Sean Ray- Underground Resistance & the EDM ‘Trap’ (interview)
“It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the EDM mass-market explosion and ride the wave of attention and money, but I find it ultimately unfulfilling. You run out of places to grow and learn. EDM is ultimately a trap, you are limited to create for the commercial, otherwise you are forgotten for someone who will keep their sound consistent.”
As well as publishing brutally informative (and highly entertaining) music blog NotYourJuke.com Sean Ray is one of America’s most experienced- and talented – electronic music producers.
Though his CV shows him flitting between EDM’s mainstream (with gigs at the likes of Electric Daisy Carnival and production stints with trance stars Oakenfold and Matt Darey), he’s also hugely respected in alternative circles including by Underground Resistance (UR).
Writing on their website, the infamously uncompromising counterculture Detroit crew declare ‘Underground Resistance is a label for a movement. A movement that wants change by sonic revolution’.
“We urge you to join the resistance and help us combat the mediocre audio and visual programming that is being fed to the inhabitants of Earth,” thestatement continues, “this programming is stagnating the minds of the people; building a wall between races and preventing world peace”.
So given that UR’s newest member MGun has just remixed Sean’s new single Deep 454, how aware is he of their manifesto: and how much does he agree with its broader message?
“I am aware of the UR manifesto and support it 100%. It’s probably in part why I am on the same management roster,” he replies.
“I am all about tearing down the mediocrity of what has become of dance music. I run a blog called Not Your Jukebox that has gained a lot of traction over the last couple of years that seeks to spread the same message. Calling out the DJs and producers that are taking the easy way out. Chastising the use of sync buttons, relying solely on loops and prefab. Speaking against those who seek fame and attention instead of building a relationship and connection with the music.
(BUT) I’m not one of those old-timers seeking to put things as they were ‘back in the good-old days’ per se, but rather someone who wants to maintain some of the principles that created the scene in the first place.”
Sean’s new track Deep 454 is targeted firmly at underground dance floors such as Berlin’s Berghain rather than the bottle haunts of Vegas and has already picked up the enthusiastic support of the likes of Perlon/ Panorama Bar resident Sammy Dee. Combining a jazzed up minimalist piano breakdown with a throbbing acid deeply infectious groove, it’s a highly unusual track, inspired, he reveals, by a radical life change he’s recently experienced.
“The track is about the birth of my son (who was born at 4:54 am) and I really wanted something that expressed the contrast of emotions that I had during the whole experience,” says Ray.
“The build up to the delivery, the kind of familiar calm and pause when he was out in the world for the first time, the split second that felt like an eternity while we waited for signs of that first breathe, the organized chaos of cutting the cord and getting him cleaned up and run through the battery of measurements and tests, all followed by the reality setting in and the emotional roller coaster of the mix of joy and panic that is attached to fatherhood,” he explains.
It sounded to me rather like a ‘happy accident’ . . . (Skrufff)
“I believe that there are always happy accidents when it comes to making music, or at least there should be. It means you are exploring, pushing, trying new things. I think a lot of people get too caught up in trying to create or replicate a previous sound instead of experimenting. Even an experiment you never end up using isn’t a waste of your time.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You’ve got loads of experience with major players and events in the EDM scene (Perfecto, EDC etc): why did you go this more underground, presumably less commercially viable musical direction as opposed to producing mass market EDM style music?
Sean Ray: “I think overall I am looking to the underground in general. It’s where I came from, it’s what hooked me to the music in the first place, and it’s where my heart is.
People have asked me if I was scared when I headlined for over 300,000 people in Vietnam a few years ago; I was, but not for the reasons they expected. I had a moment when it was all over of “uh-oh, where do I go from here?” Fortunately the answer came to me some time later: focus on creating the music.”
Skrufff: UR’s new artist MGun produced one remix: an interesting choice; were you involved in picking him?
Sean Ray: “MGUN was offered up as a remixer right off the bat, I didn’t hesitate. I respect his work greatly and knew he would bring something special to the table.”
Skrufff: On your blog (http://notyourjukebox.com ) you write regularly about the US dance scene, how big a cultural impact is this EDM wave having on America? Where do you see it heading?
Sean Ray: “EDM is now mainstream, it is becoming pop/top 40 music. Once that happens it will only become more and more commercial, more watered-down, and then people eventually get bored and move on. People need to grow within genres otherwise they get disenchanted.
You can already see that people are starting to feel that way, that’s why we need to push as hard as we can to expose people to new and different sounds. That’s another reason I like to focus on UDM (underground dance music) more than EDM; it never gets boring. The commercial sounds you hear are generally watered-down versions of sounds and ideas from the underground.”
Sean (highly recommended) new single Deep 454 is out on Bulletdodge Records.