Organic takes some time out with our own resident techno connoisseur REbEL to talk vinyl, the art of DJing and his own Tough Luck Records imprint.
Every man and his dog is a DJ these days, of course there are obvious advantages to more people having access to the platform, but does this have a negative effect on "the art" as a whole? How far does mass availability lead to mediocre results and a generally lazy approach with a potentially lowered entry level? This line of questioning has been prevalent within the confines of production, but only in recent years has really became a more focussed concern within DJing itself. Maybe not a new concern as such, but certainly one which has been highlighted by the prominence of "front DJs" - DJs that use the medium as a framework to build a performance around without any actual DJing going on at all. REbEL continues...
It's easy to dismiss Djing as something that anyone can do. This is true, with technology now days its easy and relatively cheap to download some software, a load of MP3s and play at parties, and thats great, it's going to empower a lot of people. But for me that's not what Djing is all about, there are levels you know. Like there are those that just scan beatport top tens or just play promos they are sent or download shit quality MP3 rips. Then there are those that really spend time building a record collection and a personality with that. I've been mixing since I was 15. Back then you had to buy records and you had to learn the craft. I'd spend hours in my bedroom mixing records, trying to emulate the styles of my heroes. Im not sure that really matters to a lot of people now, they just whack load of tunes together and call it a set.
"The records he was playing came from a collection built up over years, everything was blended perfectly, timed perfectly, the set was full of moments to savour."
I saw Dan Ghenacia at Colors a couple of months ago and that was an example of the true art of djing. The records he was playing came from a collection built up over years, everything was blended perfectly, timed perfectly, the set was full of moments to savour. It's really easy to tell when a DJ has crafted his skills for years and spent time collecting records that reflect their personality. Another factor to consider I guess is that a lot of producers get big without having a passion for Djing or interest in it but they'll get booked anyway. They'll just sync mix or something I guess, it's kind of become the norm as there isn't really money in just producing like there used to be but you'd think these people would at least put the hours in and practice a bit more.
Raising some interesting points, it is easy to become nostalgic (I know I can be), but maybe it is not as clean cut as I may like to think. Luckily REbEL has a more sensible approach, but is there a correlation between non vinyl DJs and the loss of artistry with DJing itself?
I don't think so. I think you can be shit even if you play vinyl, it's not a license to be a cunt and think you're better than everyone because at the end of the day the medium isn't that important really it's just that technology allows people to be lazy. If your a lazy person at heart your just going to sit at a computer, scan track lists, use Shazam, look at whats hot on beatport and download everything you see from zippy share then bosh it on a usb stick and play a shit set from that. Who wants to hear that?! Anyone can do that there is no skill in it! Sure sometimes we Shazam the odd tune from time to time, I've done it but for me it's the odd track I've heard and tried to track down.
I still remember the days of trying to discover tunes from a mix I heard and it taking literally months, you'd keep track of every single vinyl release by going to record shops regularly or checking online record shops new releases every week until you heard that record again, it was such a gloriously exciting thing and something that is almost completely lost now. We live in a time where patience doesnt seem to be an option and convenience is king. Everything is just a click away, tunes included but if you want to find something exciting and unique it's still possible to do that with MP3s you just have to be patient and sift through all the bullshit and PR crap.
"I think you can be shit even if you play vinyl, it's not a license to be a cunt and think you're better than everyone."
REbEL views the questions surrounding vinyl from 3 key perspectives; A releasing artist, a record label owner and maybe most importantly a fan of music. He is optimistic about the medium and will quickly tell you that vinyl sales in whole are at their best since 2003. How important does vinyl become as a medium, both as a product and your own chosen method of DJing?
Until recently my DJ sets were entirely on CD/USB using the CDJ2000s but I've always been someone that likes to move away from what everyone else is doing or having a bit of personality behind the turntables. I think digital can be a bit too perfect and with CDJs it's so easy to beatmatch. I don't even think about it I go into automatic. In some ways that's cool as it gives you more time to edit tracks live with looping etc but I find I end up filling my usb with 200+ tunes and miss stuff I want to play. I also subconsciously "play it safe" when I'm purely on the CDJ's it's weird. It's like the music loses it's personality and becomes quite throw away, MP3s always end up being forgotten about on a hard drive somewhere where as vinyl is enduring, it takes pride of place on a shelf and of course in my record bag. So I've started playing it out again. I never really stopped collecting but I've upped my game, buying a lot of stuff that's kind of obscure and special to me. There is a great feeling in owning physical music that you just don't get from digital. I can remember all my records by sight and know where each one would work in my set but with MP3s I find myself having to rely on what key it's in, colour coding and all sorts of shortcuts, through experience none of them work as well as just knowing the vinyl because it's real! These were all factors considered with the label, all three of us involved love vinyl and feel it is important to preserve this medium. There was no doubt in our mind that Tough Luck would be vinyl led.
Whereas the first Tough Luck 12" was an entirely in-house REbEL solo EP, the latest release "Various Artists Pt1" is an exercise music sourcing. How does the approach change for the second 12" where there is a far greater focus on A&R and new artists?
Obviously we knew for a while that my EP would be the first release but with the second release we also knew that we wanted to have our friends involved as well as accept a couple of demos. So Freeman & Farrelly's "Never Came Home" was the first track on the VA, we knew that one was nailed onto the vinyl, we all loved it and it's actually been around for a while. We also knew we wanted to have Ivnivn on there as he had sent over a great demo. That was one of the exciting things for me, listening to stuff from him and thinking "Wow how talented is this guy!" and he's a complete new comer. HoH was another of our friends from Leicester who sent me a couple of bits and who has a really original style it was just a case of picking the right one. "Chimes of Geisha" fits and we went with it. Ocu's track was a really strong demo and so was Harry Alcatraz's tune. The A & R process going forward will be interesting as we have some ideas of who's music we want to put out but if the right stuff comes along it'll be hard not to release it!
Keep up to date with REbEL at the below links and his monthly "REbEL Reviews" techno feature here at Organic.