Crosley C200

INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY | Crosley vs. Blisspop: Vinyl and Electronic Music

Giveaway Instructions: To win this brand new CROSLEY C200 2-SPEED STEREO TURNTABLE pictured above, please 1) like/follow Blisspop and Crosley Radio on Facebook and Twitter if you haven’t already, and 2) email with your answers to the following three questions:

  1. What years were Blisspop and Crosley founded?
  2. Where are Blisspop and Crosley based?
  3. Who produced the 1983 hit record “On & On?”

We will  pick a winner on November 30, 2016. If the winner is based in the DC area, we will give you the turntable in person. If you are not based in the DC area, we can ship it within the lower 48 states.

Tucked under a highway overpass, the Ocean Stage’s beats shake the girders, sand swirling up by hundreds of jumping dancers. It’s Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and the bass is loud enough to thunder up your spine. Lights bounce across the underside of the highway, and despite the sunshine only twenty feet away, this performance feels like it’s in a dark club in the sea. It’s an experience like nothing else at this festival, which tends to edge toward indie singer-songwriters. Yet the Ocean stage is always packed, and people race from the last note on a guitar to the pounding bass. So, what’s up with that?

Unless you’ve been under a rock music-wise, the influence of house, techno, and EDM has expanded to almost every genre. From the underground clubs of Europe to the street DJs of the West Coast, electronic music can be as local as it is global. It’s got such massive coverage that it’s impossible to tackle alone. Thankfully, that’s where Blisspop comes in! We met Blisspop at the Abbey Road on the River festival of all places (which is really, about as far as you can get for such things).

Blisspop — a hive of experts and information on house, techno, and disco since the year 2000 — is here to help us out. We’re gonna pick their brains a little to see how this musical revolution interacts with the vinyl community, and where it’s headed.

[Blisspop’s William Creason, Patrick Blinkhorn, and Chris Kennedy fielded questions from Crosley’s Lilly Higg’s in this interview.]

Is there a defined “beginning” of the electronic genre as we know it? I know that there’s bound to have been influences way back, but is there a particular album that that really signaled the beginning of electronic music?

William: Electronic music in the popular music world began when the technology to make electronic music became available outside of an academic setting in the late 1960s. It’s at this point that the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Moody Blues start to incorporate electronic music elements into their music. Pivotal early electronic music albums include The In Sound From Way Out! by Perrey and Kingsley (1966), Silver Apples by Silver Apples (1968), and Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos (1968).

Patrick: As William mentioned and you hinted at, electronic music goes way back to the turn of the 20th century. And later on, artists such as Edgard Varèse — the “Father of Electronic Music” — had profound impacts on the development of electronic music with works such as Poème électronique. But when considering popular electronic music, there are several artists and pieces who deserve recognition. Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder immediately strike me as influential names in the early days of dance music. I’d also say pieces such as Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” and Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, while they may not have had a direct influence over electronic music as we know it today, indicated a wider acceptance of what is music, and this opened doors for electronic musicians to experiment and push boundaries further.

For the uninitiated, what’s the difference between house, techno, and disco?

William: Of the three genres, disco came first. It’s hard to pinpoint the first disco record, but “Love Train” by The O’Jays (1972) is an early example most everyone knows. Disco music from the 70s was made by live musicians and producers who make modern disco oriented music try to keep the same, live feeling (for example: “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk).  

Techno started in Detroit and was influenced by a local radio show hosted by The Electrifying Mojo who would play funk, new wave, and cutting edge electronic music imports. These influences were combined on “Cosmic Cars” by Cybotron (1982), one of the first techno records before the term had been established. Of the three genres listed, techno tends to be the most mechanistic and coldly robotic.

In the early 80s, Chicago DJs and club goers were trying to fill the void left by disco’s pop chart demise. In 1983, “On & On” by Jesse Saunders became a hit record at the Chicago club The Warehouse, becoming one of the first “house music” records. House music is now a worldwide genre and has many derivations, but its typical sound signature is the “four-to-the-floor” drum pattern where the kick drum lands at the front of every beat.

Are there different tools used to create the music, or is it solely vibe?

William: The current tools to create house and techno are generally the same. Most contemporary electronic music is made with a digital audio workstation (DAW), though some people make music strictly with outboard hardware (like synthesizers, drum machines, etc.). The difference between house and techno, to me, really comes down to tone and intent.

Patrick: William mostly covered this, but I’d like to note that some artists sample outboard hardware, and process those samples in their DAWs.

Many artists swear by their hardware gear, and while I do believe there is a perceptible difference between hardware sounds and sounds generated in your DAW (or with software-based synthesized sounds), I think that the artist’s ideas are the primary driving force behind the the music. In other words, an artist could spend a good deal of money on hardware, but ultimately their ideas and their experience making music are what’s going to make people dance, not their hardware.

Have you noticed a lack of electronic vinyl pressed? Or does there seem to be a lot, when compared to other genres?

William: Compared to other genres, it’s a lot. Vinyl sales for electronic music have come down from their peak in the 90s, but compared to any other genre in the present marketplace, electronic music is represented more so than most any other genre.

Is there a palpable difference between electronic music played on vinyl vs say, on CD?  Certain music has a softer, warmer quality to it when played on a record.

Chris: I would say so. It has the ability to give electronic music a “real,” more organic feel. Whether it’s the warmer quality you mentioned, or the subtle pops and cracks you hear on quieter parts of the record. For me, one of the biggest differences is just being able to see that records are being played. When it’s apparent that a DJ is playing records, the crowd gets into it more. I think people like seeing that a DJ is working their ass off to beatmatch while having to dig through their crate looking for the next perfect track. A DJ can look busy on CDJs, but with vinyl you know that the DJ is busy.

For reference, I have Anamanaguchi — one of my favorite chiptune bands — on vinyl. When it plays, it sounds like it’s coming out of a giant gameboy — it’s awesome. What’s the sort of feeling you get when you hear electronica on vinyl?

William: In my opinion, it’s the depth and clarity. For music to be cut to vinyl, it has to go through a thorough mastering process and music that is mastered well will always sound better than music coming out of a phone or laptop. Especially in electronic music, 12″ singles tend to only have 10 or less minutes per side meaning the vinyl can be cut louder, so you get a really warm, clear representation of the music when you play it back.

There’s a substantial group of DJs who use CDJs, or DJs who use CDs to sample and mix, as well as digital soundboards. If you could ballpark a percentage, how many DJs do you guys think use vinyl records to mix?

William: It’s difficult to say what the split is, and I think it’s also difficult to say that all DJs are format agnostic — there are many DJs who use both CDJs and vinyl when playing out. It is worth noting that many older songs are available only on vinyl, so DJs who use CDJ units still need a turntable at home to digitize their personal stash of secret weapons for the road.

Patrick: As William said, it’s difficult to say, and a great deal of it depends on the age of the genre. I’ve noticed a lot of disco DJs play vinyl out. Many house and techno DJs use CDJs, but some also use vinyl. And I don’t get the chance to catch a lot of future bass or tropical house shows, but from what I’ve seen, a lot of DJs in those newer genres use controllers with DJ software. I haven’t seen hip hop or other genre’s DJs recently, so I can’t speak to those genres. But I’d say that generally speaking, the older the genre, the higher the prevalence of vinyl mixing. If I had to guess, I’d say 15-40% of DJs will use vinyl at least on occasion if not regularly.

In a world of Soundcloud and Spotify, is getting pressed on vinyl still a goal? I know with a lot of indie and alternative bands, being pressed on vinyl is seen as sort of a badge of honor or ultimate accomplishment. Is this also true in the electronic community?

William: Absolutely — pressing a song to vinyl is very much still an acknowledgement of merit in the electronic music world. Having a vinyl release means that there was a lot of effort that went into putting the music out. There is big difference between taking twenty seconds to upload a song to Soundcloud and the months long process of mastering, plating, and pressing music to vinyl. People willing to spend two thousand dollars to get their music out there are usually quite confident about the final product and that filters out the less serious music.

Where do you see the vinyl community and the electronic community meshing in the future? As electronic music evolves and changes, how can vinyl adapt to go with it?

William: The use of vinyl has always been ingrained into the electronic music community. Even during times of low interest in vinyl records, it remained a necessity for electronic music DJs and listeners.  Even with emerging technology, I think vinyl will still have its place in DJ culture and fans of electronic music looking to purchase a tangible product will continue to buy records.