Techné

Score

Find three body positions in which you can process a strongly emotional event of the last year.

You have 60 minutes for the three positions. The movement from one to the next should be fluid.

Look at the camera when it is in your field of vision. Dance freely once for 60 seconds.

Installation view, Glasgow School of Art
Installation view
Video still

Conversations about Rave Culture

Brian Beadie, independent writer from Glasgow

Brian Beadie is a writer based in Glasgow. He has researched and written extensively about music, including rave culture for The Clubber’s Guide magazine. He was immersed in British rave culture and experienced the climactic moments of the scene in the 1990s first hand. Beadie’s inclusivity in the scene opened up an incredible depth of context and experiences in Britain’s rave culture. It shows the first generation of rave culture, which had a massive impact on society.

During my interview with Beadie a different perspective of the terminology rave culture came up. He relates the term rave culture specifically to Britain’s scene in the 1980s and ‘90s, which was curtailed by the Criminal Justice Act in 1994. I usually use the term rave culture for the whole scene including techno and house music and its history. Beadie names the current, institutionalised scene clubbing. This text will follow Beadie’s terminology, so rave culture will relate to the scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

Our conversation starts with the question, what Beadie’s relation to rave culture is. He answers me that he discovered the scene back in the late ‘80s. In those days he was mainly part of the indie-music scene. On a weekend in London a friend took him with to an acid house party, it was a completely new and ecstatic experience. Afterwards it took a while until he became aware that the scene had arrived in Glasgow, as the flow of information in the pre-internet times was much slower. At the moment rave culture reached Glasgow everything changed, Beadie states. The post-industrial times were hard for Scottish society, Scottish men were buttoned down, and many had lost their jobs. I think in an economical, working society this means also a loss of identity. Beadie tells me, that they were caught in their image as males, in the role of unemotional beings. Their emotionality was repressed. Rave culture with its music and drugs, especially ecstasy, offered the men space to open up and live their emotionality out. The traditional codes of masculinity disappeared in those contexts, men got undressed and even kissed each other, if not in an overtly sexual manner. It was very liberating. Rave culture in Glasgow was practically a culture shift, Beadie tells me. He was part of it, as participator, fan and later on as a critic. Glasgow and Edinburgh were important stations for electronic music, according to Beadie. Specifically, the club Pure in Edinburgh, where not only local pioneers such as Keith McIvor (later founder of Optimo) played, but also DJs from the states. They liked to be in Scotland, because of the attention they got here. People celebrated them, unlike in their home Chicago or Detroit. The chances were as high of seeing an American DJ playing in Glasgow as a Glaswegian one.

The scene celebrated the breakdown of conformity, Beadie continues. Raves caused a loss of individuality, it even felt like the opposite of the term individual itself, as there was a strong communal feeling. The positioning of the DJ was different than today, the DJ booth was somewhere at the back, whereas DJs today often are located on a higher, central position. Through keeping the DJ in the back the audience’s performative attention shifted to the audience themselves. This positioning also belonged to the rejection of everything old and traditional, a rejection of what rock music had come to stand for. LFO, one of the first British techno bands visualised this through the imagery of burning guitars. The rave scene literally took the piss out of the certainties of the past and its sense of self worth. These hard times in society made people lose their trust towards the past, one means of expressing this this being the use of samples in a very ironic manner. This was often not at all any form of honouring history, states Beadie. His friends and him even sold (now rare and expensive) rock records to buy shoddy techno ones. The music felt like something completely new to them, and it also caused a split between young and old. The older generation didn’t see Techno as real music nor the new technological tools as actual instruments. For example, a synthesiser was not as musically accepted as a guitar. By thinking about it now, Beadie goes on, much of the music wasn’t that completely revolutionary after all. Krautrock for instance had already done a lot of musical pioneerwork, rave culture just continued this tendency. Still, back then the thrill of the new was enormous for Glasgow. There was a major socio-political impulse of breaking down traditional hierarchies. In the 80s the world was in flux, communism had come to its end and people were no longer afraid of the Cold War, when an apocalyptic vision was omnipresent. Germany was geographically the middle point between the East and East, Berlin was already a capital of great music and events. In an interview German minimal wave pioneer Felix Kubin had told Beadie that the fear of the end of everything was a reason for insane music and parties. They were thinking that they would probably be dead at the end of the week. As Berlin was reunified and there was ambiguity over whose responsibility law and order was, the partying intensified. Another element where the fight against the old was recognisable in the presence of futurist themes in techno music. The most popular example is arguably Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins, with his bands Cybotron (ie Techno City, with its references to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) and Model 500 (No UFOS). Beadie sees Detroit as an interesting example for a ground where rave culture can grow out. The city’s economic and social misery was basically a manifestation of the death of the American Dream. Young guys like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and many more just wanted to do music to leave a mark. Closed down factory buildings were perfect venues for underground parties. The futurist scenarios the artists chose were articulation of a desire for a change in their situation, of leaving the present and entering a better future. In other words an expression of a wish for change. There was also the constant presence of a technological revolution, everybody felt this in Britain, Beadie tells me. Just nobody knew what this wouldlook like. I ask, how it was possible to feel this. It only required an intelligent reading of the contemporaneous technology, he answers. There was a thrill, but also latent dread, in the potential of technology. In the mid 90s this finally resulted in the revelation of the invention which changed the whole world – the internet. 

So what else changed between back then and now, I ask Beadie. The absolute excitement from back then surely has disappeared, he tells me. Rave culture was accompanied by an uncertainty over whether it would even continue to exist – this energised everyone. People were partying practically everyday, some of them even gave their jobs up. It was like a collective middle finger towards materialism. 1994 the government stopped the party through the Criminal Justice Act. This was basically the death of the subculture, techno being the only music genre which got criminaliised by the state, Beadie smiles. Somehow this feels to me like a fact which the scene would enjoy, if as bitterly . There’s nearly no bigger statement of the threat of a breakdown of conformity then getting criminalised. How would the UK look like nowadays without the Criminal Justice Act? We’ll never know. The conversation with Beadie makes me think that the main crime of rave culture was its dissociation from economic worth which is the core of our capitalist system. These days we see a institutionalised form of rave culture, in the form of clubs, Beadie states. The subculture may have died, but the music and some cultural elements remained and became integrated into the current system. It became „rationalised“, instead of offering an alternative to the hegemony anymore. I ask him about the function of raves in societal structures. The concept of the shaman is very deep rooted in music and societies, Beadie responds. Shamans were pagans but able to give educative, healing practices to tribes. It was the shaman’s task to help people, and maybe that’s one main purpose rave also has. „It’s cathartic, you can let off steam“. Beadie reveals that he doesn’t believe in Utopian societal ideas anymore. It may even be good that there’s work to do, a lot of things emerge through this, he continues. Do raves nowadays contribute something to this on a political level, I ask. It was political, but isn’t anymore, he returns. It was a cultural phenomenon, but what he calls rave culture was twenty, nearly twenty five years ago. Nowadays we’re clubbing, although some forms of clubbing, queer clubbing for example, will always have a political subtext. There’s a lot of incredible stuff happening in the underground, but somehow everything ends up finding its economy. 

I ask Beadie if rave culture in Glasgow was cynical. No, he answers, maybe it would have needed a bit more cynicism to survive longer. It was much more a naive idealism that people had. „A dangerous idealism?“, I request. „Well, somehow, people tried to live from love and drugs alone“ Beadie answers. When Trainspotting came out, 1996, heroin use became very visible. He’s not sure how much the movie was connected to this, suspecting that it had long been there but enjoyed a newfound visibility as something no longer taboo. A highly addictive drug like this was responsible for many lives which got completely fucked up. „People had to pay a high price.“ I ask if this means that the Criminal Justice Act did something good. Absolutely not, Beadie declares. This law was the reason of a beloved sub culture, how could this be good, I tell myself. Beadie tells me that rave culture was incrediblly diverse and inclusive. And even class wasn’t that important anymore, all kind of people were celebrating next to each other. That’s definitely different from today, where clubbing is a more middle class phenomenon. Back then it was mainly anti-materialist, with the caveat that Beadie and his friends always wore cool trainers. Still, they preferred to have a good time instead of a nice car or a house. They celebrated. But the problem is that people become older, more responsible and more risk averse, he points out. Especially after having kids, most rebelliousness disappears. I tell Beadie that his stories remind me of my imagination of the late 60s, the hippy movement. I ask him what would have happened if those movements weren’t stopped through the law. By considering history they would implode at some point, he answers. The current generation works differently, young people now are much healthier and more aware of issues larger than themselves. Back then, people were more hedonistic and self-destructive. I tell him that the overflow of information maybe causes a bigger damage than we expect. One major change is that we don’t have to search hard for information anymore, but instead have a responsibility to choose the right information. I ask myself how much this is connected to illnesses like anxiety and depression. Beadie shares the opinion that the amount of information is overwhelming. „It’s definitely too much. Back then it was time intensive work to get information, it was necessary to read books.“ Today’s information is compromised, beautifully packaged and easily digestible, which is potentially dangerous. 

I want to talk a bit about Beadie’s experiences of Glasgow during the post-industrial times. Fortunately, he didn’t feel any direct consequences, he tells me, as he moved there in search of the music and art scene. Still, he remembers arriving in Glasgowin the late 80s. „It was bleak as fuck“, he tells me. His parents were afraid that he’d get stabbed, or end up as a junkie. Twenty years later, on the other hand, his foreign girlfriend at the time would come with no knowledge of its history of violence in the 7-s and deprivation in the 80s, just thinking it was it was a beautiful hipster city, because of the many bands she knew from there. Glasgow today is gentrified, you can find nice secondhand clothing stores where back then, there were really  „brutal“ flea markets. People tried to sell their last belongings for virtually nothing. On the other hand there were great vacant post industrial spaces for raves, like the arches that now constitute SWG3. So the town ended up raving against the depression or was it depressed because of raving, I ask Beadie. „The former obviously“, he answers. The country was traumatised, it had gone through a lot of changes. People needed a good time, and that’s what rave culture offered in the end. I ask Beadie what the reason could be, that a privileged, socio-economically functioning country like Switzerland needs a rave scene. In my opinion there’s maybe just something else to party against. “Well yeah, you have to hate someone“, says Beadie. And even Zurich has a difficult history, he remembers. He’s talking about the open drug scene at the Platzspitz in the mid 80s and 90s, which attracted drug consumers from the whole of middle Europa to Switzerland. Britain’s rave culture, which was very much surfing on a wave of ecstasy, can’t be compared to this at all. The main difference was that it wasn’t just about getting high, it was about the good parties and the spirit of the community, Beadie clarifies. The drugs functioned to intensify the music and made the people empathetic and emotional. But isn’t there a possibility that personal freedom ends up in destruction, I ask further on. Beadie answers that in a good society, people will be empathetic. It’s all about being social. People who suffer from addiction often use drugs in their worst times, to zone something out. At the very end it comes down to the individual, there’s no general answer. The criminalisation of drugs wasn’t the right way to go at all. It has completely failed, as subjects are getting judged by the law and at the same time discriminated against by society. Being treated as a drug addicted is viewed nearly as badly as being a rapist by society, claims Beadie critically.

I ask Beadie where Glasgow’s incredible musicality is coming from. One main difference between London and Glasgow is the scale, the ease with which you can navigate it and everyone you need to know. Glasgow is the perfect place for musicians and artists to meet the right people for them. He’s amazed at the depth of musical knowledge and talent in the city. On the other hand there’s a commercial lack of success, people in London are definitely more competitive. Maybe that’s also a reason for the depth in music, he claims. People here don’t stress themselves with commercial pressure. There’re no compromises, through this the music becomes more authentic and better. There are so many local bands who could have become commercially successful in another place. We talk about the story of a current band which looked very much like they’d go to the top. After they went to London, their producer made some small changes towards a more commercial direction. The band couldn’t handle this, so they walked out of the deal and came back to Glasgow. I tell him that I see a coolness in the city, and through this mechanics of in- and exclusion. So what do you need to enjoy it to its fullest? The scene is very inclusive, he responds. „Though, you need to be quite openminded…and don’t expect any glamour“. The popularity of Glasgow is still very recent, people are flattened that new people move here and show interest. That’s a difference to a place like Berlin, where they’ve seen definitely enough of new people and gentrification. 

„Why can’t the party go on forever“, is my last question. „Because we all grow up, have kids and die“, he answers. „And if you ain’t getting kids?“, I demand. „Then you just get old and die“, he laughs. „And what’s the spirit of Glasgow“, I inquire. Beadie thinks longer than after every other question before. Like every citizen with his town, there’s a love and hate relationship, he says. Though, there’s one thing which describes this Glasgow quite well: „Taps aff, when the sun is out.“

Morgan Woods, musician from Glasgow

Emme Woods, née Morgan Woods, is a Glasgow-based musician. Her music falls somewhere amongst soul, blues and rock, without clearly matching any one of those categories. A powerful voice and a unique, atmospheric use of the guitar, are her characteristics. Her next album „It’s ma party, yer not invited“ is coming out at the end of July. Her current singles „it’s ma party“ and „kill yer darlin“ got an impressive media resonance. She has played gigs at several places throughout the UK, Europe and in Los Angeles. Back in 2017, she was part of the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. The quality of Woods’ live music is impressive, mixing improvisation with consideration of the musical moment. I was curious to talk with her about her experiences, the differences of live and technological music, and the music scene in Glasgow. 

Our conversation starts with questions how her career as a musician started and where her interest in music came from. She answers, that the idea to become a musician came to her after moving to Glasgow for college. Music was the only subject in school, which interested to her. During the fifth semester, she decided to play an instrument: the guitar. This, her voice and her dog Bubbles are her companions in life as a musician. She didn’t grow up in a very musical family, but there are two bands she remembers from her childhood: The Beach Boys, played by her grandfather, and Elvis Presley, who her father introduced her to, during a road trip. I was curious to hear the difference between her using her voice or the guitar as an instrument. Both things are a medium, used to transmit the musicians’ expression to the audience. Interestingly, Woods sees many more similarities than differences between the two. She uses the guitar in a similar manner as her voice, with a favour toward imperfection, toward the mistake. Breathing is as much part of her guitar playing as it is of her voice. The mentioned imperfection is what refers to the human being behind the artist: a living one, with emotions. Emotionality is an important and conscious part of Woods’ live gigs. „Through the voice, you can read everything inside a person. It’s a mediator of the human’s soul,“ she states. At a live gig, anything can happen, and she welcomes that. The daily condition of her soul and the possibility of hazard are very much part of it, as the subjective emotions are getting directly transmitted into the music. The record, by contrast, is much more a choice. For her new EP, she chose her band, and they played the songs repeatedly until it sounded as she wished. It was like a progressive trial and error process. She adds that this choice is the major difference between her music live and that on record.

Woods tells me that her voice feels closer to herself than the guitar. One reason for this is the externality of the guitar, whereas the voice is internal to the body. The voice is an instrument she has practiced throughout her entire life. If you know her, you know that’s more than true. Out of personal experience, I can tell that she’s a person who really uses her voice a lot, not only by singing. From imitational talking, to screaming aloud, if you hang out with her you’ll hear a lot of it. I ask her from where the energy for using her vocal instrument comes. From down the stomach, she answers. But it’s a mix with the brain, because that’s where the words are getting generated. Listening to music is important to Woods, as she sees it as an active learning process. Especially the non obvious parts of songs are getting sucked into the subconscious mind. Woods does an active form of research. This leads to the awareness of her influences. 

I’m curious about her use of electronic instruments, and ask if there’s a big difference in hearing her own music mediated through a technological instrument, for example an amplifier. Woods answers me, that she doesn’t see an amplifier as a distortion of her music, but much more as another instrument. Without an amplifier, the volume of the voice would be mainly used to make herself audible to the audience. In the worst case scenario, this ends up as a form of screaming. An amplifier is a way to have more control over her music, and she also loves to experiment with it. She especially loves the effect of a spring reverb, as it was commonly used in the 60s. It makes the voice flow through space, instead of being chopped by the structure of the word. And why does she even need words? I ask. Woods answers that she cares a lot about a direct communication with her audience. She has a specific, emotional message she wants to communicate. Literary language is our common main language, whereas sound is very abstract. The decision to use literal language is a practical decision. Still they don’t stay as cold constructs of vocabulary, but enter a symbiotic relationship with her music. „I’m aware that I’m not the first one using the words like I do. I’m sure there’re people which can use them better as me, but nobody can sing them as I do,“ she smiles.

In the 50s the Musicians’ Union was fighting against the idea of recorded music. The idea of live music, as „living“ music seemed for them to be antagonized by recorded, electronic music. (1) To think about this a bit further, through feeding the voice and other instruments into technological processes, a form of coding happens. The music gets fed into the binary language of computers and becomes reproducible through this. Simon Reynolds sees the phenomena of Sampladelia as the peak of those functions, with the danger of „the last eighty years of pan-global recorded sound is decontextualised, deracinated, and utterly etherealized“ (2). The question of how much music comes off itself through technology arises. There might be two approaches on this: either seeing it as a danger for an essentialist concept of live music, as the Musicians’ Union did, or as chance because it creates a constantly growing memory of music and new creative elements appear. In my opinion, there is a danger that music could be used as pure material, without any relation to its culture and context, which could lead to the disappearance of its history in the public’s mind. That’s a metaphor for the danger of cultural appropriation. On the other hand, by considering context and history of the material, there can be a lot of educational work happening. As Woods does it, for example, she’s aware of the references she takes, with an empathic and intelligent awareness from where they’re coming from.  

Woods and I talk a bit about the relationship between musician and audience. We both agree, that the DJ reacts more directly to the audience, often even changes her/their/his plan. „So is the DJ maybe more empathic than a live musician?“ I ask Woods. Well, raves and gigs are definitely two pairs of shoes, she answers. The DJ reacts maybe musically to the crowd, but a live musician and their audience can have a very intimate relationship. Raves somehow function for themselves, as a big whole, whereas people go to live gigs to see one specific person, she continues. Through this there’s a connection between the crowd and her, because there’s a sense of understanding, identifying with, and even belonging together. Raves can also function as an anonymous experience for a single audience member. In gigs, the audience concentrates on one single entity, whereas at raves, people can do whatever they want, and nobody cares about. All the gazes at a live gig go to one point. Sometimes it can even affect the concentration if an audience member goes to the toilet, Woods tells me. 

Another common point between my subjective techno experiences and the one of Woods comes to my mind. Whereas techno works with the surprise through drops or the choice of songs, Woods’ live performances lives through the redevelopment of the moment. Her way of embracing those moments reminds me, and embracing mistakes is a way of taking listeners out of their comfort zone to avoid flatness. The same goes for the methods a DJ use to surprise the audience. This surprising act lead to the energising of the crowd.  So why then is there still so much popular music, which feels sleek and flat, I ask Woods. Music which seems to happen far away from any kind of real emotion. „I mean, if you don’t know good music, you basically can’t know it“, she answers. (Caught in the algorithm, I think). There’s music which was used as a framework and a lot of new music just tries to replicates this one, she goes on. Not because it was good, but much more because people liked it. Through repeating those processes over and over again, you can somehow really start to like it, also because you don’t know anything else. The consumerist society is becoming faster and faster, so people are also becoming more easily bored. The figures need to change a lot to entertain the people, but the music basically stays the same. The music industry produces stars, as a form of image. That isn’t healthy for either themselves, nor for the audience. People want to relate to something so bad, that they start to construct it through their own projection. Neither the star itself can fulfil this image, nor is it healthy for the fan to read that much into a person. The star has to live a story, which is already written, and loses through this all of her/their/his freedom.

Marketing works a lot with these images, I say to Woods. If you want to be commercially successful, you might really need an image. Identification and admiration become possible through this. So how does she handle her own image? The key to not getting lost in consumerist structures is to be frugal, she answers. Surely there’s a need to be economically sustainable, but she’s happy if she could earn enough to get through life and have the freedom to make the music she wants. Still, there are a lot of musicians in Glasgow who don’t earn enough, including herself at the moment. „But is it still one of the best music cities in Europe?“ I wonder. It’s definitely somewhere up there, she answers. In Glasgow you can find live music every night, people like to have fun and there aren’t many places which are that enjoyable as a musician. Many musicians also enthuse the amazing crowds of the city. So, what does she thinks is the function of music in Scottish society? Everyone loves music, Woods states. Music events offer a great space to have fun and people actively use them, as much to enjoy the bands as to meet each other.

„Why can’t the party go on forever?“ I ask. First, there’s just a certain amount of happiness you can borrow from your body. if the party goes on for too long, your limits will be reached very easily, Woods claims. And also, if the party is running the whole time, there is no party. It would need something new in its place. The party stands for something extraordinary. „And why am I not invited to yer party?“.  Because no one is invited, but Bubbles (her dog). It’s because it’s my party, Woods smiles. „No honestly, everyone is invited to my party, as long they take their shoes off. And you need to bring either gin, drugs or dogs.“ 

The conversation goes towards its end and I discuss a futuristic scenario with Woods. „If there would exist a robot which is able to replicate all elements of her music, would she want it to play her music after she isn’t able to anymore?“ She responds that this is definitely no option. Generally, there shouldn’t be any robots programmed to play music. Music is interesting as long as it’s played by people, no matter if it’s on acoustic or electronic instruments. A robot is pre-programmed, and through this, everything it does is pre-written. „That’s just fucking boring. There won’t be any mistakes,“ she asserts. And maybe we come closer to a point where we all will be robots, but now we’re humans with emotions, with mistakes. In my opinion, the confrontation with ourselves is something elementary music can do. Woods’ sensibility for the performative moment is an articulation of a beautiful, emotional idea of musicality. It shows us that there’s a wonderful freedom in making mistakes and being vulnerable, which can strengthen music, and its boundaries, to listening beings. 

Bibliography: 
1. Thornton, Sarah. Club cultures, 1995, pp. 71, Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd., Cambridge
2. Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy, 1999, pp. 45, Routledge, New York

Cristina Stella, organiser and curator from Zurich

Stella is a curator, art historian and party organiser based in Zurich. She’s co-founder of the association Kein Kollektiv and curator of the non-commercial gallery space Kein Museum. Stella is one of few female organisers in the Zurich nightlife scene. In her practice she fights against traditional structures in club culture and art history.
I was looking forward to talking with her about her experiences and insights into Zurich’s nightlife..

How did she find her way to rave culture, is my first question to Stella. She tells me that she found the scene after moving from the eastern part of Switzerland to Zurich. In her new home, she felt isolated because she didn’t know anyone and she didn’t click with the people in her art-history class. Parties were a good way to meet people, especially those in Zurich’s techno scene, which was vibrant and welcoming. Stella found pleasure in going to those events and started to go out a lot. „You could party from Wednesday to Sunday. That’s what I did,“ she tells me. By doing this, she got in touch with many people, but with most of them she didn’t form real friendships. They were meeting regularly at the parties, but never during the day for a coffee or a chat. This social interaction was leading to the development of a social network. After a little break, Stella started to go out again, but nowadays it feels very different to her. It’s a weird time for Zurich, she states. The old generation just stands at the back of the club and takes drugs, whereas the new one parties in the front. „They don’t really find togetherness“, she adds. To her the experience created through the audience and atmosphere is more important than the DJ. Zurich’s commercial clubbing scene misses something at both of those ends. Though it’s difficult to talk about „one“ scene in Zurich, she tells me. Zurich’s nightlife is split between the legal, commercial clubs and the half-legal, independent scene. The commercial club scene just reproduces itself and its own type of music over and over again, whereas the independent scene creates spaces for new sound and people. It’s like an elitist scene, which works financially very well, but hasn’t progressed in its culture during the last few years. To become part of it requires a lot of social work, for example going to parties, doing favours to the right people and making yourself fit into the environment. Everyone who enters wants to become part of the scene and automatically adjusts their music to it, otherwise there’s no chance for integration. At the very end it’s the music which suffers by becoming incredibly boring and predictable. The clubbing scene in Zurich is, without a doubt, a bubble.

„How’s the relationship between societal structures and raves?“ I ask Stella. In her opinion, modern rave culture articulates the mind of the young people in society. It’s a form of saying no to something that’s disturbing them. This is often something political. Raves are a form of rebellion and protest, she tells me. I ask if raves really solve something as they thematise political issues in an indirect way. Not really, she answers, but they’re good to get the attention to something. Raves can focus on specific issues, such as a climate change rave. I ask her about which political elements of raves flow into everyday life. One main thing is definitely open mindedness, Stella responds. Sharing with a lot of people is a base value of rave culture for her. Togetherness is celebrated and violence is not at all a theme; she never experienced a fight at a rave so far. Though, definitely not every raver is a politically aware and active person. There are also many people who just want to have a good time and get fucked up. Stella thinks that’s also dependent upon which party you go to. Some parties automatically attract politically aware persons. Maybe togetherness itself is a political attribute exemplified through rave culture. In comparison to acoustic concerts, where you have a temporary concentrated and short experience, raves offer an oppositional concept. They’re very long and the music is repetitive. That offers people the possibility to talk to each other. In places like Zurich, where parties go on from nighttime ‘til noon, time can get completely lost. I tell Stella that I think that raves are able to recode the usual concept of time we have. By forgetting the capitalist concept of the 8-5 day, and maybe even overcoming the idea of minutes and hours, we introduce another way of measuring time in raves. Time gets constructed by a mix between physical capacity of the body and the spiritual capacity of the soul. Some people stretch both of them through drugs, Stella adds. I agree with this and maybe this leads to one of my biggest criticisms of rave culture – the unaware overuse of one’s own capacities. I think the use of drugs is an individual decision and, obviously, it’s not legal. These substances can stretch physical and spiritual energy, but they don’t let them appear from nowhere. By overcoming the usual capacities, there’s an overuse of energy happening, which will be missing in the following day. This shouldn’t be ignored at any point, as it can affect not only one’s „professional“ life, but also how someone behaves with her/their/his surroundings, and especially loved ones. 

One way of transmitting energy in rave culture is dancing. I ask Stella if she sees it as a way of communication. „Not really. It’s much more an automatism“, she responds. Her way of dancing to techno is primarily the left-right step, nothing much more. This becomes somewhat of an automated move and leaves space and attention to talk with other people. I question if dancing at raves doesn’t mean being an individual in a pluralist context, formed though the music. „Not really,“ she answers. „That’s maybe your personal definition of it, but most people aren’t that individual at all. They just want to become part of the mass,” she said, though she shares my opinion that dancing is an expression of freedom and serenity. „At a good rave, it’s impossible to not dance because of the vibe of the event. It’s only possible when you sit,“ she laughs. Dancing is also the common denominator amongst the present community. 

It shows a belonging. „And at the very end, it’s an expression of happiness“, she states. It’s obvious that Stella has quite a precise image of raves and their contributors. I ask if, from her viewpoint, typical ravers represent specific characteristics. Openness, love for music, and freedom, she answers. A difference to other genres is surely the will to communicate and interact with other people. Raves she explores are usually the ones where people stay long, spend time at different places within the venue and are in constant flux with the whole space and people around her. 

We talk a bit about Kein Kollektiv and Stella’s extraordinary role as female organiser and booker. I ask her what her opinion about sexism in Zurich’s rave culture is. „Very bad,“ she answers. Specifically in the clubs, lot of things are going wrong. It’s normal as a woman inside to be constantly annoyed by guys, if not even touched. That’s very different at alternative raves, Stella mentions. There’s also a weird fetishisation of the female DJ happening, which implicates a more deeply rooted structural issue of sexism. A good female DJ is often seen as a surprise in a male dominated area. It’s unexpected amongst clubgoers, when a woman does something well what men normally do well, and this causes the fetishisation. Stella critises this mindset harshly. She also saw how things go in the background of the clubbing scene. All the club owners of renowned clubs she met in Zurich were men. Generally, there weren’t any women working at the organisational tasks. They had different tasks, such as working the bar (because they looked good), decorating or accounting. Stella tells me that she sometimes profited from sexist patterns. Some people were undeniably easier going with her because she was a woman. Recently, she was inquired ? by a committee for nightlife only because she’s a woman. Obviously, she said no. In Stella’s opinion, it’s time now for women to start setting up their own parties and events. Independent parties build an attractive and refreshing alternative to the outdated club scene in Zurich. That’s also the path she took with her collective Kein Kollektiv. It was definitely not the easiest solution, she tells me. „Organising your own stuff offers you a lot of freedom. At the same time, it’s also a lot of responsibility. You have to stay creative and attractive, otherwise you’ll very easily drop out of people’s minds,“ she goes on.

Currently, Stella is part of the curation team of the non-commercial art space, Kein Museum. I’m curious where she sees the main differences between the organisation of parties and the curation of exhibitions. She sees exhibitions as much more preparation-intense. A party doesn’t need, so much, to offer people a good time. It only requires good music, good content, a bar and maybe a theme. An exhibition needs much more communication and an intellectual and well-researched context. I think that’s also connected to the expectations of the visitors who want to be further educated instead of simply entertained. People who go to a party have a freed mindset and are ready to enjoy whatever will happen in the night. But still, are techno and art friends? I ask her. „Well, they aren’t,“ she answers. They might play together from time to time, perhaps when rave becomes hyped in art, she goes on. In her opinion the two are different forms of culture. „But, it’s a different story with art and music. They’re friends,“ she states. The last question I ask is what’s her opinion of the term “freedom”? Stella answers, that freedom is very much to her. It’s the engine, even it’s just an illusion. Basically, it represents a necessary illusion. Same goes for rave culture and its political fights; it’s also a created frame of being free, and led people into action. A generation fights for it and finally it gets a step closer to, and then the next generation takes over and fights for the next step. „Obviously freedom can never be attained, because it doesn’t exist,“ Stella says. She thinks, that the essence of freedom is maybe the possibility of fighting for something: Fighting for one’s own illusion and progress. „But still, no one is truly free. Only maybe monks“, she smiles.  

Luca Rey, organiser and curator from Zurich

Luca Rey is art historian, event organiser and DJ based in Zurich. During the last few years, he actively organised several raves in alternative spaces, and collaborated with the local clubs Kauz, Friedas Büxe and many more. As part of the art collective Spieglerey, he ran the non-commercial gallery space Transi. He’s engaged in creating spaces based on a form of collective, open and non-commercial ideology. The topic “rave” was, more than once, a theme in earlier discussions Rey and I had, so our pre-knowledge played into this conversation.  

We start with the question of how he found to the techno scene. “Through a stay abroad in Ecuador,” he answers. He had an older friend there who introduced him to the music and parties. The very first fascination came by way of the intense dancing at the raves. Back in Switzerland, he got into the Drum and Bass scene, which was famous for their very intense, ecstatic way of movement. Reaching the limits of bodily exhaustion through dancing is something that fascinates Rey still today. Rave culture is also connected to him through examining the borders of everyday structure. He sees it as a form of challenge to sometimes dance until he’s completely exhausted, or to stay awake longer than he would do in his everyday life. I ask him how much is rave culture connected to the idea of breaking out. He answers that there’s definitely a connection, but rave can’t be divided to everydayness. By being an individual existing in a societal structure, you’re always a result of it. This means you also mirror the structure in everything you do. Raves are, in Rey’s opinion, one specific component of such a structure, which allow individuals to experience a different kind of existence for a moment in time. People sometimes need to take their time off the framed, narrow everyday structure they’re living in. Raves are one of several ways to attain this. Rey makes a distinction between worth and ideologies, which are lived in rave culture and structures of everyday life. Raves take a therapeutic, alienated function, and what happens in this context cannot directly be translated into the everydayness. Societal structures are just too complex for this, whereas raves function in a smaller frame: their own. They’re maybe like some sort of microcosm, with its own laws, which serve mainly their own purpose – the party itself. 

Rey tells me that on the dance floor at a rave, everyone is the same, but this doesn’t mean that this equality will happen that easily in all other aspects of life. The context creates this situation. At raves, people have the pleasure to enjoy a utopian experience, which is juxtaposing other, less pleasant aspects of everydayness. Those procedures are necessary to reflect on everyday life, to understand and maybe deconstruct it from a more objective point of view. At the end, they function more as an instrument to question than as a proposal for a solution. I ask Rey why he sees it like this, next to the reason that a virtual space like a rave is by far not as complex as a society structure itself. He answers that rave is an extraordinary state of being. Rey connects it to a mental condition of openness, of a higher state of attention and maybe even perception. This requires a lot of energy, much more than someone would spend in a similar time frame in a different situation. This state of being can work temporarily, but definitely not permanently. The theme “energy” made me think of dancing. In my opinion, it’s a way to express oneself and somehow also reflect emotions. Rey shares this idea partially, but he sees the interaction of the body with the music in a much more abstract way, away from subjective emotionality. „Dancing is a great way to get in interaction with my own body“, he states. The body becomes like a mediator of the music, it starts to interact with it, and sometimes with other bodies.„ The greatest moments are the ones where you lose yourself completely in the music and you’ve got the feeling that your body transforms and communicates it in a very unique way.“ He sees that as a similar process in other forms of art, where ideas are getting transformed through the action of the artist. I ask to whom the body communicates, because Rey’s answer basically put it in the function of a medium. Maybe to a greater good, maybe to the mind, “either one fits,” smiles Rey. The greater good, would maybe be a form of spirituality of the rave, or maybe just the collective engagement of the people. It could also just be for one’s self for a cathartic reason. Still, there are moments at raves where everyone seems to think the same thing he states. That’s maybe something like a pluralist moment of evidence, I think. In Rey’s eyes, that’s something than can happen in meditation. It’s as a loss of subjectivity, which enables a cathartic moment, which results in a way of self-liberation.

„So we live in a society which needs a form of catharsis?“ I ask him. „Definitely yes“, answers he. Rave culture has a very diverse background, so there’s not a single reason where the necessity for catharsis came from. If people in Palestine now or people in Detroit back then, people have and had something to rave against. Rave maybe bears the digestion of structures of oppression. There’s also a demand for rave culture in a privileged, economically well-working country like Switzerland. I ask him if this could be a result of a society, which feels, maybe, too „free“ and starts to party to kill boredom. Definitely no, he answers. Swiss people are confronted with structural issues, for example the omnipresence of consumerism, which is also apparent at many other places. It’s also visible in the art market, he goes on. Rey’s practice in art and rave find themselves together in the organisation of events. He sees in each of them a potential of creating open, communicative spaces. In Zurich, there’re well-working examples of non-commercialised rave spaces, for example Mikro. Many local clubs on the other hand, remain in existence for the sake of making money. „That’s definitely something we need to work against,“ Rey states.

I see the DJ maybe as a from of lens, concentrating multiple musical elements of the past and showcasing them in a set which they play to multiple people: the audience. In that sense, the DJ is a medium and functions somehow similar how Rey described his body in dancing – as a medium. Still, there’s the monolithic figure of the DJ and a crowd often dancing towards her/their/his direction. I asked Rey if the DJ is a political figure. He answers that rave isn’t really political and no political themes are getting negotiated. In a way one could say, the rave’s political organisation happens organically. I have a slightly different opinion on this topic. While I agree that politics of raves mostly organise themselves, I still see a necessity to thematise politics of the whole culture. Parts of raves are organisational spheres, which are often economical institutions. To reach a healthy diversity on those higher positions will cause a positive impact in all the following layers, whereas the chances are high that a traditional, patriarchal position just will reproduce its own system. 

“Why can’t the party go on forever?” is my next question. Rey answers me that it just wouldn’t be possible to energetically maintain such a psychological state of higher attention and perception. It would be way too exhausting. The two of us talked several times before about a so named „magic moment“. He asks me how I’d describe it. I answer that I’d respond to this differently each time someone asks me. Today, I see it as a phenomenon connected to performativity, a connection knot of many performative elements of time and space at one point. Through this, a magic moment becomes unique and un-reconstructable. „Something everybody just understands, but nobody knows“. Rey sees a magic moment as made possible through the egalitarian situation on a dance floor, enabled through music. This situation enables a sensation which opens up space for absolute concentration. „Everyone forgets everything but the moment“. This is a pluralist experience of evidence. “So, how is it possible to enter a state like this?” is my last question. It’s simple, Rey answers. Most of us are busy and work a lot. Raves happen when most people are free of their work, so it’s a good moment for them. They might dress good or are just generally happy, so how could coming together with people with a similar mindset at a moment like this not end in a joyful situation? 

Pleasure Pool, band from Glasgow

Pleasure Pool is a Glasgow-based band. During the last few years they developed to the point where their music reached a transcendent edge between electronic and live music. Far away from any form of image or digital presence, Pleasure Pool played themselves into the heart of the Glasgow underground. The band has changed their style and crew several times. Now their music has arrived at the point which will be the foundation for Pleasure Pool’s future. Their music is played with acoustic and electronic instruments and emphasizes for the audience an experience between a live gig and a DJ set.  For our interview, I met lead-singer Andrew Anderson and electronic musician and producer Finn O’Hare.

„Who’s Pleasure Pool?“ is my first question for them. Anderson and O’Hare look at me shocked. “A band…”, they answer that a lot of people have passed through the band: around ten so far. This was dependent on different stages the band went through. There was one change, a guitarist who was perhaps too virtuosic. Unfortunately, his being part of the group took too much performative attention. He was just too good,“ smiles Anderson. A band is very much an organism, which needs matching parts, instead of every single position being overwhelmingly powerful. The case with the guitarist was an example of the collective suffering because of the individual. The parts of the band need to take themselves back to serve something bigger, Anderson explains. „Something bigger?“ I ask. After a short moment of hesitation Anderson answers: „Emotion“. A gig of theirs should feel like going home from an amazing party, while everything is fucked. It should transmit a feeling of enthusiastic melancholy.

Anderson and O’Hare are the core of the band. They were there from the very beginning. I ask how they found one another. „So yeah, back in the playground, this little guy was just hitting the shovel on wood“ laughs Anderson. Nah joke, he goes on. Anderson was looking for someone to make music with and, somehow, they found each other. It took a while, but they developed a symbiotic relationship in writing lyrics and understanding each other’s taste in music. First it wasn’t really enjoyable, Anderson states, but it got better with time and the change of music. Pleasure Pool uses their instruments in analog fashion, even if they’re electronic ones. O’Hare makes music with old synthesizers, which he plays live, instead of pre-programming them on a computer. He tells me that they want to avoid computers at their gigs. Old synths, especially, are very dependent upon the space. Their sound changes because of external elements like the temperature of the room. To play all instruments live allows a deeper exploration of the music itself. Instead of a pre-programmed tone of a computer program, which will always sound the same, generating the tone through an instrument opens it up to variation. It would definitely be easier to use a program it, but somehow also too easy, O’Hare tells me. The live moment in music changes a lot, especially from an improvisational point of view.  I think this also opens space for mistakes; it goes away from an idea of „perfect“ music. It becomes more „human“. I ask what O’Hare means by old instruments. I mean specifically equipment from the 80’s, pre-midi, answers O’Hare. Modern synths communicate very different than old ones. The electronic instruments try to reproduce the sound of the old ones, you can see this in a program like Ableton. But a reproduction of an instrument is never the instrument itself. O’Hare adds, that also a lot of performativity would get lost without the analog instruments. They ask for performative intuition, an understanding of the live musical moment and the whole organism of their musical expression. 

Anderson, as lead singer, doesn’t really make use of the electronic instruments. I ask him how he feels about the interaction between them and his voice. „He’s mostly occupied with falling over the cables“, says O’Hare, smiling. Anderson answers, that those instruments and O’Hare translate what’s in his head. It’s basically a symbiotic relationship with them. Ideas, concepts and feelings are getting mediated and even specified in those processes. I ask how they feel about the issue the Musicians’ Union had back in the 50s with records as new media, as it was also the beginning of digitalising music and the rise of the DJ (1). O’Hare mentions, that the role of the DJ has changed a lot since then. Pleasure Pool are following their own mentality, which is to play live, but to create a spheric experience, not a narrational one. I knew from earlier conversations that they don’t use referential samples from other bands. I ask if that’s because they want to keep the music „pure“.  The two answer me that’s it’s not about any form of music essentialism; samples are important to pay tribute to the culture of music. Still, they want to generate a personal experience, which doesn’t need direct referentiality through obvious samples. By creating their own music, they automatically also rethink themselves. A virtuosity of live music is something Pleasure Pool wants to keep alive. Using samples is somehow also a very well-worn thing to do, O’Hare continues. It’s definitely not radical. In the age of digitalisation, it’s harder to find unique, interesting music. One important element of using samples was to show the audience something completely new. I ask for their opinion about sampling in rave culture. O’Hare answers that it’s an important part of the culture, as mixing is, too. It basically shortcircuits as in the contextual clash (within a song or track) of different musical genres and cultures which allow new pathways of exploration to open up. Like a particle accelerator splitting the atom, we find subatomic genres hidden in the space between established musical forms. 

Pleasure Pool’s gigs are spectacles; they create a lot of excitement. We talk a bit about what are important qualities of live musicians and DJs. O’Hare metaphorises good live musicians with the mythological figure of the centaur. With the difference that it’s a mix between human and instrument, instead of human and horse. This embodiment of the instrument creates virtuoso performances. That’s also the reason, why a drummer can’t simply be replaced, states O’Hare. Anderson adds that the temporality of our being is a key factor, which makes live music itself important. The DJ can also be virtuous, but inherits a completely different role. The DJ has a different performativity than a live musician. Her/their/his role is to animate the audience and not to claim all the attention. Time changed this role quite a bit. DJs these days are more the focus, for example, through positioning the stage on a higher level. The attention on the DJ can create a weird atmosphere, O’Hare states. In Glasgow you can find a lot of great DJs and musicians, Anderson tells me. But most of them don’t take themselves too seriously and that might also their biggest strength. As soon as someone wants „it“ too much, the local scene feels it and takes distance. I’m curious and ask what he means with „it“? Anderson and O’Hare think for a short while. It’s hard to define, the two answer. Fame, success or money… I think it’s also related to desiring something that’s not the music or the art itself. O’Hare tells me, that the cultural environment of Glasgow lives very much from the visions of musicians and artists. They work out of an inner need. This leads to an authenticity and a natural coolness, which is even attractive for big cities like London. 

„So how unhealthy is money for the music scene?“ I ask the two. It can be healthy in a way, because it makes things run, answers O’Hare. On the other hand, there’s this abstract idea of a big pot of money, only reserved for someone. This can lead to a toxic environment based fuelled by competition. Again, it’s important to not take yourself too seriously, says O’Hare. I ask: „Why?“ „Because humour is an important key for communication,“ O’Hare answers. By being too serious and direct, people will put their guards up, adds Anderson. The greatest artists he knows weren’t just very smart, but also very sociable and had a great sense of humour. It’s important to stay human. I ask him, if he becomes a different person while performing. „Preferably not“, he answers. Obviously the moment of performance does something to him, but that doesn’t make him different. Rather, it wakes up his creativity. I see this clearly as a reason for Pleasure Pool’s dynamic and exciting live gigs. I ask them on what media the band will be listened to in five years and what their relation to records is. First, they tell me, it’s important that gigs shouldn’t try to be reproduced on records. Pleasure Pool doesn’t rehearse their songs. There’s an order in their tracks, but the frame stays open. If something feels right, and stays alive, they keep playing it, states Anderson. To make a choice of songs for a record is a hard decision. There should be a narrative curve, O’Hare says. It’s important to both of them that each of their songs work individually. Anderson tells me that it’s a similar process to creating a painting – it’s very easy to go too far. It needs a rough idea of how the record should sound, they state. 

I’m curious about their relation to rave culture. I ask where they see the main difference between a live gig and a DJ set. For O’Hare it’s definitely the focal point. Whereas on a live gig everyone focuses on the performer, the crowd at a DJ set invigorates the whole space. So how do they see raves as sociological phenomena, I ask? They answer, that people connect clubs to having a good time. There’s a big variety of people. Though, the chances of going to a rave where you don’t know the DJ are much higher than at a live gig. Raves are maybe more for the space, the culture itself. „But how much is this culture just about getting lost?“, I inquire. It’s definitely not, but much more about having a good time together and meeting new people, Anderson tells me. Some of the best times he ever had were at parties, and he met some of his best friends there. Somehow, clubs just make you like people a little bit more, he states. Large groups of people are somehow awful, but the light mindedness in clubs is a way to become social. Even with people you don’t like, he smiles. „So raves are healthy for society?“ I ask. „Yeah, they’re cathartic“, answers Roberson. O’Hare adds, that the people find themselves to be there together for the same purpose: namely for the party. By realising this, a togetherness emerges, an experience of collective joy to overcome the alienating individualism of capitalist culture. We’re all here, so why not make the best out of it?  In my eyes, this is an amazing way of seeing raves. Anderson continues that the rave scene historically celebrated a renaissance when politics went through hard times. The culture has its own voice; it makes people a little bit crazy and a bit less willing to conform to the system. This could definitely lead to political actions at some point. At the moment, good raves are a bit missing in Glasgow, he tells me.