I’m of the opinion that the house & techno scene in Melbourne isn’t as good as it could be. Not nearly good enough. This may be a bold statement to make but lets just review a few points first. This isn’t a dig at club culture, but highlighting what I think is an important issue with clubbing in Melbourne that should be discussed. Why all this gets to me so much is because I’m very passionate about music. Its my life’s work; so to see all that is going on in my city is straight disrespectful to the music culture that I represent.
Music isn’t the main drive for most establishments, it’s money. This is where the disrespect comes from. Clubs don’t take on the responsibility of a culture that has been around for more than thirty years.
The underground music scene has always been around Melbourne, but its slightly harder to come by. It sits in the shadows for those who are into the scene to find which is good, because it will only attract the right kind of people. The underground scene is essentially a good bunch of mates pushing music they love unto people who love it. When these people try and take their music to clubs, there is a disconnect where a culture runs into business. This is where you will find my main gripe. A lot of clubs that represent Melbourne’s nightlife have no acknowledgement of the responsibility that a venue should take on when it comes to electronic music culture.
The incentive at the heart of it all is money. Club nights want and have to make some dough. There is a very similar formula in place to achieve this goal. Its about drink specials, guest lists, birthday deals, photographers, social media hype, so on, so forth. None of this has anything to do with music. And with that, lets move onto the issue of the music.
You’re kidding yourself if you think that what you hear at a club is underground anymore. I’m not sure what people call it these days; bass house or tech house, what ever its called, its about as safe to play and as uninspiring as mainstream radio and contributes as much to music culture as a flu contributes to your day. Its not good.
Clubs should have symbiotic relationship with the artists who are pushing their music, where people who run nights curate a line up of artists to express their music which fuels the cultural fire. This has the effect of driving artists to push their own boundaries. Look to the great clubs like Berghain, Air, DC10 and Verboten. To catch their eye, you need to stand out and push your music into unexplored territory, you need to do something that sets you apart. It fuels a culture by providing good music to crowds of people who love it.
To sum up, a clubs responsibility is rather simple. You provide a good space, with good sound and good music, which in turn a good crowd who’re into the music will come and be a part of the culture. When you have clubs who’s main focus is money, people through the door, pictures and drink specials, you end up attracting a crowd of people who aren’t into music. It’s the wrong crowd. If a club books the same people to play the same safe and popular music, then the only thing you contribute to the music culture is stagnation. And this is bad. If club don’t take the responsibility, it limits the opportunity for the culture to grown in Melbourne and to establish itself as a mark on the world map for quality music culture.
There is a fantastic scene in the 2014 film ‘Whiplash’ where J.K Simmons’ character Andrew Fletcher is talking about a teacher driving a young jazz protégé to his limits to push his drive. He goes on to say “So imagine if Jones (the teacher) had just said: “Well, that’s okay, Charlie (the student). That was all right. Good job. “And then Charlie thinks to himself, “Well, shit, I did do a pretty good job.” End of story. No Bird. That, to me, is an absolute tragedy. But that’s just what the world wants now. People wonder why jazz is dying… There are no two works in the English language more harmful than “good job”. I think this sums up the state of nightlife culture in Melbourne. The clubs are just doing a “good job”. What a shame. What a great shame.
I want to state that not all clubs are like this. There are a few Melbourne institutions that have been doing their own thing for a while. Places like Revovlver, Boney and the Mercat are prime examples for putting on the right kinds of night. There are also a bustling underground scene with crews pushing their passion and choosing their own routes to contribute to the local scene. Groups like Bunker, Green Fetish Records and Melbourne Techno Collective to name a few.
I think its time that Melbourne takes the next step to firmly implant itself as the electronic music powerhouse of the country. Its time to take a step away from what we’ve known for years and expand our music culture and create something unique.
There’s a great opportunity for Melbourne to become a revered global clubbing spot if the DJs, venues and anyone else involved community take the next step and commit!