Did speaking truth to space bars scare superstar knob-twiddlers back to their La-Z-Boys?
Signs of the EDMocalypse? Late Friday night, Deadmau5 opened up Pandora's Serato box with a Tumblr post entitled "We All Hit Play," in which he alleged that dance music's top-billed acts (himself included) do more pantomiming than actual performing onstage.
The next day, Swedish House Mafia apparently called it quits, posting this message to their website: "Today we want to share with you, that the tour we are about to go on will be our last. We want to thank every single one of you that came with us on this journey. We came, we raved, we loved."
Coincidence? Did the Mau5 get the Swedes' goat?
After all, the Swedish House Mafia are favorite targets of EDM's skeptics, given the disproportionate balance between grandstanding and hands-on mixing that tends to characterize their sets. (As MixMag's Nick Stevenson put it, "How many of Swedish House Mafia does it take to change a lightbulb? One to change the bulb and 2 to stand either side, pointing at the sky.")
I'm kidding, of course: I doubt we can give Deadmau5 credit for breaking up the Swedish House Mafia. In fact, I'm not even sure that the group has really split up: The message posted on their website only specifies that this will be their last tour, and their postscript, "The final leg of this journey will be announced in August," leaves plenty of room for speculation. Perhaps they'll anoint Avicii an official member and become the Swedish House Quartet. Or maybe, in response to DJ Sneak's frequent criticism, they'll drop "House" and re-christen themselves the Swedish EDM Mafia, or SEDMM. It's catchy. When I asked the band's publicist if there was more to their statement, he replied, "I was told to say, 'No comment.' "
But I do think that Deadmau5 deserves some credit for his rant, as it helpfully sweeps aside the curtain on certain myths about electronic music and live performance. "I'm not going to let… people assume there's a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly," he writes, adding that none of the world's top electronic artists do that, "myself included." He's right: Many Ableton-based "live" performances are mostly playback, with a little cosmetic knob-twiddling over the top. This is true from the world of commercial EDM to the techno underground. Sure, you can use the software in more dynamic ways, but most performers don't, certainly not in the club world. His honesty, at least, is refreshing.
Deadmau5 isn't the only A-list performer getting fed up with a metastasizing EDM scene that seems increasingly content to rest on its fluorescent laurels. Yesterday, A-Trak vented via Twitter: "DJs, I don't care what setup you play on, just don't play the same set every night and the same Top10 tracks as every other dude."
That's been a common complaint recently, given the ubiquity of songs like Avicii's "Levels" and the never-ending stream of Gotye and Adele remixes; even Electric Daisy Carnival's Pasquale Rotella has grumbled that "a lot of the big guys play the same tracks."
With all this collective soul-searching, perhaps the commercial EDM scene is about to hit a tipping point. (Somewhere, a producer is saying, "Time is running out! Let's just put a donk on this Gotye remix and be done with it.") With any luck, a disgruntled superstar DJ will soon give the EDM scene its very own "Losing My Edge." Sing along with me now: "I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record."