Thomas Venker

Tolerated Ignorance


Steve Albini, 2006 in his Chicago home (Photo: Thomas Venker)

The Chicago based producer and musician Steve Albini is a man notorious for what could be termed “strongly held views”. His belief system formed during the early 80s punk/hardcore scene and has remained pretty consistent since then. So perhaps it’s a little unsurprising that Diagonal label head and producer Oscar Powell got quite a public and forceful response when he asked Albini for a sample clearance.

Here’s a little excerpt from Powell’s Twitter if you want to get the flavour of the great man’s take on dance music:

“I’ve always detested mechanized dance music, its stupid simplicity, the clubs where it was played, the people who went to those clubs, the drugs they took, the shit they liked to talk about, the clothes they wore, the battles they fought amongst each other… I detest club culture as deeply as I detest anything on Earth. So I am against what you’re into, and an enemy of where you come from but I have no problem with what you’re doing…
In other words, you’re welcome to do whatever you like with whatever of mine you’ve gotten your hands on. Don’t care. Enjoy yourself.

Was this just another moment of dramatic hate-sharing that the internet routinely throws our way? Actually no. This was raw and real opinion, Steve’s private opinion. Nowhere does it say he has to love dance music, even if he is missing out a lot of stuff he would probably dig (given his stated love for acts like White Noise, Xenakis, Suicide, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK and DAF.)

But the real significance in Albini’s comments is their bracing honesty, their artistic freedom, the nonchalance with which he ignores the orthodoxies of the modern music world. And brilliantly zingy as his comments are, they come with an open-mind: he cleared the sample for Powell and stood up for collaboration, despite his indifference to the genre it would end up in.

Well done, Mister Albini.

Now stay with us… and sure, it might look like a leap from Albini to Hollywood actress Claire Danes, who outed herself as a fan of Berlin techno and Berghain on Ellen DeGeneres talkshow this week. But actually these two stories converge on tolerance, enthusiasm and open-mindedness.

Danes, whose excitable account of a big Sunday night at Berlin’s premier palace of dancing gently scandalised the middle-American viewers (naked dancers! party all weekend! Scandal!) is obviously a slightly surprising convert to the power of techno. (This convert gets big props from us for also complaining when the Ellen show played some cheesey Eurobeat horror to illustrate the Berlin sound “That’s not the Berghain-ian way!”).

But my God… the preciousness and horror you read in the local reaction to this news was just ridiculous. What a cheek that someone big star fancied a dancetastic Sunday in our Berghain? How dare she?! The shame!

Really, people? Please stop with the purist finger-wagging. And of course it comes mostly from the self-legendary ravers who love to brag about their own marathons of excess – but somehow want to complain when someone else discovers the joys of the dancefloor?

We salute you Claire, you’re welcome anytime.


(Translation: Alexander Mayor)

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