"I think it makes everyone look silly, and it's divisive. We'd be better off without it."
Earlier this week, Scuba (AKA Paul Rose) slinked into his troll cave and unleashed a bunch of tweets and an Instagram post promising to give away ketamine as a reward to his fans. All you had to do to nab a gram was attend his #12WeeksofTechno residency in London next year, or vote for him in Resident Advisor's annual DJ poll, which opened yesterday.
Rose's generous offer set off a flurry of reactions on social media—mostly revolving around the crying face emoji—and was covered by the dance music media, including here at THUMP. Now that the digital dust has settled, we took the chance to prod Rose about what was going through his head when he wrote those tweets, why he hates DJ polls, and whether his ketamine lines are really as epic as they look on that crazy Instagram photo.
THUMP: Why did you tweet that—was it a joke, a sort of commentary, or something else?
Paul Rose: Really, the message I was trying to give is how the RA poll provokes ridiculous behavior in DJs. My Facebook feed yesterday was a mass of DJs appealing to the general public and each other for votes. It's really quite undignified, and I think the whole thing is pretty lame. I wanted to send it up, and make light of something that's quite a ridiculous situation. My tweet was obviously a joke relating to that, and the entirety of my followers got the joke. I don't really feel like it was misconstrued.
So why did you delete the tweets?
There's been a social media frenzy as a result, as you can imagine. There's a limit to how much people can take on their timelines. That being said, there's been a 99% positive response. It's nice that people take it in good humor and see what these things are in reality.
What's your relationship like with ketamine?
I've spoken on the record about this before: the worst thing when it comes to public health and young people in the dance scene is alcohol. If more people laid off the booze and started to do drugs, that would be a preferable thing for the scene in general. Ketamine is a slightly special case because it's not what most people would think of as a dance drug. A crowd full of people on ketamine isn't what you want to play to as a DJ.
There's a culture, especially in the UK, of people doing ketamine and getting wasted at clubs. It's a cliche, and it's detrimental to the scene. As anyone who has done ket can tell you, if you do too much of it, then you're on the floor unable to move, which isn't what you want from a dancefloor. I've certainly taken it in the past and I'm sure I'll take it again. But it's not a big part of what I think is a healthy for going out.
When you do ketamine, are your lines really as big as in the photo?
Well it depends on what time of night it is. But the size of the lines was part of the joke, and I'm not going to get into the specifics of my ketamine consumption habits. I will say that I encourage people to be careful regardless of what drugs they're taking.
There was an article in Magnetic Mag this week about how ketamine is bad for the dancefloor because it takes people away from it, compared to ecstasy which brings people together. I'm guessing you would agree with that?
Broadly speaking, yeah. If you're asking me, as a DJ, what I would like people to be on whilst I'm playing, I think any DJ would say you like to play to a crowd of people on ecstasy. But I think that it's easy to demonize what is essentially a subjective thing. Some people can have a good time on ket while they're out and have a dance or whatever. People just need to have limits and know what they're doing.
So you're not saying that ketamine is necessarily bad for rave culture?
What's important is people know their limits and take responsibility for themselves. I include alcohol in that as well. I'm not suggesting there shouldn't be bars in clubs, but people shouldn't go to excess in the way they sometimes do. That applies to everything, not just booze and ketamine.
I feel like British people are especially obsessed with ketamine; I've never met a British man at a party who hasn't asked me to do ketamine with him in the bathroom.
That's what I was getting at with the original tweet. It's a culture now, and it's become a bit of a cliche. It's a little bit regrettable that it's gotten to this point. But i'm not going to be judgmental about it or preach to people about what they should or shouldn't do.
Going back to the RA poll—do you think DJ polls in general are bad for dance music culture?
Absolutely. The more "underground" side of the scene which takes itself quite seriously, we all look down on the DJ Mag poll and make fun of it when it comes out. Then, when the RA poll comes around, it elicits the kind of behavior we've seen from certain people. I think it makes everyone look silly, and I think it's divisive. It pits people against each other and we'd be better off without it.
The audience, especially new people coming into the scene, look at these things and take them seriously. A list that's been made as a result of this kind of campaigning is not a very good way to come into dance music. The whole thing just isn't healthy whatsoever.
I hear you, but couldn't you argue that it's helpful to look back at the year before through these sorts of lists? How is the RA poll any different from "Top Albums of the Year" or "Top Mixes" or any other rankings that come out around this time?
The difference is that the DJ poll has a direct effect on people's earnings, and that's why DJs take it so seriously and campaign so hard to get a good ranking. Promoters at festivals and clubs look at it, and to a certain extent, it affects what you earn. It's the money aspect that's really what's damaging. The reason why RA keep doing it is because it drives money and traffic to their site, and they have advertising as a result. Its a vicious cycle.I don't blame anyone for soliciting votes, everyone wants to make more money. And RA wants to keep it going, even though I'm sure members of their staff would rather not. I'd just rather if it didn't exist at all.
What alternatives do we have? What other metrics could we use for judging DJs, their performances, and how they stack up against each other?
There's editorial with insights over the year, event reviews on RA and other sites, reviews of releases... you can see who is popular by looking at what events people are going to. I just don't think a hierarchical list at the end of the year really serves any purpose at all, other than creating division.
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