Four Mind-Bending Things 'The X-Files' Taught Us About The Bill Clinton Era

All images courtesy of PAN/ICA

On October 4-5, Berlin-based label PAN took over London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) with a program of lectures, performances, and screenings packed with enough information to turn your mind inside out. PAN has long been at the forefront of music and technologylast year, they released a conceptual album from Aaron David Ross on an SD card, and this year TCF will make his debut on the label by publicizing his DNA. Their two-day collaboration with the ICA was similarly eclectic, spanning M.E.S.H. and Aleksandra Domanovi’s collaborative audio-visual show on DNA structures, to a quadrophonic live set from Lee Gamble based on 40 pitched and decomposed patterns.

Meet the Composer Behind the Iconic X-Files Theme Song

One of the program’s highlights was a highly anticipated presentation titled “Fear Indexing The X-Files” on October 5 by producer Steven Warwick (AKA Heatsick) and writer Nora Khan. Armed with a slideshow of both humorous and ghastly stills from the show, Warwick sat in the ICA theatre ruminating on the various ways fear was depicted throughout the seriesfrom the xenophobic paranoia of small town America to 90s anxieties over unsafe sex and AIDS.

As Warwick’s low rumble rippled through the room, even those who had never watched the show were captivated by his and Khan’s analysis, which used several seminal episodes to explore “how The X-Files posited fear as an inherent quality of domestic life in America.”

Below are edited excerpts from Warwick and Khan’s presentation, arranged according to several distinctly “unsafe” spacesfrom seedy nightclubs to online chatrooms to the American suburbsthat the show frequently depicted as being under threat.

The audience at a PAN lecture

1. Nightclubs were depicted as dangerous spaces where unsafe sex could lead to AIDS.

Steven Warwick: “The problematically-titled ‘Gender Bender’ episode finds Mulder and Scully investigating a group called The Kindreda group of Amish able to stretch and morph his body to pass through the smallest air vents. Watching Tooms in his prison cell, Mulder notes how people invest in bars on the window and high-tech security systems, but it isn’t enough for such fluid, abnormal threats. There is no space that you can ever fully protect.”

4. Domestic sanctuaries and small towns were constantly under threat from outside (and alien) forces.

The X Files emerged in a unique period between the residue of Cold War fears and pre-9/11 millennial optimism. The 1990s were a time when pluralistic societies were starting to consider globalisation and networked communication.

The series worked psychological anxieties at this complex time. The show allowed viewers to monitor the collective need for an enemy of the state… Aliens, ghosts and the paranormal replaced communism and prefaced the current Islamophobic climate while the destabilising force of neoliberalism remains an undetected, invisible man in the room.

In The X Files, terror was a characteristic of the domestic space. Stateside, it existed within your house, right on the block, and easily in the safety of the suburbs. The narrative plot line revolved around an overlying alien colonist myth arc in which the US government is involved in an alien/human hybrid-cloning project, resistant to alien colonization, frequently interspersed with monster of the week episodes playing on the fears all for dramatic relief.

Small-town paranoia will remain an underlying, strong theme in every seasonlocals are most suspicious of outside forces meddling with the existing social order. However, no matter how vigilant citizens are, the enemy can lurk in a dark corner of one’s home.

The X Files allowed 90s viewers to view America as its own enemy. In the absence of an external threat, the citizens could gather around, there must always be an enemy out there whether home grown, foreign born or space relayed. Jihadism replaced communism and aliens were a terror threat. America set out into the world to find non-existent weapons of mass destructions. The cycle continues to produce its bogeyman, both real and imagined.”

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My Brother Died Of An Ecstasy Overdose But I’m Still Campaigning To Reopen Fabric

Nathalie and Jean-Marc. All photos courtesy of the Wainwright family.

When Nathalie Wainwright was 13, her older brother, Jean-Marc, died after taking ecstasy in a nightclub in Skegness, a seaside town in east England. He was 17 years old and the year was 1997, a time when the British press was rife with moral outrage over rave culture’s association with drug-taking. That was nearly two decades ago, and now Nathalie is 33; music and club culture have become a big part of her life. She sees her brother’s death as a tragic accident, one that widespread education on responsible drug use might have helped preventnot shutting down the clubs where these fatalities can occur.

A longstanding patron of fabric, Nathalie is currently lobbying the local authorities in Islington to reverse the decision to revoke the club’s license following the drug-related deaths of two teenagers at the venue. Recently, she wrote an open letter to the mayor of London and members of Islington council in support of fabric’s appeal to have its license reinstated. Here, she tells THUMP’s Anna Codrea-Rado why she doesn’t believe shutting down fabric will stop drug-related deaths, and why she champions harm reduction and drug education reform.

Like many 17-year-old boys in the 90s, my brother, Jean-Marc, went to a rave. In Skegness, of all places. Back in the day, there were a lot of raves there, mainly happy hardcore. I think it was Helter Skelter that he went to that night in 1997.

In the news report, they said that he had consumed a huge amount of drugs all throughout the day, but I think that anyone that’s taken drugs knows that’s quite a normal thing to dotake drugs over a certain period of time. For a start, nearly everyone at the club in question was under the age of 18, so you know it’s a dodgy club.

My brother fell ill, and one of his friends he was with pleaded with the employees to call an ambulance. There had been another death the week before at the club, and they didn’t want the publicity, so they didn’t actually call an ambulance. They left him for 45 minutes in his 17-year-old friend’s arms. It wasn’t until he was having seizures and swallowed his own tonguehis friend had to literally yank his tongue from the back of his throat out so he didn’t choke to deaththat the club deemed in harm reduction, and nobody else is doing anything about it.

Drugs have been part of all music cultures for decades; that isn’t going to change. You should be educating the people, supporting them, giving them pill testing, making them more aware. We allow people to drink, and drinking causes far more problems than any kind of drug, particularly ecstasy. I mean how many have people have of died of alcohol-related complications compared to deaths caused by ecstasy?

Acid House Rave Trailblazers Wicked Will Play A 25 Year Anniversary Party In Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Biscuit Bri on Flickr

West coast rave crew credited with bringing England’s acid house scene to the US, Wicked Sound System, are playing a special 25 year anniversary party in Brooklyn on Friday, October 21. The event will take place at a secret location, and it is co-presented by New York promoters Blkmarket Membership, Listed Productions, Tom Mello, and SOUP NYC.

Wicked was originally founded in San Francisco in 1991, and the crew currently consists of three of its five original members: DJs Garth, Jen, and Markie Mark. They are known for their Full Moon parties, which paired the crew’s experience in London’s acid house scene with sound system culture with outdoor festivities. This combination laid out a blueprint for decades of American rave culture to come, and the crew’s sound system was used at Burning Man in 1995.

You can RSVP for the location and other information by emailing

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

Deepblak Boss Aybee Shares A Playfully Neurotic New Track

Photo by Marie Staggat

Berlin-via-Oakland producer Armon Bazile, aka AYBEE, today shared a playfully neurotic new track off his upcoming third studio LP, The Odyssey, which will be released via his own Deepblak Recordings. As its title implies, “Push Pull” is built around tensionit comes across as both introverted and extroverted at the same time, its spare melody winding around bouncy drums.

Bazile spoke with THUMP about the track, his label, and the new album via emailyou can read the exchange below.

THUMP: What was the production process for this track like? Was there a specific vibe or concept you were trying to capture?
Aybee: When I was working on it I was really getting into this tension between the drums and the synth line. They are kind of tugging at each other. That’s why I called it “Push Pull.”

You founded Deepblak fifteen years ago now. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from doing the label this long, and where do you hope to see it go in the future?
The most interesting thing I have learned is be and believe in who you are. Stick to your creative calling. For us at the label it has always been “stay open, push forward.” We are wanderers sonically, always searching and trying to evolve. I try to foster that community and ethos. At times you will run smack into your environment which will pressure you to be like someone else, but much of the music I cherish as a music lover comes from an honesty. An authenticity. These are the things I try to nurture and where I would like to see the label continue to go.

How would you characterize your approach to making full length albums? The Odyssey is your fourth record, if you include 2014’s collaborative LP Sketches Of Space with Afrikan Sciences, so you’ve had a fair amount of practice by now.
Really it’s about having something to say. A story. I don’t ever grab a bunch of tracks laying around slap them all together and call it an album. The intent to sit down and express yourself in that format. It’s fun and an absolute nightmare if you did it correctly. But the closing of the creative circle of an LP is a cathartic process that brings its own rewards.

Is their a concept behind this new album? What was your thinking behind its title?
For a long time I have always been looking forward. You do a music project, finish and move on to the next. For me I try and treat every one like it’s my first. For this one I tried to look back and forward. Taking a little of survey of how far I have climbed, taking in some water, and starting back up the mountain. That’s why it’s called The Odyssey because for me that’s what this musical path is. That is my life.

The Odyssey will be released on November 4 on 2LP and digital formats.

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Meet The 72-Year-Old Preacher Behind One Of The Greatest Gay Club Anthems Of All Time

Carl Bean is a Los Angeles-based gospel singer, AIDS activist, and Archbishop of the Unity Fellowship Church who sang the powerful vocals on the 1977 Motown classic, “I Was Born This Way.” The songwhere Bean triumphantly proclaims in the chorus, “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay/I was born this way”became one of the first club hits of the gay liberation movement, popularized by disco DJs around the country throughout the 80s. The song has lived on through remixes like Shep Pettibone and Bruce Forest’s “Better Days” mix (named after the since-shuttered gay nightclub in New York City); it even inspired Lady Gaga’s 2011 chart-topper, “Born This Way.” To mark National Coming Out Day (October 11), Carl Bean told me about how he turned the hardships in his life into one of the most enduring gay anthems of all time.Michelle Lhooq

I moved to New York because I knew I wanted to sing and make a living from that. That’s all I knew. My mother had died from a bad abortion, which was illegal at the time. At 14, I had what you’d call experimental sex with a young boy on my block. His parents went to my godparents, who were raising me, saying, “Carl did this to my son.” My father went on to ask, “Where did this come from?” And I told him, his brother! My uncle had molested me from the age of about 3 up until about 11 or 12. Of course, it was our deep dark secret. So that came out and there was unrest in the family. Being basically a foster child, I felt like, now I’ma be kicked out because I’m a queer.I attempted suicide and landed in the mental health ward of a big hospital. There was a doctor there, a female exchange student from Europe. She said, “There are many people like you. I can’t do what your parents want make you a heterosexualbut I can help you accept who you are and go for your dreams.” That gave me enlightenment and the chance to accept myself. If I had another doctor, I might have been a different animal.

Growing up in Baltimore, I was ushered into a rich environment of social justice and the civil rights movement in a very real way. Baltimore during my youth probably had the largest branch of the NAACP. My pastor, Reverend Wood, had a real mind for civil rights and social justice. So I was one of the kids from that church that was being trained to do sit-ins at lunch counters, be in the marches, integrate the public school system, and what-have-you.Still, my mother’s death, harassment for being different, and my suicide attempt were too much for me to bear. So at 16, I went on a Greyhound bus from Baltimore to New York.

Why Clubbing Was Crucial for Gay Men During the AIDS Crisis

My first thing was to join a church in Harlem. Other male singers that were gay would come from various parts of the country, and we formed a gospel group and started singing around the city. One day, we opened for a professional group in Harlem called The Gospel Wonders. Afterwards the manager of the Wonders came up to me and said, “Would you like to join a recording group?” His name was Calvin White and he had come from the Bradford Singers. From time to time, if they wanted a male voice for something, they would say, “Come on, Carl!” and I would go downtown to the Brill building, where there were these little rooms of pianos that you’d hear different tunes coming out of. I met all the young writersCarole King, Burt Bacharach, Hal Davidand that’s when I began to get excited about really trying to be a secular artist.

One day I was in a supper club near the Apollo during the day. through the music industry was NWA. Now, with Black Lives Matter, it’s finally on the front page. The youth of today, just as we did in the 60s, stood up! They started hitting the streets, marching and saying, “I’m not willing to let you kill me and then say I had a gun, or some drugs, or I moved and you saw something flash. We’re just not willing to do that.”

In 2017, it’ll be 40 years since I went in that studio. The fact that disc jockeys kept doing new mixes that has kept it relevant all these years? It all goes back to that song and what’s bubbling under all of it. “I Was Born This Way” is about standing up to injustice. That’s what’s pushing me forward. If there’s going to be a democracy, then let it truly be thatnot just in words, but in deed, in actuality.

Read Carl Bean’s autobiography I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom, and a Ministry in Christ on Amazon

Follow Michelle Lhooq on Twitter

Kaytranada Shares Edits Of Solange Knowles' "Cranes In The Sky" And Chance The Rapper's "All Night"

Photo by Jacqueline Ashton

Kaytranada has just released a smoothed out edit of Solange Knowles’ “Cranes In The Sky,” from the singer’s latest album A Seat at the Table, as well an extended version of Chance the Rapper’s “All Night,” which he produced off the Chicago rapper’s 2016 mixtape Coloring Book.

His unofficial rework of the former takes a soothing, minimalist approach to the original production, giving the groovy guitars rhythms just enough bounce to be played at the club. Tagging the jam as #Ambient and #2Step on his SoundCloud, the Montreal producer briefly stated:

“I couldn’t help it and i can’t deny how good it sounds. this is just an edit to play on my dj sets, and i played it once and everybody wanted it right away. Honestly i was gonna wait to see if Solange or her team or whoever works for her wouldve ask me to do an offical remix so if they still want to, i could make it sound better than that version but ohhhhh, what the hell…. anyways i highly recommend you that new Solange album ‘A Seat At The Table'”

Listen to both remixes below and revisit our 2016 feature with the producer.

Max Mohenu is on Twitter.

How A Chance Encounter On A Bus Led To One Of The Year's Strongest Albums

Photo via Stephan Redel. This article was published originally on THUMP UK.

In 1975, Martyn (Martijn Deijkers) and Steffi (Steffie Doms) were born in Holland, about 20 miles apart. They didn’t meet until 2010. This strange coincidencestrange both in that they did meet some 35 years later, but also that they didn’t meet in the decades beforebecame the foundation for a musical partnership, Doms & Deykers. The duo, who utilize the combined powers of two of underground dance music’s most trusted voices, are now releasing their debut LP, Evidence From a Good Source. THUMP caught up with them over Skype, to trace the path from chance encounter to creative excellence.

Martyn and Steffi enjoy shared but distant personal histories. Both fell in love with music via family members; for Martyn it was his vinyl obsessed father, and for Steffi her new age infatuated older brother. In their teens they both started attending club nights and illegal raves in their neighboring areas. “We were definitely at the same parties,” Steffi laughs.

“Without realising, of course,” adds Martyn.

Having spent the early 1990s blissfully unaware of each-other’s existence, independently forging a lifelong love of house and techno, they began to unknowingly diverge. Martyn discovered drum and bass. “I was going to London to buy records, and eventually some of us started our own night,” he recalls. “That stuck me to drum & bass for a quite a whileI was playing it so it made sense to produce it as well.”

Steffi is less keen to frame her musical maturation in terms of an unfolding lineage, or as being dictated by where she lived at particular times. The reason I moved to Berlin was to take on the offer to work with a club,” she says. “It never changed anything about where I wanted to go musically”. Rather, she talks of her DJ career as a constant flow of phases that have co-mingled in order to create a signature sound. Mostly anyway, “It’s fair to say that after early-2000s I left the electro because that wasn’t happening anymore,” she adds.

Between 1975 and 2010, then, Martyn and Steffi became the DJs and producers we now recognize. Steffi, based in Berlin, as a label-owner and resident at Panorama Bar, and Martyn, based in Washington DC, as a genre-bender of everything from house and techno, to dubstep, breakbeat and drum and bass. So, on finally meeting, on a bus traveling to Lowlands festival, they had a lot of catching up to do.

“We met in 2010, so we were already like 20 years into our musical journey,” Steffi explains. “There are so many things that we’ve simultaneously, separately experienced because we’re from the same yearsfor example, the other day we found out that there’s loads of broken beat records we both own. There’s still so much to discover.”

“I think we should point out that when we got to know each-other it wasn’t just about collaborating on music,” Martyn tells me. “It was as much about the friendship. We connected on a personal level before we ever discussed collaborating.”

Collaborations did followthey provided remixes of each-other’s work, and placed tracks on each-other’s labelbut it wasn’t until Martyn was playing Berlin and was able to meet up with Steffi again in person that they started making music together. In 2014, they released Fonts for the People on Martyn’s 3024 imprint, as Doms & Deykersnamed after their respective last names.

Yet it’s the personal dimension that the pair return to routinely in their descriptions of working together, and how they were able to fall into such a productive partnership. “In the studio, we speak the same language,” Martyn postulates. “Not just literally but because of our shared history and heritage, the similar things we both used to play and love. We could just say ‘oh remember that one track from 1992’, and the other one would know. Like two copies of the same encyclopedia.”

That said, it sounds like the trick to success was learning when not to speak this language, as much as it was speaking it. “If there are two people in the room and one is behaving like the big guy, then the energy is wrong,” Steffi continues, about their process. “If you always think you know better you may as well be making a solo record.” While Steffi was wise to these dynamics, it was a little more in the way of curve for Martyn, who prior to their work had only ever collaborated with vocalists performing over his tracksnever in tandem with another producer. That said, he admits it was easy to relinquish autonomy in favour of the greater good. “The point of making music together is to blend two styles and make something new,” he concludes. “If one person holds on to their too much, then you’re never going to get an above average result.”

The music that comes from the coalescing of their individual identities makes for a fascinating whole. These are tracks with a dancefloor-ready function, held together by threads of melancholy and souldeft touches of humanity and melody that elevate their work above the status of nightclub tools.

Deconstruction of their music thoughspecifically attempting to decipher who provided what to each compositionshould become a futile exercise over time, or at least that’s what Martyn hopes. “I think the gelling is getting better and better,” he beams, proudly. “Now, if I play our music to my closest friends who have listened to literally everything I have ever done, for them it’s hard to say what is done by who.” Steffi agrees, laughing, “Some people have even said ‘oh man I loved Martyn’s bassline’…and I’m thinking, it’s actually my bassline…”

The work for their latest project, an LP titled Evidence From a Good Source, happened in snatched windows of opportunity, while Martyn and Steffi were both working on fellow Ostgut Ton labelmate Virginia’s LP Fierce for the Night. “In reality the deadline was quite tight,” Steffi explains. Despite this, their almost shared intuition triumphed once again, and they were able to lay the tracks down in the space of four days. “I think it’s experience as well as being on the same wavelength,” Martyn muses, “but I also think work ethic. Steffi is busy DJing, I’m busy DJing and I live in the states. I have a family so I don’t want to stay away as long as I used to. That leaves us with quite a limited window within which to actually create music, so that meant we rinsed four days and got the most out of a short amount of time. No slouching, no videos, no texting…”

“No social media,” Steffi adds.

The pair most come alive when talking about production, in fact, at the start of our conversation they politely, but firmly, request we talk about the album as much as possiblerather than conversations about Panorama Bar that “don’t matter.” Doms & Deykers, and production in general, is clearly a passion growing in intensity for both of them. As Martyn phrases it: “We both realise that what’s important to us is the length of our discogs listing and the quality of music we release. It’s just more remembered than whatever festival you were playing, or which club in Ibiza you headlined.” Steffi agrees, “I think also it’s a natural thing, that creative energy needs to get out. If you sit on it too long you get really unhappy and grumpy.”

I wonder whether this turn to production is the natural conclusion of two 20-year plus careers spent behind behind the decksa gradual but definite desire to escape the exhausting routine of residencies, tours and festivals, in favour of measured expression and (relatively) normal working hours. Steffi is eager to couch it on more positive terms. “I think for me, once I started making music, it was a release and there was no going back,” she recalls. “I’ve really found myself in the studio, channeling that creative energy.” That said, she does concede that DJing has become, if not less pleasurable, then at least a more complicated experience for her. “It’s become a different job compared to 20 years ago,” she sighs. “It’s become all about the spotlight, and Twitter, and being up for the game every single weekend, people taking pictures. I think you could lose your sanity in that world.”

Martyn offers a sombre agreement, “I think, on the DJ circuit, you do a couple of rounds when you’re younger, and then you make a decision: either stay and get stuck in that loop or ask for something else, something more.” Thankfully, the evidence would suggest that together, they have found just that.

Doms & Deykers – Evidence From A Good Source is out on the 28th October, via 3024.

Follow Angus on Twitter.

Watch Dirtybird Explain Why Community Is Better Than Competition

As we all know, a common way for labels and collectives to attempt to build a fanbase is by trying to seem untouchably cool, fashioning themselves as club music celebrities even at the risk of alienating people. As you can see in their episode of Smirnoff Sound Collective‘s TRIBES series, part of the reason San Francisco/Los Angeles-based crew Dirtybird is so beloved is because everything they do flies directly in the face of that. In their various roles as DJs, producers, party organizers, and even chefs, they go out of their way to prioritize community over competition, friendliness over pretentiousness, and most of all, good times over bad ones.

If you ask label founder Claude VonStroke, a strong family bond is simply embedded in Dirtybird’s DNA, and it’s illustrated as much by their first parties in Golden Gate Park a decade ago as it is by their own Dirtybird Campout festival, which just took place for the second year in a row this weekend. And yet, while we learn that the collective didn’t make money off their parties for “a really long time,” if you ask any crew member today about the label’s future, whether it’s Kill Frenzy, J.Phlip, or Shiba San, they’ll all say the same thing: the sky’s the limit.

Go Deep Space Diving With Youandewan's Slinky "Be Good To Me, Poly"

What did you do the last time you broke up with somebody? Spent too much money down the bar? Lived almost exclusively on frozen pizza and memories? Developed an incredibly unhealthy relationship with Storage Hunters UK? Yeah, us too. Ewan Smith, aka Youandewan, did things a bit differently.

A few years back, sad and newly alone, he relocated to Berlin. Whilst there, presumably between long walks down the Landwehr Canal and solitary trips to schnitzel joints, Smith begun writing what’d go on to become his debut album There is No Right Time. That record, which arrives on Aus on the 14th of October, is a fantastic collection of moody, sad and soulful house , and we’re letting you have a little preview today.

Right now, yes right now, you can watch and listen to the light and lithe, airy, and spacious “Be Good to Me, Poly” here on THUMP. If you like twinkly electronica and old footage of the cosmos you’ll love this. Even if you’ve just been dumped.

There Is No Right Time is out on October 14th via Aus

Amazon Launches Music Streaming Service

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Amazon launched their new streaming service today, Amazon Music Unlimited. Its standard price is a $9.99 per month subscription, the same price point as its competitors Apple Music and Spotify, but it also has two other, lower pricing options available, reports the New York Times.

Subscriptions to the service cost just $3.99 per month for owners of the Amazon Echo speaker, while subscriptions are $7.99 per month for users of the Amazon Prime shipping and video service.

The Echo speaker was released earlier this year, and uses proprietary voice recognition software called Alexa, making it responsive to spoken commands. Some have called it their attempt doing something like Apple’s Siri by operating as a digital assistant; it costs $179.99. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime costs $99 a year.

For the Echo pricing option, users are unable to use the streaming service on any device besides the speaker, such as a phone or a computer.

The introduction of this service could heat up the already sweltering competition within music streaming right now, considering that it’s the industry’s fastest growing source of revenue. Spotify and Apple Music have lately been struggling to boast substantial advantages over one another.

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Here’s What Happens When You Listen To Nothing But A Kick Drum For An Entire Day

This article appeared originally on THUMP UK.

The other morning, lying in bed, listening to James Martin yammering away in the background, I started thinking about just how omnipresent the kick drum has been in my life. So I decided to explore the humble thud and devote an entire day to listening, really listening, to a kick drum.

In lieu of being able to afford an actual drum machine that I could plonk on my desk and hook up to the office stereo, the easiest option was to let the virtual take over. So that’s what I did.

Running to Google was an almost overwhelming experienceI was astounded by the level of drum machine choice at my disposal. Who knew so many kind souls out there in this awful world had devoted their time to creating virtual replications of drums? In fact, the sheer amount of options was overwhelming and a creeping sense of anxiety enveloped me. It was like being drunk in Subway.

After spending literally seconds hovering with indecision, I plumped for the HTML5 Drum Machine because the name was nice and sturdy, which seemed important when about to embark on the kind of endurance test that medical professionals would normally advise training for. For months. As I’d done no such preparation, normative determinism became the guiding principle.

With the link clicked, I was presented with a pristine digital interpretation of something that looked a little like a Poundland version of the Roland TR-808 we all know and love. I felt safe, secure, and steady. She was a creamy controller and I couldn’t wait to get to grips with the unit. So that’s exactly what I did.

10:05 AM

Setting up my day’s soundtrack took mere seconds. I had the basic kick, but I needed to get the BPM right. 120 was fine, I liked 120, 120 was an easily swallowable kick, but it didn’t feel quite right. The lower end of the scaleyour cosmic disco territorywas going to send me into a slumber, and rocketing it right up to gabber speed would result in the kind of afternoon that sees you led into the HR warren, bloodied, confused, and profusely apologetic.

After a bit of tinkering I settled for the glorious speed of 125BPM. I’d always liked 125 as a DJ and it turned out that it was a great accompaniment to a day at work. It was five past ten, I had a coffee on the go, a banana in my hand, and a head full of dreams! This was the start of something beautiful!

Now, you might be wondering why anyone would think that listening to a kickdrumjust a kickdrum and nothing else, bar the occasional ooze of office ambience or a slither of human conversationis worth doing in the first place, let alone writing about. The reason why I accepted the challenge of my own making was simple: this was about what it’s like to be human.

Does that sound too flighty, too lofty, too ridiculously up-its-own-arse? Well, admittedly, it kind of does, yes. Butand here’s an article-carrying buta kickdrumbear with me hereis essentially a replication of the heartbeat. Which, in a roundabout way, means that the kickdrum is elemental and primordial and has an incredibly deep-rooted connection to each and every one of us. By listening to what’s essentially an amplified and hugely modulated version of the thing that keeps me eating crisps I thought I might find some deeper connection to both myself and to humanity as a whole. Yes, reader, I was going to delve deep into human nature and discover the meaning of everything while looking at Twitter and planning where to take my brother for lunch later in the week.

10:18 AM

After what felt like an hour but was actually 13 minutes, I’d begun to realise why people don’t often listen to an unaccompanied kickdrum. It is, to put it bluntly, really fucking boring. And not boring in the way that the Antiques Roadshow, watercolour paintings, or new potatoes are boring. This was boring in an aggressive, heavy, domineering way. This was the deeply oppressive boredom of every teenage weekend you’ve tried to repress, and here it was drilling directly into my auditory cortex, like French homework that just won’t go away.

11:05 AM

An hour in, an actual hour in, an hour in which I’d heard the same kick 7500 times (if my GCSE maths is correct), and I was no closer to understanding the human condition. I did, however, begin thinking about the nature of the kick. It’s an anchor, a point of reference, a way of rooting ourselves within a record. I found myself thinking back to early encounters with dance music. Driving to the beach as a child with the radio on, what hit you was the ever-present thud of the 4/4. It was, is, and always will be, the sound of total propulsion, a way of negating any possibility of things moving anywhere but forward. It’s also really easy to dance to when you’re drunk.

1:20 PM

Hours passed; kicks kicked.


Lunchtime was a blessed relief because the kickdrum was augmented by the sound of my own mastication. Every chew of my hoisin duck wrap was like a momentary glimpse of heaven and I’d never felt so happy to hear the grip and slap of my own mouth before. The post-lunch lull, normally peppered by a quick catch-up with colleagues, become unnervingly unpleasant. The relentlessly unceasing thud of the kick’s eternal doof-doof was leading me into a hallucinatory state.


I was convinced that there were nuanced tones emanating from the kick, unfurling ever so slowly. My previous experience of aural hallucination had come one night in Peckham a few years back. Stoned and sleepy, my state of lethargy was shattered by the almighty sound of a central alarm in my block of flats setting off every single other alarm in the building. Which no one but me responded to. For hours I waited for the arrival of the Southwark council noise pollution team, convinced beyond belief that the alarm was now ringing in song rather than tone. The whole sorry affair culminated in me being dragged into a stranger’s car where I was proffered a crowbar and promptly told to smash the central command unit. This was a memory I didn’t want to dwell on for too long.


In a Stockholm Syndrome way, I’d begun to nearly, sort of, possibly, maybe, acclimatise just a bit, a smidgen, to the non-stop thump of the 125BPM bullet that was pinging through both ears when it hit me: I had to nip out of the office for a meeting. Which meant that I was going to have to briefly slide myself out of the zone I’d been in since arriving. Removing my headphones, I took a few seconds to enjoy a moment of clarity. If I strained really hard I could hear the angels sing, I was sure of it.


The outside world was cacaphonic, an immense slab of sound competing for aural supremacy, a howling din that rumbles on infinitely. I was rudderless and confused, experiencing a kind of urban disorientation a la Walter Benjamin. I caught myself, stood at a pedestrian crossing, tapping out a 4/4 on my thigh. I caught myself in the meeting doing the same thing. The absence of rigidity had left me craving it. On the walk back to work my inner monologue was stuck on a loop. “One, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…”


Sat back at my desk, plugged back into the four to the floor matrix, my thoughts began to drift and float, almost (but never quite) freeing themselves from the kick drum. I thought about minimalism and space. I thought about how we’ve become enslavednot to be too strong about itto the 4/4 as the dominant means of communication because it offers us a continual sense of push and pull, of sustain and release, anticipation and pleasure. A simple kick says that everything is alright, that everything is steady, that reality’s fluctuations are just thatthey’ll revert back again soon enough.


At this point I was faintly aware of a romanticisation taking place, a rationalisation of what had been, in real terms, a pointless experiment. In reality, I was still sat there listening to a pretty flat sounding approximation of a kick drum hammering away at 125 bloody BPM and, when I actually listened, actually took in what was going on, frustration and annoyance superseded any kind of wide-eyed wonder. When 6.30PM rolled round and I took my headphones off, I felt free. I had learned that man is capable of both anger and acceptance.


I got on the overground and put a mix on. It started with a kick. I was back.

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The Unlikely Rise Of FL Studio, The Internet’s Favorite Production Software

Soulja Boy in the studio, via Youtube.

DeAndre Way, the 26-year-old rapper and producer known best to the world as Soulja Boy, was first given a FruityLoops demo at age 12 from his uncle Justin. “We’re really the same agehe’s more like my cousin but I call him my uncle,” he jokes on a recent phone call. Four years later, Way’s 2007 debut single, “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” reached the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for several weeks. The song’s skeletal, tropical, loop-based instrumental was constructed entirely from the program’s stock sounds.

“I was on a wave when I made that,” Soulja Boy says of the song’s easy construction, speaking over the phone. “I was doing, like, 10-20 beats a week. Every day when I’d get home from school, I’d make a beat.”

“Crank That” was one of Soulja Boy’s first attempts at making a song; he hadn’t even fully unpacked the software when he made it. “It wasn’t even a full, registered purchased program,” he says. “So I only had a few days to use it. I made the beat first, then I wrote it, then we made the dance. It gave access to create… I could make any type of beat that I wanted, pretty fast.”

The beat-making program once known as FruityLoops has spent the past several years winning a tortoise-and-hare race like no other. In 1998, its inaugural release was a drop in the moat surrounding Massachusetts-based tech company Avid’s Pro Tools empire, then the industry standard for digital audio workstations (DAWs), which at the time consisted mainly of loop-making software you could record with. Other DAWs like Sonar and Cubasemade by Cakewalk and Steinberg, respectivelywere Pro Tools’ chief competitors, and Sony’s Acid was the premier software for creating loops, so a goofily named program from Belgium’s then-fledgling Image-Line was kind of a non-starter.

For one thing, FruityLoops was only available on Microsoft Windows, which over the next decade would be successfully obliterated by Apple as the operating system at the crossroads of art and technology. Worse yet, illegal downloads of the program became widespread long before the company started turning a profit, threatening to thwart the project in its infancy.

“If it was our only product then, we would’ve been dead just from pirating,” says Jean-Marie Cannie, the 49-year-old founder of FL Studio’s parent company Image-Line, via a Skype call from Belgium. “Thousands of people used it, but not a single soul was paying for it. We had ,” Cannie says of music tech review sites. “Even now, some publications don’t write about FLnot because of bad faith, but because they can’t even test it.”

Because of its longtime adherence to Windows, “It’s seen as more with the gamer crowd than the visual artist and graphic designer crowd,” says Madeon, who’s been testing an Alpha version for Macs for a couple years. But Windows is ultimately the reason it went viral: “It was people’s first choice because it was what they could get.”

Madeon argues that the word-of-mouth acclaim generated from pirating actually seems to have brought back financial returns for once, making the more economically inaccessible Pro Tools less of a necessity. With FL Studio, things “suddenly became about creativity and ideas instead of financial access to the tools,” he says. “Everyone could contribute. Combined with the ability to very easily share music online, the only way to cut through the noise now is to have new ideas.”