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Journalism, BBC Radio 1

Music - Better than selling bullets

Ibiza-voice.com - Interview Posted: 21/April/2004

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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, Diana Cox, 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 we 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 but 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 ‘DJinTheMix' DJITM) 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 Miliana ‘Dip 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) Jules' Radio One show on a Saturday to see the bespoke catch-phrase machine in live action. 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+ 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 confrontation with an impossible enemy who still believes that 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 9 months in R&D. It was an idea that first hit me whilst sitting on a plane to London after a conference in New York, where I'd been speaking on a Billboard panel, 23rd 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. 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 bright music mind, Caroline Prothero, broadcasting a Trans-Atlantic-three city New Year's Eve Essential Mix from The Tunnel club via London, Manchester and New York. The next day I had brunch with the BBC Engineer who came into town to help us broadcast that three City NYE and 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 Millenniums !!

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 and at the end of the day (that's a great name for a bar by the way!) To answer your question, as 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 to the 'visionary concept' (and thanks for the compliment) up and working. In '94 we 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?

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."

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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?

Its still about the song, instrumental beats with bits of vocal clips is like a big Pizza covered in cheese and tomato paste, a bit dull after a while..

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 simply because we hear it repeatedly. The ‘viral effect' of music means the public must have prolonged contact to attach a positive emotion on it...

"Judge Jules is the master of this. 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. 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."

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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.

You're married to Rachel Birchwood (Gordon) and run ‘International Management Division' (IMD) together. How's that business going this year ?

"I bought the IMD name 100% from Carl Cox in 1999 with my dividends from Neo Records. I'd been Pete Tong's Manager for 15 years from the day he came around to my house in Northfleet, Kent 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 on Wednesday from last weekend."

One highlight for me this year was 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.

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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 puts real joyous soulful feeling into House sets. Technically the best I've seen is Carl Cox - he has rhythm in places most people don't have. If he had 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."

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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? Black, white, Asian, Arabic - what a choice you have here in Heaven on Earth. Listen when you've finished getting frustrated trying to having sex with 25 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 then 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, but you get the picture

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 music 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 friend Miquel!"

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

Words by Lisa Loco

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Eddie’s online vision of dance music promotion…

Words from the chairman… (Go Eddie!)

Eddie and Rachel Birchwood-Gordon run ‘International Management Division’ (IMD) together…