Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The 3 Questions - Part 1

Insert finger here to go straight to part 2

These posts were born out of a conversation I had with Mike from Dutty Moonshine a few weeks ago about the nature of Electro Swing and its future. In it, I asked him to answer the following questions:

Is electroswing ‘proper’ dance music? 

What does the future of the genre look like? 

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?


These are questions that I had been pondering for some time, but I couldn't quite work out how to turn it into an article that didn't sound like navel-gazing. Mike's answer was so impassioned that I decided to see what some other people in the industry thought about it all. Read on to see what the likes of Nick Hollywood ('Godfather of Electro Swing'), C@ in the H@ and Talullah Goodtimes have to say on the issue.

Right at the end you will get to see what my thoughts are. Let's start with Mike:

Mike from Dutty Moonshine: 

Good question, I think of it like this; Electro Swing is a stupid fucking name which Wagram came up with to describe a sound and it stuck. When I started the Vaudeville Rave I'd never heard of Electro Swing. Has the 1st compilation that coined the name even come out? 

Check our event page out and how we described the artists https://www.facebook.com/events/41335687035/ 

The idea of vintage sounds being remixed has grown massively: Ivy Levan with Swamphop; The Correspondents with all their Boogaloo samples; Swing beats and bawdy cabaret vocals; Dutty Moonshine with the balls-deep bass sets with Swing samples; Drop the Lime with his Dropabilly; Artists like Caro Emerald, Alice Francis or Imelda May making serious careers out of their take on the sound; Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and his Chap-Hop; The Puppini Sisters with their Andrew Sisters-style pop. Now note how all those listed don't really fit "Electro Swing" but all make a living and tour the world under the umbrella of "Electro Swing".

Even pop stars are making the odd Swing track, have you heard Jessica Cornish (Jessie J) - Sexy Silk?

What a tune! You could drop that in a set and no one would know that was Jessie J. Look at Robbie Williams' massive selling Swing album. 

On Electro Swing being a fad, I think it is more a name that doesn't do justice to a sound. The evolution into Ghetto Swing was inevitable as the term Electro Swing didn't properly describe songs by artists such as C@ in the H@ or Defunk. I mean is The McMash Clan's song Swing Break really an Electro Swing song? No. But what is it? It's a dance track that has a Swing vibe and a fairly well known Swing singer on it. The sound of the vintage being remixed is well appealing, original and straight up fun so no I don't think it'll be a fad. The standard Electro Swing that started it all, yeah that won't last and even now think it's dying off a bit. I feel all the new "Electro Swing" nights are way more "Ghetto Swing" and/or incorporate more diversity than a cheap house track with a few horn samples.   

Our mix "Kicked Out Of The Club" was named that way because an established Electro Swing promoter said we weren't Electro Swing anymore. Well we never meant to be but what are we now? While we pretend to suffer an identity crisis here's a kick ass mix with lots of Swing in it!  When we started we stuck out like sore thumbs, something I think that helped us, but now....such diversity on display. The sound will continue to modestly creep forwards into an established sound but the genre name does no favours. Think how diverse the original scene was. Charleston, Honky Tonk, Blues, Big Band, Vegas Swing, Jive, Gospel, Bossa Nova - that's why it's so diverse now because it was so diverse to start with. We're just having to compete with a shit-load of other genres in these modern times - Metal, EDM, Punk, Pop, Country, Indie, Disco, Funk etc etc so we'll never be as large as back in the day but we'll exist and continue for quite a while to come yet.

Richard Shawcross aka C@ in the H@, co-founder of Ragtime Records

I would consider Electro Swing Music not a genre as such, and it is neither a fad or a movement, if you ask me. To say either of those is to follow fashion. There has been music with elements of early 20th century swing going back for many, many years, whether it be via influence or sampling. It is just the naming of Electro Swing which is the new thing.

If I had to define it under a broad umbrella genre, I would in fact call it Jazz, not Dance music. All dance music, by definition, can be danced to, but not all Electro Swing music is to be danced to... It does not have a set style, even within the broadest sense. As it is not limited by BPM or any other boundary, it cannot be pigeon-holed in the same way as other genres. Do you ever see an Electro Swing section in a record shop (online or offline)? I have yet to see one, and would be surprised if I ever will. After all, a track which is house music but is swing house, will just be in the closest house category.

With Ragtime Records when we submit a release to an online record shop, despite what we request, we may find the same release being placed in such diverse genres as chill, rock, glitch hop, house... all for same release.. because they have to pigeon-hole it... which at times can be quite amusing, at times, annoying. Electro Swing is such a loose term that it is down to how people interpret it, which is how you get some DJ's playing hip hop/glitch hop/breaks sets with early 20th century influences, and you may get DJ's playing house/techno sets with early 20th century influences. They are both electro swing, but they are both very different.

The bottom line for me is that music genres and definitions are blurring so much that it is hard to keep track of what is what. I think the future is just more blurring of lines, more recycling of old music, and more combining with new styles. And for me, this is a good and exciting thing I like to embrace.

DJ Nick Hollywood - Founder of the White Mink club nights and founder of Freshly Squeezed Music

What is 'proper' dance music? When early dance first arrived it wasn't seen as 'proper' music itself because it was created by machines!
It's all simply about evolution. People become invested in a particular sound and they don't like it when it moves on... Swing, like the Charleston from which it evolved, was one of the very earliest dance crazes. Its birth coincided with the arrival of readily available recorded music technologies. Electro Swing is a genre that reaches across the decades and takes the influence of the past and draws from / acknowledges it in the present. It's very inclusive. I coined the phrase (since extensively borrowed so it presumably it has some wider resonance) "the sounds of the first great depression with the technology of the second". By 'sounds' I meant both sampled, but also the influence of musical style (ie literal 'swing', and by 'technology' I meant as much 21st century 'attitude'.

What does the future of the genre look like? Following on from the above, we will be stepped over by the next big thing inevitably... evolution.

Of course it's a bona-fide genre. The question is answered when it becomes as big as it has and when it is taken up, right across the world, by thousands of unconnected people. It's a zietgeist moment.
The currency of dance music itself is often about the new, about embracing the unexpected, in other words - it has a strong faddy element built into its appeal - ES has benefitted from this and will also ultimately get boring because of it. Only the very best music from the genre with transcend that. The larger it gets the more people try to cash in on the novelty, the less novel it becomes, the more steeped in mediocrity, the quicker everyone moves onto the next thing.

If this music is to make a lasting impact and contribution it needs to be about quality and innovation. Perhaps it's lasting contribution will be in helping break down the barriers between genres (at the risk of becoming rather unfocussed by definition so perhaps Vintage Remix is a better phrase).

[The video above is from Kischée, whose album is the latest release from Freshly Squeezed. Jack the Cad.]

Kaptin Is Dead - Programmer of Bands and Town Mayor of Boomtown, DJ and part of Big Swing Soundsystem

Is electroswing ‘proper’ dance music?

It depends by whose definition really.  Will it ever be played seriously by Annie Mac or Pete Tong? I think it probably has at some point, though it would have to be within the context of another genre rather than as 'Electro Swing'. That's the main issue is Electro Swing is not a genre really, it's a collection of ideas and the disparity between the various parts in terms of quality and sound is pretty large.  

What does the future of the genre look like?

It could look a number of ways.  Either it finally crosses full force into the main stream, has a brief moment of every twat under the sun getting into it and then does everyones head in before dying a horrible death; or the big American RNB artists catch on properly, blows all the other acts out of the water, who sit around bitching about 'real' Electro Swing before finding something else to get into; or, it remains as a fun oddity, occasionally popping over the surface but just bubbling along nicely, at less but bigger nights and festivals.  There's certainly plenty of room to grow still, and I think it will carry on being able to sustain a few quality bands and DJs for a while. 

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?

See previous answer about it being a genre but I think it depends on who is looking at it.  I think in terms of mainstream popularity, it will only ever be a fad.  It's far too fun to be taken too seriously and that's part of it's appeal for me.  Having said that I think there is more to it then simply music.  The whole Vintage Remix vibe says a lot about society and I don't think what it really offers to society has been properly explored.  

The 3 Questions - Part 2

DJ Tallulah Goodtimes

If we're talking about dance music composed to make people dance, then yes, Electro Swing is proper dance music! If we're talking about is it proper electronic dance music, then certain areas of the genre are, yes - absolutely. We have skilled electronic producers cutting samples from old records (Jamie Berry and Skeewiff brilliant examples - although Skeewiff take their music way beyond the electro swing genre, if we'd like to get picky!)

To add to that, production collaborations to create new 'old' sounding tunes are all over the place (Kid Kasino feat Shea Soul / Alex Johstone feat. Leo Wood / Dutty Moonshine feat Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer) - performing with live and digital. Bands such as Electric Swing Circus, Captain Flatcap, and Jenova Collective are not only using live instrumentation, but live sample triggering in their live performances too - techniques used in the dance music domain.

Chris Tofu and Nick Hollywood (the scene's pioneers, as we know) take it everywhere from jump jive to reggae, to swing, jazz and Electro Swing. As well as producing more underground-laced cuts, Enzo Siffredi is also out performing in the 'proper' dance music scene. My latest production outing brings some rave breaks to the party and I like to play with FX and loops while I'm playing out. DJs such as Dutty Moonshine and Madame Electrifie take the genre into more glitchy territory.

When you look back to producers like Mike Dixon and Mr Scruff who made some of the earlier e-swing which was heard in underground clubs in the 00's, then it felt as though it sat comfortably in the realms of the underground - 'proper', if you like. Head over to the West Coast of America and jackin' house samples on jazz so this could also be considered 'proper'. Then of course, there are bands such as Fresh Dixie Project who are more traditional in the band sense.

The music crosses brilliantly into performance too - with acts such as Slamboree and their circus craziness. And it veers into cabaret with it's natural, cosy fit with burlesque performance.

The 'genre' is a wonderful melting pot of feel-good, fun, uplifting music that crosses live and electronic sounds and performed in so many ways. The masses perhaps still don't know what it is, yet it seems to be universally appealing whenever I go to an event. It has potential to be whatever it wants to be - a musical chameleon, loved by many.

Short answer, yes, it's proper.

Electroswing has hit the mainstream in the sense that there's a fair amount being licensed to television at the moment. Electroswing in adverts seems to be de rigeur. As with any kind of 'scene', the music will no doubt move and evolve and continue to do so as new artists bring their own take to it.

I'm sure in the coming years we'll not only see new and exciting nights, copycat nights, electroswing featuring as a genre within other genres on nightclub bills - "A night of hardcore, rave, funky house, and electro swing", for example. It will no doubt continue to feature at festivals, with perhaps more dedicated festivals. It's niche, but growing in popularity. Vive le swing!

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?

Personally, I'm not that into categorisation, but if we're going there, I would probably say it's established itself nicely as a bone-fide 'sub genre of dance music'. It borrows heavily from all of the land of electronic music and then plonks itself squarely in the midst of it.

DJ Dodgy-Style, Cabaret Voltaire

“Is electroswing ‘proper’ dance music?

Yes, of course it is. People dance to it. It pounds. People take drugs and put their hands in the air like they jus' don't care. If you don't think it is then I'm sorry you don't get it. A lot of us do. 

What does the future of the genre look like?

Electroswing largely attaches itself to other genres so it will evolve with other types of music. (until we run out of tunes to bootleg.) 

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?”

It doesn't need to claim to be anything. It is whatever you personally take away from it. S'lyke 1 of dem subjektiv tings, innit?

Alex Zicotron of Electro Swing Malta

How do you define 'proper dance music'? In my opinion it is quite simple: dance music is music which makes people dance. Electro Swing definitely does that  - its totally danceable music. Also, unlike some other forms of electronic dance music, it easily lends itself to dancing in pairs, true to the original swing spirit. This makes an electroswing party an interactive and fun social event like no other.

Going forward, it is inevitable that the style will evolve and mutate by merging with other styles.  Maybe it will never have the same mainstream appeal like techno or house, but then again, electroswing is many styles rolled in one. The swing elements have been merged very successfully with a wide range of styles, including hiphop, house, electro, dubstep, drum n bass and more. It is therefore a style in constant evolution which can cut across various genres and tastes. 


Is eletroswing 'proper' dance music?

Yes and no. In the beginning electroswing was mainly related to minimal and house music, so yes. But the evolution of the genre, especially in England, has brought in influences from dubstep and drum n bass. Electroswing, therefore, is more a genre of electro than a dance music genre as it encompasses so many musical styles.

What does the future of the genre look like?

In the future I think that electroswing will mix with other styles. We can already see how, like dubstep, electroswing is being used in television adverts; so one could say that the genre is becoming more mainstream. Lots of artists outside the electroswing circle are also inspired by the genre, lots of trap artists like tropkillaz for example, but also notable electro artists in France like The Geek or the Noisy Freaks.

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?

The term ‘bona fide’ is linked to the aesthetic of electroswing but I don’t think it is doomed to remain a closed style. A comparison can be made between those who like to dance and dress up in period costume and those who prefer the music. The nights risk becoming specialised a bit for these two circles.

Stroke me here for Part 3

The 3 Questions - Part 3 - USA and Canada

DJ Eliazar - Co-founder of Speakeasy Electroswing, Canada

I believe that it is proper dance music in the fact that it includes a mash of so many dance genre's that  it gives a wider berth in the dancefloor vibe.  I have had many folks tell me they don't like DJ/club music, but they love dancing to electro swing.  To me it involves the mixing of many BPMs with a child-like happiness that is missing from many types of club music - as we all remember Swing samples first being heard at grandma's house, or on cartoons

I think it is getting more widespread in the variety of musical styles being used.  I know that swing house is the main motivating force in the EU, but in North America more folks are taking a bassy breaks/ Ghetto Funk angle on it, and going more int eh hip hop style of production.  It still has not hit in any major way out here - only really 4 cities have bigger nights happening (300+ monthly), and one TV ad.  So there is a lot of room for growth out here, as most people still don't know what I am talking about when I say that I play Electro Swing.

I would like to think it is its own genre, as long as it can keep on evolving and growing.  If it keeps repeating itself and bores people in a short time, then we have a fad.  If it keeps changing and reinventing itself - more live bands, live performers with Djs, and great new producers of all stripes taking part, I think it can keep on growing and introduce more people to its style.  It is the only kind of club music that I play that will get 2 year olds dancing with 89 year olds - and that is a true story of the last party I played on the island where I live:) and yes we play the music much more quietly for the first hour or two at the events, starting them at 7 pm so folks of all ages and bedtimes can come out and boogie.

DJ Don Mescal - Cofounder of Speakeasy Electroswing, Canada

I can’t say what ‘proper’ dance music is, but Electro Swing is dance music for sure. I think it’s getting more and more attention right now and starting to cross over into Pop, Hip-Hop, and Rock. Today we see commercials on TV with Electro Swing in the background, and the general public is becoming more aware through that. 

One cool thing about Electro Swing is the flexibility of sounds you can mix. For me, anything with a vintage touch works nicely. So Hip-Hop, Drum n Bass, Glitch-Hop, House, Tech-House…

Of course, one can never forget to play contemporary swing bands like Caro Emerald, Dimi Cat, Fatima Spar Und Die Freedom Fries, Monsieur Periné, Tia Brazda, and The Stolen Sweets to name a few. We cannot do a night with 5 hours of Swing-House in Montreal, it doesn’t make sense for us. It can be sort of repetitive and we want to offer all kind of swing. I want to say a big thank you to Nick Hollywood for putting the Electro-Blues sounds on the map — it is really cool to add another flavour to the night.

Electro-Swing is still pretty new in North America. Not all cities in Canada or the USA have a regular monthly event yet. In Montreal, we are lucky to have a great audience, and people are always happy to discover new things. After 4 years, we built something special here with 300 to 400 people coming to our shows every month. Recently, some friends from Oslo asked us for some help getting off the ground, and then we started to offer our Speakeasy name to other cities around the world. We gave Speakeasy Oslo some graphics, music, and tips to start their events. We are very proud to have helped in the opening of Speakeasies in New York, Atlanta, Seattle, Victoria, Austin TX, Barcelona, Denver and Mexico City.
I went twice to perform in Mexico, and they were crazy about dancing to something new. I think Electro-Swing has a great future in front of it, and we want to be the ambassadors of that sound in North America. 
When we started our Speakeasy nights in Montreal, I was asking myself about how long this sound going to survive. An Electro-Swing scene could be just a wave — it might fall and a new groove will come after. But I think it depends on the organizers and DJs. If you offer something special with a great vibes every time, you can have Electro-Swing nights for ages.

Ménage Quad, USA

Electro Swing is a thief, it comes in the night. You hear it once and it's stuck in your brain for days, and you don't even know what it's called. When you hear it, your transmission autonomously kicks your feet into gear.  It's one of the reasons we've been fortunate enough to be successful in this industry, dancing is completely unavoidable, and the US has just begun to be exposed to it.

Like we mentioned, the US has just begun to be exposed to electroswing, and the future looks bright. Once it begins to spread more, we feel the demographic of electronica in general will expand significantly.

Its presence definitely shows it's more than just a fad, be it in the US or in Europe. It's only beginning, and people have already begun to fuse other aspects of electronic music, like glitch, Dnb, etc., with swing elements. We look forward to what fusion will continue to fuse.

The Grahamophone

Is "Electro Swing" proper dance music?

Absolutely, given that what is being sampled, swing jazz, is dance music itself I don't know how it couldn't be. As for whether it fits into current ideas of dance music, it definitely has a unique place among it. Here in the USA, I've found that most of the younger audiences have no idea what I'm playing. To them, unless they've already been told it's cool, they'll generally scoff at new sounds. Older crowds though love it. It especially does well among the Burning Man culture where the folks in their 30's and 40's are burned out on Dubstep and House.

What does the future of the genre look like?

Obviously it will evolve or die, no two ways about it. What is coming out now is nothing like what was initially out there 3-5 years ago. If you look at Dutty Moonshine's early release "Yes Please" and put it next to their newer stuff, they're light years apart. I kind of like how Chris Tofu has been calling the scene "Vintage Remix" as opposed to Electro Swing or Electro Blues, etc. I'm working on classic American country music remixes but I hope they'd work alongside swing or blues remixes. It'll also evolve regionally. England seems to be heading farther into Swing Hop or Ghetto Swing alongside bands like Electric Swing Circus, France and Italy are more band/dj mashup guided. Germany is all heavy on the DJ's, and here in North America we're slowly, VERY slowly getting our collective scenes together with bands like Good Co, DJ/Producers like The Gentleman Callers of Los Angeles, and straight up DJ's like myself and Eliazor.

Is it a fad or can it claim to be a bona-fide dance music genre?”

Again, I think it depends on how it evolves. If it sticks to tried and true sounds it will burn out fast. I think if it can be OK with being a niche sound and something that audiences will only take in doses, it can last for a while. I do think that if the sound doesn't get some more traction in the States it's gonna struggle to last in the long run. It's odd that a sound that at its core is derived from what is considered the quintessential American music the genre has really struggled to get a foothold here. I think a lot of that is a combination of Americans unwillingness to open their minds to new sounds the way that European audiences are, and there is also a bit of resentment at seeing their music chopped up and electro'd. I've had a few jazz musicians give me a good verbal beat down after hearing a set. Guess we'll just have to see it out and see what happens.