Long considered one of electronic music’s pioneering forces, Detroit techno legend Jeff Mills believes that some day, we’re going to be able to experience live gigs first-hand, from anywhere in the world.
Mills made the prognosis in a fascinating interview with Fabric London last week, during which he discussed everything from space exploration to the importance of Detroit radio stations in the 60s and 70s.
On the future of clubbing, Mills explained that he could envisage a day when a decline in physical machinery (replaced by another, more ethereal form of technology) will “have an effect on how we listen to music, how we look at art, how we look at dance. And how we look at all cultural things. It will have an effect on how we socialise, what the party structure will be like, and DJing.
“Having a physical DJ standing behind a set-up could disappear. I don’t know what will replace it, but I’m almost sure that it will be gone.”
On the role of dance music and clubbing as a form of escapism, Mills believes that as technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives, this too could change.
“The problem with the physical social atmosphere is that it’s only applicable to the people that can make it to that atmosphere,” he explained.
“If you live in San Francisco and there’s an event in London, you’re just out of luck. I think that technology will give us a way of somehow experiencing these things happening around the globe in real time. If you could apply something from your living room in San Francisco that allows you to experience this concert in London, that changes the whole scenario of a party.
“Just imagine a party where there are millions of people able to experience it in real time. Everything becomes magnified. Let’s say that a DJ does something that’s really impactful. If that’s seen by millions of people, the result can be enormous. I think that’s where we’re headed. People are not going to accept being unable to experience certain things for too long. If you can experience something anywhere, at any time – as long as you pay – that’s part of the future.”
Mills isn’t alone in thinking that dance music in conventional forms is on the way out: Tiesto admitted in an interview with the New York Post the other day that “People don’t have the attention span anymore to listen to whole albums. The album used to be a journey, and now the journey is one track to another track. People want to make their own ‘best of’ albums now.”
The idea that you or I could experience first-hand all the excitement of a club night from somewhere else in the world, however, is another step from that entirely, yet one I don’t think we are that far away from.
Broadcasting club nights and dance festivals live has come a long way from the days of Rapture TV, a short-lived clubbing channel on the Sky satellite network.
Last weekend, Ultra Music Festival broadcast three stages live on YouTube, a platform that is becoming increasingly popular for live dance broadcasts, while Boiler Room is now an industry institution.
Throw virtual reality (a la Oculus Rift) into the equation, and the possibilities are magnified.
It’s just too bad that such experiences are likely to lack retrospective capabilities – personally I would love to have been able to been in Japan around 1996, when Mills recorded the seminal Live At The Liquid Room – Tokyo mix.