There comes a time in every DJ fan’s life when they have to respond to allegations that the craft they admire is soulless, demands no talent from those who practice it, or that enjoying it requires drug use.
Actually, scratch that — that inescapable moment doesn’t just come once; it repeats itself, again and again, like a broken record. The latest iteration of the guitar-versus-machines battle was brought to us by Tom Petty, who regurgitated some of the most tired rockist critiques of electronic music in a recent interview with USA Today.
“Watch people play records? That’s stupid,” he began. When asked about his feelings on massive EDM raves like the Electric Daisy Carnival, he told the reporter that “you couldn’t pay [him] to go” watch people perform a simple task like DJing. “I’m not oversimplifying it,” he insisted, even though he seemed to be writing off the skill and precision it takes to beat juggle like Hudson Mohawke.
That being said, we can understand why Petty might think the art of DJing hardly requires any effort at all, as this is one of the knottiest debates in dance music. Sometimes, high-profile DJs seem too high to do much besides fiddle with the mixers — and, of course, celebrity spinners like Deadmau5 often revive the perennial “just press play” debate, which involves a discussion of whether or not all DJs allow technology to handle the more technically demanding aspects of mixing (like beatmatching) while they fist pump behind the decks.
“I don’t think it would be any fun without the drugs,” Petty continued. “It’s a drug party.”
His stinging comments ruffled the feathers of many DJ fans — including Pasquale Rotella, the founder and CEO of the company that hosts EDC, Insomniac Entertainment. In a response published on the Insomniac website earlier today, the EDM mogul mourned Petty’s dismissiveness and invited him to experience the magic of an Insomniac rave himself. “I would think that someone who played shows with Dylan and the Dead — someone who lived through and actively contributed to the counterculture era of the ’60s and ’70s — wouldn’t be so quick to drink the overhyped media Kool-Aid about our festival experience,” Rotella wrote.
While his response seems relatively measured and thoughtful, there seemed to be a few subtle digs. First, he referred to Petty as “a classic rocker in search of contemporary social relevancy as he starts promoting new music,” which seems like a polite way of saying that Petty is a dinosaur who’s desperately trying to attract attention to his archaic music by slandering today’s popular genres in an attempt to sell more copies of his new album. On top of that, Rotella’s invitation to EDC or Nocturnal Wonderland sounds like a backhanded compliment, as he says that his mother would probably like to meet the classic rock stalwart. It’s a subtle dig, but it’s pretty much like calling Petty old — like, so old that only parents care enough about him to want to meet him. As easy as it is to slag on Petty for being out-of-touch with and ignorant to the charms of current trends, think of how much more embarrassing it would have been for him if he had tried to act “with it.” At least he’s still keeping it real.
Here’s Rotella’s response in full:
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about records, DJs and dance music, including Tom Petty. We’re living in a very electronic era with constantly evolving forms of entertainment, which may be a daunting thing for a classic rocker in search of contemporary social relevancy as he starts promoting new music. But I would think that someone who played shows with Dylan and the Dead — someone who lived through and actively contributed to the counterculture era of the ’60s and ’70s — wouldn’t be so quick to drink the overhyped media Kool-Aid about our festival experience. If he wants to come to EDC Vegas next year and see what it’s really about, we’ve got a ticket with his name on it. If he doesn’t want to wait that long, Nocturnal Wonderland is right around the corner. My Mama Irene would be stoked to meet him! Who knows? He might just have a ‘Change of Heart.'”