong and Shenzhen urban contexts.1 Electronic music has a long history in China. Important historical artists based mainly in Beijing, like Weng Weng, DJ Yang Bing, Elvis T., Shao, A. Yiu (*) • D. Charrieras City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_14



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Zhang You Dai, Pei (Bye Bye Disco), and Shen (Ran Music), all contributed to define the budding Chinese EDMC. Shanghai (with Dada Club), Chengdu (Dojo, Club TAG, the Poly Centre) and Kunming have already established vibrant club scenes catering to non-mainstream subgenres essential to EDMCs. Over the past 15 years, festivals of electronic music have been rapidly developing in several cities: Intro in Beijing, Strawberry in Chengdu, the psytrance festival Spirit Tribe in Kunming. Foreign DJs eager to play in China laud the free spirit of Chinese EDMC. In the Pearl Delta River, the rapid expansion of Shenzhen and the multiplication of the links with Hong Kong (through the fading border and the Macau-Zhuhai-Hong Kong Bridge) offer an interesting ground to study the contemporary reconfiguration of EDMC in China. Hong Kong has been hosting since 2017 the Asian edition of the famous pioneer music festival from Barcelona, SONAR. Venues like XXX Gallery fostered for many years the underground Hong Kongese electronic music scene. Their recent closing due to stringent regulations governing the lease of music venues in Hong Kong led several event organisers to migrate to the other side of the border in the rapidly expanding metropolis of the Pearl River Delta, feeding the rise of a Shenzhen electronic music scene. Clubs like Oil are emblematic of this new trend. We will explore the recent reconfigurations of these respective scenes in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. We conducted five interviews with seven electronic music performers and event organisers from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen (most of them operating simultaneously in both cities). The interviews were transcribed and analysed through Atlas.ti qualitative analysis software. The themes of “community building” (how the audience, performers, and promoters share the same passion for non-mainstream forms of electronic music?), “audience” (who attends the EDMC events at these clubs?), and “music genres” (what subgenres of EDMC are played in these clubs?) surfaced in the interviews and were significant in helping to describe the similarities and differences between Hong Kong and Shenzhen in regard to their respective electronic music dance culture. The first author, of this chapter under the moniker Alexmalism, is personally involved in this electronic music dance culture as a DJ and performer of electronic music in Hong

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Kong. He has played on several occasions both in Hong Kong and in Shenzhen. In order to ground our study in the empirical specificities of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we focus on two EDMC spaces: XXX Gallery and Oil Club.

The City: Hong Kong A former British colony, Hong Kong became a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China after the handover in 1997 and enjoys certain levels of autonomy granted by China. Hong Kong retains its own international status under the promise of “One country, two systems” from the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and its legislature, governance, economy, society, and culture are marked by a different historical development than China. According to the HKSAR’s Census and Statistics Department (C&SD 2020), the population of Hong Kong is 7,500,500. Central, and more specifically Lan Kwai Fong (often abbreviated as LKF) have often been the focus of the discussions on Hong Kong’s nightlife by both academics and journalists (Cheng 2001; HK-Magazine 2015; Jankowski 2018; Yeung 2014). LKF is sited at the heart of Central, one of the busiest and more westernised nodes of Hong Kong Island. In a small square of streets beneath the hill and surrounded by the financial district, it is one of the most vibrant nightlife areas in South-East Asia. While the percentage of expatriates in Hong Kong, including those who originated from the UK, USA, and Australia, consist of only 0.9% of the population, more than half of them live in Hong Kong Island, and almost 40% of them are living in the New Territories (By-census Office 2017). Cheng (2001) depicts a cosmopolitan consumption and social multiplicity in LKF where expatriates, tourists, and middle upper-class locals have traditionally dominated this part of the city. However, the studies on Cantopop Electronic Dance Music Culture (hereafter EDMC) by Chew (2009b, 2011) have depicted another side of nightlife in Hong Kong. Following a general international trend at the time, rave culture arrived at Hong Kong in the 1990s, and was hybridised with local Cantopop music through local musical acts, such as B2, MP4,


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and JAMASTER A.  Their music was danced to by young lower-class locals in raves, which took places at “disco” clubs such as 838 Disco, CYBER8, Italy, France, Japan (意法日), Night Eagle (夜鷹), and Gam Dou (金都) during the 2000s’ (Apple-Daily 2017). These “disco” clubs were mostly located in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok, far from the westernised LKF and Central area, and on the other side of Victoria Harbour, which seperates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon peninsula, the main urban area of Hong Kong. This period of EDMC in Hong Kong is also known by locals as ‘rave’, and it spanned from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. The term was used in the context of ‘rave’ from the UK, well known for its association with drugs especially ecstasy. Therefore, the study of rave culture in Hong Kong suffered from stigmatisation, and most studies discussing this cultural phenomenon tend to speak about the drug usage by the youth (Cheung and Cheung 2006; Leung et al. 2006; Loxton et  al. 2008). Eventually the police’s crackdown of those spaces and the tightening of the liquor licence law led to the decline of Cantopop EDM throughout the 1990s.

 n Overview of the Contemporary Electronic A Scenes in Hong Kong The focus on LKF in studies of Hong Kong’s nightlife, however, represents only a small part of Hong Kong’s electronic dance music cultures: LKF has evolved from a nightlife area to a corporation brand. Lan Kwai Fong Group is a property company which owns and oversees the buildings of that area as well as selling other cities’ nightlife as a brand with its target of up-market consumers. Such a neoliberalist approach to the management of nightlife does not constitute the whole picture of Hong Kong’s electronic dance music cultures. EDMC in Hong Kong covers a diverse landscape of non-­mainstream electronic music genres (drum ‘n’ bass, trance, techno, house), venues, social classes, cultures, and even races. In Hong Kong, LKF represents Western club culture in the city’s social consciousness, maintaining its prominent status due to its

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commercial success in tourism, food and beverage, and consumerism. Music that is being played in LKF is dominated by Western popular music. The music played in LKF over the past ten years has incorporated elements of commercial EDM, House, Techno, and even Hiphop and Trap while other genres such as Drum’n’Bass, Psytrance and Hardcore are being marginalised in Hong Kong, partly due to their similar position in Western mainstream electronic music on which LKF club culture is based. While LKF and Cantopop EDM represent two significant electronic scenes in Hong Kong, since the early 2000s EDMC scenes catering to smaller genres of EDM have been struggling to survive in the context of high rents,2 lack of space, noise complaints, financial pressure, and licensing issues. Hong Kong has legitimate electronic music festivals targeting both underground and mainstream electronic music audiences. Music festivals such as Creamfields, Road to Ultra, Dragonland Music Festival, ALTN8, Shi Fu Miz, Outlook Festival, and Sónar Hong Kong have been held successfully in recent years, and there are many clubs playing more mainstream EDM such as Tech House and commercial EDM in LKF.  However, outside of this quasi-institutionalised fringe of mainstream electronic music, less mainstream pop-up parties and raves in Hong Kong are being held illegally to avoid attention especially from the police. Many of these events usually take place in industrial buildings or country parks, away from Central and from the high-density urban areas of Hong Kong, and are under the risk of being raided by the police because of noise complaints, drug usage, and the absence of proper licences. Only a few non-mainstream clubs, with a focus on Techno music— such as Mihn, Social Room, Yumla, and OMA—are in the vicinity of Central.3 Social Room and OMA are located in Central, and Mihn in Sheung Wan (12 minutes away by walk from LKF). These clubs provide alternatives for club goers tired of mainstream, unsophisticated music and who transition to more ‘underground’ experiences while staying in the ‘safe zone’ of the established genre of Techno (Techno, as a genre has a predictable sound and a regular audience). It is worth noting that, many clubs in/near Central such as The Golden Stupa, CE-Top, Gecko, Basement,


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Sammi Kitchen, and XXX Gallery used to be part of the EDMC scene but have now closed. These venues, functionally speaking, were defined by the music the event organisers programmed. One of the reasons that these organisers would try to bring different subgenres of EDMC to these clubs can be explained by the lack of specific venues specifically dedicated to one subgenre. Eventually, Drum‘n’Bass will share the space with House or Techno in this scenario. XXX Gallery similarly cultivated a scene with a diversity of electronic music genres (von Seggern 2013).

 DMC in Hong Kong: XXX Gallery E as a Case Study This section studies the creation, management, and evolution of XXX Gallery, a club that maintains an unique position in the landscape of Hong Kong EDMC. XXX Gallery was one of the most prominent venues in the Hong Kong underground EDMC as it provided, from 2011 to 2018, a relative stable venue for non-mainstream labels and crews of players/performers/event organisers to perform and establish diverse sub-­ communities of EDMC (Drum’n’Bass, Deconstructed Club etc.). Not only did this space serve as a music venue for a diversity of subgenres of EDMC, but it was also a movie club, a classical music listening club, and a performance art venue which curated several art exhibitions. Over the course of its seven years of existence, XXX Gallery relocated from Sheung Wan to Sai Ying Pun/Sai Wan, and finally settled in Tai Kok Tsui in 2015, a neighbourhood located at the opposite side of the Victoria Harbour. Cassidy Winston, a DJ and event promoter who co-created XXX Gallery, stated that there’s a need for spaces so Hong Kong EDMC can develop in all its diversity: “[XXX Gallery] is not a specific venue that caters to one crowd and only with one style of music, we never do that but a lot of people do that” (Interview with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020). According to Winston, the three different geographical locations occupied by XXX Gallery all had a distinct positioning in the nightlife economy of Hong Kong. The original location of XXX Gallery in Sheung Wan

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took advantage of its close proximity with LKF.  However, it started receiving noise complaints due to its close proximity to residential buildings. Their second location in Sai Wan/Sai Ying Pun was located far west of LKF—ten-minute taxi ride from Central. They opened this new venue in 2013 two years before the MTR metro system had reached that area. At this second location, Winston attempted to apply for a proper liquor licence to be able to profit from bar sales, but it was opposed by council’s representatives from the conservative party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). Even though XXX Gallery finally successfully acquired a liquor licence, they decided to apply the Bring Your Own Bottles (BYOB) policy since they realised that XXX Gallery was known as a BYOB venue as opposed to other clubs in Hong Kong. The licence attracted the attention of the police, who started checking their licence frequently. As the rent tripled within a few years, XXX Gallery decided to move to its last location across the harbour to an industrial area called Tai Kok Tsui. Tai Kok Tsui is relatively isolated but still close to the busiest, overcrowded central part of Kowloon peninsula (Mongkok) and one of the poorest districts of Hong Kong north of Mongkok (Sham Shui Po). In comparison to the former locations in Hong Kong Island where most audiences were still predominantly expatriates, Cassidy noticed the change in demographics after the move to the last location in Tai Kok Tsui, an industrial area next to Mongkok, which is the urban centre of Kowloon side. Local audience numbers rose (as opposed to foreigner/ international numbers), and the audiences became more mature since most of them only travelled to XXX Gallery for the music. Cassidy explained that the decision to move to Tai Kok Tsui was due to the increasing rent on Hong Kong island, but also provided the opportunity to offer a “real warehouse party vibe … closer to real Hong Kong culture” (Cheung 2015).4 While music genres such as Techno and House were popular in Hong Kong, other genres of EDMC have been developing slowly but steadily. Crews and labels such as ROBOT, Bass Music China, Heavy Hong Kong, Magnetic Soul Hong Kong, Sessions HK, Ecstatic Bass, 15


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Grams, Absurd Trax, Mean Girls Club, Wildstyles Records, Neoncity Records and even XXX Gallery’s own crew have fostered a vibrant and diverse underground EDMC in Hong Kong. Some of the older crews such as ROBOT were based at CE-Top (a now closed club in Central), and Sessions HK organised events at both The Golden Stupa and XXX Gallery (Jay 2012; von Seggern 2013); other crews were organising events either at their own secret venues or at XXX Gallery. Many of these crews consist of small groups of people who usually share similar interest in music, and working together to organise events according to their taste under a crew’s name. While it is common to have DJs in a crew to provide music for the events, a crew might not necessarily consist of only DJs but also people doing artists’ booking, ticket sales, and event promotions. For most of the time, a crew might work with clubs to stage events and book artists in order to profit from bar and tickets sales. Sometimes a crew could also work as a label to put out music under the crew’s name. As the premise behind XXX Gallery was to develop a diverse community in Hong Kong that cuts across different music genres and social groups, the music at XXX Gallery was significant for its diversity. Psytrance, Acid House, UK Bass, Hip-hop, Future Funk, and even Deconstructed Club could be heard at XXX Gallery. Such diversity reflects Cassidy and Acey’s view on music: they seek to surprise the audience. As Acey puts it, “revenue, vibe, attendance” are the chief concerns when they are collaborating with event organisers. Some of them paid more attention to the audience while some paid more attention to the vibe, that is, a pleasing atmosphere that does not necessarily cater to a large audience but contributed to the experimental and “avant-garde” reputation of XXX Gallery in Hong Kong (Interview with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020). Even if its managers admit that XXX Gallery always suffered from financial pressure, at least they maintained an image of being both “avant-garde” and promoting a diversity of music genres at the same time. This supports the practice of community building promoted by XXX Gallery managers.

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Community Building at XXX For both of them, the main interest in running the venue was about community building. A diversified crowd would eventually lead to a more sustainable ecosystem in the underground scene of Hong Kong, which helps places like XXX Gallery to maintain and develop their niche. Community building at XXX Gallery was marked by the close relationship between individuals, as the audience and promoters usually knew each other. DJ Just Bee recalls being approached by a member of the audience after DJing at XXX Gallery. They exchanged social media, became friends and started sharing music (Interview with JustBee, 15/11/2019). As Cassidy emphasises, it is essential to build a good relationship with event organisers. He also perceives the respect of the audience for the venue as an important house rule. It was reflected in the flexible approach of XXX Gallery management team towards the behaviour of its audience and the attempt to not resort to the police to handle situations arising from normal club activity. The only thing Cassidy insisted on was a strict closing time, with all events finishing at 4 a.m.—any transgression and he would turn the lights on and the sound system off to remove the crowd. (Interview with Winston & Acey, 18/01/2020).

The City: Shenzhen Touted as a leader in technology and finance, Shenzhen, a city now contiguous with the Hong Kong North West border with mainland China, is a sub-provincial city chosen to be the first Chinese special economic zone (SEZ) in 1980. Considered part of Deng Xiaoping’s experiment with Chinese economic reform, since the 1980s Shenzhen has transformed itself from a small industrial town into one of the financial capitals of the world. Due to this astonishingly rapid rate of development that triggered an influx of a high number of migrant workers from other Chinese provinces, Shenzhen is one of the few cities in Guangdong province where Mandarin is the major language rather


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than Cantonese and Teochewese (Chun 2006). Shenzhen’s population has grown from 8.7 million in 2008, to 13 million in 2018 (Shenzhen Statistical Yearbook 2019). According to recent research conducted by RET, the biggest property development consulting company in China, the nightlife index of Shenzhen is also known to be the second highest in the country (RET 2019). The flourishing Shenzhen club music scene has also attracted attention from the Western media (Forman 2019; Grogan 2019; Lanyon 2014). Reflecting the changing population and the influx of outsiders, the Shenzhen scene is made up mostly of migrants. Shenzhen-based party collectives and DJ crews that are similar to their counterparts in Hong Kong exemplify a level of geographical circulation of electronic music existing in China, as they bring foreign artists to play not only in Shenzhen but also in other Chinese cities in order to cover the booking and transportation fees. Crews such as Underground Union and Hoodoo are examples of event organisers who not only focus on Shenzhen but also bring artists to other cities. However, there are crews/event organisers that are based in and focus on the Shenzhen’s local scene, such as the Drum’n’Bass crew Unchained Asia and the Techno crew Silicon Kure.

EDMC in Shenzhen Little is known about the history of EDMC in Shenzhen. Chew’s study showed that Cantopop and Mandopop were popular with lower-middleincome Hong Kongers (some of whom were from mainland China) who partied across the border in the late 1990s (Chew 2009b, p. 152). The overall narrative of Shenzhen’s club culture development aligns with the Chinese EDMC, where Western club culture emerged in China after the Chinese Economic Reform of the 1980s (Farrer 1999, p. 152). At this time, the term “disco” in China referred less to a genre of music and more to the sexualised and fantasied view of Western sexuality entangled with a certain type of electronic dance music (Farrer 1999). Today, when looking at EDMC-related spaces such as clubs, we have to keep in mind that these clubs are not necessarily the centre of Chinese nightlife: social dance

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halls, bars, karaoke clubs, sexual spaces such as saunas and barbershops are also part of the nightlife map (Farrer 2008). Since the mid-1990s, more clubs in China have embraced rave culture from the West, where illegal raves (and their association with the consumption of ecstasy) have emerged in top-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen (Chew 2009a). In Shenzhen, the now defunct party organisation The Real Deal organised events from 2012 to 2016. Using Psytrance, Deep House and Techno, The Real Deal organized popup raves across the city in a variety of places, from parks to beaches (Forman 2019). However, their penultimate rave held on 21 February 2016 was raided by local police: 93 people including 50 expats were in administrative detention, and 2 people, both expats, were arrested (Mannering 2016). This incident almost eradicated rave culture in Shenzhen, and it drastically transformed cultural practices in clubs and venues in Shenzhen in the light of further restrictions on licences and a more stringent control of drug uses.

Spaces for EDMC: Oil Club as a Case Study On 8 November 2017, Berlin-based producer Mechatok debuted at the opening of Oil Club with supporting DJs from Hong Kong including Kelvin T, Fotan Laiki, and ASJ. Since then, Oil Club has become a landmark of the Shenzhen club scene with adventurous programming featuring both international acts and local musicians. Oil Club departed from the previous notion of “disco” in Chinese EDMC and has introduced the well-established Western underground EDMC to Shenzhen’s audience. “At that point, we’d already started thinking about inviting some artists to Shenzhen,” said Song Yangyang, one of the founders of Oil Club (Forman 2019). Despite ecstasy or other illegal drugs not being part of its culture, the founding of Oil Club was inspired by Western rave culture. It was born out of a necessity: there was a lack of venues to host travelling international acts (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). One of our interviewees, the Shenzhen-based DJ and promoter Lucy Kwok, also known as Warmchainss, said that Oil Club is the only club in Shenzhen providing


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“good music” (Kwok, WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019). This vague formulation reflects the eclecticism that characterises Oil Club’s programming, which refuses to be contained by a specific genre of EDMC and wants to cater simultaneously to Drum‘n’Bass, Techno, House and Trance music audiences (Fig. 14.1).

Fig. 14.1  Flyer (2019): Events at Oil Club usually take place during the weekends and public holidays

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Audiences at Oil Club In previous studies on Chinese nightlife, Farrer describes the audience in Shanghai from 1995 to 1996 as “less discriminating” and “musically less sophisticated”. In this context, the popular genre of Chinese disco stands as “a site of globality rather than as a site for the ‘alternative’ or the ‘authentic’” (Farrer 1999, p.162). Similar conclusions were also made by Song and Sun, for whom the Shenzhen audiences “don’t know pretty much about the event they are attending, what kind of music they are listening … they react to the music really directly” (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). Another interviewee, Kelvin Tang, from Hong Kong, known by his DJ name Kelvin T, observed that whilst it also depends on the event organisers, the crowds at Oil Club are mostly local (Tang, personal interview Nov 13, 2019). Hong Kong Drum‘n’Bass DJ Abby Yuen, who is known as JustBee of the Unchained Asia crews, recalled a night while playing at Oil Club where the audiences were half local and half Russian (Yuen, Skype interview Nov 11, 2019). Overall, the audience attending Oil Club’s nights is people from Shenzhen. While Kwok, a.k.a. Warmchainss, describes the audience at Oil Club as not hugely different from the audience she met in China’s EDM clubs (Kwok, WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019), Yang describes the character of Shenzhen people as “practical, young, open, but also hard to stay, only few choose to dig deep into things … they don’t really see music as something you should work hard on … it is entertainment business instead of a profession” (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019). It shows that the Shenzhen audiences are curious and reactive, but also are unwilling to invest time to refine and deepen their knowledge of EDMC. By contrast, some DJs we interviewed were somewhat obsessive about their music listening practice, which is often centred around a specific subgenre of EDMC such as Drum‘n’Bass.

Music at Oil Club In contrary to most other clubs in Shenzhen, Oil Club is characterised by a diversity of genres and styles. Music and acts/DJ playing at the club


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are meticulously curated by Song and Sun, who search to strike a balance between accessibility and progressiveness. Tang/Kelvin T. describes Oil Club as a place where he wants to bring “new and exciting stuff” such as Deconstructed Club (a recent trend applying avant-garde approaches to EDMC), while at the same time music that is “relatable to the people” like “House, Vaporwave, Band Music, Drum‘n’Bass, Cantopop/ Mandopop/K-pop” (Tang, personal interview Nov 13, 2019). For Yuen/JustBee, playing at Oil Club allows her to explore “darker and niche stuff” in Drum‘n’Bass and she feels her audience has already gained some understanding of her style. While many clubs have no good sound system for Drum‘n’Bass, Yuen/JustBee also describes the sound system at Oil Club is so crisp and clear that it allows her to appreciate “little details” in the Drum‘n’Bass music she is playing (Yuen, Skype interview Nov 11, 2019). Specific genre-based collectives such as Drum‘n’Bass crew Unchained Asia and Techno crew Silicon Kure are able to organise events regularly at Oil Club and to build up their respective audience from within.

Community Building at Oil Club Driven by the potentials of audience growth and cultural development, all of the interviewees have pointed out the importance of community building. As Kwok pointed out, Shenzhen club goers tend to go out during weekends only; as a result, booking international artists for weekday events will only create financial loss. Once a month basis, on Wednesdays, Kwok runs an event called “只能活一個” (trans.: Only One Can Live), an open deck section allowing local DJs and apprentice DJs to perform and practise at Oil Club, providing a space to cultivate a local DJ community (Kwok, WeChat interview Oct 26, 2019). Unchained Asia, the collective Yuan/JustBee belongs to, has also been conducting music production workshops during their Outlook Festival Shenzhen, where they celebrate UK Bass culture annually by bringing international and local acts to Oil Club. Tang observes that Oil Club’s presence on social media, especially WeChat, where they publish very detailed introductions to

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club culture as well as artists’ biographies on their public profile (公众 号), has helped promoting club culture to its audience (Tang, personal interview Nov 13, 2019). For Yang and Yun, the organisers, community building is a long-time commitment. It could take at least five to ten years before they see a viable EDMC community in Shenzhen (Song and Sun, WeChat interview Nov 18, 2019).

Conclusion This chapter presents a preliminary mapping of EDMC in two geographically close cities that nevertheless illustrate two completely different political and cultural contexts. The inherent creativity of ‘border zones’ where diverse cultures collide has been explored here through the development of EDMC in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. We can see a set of commonalities and differences emerging from the case study of XXX Gallery in Hong Kong and Oil Club in Shenzhen, two clubs dedicated to the development of EDMC understood as a plurality of practices (clubs, festivals, etc.) and as a plurality of non-mainstream genres of electronic music. Both face similar legal constraints (high rents, lack of proper licences, noise complaints, police checks). Our interviewees who played at XXX Gallery and later at Oil club describe two different kind of crowds. The EDMC crowd at XXX Gallery was constituted of a diversity of people but most of them tend to have a strong existing knowledge of electronic music aesthetics and (Western) history. In Shenzhen, the audience tend to be eager to discover new electronic music genres, have less prejudices about music, and are more open to experimentations that would be deemed to be improper by the EDMC Hong Kong crowd. Similarly, the community building in EDMC audiences in Hong Kong takes the form of multipurpose club spaces that double as art galleries, Japanese-like listening bars and movie clubs for an audience of connoisseurs able to see the link between listening to slowed down classical music and certain contemplative subgenres of electronic music. In Shenzhen, the community building is structured


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around a pedagogical approach to EDMC, where each visiting artist/ DJ is clearly presented and situated in the history of electronic music. Some workshops aim at teaching the techniques of DJing and electronic music production to a budding generation of Shenzhen-based young aspiring DJs—with some of the teachers travelling to Hong Kong to learn new technics in electronic music production. Despite the restricted access to albums of certain Western electronic musicians, the role of the internet in the growth of musical culture for Shenzhen-based DJs appears paramount. Despite the rumours suggesting that the EDMC crowd would cross the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border to find new spaces for underground clubbing, we observed that the two microcosms of XXX Gallery and Oil Club are pretty distinct in terms of audience, cultural and legal contexts and that Oil Club cannot be read as a re-enactment of XXX Gallery.

Notes 1. EDMC constitutes the focus of academic journals such as DanceCult. 2. Due to the cancellation of rent control in 1998. https://www.legco.gov. hk/yr98-­99/english/panels/hg/papers/hg22121b.htm 3. As previously noted outside of the field of electronic music, non-­ mainstream artistic institutions struggle to stay in central areas of Hong Kong due to a multiplicity of factors beyond high rents (Charrieras et al. 2018:170). 4. Tai Kok Tsui is closer to Mongkok, an important area of Hong Kong representing its ‘localness’.

References Apple-Daily. (2017). 【回歸20年‧舞照跳】Rave party成歷史 酒牌局打殘 全港Disco. Apple Daily 蘋果日報. Retrieved from http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/realtime/breaking/20170524/56733469 By-census Office, C. a. S. D. (2017). Hong Kong 2016 population by-census. Thematic report. Ethnic minorities. 香港: 政府統計處.

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C&SD. (2020). Population  - Overview | Census and Statistics Department. Retrieved from https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/so20.jsp Charrieras, D., Darchen, S., & Sigler, T. (2018). The Shifting Spaces of Creativity in Hong Kong. Cities, 74(April 2018), 134–141. Cheng, S.-l. (2001). Consuming Places in Hong Kong: Experiencing Lan Kwai Fong. Consuming Hong Kong, 1, 237–262. Cheung, K. (2015, 2015/12/04/T12:18:43+00:00). ‘Central Is Not Central Anymore’: Underground Club XXX Announces Move to Tai Kok Tsui. Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved from https://hongkongfp.com/2015/12/04/ central-­is-­not-­central-­anymore-­underground-­club-­xxx-­announces-­move-­to-­ tai-­kok-­tsui/ Cheung, N.  W., & Cheung, Y.  W. (2006). Is Hong Kong Experiencing Normalization of Adolescent Drug Use? Some Reflections on the Normalization Thesis. Substance Use & Misuse, 41(14), 1967–1990. Chew, M. M. (2011). Hybridity, Empowerment and Subversiveness in Cantopop Electronic Dance Music. Visual Anthropology, 24, 139–151. https://doi.org/1 0.1080/08949468.2011.527805. Chew, M. M. (2009a). Decline of the Rave Inspired Clubculture in China: State Suppression, Clubber Adaptations and Socio-cultural Transformations. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, 1(1), 1. Chew, M.  M. (2009b). The Subversive Sociocultural Meanings of Cantopop Electronic Dance Music. Chinese Sociology & Anthropology, 42(2), 76–93. Chun, B. Y. (2006, 2006/06/07/). 深圳成粵語圈中普通話區 - 香港文匯報 Shenzhen Becomes the Mandarin Area in a Cantonese Region. Wenweipo. Retrieved from http://paper.wenweipo.com/2006/06/07/zt0606070021.htm Farrer, J. (1999). Disco ‘Super-culture’: Consuming Foreign Sex in the Chinese Disco: Cosmopolitan Dance Culture and Cosmopolitan Sexual Culture. Sexualities, 2(2), 147–165. Farrer, J. (2008). Play and Power in Chinese Nightlife Spaces. China: An International Journal, 06(01), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1142/ S0219747208000034. Forman, S. (2019). The History Behind Shenzhen’s Blossoming Underground Electronic Music Scene. That’s Online. Retrieved from https://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/post/26478/history-­behind-­shenzhens-­blossoming-­ underground-­electronic-­scene Grogan, B. (2019). OIL Founders on Shenzhen Club Scene, 996 Jobs and DJ Shoutouts. That’s Online. Retrieved from https://www.thatsmags.com/ china/post/29812/oil-­club-­founders-­on-­shenzhen-­club-­scene-­996-­jobs­and-­dj-­shoutouts


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15 Embodied Listening: Grassroots Governance in Electronic Dance Music Venues in Accra (Ghana) Leila Adu-Gilmore

Introduction Nightclubs have permeated Accra’s nightlife throughout the twentieth century, complicating the Global North’s truncated history of the dance music scene. The tendency in the Global North is to think that the electronic dance music scene began in the 1990s. However, the history of dance music has a more complex genealogy. Since the 1920s, highlife music has been a truly Ghanaian form of music interwoven with harmonic roots from traditional Ghanaian vocal and instrumental music, Northern European Christian hymns, brass and marching bands, sea shanties, bundled together with a distinctive offbeat bell pattern (Collins 2016, pp.  1–13) and Latin-influenced bass (Adu-Gilmore 2015). Surprisingly, Nate Plageman (2013, pp. 32–33) describes “proto-highlife” events that were heavily fined by the colonial authorities as early as 1909, and where “song and dance were ways to congregate with others of L. Adu-Gilmore (*) New York University, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_15



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similar age, employment, and circumstance, blow off steam, and have some fun.” Along with highlife, Accra nightlife featured palm wine bars and the relaxed “palm wine music” genre alongside swing bands of the 1950s (Collins 2016, pp. 17–18). The first Ghanaian electronic music was Burger Highlife of the 1980s which owed its name to the migration of many Ghanaians to Hamburg, Germany. This was followed closely in the 1990s by Ghanaian hip-hop and Ghana’s version of this, ‘hiplife,’ as well as the contemporary electronic music styles discussed in this chapter. The latest iterations of West African electronic dance music, such as ‘Afrobeats’ from Ghana and Nigeria, have been gaining ground in Accra and around the world since the 2010s. A Ghana-specific contextualisation engaging music analysis is vital to understand Accra’s electronic dance music scene. This Afrocentric context reveals that nightclubs, bars, and restaurants with dance music are an elongated historic phenomenon, due to the fact that traditional and popular Ghanaian dance/music genres organically morphed into electronic versions. Positioning Ghana as a decolonising subject—as opposed to an objectified other, so common in colonised countries in the Global South— precipitates deeper investigation into Accra’s electronic dance music scene. A decolonizing perspective demonstrates how the electronic music scene in Accra is progressive and could be supported, as well as potentially influence practices in similar communities of the Global North. The concept of ‘Global North’ counterbalances and highlights Accra’s Global South subject-position outside of it. Firstly, this chapter explores the local genres of electronic dance music in relation to the Ghanaian long-time tradition of music and dance, which I describe as “embodied listening”—the shared practice of music and dance that is embedded in music from Africa and from its diaspora. Secondly, I engage with the cultural history of dance and music in Ghana to emphasise the importance of cultural knowledge of dance styles in contemporary music-making practices. As a Ghanaian, British, and New Zealander composer-theorist engaged in recording and performance in the context of Accra, as well as Wellington, London, Paris, and New  York, I employ indigenous autoethnography and interviews with music communities foregrounding an afrocentric discussion of the electronic music scene, as opposed to a western, Global North, or euro-­centric one. Thirdly, Accra has nightclubs of

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the variety that are also typical in the Global North, accompanied by varying levels of relaxed local outdoor restaurants to upmarket atmospheres that are actively engaged in the local community and music community. This greatly differs from the Global North, where dance clubs are mostly bifurcated between live music venues, and dedicated nightclubs. Finally, I argue that government policies such as arts policies, building codes and sound control policies that are relevant in the Global North are policies that are not enforced and could be potentially harmful in Ghana, as well as other similar communities in the Global South. Hence, reviewing Accra’s electronic music scene teases out the boundaries of afro music genres, examines Accra’s sites of embodied listening, questions the Global North’s concept of nightclubs as essential for dance, and suggests indigenizing concepts of arts planning policies.

 ccra: A Historic Centre of Political A and Cultural Afrocentrism Accra is a sprawling city with stratified layers of urban landscape, housing, economy, and soundscape creating home to a distinctive West African electronic music reaching around the globe. In 2019, the Ghana statistical service counted Accra’s population at two million, greater Accra as five million, and Ghana a sizable thirty-one million people. Since my first visit twenty years ago Ghana has developed a more stable government and economy. Existing inequalities, however, have become exacerbated by the constant influx from the countryside to a city already overcrowded for resources. A gap seems to widen between people’s lives in gated communities, luxury resorts, and restaurants, compared with the shanty town slums and highway street hawkers. These differences are further magnified in comparison with the Global North. Ghana’s culture and early independence are a source of Afrocentric pride throughout Africa and the diaspora. In 2019 President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo welcomed African-Americans for the cultural celebration ‘Year of Return,’ in recognition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Sixty years earlier, Kwame Nkrumah welcomed the diaspora and spread


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concepts of Pan Africanism and critique of neo-colonialism through ongoing economic imperialism from the Global North that are still relevant in Ghana today. Forging Ghanaian Independence from British colonial rule and becoming Ghana’s first president and prime minister in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah created the beginning of the country’s infrastructure, such as the enormous Volta dam power project and remained in power until 1966. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the country spiralled into a period of drastic currency deflation and poverty (Huq 1989). At that time, many musicians fled the country, compounded by President Flight Lieutenant J.J.  Rawlings’ two coups (1979 and 1981) and his ensuing long presidency further impacted music through a (1982–1984) night curfew (Collins 2016, p. 212) which pushed music away from the secular nightlife entertainment sphere and directly into a still burgeoning gospel scene. Since then, Ghana has become economically stable with the arrival of the oil industry and has had democratic elections. The country has been increasingly attractive to Ghanaian expatriates throughout the 2000s. So, during governments and economies that supported or suppressed the arts, Ghanaians have retained a keen focus on music, and greater economic activity and travel have only increased its cultural exports. Accra’s electronic music environment is both unique and diverse, with traditional roots in music and dance practice, which precedes that of the Global North. Music and dance have been interconnected throughout traditional African music to the present. For instance, funerals are the biggest event in Ghanaian life, where the mourning family leads the dance, exemplifying the centrality of gathering, dance, and food in Ghanaian cultural values. Kofi Agawu notes that music has always been participatory throughout the African continent: The reason for beginning with the main beats is to ensure that interpretation is grounded in the choreographic supplement, here a straightforward foot movement, perhaps alternating left and right, and coinciding with the four main beats. And the thought behind the suppression of beats is to introduce an element of play. The idea of knowing where the beat is but articulating it as a silence is part of an aesthetic of play found in numerous African communities. (2003, p. 73)

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This embodied listening threads throughout traditional to contemporary African and diasporic electronic music; the sonic aspects of highlife weave throughout numerous Ghanaian genres such as pop, afro-rock, and afrojazz. Agawu (2003, p. 130) says of highlife: In a dance hall, disco, or student assembly hall, boys and girls, men and women may dance overtly. In taxis or beer bars or at home, the dance may be realised silently and imaginatively without any loss of aesthetic pleasure.

Highlife star Gyedu-Bley Ambolley is said to have created one of the world’s first rap songs, ‘Simigwa Do’ in 1973 with an underlying groovy funk riff (Charry 2012, p. 3). However, the earliest electronic style was Burger highlife in the 1980s. In the 1990s artists began to use American hip-hop beats, rapping in  local languages like Twi and Ga to make Ghanaian hip-hop and hiplife. For example, after briefly living in London, Reggie Rockstone returned to Ghana, and rapped in Twi, a dialect from southern and central Ghana, becoming a major artist (Charry 2012, pp.  35–37). Influential producer Panji Ankoff is often credited with having brought a Ghanaian edge to contemporary Ghanaian electronic music with the group Talking Drums whose music mixes traditional instrument and highlife samples. The vast majority of Ghanaian rhythms are danceable with the exception of modern Gospel music focused on vocal harmony and slower rhythms.

 he Electronic Scene: Hiplife and Hip-Hop T to Afrobeats Accra favours local styles over hugely popular electronic dance music forms circulated from the Global North. ‘Four on the floor’ styles of music such as house and techno, with a strong downbeat and 4/4 rhythm, are rarely heard on Accra dance floors, where music creators have employed interlocking rhythms in dance music for centuries. As a result, forms of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) that would be considered as mainstream in London or Berlin may be seen as underground in Accra. Since 2011, Chale Wote Street Art Festival has invited participants from


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around the globe featuring street art and fashion, as well as supporting and showcasing international and local electronic music and DJs of diverse styles. The founders call themselves “ALT [dot] ALT” and also run a talk series and radio show. This focus on mixing digital arts and community is reflected on their website, which states that: Our vision is to cultivate a wider audience for the arts in West Africa by breaking creative boundaries and using art as a viable form to rejuvenate public spaces. The CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival challenges both artists and community-based audiences to connect through art. (“Accra Dot Alt” n.d.)

Rymajdo (2019) reports on musically adventurous festivals outside of Accra, such as Asa Baako in the Busua region and Meet Me There Weekender in the Volta region, which give DJs a chance to spin sounds popular in the Global North, as the interviewee TMSKD (The Masked DJ) explains: People are scared of what they don’t know, so playing house music at first was difficult. But in the electronic music scene all the DJs are very friendly and now I’m in a group [Musiq Electronique] and we have events once a month, trying to get more people on the electronic music wave. (Rymajdo 2019)

But for fellow mask-wearing DJ Keyzuz, who favours genres even more obscure within Ghana such as dubstep and experimental bass music, the only path to gaining a platform for the sounds she’s passionate about was pursuing a 100% DIY ethos. European and American styles of house and techno play occasional club nights, and the odd festival, but this is still a small sector in Accra. Interestingly, both Rymajdo (2019) and DJ interviewee TMSKD split the genres between Ghanaian styles on the one hand and electronic music styles such as house music on the other hand. Since the 1990s, techno and their subgenres have been commercially lucrative and successful in the Global North. These African-American genres were created out of the juxtaposing conditions in 1980s’ post-industrial era Detroit and Chicago: on the one hand, poverty opened up extra real estate space for warehouse

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parties and, on the other hand, industrialisation created innovation and access to technology. These practical conditions were not mirrored in Accra at the time. Interestingly, aside from Jamaican styles and Rasta culture which are bundled with marijuana, the European practice of pairing techno and ecstasy or MDMA seems less prominent in Ghanaian dance music milieus (the lyrics in dance music seldom allude to drug use). Quite outside of any moralistic stance, while dance music scenes in the Global North searched for community, trance, connection, and meaning through dance parties bundled with party drugs throughout the 1990s and 2000s, generations of Ghanaians have danced through embodied listening without the aid of party drugs. Therefore, in Ghana, concepts of mainstream and underground are disrupted by a cultural history of embodied listening in Accra, where local styles take precedence, and where embodied listening to electronic dance music has been favoured over techno/house underground. In the past twenty years, electronic music from Accra maintained its Ghanaian roots, while blending with traditional music and influences from overseas. Sarkodie began with rap battles, worked both in hiplife and hip-hop styles and was the first Ghanaian rapper to win the Best International Act Africa at the BET Awards in 2012, as well as MTV Africa’s Best Hip-Hop award (Starling 2015) and became internationally known in collaboration with fellow highlife artist, the US-based Blitz the Ambassador. In 2011, DJ Abrantee from London coined the term ‘Afrobeats’ from a mix of Nigerian and Ghanaian styles of dance music, influenced by hip-hop funky house (Hancox 2012). Ghanaian-Londoner artist Fuse ODG brought the unique, jerky, and knee and elbow bending azonto dance back from a trip to Ghana, popularising this new dance style along with the new Afrobeats genre. Although the genre tips its hat to Fela Kuti’s original “Afrobeat” style, contemporary ‘Afrobeats’ is electronically produced and shares similarities with afro-­minimalist styles such as African-American minimalist hip-hop, or trap music, with the addition of a distinctly overt bell pattern. Sarkodie worked with producers like award-winning Appietus, who also switches between hiplife, hiphop, and Afrobeats styles (Adu-Gilmore 2015). The R2Bees duo, Faisal Hakeem and Rashid Mugeez, have collaborated internationally, winning numerous awards. Award-winning producer DJ Breezy has worked with


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artist Joey B, and is influenced by R2Bees, and African-American producers Pharrell and the Neptunes (Adu-Gilmore 2015). GhanaianRomanian Wanlov the Kubolor has had success in Europe and the US, and can be seen in Accra wearing a Ghana Energy helmet, presumably protesting the instability of the energy company and its impact on the people. Wanlov is also associated with Panji Ankoff and his label, Pidgen Music; they collaborated on the film Coz of Moni (2010), which screened at international film festivals. Interestingly, female artists often work between countries as well, such as Azizaa who has a strong image with a mixture of trap and Afrobeats, and works between Accra and Brooklyn. Also, Amaarae is a rare find in that she is both a producer and an artist and moves as easily between London, Accra, and Atlanta, as she does between her blended genres of electronica, Afrobeat and trap. Edna the Rapper is influenced by Rasta culture, with firm hip-hop roots in her fast and powerful flow. Since 2004, Shatta Wale has focused his vocal and music style on the Jamaican dancehall has become the symbol of this genre. Considering that these popular Ghanaian styles have a danceable rhythm, the definition of ‘electronic dance music’ becomes slightly moot. Ghanaians firmly support local electronic music, with Afrobeats from Ghana and similar styles from Nigeria, as well as house music from South Africa, African-American styles, and other foreign styles falling behind that. As with much African and diasporic music, Ghanaian music circulated and took influences from various networks across the Black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993), including African-American and Latin music. Nigeria’s1 popular Afrobeat export Fela Kuti was influenced by highlife, played with Ghanaian musicians, and both countries share similar contemporary electronic music genres. Jamaica’s pre-Independence history may explain Ghana’s special connection to reggae. These two cultures share a colonial history of pre-Independence and neo-colonial economic oppression, which enforced the English language, at the same time providing the conditions for the growth of Pidgin English which Jamaicans also turned to lyrical themes of redemption.2 Indeed, reggae’s successors (electronic styles such as dancehall and ragga) are also a mainstay of Ghanaian culture, complete with Rasta culture, religion, clothing, food, and natural medicine. Therefore, the influence of traditional music and the influence of traditional and contemporary dance styles greatly affect new Ghanaian

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electronic music, an influence that runs through the Black Atlantic more broadly. Contemporary electronic music in Ghana cannot be studied without a reference to the diverse styles of Ghanaian dance, and the complex intermingling of traditional Ghanaian music and dance is replicated through innovative electronic dance/music styles, such as azonto and akayida. For example, an aspect of African dance is a freeze, which is mirrored in the African-American dance styles of breakdancing, robot dancing, and voguing. The freeze move works particularly well with interlocking rhythms that play with juxtaposing space and syncopation in varying parts of the frequency spectrum of dance music. Azonto and akayida music videos typically feature the freeze, accentuating the next move, or taking pause to foreground the next dancer.

Governance of the Scene and Spaces  he Policy Gap: Building, Noise and Copyright T in Ghana In Ghana, and in other countries in the Global South, musicians need to fight for rights that elsewhere are taken for granted. Founded in 1975, the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) has been a stabilising force on the Ghanaian cultural scene. In 1999, I visited MUSIGA in Accra with highlife superstar Mac Tonto of the band Osibisa. Tonto had returned from London to support budding musicians through the institution. He told me that this pre-Independence prime real estate waterfront building was gifted to MUSIGA by the government, demonstrating its national cultural importance. MUSIGA advocates for rights previously not enforced such as payment of royalties to the artists and helps artists who might encounter difficulties to obtain travel visas, for traditional music and electronic music artists, producers, and tour DJs. Their website’s mission statement claims that their service operates through “Policy Making, Wages and Remuneration, Social Protection, Support for musical activities, Job opportunities, Union Rights and Freedom,


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Education, Intellectual Property Rights, Working Conditions and Gender Equality.” They also support underrepresented female music creators. Ghanaian women are known for their strong business skills including some formerly matriarchal ethnic groups, as opposed to the colonial era patriarchal system, and now there are women in MUSIGA’s leadership positions. This said, MUSIGA itself has been subject to accusations of accountability under its previous president (Dadzie 2019) (Obour, Others Sued Over ‘Missing’ MUSIGA Cash 2020). The current MUSIGA President Bessa Simons encourages young female musicians to avoid being explicit with their lyrics, to be business savvy, and to incorporate traditional instruments and folklore into their music, as a way of attracting international audiences (Amoah-Ramey 2018, pp. 98–99). Although the artists’ reach may also be limited due to lack of local regulations and infrastructure in the Global South, MUSIGA aims to connect Ghanaian musicians to local and international opportunities and equity. Although Accra is filled with diverse sounds which are a large part of the city’s character, Ghana’s planning codes make attempts to protect its citizens from extraneous noise. Ghana’s Environmental Protection Act states that they will “issue notice in the form of directives, procedures or warnings to any other person or body for the purpose of controlling the volume, intensity and quality of noise in the environment” (Government of Ghana 1994). It seems that this policy, however, is not enforced. A University of Ghana study (Yirenya-Tawiah 2012) states that the WHO’s 45-decibel sound level recommendation and Ghana’s EPA regulations for high-density areas were both exceeded in the small Ghanaian city of Cape Coast at 58–68 dB (Essandoh and Armah 2011). They also warn of health risks, the need for education around noise pollution, and general annoyance: On return home, one is met with the blurring of music from corner shops, to which you have no control over. This will usually continue from dusk to dawn, then taken over again by the religious sects. This is the predicament residents have to go through almost every day. (Essandoh and Armah 2011)

Ghana’s 1960 Criminal Code penalised drumming in town at night, as well as drumming as an insult—this set of codes is as culturally telling as

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it is archaic. Ghanaian news website articles regularly lament that noise restrictions against nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and religious services are not enforced. One author adds town criers to the list of noisy activities, saying that they have rights to trade on the one hand, whereas people have the right to health on the other (Kamasah 2018), adding that an offender will be liable for a ¢200,000 fine if he or she “beats or plays any drum, gong, tom-tom, or other similar instrument of music between eight o’clock at night and six in the morning,” without a licence. Another article (Cunningham 2016) quoting the Code’s clause prohibiting “making any loud or unseemly noise” argues that loud speakers from churches or otherwise should not invade homes, noting health risks for children and pregnant women, and general disruption of urban daily life and concluding that this goes against Ghana’s 1996 constitution protecting the rights of all people. On the issue of public safety, the idea of following any kind of building guidelines in Ghana has, historically, been ignored. Although a building code was recently developed, planning before that time was not enforced. In 2017, a new code was devised to address uniformity of basic safety measures, and as Eugene Boakye Antwi, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, stated: “There is an urgent need to use policy to develop the entire construction value chain as a strategy for providing quality works, so that issues of uncontrolled development and flouting of planning laws and building regulations will be a thing of the past” (Appiah-Adjei 2017). Therefore, there are noise and building regulations in Ghana, but they are extremely outdated and easily ignored.

 round-up Governance, Entrepreneurship, G and Community Electronic music in Accra is supported by a network of radio DJs, venues, festivals, and labels—a music industry that is integrated into the roots of the society. Since the 1990s, DJs playing EDM have, to some extent, superseded live music venues. Above all, the sites of listening to Ghanaian electronic music are not differentiated from listening sites of other popular Ghanaian music styles, so outdoor restaurants, public bars, and festivals play electronic dance music, as well as nightclubs.


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Nightclubs, event promoters, and live music venues typically hire DJs, while live music venues and music labels may support DJs, artists, and music by connecting them to live performance opportunities. For example, Akwaaba, a music agency and label run by French-American producer and DJ Benjamin Le Brave (also known as BBRAVE), showcases staunchly Ghanaian electronic music packaged with internet savvy visuals and marketing in ways that are more familiar to foreign audiences. DJ Mag is a go-to publication for electronic music DJs and producers in the industry, and Kamila Rymajdo’s (2019) article quotes Le Brave who explains: The industry was decimated in the ’80s and by the mid-’90s there were almost no studios here, almost no recording artists, there was no live music circuit. Then, when radio was liberalised in the ’90s, it created a massive demand for content. (Le Brave, as cited in Rymajdo 2019)

The article proceeds to list newer festival acts with productions with a British twinge, such as Zongo Abongo and the Busy Twist. One of Akwaaba’s artists is Gafacci, who drew attention to the globally popular music and dance craze, azonto, and comments: We don’t have a place producers or even creative people can run to when their rights have been infringed on. There are societies but defunct ones, producers don’t make royalties in this country, artists don’t get money — the way you make money is performances and brand sponsorships, but the way the system is set up, just a few people can be at the top.

These interviews, along with my own semi-structured interviews, show that although local EDM styles are pervasive, new EDM styles are sprouting throughout inclusive platforms. They show that community spirit between venues, radio stations, music festivals, sound systems, and labels is open to existing Ghanaian popular and electronic music genres, and is beginning to nurture new types of EDM—as opposed to a closed and necessarily commodified and commercialised culture. Accra’s electronic music scene is integrated into multiple venues in the city due to an active community of venue owners. For now, zoning3 rules

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are flouted and noise control and building codes are redundant, limiting any attempts at urban planning. However, the venues negotiate with neighbours and the community on opening hours and music noise levels, and maintain good relationships with local law enforcement, rather than adhering to government policies. Informal interviews with venue owners, DJs, and electronic music producers showed that these relaxed restaurant/music venues are supportive of new styles of electronic dance music. These venues fill the divide between, on the one hand, nightclubs with varying drink prices, door entry prices, and dress codes and, on the other, street food stalls and inexpensive outdoor restaurants with outdoor sound systems. These venues also support local commercial activities, as they are surrounded by restaurants and bring nightlife, as well as culture. For example, Republic Bar & Grill, in the heart of Osu, supports local live acts with a weekly live night and DJs throughout the week. Run by the Owusu-Ansah brothers, this bustling spot is filled with locals, Ghanaians returning home from abroad and a smattering of tourists and non-­ Ghanaian immigrants from Europe and the US, and features Ghanaian dishes and local liquor cocktails. The owners have also held Republic themed events in Washington DC and Paris (Interview with Kofi Owusu-­ Ansah and Raja Owusu-Ansah, 23/09/2019). Other venues like the newer Temporary Garden in Ayawaso near Airport residential area, also run by a pair of brothers, and Celsbridge in Labone are close with the local community. These are examples that show Accra’s music venues embedded in community networks and forms of communication closer to traditional society in Ghana or comparable to informal networks in the Global North than the institutionalized private donors, businesses, or government policies of the Global North. In Accra, electronic music spaces are growing; electronic dance music is an overt part of urban city life; and central neighbourhoods, such as Osu, are at the heart of the nightclub scene. There are larger clubs in the outlying areas but within easy driving distance, although these clubs are scattered organically throughout the city rather than concentrated in one part of town. However, the distance between venues is less of a problem, as gig economy apps with GPS like Uber make travelling across Accra relatively safer than local taxis, though traffic can be very slow and there are traffic jams lasting several hours. Gillespie (2016) argues that the


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urban poor, often from rural regions, have been uprooted by urbanization and housing developments, which they resist by creating urban commons: unauthorized farms on government land. Gentrification in Accra is extreme for a few reasons. There is a huge gap in wages in Ghana from rich to poor (Lokko 2017), which is exacerbated by the currency exchange, with expats being paid in dollars, compared to the Ghanaian cedi. The dramatic gentrification of Accra affects all of its inhabitants more broadly, and by extension may well threaten the electronic music scene. So, zoning, building, and noise policies in Accra require a nuanced understanding of community engagement, local economy, traditional family networks, and neighbourhoods. In a Ghanaian context, outside interventions that could help EDM in the Global North may end up hurting the working-class poor who are already excluded from wage labour. The EDM scene in Accra seems to be relatively organic, coming from venue owners, radio DJs, producers, and label bosses, similar to the birth of EDM in Chicago and Detroit. For example, Detroit house and techno came from a space from the urban poor reappropriating disused warehouse spaces; and this practice initially spread to Europe through the underground rave scene. These EDM and rave scenes have since been commercialised in the Global North. It is precisely this commercialized form of dance music that could be in danger of becoming a neo-colonizing force, along with shopping malls, supermarkets, and other such sterile environments that are completely foreign to Accra’s melded African urban culture. Implanting either a luxury, sterile neo-colonial western culture, or an aesthetically different (though equally foreign) homogenous AirBNB culture could lead to neocolonisation of Accra. Government policies suiting foreign nightclubs are far from the funeral dance parties and outdoor bars and restaurants that made and continue to make the urban landscape distinctly Ghanaian. Moreover, it is precisely this lively and hospitable music, food, and dance culture of Accra that attracts its many visitors. Therefore, the hope for Accra is that local government policies will continue to allow, and further proactively support Ghana’s organically grown forms of cultural development, community, and sites of embodied listening.

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Conclusion The dichotomy between electronic music genres, government-funded art, commercial entertainment, and community life is blurred beyond distinction in Accra. Historical studies on Ghanaian culture, clubs, and venues abound, and this is yet to be updated to reference current electronic dance music and culture. Re-inserting musical theory and creative research into Ghana’s dance music tradition elucidates the culture and innovation of embodied listening. First, I posit that, through embodied listening, Ghanaian EDM has seamlessly morphed: from traditional and popular dance music genres and their respective venues; from the street to the club. Second, there is a lack of enforcement of policies that affect music. Third, EDM is instead supported by the greater music community, including labels, festival organizers, producers, and music venues. Fourth, indigenising methodologies must be recognized and used to resist policies that would re-colonise communities in Accra and the Global South. Investigation of Accra’s urban dance music scene shows the discrepancies of analysing local music practices using the usual dimensions privileged in the study and policies in the Global North, and reveals the necessity of engaging in hybrid research methodologies in the music cultures of the Global South. This research opens a discourse for the Global North to learn from the ground-up community building lessons of the Global south and recommends opposing enforced top-down policy change. Working within Accra’s community-based management model provides an alternate mode for both keeping this scene alive and respecting the inhabitants of the city. Although the concerns about urban noise are real, Accra has a long path towards government-enforced policies, and a top-down approach could decimate Accra’s important cultural scene and community-­based management practices. Researching in, and participating in, this and similar communities across the globe, I argue that due to genre, context, and tradition, electronic dance music policies that would be constructive in Tokyo, Wellington, London, Paris, or New York could be potentially harmful in a Ghanaian urban context. Future sound and building regulations should be specifically designed for Accra that respect


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and encourage local relationships through existing cultural networks, venues, and community in order to protect the nightlife. So, community engagement in Accra’s EDM scene could be an Afrofuturist lesson to indigenise policies in EDM scenes in the Global South and similar underrepresented communities in the Global North.

Notes 1. Ghana is dwarfed by its culturally similar English-speaking neighbour, Nigeria, with 206 million people, its largest city with 9 million people, and they share music, film, and TV shows as well. 2. John Collins dates the influence of Jamaican music much further back, explaining that the 1880s’ Ghanaian marching bands using strict military time experienced Jamaican offbeat rhythms and marching and copied it. Collins argues that these cross-influences occur in cultures where tastes are similar, in music, dance, and food (Collins 2016). 3. In 2012, Oteng-Ababio argued: “The results show that most developers not only fail to comply with the requisite zoning practices, building codes and regulations but also use inferior building materials.”

References Accra Dot Alt. (n.d.). http://accradotaltradio.com/chale-­wote-­street-­art­festival/. Adu-Gilmore, L. (2015). Studio Improv as Compositional Process through Case Studies of Ghanaian Hiplife and Afrobeats. Critical Studies in Improvisation/ Études critiques en improvisation, 10(21). Agawu, K. (2003). Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions. Routledge. Amoah-Ramey, N. A. (2018). Female Highlife Performers in Ghana: Expression, Resistance, and Advocacy. London, England: Rowman & Littlefield. Appiah-Adjei, S. (2017, November 11). Ghana Standards Authority Develops National Building Code. Graphic Online. Retrieved from https://www. graphic.com.gh/news/general-­news/ghana-­standards-­authority-­develops-­ national-­building-­code.html.

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Charry, E. (2012). The Birth of Ghanaian Hiplife: Urban Style, Black Thought, Proverbial Speech. In Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Collins, J. (2016). Highlife Giants: West African Dance Band Pioneers. Abuja, Nigeria: Cassava Republic Press. Cunningham, P. (2016, March 7). Noise: The Law and The Constitution. Retrieved from https://www.rawgist.com/noise-­the-­law-­and-­the­constitution/. Dadzie, K. (2019, April 2). Kwame Dadzie Writes: Who Takes Over MUSIGA as President Obour Exits? Retrieved from https://citinewsroom.com/2019/04/ kwame-­dadzie-­writes-­who-­takes-­over-­musiga-­as-­president-­obour-­exits/. Essandoh, P. K., & Armah, F. (2011). Determination of Ambient Noise Levels in the Main Commercial Area of Cape Coast, Ghana. Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences, 3(6), 637–644. Gillespie, T. (2016). Transactions of the Institute of British Geographies, 41(1), 66–77. https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12105. Gilroy, P. (1993). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Government of Ghana (1994). The Environmental Protection Agency Act. Official Gazette, 1994-12-30, Ghana, 15 p. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov.gh/ epa/sites/default/files/downloads/environmental%20protection%20 agency%20act%201994.pdf. Hancox, D. (2012, January 9). The Rise of Afrobeat. Retrieved from http://www. theguardian.com/music/2012/jan/19/the-­rise-­of-­afrobeats. Huq, M. M. (1989). The Economy of Ghana: The First 25 Years since Independence. London: Palgrave Macmillan Limited. Kamasah, A. (2018, March 26) How to Deal with Noisy Churches and Other Activities that Disturb Your Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.pulse.com.gh/ ece-frontpage/noise-pollution-how-to-deal-with-noisy-churches-and-other-activitiesthat-disturb/tj9v999. Lokko, L. (2017, April 24). Johannesburg and Accra: Inching their Way up the Urban Food Chain. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/johannesburg-­a nd-­a ccra-­i nching-­t heir-­w ay-­u p-­t he-­u rban­food-­chain-­76468. Obour, Others Sued Over “Missing” MUSIGA Cash. (2020, May 26). Retrieved from https://www.modernghana.com/entertainment/63582/obour-­others-­ sued-­over-­missing-­musiga-­cash.html.


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Plageman, N. (2013). Highlife Saturday Night: Popular Music and Social Change in Urban Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Rymajdo, K. (2019, June 21). How Electronic Artists are Reshaping Ghana’s Music Scene. DJ Mag. Retrieved from https://djmag.com/content/ how-­electronic-­artists-­are-­reshaping-­ghanian-­music-­scene. Starling, L. (2015, July 27). 10 Ghanaian Afrobeats Artists You Need To Know. Retrieved from https://www.thefader.com/2015/07/27/ghanaian-­afrobeats­artists-­you-­need-­to-­know. Yirenya-Tawiah, D. (2012). Noise Pollution and Our Health. Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies, The Information Briefs Series, University of Ghana. Retrieved from http://iess.ug.edu.gh/sites/iess.ug.edu. gh/files/Briefs/UG.IESS_.IB_.001%20Noise%20Pollution%20and%20 Our%20Health.pdf.

16 Tehran, Iran: ‘Experimental’ Electronic Scene (2000–2020) Morad Moazami

Introduction It is all too easy to situate Tehran’s burgeoning electronic music scene within the ever-popular academic discourse of “resistance.” As Laudan Nooshin notes, much scholarship on Iran continues to frame music in the country “with questions of ‘resistance,’ ‘protest,’ or ‘liberation,’” invoking binaries such as those between the “underground” and “aboveground” to extend the “discourses of music and subversion” (Nooshin 2017, pp. 185–187). In a 2013 paper investigating an ad hoc electronic music performance in Tehran, I, too, was liable to miscasting the scene as such, having reduced a complex cultural milieu in Iran to an elementary aboveground/underground binary, where subcultural resistance—“the underground”—counted as the only means for an allegedly freedom-­starved constituency to speak back to the regime and its official culture—“the aboveground” (Moazami 2013). In this simplistic portrayal, I had overlooked the fact that the basement home in which I had experienced the performance constituted only one of the M. Moazami (*) University of Oxford, Oxford, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_16



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many Tehran spaces in which electronic music could express itself. Unbeknownst to me, Tehran’s electronic music scene had managed to maintain a presence in both the private and public spheres of the city since the early 2010s. Although the electronic soundscapes in the private basement locale allowed for experiences akin to the “oceanic experiences” of club cultures in the West, “premised upon the use of so-called ‘dance’ or ‘recreational’ drugs such as ecstasy” See above (Malbon 1999, pp. 105–106), the same music was not necessarily prohibited from public spaces, such as galleries, concert halls, or black-­box theatres, which, on account of the Iranian public sphere’s proscriptions on dancing and alcohol and drug consumption, unquestionably elicited listening practices divergent from those in the private space. Supported by historical research, ethnographic observation, and interviews with electronic music composers in Tehran, this chapter argues that Tehran’s electronic scene is not limited to the underground/aboveground resistance binary often accorded to music practices in Iran. Rather, the music is able to fluidly move between Tehran’s private and public spaces. This fluidity is due to (a) the ambivalent nature of the electronic genre in the eyes of the Islamic Republic, (b) the musicians’ cultivated insights concerning the often-imperceptible red lines of the country’s official culture, (c) as well as looser cultural policies in the Islamic Republic since 2013. This chapter will systematically analyse each of the aforementioned vectors that have allowed for Tehran’s electronic scene to maintain both a public and private presence. It will also briefly investigate how these spaces affect the music and invoke differing listening practices. It will then conclude by examining the challenges that lay ahead for the scene in the new decade.

 he City and the Ever-Changing Cultural T Policies of the State Tehran is a large metropolitan area of fifteen million residents; the city has experienced, in the twentieth century alone, two revolutions, an eight-year war, and most significantly, three equally restrictive

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governmental systems. These experiences have, in turn, prompted a complex interrelation between state and society in Tehran, where “values, criteria and measures” constantly move back and forth “from the power of people to the government” (Moeini et al. 2018, p. 8). To better understand Tehran, however, it is important to shed light on the complex and ever-changing nature of cultural policies in Iran as a whole. In Tehran—as with all Iran—any cultural practice that seeks to establish itself in the public sphere must either negotiate with or manoeuvre around contemporaneous government policies. In turn, an incoming government’s reformist or conservative nature, together with the policies that it brings with it, is central to whether or not the official culture is open to such negotiations. By way of a more general example concerning such negotiations, we can point to the early years following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, where the lack of value Iran’s official culture bestowed on non-Islamic cultural activities prompted cultural entrepreneurs to fashion “alternative discourses in a hegemonic milieu” by continuing “their presence in unofficial ways” (Moeini et al. 2018, pp. 10–11). By appropriating unused private spaces like garages, basements, or even vacant and dilapidated family homes as alternative spaces for either retail or exhibition spaces, these entrepreneurs redefined “social boundaries” by filling the cultural void “without seriously coming at loggerheads with the establishment” (Moeini et al. 2018, p. 11). Since the activities contained within some of these spaces were not necessarily illegal, less stringent governments, such as those of Mohammad Khatami’s (1997–2005), permitted some of these previously private cultural spaces to gradually establish themselves as autonomous businesses within the public sphere. The cultivation of cafes and exhibition spaces in Tehran since the late 1990s stands as a testament to the constant negotiations between cultural entrepreneurs and more tolerant governmental systems in Iran (Moeini et al. 2018). Not all cultural activities, however, are hospitable to such negotiations. This is best exemplified through the manners in which cultural policies impeded the public emergence of Tehran’s alternative rock scene in the 1990s and 2000s. Since variations of pop and rock music were aligned with the mainstream music culture of pre-revolution Pahlavi-era Iran, with singers such as Gugush, Vigen, Fereydun Farrokhzad, and Farhad


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Mehrad, appropriating “styles of Western popular music” (Nettl 1972, p. 225) on television and at various venues throughout the country, these genres already carried immense taboos by the time the revolutionary state came to power in 1979. On account of their interrelation with the Pahlavi state and their “associations with dance and bodily movement,” these genres were banned in the wake of the revolution (Nooshin 2005, p. 469). Such was the status quo until the establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in 1987, which could henceforth regulate whether or not an Iranian cultural product was “in line with the Islamic moral of the Islamic Republic” (Zahir 2009, p. 24). Naturally, the institution was also in charge of authorising performance and distribution permits for any artist that strived to present their work to the public sphere. Despite these proscriptions, audio- and video-tape culture as well as the prospect of satellite television inspired the “emergence of a grass-roots popular music” in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. This was a music culture that appropriated a lyrical and rock-oriented sonic aesthetic. It was also a music culture that had nary a hope of “securing the necessary authorisation to place their music in the public domain” (Nooshin 2005, pp. 463–464). Despite the continued loosening of cultural policies well into the 2000s, especially during the presidency of Khatami, public performance of rock music remained taboo. As for distribution, as noted by Nooshin, the Internet was in its infancy at this time and couldn’t be leveraged as an alternative method of distribution for the musicians. Underground concerts or private performances at foreign embassies served as the only avenues for these rock musicians to ply their craft. Devoid of hope for distribution or toleration on the part of the official culture, many rock bands were forced to set their sights westwards. There, so as to distinguish themselves, they were impelled to utilise their “victim capital” as “an exoticising strategy” (Nooshin 2017, p. 185), by emphasising their subversive resistance to the Islamic Republic hegemony by having performed rock music in a country that proscribed it. Though their experiences were accurate, it was the same victim capital that eventually rendered them as a novelty in the Western market, reducing them to performing shows for Iranian expats abroad or subsisting in ways no different from countless other journeyman musicians traversing the countries to which they had emigrated.

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All the while, cultural policies in Iran continued to leaven on account of Iran’s ever-changing government policies, with some rock bands even gaining the permits to not only distribute their music legally but perform publicly as well. Yet, for the first wave of musicians that had already emigrated, hopes of returning home were offset by the risk of punishment upon their return, due to their criticisms of the Iranian state on Western media. Some nonetheless returned, others remained, and a tragic few fell victim to the pressure emigration had wrought (Sales 2015). As I have demonstrated through this short history of Tehran’s alternative rock movement, negotiation does not always suffice with respect to acceptance into the public sphere within Iran. Just as crucial to negotiation between state and society, therefore, are the connotations carried by a particular cultural activity, as well as ever-changing shifts in governmental cultural policy, contingent as they are on the reformist or conservative nature of an incoming administration. Equally as important to the loosening or tightening of Iran’s cultural policies is the country’s international relations vis-à-vis the West. In general, increased socio-economic tensions with the West result in domestic austerity measures that, in turn, impair the cultivation of cultural scenes within the public sphere.

 he Progressive Development of Electronic T Music in Iran Despite its history also being rooted in Pahlavi Iran, electronic music was not accorded with the same proscriptions that constrained the rock music scene in the wake of Iran’s revolution. In fact, electronic music was a staple for the Pahlavi state’s controversial Shiraz Arts Festival, which provided showcases for Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as Iranian electronic pioneers like Alireza Mashayekhi and Dariush Dowlatshahi from 1967 to 1977 (Gluck 2007). While the music was well received by those subscribed to the Iranian high culture at the time, other cultural classes were not as keen. Historian Homa Katouzian recalls the horrors that ensued from a Stockhausen retrospective that took place in 1972, where the composer and his orchestra were


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brought to play “in the old Shiraz bazaar,” and merchants in the bazaar were threatened by local officials “with reprisals if they would not keep their doors open” (Katouzian 2014, p. 266). As such, during the performance, merchants could be seen “holding with one hand the metal blinds of their stalls,” so as to immediately close shop when the performance ended, all while they “pressed their teeth together” in abject terror, unable to fathom what to them was indecipherable noise (Interview with H. Katouzian, 10/2019). Contrary to the rock-pop hybrids that garnered large audiences within every cultural class at the time, electronic music culture—like classical music—remained ensconced within the realm of “serious music,” as music that separated “the body from the head,” meant to be “absorbed and consumed above the neck” (Byrne 2013, pp.  22–23). In consequence, the revolutionary state did not think enough of electronic music to bequeath to it the taboos that it had willed on rock or pop music. The electronic genre remained largely in the margins until the early 2000s. With the rise of the Internet, together with the democratization of music production software, the genre finally managed to escape its high culture pretentions. The Internet allowed Iran’s budding electronic music scene to access “resources like books and courses on electronic music and digital art” (Lindblom 2019), while early social networking resources such as Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo 360, Orkut, and eventually Facebook allowed individual musicians such as Shahin Entezami (Tegh), Behrang Najafi (Bescolour), and Siavash Amini to meet with other likeminded musicians. With social networking, these individuals were also able to gain access to private events throughout Tehran, like “workshops, lectures and live performances for small audiences of maybe just 20–30 people in small galleries or apartments” (Lindblom 2019). Furthermore, new software like Ableton Live—cracked copies of which were easily purchasable at shops in Tehran or piratable online—made composition less dependent on classical training or heavy equipment, giving musicians “the chance to produce… with minimum resources” (Bradley 2016). By being “light, cheap and easy to operate” (Mazierska 2018, p. 558), these instruments also allowed for greater physical versatility for the performers. After all, Iran’s second wave of electronic musicians no longer had to carry bulky hardware equipment such as samplers, synthesizers, and

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mixers from one place to another, as Iran’s first wave of underground rock musicians did. A computer and MIDI controllers would suffice, since performance destinations could usually provide for amplification tools such as speakers. Music distribution networks were no longer limited to official distribution within Iran either. Musicians could now simply upload their music online, “making things much faster and cheaper for musicians to get their music heard, at least by those who knew them or their friends” (Bradley 2016). Indeed, by the early 2010s, this new wave of electronic music had drawn to itself a slew of musicians previously involved with the rock, metal, and the hip-hop subcultures in Iran. Entezami, for example, began his music career making beats for underground hip-hop megastars such as Hichkas, Zakhmi, and Haftkhat (Nazem-Zadeh 2017). In contrast, Amini and Najafi emerged from the alternative rock and metal subsets of music (Zhang 2016). The electronic genre not only allowed for more sonic experimentations but was also more versatile with respect to bridging the gap between the aforementioned genres, allowing musicians to stretch their musical inspirations to what seemed like an unbounded sonic horizon. In terms of composition, these early inspirations are reflected in their electronic oeuvre as well. The soundscapes of Entezami and Najafi’s experimental duo, Temp-Illusion, encompass the balance between Entezami’s rhythmic upbringings in hip-hop, and the sonic dissonance of Najafi’s more metal-based influences. Amini, too, whose inspirations ranged from Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath to Massive Attack, managed to inundate the meditative soundscapes of his electronic works with the authoritative unease of those former rock-based influences, together with the loose sense of calm brought on by his latter trip-­ hop discoveries. The rise and fall of underground rock within and outside the borders of Iran also provided a new sense of self-awareness to the electronic new wave. This new wave of musicians saw first-hand how their rock-infused peers, initially impelled to emigrate westward so as to finally perform on public stages, were fashioned into novelties as a result of “the fetishisation and commodification of the resistance discourse as a promotional tool” (Nooshin 2017, p. 174). Bolstered by this self-awareness, this generation resolved that they rather have their music not be heard than for it to be


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heard as novelties in a solely political Iranian context. Indeed, they are aware that life in the West is not like the idealistic mass-mediated images to which they have been exposed through film and television. Amini implies as much when he states: “I don’t blame anyone for leaving… It’s hard. But I’ve seen the other side as well. It’s hard too” (Faber 2018). The first wave of rock culture, as exemplified by bands such as Hypernova and the Yellow Dogs, was not the only Iranian ‘first wave’ to provide an education to this new collective of electronic musicians. Innovators from Iran’s electronic first wave also served as mentors. Since electronic music was never deemed illicit in the wake of the revolution, it never had to go underground to begin with. Pioneers like Alireza Mashayekhi not only remained in the country but were also able to carry on with their careers, while also teaching music theory at universities. Amini recalls attending one of his lectures, learning an important lesson regarding composing electronic music in Iran. Mashayekhi had told his students “not to worry about trying to sound Iranian,” adding: “You can’t be more Iranian than you already are” (Faber 2018). Mashayekhi’s insightful comment, together with the bitter experience that befell the first-wave Iranian rock culture in the West, also explains part of the reason as to why, during this period, many Iranian emigres chose to return to Iran. Without necessarily having to sound Iranian, myriad artists and musicians would rather help cultivate the culture inside Iran than abroad. As stated by Ali Kianian who earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry at the University of Southern California: “In Iran, I can actually contribute to the culture, while in the United States, I would be a cog in the machine at best” (Interview with A. Kianian, 01/2020). Indeed, the administration of Hassan Rouhani in 2013 and its reformist cultural policies constituted another reason as to why a number of artists and musicians returned to Iran during this period. Ata Ebtekar, for example, who first made a name for himself as an adept electronic virtuoso on Warp Records in 2002 under the name Sote, first resolved to return to Iran in 2005. The austerity policies of the Mahmud Ahmadinejad government (2005–2013) at the time prevented him from kickstarting an electronic music scene in Iran, and thus discouraged him from permanently staying in the country. By 2013, with a new presidential

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government incoming and having discovered talented musicians like Amini, Ebtekar finally returned to Iran, having since been at the forefront of transitioning Iranian electronic music from the private sphere into the public (Warwick 2017). It bears noting that, policy changes in Iran are not written or legislated outright. Rather, as with Ebtekar’s experience in Iran, the changes merely become evident when doors once closed suddenly open to one’s delight or discontent. Since looser cultural policies of the mid-2010s also prompted better relations with Western powers, and the resultant thaw in both national and international tensions facilitated Ebtekar’s ability to establish the label Zabte Sote under the Britain-based Opal Tapes banner. With Zabte Sote, Iranian electronic musicians were offered new international distribution methods beyond just SoundCloud and Bandcamp. The label not only opened new avenues for the music to be heard but also shielded these Iranian musicians from having to resort to using the “resistance” discourse as a way of procuring an international label’s attention. Likewise, Zabte Sote’s online presence, together with that of local web-based radio shows like Deep House Tehran and Beshknow, came to provide those inside the country with a free listening platform as well.

 overnance of the Electronic Music Scene G in (Semi)public Spaces Thanks to technological innovations, cultural policy shifts, as well as the less contentious standing of electronic music in Iran, this second wave of electronic musicians (2010–present) not only managed to stay in the country and distribute their music independently but also helped cultivate a public scene within Tehran. So much so that in 2015, the collective, comprising Entezami, Najafi, Amini, and Ebtekar among others, established the annual SET Experimental Art Festival. Funded by domestic corporations, such as Iranian ticketing company Tiwall, and initially undertaken in upper-Tehran’s Entezami Museum in 2015 before moving on to larger venues in more central and bustling locations such as the Azadi Hall Concert in 2018. It was an electronic festival as far and away


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in spirit as possible from Iran’s forced and elitist introduction to electronic music at the Shiraz Arts Festival four decades before that. Even still, this movement from the private sphere to the public sphere occurred gradually and required much linguistic manoeuvring throughout the decade. Whilst electronic musicians initially had to content themselves with sharing their music online or performing their soundscapes in private gatherings, by 2013, they were able to try their hand at performing in the public sphere as well: in galleries, cafes, and black-box theatres. Since Tehran cafes were frequently at the vanguard of testing the red lines of government tolerance, often risking closures or other reprisals, these initial coffee shop performances were often done without permits. However, as Ebtekar notes, the electronic scene was not contented with just remaining “underground.” These early pioneers of the second wave knew that in order to “survive on a long term,” everything had to be done “by the book” (Rusu 2018). The fact that electronic music was performed “without any words” proved a great benefit for the move outside the private and into the public sphere (Rusu 2018). The ironic fact that electronic music had failed to garner popularity in the pre-revolution era also proved advantageous for garnering official permits. To the official culture’s ears, as Kianian notes, “this music sounds no different than the stock background music Iranian television uses for its morning exercise shows.” While officials might be somewhat familiar with rock music, or at least the fictitious taboos surrounding it, to them, electronic music is just noise. With respect to SET, electronic artist Hessam Ohadi recalls being told by officials in charge of the festival’s performance permit that the music submitted for consideration was not music at all but “just sound effects.” In consequence, they were recommended to market their event as “experimental” instead (Faber 2018). However, before the ‘experimental’ label was the ‘sound art’ banner under which Tehran’s electronic musicians began to make strides in the public sphere. Although sound artist Alan Licht dismisses experimental musicians who cast themselves as sound artists to “play the art card,” it was precisely through these methods that the electronic scene was able to establish itself within the public sphere (Licht and O’Rourke 2007, pp.  210–211). As ‘sound art,’ they could also take part in multimedia

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exhibitions throughout the country, making use of visual projections for their music in such a space as well. Launched in 2011, initially sponsored by Samsung, and taking place at one of Tehran’s well-heeled art galleries, the Tehran Annual Digital Art Exhibition (TADAEX) was among the first venues for such experimentation. Here, rather than presenting the genre as ‘electronic music,’ artists made use of the ‘audio/visual performance’ vernacular instead. This allowed musicians such as Temp-Illusion, Saba Alizadeh, Mohammad H. Zareei to present their works on a more public platform. By 2014, as the genre became more exposed to the public sphere, the vernacular was likewise updated, from ‘audio/visual performance’ to simply ‘performance.’ These exhibition spaces not only allowed for the public presentation of this music but also paved the way for the exclusively private workshops of the past to also be reframed as public events. Each year’s iteration of TADAEX featured a wide array of such workshops. Thanks to the ‘sound art’ categorisation, experimental electronic music was able to comfortably go under the computer programming banner in advertising these workshops. As such, TADAEX was able to skilfully present its workshops on electroacoustics beside seminars on vvvv toolkits or Open Frameworks that are more geared towards interactive visuals. By 2018, with the emergence of another electronic music festival in Tehran, also funded by local corporate sponsors—among them, the Iranian branch of Hype Energy Drinks—one simply dubbed the Tehran Experimental Music Festival (TEM FEST), the electronic genre could publicly profess, at last, to what it had always been: electronic music, pure and simple. In consequence, through its decade-long endeavour to make itself known in the public sphere, the electronic scene managed to manoeuvre around the Iranian official culture’s “regimes of truth” (Foucault 1984, pp. 72–73) by presenting its genre first as ‘sound art,’ then as ‘experimental,’ and finally as electronic music. With each succeeding festival, the scene also traversed diverse myriad taste cultures until it could finally establish itself as something genuinely public. First affecting only those few devotees of electronic music, it then set its sights on attracting Tehran’s visual arts scene with TADAEX. With SET, it finally managed to establish itself as a scene for all tastes and all walks of life. Ebtekar notes how he saw the SET audience grow more


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diverse day by day: “Even the janitor who was taking care of one of the venues where we were playing was moved by it, and the next time he brought five of his friends” (Warwick 2017). Indeed, in a far cry from Iran’s introduction to electronic music in Shiraz, where those uninterested were forced into hearing unknown soundscapes by state officials, the gradual emergence of Iran’s electronic scene from below finally rendered it into a public scene, no longer relegated to the private sphere, and able to attract audiences from all social classes in Tehran.

 he Mutations of the Listening Experience T of Electronic Music in Public and Private Spaces Public spaces in Iran disallow gestural reactions to the music such as dancing. Yet, rather than constrain the music’s potential, this proscription adds to it a new dimension, boldly highlighting just how central space is to musical practices, with each space engendering a different response and a distinct listening practice. To expand on this theme, it is perhaps best to return to Licht’s contentious distinction between “sound art” and “experimental music.” For Licht, sound art is “immersive,” and is thus something fit only for hearing in the exhibition space. In contrast, “music is narrative” and must be heard only in performance venues (DeMers 2010, p. 147). The ambivalent situation of electronic music in Iran, however—as “serious music” for above the neck in the public sphere, as dance music in the private—upends this strict theorization. Space, indeed, has the power to transform sound and, in turn, affects the reception to said sounds, as best illustrated by Denis Smalley’s observation that every distinct situation in which a listener is placed activates a distinct “set of affective responses.” If a venue is spacious, for example, it might “invoke feelings of insignificance faced with vastness, loneliness, peace-­ of-­mind, [or] calm” (Roads 2015, p. 240). And as with the case of Tehran’s public electronic scene, if said venue is an exhibition space, it transmutes the sounds into “serious music” (Mazierska 2018, p. 560). With the body unable to move, the mind is triggered instead, allowing for more inward and psychological reactions to the music.

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It is no surprise, then, that when some of those involved within Tehran’s public electronic scene perform the same music either in public venues beyond Iranian borders or within Iran’s private spaces—both of which allow for dancing—the space allows for the music to emphasize its more rhythmic qualities. Najafi and Entezami experienced this first-hand when, at a 2018 performance in Berlin as part of SET’s collaboration with the city’s CTM Festival, people began dancing to the exact same set they had performed for a seated Tehran audience (Lindblom 2019). By way of this example, one cannot help but wonder whether divergent listening practices evoked by public and private spaces in Tehran incite these musicians—be it consciously or subconsciously—to also fine-tune their music to evoke an apposite emotional response within each space. Kianian tells me that he cannot help but consider where his music might be played or performed. He shared with me and a few others a collection of new experimental works at his home-studio, his upbeat compositions, enmeshing trap music with subtle soundscapes sampled from Iran’s own past, ranging from the early twentieth-century mezzo-­soprano stylings of Qamar-ol-Moluk Vaziri to snippets of a documentary made by Naser Taqvā’i to the war-time dirges of Gholam-Ali Koveytipoor (all subtle, because Kianian correspondingly does not want to be thought as “selling” his Iranian-ness to any audience as a novelty) (Interview with A. Kianian, 01/2020). Those songs, effortlessly danceable, managed to incite in this listener, instead, an inward and reflective emotional response on account of both the compositions’ layered complexity and the nature of the space in which it was performed. After all, this was a space more similar to Tehran’s public spaces, which incited ‘serious’ listening practices as opposed to dancing. Yet, a month later, one such song debuted in a private dancing space on the outskirts of Tehran, that same composition that had demanded alertness in that studio space, promptly shed its ‘serious listening’ deportment and superseded it with one that inspired raucous, jovial, gestural reactions. In the private dancing space, those intricate layers with their interspersing Persian-language delicacies had all but disappeared in favour of its upbeat tempo and the infectious refrain.


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Conclusion As we have seen in this chapter, Tehran’s electronic scene made strides in the public sphere by way of manoeuvring around or negotiating with the Islamic Republic’s official culture. These negotiations were nonetheless contingent on the reformist nature of the Rouhani government under which it initially sought public exposure, as well as the less taboo standing of electronic music in the eyes of Iran’s official culture. As a result, the scene not only managed to make its mark on the public space but also maintained its presence in the private sphere, inciting dissimilar listening practices in each. Yet, despite these strides, the foremost challenge to the cultivation of Tehran’s electronic scene, however, appears to have been initiated not from the inside as a result of the state’s restrictive policies but from the outside—namely, by the way of the economic sanctions that henceforth paralysed Iranian industry. Despite the public strides made by Iran’s electronic second wave, the increased sanctions that were struck on Iran since 2018 sparked an economic anxiety that incapacitated the funding capacity of the aforementioned sponsors for these music festivals. In consequence, TADAEX cancelled its 2019 festival due to “the country’s dire economic conditions and serious obstacles that arts and cultural practitioners have to face” (TADAEX). Similarly, SET 2019 did not take place in Tehran, but in Berlin with thanks to its continued collaboration with CTM. Without doubt due to similar economic circumstances, TEM FEST never announced a 2019 iteration of its festival either. Beyond limiting the Tehran electronic scene’s public presence, the sanctions also rendered it to become more difficult for musicians to make a living off their compositions. As they were already barred from opening international bank accounts previous to the sanctions, any income received through their foreign releases through either Zabte Sote or Bandcamp were only obtained whenever acquaintances that had opened bank accounts for them abroad returned to Iran (Interview with B. Najafi, 02/2020). Yet, touring abroad and performing inside the country remained a possibility for these musicians. As noted by Entezami in February 2020, however, the sanctions not only made it harder for

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electronic musicians to get the necessary visas to perform at European festivals but also triggered domestic austerity policies that likewise made it “harder and harder to have a live show in Iran.” Even still, Entezami pronounces perseverance, claiming that despite these “problems along with what is happening to our country and our life every day, we’re still making music and trying to get better and better every day” (Entezami 2020). These turns of events reveal that an aboveground/underground resistance discourse can indeed be used to describe Tehran’s electronic scene. Yet, to be framed properly, the resistance implied by this discourse should not be directed at a hegemonic state that the electronic scene has managed to nonetheless negotiate with throughout its short history. Rather, it should be directed at much greater and less comprising hegemonic forces: those far beyond its borders, and far beyond its reach.

References Bradley, F. (2016, October). Global Ear: Tehran. The Wire. Byrne, D. (2013). How Music Works (Main ed.). Canongate Books. DeMers, J. (2010). Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music. Oxford University Press. Entezami, S. (2020, February 11). Twitter. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/ capgrasman/status/1136845762568962049. Faber, T. (2018, December 6). Hardcore Sounds from Tehran. Resident Advisor. Retrieved from https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/3370. Foucault, M. (1984). Truth and Power. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault Reader (pp. 51–75). Pantheon. Gluck, R. (2007). The Shiraz Arts Festival: Western Avant-Garde Arts in 1970s Iran. Leonardo, 40(1), 20–28. https://doi.org/10.1162/leon.2007.40.1.20. Katouzian, H. (2014). The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926–1979 (1st ed., 1981 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. Licht, A., & O’Rourke, J. (2007). Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories (Har/Com ed.). Rizzoli. Lindblom, J. (2019, May 2). Interview: Temp-Illusion. Modernism Unbound. Retrieved from https://modernismunbound.com/articles/interview-­temp­illusion/.


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Malbon, B. (1999). Clubbing: Dancing, Ecstasy, Vitality: Clubbing Cultures and Experience (1st ed.). Routledge. Mazierska, E. (2018). Improvisation in Electronic Music—The Case of Vienna Electronica. Open Cultural Studies, 2(1), 553–561. https://doi.org/10.1515/ culture-­2018-­0050. Moazami, M. (2013). Below Ground, They’re Dancing: How Electronic Music Challenges Iran’s Culture Industry [Preprint]. SocArXiv. https://doi. org/10.31235/osf.io/t4wfs. Moeini, S. H. I., Arefian, M., Kashani, B., & Abbasi, G. (2018). Urban Culture in Tehran: Urban Processes in Unofficial Cultural Spaces. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-­3-­319-­65500-­0. Nazem-Zadeh, A.  H. (2017, April 29). Shahin Entezami: Khala’e Tashakoli Mostaqel dar Musiqi-ye Elektronik-e Hes Mishavad. Resan-e Now. Retrieved from https://navatv.com/interview/shahin-­entezami-­interview. Nettl, B. (1972). Persian Popular Music in 1969. Ethnomusicology, 16(2), 218–239. JSTOR. https://doi.org/10.2307/849722. Nooshin, L. (2005). Underground, Overground: Rock Music and Youth Discourses in Iran. Iranian Studies, 38(3), 463–494. Nooshin, L. (2017). Whose Liberation? Iranian Popular Music and the Fetishization of Resistance. Popular Communication, 15(3), 163–191. https:// doi.org/10.1080/15405702.2017.1328601. Roads, C. (2015). Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic. Oxford University Press. Rusu, D. (2018, December 26). The Attic: Dinner with Sote. The Attic. Retrieved from http://the-­attic.net/features/2260/dinner-­with-­sote.html. Sales, N.  J. (2015, June 8). Yellow Dog Days: How Four Iranian Musicians Lived—and Died—in Brooklyn. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from https://www. vanityfair.com/culture/2014/04/yellow-­d ogs-­i ranian-­m usic-­s cene­brooklyn-­murder. TADAEX | Tehran Annual Digital Art Exhibition. (n.d.). Retrieved 22 February 2020, from http://www.tadaex.com/. TEM Festival. (n.d.). TEM Festival. Retrieved 22 February 2020, from http:// temfestival.com/. Warwick, O. (2017, September 3). Sote is Helping Iran’s Experimental Electronic Music Scene become a Powerful Cultural Force. FACT Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.factmag.com/2017/09/03/sote-­iran-­ata­ebtekar-­interview/.

16  Tehran, Iran: ‘Experimental’ Electronic Scene (2000–2020) 


Zahir, S. (2009). The Music of the Children of Revolution: The State of Music and Emergence of the Underground Music in the Islamic Republic of Iran with an Analysis of its Lyrical Content. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest. Retrieved from h t t p s : / / s e a rc h . p ro q u e s t . c o m / d o c v i e w / 6 0 3 8 1 0 2 2 / 2 A B C 9 C 5 4 9 DA44A5BPQ/1. Zhang, O. (2016, September 12). Underground Tehran: Techno & Experimental Electronic Music in Iran. The Quietus. Retrieved from https://thequietus. com/articles/20902-­t echno-­e lectronic-­m usic-­t ehran-­i ran-­a sh-­k oosha­sote-­siavash-­amini.

17 Conclusion Damien Charrieras, Sébastien Darchen, and John Willsteed

Electronic music can spark a variety of imaginaries, like the off-grid 1990s’ illegal rave parties organised in secret locations, or large-scale festivals taking place on remote islands (Ibiza and Goa being the most iconic) as an escape from the constricting spaces of everyday life. Yet, whether they are in abandoned industrial districts on the edge of the city, or in remote modern heterotopia, the landscapes of electronic music scenes grew more complex and diverse in a diversity of urban contexts. As this volume shows, electronic music scenes are connected to a diverse set

D. Charrieras (*) City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong e-mail: [email protected] S. Darchen University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] J. Willsteed Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0_17



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of public and cultural policies, nightlife regulations, planning interventions and governing communities. This volume investigates mainstream and underground Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes and cultures in 18 cities across Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North America and Australia. It spans different subgenres of electronic dance music: Techno, House, Drum and Bass, Intelligent Dance Music (IDM), Trip-hop, Rominimal (Minimal Tech House from Bucharest), Skwee (later absorbed into Dubstep), Trap, Minimal Techno and describes the hybridisation between electronic music and Canto Pop in Hong Kong or Afro Beats in Ghana, as well as highlighting connections with past musical genres or movements (such as punk, new wave and highlife). It studies the influence of the geographical context and cultural histories on the development of mainstream and underground EDM scenes with an emphasis on the post-2000 context. The 15 case-study chapters highlight the different cultural/creative policies, planning interventions and regulations associated with the management of nightlife at stake in the development of these scenes. We synthesise in this final chapter the main points regarding the current challenges to the multiple forms of governance of EDM scenes in contemporary cities.

Electronic Music Underground Electronic Music Scenes In most of these case studies, underground and mainstream scenes coexist in the city.1 The relationships between mainstream club culture and underground electronic music communities are complex. For example, Stéphane Sadoux states clearly that in London “the prevalence of mainstream and corporate venues threatens the development and survival of experimental or niche sub-genres such as Acid Techno”. The studies may also encourage a reaction from underground music communities, giving them a new momentum fuelled by an intention to resist the mainstream. Anita Jóri describes Technokunst, a series in Budapest, where event

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organisers and DJs would react to commercialisation by setting up events focusing on the art of techno—quality rather than quantity. In Helsinki, Giacomo Bottà explains that, under the initiatives of new DJs dedicated to electronic music, events often dedicated to one specific genre such as Drum and Bass are taking place in informal spaces located outside the city centre. These spaces are operating at the margins of the law, without licences or time limitations. In the case of the LA Beat Scene in Los Angeles, Mike D’Errico explains that the scene is an answer to the musical homogenisation of electronic music due to the global EDM boom. In reaction, artists from the Beat Scene developed a sound known as ‘seasick’ or ‘wonky’ as an aesthetic gesture to push their rhythms off the predictable musical grid. Spatially, the scene is also located off the geographic grid of Los Angeles, with emblematic clubs of the Beat Scene located on the fringes of the city and county. In London, Stéphane Sadoux describes the production qualities of Acid Techno, made in home studios with low budget equipment, as the “sound of a community”. Although Acid Techno DJs played in licensed venues most of the time, they also operated in the squat party scene where other subgenres such as Ambient or Jungle would be played on different sound systems. Sometimes, the commodification of electronic music scenes entails a dilution of communities and arguably an impoverishment of their specific aesthetics as described by Jóri in Budapest. In this process, regeneration programmes and gentrification of the city centre, led by the local government and accelerated by international investors, are further threatening the survival of small underground clubs and places where the community can define, cultivate and nurture its cultural and aesthetic worth. Those types of dynamics have already been highlighted in previous works (Hae 2012; Ross 2017). Conversely, the development of mainstream festivals, like the Romanian Untold in Cluj-Napoca, can create conditions for disparate underground communities to both connect and be vitalised by the commercial interest. The quest for space (especially, free spaces on the fringes of central urban areas) characterises the diverse electronic music scenes presented in this volume. François Mouillot explains that in Montreal two different types of scenes have crossovers: one IDM scene located in vacant warehouses in the Mile End, experimental and non-commercial, and one


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associated with the MUTEK festival—at first a boutique event which later underwent a relative commercialisation and commodification through its integration in the Quartier des Spectacles project. In the chapter on Toronto, Sara Ross describes a subculture of DJs, event promoters, producers and fans connected to the Drum and Bass genre in Toronto resulting in a music community quite distinct from the mainstream EDM local scene. This community has specific cultural and aesthetic values associated with spaces in the city, which are precarious, and hindered by both night-time regulations and redevelopment initiatives. Alex Liu and Damien Charrieras present two distinctive niche electronic dance cultures in Hong Kong and Shenzhen focusing on two clubs and processes of relocalisation across different kinds of border zones. These cultures are not only shaped by the DJs and collectives promoting specific genres (e.g. the music label/promotion platform Unchained Asia promoting Drum and Bass music in Southern China) but also informed by the diverse audiences in Hong Kong and Shenzhen attending the events. In the context of Accra in Ghana, Leila Adu-Gilmore explains that “local styles take precedence” and electronic music that hybridises with traditional Ghanaian musical genres is still more popular than imported styles such as underground techno/house. In a similar vein, Morad Moazami explains that the dichotomy of mainstream/underground is not an appropriate conceptual framework to analyse the Electronic Dance Music Culture in the context of Tehran.

 ross-pollination Between Electronic Music Scenes/ C Genres and Other Music Scenes/Genres in the City This edited volume shows that there is often cross-pollination between non-electronic scenes and electronic ones in the urban context. It examines not only practices in promoting live events but also the music itself and its diverse aesthetics—especially from the perspective of the musical genres. This is supported by the research on the intersection of music genres contributed by Alejandro Madrid (2008) and Eva Mazierska (2019). Madrid contends that the birth of electronic music in Tijuana is

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linked to other music scenes in the city: “the tijuanenses’ interest in electronic music appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the intersection of this local rock scene and a growing involvement with new pop music trends” (Madrid 2008, p. 29). Mazierska (2019, p. 52) has convincingly shown that in Vienna, the electronic scene benefited from the existence of the Punk scene, embedded in an urban setting, as well as from the geographic proximity between Vienna and Berlin. Vienna was a site for experimentation characterised by “porous boundaries between genres in the city” (Mazierska 2019, p.  53). This was echoed by Rudi Esch and Erik Stein, who showed that some of the stakeholders of the Düsseldorf electronic scene were also involved in the Punk scene. In fact, they describe Düsseldorf as an “art scene” signifying extensive crossovers between the punk, post-punk and electronic genres. Browning, Willsteed and Bennett confirm that electronic music, like other forms of fringe and alternative subcultures in Australia, are driven by DIY aesthetics and processes. Stéphane Sadoux observed that the sound of Acid Techno in UK was highly influenced by the sound of Punk rock and its distorted guitars.2 Cross-pollination in the sound happens as well in the case of Accra in Ghana as electronic music is rooted in traditional genres. Leila Adu-­ Gilmore shows that Ghanaian dance music genres such as highlife music—which dates back to the 1920s and uses melodies from traditional Akan music played with Western instruments—organically morphed into electronic genres. In the Iranian context, Moazami explains that electronic music was viewed positively by the government as it was considered a “serious music” as opposed to pop or rock music. However, electronic artist Entezami started his career working with hip-hop stars such as Hichkas or Zakhmi. Artists like Amini and Najafi were, on the contrary, more connected to alternative rock and metal before switching to electronic music. Entezami and Najafi in their duo Temp-illusion are developing experimental soundscapes informed by their past experiences in rock music and trip-hop. Sometimes, cross-pollination can be the result of top-down processes: Ruxandra Trandafoiu explains that, in an attempt to position Cluj-­ Napoca on the map of international touristic circuit, cultural events such


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as Untold and Electric Castle were designed with a blend of genres (Indie rock, rock and EDM) to have broad appeal. Cross-pollination, though, is not ubiquitous, and this volume also highlights that subgenres such as Drum and Bass (Toronto, Łódź and Budapest, Shenzhen), Acid Techno in London or the Beat Scene sound in Los Angeles are connected to specific communities of DJs, event organisers, audiences and spaces in the city. EDMCs connected to niche genres (such as Acid Techno in London) can have their own governance and set of values that, in most cases, do not really interact with the mainstream or other non-electronic music genres.

 olicies and the Governance of Electronic P Music Scenes  takeholders in the Informal Development S of Electronic Music Scenes In the absence of specific cultural policies supporting them, EDM cultures often develop organically in the city. Many chapters have illustrated the actions of communities themselves in promoting specific electronic genres in the city and the seminal role of pioneers in launching electronic scenes in a specific urban setting. They avoid regulations by looking for spaces on urban fringes as illustrated by the case studies of the LA Beat Scene, or the Drum and Bass scenes in Helsinki and Budapest. Also, as we have shown, commercialisation/commodification does not mean that EDMCs associated to a subgenre disappear. In fact, commodification can sometimes trigger a reaction from communities associated to a subgenre as highlighted in the cases of Toronto, Helsinki or Budapest. In the case of Budapest, Anita Jóri mentions the New Music studio project in the 1960s gathering musicians interested in experimental electronic compositions, although it was only in the second half of the 1980s that EDM reached Hungary, when two DJs from the Amsterdam club Roxy played at the birthday party of fashion designer Tamás Király. Having pioneers is important but the emergence of a scene requires live

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events and a community of devoted people to organise these events. In this process, there is often an overlap between the roles of DJs, promoters and event organisers. Anita Jóri explains that from 2005, as the first wave of techno events started to decline in Budapest and commercialisation of bigger events became prominent, three DJs combined forces to organise events focusing specifically on minimal music as well as finding spaces to host those underground events. In the case of Montreal, François Mouillot explains how Arbutus Records was launched by a group of passionate individuals navigating the zoning laws at the borders of the city and creating a grassroots community with shared values, DIY ethics and experimental aesthetics. The context of Montreal, more so than similarly sized Canadian cities, facilitated the development of such communities, with four low-fee universities, cheap rents, and an abundance of cultural offerings such as a diversity of museums and festivals reflecting the city’s bilingual culture. In the same manner, Sheffield had a number of individuals and collectives fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and development who took advantage of the lax regulations of temporary spaces (e.g. Liam O’Shea for the Drum and Bass genre; Mick Baxendale, and later Chris Bailey, for the Bassline genre). If we observed a quasi-absence of EDMC-oriented cultural policies (see next section), we find in this volume instances of circulation of common practices to organise electronic music communities. Anita Jóri observes that Germany (especially Berlin) was influential on the Budapest scene, with event organisers travelling between the cities and organising Budapest versions of Berlin events (e.g. ‘Mayday comes to Budapest’). There is an anomaly in the case of Australia, which is more characterised by a history of open-air dance festivals. Browning, Willsteed and Bennett highlight the influence of criminal drug networks in the funding of major events such as Earth Core festival, created in 1992, but this point has not been mentioned in other chapters.


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 he Multiplicity of Public/Cultural Policies Affecting T Directly or Indirectly EDMCs Each city has its own method of supporting electronic music scenes, and its own interpretation and application of cultural policies. For instance, Montreal has a strong tradition in supporting local culture, with support for music and media arts being well integrated into existing cultural policies. François Mouillot highlights that electronic music festivals such as MUTEK struggled at first to find funding opportunities, as electronic music is not a genre easily acknowledged by funding institutions. What he labels as “more commercially oriented forms of electronic music” are strategically connected to new media arts practices, which have been heavily subsidised in Montreal in the first decade of the 2000s. Large-scale platforms dedicated to electronic dance music, like Piknic Électronik and Igloofest, are events funded by the City of Montreal reflecting this integration of mainstream electronic events to the city’s cultural policy. In the context of post-Soviet Poland, cultural policies towards cultural industries have little in common with their counterparts from Toronto or Montreal. Since the late 1980s, Łódź has suffered from a continuous, debilitating economic, social and cultural crisis. In response to this, the city began to promote itself as the capital of creative industries in Poland. The relative isolation of Poland during the communist era explains that local governments are relatively new to creative policies. Mazierska and Galuszka contend that the concepts of ‘creative class’, ‘creative industries’ and ‘night-time economy’ are now being put forward by local governments, with local politicians picking up ideas that suit the local cultural agenda rather than trying to emulate the creative city policies enabled by other countries. In Łódź, electronic music is largely ignored, but the film industry was promoted as being part of the cultural heritage and has been internationally significant since the 1970s. Stéphane Sadoux mentions that Brixton’s Club 414 in south London was created in 1985 with the help of public subsidies targeted at black entrepreneurs, rather than specifically supporting electronic music. After being created as a reggae club, however, it eventually became one of the

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main venues for Acid Techno in the UK, regularly programming DJs from the squat party scene. Despite the efforts of the London mayor Sadiq Kahn to grow nightlife and the night economy, and his creation of a Culture at Risk Office tasked with protecting venues at risk of being lost, the club closed in 2018. Kahn, with his vision of a 24-Hour City, also created the Night Time Commission to consult with local authorities and businesses to strategise the growth of the night-time economy. But legal limitations continue to hamper the effectiveness of these initiatives. For instance, local authorities cannot control the rents, as it has been done for many years in Berlin. In an echo of the London context, Sara Ross notes that public action met the increased number of club closures in Toronto. In terms of infrastructure, only one club, The Guvernment, had the capacity—typically around 3000—to stage electronic music events. In the case of Toronto, although live music venues at large were targeted as part of place rebranding and economic development strategies, this did not include the preservation of existing undergound/electronic venues. In fact, these policies targeted more traditional forms of live music, sidelining electronic music completely. Toronto is not the only example of public policy trends which support entertainment industries and nightlife economies, but end up stifling the development of local electronic music scenes. In the case of Budapest, Anita Jóri describes what happens when historically significant electronic music venues populated by local underground communities, such as the famous ‘ruin bars’, are legitimised and included as part of a general tourism strategy positioning Budapest as a low-cost tourist destination. These idiosyncratic venues become overwhelmed by crowds of tourists and the special identity and cultural capital of such places becomes diluted. From Helsinki, Giacomo Bottà describes how bohemian fringe spaces such as the neighbourhood of Punavuori—now branded as a design district— become gentrified and lose their ability to function as spaces for interesting electronic music events and hotspots for music innovation. There seems to be little evidence of circulation of the same policy models for electronic music across different countries/regions. This may be due to the scarcity of cultural policies targeting specifically electronic music, or their limited effectiveness when they exist. In that sense, the


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concept of ‘Music policy’ as a policy model described in Ballico and Watson (2020) does not really apply to the EDM scenes studied in the volume apart from the case studies of Poland and Romania, where there has been commodification pushed through public policies as part of a branding and economic development agenda. Even when there is recognition of the positive role that electronic music plays in urban development, the lack of dedicated recovery policies to address, for instance, unstable working conditions (Cf. Chapter on Helsinki), shows that electronic music and the needs of its artists are still poorly integrated into public policies. In response to the context of Covid-19 in the case of Helsinki, it appears that electronic artists might qualify to benefit as explained by Giacomo Bottà. Maybe the pandemic will encourage the circulation of efficient public policy supporting electronic music communities. In his interview with John Willsteed (Chap. 4) Mark Reeder ventures that we might be at the end of an era and celebratory EDM made for stadiums will be replaced by darker, down-tempo electronic music to be listened or danced to at home. Without any doubt the current pandemic will have an impact on electronic scenes, as well as the broader music industry. The intertwining of raves with recreative drugs, or the free parties taking place in venues with a lack of security can trigger harassment for club owners and event organisers.3 The death by overdose of Allan Ho in a parking garage party in 2000 led to the implementation of the Raves Act in Toronto, resulting in the closure of numerous venues dedicated to rave parties. As noted by Sara Ross, the Toronto city administration used a gamut of control mechanisms (zoning bylaws, noise restrictions, dance floor moratoriums, entertainment venue permits and liquor licenses) to put an end to underground electronic music venues. Free parties in derelict warehouse were abandoned and ravers were forced to retreat to commercial clubs. In 2014, after years of administrative harassment and pushback from the scene, the Toronto City Council finally rejected a proposal that was aimed at banning rave parties, concluding that it did not make sense to target a specific subculture. The case of Toronto shows that some administrations have specifically targeted electronic music venues over several decades, standing in stark contrast to the paucity of policies that specifically support electronic music scenes.

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 he Different Forms of Commodification of Electronic T Music in the Context of Targeted Urban Policies The most obvious examples of commodification of electronic music scene in this volume are the cases of Łódź, Helsinki, Cluj-Napoca and, to a certain extent, Budapest. Giacomo Bottà explains that commodification has been associated with liberalisation strategies, which aim to position Helsinki closer to central European standards in terms of culture (with Berlin and Amsterdam in mind). Venues associated with electronic music have been pushed from the city centre and concentrated further in the areas of Kallio and Vallila, which then became new clusters for nightlife in Helsinki. This was the outcome of both top-down strategies promoted by politicians and public administrators (some of whom came from DIY and underground subcultures) and bottom-up initiatives led by citizens and entrepreneurs from the private sector. It is a rare example of top-­ down public policies resulting in grassroots-friendly outcomes. It is also interesting to note that unlicensed spaces and underground clubs have emerged in reaction to the development of commercial clubs, with little economic exchange taking place and the priority given to musical exploration/experimentation and creative freedom. These spaces and clubs are moving to the east and north of Helsinki where affordable spaces are still available. Anita Jóri describes the “commercialisation” of the electronic scene in Budapest from the 2000s. Around this time, mainstream clubs on Hajogyara Island would play a mix of electronic genres. Larger events, like the travelling German festival Mayday which attracted 10,000 participants in 2002, would be organised by teams of promoters and are profit driven compared to smaller underground events such as Lärm, organised by small DJ teams to bring back quality Techno to Hungary. Another example of resistance to mainstreaming and commercialisation is the organisation OMOH, supporting the queer techno scene in Budapest. Interestingly, Budapest was more influenced by Berlin— Mayday is a good example—than the two other case studies in Eastern Europe: Łódź (Poland) and Cluj-Napoca (Romania). The stricter


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communist regimes in the two later cases seem the main reason for the lack of connection with the Berlin’s scene. In the case of Cluj-Napoca, Ruxandra Trandafoiu explains that even though electronic music is at the heart of the two festivals, Untold and Electric Castle, they were sold to the public as larger packages of diverse music genres and spatial experiences. However, she explains that profits from those two festivals have supported the development of EDM in smaller venues. In addition, the local administration was willing to tap into EU funding opportunities as a vehicle for rebranding the city and promoting it on cultural tourism sites. As the local administration was isolated from the central Romanian government, they developed their own way of promoting EDM. It is important to note that the arrival of electronic music via these festivals also allowed the nascent underground music scene to make the connection between the 1970s old guards of experimenters and the emerging new talents of today. In Montreal, François Mouillot explains that three types of scenes co-­ exist. The first is quite an organic/grassroots scene devoted to IDM and spatially concentrated in Mile End. Another is the outcome of Montreal’s Digital Culture City policy that led to the MUTEK festival: a festival dedicated to both experimental and playful/visionary electronic music and audio-­visual art culture. Although MUTEK was a grassroots initiative, it also developed partnerships with the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’—a culture-led regeneration project—which accounts for half of Montreal’s yearly arts attendances. There are also large commercial festivals, which started in the late 1990s and in the first decade of the 2000s. Piknic Électronik, for instance, was established in 2003, and its weekly programme through summer attracts roughly 130,000 people. It also has a winter version—Igloofest—which started in 2007 and drew 70,000 people in 2019. Some scenes, given their marginal geographic locations and much smaller markets, have not experienced significant commodification compared to the influential European and North American electronic hubs. This is certainly the case with the electronic scene in Accra (Ghana), and to a certain extent, it is also true for Teheran’s scene. In Ghana, Leila Adu-­ Gilmore explains that European and American styles of house and techno

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are sometimes played in clubs, but this remains minor compared to Ghanaian styles, even if influences from overseas are notable—Ghanaian musicians do frequently travel to cities like London, Atlanta and New  York, and this impacts their music-making practice. Leila Adu-­ Gilmore explains that electronic music in Ghana has strong connections with traditional Ghanaian music and its interlocking with traditional dance. She warns about the potential deleterious effects of imitating the cultural policies from the Global North, suggesting that such policies would be ill-fitted to the local context. According to Leila Adu-Gilmore, it could harm an organic scene that is developing in a similar fashion to EDM in Chicago and Detroit, where venue owners, Radio DJs, producers and label owners grew the scene gradually over many years with little interference from the mainstream music industry.

 ublic Strategies, Real Estate Pressures P and Communities’ Tactics: The Spatial Dynamics of Electronic Music Scenes As shown in the numerous cases presented in this volume, electronic music scenes have historically flourished in derelict industrial warehouses on the fringe of city centres. City-led development and revitalisation of these industrial areas usually ended in the destruction of buildings whose arrangements and architecture, in some cases, were perfect for rave parties and are often difficult to find in another location.4 Once the area becomes residential and gentrified, it is common for administrative regulations to then outlaw the former occupants of these industrial spaces (artistic collective, labels owners, event organisers, club owners). This results in a calculated exodus of free parties and club venues from the zone.5 Stéphane Sadoux reminds us that despite the will of some cities to protect the nightlife economy and to recognise the contribution of electronic music to it, the case of Club 414 over the past 25 years in London illustrates that real estate pressure cannot be countered by public policies:


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“The first victims of urban regeneration are venues which are natural homes for underground artists and ravers” (Sadoux). As Stéphane Sadoux explains, the London Acid Techno scene took advantage of a 1990s’ law advantageous for squatters and organised free parties after occupying a number of vacant buildings in London. This developed organically, partly in opposition to the commercial club scene. The musical aesthetics of the Acid Techno community were out of place in the existing structures of nightlife or music production, so they decided to create their own spaces, events and labels. Later, the redevelopment and ‘regeneration’ of what used to be vibrant electronic music spaces created gentrification and the situation where rents became out of reach for the Acid Techno community members. Naturally, in the face of this redevelopment, any concern for cultural heritage was sidelined and populations who were part of the cultural history of the London acid house scene had to relocate elsewhere. Sometimes, public policies apply regulation loosely or have specific regulations to allow for the existence and growth of EDM scenes. For instance, as the area of Kallio in Helsinki became gentrified, the underground electronic scene moved to the margins of the city to escape the tacit laissez-faire attitude of the local authorities, while successfully occupying spaces with less regulations. Paul Hollins, in discussing the scene in Sheffield, highlights the role of a national policy (TENs) that helped the emergence of temporary clubs. These Temporary Event Notices allowed temporary event organisers to sell alcohol for seven days in unlicensed venues hosting less than 500 people. This, combined with the large availability of abandoned factory buildings, made for fertile ground in the development of EDMC in Sheffield. At the local level, Paul Hollins concluded that small-scale support for art initiatives was more likely to be successful. More often, public policies and regulations tend to amplify the negative effects of real estate projects. In Montreal, idiosyncratic regulations around the issuing of alcohol permits in what has been in the past a separated municipality prevented creative uses of abandoned warehouses in Outremont. In Toronto, a property tax law has been applied to the “best use” of urban spaces with no reference to their current use, accelerating gentrification and threatening the underground electronic music clubs.

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Los Angeles has been subject to similar development: rapid densification of urban spaces brings redevelopment projects which results in diverse forms of gentrification. This can lead to a relocalisation of existing electronic music spaces to the less densified fringes of the city or a return to illegal free parties. In an intriguing musical analogy of this urban churn, Mike D’Ericco explains that the aesthetic of side-chain compression characteristic of the Beat Scene can be heard as a critique of space compression (less free space and higher density in the built areas).6 In some rare instances, the relationship between real estate stakeholders and electronic music communities can be mutually beneficial. The urban development of Helsinki can benefit from electronic music and its capacity to gentrify vacant and transient areas like Kallio, formerly known for diverse criminal activity. The private sector allows the fringe areas to develop without control or manipulation. This cooperation between private and public sector may owe something to the social democratic political context of the city. The ways in which some physical spaces become nodal points for electronic music communities in a city are varied. In Düsseldorf, the relationship between the contemporary arts and the electronic music scenes is the product of an older history of convergence: prominent contemporary artists such as Beuys frequented underground clubs where Germany’s electronic music culture was being born while much later, in 2004, a collective was formed in the Salon des Amateurs at Düsseldorf ’s Kunstakademie. This salon seamlessly blends experimental electronic music performances and installations with DJ residencies. In Sheffield, Liam O’Shea developed a collective space, Hope Works, for music, art and creative industries, which became pivotal in the development of a Drum ‘n’ Bass community. In Montreal, Lab Synthèse was created in a warehouse by a group dedicated to experimental electronic music, which thrived for a few years before closing due to zoning laws. At the same time, the conjunction between contemporary art and electronic music in Montreal is supported by a set of specific cultural policies incarnated in a spatial convergence in the ‘Quartier des Spectacles’, which includes MUTEK festival, Monument National, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, the SAT (Society for Technological Arts).


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In London, the Acid Techno raves in the 1990s could be characterised by musical eclecticism, DIY ethics, and the illegal occupation of spaces for events and housing. Numerous warehouses sited in Stratford began to close down in the 1990s, leaving large, usable, urban spaces ripe for exploitation by squatters, a shift in usage that benefited from the benevolence of the authorities at that time. Interestingly, some clubs tried to capitalise on the rave trend but they could not compete with the squat parties, which were free and favoured by the prominent DJs of that scene. Stéphane Sadoux endorses the views of Allington et al. (2015) in claiming that the strong link between electronic music producers, consumers and places is a condition for the producers to earn a living. Illegal raves seem to be making a comeback in London, in reaction to the high price of concert tickets or festivals, and also as an answer to the closure of licensed underground venues, and more recently as a response to the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the closing of its physical space in 2019, Club 414 in London now consists of events organised in changing locations. In Sheffield, Paul Hollins explains the clandestine electronic dance club Kabal organised events in various locations such as “warehouses, restaurants, railway arches, deconsecrated churches, studio complexes, empty spaces and even a former funeral parlour”. Here, the club does not refer anymore to a physical places but to a configuration of music selection (electronic music, techno, house, and old drum and bass sounds) combined with a specific kind of audience. The history of Sheffield as an industrial innovator is echoed in its role as an electronic music birthplace. The dance club Jive Turkey, where the sound of Electro music was first heard, was located at the top floor of a restaurant, whereas Bassline was born in Niche nightclub, a transformed warehouse on Sidney Street. In Toronto, Sara Ross notes that although some events are ephemeral, underground communities managed to stay in spaces for many years before their displacement. Several clubs, like the Twilight Zone and The Guvernment, were categorised as unlicensed, after-hours clubs and remained under the radar to some extent. * * *

17 Conclusion 


What we term the ‘electronic city’—formed by practices of electronic music communities, the urban built context, the public policies, the governance of the night life economy, and the spaces associated with the electronic music underground—is a fragile, always evolving, entity. In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, the electronic city and its associated live events seem to survive at/from home—yet some illegal rave parties are popping here and there as a defiant behaviour towards the social distancing measures. The scene has been repurposed to exist online—just another example of the electronic city in its constant state of re-invention. This volume highlights the impacts of current re(development) initiatives on electronic music scenes, cycles of unemployment and economic crisis, as well as the repositioning of night economies in public policies. The ‘electronic city’ exists in both the urban fabric and as an integrated part of the urban economy; the ‘electronic city’ is central to urban and cultural policies; the ‘electronic city’ is therefore an urban research object deserving more scrutiny.

Notes 1. Chapter 6 on Toronto, Chap. 7 on Montreal, Chap. 10 on Budapest, Chap. 11 on Helsinki. 2. In the same vein, Will Straw (1991) observed that, in the North American context of the late 1970s–early 1980s, punk scenes in cities often create infrastructures which are later adapted by other alternative scenes, enabling them to develop faster. 3. The case of XXX Gallery in Sai Yin Pun is another example of political instrumentalisation of electronic music venues: the club was targeted by the local administration following district council election. 4. See, for instance, the case of The Guvernment in Toronto, a space that could house 3000 people for rave parties. 5. For a specific example of gentrification, see, for instance, the way Sadoux describes the negative effects of gentrification on the Acid Techno scene in London. 6. In audio engineering, side-chain compression is the reduction of the volume/effect of one instrument according to the sound of another instrument: for instance, the bass is muffled when the kick drum is played. It can be argued that the denser the urban space, the more people’s action/ expression are muted by other’s people’s actions/expressions.


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References Allington, D., Dueck, B., & Jordanous, A. (2015). Networks of Value in Electronic Music: Soundcloud, London, and the Importance of Place. Cultural Trends, 24(3), 211–222. Ballico, C., & Watson, A. (2020). Music Cities. Evaluating a Global Cultural Policy Concept. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Hae, L. (2012). The Gentrification of Nightlife and the Right to the City. Regulating Spaces of Social Dancing in New York. New York; London: Routledge. Madrid, A. L. (2008). Nor-tec Rifa! Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World. Oxford University Press. Mazierska, E. (2019). Popular Viennese Electronic Music, 1990–2015: A Cultural History. London: Routledge. Ross, S. (2017). Making a Music City: The Commodification of Culture in Toronto’s Urban Redevelopment, Tensions between Use-Value and Exchange-­ Value, and the Counterproductive Treatment of Alternative Cultures within Municipal Legal Frameworks. Journal of Law and Social Policy, 27, 116–153. Straw, W. (1991). Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music. Cultural Studies, 5(3), 368–388.



Acid Techno, 2, 6, 17, 59–74, 280, 281, 283–284, 292, 294 Africa, 2, 244, 245, 249, 280 Ambient, 43, 45, 50, 54, 65, 122, 127n1, 149, 281 Aphex Twin, 5, 39 Artificial Intelligence, 39 B

Band(s), 11, 20, 22–27, 30, 34–39, 43, 48–54, 57, 63, 65, 105, 121, 136, 138, 153, 171, 186, 189, 190, 211, 213, 214, 217, 243, 244, 251, 258n2, 264, 265, 268 Bar(s), 21, 26, 30, 53, 54, 71, 106, 108, 121, 157, 158, 171, 172, 174–176, 178, 194, 216, 229,

230, 233, 237, 244, 247, 253, 256, 287 Berlin, 9–13, 47–57, 60, 70, 101, 134–136, 142, 144, 148, 156, 157, 159, 160, 167, 174, 178, 212, 247, 273, 274, 283, 285, 287, 289, 290 Boutique genres, 6, 14n1 Brand, 3, 9, 19, 72, 127, 140, 141, 167, 172, 216, 217, 226, 254 Branding, 4, 9, 90, 168, 208, 288 Built environment, 1, 3, 4, 6 C

Cabaret Voltaire, 34, 35, 37, 39, 45, 49 Chicago, 12, 13, 61, 82, 86, 186, 187, 212, 248, 256, 291

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 S. Darchen et al. (eds.), Electronic Cities, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-4741-0


298 Index

City context, 1, 2, 6, 8, 223 planning, 169 Club Berghain, 10, 54 Club 414, 60, 61, 70, 72, 286, 291, 294 culture, 9, 83, 121, 127, 136, 151, 153, 185, 187–192, 226, 227, 232, 237, 262, 280 The Haçienda, 53, 56 Tresor, 54–56 Commercialisation, 34, 47, 48, 151, 153, 191, 281, 282, 284, 285, 289 Commodification, 7–10, 85, 148, 153, 155, 159, 167, 183, 185, 267, 281, 282, 284, 288–291 Covid-19, 12, 43, 56, 194, 197, 198, 288 Covid-19 pandemic, 55, 74, 178, 294 Creative cities, 10, 14, 87, 90, 110, 183, 286 Creative milieu, 7 Cross-pollination, 7, 8, 49, 214, 282–284 Cultural development, 9, 236, 256 entrepreneur(s), 263 heritage, 9, 68, 286, 292 history, 3, 8, 21, 26, 62, 132–134, 244, 249, 280, 292 industries, 40, 44, 45, 102, 286 spaces, 68, 134, 173, 263 value, 9, 69, 117, 246


Deadmau5, 4, 12, 82, 117 Deindustrialisation, 126 Detroit, 9, 11–13, 62, 86, 119, 136, 160n1, 187, 199, 248, 256, 291 Disco, 13, 23, 25, 50, 53, 95, 186–188, 196, 213, 226, 232, 233, 235, 247 DJ, 3, 5, 13, 14n5, 17, 30, 39, 40, 50–53, 57, 60–66, 68, 71, 72, 74, 80, 82–86, 115, 117–121, 126, 127n1, 134–136, 138, 151–156, 161, 165, 168, 173, 175–178, 186, 189, 191, 195, 197, 198, 210, 212, 213, 217, 223, 224, 228, 230–233, 235, 236, 238, 248, 249, 251, 253–256, 281, 282, 284, 285, 287, 289, 291, 293, 294 labels, 13 Do It Yourself (DIY), 5, 6, 63, 65, 80, 85, 88–90, 96, 99, 103–105, 107–110, 119, 147, 157, 170, 174, 183–200, 248, 283, 285, 289, 294 Drug(s), 10, 56, 118, 152, 156, 172, 184, 187, 192, 193, 196, 199, 226, 227, 233, 249, 262, 285, 288 MDMA, 187, 192, 249 Drum ‘n’ Bass, 6, 14n3, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85–87, 89, 121, 223, 226, 293

 Index  E

Eastern Europe, 2, 13, 209, 289 Economic development, 9, 88, 90, 287, 288 Electronic body music (EBM), 25, 28 Electronic Dance Music (EDM), 1–13, 14n2, 14n4, 30, 60–62, 67, 73, 79, 80, 82–86, 88, 99, 117–119, 122, 123, 125, 126, 147, 151, 152, 154, 159, 160n1, 183–200, 207–220, 223–238, 243–258, 280, 281, 284, 286, 288, 290–292 EDM community, 194 Electronic Dance Music Cultures (EDMCs), 2–6, 14, 14n2, 200, 223–238, 282, 284–288, 292 Electronic music scenes, 2, 8–10, 12–14, 17, 19, 20, 26, 31, 41, 45, 52, 71, 72, 77, 79, 81, 86–89, 99, 109, 138, 144, 148, 151, 153, 155, 159, 167, 168, 175, 176, 178, 183, 184, 188, 210, 213, 224, 244, 245, 248, 254, 256, 261, 262, 266, 268–272, 279–289, 291, 293, 295 Eno, Brian, 28, 30 Event promoter(s), 80, 86, 228, 254, 282 Exchange value, 9, 10, 148 Experimental, 5, 13, 34, 41, 43, 50, 54, 73, 95–111, 119, 121, 148, 149, 151, 167, 168, 184–186, 199, 230, 248, 261–275, 280, 281, 283–285, 290, 293


Experimental music, 97, 99, 105, 270, 272 Experimentation, 7, 85, 96, 127n1, 237, 267, 271, 283, 289 F

Fanzine(s), 29, 35, 38, 46n2, 152 Festival(s) MUTEK, 95–111, 282, 286, 290, 293 Tomorrowland, 4 Untold festival, 9, 210 Film industry, 51, 286 Film studio(s), 189 G

Gentrification, 10, 60, 67, 68, 86, 116, 125, 127, 147, 148, 155–159, 165–179, 189, 199, 256, 281, 292, 293, 295n5 Global city, 59–74, 98 South, 244, 245, 251, 252, 257, 258 Goa, 188, 279 Governance of electronic music scenes, 8–10, 284–285 Grimes, 12, 103 H

Hip-Hop, 53, 115–117, 120, 121, 126, 127, 135, 168, 173, 213, 227, 230, 244, 247–251, 267, 283 House music, 3, 13, 152, 186, 187, 199, 248, 250 Human League, 34–39, 43, 45, 49

300 Index I


Illegal clubs, 176, 177 occupations, 65, 73, 294 Innovation, 29, 67–69, 87, 96, 107, 119, 169, 170, 197, 249, 257, 269, 287 Intelligent Dance Music (IDM), 2–5, 30, 35, 39, 280, 281, 290 Internet, 191, 199, 238, 254, 264, 266

Mainstream, 2–9, 20, 35, 43, 52, 60, 66, 67, 73, 74, 82, 83, 85, 90, 99, 100, 103, 104, 118, 126, 147, 148, 153, 154, 158, 168, 176, 184, 186, 187, 195, 196, 199, 213, 219, 227, 247, 249, 263, 280–282, 284, 286, 289, 291 Mainstream scenes, 6, 8, 74, 280 Manchester, 12, 13, 27, 33, 42, 44, 47–57, 132, 142 Mass media, 67 Media, 48, 57, 60, 67, 84, 99, 101–103, 109, 120, 143, 148, 156, 170, 171, 177, 178, 191, 193, 194, 196, 199, 231, 232, 236, 265, 286 Media art, 99, 103, 170, 286 Middle-East, 2, 280 Music city, 79–91 Music history, 44, 197 Music policy, 2, 8, 11, 80, 90, 107, 257, 288 Music studio, 7


Jazz, 119, 126, 127n1, 209, 210 Joy Division, 37, 49 K

Korg, 49, 51 Kraftwerk, 19, 20, 22–25, 29–31, 34, 49, 54, 56 Krautrock, 28, 30 L

Licence, 40, 59, 61, 67, 71, 159, 190, 216, 226, 227, 229, 233, 237, 253, 281, 288 Licensing, 68, 72, 73, 84, 89, 91, 109, 139, 177, 209, 216, 219, 227 Liverpool, 33, 44 Local government(s), 14, 45, 56, 102, 139, 140, 143, 144, 147–149, 155, 156, 159–161, 256, 281, 286 Lockdown, 43, 55–57, 74 Lockout laws, 193–195, 199


Neighbourhood, 6, 11, 61, 81, 84, 86, 103–105, 107, 115–117, 124, 158, 172, 228, 255, 256, 287 New Order, 48, 50 Niche genres, 5, 14n1, 284 Nightclub, 5, 6, 40, 59, 69–73, 82–86, 88–90, 187, 223, 243–245, 253–256, 294 Night cluster(s), 165–179


Nightlife, 54–56, 59, 60, 67–74, 89, 148, 156, 160, 167, 225, 226, 228, 232, 233, 235, 243, 244, 246, 255, 258, 280, 287, 289, 291, 292 Nightlife regulations, 280 Night mayor(s), 56, 167 P

Parties, 4, 5, 27, 30, 34, 53, 54, 61, 62, 64–67, 70, 72, 95, 103, 106, 108, 110, 135, 139, 151–153, 155, 156, 158, 165, 172–174, 176–177, 184, 188–189, 191, 195, 196, 198, 212, 218, 223, 227, 229, 232, 233, 249, 256, 279, 281, 284, 287–288, 291–295 Pioneers, 17, 24, 28, 34, 38–41, 43, 45, 62, 63, 82, 83, 127n1, 136, 138, 149, 152, 210, 212, 224, 265, 268, 270, 284 Planning policies, 1, 6, 69, 70, 72, 116, 245 Plans, 51, 68, 86, 88, 101, 102, 137, 149, 159, 169, 190, 216, 219 Local Plans, 69, 71 Political history, 1, 8, 20, 37 Post-industrial, 37, 44, 79, 81, 104, 134, 136, 144, 167, 248 Post-punk, 24, 25, 29, 35, 105, 186, 283 Private spaces, 174, 262, 263, 272–273 Producer, 7, 26, 29, 34, 35, 60, 62–66, 68, 73, 80, 82, 86, 100, 115–119, 121, 122, 126,


127n1, 137, 154, 155, 165, 173, 178, 183, 185, 187, 192, 196, 197, 199, 212, 233, 247, 249–251, 254–257, 282, 291, 294 Production technologies, 7–8, 127n1 Promoter(s), 14n5, 60, 80, 86, 147, 148, 154–160, 160n5, 183, 184, 191, 192, 194, 199, 224, 228, 231, 233, 254, 282, 285, 289 Property, 11, 54, 56, 68, 69, 72, 85, 89, 91, 124, 157, 159, 172, 226, 232, 292 Property values, 68, 69 Public policies, 2, 7–8, 10, 60, 68–73, 287–289, 291, 292, 295 Public spaces, 101, 115, 197, 248, 262, 269–274 Punk, 7, 24, 25, 28, 29, 38, 49, 53, 60, 63, 105, 153, 184–186, 191, 195, 280, 283, 295n2 Punk bands, 25, 38, 49, 65 R

Radio, 24, 82, 83, 103, 108, 152, 190, 211, 212, 217, 248, 253, 254, 256, 269, 291 Rave(s), 4, 11, 34, 39, 61, 62, 65, 67, 73, 74, 79, 82–84, 88, 90, 91, 91n1, 100, 135, 138, 153, 165, 184, 185, 187–193, 195, 197–199, 212, 225–227, 233, 256, 279, 288, 291, 294, 295 Rave culture, 39, 61, 83, 100, 153, 187–189, 225, 226, 233

302 Index

Real estate, 1, 2, 8, 10, 55, 56, 60, 67, 101, 109, 127, 172, 176, 191, 248, 251, 291–295 values, 172 Record(s), 5, 7, 22, 28–30, 40, 47–48, 53, 54, 62, 64, 85, 99, 103, 117, 120, 122, 137, 171, 187, 191, 192, 197, 200, 211 Record label, 28, 30, 40, 62, 99, 117, 122, 171, 187, 191, 197, 211 Regeneration, 10, 42, 44, 67, 68, 73, 101, 134, 155, 156, 159, 210, 281, 290, 292 Reggae, 49, 70, 80, 250, 286 Resistance, 59–74, 85, 184, 261, 262, 264, 267, 269, 275, 289 Revitalisation, 8, 10, 96, 101, 209, 291 Roland TB303, 13 TR808, 186 TR909, 186 S

Segregation racial segregation, 123, 124 social segregation, 116 Space(s), 1–14, 30, 40, 41, 43–45, 54–56, 60, 62, 65, 67–70, 73, 74, 79–91, 96, 97, 99–101, 103–105, 115, 116, 123–127, 131, 134, 138–144, 154–158, 167, 172–177, 187, 190, 191, 196–199, 215–219, 225–228, 232–234, 236–238, 248, 251–256, 262, 263, 269–274, 279, 281, 282, 284, 285, 287, 289, 291–295, 295n6

Squat, 62, 64, 65, 74 Squat parties, 64–66, 70, 176, 281, 287, 294 Squatting, 62 Stakeholders, 9, 10, 14n5, 60, 68, 69, 95, 126, 143, 151, 220, 283–285, 293 Subculture(s), 9, 80, 84, 91, 148, 151, 184, 196, 199, 267, 282, 283, 288, 289 Subgenres, 2, 3, 5, 7–8, 14n4, 35, 50, 73, 79, 80, 85, 89, 132, 136, 144, 155, 160n1, 191, 199, 212, 224, 228, 235, 237, 248, 280, 281, 284 Synthesizers, 22, 24, 27, 28, 41, 43, 49, 61, 122, 123, 186, 211, 266 T

Tangerine Dream, 49 Techno, 3–6, 9, 13, 30, 34, 40, 50–52, 54, 59–74, 135, 142, 147–161, 165, 187, 199, 212, 213, 223, 226–229, 232–234, 236, 247–249, 256, 280–282, 285, 289, 290, 294 Techno tourism, 9 Television, 45n1, 65, 190, 264, 268, 270 Tourism, 9, 52, 87, 95, 107, 139, 148, 157–159, 208, 209, 215, 217, 218, 227, 287, 290 Trance, 3, 5, 50, 61–63, 70, 213, 223, 226, 249



UK charts, 49 Underground clubs, 9, 53, 147, 153, 176, 178, 238, 281, 289, 293 scenes, 6, 10, 65–67, 72, 73, 213, 231 Urban planning, 116, 255 policies, 116, 255 Urban renewal, 67, 124, 189

125, 139, 142, 148, 149, 154–156, 158, 159, 165, 173, 174, 176, 178, 187–189, 191–197, 199, 209, 212, 213, 216, 223, 224, 226, 228–231, 233, 243–258, 264, 269, 271–273, 280, 281, 287–292, 294, 295n3 Videos, 99, 165, 168–170, 177, 189, 198, 213, 251




Venues, 1, 2, 10, 11, 27, 39, 40, 43–45, 51, 53–56, 59–61, 64, 67–74, 81–91, 95, 99, 101, 102, 106, 108, 111n2, 122,

Warehouse, 11, 39, 43, 45, 53, 65, 79, 82, 84, 88, 90, 103, 154, 184, 189, 190, 195, 197, 229, 248, 256, 281, 288, 291–294