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Music - Better than selling bullets - Interview Posted: 21/April/2004

Eddie Gordon.jpg

Music major Eddie Gordon's vivacious opinions carry considerable credence generated by all the record industry sales and successes he's been responsible for. A longstanding and lucid key figure in the UK scene, Eddie's played many crucial roles in the dramatic progression of dance music onto the world stage. Gordon was the guy who first worked with Pete Tong to launch the (now so influential!) ‘Essential Selection' on Radio One, back in the early 1990's. His other sparkling enterprises have also extended to successful house labels ‘West End' and ‘Manifesto Records,' ‘Song & Dance' and ‘Neo Records.'

Eddie’s current music projects include running ‘International Management Division,’ (an agency looking after the interests of DJ’s like Howells, Tong and Jeff Mills). Oh, and then there’s Eddie’s recent revolutionary digital distribution promotional service for djs called ‘DJinTheMix,’ which aptly set about business on the 4th July 2003 (Independence Day.) “I'm more excited about the fruition of this project than I am about any of my previous ventures…” says Eddie, “I'm proud to say that this way of using the internet, for it's purpose of sharing information, has already been extremely well received across the board…”

Fully conversant in the bewildering languages of MCPS, PPL, VPL and PRS, Eddie’s quite articulate in interview situations too, as we found out when we checked by for a brief low-down on his current affairs. So with great style and even better substance, eloquent saviour Eddie Gordon reveals the current industry crack…

Greetings Eddie, how has your week been?
“It’s been a crazy week, literally. After spending the weekend in LA seeing Oaky's pad and a girlfriend who was hit on by Matthew Perry's dozen roses and Ben Affleck in a Sushi restaurant… (I think the wife’s now looking to re-locate - 'hat in the ring' is the expression I'm searching for here.) I bumped into DJ Dave Seaman in the Mondrian hotel lobby, he's looking very well and producing music again. On the Monday morning I flew from the West to the East coast to see the ‘Ladies First Tour 2004’ with Missy Elliot, Alicia Keys and Beyonce (thanks Mitch) at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. ‘Wow!’ is the only utterance qualified here… Beyonce was stunningly powerful and the real surprise of the night was Alicia Keys. Not since Aretha sat at the piano and sang with love has anything been so complete. Suffice to say the ladieeees in the audience were loud in their appreciation of a true artist - if you ever get the chance don't miss it. Techno DJ Christian Smith sitting with us was equally blown away… Back in the London office on Thursday morning I heard the Stellar Project’s ‘Get Up Stand Up’ track we’d worked for a client (exclusively on ‘DJinTheMixDJITM) had just been snapped up for a 'few (thousand) dollars more' by Ultra Records for the USA, after the MOS picked it up for the UK. Another very satisfied customer for DJITM, and ditto for Def Jam with the Christina MilianaDip It Low’ steaming to number one in the DJITM Chart.”
What must an average ‘Eddie week’ essentially include?

“In no particular order… Time with my four-year old daughter, Olivia (God they make 'em smart these days!) ‘The Mind Of A Married Man’ shows on the FX channel, Monday’s on Sky (a Tongy tip!) A visit to (Judge) JulesRadio One show on a Saturday to see the bespoke catch phrase machine in live action, and to catch up with the Judge who won't fudge - well not often anyway… Then there’s Pete's Friday gospel on Radio One, a re-run of ‘Nip & Tuck’ on Sky+ just to get a fix of Kelly Carlson, a 23rd century Marilyn Monroe (sorry Rachel) and a victory over Livingstone's Congestion Charge with the mirror-plated registration… Plus a ‘Mr Angry’ letter to Tony Blair for putting Great Britain into a wilful confrontation with an impossible enemy that still believes there are twenty-five vestal virgins awaiting them in Paradise! More on that concept later."

How did the ‘DJinTheMix’ concept come about, was it your own idea developed over time? And how has business been over the past nine months, better or worse than anticipated?

DJITM spent a year in R&D. It was an idea that first hit me at a conference in New York, speaking on a Billboard panel in September 2002 about the future of the music industry in the digital era. Returning to London I decided to engage some expert help and financed the creation of the world's first DJ digital delivery system - DJinTheMix. You know I have often found NY to be quite an inspiring city at times, which is not surprising considering it is the birthplace of dance music as we know it today. During the New Year’s Eve crossing of '97 into '98, spent in Manhattan, with another very bright music mind - Caroline Prothero, broadcasting a Trans-Atlantic-three city New Year's Eve Essential Mix from The Tunnel club from London, Manchester and New York. We worked out the Millennium concept of different DJ's in twelve time zones, all chasing midnight around the globe from New Zealand to Hawaii. Plus flipping back across the date line so that you could have two New Year's Eve’s. It actually happened… We left a 15,000 gig at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia at 4am on Saturday 1st January 2000, and flew to Honolulu, Hawaii arriving at 8pm on Friday 31st December 1999 to celebrate with 9,000 totally insane islanders. DJ Carl Cox even ranks it as his number one life experience! Well jumping century's like that will never be done again by us that's for sure.”

I guess with your esteemed history in dance music you were in a knowledgeable position to push the envelope with this visionary concept?

“Those phrases are funny – ‘push the envelope’ on the same page as ‘at the end of the day’ (that's a great name for a bar by the way!) In answer to your question, because I notice I have wandered off the subject on the previous two questions… Experience is everything - parts from all my previous music industry lives have generated the logical pathway towards getting the 'visionary concept' (thanks for the compliment) up and working. You know in '94 I worked out that using ISDN technology, we could run live Essential Mixes from different cities, once they caught up… We had to have satellite backup for the first live Ibiza Essential Mix from Amnesia due to an uncertain Ibiza telephone line. As technology improved we could record an hour on a computer called Shortcut then broadcast it out later, but it was always the 'live' thing that excited people, especially with the rooms all mic'd up so that the crowd noise was mixed into the music. Like a football match on the radio always sounds better if the crowd are in full voice… Back onto DJinTheMix, the hardest working part of the DJITM system is the ‘Top 20 Chart,’ which is live. If a 1,000 djs write their top twenty into the system, the database reads the charts and produces a real time master top twenty. A real live unedited chart from DJ's all over the UK - that was so important to me. For years we’ve had to live with dance charts that are manipulated and edited. Producing totally the wrong impression of what's really happening, which in the end serves nobody. The emperor’s clothing syndrome.”

What about your future plans for the revolution and evolution of ‘DJinTheMix’ will there ever be a clubbers version in addition to the existing DJ angle?
“We are in the planning stages of opening a US office of DJITM by September 2004 (after Ibiza) then there are German, French, Australian, Scandinavian and Asian partners coming into the business to open local markets. Originally we wanted to build a world site, but the music from different areas is so specialised that it was soon seen as not possible. It’s a nice romantic idea to build a world DJ community site but actually impractical, and a problem to manage I would imagine.”

The music business is at a very exciting time with the industry catching up with technological advancements in order to generate economic advantage. What do you foresee as major trends?
“The purchase of music will cross-fade into digital in the next two years, with niche CD and vinyl markets still being supplied by bespoke services. I heard a great example used by Jim Griffin of Cherry Lane Digital, Los Angeles and I hope that he doesn't mind me sharing with you. Water - People can have water for free out of the tap, but some still prefer to buy bottled water, some even pay very high prices for bottled water in hotels and restaurants. Whichever way they take their water, it doesn't change the end result - it's still consumed. Music is the same, there will be music for free (mostly lower quality,) some music will be cheap at 99 cents, 1 euro etc. and some music will be very expensive, but it will be still accepted - especially if it's from great artists.”

Do you think that dance music and DJ culture is heading for a more sustainable development in the UK specifically and throughout the world in general?
No I do not unless the Producer/DJ's start creating dance music that people can take home with them in their hearts. Eight hours of instrumental beats with bits of vocal clips is like a big Pizza covered in cheese and tomato paste - dull, unless you're totally off your head on chemicals!! Then that Pizza is incredible. Its a funny old world. I also believe that the Radio 1 DJ roster has to be freshened up. There's way too much power in a few people's hands and their focus is not the UK but themselves, which is not what the BBC is supposed to be about considering its fully paid for by the British public and unique throughout the world for that reason. Its admired for its freedom of content and that cannot be properly managed if individual power takes preference over the long term benefit of the United Kingdom.
At the end of the day, the UK is fortunate to have such a well developed dance infrastructure, but at the same time, much is hype lead - meaning we will like a track (whether we actually like it or not) simply because we hear (about) it repeatedly. The ‘viral effect’ of music means the public must have prolonged contact to germinate a positive opinion on it…
Judge Jules is the master of this, and thank God somebody at that level realises people need to grow into a track. Twice or three times on a radio show is as good as nothing. The established marketing rule is that the general public need to see or hear something twelve times before they react in large numbers. There is nothing wrong with commercial success in music - It's better than selling bullets or drugs. Jules broke six records last year for the dance community and that’s six more than anybody else. He also answers every single email from his listeners himself. He gets a bit of flak from some areas, but he is one of the most appreciating people I have ever met with a fantastic ability to re-educate himself. For example, because he has a place in Ibiza he now speaks fluent Spanish.”

What are your thoughts on the American model of club culture and dance music at present?
“I believe that the American music scene is vital to the success and health of our own. Just think for a second, where these genres originated from: jazz, swing, rock & roll, country, disco, hip-hop, house, R&B, grunge and metal… When the US scene starts delivering big club records again the entire dance world will spring alive. Hopefully the M3 Summit in Miami will be the seed that brings forth that new era.”

You’re married to Rachel Birchwood (-Gordon) and run ‘International Management Division’ (IMD) together. How’s that business going this year?
IMD is a unique company, which I bought 100% from Carl Cox in 1999 with my income from Neo Records. I've been Pete Tong's Manager for 15 years from the day he came around to my house in Northfleet and asked me to look after him back in '84. Now IMD truly has a great set of DJ's across many different styles, headed by Mr Tong. It's good for him going international to have those other IMD DJ's to bounce experiences with seeing as they are all under one company so still competitive but in a team. The other DJ's need Pete and he needs them too. Both Pete and Rachel were unsure if the idea would work at first because Pete was used to just being with me and Rachel was used to basically just being with Carl Cox, so naturally is was a new challenge but one can see clearly now it has worked as I truly always believed it would which is par the course for me I can see the horizon most of the time. The task of handling the many requests for the DJ's is excellently steered by Rachel, who has grown in stature amongst her peers and I've encouraged her by guiding her in at the deep end. Her rewards are now clearly visable as her confidence grows and as my wife I gave her a 50% shareholding in the ownership to take her mind out of the party and into the business. You can't manage people's lives if you are still hung-over from the weekend on Wednesday."

One highlight for me this year is seeing Danny Rampling come alive again. The handling of the Radio One departure hurt Danny to the very core of his soul, believe me, it was a public humiliation that lesser people wouldn’t have come back from. Not that Tong was there to help him as usual. As a forefather of the UK dance scene he deserved better - as a human being he deserved even more. Danny, and his soon to be wife Patricia had a son this year, Claudio, and it has completed Danny's circle which shows in how he’s DJ'ing now. It’s beautiful music. He still moans like an old washerwoman at times, but his music playing is full of love, which is the Danny we all took to our hearts from ‘Shoom’ to ‘Pure Sexy.’ Book him he's playing like a bitch! And closing on IMD - watch out for 1Xtra's Aaron Ross and his deep true vocal house.”

So far this year, which musical times (and places) have taken you to the highest pinnacle and (at the other end of the scale) caused the lowest depression?
“The high point for me would be the M3 Summit in Miami this year. It turned a light on that Miami really now means something, other than snorting poison off toilets. If you enjoy cocaine then excuse my position, but I have never met anybody, ever, anywhere, who has done well by using. I’ve met many though who have destroyed their lives, and the lives of others, by being a user. I think of the evil culture it originates from and how it gets passed from border to border… My lowest point of this year I think I’ve just summarised in these last four sentences…”

If you could ask any DJ (past or present) a question, who and what would you ask?
…I would not ask any DJ directly, but collectively I would ask this.

“How important are you, on a scale of 1 – 10? How important are those people on the dance floor in front of you, on a scale of 1 – 10? Now put these six things in their right order - You, Them, Music, Love, Participation and Healing?

If I was put in front of a firing squad to reveal whom my favourite DJ was it would be Tony Humphries. He’s a gentleman who shared and shared his music to help others succeed. Technically the best I've seen is Carl Cox - he has rhythm in places most people don't know exist. If he’d been a drummer (with his size) he would have been a world best. If he played his natural self with the true sound of dance music, that people could sing along with him, he would lift people to highs they’ve not experienced before.”

Is there something else we’ve missed out on above, or anything you’d like to get off your chest?
“I believe that the human being has been badly educated from day one. If we were all to be taught that this here is heaven (earth = heaven) and that we’re all already here in Heaven it would screw up hate totally.

"Hey there, Mr Terrorist welcome to Heaven, isn't it great? What's that, where's your promised twenty-five virgins? Female, male, or a random cocktail of both? Or black, white, Asian, Arabic - what a choice you have here in Heaven on Earth. Listen when you've finished getting frustrated trying to 'enjoy' having sex with 'virgins', get to Ibiza for the Space Ibiza Club opening where the sexually liberated from all over the world know how to get off, and on, and off again. Oh and before you go, drop into the ‘Thai Rose’ massage house, ask for Jit, she'll make sure your limbs are ready for all that jumping around on the floor you'll feel like doing when the music hits you for the very first time in your life.   Yeah, you too man, Shalom, go in peace, enjoy to the full and hey wear the yashmak over your face when you start dancing amongst the bikini clad boys and girls - it will drive them crazy, they'll love you for it…”

I'm being a bit flippant here, because it takes time to change generations of programming.

Which brings me to my closing. Music is a spiritual gift which we enjoy right here on earth (heaven.) It unites people who are separated by racial, political, religious, social and sexual barriers. Music comes from within all of us, with both it's component parts, rhythm and melody emanating from us all the very first moment we’re alive to the very last second we die. In understanding this gift we can give to others and teach them to love and share music. In this act we are spreading love with music.

So if music is the explosive component of love then bomb the world with music I say!

The role of the DJ in this is simple. Spread the love - share the honour of your role with other djs in their various languages and styles, because a greater sum makes a greater whole. One of the biggest recorded gatherings of people ever on the streets of planet earth was the Loveparade in Berlin, Germany 1998, with 1.5 million people celebrating peace and freedom. The cohesive energy of this day amongst male, female, gays, straights, Muslims, Catholics, Christians, left or right, black or white etc. was MUSIC. Music played in differing styles, by many, many DJ's…

…Phew, some wise words Eddie! Finally, will you be partaking of Ibiza in 2004?
“Yes most certainly. Throughout the entire month of June I’ll be teaching my lovely Olivia how to swim without arm band support and seeing the various DJ friends weave their magic, plus sharing time with my best friend Miquel!”

Our thanks extend out to Eddie for some pretty cool and soul-searching answers!

Eddie’s online vision of dance music promotion…

Eddie and Rachel Birchwood-Gordon run ‘International Management Division’ (IMD) together…
Words from the chairman… (Go Eddie!)

Words by Lisa Loco