It’s time to kick off the next chapter in this story about me and my music.
I want to go back as far as 1993, straight to the dancefloor at my local disco. It was a very popular club, with kids showing up in large numbers every Friday. At the centre of the circular dancefloor, in the middle of the room, I was shaking my hips so hard that a dislocation was just around the corner. The Friday dance-off had reached the finals and to everybody’s surprise, the dude with the stonewashed jeans and cheap sneakers seemed to pull it off! Westbam’s “Celebration Generation” pumped from the speakers, the strobes were flashing, helping me look like a robot, the sweat was dripping and my eyes were focused at my footwork. Almost like Ian Curtis from Joy Division, spastic, nervous and from another planet.
Suddenly the music stopped, the light was switched on and there was an excitement in the room. Who had won the battle? The waiting was pure agony… Would I be the new hero at school or just another runner up?
The DJ came to the floor and congratulated both of us finalists, telling it was hard separating two such eminent dancers, with an ironic smile covering his whole face. “The winner is….THE DUDE IN THE STONEWASHED JEANS!”
I won! I won the dance-off! The price was not 5000$ or a trip to Bahamas, it was much more important. I won tickets to the next Fridays party, for every 8th grader at my school. My popularity would reach the stars!
The day came, the DJ from the disco came to my school to hand over the price. All the 8th graders were standing outside to collect the tickets, smiling, laughing and high-fiving. The atmosphere was electric!
But then, one of the school’s inspectors showed up, with a strict grin to his face, putting an end to it all. There was no chance that these tickets would be given to us, the school didn’t support this kind of moral destruction. Kids going to the disco was their first step away from Jesus. He actually meant this and that also meant that my effort on the dancefloor was a waste. No one would remember the dancer, just the bitter moment when the price was confiscated.
This horrifying episode led me into a state of anger. My taste in music changed as well. The Prodigy was the new me. Not only did I get to listen to more angry music, I met new friends and I picked up some new dance moves. “No Good (Start the Dance)”, one of The Prodigy’s most epic tunes had found me. In the video they were dancing in the strobe lights inside an abandoned warehouse, the dust filled the air and the beats and rhythms were mesmerising. But the one thing that made me go into crazy-mode, was the Leroy Thornhills moves. It looked like he had liquid legs!
It didn’t take long before everybody wanted to dance like that. It was not the hardest move to learn, but it really showed the difference in who could dance and who didn’t have a clue. Those who didn’t figured it out looked a bit electrocuted and misplaced at the dancefloor.
I think it was in 1996, PlayStation 1 had arrived and the music store where I bought my music suddenly started to sell these machines. And as a promo campaign they arranged a PS1 competition. Not too many games to choose from but Wipe Out and Battle Arena Toshinden were something anybody could play. I lined up, trying to go for the 1st price, a brand new console and some games.
I did good, kicked some butt and raced like a champ. I reached the final and my opponent was a
PS1-master, a Wipe Out- and Battle Arena Toshinden-machine. I was beaten so hard that people laughed and felt sorry for me. It was kind of sad being so close to victory, but the most frustrating thing was the runner up price. A PS1 controller and a game… What should I do with that??
I talked to the owner and was able to swap the prices int some music and a headset. I still remember the four CD’s I got.
The Prodigy’s “Experience”, The Fugees’ “The Score”, NAS’ “Illmatic” and The Future Sound of London’s “Accelerator”.
The “Illmatic” album made me think I was going to play in the NBA. Listening to “N.Y. State of Mind”, I felt like a superstar. I did play basketball, but the road to NBA was quite a long road to go, even if I owned a jersey or two. I didn’t stop me dreaming, and later that year, I decided to make it a reality. I activated the “Megabass” on my discman, took the bus into the city and watched “Space Jam” at the local cinema. I was so pumped up by it all and I knew that if I put my soul into it, I would reach the stars!
The next day I woke up, the spirit was gone, and I realized that NBA was not my thang. Streetball with my boys was cool enough.
The next year, I got a job in a newly opened clothing store, owned by one of the towns DJ’s. Brands like Daniel James, Daniel Poole and other British underground styles filled every square meter of the store. Behind the counter we had a Technics turntable playing the freshest music around. I got to know many of his DJ friends and the nights out became 200% cooler then before. The clubs, the people and of course the music was something completely different then I had experienced before. A simple country boy suddenly was in the middle of a wave of the newest music, suited up with the hippest clothing. Damn it felt nice!
In this shop, I got into so much new music and my friend bought music at a rate that I had never seen before. It’s impossible to remember it all, but some of it still has a big place in my heart. DJ Shadow’s “Entroducing…..” is one of the finest out there. The feeling, atmosphere and coolness of that album is above most. Another true classic is Air’s “Moon Safari”. When I talk about that album, I always say that it’ll be on my top ten list of albums ever. The next two classics I remember were singles. “You got the love” from The Source Featuring Candi Staton and the incredibly far out and mind-bending “Polynomial-C” by Aphex Twin. The first time I heard that tune I felt everything just froze. The beats, rhythms and the floating sounds made me feel like I was on my way into deep space.
The shop next door was a Skateboard shop. My cousin knew a couple of guys that worked there, and I did hang out with them for a while. One of the guys had a release party after recording some rap-stuff. I was too young to drink, but my cousin was lawless. He drank beer… He drank so much he figured that stagediving was a great idea. When the audience counts thirteen, it’s not the best idea, but he was not to be stopped, ending up face first in the concrete. I was impressed by how he managed to lay on the floor in pain and shame, still complaining about loosing his last cigarette. Cult hero!
The rave scene was growing by the weekend. Everywhere, someone created his, or her, own venue. Some good, but mostly terrible. Some girl, whose parents were quite wealthy, tried to be hip and invited the whole town, delivering flyers to everybody, to a rave party at their house. Hundreds of people showed up and it all went bad. Almost everything was stolen and the stuff that didn’t fit inside a jacket or in the boot of a car, was trashed. I remember someone told she got grounded for life and had to work 24/7 until all were paid for. We are talking grand pianos, walls and floors. Bits and pieces.
The good part of the rave scene was very cool to be a part of. The abandoned warehouses made me feel like I was in a video for The Prodigy. Dusty, dark and dirty. You might think that it was a trance-filled, drugged-up nightmare, but this was the real deal. DJ’s from London, a bar in the corner, smoke machines, strobes, UV light and some great, dronish music filled the room through the night. Suddenly our small town had become a synthetic melting pot, hosting the hottest parties around.
It all changed when a christian political party won the election. New restrictions popped out ever week and suddenly all-nighters was now forbidden, bars had to close early and smoking inside pubs and clubs were against the law. For me, this was the beginning of the end of an awesome periode in my life. Maybe it was a good thing, because at the last rave I was attending ended up with me getting robbed by two guys with a gun. In a dark alley, on my way to the party, some idiots wanted my money. They took all my cash but forgot the most important value, the ticket to the rave. I arrived a bit shaky and the night didn’t turn out good. My rave-days had come to an end…
Time moved on and even if I had slowed doww, the club scenes continued as never before. A wave of new artist emerged and once a month there was a happening where artists showed their skills at the local clubs.
I remember one night very well, a rainy Wednesday when my favorite team had lost a Champions League match. I was drunk, alone and sad. I stumbled into one of the clubs and one of my favourite DJ’s from the new wave played. I had to show him my respect and my idea of doing that made me an unpopular guy. I forced my way through the dancing crowd and up on the stage. I stood right in front of his turntables with my arms raised to the roof, holding my teams’ scarf. He looked at me with fright in his eyes. Suddenly I smashed my hands on the table where he had all his equipment and records. The scarf, with threaded ends, got caught in the rotating parts of his turntables and the whole thing jammed. Total silence…
The DJ was in shock, the crowd was furious and the guards went into rage-mode. The 11 seconds it took for me to be dragged out, was the fastest way getting sober I had ever experienced. Clear as a whistle and alone in the rainy night…
The next day the DJ came to the clothing store to visit my boss. I was surprised by how he came towards me with a big smile. “You were so close to becoming a legend yesterday”, he said. I smiled back and could not understand how he could be that cool about it.
I felt my journey through the electronic club scene had come to an end. Nightlife had turned into daylight, the music had moved from live sets to headsets. I still enjoyed evenings out with my boys, but in a much calmer setting. The minidisc player had a lot of new, brilliant music to play. Yes, I had upgraded my portable music player to the newest and hottest thing on the market. The most brilliant gadget ever, just presented at the worst time in history!
My eyes and ears were much more open to new stuff, strange and narrow music as well as commercial superhits. All those years had shaped me into loving music in a larger range of genres. I was back were it all started, I listened carefully and was always on the search for new tunes.
This story turned out to be a trip down the synthetic and electric road, not quite as planned. But putting a lid on the memories and feelings pushing through, is not an easy thing to do for a passionate chickenwrist. What about the guitar based, alternative music that is my true love? Where did Joy Division, The Stone Roses, Ride, Cocteau Twins, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bowie, Stones and Sarah Brightman go? Well… It seems like there must be a “The Music: Volume III” coming your way.
To end this in style, I’ll turn off my computer, switch on my B&O and dance my way into bed. I’m still part of the “Celebration Generation”, I just need to be quiet, I don’t want to wake up the loves of my life…