Looking Back with Pride, Looking Forward with Hope
As I get set for an incredible New Years Eve and New Years Day I want to take a moment to reflect. But first, in case you missed it, WE ARE GOING BIG on New Years Eve. I am so incredibly proud to have participated in the construction of THE BIG ONE, a new NYE event featuring the FLAMING LIPS, RATATAT, TYCHO, GRAMATIK and so many more. And then, just today, none other than Wayne Coyne posted an instagram picture that gives us a very strong (but unconfirmed) indication that Miley Cyrus will perform with the Lips. Its not a real stretch as they just cut and album together and are touring in the Spring, but it still seemed like so unlikely to me. Until today at least…
I will be on the main stage spinning the breaks between these incredible artists all night. Then on New years Day, at 3pm I have the honor of playing for the Space Cowboys at the legendary “Breakfast of Champions” and then head to Public Works for the even more bugged-out Supper of Survivors, hosted by the Brass Tax. Then on January 6th I ship out on the incredible music-filled incredible adventure called JAMCRUISE!
But this week and next doesn’t come close to summing up my 2015. 2015 has been among my most personally gratifying years. I have so much to be thankful for and so much to be hopeful for in 2016. Here are a few things that I wanted to share, about my travels, work, music, politics, and even, yes… Deflategate.
I am proud to have accomplished two of my “bucket list” goals in visiting both China (including Taipei and Hong Kong) and Indonesia plus touched down in South Korea, and Singapore.
China really blew my mind and not in any expected way. I expected China to be crowded and dirty, and overwhelming. Instead I found the cities I visited to be relatively clean, orderly, and although crowded, seemingly calm. There are TONS of people, cars, bikes, rickshaws, and mopeds, but I rarely saw anyone honking or yelling, or carrying on. They just seemed to make it work. And just like most of my other travels in the rest of the world, I found people act like people everywhere. with behavior falling within all of the predictable bounds of acceptable human behavior. Don’t believe for a second any narrative that paints China as our “enemy”. The United States has WAY more in common with this China than we do with most other nations and it behooves us all to study, engage, and understand.
On the same trip I visited Hong Kong and Taipei. Taipei was a more western version of China, with a lot of sprawl but considerably wealthier and cleaner, but with less grit, less culture. I am still having trouble coming to grips with Hong Kong. This may have been the most beautiful city I have ever visited (sorry Paris). The juxtaposition of 60-70’s streets with 21st century high rises, green mountains, and cyan waters was just breathtaking.
On that trip, I also learned that my frequent boast that I could “eat Chinese food every day for the rest of my life” was no idle threat. I think I actually could. Happily.
I loved my experience in Indonesia, mainly due to my visit to Ceningen Island and Ceningen Resort and the incredible diving there. But I didn’t really dig Bali very much. It reminded me a lot of Santa Cruz, Cancun, or Tamarindo Costa Rica. These are all places that were once beautiful but have been overdeveloped into a richkids fantasy at the expense of the poor. I don’t think they have figured out with how to do development in a sustainable way there yet and it really showed (and smelled). It seemed like things were burning everywhere: garbage, foliage, and sewage. Not pretty.
Singapore is a city that I badly want to revisit. We spent only 15 hours or so there on a layover, so we did the obligatory taxi ride in to town for Dim Sum. I want a chance to return there. The airport is the finest I have ever visited (sorry Dubai).
WORK WITH HUSHconcerts
I’m incredibly proud of what HUSHconcerts became this year. We worked so incredibly hard to re-launch the company and our staff was just tireless. Their enthusiasm and commitment to excellence was continually inspiring to me. You can read more about my thoughts on HUSHconcerts here.
I’m also proud that in spite of a 90/10 focus on HUSH at the expense of my DJ work, I was able to play some of the best sets of my life this year and continue to come up with new ideas and ways to geek out. The “History of Psychedelic Rock in Remix” set from Treasure Island Music Fest and my deep disco set at Ghost Ship were two I will definitely treasure, and probably post at some point. But my best set of the year was the one I recently posted from Electric Forest’s Grand Artique Stage. You can listen to it and download it here.
Super proud that I finally released my first LEGAL track ever, the single FUNKY HITS WRECKED (featuring Lyrics Born). It’s also (bar none) my best club banger ever and always gets the best response. Big ups to Trotter and Royal Soul Records for including me on their incredible compillation. If you don’t have it yet, you can purchase it on Itunes here. The fact that Lyrics Born (my favorite emcee ever) agreed to let me use the vocal is a huge honor in and of itself. It kind of feels like when I published my poetry book Walkabout back in 1999. Something has been published. Something of substance has been left behind. I left an itty bitty mark. The track rocks too so there’s that.
Big thanks to Mikey Harms of Hot n Heavy for all the help in mixing down and mastering. Huge prayers to Mikey as well as he continues to battle debilitating complications from his Chiari Malformation in his brain.
That said, I am a bit frustrated and disappointed in myself that my goal of releasing my Radiohead and Talking Heads remixes have been pushed back (again). The hope is that with some help from some new friends, I will hopefully get this goal accomplished this year.
MUSIC I LOVED IN 2015
Kraak & Smaak put out the single best dance track of the year with “All I want is you”. It’s got everything I look for in a club catalyst: superior beatsmanship, live instrumentation, a killer hook, great vocals, and some very subtle and unexpected changes. I can’t even count how many times I broke that track this year on people who had never heard it and watch the place explode. That’s VERY rare with new music. It’s BeeGees / Chic level disco.
Fort Knox Five put out the best dance album of 2015, with Pressurize the Cabin and with most of our attention on the tragic loss of Jon Horvath, this would be an easy fact to overlook. But this album just drips with funk from beginning to end and it should be appreciated and celebrated as a work of art and a fitting swan song for a man who devoted his life to making us smile, sing, dance, enjoy…
But seriously? FUCK. Jon H fucking died? Did that really happen? I am still very much not over his loss. Yitgadal vi’yitkaddash, shimei rabba…
OTHER ARTISTS THAT MADE HEADWAY IN 2015
It would be hard to find an act that made a bigger leap in 2015 than Tycho and the Bay Area’s own Scott Munson deserves every single plaudit. He took (literally) years to make his new album, Awake designed all his own art, programs all of his own visuals, plays live, deejays flawlessly. He is a producer’s producer and a true musician. I was also very impressed with Marvel Years who put out some incredibly funky glitch stuff. He clearly knows his music, using some very obscure samples, but his production skills are on par with anyone in that scene. It also seems that Todd Terje finally got the credit he deserves after so many years of terrific work… but more on that… now…
THE FUNK IS BACK (FINALLY)
I think the funk is officially back in dance music (finally). It seems the dubstep guys have moved to glitch, which is basically IMHO bassy funky hiphop. Along with the focus comes sample material that draws on the more positive sounds of the soul/funk/disco era. And if you missed all the great mid-tempo bass funk, then it would have been impossible to miss the complete domination of serious dancefloors by disco.
DISCO IS NOT DEAD ANYMORE
Yup DISCO. Disco is BACK. But THIS disco is WAY better than your parents’ disco. This generation of producers took the beats, the vibes, the bass, the strings, and the energy and skipped the schmaltzy, cheezewhiz stuff. It was said cheezewhiz that used to so infuriate rock DJs and reverends alike, driving them to smash and burn the records. Folks like Gigamesh, Kraak & Smaak, Pyschemagik, Kolombo, and Todd Terje, are leading a revival that has made disco not only cool again but actually cool music this time. It’s serious dance music that has every element of musical construction in its foundation, melody, harmony, rhythm, meter, hooks, etc….
WHAT’s SERIOUS DANCE MUSIC?
Hey, what did you mean by “Serious Dance Music”? I guess I have a hard time taking a lot of new electronic dance music seriously. Much of the newer “deep house” and “festival rave music” seems not to have much actual “music” in it, but rather is a sonic workout regimen. The pattern of build, drop, wash, build, drop, wash has become so damn formulaic that it’s becoming flat out LAZY. Depending on big subs to massage the chakras of drugged-out ravers has value I guess… as a workout.
But this is physical music designed to actually induce a biological response when combined with the right chemicals. And don’t get me wrong, this is not an anti drug or antirave rant. I did plenty of both and still love rave culture. I actually believe that the communal drug freakout has been a positive part of collective youth culture for the past 50 years. Whether you pick the Acid Rock 60’s, Northern Soul 70’s, Punk 80’s, Hip Hop 90’s, they all had their moment, their drugs, and their sound. I fully support what I’m seeing in most of the rave culture of today in terms of their goals and attitudes about tolerance, inclusion, PLUR etc…. These are GOOD THINGS. Kids should get together and dance and learn to be kind to one another and all that. But those other eras also left us with music you could listen to when NOT at the show.
This new rave shit unfortunately will not stand the test of time. It may be scientifically constructed FOR the physical experience and designed well to “get over”. At a big festival or a big club system it can be an intense physical experience but to me, at least, it’s a tough listen without those massive subs. The dependence on this formula, and the associated loudspeaker technology is making the producers lazy. They simply aren’t giving us much MUSIC to go with the builds, drops, and washes. Thus I’m having a hard time taking it seriously.
DEFLATEGATE/BALLGHAZI (yeah I”m finally going there)
I mostly stayed out of the Deflategate thing all year but here’s what I was dying to say. First off, if you are going to hate on Tom Brady & the Pats, then “Ballghazi” was a way better troll moniker than “Deflategate”.
But here’s why hating on the Pats would be silly. As to the “evidence”? It was proven as inconclusive by the NFL’s own investigation (the word “probably was all over their own report” and shot down by the only truly independent arbiter in the whole mess, the Federal Judge. So let’s start with the fact that (by all of the actual evidence at least), nothing actually happened here.
The bigger issue is the moronitude, arrogance, and tone deafness of the NFL’s management, led by Roger Goodell. Tom Brady has been, by all accounts, an icon of the virtues that the NFL has purportedly wanted to represent: teamwork, commitment to excellent, striving to overcome adversity, modesty etc…. A 6th round long-shot draft pick, he worked his way into being among the greatest players ever. He has been by every account and standard, an exemplary teammate, a model citizen and has given generously of his time and money to those in need. Why on earth would the NFL tear down the reputation of a man like this over something so inconclusive at best, and meaningless at worst?
When at the same time, the NFL only suspends Greg Hardy for 6 games. Greg Hardy, a man who was convicted (by a court of law) to have attempted to murder his girlfriend by choking her out on a bed of assault weapons. He appealed then paid said girlfriend a vast sum of money to not appear in court, thereby saving his own ass. She disappeared. Charges dropped. Greg Hardy, attempted murderer, played in the NFL this year. Adrian Peterson, a guy who pleaded guilty to having cruelly and brutally beaten his four-year-old son on the backside, head, and even testicles with a whip-like piece of wood, also played in the NFL this year. Sheldon Richardson who was pulled over after driving through a residential neighborhood at 143 MILES PER HOUR WITH A GUN AND A TWELVE YEAR OLD CHILD… is PLAYING right now. In fact he sacked Tom Brady last week.
Heck, Ray Lewis, a man who either murdered someone, or obstructed justice in the commission of said murder (he pleaded GUILTY to obstruction and therefore is a convicted felon), is on ESPN every week hamming it up with Steve Young and company. Poor Steve Young, the boyscout Mormom paragon of morality (I’m not even kidding) has to work with this murderous piece of shit? Ray Lewis even had the gall to call out Tom Brady. Let’s say this another way. A guy who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder had the gall to criticize Tom Brady over… what again? A (scantily evidenced and unproven) accusation that he asked some footballs to be deflated? Hey Ray, did he “murder” those footballs? Or did he just “obstruct the investigation?” You would know you hypocritical criminal bastard.
And finally, there is Goodell himself, the Teflon commissioner. He lords over a league that prides itself on accountability. This is a league with absolutely NO job security, where (with the player’s contracts non guaranteed) players are fired on a weekly basis with no pay. Break a leg? You can be cut. Muff a punt? Cut. Get a concussion? You can be cut.
Or worse, you could get CTE the recently discovered brain disease caused by the thousands of minor concussions experienced by most NFL players. CTE has been proven by extensive medical research to cause severe depression and can lead to complete violent insanity (see Seau, Junior). Yeah, get CTE from playing in the NFL and exhibit symptoms? You can get cut! And with no guaranteed contracts, these guys are shit out of luck in their 20’s and 30’s.
The coaches likewise are held to a similarly harsh level of accountability. Some are fired 4 games into their contract. It’s the accountability league and every is held to the highest standards. Hell Goodell even wanted the Patriots locker room attendants held to that level of accountability.
The only person apparently not held to that level of accountability is that same “Czar of Accountability” Roger Goodell. In a span of 24 months, Goodell’s NFL front office showed itself to be ignorant, tone deaf, unfair, unjust, inconsistent, and downright malicious on multiple occasions. The NFL completely mishandled the discovery of CTE, choosing to use every dirty anti-whistleblower trick in the RJ Reynolds playbook to quash the publication of the scientific findings. They then went full Catholic church, choosing to pay off the retired players rather than devote resources to finding a cure for this disease. Recently they cut off their funding for research into the disease at the National Institutes of Health. And if that was only one of the disgusting or disreputable things that Goodell’s office engaged in, it would be enough. But it wasn’t by a longshot.
Goodell’s mishandling of Deflategate, and of course the Hardy, Peterson, and Ray Rice disciplinary situations is just the tip of the iceberg. Congress recently revealed in a scathing report that the US Military paid the NFL $53 Million of your tax dollars for “patriotic tributes” like wearing camouflage on the sidelines. I am all for supporting the troops, but secretly funneling my tax money to the National Fucking Football League to wear camouflage? Outrageous! The author of the report was the most pro-Military Senator of our time, John McCain himself, who said “It is time to allow major sports teams’ legitimate tributes to our soldiers to shine with national pride rather than being cast under the pallor of marketing gimmicks paid for by American taxpayers.”
This week, revelations have emerged that star NFL players have been abusing Human Growth Hormone, a well-known banned substance that is anathema in the International sport. If an Olympian is found having used it, they can be banned for life. This week it was alleged by a supplier that NFL (and endorsement) posterchild Peyton Manning himself was shipped a year’s supply of the stuff (subversively through his wife) when he was recovering from injury in 2011. As more allegations come forward, including the one that calls the NFL’s HGH testing regime a “façade” it’s clear that this is a league built completely ON a FAÇADE of accountability.
And then there are the poor Cleveland Browns and their erstwhile star receiver Josh Gordon and star quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel. Manziel has been publicly roasted for his penchant for partying. But the facts are that he recognized his problem, checked himself into rehab last summer and is by all accounts working hard at his craft. So now whenever someone tweets a photo of him drinking, he can be suspended or benched? When did that become a thing? Isn’t he an adult? In America? As long as he doesn’t hurt anyone he can drink right? Then there’s Josh Gordon, the uber-talented Cleveland wideout suspended from the league for an entire season for… drumroll… MARIJUANA!
So let me get this straight. We will hold Manziel accountable for alcohol, and Gordon for pot but we let the domestic abusers, the attempted murderers, the grossly negligent and the child abusers play? Is this accountability? We let rampant doping go unnoticed, let alone unpunished? We let the NFL take millions of our tax dollars and pay out for forced patriotism? We let a commissioner who has let this manure go unshoveled continue about his job? We let him do this while spending further millions to pursue an increasingly unlikely prosecution of one of the game’s paragons of citizenship?
As the man so famously said THAT’s SOME BULLSHIT!
My thoughts on my favorite sport and the people who run it in 2016 are very simple #holdGoodellaccountible.
Oooh … need to calm down…. oh wait…
THINGS I’M HOPEFUL ABOUT
People, even on the right are waking up about Global Warming. The Paris conference was a step in the right direction. Acid raid is gone. Even though all of the solar panels and windmills in the world can’t keep up with the energy needs of growing population, I am still very enthused by the growth of solar panels and windmills. My good friend Casson Trenor (the founder of Tataki, the first sustainable sushi restaurant) opened a Shizen, Vegan sushi restaurant and it’s a HUGE HIT. This is progress progress. Try to solve one problem at a time right? Oh and along those lines, I actually found love in my own life… but in the interest of discretion and dignity, that’s all I will say about that here.
PERSON OF THE YEAR, NARENDRA MODHI
I am incredibly impressed with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modhi, and think he should have been Time’s Person of the Year. He has openly championed yoga as a step towards better health, taken steps to curb political corruption, cracked down harshly at perpetrators of anti-female attacks, and said things that make me think he is realistic about India’s key role in the fight against climate change. India is the world’s most critical environmental fulcrum due to their enormous carbon output, balanced with their real development needs. Modhi seems like someone who can work towards a solution. And to top it off, this last week he unexpectedly visited Pakistan (the first Indian Prime Minister in more than a decade) and was seen warmly conversing with his Pakistani counterpart. Pakistan’s premier even said it was “high time the countries ended their hostilities” This week, the countries militaries installed a hotline to avoid confusion in their hotly contested Kashmir border. The fact that these two historic enemies (who between them have hundreds of nukes), are finding a way to normalize relations is an incredibly hopeful development. These two countries have been at eachother’s throats since NINETEEN FOURTY EIGHT! And now their premiers are showing up at each-other’s birthday parties? That is a HOPEFUL THING PEOPLE!
And that’s the final word I have for you. HOPE.
The world is what we make of it.
May 2016 make the world what you most hope it to be.