Me and Si are playing at Alberrys in Canterbury tonight, Friday 14th May 2010. I’m not usually partial to playing in a venues basement with a ceiling so low anyone over six foot can’t even stand up without banging their head on the brick arches that predominate throughout the basement area. It’s affectionately known as the Rave Cave. Although, saying that I’ve been playing on and off at this venue for over 20 years and have a strange love / hate relationship with it. Loving the late license. Loving the dark and dingy basement. Hates? Where’s the seats; expensive drinks and if I bang my head once more on that air conditioning unit right above the decks I’m leaving. Now!
Anyway, partial as I am to not playing here we’re so gagging for a gig and a little play and a chance to hang out with each other a bit that, of course, we accept any gig we get offered these days and are bloody grateful for it. The money we earn is going towards replacement styli. No money we ever make goes in our pocket; it always goes into that big black hole in my life; the sound system. A recent trip to Brighton secured us 4 lovely little sub bass bins. Nice. Cost £650. We’re doing Darren from the Neptune’s 40th birthday party; fee £200; going, you guessed, to Brummy John towards the cost of the new subs.
What got old tVC started in the first place was a dearth of venues that catered to our music. Tiring of the warm up chill down spots, nothing wrong with them I must admit, and, if pushed I would say I prefer the chill down spots, we decided to promote our own parties. Means I can get a lie in a put the alarm on for 4am and pootle down to the field or venue and have a lovely crack with the people still standing and play them some nice deep house to soothe their souls. And, plenty of energy left for any after party DJing duties that are required. No, what I mean is we like to hear our music all night long, and, if possible all through the next day and night, hence the promoting of our own free parties.
Starting at 11 down Alberrys (a warm up gig if ever I had one) gives me time to get home from work, go to Lin’s to get my records, pick up a car full of people who want to go with me, park up, have a beer, play AND still get home at reasonable hour so that I can pursue my middle aged adolescent centred Saturday activities and proclivities without losing one minute of my teenage level of sleep requirement. One can burns ones candle at both ends you know? Although don't tell Si that or he'll be off the rails quicker than you can say 'he got the job'. If having a lie in (wink wink) with my girlfriend, finishing off series 5 of the box set of Battlestar Galactica (finally got round to watching it), reading the Saturday Guardian, cooking a slow breakfast, playing Arkham Asylum or Mass Effect 2 on the old x-box when I get up and, most importantly of all, not going to work is considered a wasted life then so be it.
So the time has arrived. The thinking time that is. After Si’s trip up London on Thursday for a job interview – he got it! Well done mate – he decided to go to Black Market to purchase a few vinyl records. A quaint late 20th century form of media distribution that both he and I cling onto like barnacles on a rock. It’s as if everything we believe in and fight for in this industry of ours manifests itself wholly in the 12” records we continue to hump around the pubs, clubs and fields of this fair land. Our belief in this medium, which is the message, of underground music, of the beliefs and philosophy of free party culture, our politics our ideals are all channelled and funnelled into these precious objects. They represent the history of “us”; our memories of getting those mixes just right, our honed talent, the hours, weeks, months and years of practice; the beat mix was our skill; the precision despite the pressure, the heat. It was all about the beat and the dropping of the record at just the right moment in time, to be able to engage with the foibles, the tolerances, the fact that records speeded up the closer to the centre spindle they got and constant adjustment was necessary. The ability to compensate for that; to work the mix; to pay attention; to keep it in time; to keep the beat synchronous; to drop the perfect cut; the power and the pleasure of successful programming.
So the time has arrived. The thinking time that is. The time to think that the absurd notion of laying these belief principles solely onto vinyl 12”s needs to be rethought; needs to be changed. We were always chasing the technology; the new records, the latest cartridges, this new driver, that new mixer, that sequencer, that microphone; the lust for tech was integral to the love we had for the music and the scene.
So the time has arrived. The thinking time that is. Now thinking of using that effing laptop and putting some decent software onto it and putting it to good use. Being inspired by our peers and friends who embrace this tech more readily than we do; and it’s got nothing to do with disposable income; nothing to do with lines like ‘we can’t afford it’, ‘we don’t know how it works’ or ‘how to set it up’. These are just excuses not to engage with the future.
So the time has arrived. The thinking time that involves purchasing the necessary equipment and learning how it applies to us at this time. To extend our love of technology and to use it the best way we can. To give up beat mixing and let the tech do the beat lining up work. To focus more on finding good tracks, on programming a set that really works the dance floor or the bar or the field or beach properly. To, and here’s the real nub of all the vinyl versus tech arguments, get cheaper tracks; oh, ye Gods, how much cheaper are they to download?
After Si’s trip up London to Black Market to purchase a few vinyl records he rings me up and goes ‘there was hardly anything there’. He loved this Tim Green tune; one sided only, £9. How can a DJ afford to buy records when they are that price? I have never seen a single downloadable track cost anyone £9.
The closure of vast swathes of record shops up and down the country only confirms the impending approach of the inevitable; alas poor vinyl, I knew him Horatio. It pains me, yet pleasures me at the same time, to see a 4 track vinyl record that cost £6.99 being offered for download at a quid a track; tracks offered for download that will never make it to record or tracks released for download before we vinyl junkies ever see it on record. Pain after pain after pain. It pains me I can have a thousand tracks on my phone, 16gb of tracks on a memory stick, even 500gb of tracks on my laptop yet still I insist on carrying 25kg of records up and down the country, well maybe county, while my digital cousins put everything in their pocket or in a little bag on their back. At clubs up and down the country decks are becoming marginalised or serratto-ised or traktor-ised. Vinyl lovers are scoffed as Cylon lovers were scoffed on Battlestar. I don’t want to hear comments like ‘that box looks heavy’ or ‘ooh, records, I haven’t seen one of them for a while’ or ‘hang on, I think we got some decks backstage’ or 'ha, ha that sounds scratchy'. I want to hide my laptop under my car seat like everyone else, change to buying tracks from damnnoisy or juno and not pay any p&p ever again. I want the power to acquire tracks 10 minutes before I go on stage and have the ability to swap them with my mates. I want to rediscover my love of technology again.
Part 2 – how did the fucking gig at Alberrys go? - tomorrow