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No heritage acts: Dance music allows its veterans to remain creatively free

Brand new or 40 years old, a banger is a banger

  • Words: Joe Muggs | Illustrations: Calum Heath
  • 3 November 2017

Not so long ago I witnessed a couple of brilliant and in-demand DJs discussing the downsides of the job. So far, so normal. But they weren’t complaining about hangovers, jet-lag, escaping the afterparty in time for the flight, or lack of saunas in their hotel. No, Terry Farley and DJ Harvey were swapping tips on dealing with back pain during long stints behind the decks.

It wasn’t even that unusual. From global premiere league names – Oaky, Coxy, Sven and Norm – through highly credible house/techno/disco stars like Farley, Harvey, Monika Kruse, Dave Clarke, Greg Wilson and US originators like Robert Hood, Larry Heard and Masters At Work, to leftfield scene leaders like Gilles and Goldie, Weatherall and Trevor Jackson and of course Mary Anne Hobbs (who only seems to get keener on new sounds as time goes by), a lot of our favourite spinners are now well over a quarter-century deep into their music. Creaky knees and reading specs are more the name of the game than jeggings and septum piercings. Hell, Annie Nightingale is still repping new electronic acts at 77.

What’s significant is that these people aren’t ‘heritage acts’. And that maybe says something about dance culture. Sure, from time to time they might turn out to do a retro set – but then so might an awful lot of younger DJs. On the whole, though, you don’t go to see Terry Farley play a bunch of early-90s Boys Own releases, or hope Rob Hood will spin Minimal Nation tracks. Indeed, most of the crowd for the latter are likely to be far more concerned with hearing tracks from the latest Floorplan release. If you tune into Trevor Jackson, Andrew Weatherall, Mary Anne Hobbs or Gilles Peterson on the radio, you’d feel let down if you didn’t hear some very new (and very odd) music. Even if Harvey or Greg Wilson are playing old disco, you’ll never hear the same set you did last time: there are new twists, new blends, new discoveries, new edits. Bill Brewster’s new, ‘autobiographical’ crate-digging comp ‘Tribal Rites’ might be old tunes, but he joins the dots across decades with such Balearic pizzazz and personality it all feels fresh.

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