Our cultural noise / the raver at the heart of it all
The first genre of music I ever produced with any level of commitment was Happy Hardcore. For those who aren't knowledgeable in the minutiae of electronic music subgenres, it's a high tempo cheesy take on Italo Disco and Hardcore rave music from the 80s/90s (respectively) that saw cult popularity in the internet social circles I grew up in (IMVU, Gaia Online, Second life, various MMOs, etc.).
This was around 2005-2010 (prehistoric internet), so you could say my history with electronic music goes back 15 years now. Jesus.
During my late childhood/preteen years I moved around a lot and my online friends were a welcome dose of stability for me; the music they showed me would grow into the backbone for my music IQ, which I still employ as an artistic crutch in my professional work. I learned of German Hardcore from... well from Germans lol. I was introduced to Balearic trance by kids who lived in the Mediterranean. If you want to listen to live club music as a kid, you can't go to clubs, so we all met up online and shared music all night. This period of my life is something I think fondly about often; the double life I lived online where I wasn't a middle schooler: I was ThatRaverKid (yes that was my actual username on IMVU in 2008, it is very adorable in a cringe way)
Later on in life there were times I wanted to be a DJ, there were times I wanted to go on tour with a band, and there were times I wanted to front a pop act and sing on stage, and now I don't really do any of those things. I ended up being a multi-instrumentalist, a songwriter, an art consultant, and most of all: a record producer.
It is crazy to think that as recently as 2018 I had scarcely imagined I would ever find myself in a professional role in an audio job considering my day-to-day work is almost exclusively audio only four years later. I sincerely owe my career and a large portion of my skills to the online communities I grew up being a part of and the creative atmosphere I was welcomed in to. I had a turbulent life at home and a shitty laptop... when it all paired with a willingness to be open to new music, new people, and new art... I became a musician.
One would think someone who took their first steps toward being a musician in some of the earliest virtual social spaces would be pretty comfortable being a musician in today's internet climate, but I had an adverse, sort of allergic reaction to musicianship in my late teens/early twenties. I had spent so much time unwilling to put my art out into the world, I had been unwilling to call myself an artist, and I had shamefully hid my art from people who wanted to hear/see/read it. I thought for a long time it was insecurity, which it absolutely was in some cases, but there is something far more insidious out there, a giant dark cloud snuffing out the artists of the world... and drowning out their songs. Or so I thought.
I have spent many years now making music, and it has given me a front row seat in watching a cloud suffocate young artists. I'm going to call it our cultural noise.
To me, cultural noise is the hideous sound of 40 people on a bus listening to different songs out loud. Everyone has a different wallpaper on their phone, a different design on their shirt, a different tattoo, and something new to say about it. Every show has brand new actors, in a brand new wardrobe, with brand new makeup, and a fresh haircut. Every movie has a twitter thread with some blue check mark making horrific takes that totally own someone who doesn't exist. Shit, I probably meet a rapper at every place I go, a lot of them are pretty good too.
So I would ask myself:
'How could my ego be inflated enough to clutter this over-saturated world with more shit.'
The lowest moments in my life have been the times I have felt like I am too small, too quiet, too boring to be heard. I have felt too fat to be famous, I have felt too big and muscular to be vulnerable, I've even felt too poor to make any money. I've felt too proud to ask for criticism and too nice to ask what I deserve (be it money or respect).
In the past I've felt too tired to keep making music.
I was feeling silenced by the impossibly loud cultural noise. The art world is so hectic and crowded, and it is far too easy to blame other artists for taking up your space (jealousy!). It is far too easy to back away and give your space to someone else (inadequacy!). The ugly realities are mimicking the art, hoping to take from the cultural noise without giving yourself to it (plagiarism!) or lacking any understanding required to appreciate the art is it is (appropriation!). This talk is all very spiritual to me, I am obsessed with the many ways we interface with our culture(s). That's why I call it our noise, it is a universal thing.
As I've grown up I've had to confront the way I want to be heard, and I've become more serious about what I want to contribute to this cultural noise. It is no longer about what genre my next album will be, or how many times I change my stage name, or if I ever do an acoustic show, or even how many platinum plaques I end up with on my wall one day. Maybe I'll move to china and produce the next big hit over there. It's pretty much inconsequential.
What I've realized is that even in the loudest room in the world, there is someone who really needs to hear what you have to say. If you have to scream, scream. If you have to do mukbangs on tiktok, dye your hair blue, or get a questionable tattoo on your face, make sure it is all in service of your art reaching that single person who really needs your breakcore remix. It took me 15 years to learn that my music can actually effect change in the world and I had to stick it out on my own until I had any outside validation. Chasing the validation isn't even tenable.
In the illusory over-saturation that is the cultural noise, we need to chase connection, not validation.
When I think about people connecting to the art on a personal level, rather than the amount of art or the validation of other artists, I can see the need for me. I know there's someone out there who will Stan me like I'm a Kpop idol because I make beats but I'm also a dork with a blog. I know there are eclectic music fans who will want to read my fantasy stories and poems. Some of them are probably friends I haven't even made yet. This makes me hopeful and excited for what the future holds.
The raver at the heart of it all is... me, and you, and... pretty much everybody.
I realized that I went on such an adventure as a kid to find the music I loved. Even then, I only shared my adventure with one subgenre of a genre. Forget the fact I have found other adventures in my search for metal, pop, fusion jazz, and folk. Recently I've been into Uyghur Funk.
The ravers at the heart of it all are the people digging in crates, the spotify crusaders, the youtube sleuths, and the pervasive "bangers" playlists. At the heart of it all, to me, are the people who are in it for the music above all else.
The takeaway is as follows:
I felt like nobody would do any work to find my music, that I would have to do all the legwork to get my music in front of an audience. In reality, as a kid, half the fun was meeting people who introduced me to new music and going down rabbit holes of discovery. I was stunned and blinded by the same sheer volume of art that existed out there in the world that used to fill me with wonder. That is the illusion, that nobody will ever get that feeling of wonder from your art, until one day, all of the sudden: they do.
Somehow I literally believed nobody would want to do any work to find my music, when I have been making Winnie the Pooh dance memes with western Chinese dance anthems like "Uyghur Degen Mushundaq" by Uygurche Tallanma Naxshilar and "Henim Joram" by the very hunky Qemirdin Tursun.
Love, peace, cya,
your internet lover, Jake (Okinoth) the DDR superstar - signing off to go do my fucking job