I Let the Electro Swing Community Try and Convince Me It Isn't Total Shit

I wrote an article calling electro swing the worst genre ever and now loads of people hate me.

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Dec 23 2015, 12:05pm

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article titled "Electro Swing is the Worst Genre of Music in the World Ever" based on my confident conviction that despite the obviously subjective nature of taste, this was one example where the opinion gave way to data. What I had underestimated, in my audacity, was the sheer wrath of the electro swing community. To be completely honest, I had underestimated the possibility of an electro swing community existing at all. I thought the genre was more a gimmick than an actual movement. As it turns out there are legions of die-hard ES fans, and they all think I'm a first rate, grade A, professional dickhead.

Now I'm the sort of person who stands by their opinions, but in the light of so many tweets and comments declaring me "soulless," and recommendations that I intake opium rectally in order to chill myself out, I realised that maybe I'd benefit from giving the electro swing mob a voice. I also realised I needed to change the privacy settings on my Facebook because I'm sure it shouldn't be that easy to send me abusive messages if we're not friends. I mean my friends send me abusive messages all the time, but that's different.

In the article I described the genre as sounding like "a pulled pork sandwich shoved down a saxophone," while questioning how, despite being so clearly shit, it has survived "like a cockroach in braces and a trilby." I'm not a fan. But I am fair. Sort of. I mean I'm not, I'd rather just sustain my ill-informed opinions and parade around oblivious, but electro swing brought the fight to my door step. So, armed with the best of intentions, I reached out to a few of the big names in the electro swing community, to see if they could convince me that their beloved genre wasn't the absolute worst thing to ever happen. Here are their best attempts.

TALLULAH GOODTIMES

Who are you and what is your connection to electro swing?
My name is Tallulah, the Queen of goodtimes swing and DJ, producer and singer.

What were your initial thoughts on THUMP's recently published "Electro Swing is the Worst Genre of Music in the World, Ever?"
Who is this guy? Why is he so angry? And then I felt a little sorry that you had such a dim view of electro swing. And then a bit indignant. And then accepting that you felt so repelled, hey, electro swing is not for everyone. It was a rollercoaster.

How long have you been into/playing electro swing—what first attracted you to it?
I properly fell in love with electro swing at Bestival in the Club Dada Spiegeltent 2012. Mr B, The Gentleman Rhymer was playing, swing dancers were dancing and everyone was properly dressed up and getting into the music—all ages. When I got home, I created my first Tallulah Goodtimes mix, within a week 25,000 people had listened to it, and 3 1/2 years on I'm busier now than I've ever been.

Why do you love it so much? And why do you think it is so popular?
I love it for the very things you find vomitous. I love the 'fun'. I love the costume, and the theatre. I love that at events you get a mash up of dance, DJ's, live acts, circus, burlesque. It's a great scene to be a part of and play in—and the audiences totally 'get it'.

Why do I think it's so popular?
Because it's feel-good, unpretentious, playful and cool. The tunes being created right now take so many good things from the history and future of music and weave them together into something new and excellent. Collaborations you perhaps wouldn't have imagined are happening—and love it or hate it, the events and the music are highly creative and cleverly put together.

How would you try and convince a naysayer like me to fall in love with it?
It's a bit like marmite, and if you find it all a bit much, maybe it's not for you. But look beyond the Gatsby themed corporate parties and shit you don't like, and think about what you do like and take it from there—there's a whole world of musical brilliance to be discovered.

What could electro swing bring to my life that it is currently missing?
Clearly, some fun and good times.

What's the one big electro swing track that will change my opinion?
Take The Lost Fingers and Swingrowers "Pump Up the Jam" remix for example. Brilliant. Postmodern Jukebox's Phil Mac remix of "Sweet Child O Mine"—dancefloor mayhem every single time.

MR AUTOMATIC

Who are you and what is your connection to electro swing?
My name is Bill Holland. I DJ under the name Mr. Automatic, and run Rouge Electroswing and Dead 2 Me Records along with Vourteque.

What were your initial thoughts on THUMP's recently published "Electro Swing is the Worst Genre of Music in the World, Ever?"
Many of the downsides it pointed out are things I see as being positives about the genre. In the article you say, "maybe this is just what happens when the guys and girls who were in jazz bands at your sixth form realized they could go out and get drunk in nightclubs as well." That's exactly it. I came up on Techno in Detroit, cut my teeth as a DJ on Electro in Chicago, but in high school I did, in fact, play piano in the jazz band. We're all nerds who became successful in nightlife and weren't really feeling what was going on in the mainstream, so we started our own thing.

How long have you been into/playing electro swing—what first attracted you to it?
A few years ago, I had a residency at Neo with Front 312 doing a night where I spun newer Electro with old Chicago industrial records, 80's new wave, and some old acid and techno. I started wearing bowler hats and cravats because I didn't see a lot of that going on and it seemed like a good idea. Around that time, Vourteque and my roommate, who also does all the graphic design work for our label now, had gotten into Steampunk. I listened to a lot of Steampunk music and didn't really get into the majority of it. At the time, those parties weren't dance parties per se, and trying to find things that fit the theme and were danceable was a difficult task.

Right before we were going to do a big show at Reggie's in Chinatown, I stepped into Gramophone Records, which is a mecca for DJs in Chicago, especially if you love Chicago House Music. Michael Serafini, who is both the owner and a well-respected DJ internationally, pointed out the Black Mink : White Cotton compilation to me and suggested I give it a listen. I put it on and instantly said "this is what I've been looking for this whole time."

Why do you love it so much? And why do you think it is so popular?
As a producer and DJ, what I love about Electro Swing is its malleability and resistance to being pigeonholed as a genre. I love that in a set, I can start with 1940's ballads, move through Swing-hop, into House, and by the end of the night everyone is smashed and frenetically gyrating around to Swing n Bass remixes of The Andrews Sisters. As a DJ, I have always played cross-genre, and I get very frustrated at being forced to play one style.

How would you try and convince a naysayer like me to fall in love with it?
I think what turns a lot of people off to Electro Swing is a bad first impression. Just like any genre at it's birth, there was a limited pool of material when this all started. I have to turn off Electro Swing online radio stations sometimes because some of the tracks lean toward being novelty songs too heavily for my taste. With the scene leaning more and more toward the Neo-Vintage or Vintage Remix identity, you're also more likely than ever to hear other stuff you may like thrown in to mixes. In any given set, I might throw in some Ghetto Funk, Soul Edits, Remixes of 50's rock and roll, or even classic Chicago tracks by Cajmere or Greenskeepers.

What's the one big electro swing track that will change my opinion?
I would recommend Booty Swing by Parov Stelar or Beatophone by Caravan Palace. These are both the gateway drugs of Electro Swing and a good place to start.

What could electro swing bring to my life that it is currently missing?
Electro Swing in it's current state offers, in my opinion, many of the best facets of nightlife. It's not about buying bottles of overpriced vodka with fireworks in them. It's not about dressing in the latest tumblr style, curating your instagram page, and standing in the corner behind the DJ booth with your face buried in your phone all night. It's about being who you are, dressing how you want, and letting loose in a friendly, safe environment.

JACK THE CAD

How long have you been into/playing electro swing—what first attracted you to it?
I've been writing about electroswing since early 2012. My introduction came when I heard The Correspondents. A friend sent me a YouTube link, I was hooked instantly and spent the next few weeks surfing youtube and soundcloud for similar stuff and found this whole world that I never knew existed.

What were your initial thoughts on THUMP's recently published "Electro Swing is the Worst Genre of Music in the World, Ever?"
When I first read the piece I thought, "Oh, here's a smug cunt who thinks he's got a right to judge because he writes for vice." Another thing to make people sneer.

Why do you love it so much?
I adore the juxtaposition, of the old and the new—on an intellectual level I really dig that contrast between dirty bass and shiny brass. There's the glamour inherent within the vintage elements, which brings in the clothes, the style, and those play off against the modern elements so well. There is a musicality that's not present in other genres, in terms of the melodies and vocals, but mainly it's because it is AMAZING to dance to. I often feel that dancing in some clubs is frowned on. Not at electro-swing nights.

And why do you think it is so popular?
Its an incredibly friendly and accepting scene.It is aggro and judgement free, the men aren't gropey, girls aren't stand-offish. No one gets too beard-strokey about the music either. I also think there's a sociological element: Nick Hollywood, who runs the White Mink nights and the label Freshly Squeezed and is considered among the founding fathers of the scene, once called it "the music of the first great depression with the technology of the second" and there's truth in that statement. For us, as it was for the first hip cats, it is escapism—glamour, sex, drink, drugs and dancing. What's that line from "King of the Swingers?" "Forget about your worries and your strife."

How would you try and convince a naysayer like me to fall in love with it?
Easy. I'd get you to come to an electro-swing night with me.

What could electro swing bring to my life that it is currently missing?
Glamour. Confidence (your unwillingness to let loose and embrace the joy is a clear sign of low self-esteem). Silliness. Unrepentant, unbridled escapist foolishness. Girls in stockings. And can you honestly say you have enough trumpets in your life?

So the big question is: have I been convinced? Do I now like electro swing. Well, I'll get to that.

More than just dealing with my impressions of the genre, my interactions with the electro swing community have proven to be a huge personal journey. The adulation and devotion to the world of fedoras and 4/4 sax is fierce. It got me thinking, regardless of whether or not I like electro swing. When was I last this passionate about something? I mean really, on what terms do I consume culture now? In a climate of constant commentary can enjoyment still, ever, exist in a vacuum? Have I forgotten how to get excited about art in isolation from the world around me? Has my profession, my role as an online commentator and shit-stirrer and DJ-dissector clouded my ability to simply hear something and react to it?

I'm transported to the back of my parents red Hyundai Pony. The year is 1995. I'm four years old and chewing on the thin plastic straw of a McDonald's milkshake. We used to go to McDonald's semi-regularly when I was that age, myself, my parents and my younger brother. Now of course this would be seen as a grossly unhealthy habit, but it was an affordable option for my family and gave us an escape route just off the motorway where we could sit together as a nuclear unit and enjoy salted chips, plastic toys and each other's company away from home for an hour or so. I remember that journey home. The beige ridges of the backseat pressing patterns into my pink legs, wearing, as I was then, shorts and a polo shirt with a matching sailing boat design. I remember my mother pressing a tape of sixties music into the cassette player and I remember, among the smells of fast food and stale interiors, Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" crackling through the stereo. I remember the song. I remember the song. I remember it spreading out across the purple synapses of my blooming brain, massaging its way into the gaps, the lyrics (which I barely understood) forming bizarre, fictional definitions. I remember being young and I remember that song. Nothing else, no exterior motives. Just that song.

The electro swing community think I need to let go, to learn how to have to fun. What if they are right? What if my life is missing glamour, and girls in stockings, and fedoras? What if my dislike of electro swing is really just masking my low self esteem? What if I am just a smug cunt? But I'm scared. Without that, without being a smug cunt, what will be left? Just a boy in the back of car, chewing on a straw, listening to a song.

That being said, electro swing is still a bit naff, isn't it?

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