“What came first, the music or the obsession?”
This coming month is the sixth year anniversary since the blog went officially online. Three years ago I shared some thoughts here about how it all started, a retrospective account of the events that influenced the blog’s thematic basis, as well as a quick walk-through the blog’s various categories/series and a brief background story behind each one of them. A lot has changed since then, so I thought it would be apt to update regular and non-regular readers about the new direction, forthcoming features and what the future holds for this blog. Certain categories have completed their cycle, new have been added and some remain dormant until the right trigger or inspiration comes up.
Major changes in my personal and professional life have effectively limited the time I can spare updating the blog, but I won’t complain, as clearly there are more important aspects in life. I try to sustain a strict one post per month schedule, which bar a few exceptions has been achieved. The scope has been expanded also to non-d&b material, as my militant musical views have attenuated along the years. I enjoy a broader spectrum of electronic music nowadays (ambient, modern electronica, film scores etc.), so despite this blog being a d&b-oriented platform, expect a few sporadic non-d&b features as well.
Contrary to popular belief, this platform is a one-man show. That being said, I have the luxury to exercise total control on the style, format and content of the published material; nevertheless the process has been extremely time-consuming. Inevitably, repetitive patterns and errors are omnipresent, as there is only one person behind the conception, writing, editing and publishing; hence the minimal exposure to social media apart from my personal accounts. It has been an educational and creative process so far, happy and proud moments interchanging with temporary failures and disappointments, but on reflection, those have been lessons learned and have effectively made all the effort worthwhile. However redundant or cliché it might sound I cannot stress enough my appreciation and gratitude to everyone who has helped with this endeavour. The list is quite long, from friends to childhood musical heroes, acclaimed djs, label owners, artists and iconic figures of the drum & bass circuit, from people I met through this blog, to people I haven’t met yet. I would also like to publicly thank the curators of affiliated blogs, websites and music media agencies for inviting me to contribute material to their brilliant platforms and I deeply regret that I cannot continue to do so in a consistent and timely fashion.
I am only grateful to each and every one of you and you all know who you are. This blog has been a labour of love and driven solely by my passion for music. I intend to carry on, as long as it doesn’t turn into a compulsion. When that happens, it will be the right time to end the affair.
So, enough with the theatrics, let’s see, besides the new logo, what I’ve been up to for the last three years.
A quick walk-through the blog’s archive ordered by category/series:
A couple of years ago I was approached by a renowned music management and promotion agency in order to provide supplementary reviews for artists and record labels they were promoting. They’ve been covering a wide range within the electronic music spectrum, however the majority of releases has been actually beyond my area of “musical expertise”, if I am allowed that self-indulgent term. Anyhow, across the sea of promotional material, there were certain familiar artists whose output really resonated with me. The challenge however, was to write something different than a generic review, since the press release packages have been utterly comprehensive and brilliant. I realized that, instead of a track-by-track review, an attempt to deduce and identify their creative influences, would add more value than a common review. This realization quickly became a new concept; essentially my own perception in an effort to capture the nuanced essence of the album narratives, which is completely arbitrary, and probably nowhere near the artists’ actual vision and purpose. Nonetheless, I believe that the value of an artistic product is to evoke different emotions, thoughts and interpretations. The idea eventually mutated from reviewing forthcoming releases to hand-picking albums from my personal record collection and present a subjective interpretation from my own, admittedly biased perspective, emphasizing on albums, which I have associated with fond memories and have had a profound impact on me; an array of reminiscences printed on vinyl grooves.
Borrowing concepts from other blog categories, this series puts under the spotlight smaller record labels, beyond the confines of drum & bass, with vision, ethos, aesthetics and bespoke artwork I find attractive and intriguing. The presentation comprises of artist profiles, selected discography and reviews; a recurring structure across the blog’s various series. The first two installments are about two record labels I highly recommend, with an output transcending genres and styles: Short Trips and Nord Label, based in Texas and Berlin respectively. More labels to follow soon …
This particular category started as a multi-part thematic series about obsessions, music and obsession with music. Based on my own experiences, I will attempt to explore and rationalize the profound impact of music on our habits, daily routine and life in general. With music being the focal point, each part of the series will emphasize on a different aspect; all-day long visits to record stores, endless queues outside clubs, late night radio listening with the record button on, mix-tapes, the emergence of the digital era and the inevitable changes to the ways we perceive, consume and enjoy music.
The head title is a paraphrase of an excerpt from the book ‘High Fidelity’ by Nick Hornby, featuring also in the eponymous film adaptation a few years later (replace obsession with misery for the original quote). Although the essence of the question is disparate in the book and I am pretty certain Hornby didn’t have electronic music in mind, it has prompted a psychological dilemma that has been bothering me for years. What came first, the music or the obsession? Did I listen to electronic music (and drum & bass in particular) because I was obsessive? Or did I become obsessive because I listened to electronic music?
In order to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, I will be using the term “obsession” onwards in a loose fashion, referring to a controlled passion or a persistent attachment, rather than a clinical state or disorder.
After two parts, the series has been dormant for 3 years now, as I have been pre-occupied with other projects. Hopefully, at some point I will conclude the remaining four parts and present it in its entirety.
- On The Outside, Looking In
Although most of the blog features are based on informal conversations with my guests, often including verbatim excerpts, it’s been a long time since I posted an actual interview. The first installment of a new category introduced to replace one of the blog’s oldest series “Jump The Q”, which has unceremoniously completed its cycle, is due to be published in a few days. The “Jump The Q” questionnaire template was intentionally designed to be simple (silly and entertaining at times) rather than thought-provoking; the general idea being to discover a few personal details about artists and djs, whose music-related work I admire and respect (from their favourite drink to the worst live performance they’ve witnessed). The new category titled “On The Outside, Looking In” will envelope a more finite scope in order to explore certain aspects of electronic music in depth. The title is homage to the first Modern Urban Jazz release, in a literal sense, as it’s a sneak look into my guests’ old-photo albums, flyer collections and mental musical diaries.
“… when I refer to the music now as d&b, I never really considered it much then. I know that may sound strange, but I think we always operated as outsiders; I personally always felt on the outside looking in, which is why our ‘Glider-State’ track was called so…” – Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes
Really intrigued to find out more about their views, perspective and insight, the new series will kick off in April 2018 with two guests, who share common musical taste, vision and aesthetics, dating back to the early days of drum & bass.
Interested in the background story, the samples and the general concept behind a track, often co-narrated eloquently by the artist themselves capturing the atmosphere of a certain period in time, I hand-pick records from my personal record collection for each installment of the series; records that I am personally attached with and bring back fond memories. In fact, all are tracks I wish I’d written.
Browsing through my record collection, I can recall when and where I bought each one of my records; however the reason behind every purchase has been different. Although they all have a sentimental value, I have records that I would not part with for any amount of money, records that I still wonder what was I thinking when I bought them, records that were given to me as a gift (and wonder, in a couple of cases, what were they thinking) and records I wish they had my name on the sleeve and the credits; hence the series title.
Undisputedly, this has been the series that defined the course of the blog, changed my perception in terms of research and writing style and introduced the blog to wider audiences. The objective is an ambitious attempt to shed light on the contribution of artists and labels, which have profoundly influenced my musical taste.
The title was inspired while listening to the eponymous album by Hidden Agenda and naturally “Whatever happened to … Hidden Agenda?” has been the first edition of the series. In order to accomplish a certain level of accuracy, fill in the gaps and demonstrate a representative overview that would reflect their musical contribution and activity, I decided to contact directly the people involved and ensure their blessing and approval before proceeding. Of course, all this would have been impossible without their direct input, so I would like to thank everyone for their time, insight and willingness to help. After all, it is their story and should be told their way. Although it is written in a pseudo-narrative form, several parts are excerpts from informal discussions and quotes. The final version of every installment has been reviewed and approved prior to being published and this has been the usual practice for the whole series.
The only exception to the above guideline has been the first feature. I had managed to track down Jason from Hidden Agenda, who kindly gave me the green light to start the feature, however I lost contact with him half-way through the process. I was so discontent with the final result compared to the next installments that I decided to re-write it from scratch. For the history, the updated version, turned out to be the most-viewed feature of the blog until today and is dedicated to Mark Goodings’ memory.
By the second installment, I had ended up with a provisional structure, which typically comprises of four sections: history, discography highlights, recent activities and epilogue. Despite the obvious deficiencies, clichés and repetitive patterns, I have diligently tried be as elaborate as possible, intentionally omitting confidential or unverified and ambiguous information. I have occasionally revisited some of the features for minor edits; however the constant update of every feature is beyond my purpose. Since the first time of writing, things have changed (for instance Creative Wax has re-launched, Voyager is active again recording drum and bass and so on), so the line of accuracy has to be drawn at the time of first publishing.
Regrettably, the series have been dormant for quite some time. Some finished drafts have been shelved for good due to various reasons; others remain in a draft stage and might be revisited for publication in the foreseeable future, but I won’t make any promises 🙂
At this point, I would like to express my gratitude to the following people, who have helped with the particular series, for without their input, endorsement and feedback, the whole endeavour would be a collage of sparse, incoherent information and would add no value to their musical legacy.
Jason (for Hidden Agenda), Ashley and Tony for (Creative Wax), Caroline (for Partisan Recordings), Danny (for Endemic Void), Pete (for Voyager), Tim and James (for Essence Of Aura), John (for Foul Play) Alex and Graham (for Mouly & Lucida), Phil and Tony (for Precious Material).
As the title implies, the “Count To Ten” series is a top-10 countdown featuring the finest musical moments of favourite artists and labels. The selection criteria reflect on my own perspective, mood and sympathies. From classics to neglected b-sides and rarities, in strict chronological order, the series is a combination of overlooked and celebrated pieces of music. Future installments may include a mini-mix with the track-listing in question.
Although the series title is rather mundane, the concept was inspired by a picture of a film reel and the title must have been borrowed from the eponymous track by DRS & Enei, one of the highlights of the Fabriclive 62nd volume compiled by Kasra.
As of late 2016, the “Count To Ten” editions changed focus encompassing a wider scope, featuring countdowns with record sleeves/artwork illustrations and cross-genre d&b remixes. Future installments will include overlooked b-sides, compilation series and more.
A generic category, created to nest all features that do not fall into the rest of the categories. Under this “tree” you may find exclusive interviews, my guest contributions to other blogs, reviews, wordpress re-presses, radio shows, guest mixes and more.
- On The Outside, Looking In – Vol. 1
- Tracks I Wish I’d Written – Issue #12
- Count To Ten: Drum & Bass Sleeves & Illustrations – Part 2
- Count To Ten: Cross-genre drum & bass remixes – Part 3 and 4
- Secret Life: Inside Boymerang’s Balance Of The Force
- See Forever: Inside Voyager’s discography
Obsolete or Complete series:
I had already (anonymously) published the first three parts of the series on a friend’s website. This early material kick-started the blog and is essentially an account of five days from the diary of a vinyl and music enthusiast. The timeline is non-linear, with events taking place in Athens and London, spanning a period from 1994 to 2013, when the series concluded. Many parts are auto-biographical; hence all places and dates are accurate. However, a few details have been intentionally twisted (in fact a slightly different version of the reality), adding a pseudo-romantic tone to the narrative.
The first four parts of the series were published on April 2012. I had already decided that it would be a five-part series; however it took me almost a year to come up with an appropriate closure. The series concluded in February 2013, after a trip to London. The blog’s thematic was already following a different trajectory and it was evident that it was the right time to wrap up the series.
If I had to summarize the abstract theme of the series, consisting of the cloudy recollection of past events and the tendency to romanticize them, memories intertwined with wishful thinking, the invisible boundary between what actually happened and what could have happened, I would choose the opening lyric of the song “Charlotte Sometimes” by The Cure: “All the faces, all the voices blur, change to one face, change to one voice …”
The “Memoirs Of A Vinyl Junkie” had been the primary material to start the blog, however drafts for the next two categories were already in place. The next series entitled “Jump The Q”, was a shortlist of brief questions (some personal, some tricky) looking for equally brief answers, addressed to artists, producers, promoters, djs, friends and affiliates of the blog in general. All features are supplemented with an introductory presentation of my guest, biography as well as recent activities and events.
The series title is obviously a dull wordplay, inspired by a true story/misadventure, that took place outside “The End” club in London, and went on to become a private joke. To cut a long story short, a desperate attempt by a couple of cheeky lads to circumvent a long queue shortly before the “one out – one in” mode and the cinematic outcome seconds later.
The questionnaire is intentionally designed to be simple (silly and entertaining at times) rather than thought-provoking and doesn’t substitute an interview. The general idea is to discover a few personal details – from their favourite drink to the worst live performance they’ve witnessed – about people, whose work I admire and respect.