A-Trak: EDM Is 'Hair Metal Soap Opera'

Former world champion DJ joins 'button pushers' discussion

A-Trak performs in Chula Vista, California.
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images
July 24, 2012 4:35 PM ET

In an article on the Huffington Post, producer and former world champion DJ A-Trak adds his opinion to the "button pushers" discussion ignited by deadmau5's Tumblr post last month. "As the DJ moves from club booths to festival stages, the equipment has become increasingly varied. And as the lines continue to blur between a DJ who mixes and a producer who presses play, questions of authenticity have been raised," he begins. "For better or worse, this rising genre is dominated by laptop production whizzes who do not play live instruments. Thus, there are inherent challenges to what an EDM performance can be . . . Fans want to experience it in large venues, so there is a need to build a show around it."

Lamenting that these shows are now a maximalist "arms race" of "shock and awe," A-Trak notes, "Crowds used to come see DJs for a musical journey. Now they expect to hear specific songs, and furthermore, they want to see a show." But the five-time world champion questions if there is "still room for DJ skills."

A-Trak continues by relating his discipline of DJing, turntablism, and the long practice hours necessary to master the skills. For "a performer" like Deadmau5, he says the "creative tour de force" occurs before the show. Making a comparison to a theatrical play, A-Trak notes, "Good theatre is entertaining, it is moving and certainly has value. This is a classic dispute of apples and oranges, and Deadmau5's only mistake in his Tumblr post is trying to compare the two." Still, A-Trak also maintains "that doesn't take away from his talent."

Calling the current scene a "hair metal soap opera," A-Trak rips DJs who don't keep their sets fresh, but hopes for a "holy grail" of "a live performance that has the flexibility to integrate true improvisation . . .  Just make sure you give your audience something new every night. If you want to play David to Deadmau5's Goliath, earn it. Challenge yourself to challenge the crowd," he writes. "And to all the new fans just discovering this genre, come to the shows with an open mind. Don't just wait to hear the songs you already know . . . Let yourself be surprised."

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