Classically trained musicians and composers like James Blake and Max Richter who also work with electronic music can see an unbroken arc from Beethoven and Bach through to current thoughtful electronic work – the layering of sounds, introduction of themes and contrapuntal motions exist across the spectrum. There’s every reason to think if Mozart was around today he’d be a bedroom producer putting his work on Soundcloud.
The spark that changed my life, leading to my work curating Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House, was lit in a nightclub. In 1996 I begged my way into a uni exchange that took me from my law school at Murdoch University in Perth to Queen Mary Westfield University, London just to be in the same city as the legendary Blue Note club. The Blue Note was home to Goldie’s Metalheadz nights, which I was desperate to get to. It was also home to Ninja Tune’s Stealth, Andrew Weatherall’s Bloodsugar, James Lavelle’s Mo’ Wax nights, Acid Jazz and Talvin Singh’s Anohka nights – all playing cutting-edge electronic music.
At the time there was absolutely nothing else of interest around the Blue Note that I could see; London’s Shoreditch/Hoxton area at the time looked semi-derelict. Yet the Blue Note became one of the main catalysts for the East End/Shoreditch regeneration (and gentrification) explosion that’s been going on now for 20 years, reaffirming London’s worldwide status as a creative centre. And it inspired me to become a promoter, to start presenting the kind of rigorous electronic music artists I admired and had gone to London to see, culminating in programming intelligent and visceral artists like Underworld and Richie Hawtin at the Sydney Opera House.
The energy and electricity in those Blue Note nights – particularly the Metalheadz evenings – were ridiculously intense. All the drum & bass producers in London would get their new tracks cut to acetate record, bring them down on a Sunday night, and line the walls to see and hear how their new works went in this tiny, three-level, 300-capacity club.
It was a sonic laboratory with new sounds tested out on knowledgeable, sophisticated listeners. The Blue Note crowd wasn’t fazed when David Bowie or Björk attended but would lose their minds if Metalheadz producer Dillinja showed up. The sheer concentration of creative energy in this space exerted an irresistible gravitational pull on design agencies, game developers and what we now call ‘the creative industries’, who all set up shop in the area as the new place to be.