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The Evolution of Dance and Electronic Music

From the basements in Chicago to global dance floors, electronic and dance music has undergone numerous iterations, making it one of the most consumed genres across the world.

Electronic dance music is a cultural phenomenon that has transcended boundaries, pushing the limits of creativity and technology and allowing endless possibilities on the mixing deck.

An International Federation of the Phonographic Industry report outlined that dance and electronic music was the fourth most popular genre consumed globally. 

The music spun by DJs is at the heart and soul of any festival, club or live event where the music has been mixed to enhance the party experience for those in attendance. 

It’s a genre that continually reinvents itself with emerging technologies, which are opening up exciting new possibilities for music production and live performances. 

Electronic dance music initially started as a term coined for the new sound that was hitting the clubs.

Now it is considered a blanket term for a whole array of subgenres that have since evolved following advancements in technology and different tastes in style.

Since the 1980s, genres such as House, Techo, Drum and Bass, Dubstep and Acid House have gained significant popularity whilst sharing similar features to Electronic Dance.

Defining features of electronic dance music include repetitive and pulsating drum machine beats, synthesized sounds and a powerful bass-driven rhythm.

The music had a significant cultural impact that shaped fashion and social movements, one of which was the acid house scene, fuelled by ecstasy and took control over the youth in the late 1980s.

Manchester’s legendary club, the Hacienda, exploded in popularity with the rise of acid house and rave culture.

Chad Jackson is a dance music pioneer and icon of the scene whose DJ mixing and production skills developed him as a revered maverick in electronic music.

Chad established himself early into the Hip-Hop and House scene upon beginning his DJing tenure in the early 1980s as he was one of the first British DJs to start mixing and exploring turntablism.

He has since garnered international recognition as one of the best mixers after being crowned the Technics/DMC World DJ Mixing Champion in 1987.

Before this accomplishment, Jackson nailed down a residency at the Hacienda, which was the epicentre for the youth culture explosion of Acid House.

His pioneering sounds introduced the Manchester nightclub to his house and hip-hop tracks.

The DJ spoke to GigPig about his inspirations for delivering this new wave of music to the masses, Chad said: “It wasn't called house when it first appeared, and we didn't know what we were playing, I was just a big fan of Jazz, Hip Hop, Electro Funk, Proto-House, 80s New Wave and Electro Pop.

“I started because of my Northern Soul upbringing and I gravitated towards these new tracks coming out of America that were fast, and they were quite percussive, and I always like fast percussive music. 

“I remember at that time, I was there when the first house records started to come out, and I was playing things like Jesse Saunders ‘On & On’ and another track that sticks in my mind was ‘Music Is The Key’ by J.M Silk.

“There was a really special version called ‘Basement Key’ on the B-side, which was a lot more percussive and dubby because we always used to gravitate towards the dub versions as the vocal versions for us were a little bit too poppy and commercial.

“But the dub versions were usually where the producers would just let fly and go crazy with all their effects.”

DJ (Niall) Joe Roche has become one of the most celebrated and exciting disc jockeys in Manchester, after appearing at the Warehouse Project, Parklife and the Singapore Grand Prix.

This has seen him develop into a fully-fledged artistic force, who is capable of transcending the genre.  

The artist is building on his already burgeoning reputation as one of the city’s most promising talents with his brilliantly distinctive progressive sound and innovative technical talent.

Boasting a modern and unique style, his output spans a wide spectrum of house and techno sub-genres, inventively fused with an eclectic funk and world-music groove. 

Niall spoke to GigPig about the new and exciting sound he is carving out for himself, which is instantly recognisable in the clubbing circuit, he said: “I think some of the styles stems from environmental and some of it is more a primitive choice of just what resonates with me.

“Then I was into rock, heavy metal, stage classic rock, and it was a culmination of those two things.

“But the beats, the quirkiness, the drive, the fat anthems and then the classic rock stuff, the combination of those is where my house is at.

“It’s quite anthemic.

“It has funky baselines that’s also got character, I just like to add things that are a little bit of ear candy and stand out.

“I predominantly spin more modern stuff now, which is 90s inspired.”

“Pretty much anything that has got a fat groove.”

Niall was introduced into the industry at a young age after his parents owned the nightclub, The Mix, in Harrogate, the DJ shared how their influence and the sounds coming out at the time have impacted his work.

“My parents are my quality control.

"I'll just send them sounds, and we just chat about it, just as you would have with a mate.

“Some of it my mums says is too ‘beepy’ now, which is just annoying because it doesn’t mean anything, but my dad is a bit more into it.

“I've got acid synth in my initial sound library selection, and I would use sounds like that because it works.

“The sound design and where I've gone with it has gone past the 90s, but I couldn't draw too many components.

“Also, some of the sounds from the 90s could easily have been made yesterday.”

A technique we are commercially seeing a lot more between DJs is sampling.

Classic tracks from the 80s and 90s are being remixed and injected a breath of modern fresh air into them.

Recently, bangers like Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue’ was re-released by David Guetta, and Nathan Dawe took Garage classic ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude to reach Number 1 in the UK Dance chart.

Chad was responsible for dropping one of the biggest tracks of the 90s as ‘Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)’ became an international smash hit.

The song peaked at Number 3 on the UK Singles Chart, and in total, Chad’s standout track drew samples from 14 different songs, including the hook and riff sampled from ‘Unwind Yourself’ by Marva Whitney, vocals off ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ by Public Enemy and the drums coming from ‘Chocolate Buttermilk’ by Kool & the Gang.

But the cultural significance of the tune is unparalleled, which is amplified through being sampled by Deekline in "Party People", rapper Skepta in the song "Skepta", and in "Wicked" by EDM duo Firebeatz.

Chad currently holds a position as a lecturer at Point Blank Music School in Shoreditch, sharing his extensive knowledge of electronic music production, DJ skills, and composition.

Speaking about the evolution Chad has observed within electric dance music, he said: “The kind of styles of music that that people are doing now has become more mainstream than it was before as then it was underground.

“To hear anything that we were listening to in the clubs in those days, online or an advert, is almost ruining it for me because that's my special thing, and I've heard it a million times!

“But music today has taken influence from other sounds, and different subgenres appear, there is an evolution of sound as people get inspired by sounds that create new tracks. 

“It's especially interesting because that's kind of my speciality subject that I'm teaching at the moment, and it's all about how creativity stems from people just listening to what other people are doing and then being inspired, but not being able to get it right but still coming up with something new.

“Not being able to do something right isn't a problem.”

“Whereas in other areas, for instance, if you're a motor mechanic and you've learned how to change a tyre on a car, but you get it wrong, somebody's going to die, but music is a lot more forgiving.”

Niall spoke about the direction he wishes to take his sound, he said: “My whole life has been taken up by so many things that production was always at the bottom of the list, and when I did get to do it, I couldn't sit at a desk, I couldn't be in the studio at home and sit there and make tracks it felt too much like work.

“There were times I made tunes where I was laid on the sofa, half asleep and pressing buttons, but those are some of the best tracks I've made on the sofa.

“So I've started a sketches series after watching a John Michel Basquiat documentary and how he worked with art on canvases.

“I was thinking - why am I not using music in the same way? - because it's just very organic and it’s so signature with specific details, but to him it was effortless.

“I was making a big deal out of everything in my head all the time, so I'm starting to do sketches that are not going to be completely dance-orientated, but they're going to have more real instrumentation.

“The best music that comes out is when you're not thinking about you’re just putting stuff on a canvas.”

When asked to retrospectively look back over his career and how it has progressed, Chad added: “Still being here amazed me a lot, as we never expected things to carry on for this long. 

It has become a real cultural importance in the UK, as the music scene has always been strong.

But with the DJing, we never expected to still be doing it now at this age, it’s a testament to the power of music and the spirituality of it that it speaks to us all, and it's an important part of a lot of our lives. 

“It’s people’s release, it's their passion.

For me it's food, it’s as important as food, if I didn't have it, I would wither and die because it just makes life worth living.”
Image Accreditation: Chad Jackson