"In ABANDONING their
integrity the DJs SOLD
their SOULS. Some would
say to the DEVIL himself."
The influence of crystal meth on gay culture in the early 2000s saw the excesses of ego - with all its ugly, aggressive and antisocial attributes - rise to the fore.
"Music has the ability to affect our mood, our energy levels, and even our perception of the world around us. Our dance floors are where you can really see how music impacts people, [and] the music being played directly affects the perception of the party. Essentially, [the DJ] gets to play on the emotions of a cast of thousands for a few hours..."
~ Steve Kammon [Circuit Noize] 1963-2006
A DJ sets the mood of the party, drives the energy and lifts the audience with uptempo tracks when the energy starts to falter. Throughout the pre-crystal North American club and circuit heyday of the 1990s, when ecstasy was the drug of choice, attendees raised their spirits to uplifting dance music and an emphasis on fun and unity prevailed. As meth began saturating the circuit around 2000, the warm glow of positive energy generated by people letting go to feel-good music receded, giving way to harsher strobe lighting and the cold negativity of banging, rhythmless noises, ship fog horns and wailing diva vocals that blatantly promoted meth use; "I'm Addicted", an angry, mantra-like homage to "Tina", among them.
As meth infiltrated the metropolitan cities, DJs everywhere seemingly conspired with meth to drain the spirit from the party scene, resulting in both light and dark mood-enhancing sounds being superseded by the depressive, monotonous bass of hard tribal trance.
[See Circuit Parties]
"There's been a shift away from that type of euphoria in favour of a speed-fueled intensity that seems to sacrifice the love of music and dancing for a darker brand of drug experience."
~ D. Michael Taylor [Circuit Noize]
Devoid of energy and spirit and a noise more befitting slasher movies and violent computer games, "pots and pans" complemented crystal's speedy, twisted, aggressive vibe.
The anti-social pounding of pots and pans and other aggressive, percussively overloaded sounds can induce intensely negative psychological and emotional responses among the crowd, inhibiting the effect of uppers like ecstasy and encouraging the uptake of meth in order to tune into the grating, speeding, corrosive vibe. As the angry, discordant music feeds into the meth mindset, which in turn feeds into the music, less grounded and emotionally insecure users will become agitated and depressive as the brain locks into a condition of chemical or existential despair; a condition not dissimilar to the I-Dosing craze currently sweeping the States. Tina proceeds to prey on the user's fears, enticing him to binge on the drug to avoid crashing still further.
Distorted, abrasive sounds can pull those who use meth compulsively to mask psychological pain into the darker recesses of the unconscious mind where deep-
rooted, painful memories and unhealed mental scars lay dormant, effectively unleashing and projecting a Pandora's box of nightmares at their environment. Former users describe such disorienting, crash-triggering experiences akin to demons being released from within, turning clubbers and crcuit partiers into zombies/walking dead.
US circuit DJs are accorded star status, amassing loyal, obedient audiences who followed unquestioningly from party to party, the music almost a secondary consideration. The surrender of power that arose from such blind loyalty was seized upon by some and blatantly flaunted and abused. From 2000, as meth swept the scene - and with top DJ Junior Vasquez himself consumed by Tina and upfront in his intent to turn the entire gay circuit dark via meth and pots and pans - other DJs followed suit, leading their audiences on edgy, demented journeys typified by harsh, screeching noises, sedating their crowds as the atmosphere turned sinister and hostile with the intimidating and sterile crystal vibe.
Meth enabled DJs on the US circuit to play longer sets. Several were known to often stumble from their booths in incoherent, intoxicated states after spinning non-stop for 12 hours or more.
DJs who followed an aggressive, meth-fueled agenda would start the night spinning a few ambient, melodic sounds and then, with little or no downward graduation in tempo, crash the music with pots and pans and other aggressive noises, visibly disorienting those high on meth. As the atmosphere thickened with tension, non-users would be squeezed out until only a dense, alien darkness populated by anxious, paranoid tweakers remained.
"These DJs operate under the insane notion that in order to bring a crowd up, you need first to take it to a very dark place," 'Jake', an ex-circuit DJ, told LIFE OR METH in 2004. "Whatever happened to dance as a celebration of life, keeping the crowd uplifted all night long? They call it taking the crowd on a journey, but really they're just fucking with people's minds. [In the US] it's not about the music anymore; it's which DJ is the biggest prima donna or diva with the largest ego who can manipulate and control the crowds the most. The circuit today is the antithesis of what partying is about - intimidation and aggression instead of inclusiveness and fun - and sadly that mindset is now evident in the mainstream club scene in cities like New York. We've become conditioned to this insidious marketing ploy, and angry, banging beats is all today's clubbers know."
"For many years I was criticised...for playing music that sounded like pots and pans, but I'm over that sound. I've noticed that kind of minimal tribal beats that I pioneered...have caught on in commercial clubs. Some of the best producer/DJs will now play a night of entirely tribal beats - frankly that bores me."
~ Junior Vasquez [US DJ, January 2006]
Since 2000, dozens of once thriving US gay clubs and circuit parties have closed their doors. Of those that have survived, attendance levels have fallen by as much as 50%.
In pandering to meth in this way, these DJs often argue that they merely followed the latest drug of choice and were safeguarding their jobs and careers in doing so. In truth, notes Jake, they have shot themselves in the collective foot by turning many of their followers onto meth, decimating and eroding their audiences in the process, destroying the essence of the circuit and betraying the spirit of dance music. "In abandoning their artistic integrity these DJs sold their souls," he laments. "Some would say to the devil himself"...
"In the States, no one is smiling or interacting with each other right now. That monotonous tribal sound is definitely more conducive to crystal."
~ Brett Henricksen [US DJ, speaking in 2004]
"I went to see [Brett Henrichsen] spin during LA Pride weekend [July 2006], expecting his trademark happy, sing-a-long style...and [he] pounded out a 90% pots and pans (and hammers and anvils and wrenches...) set that left me looking for a warm and fuzzy K-Hole to fall into. Apparently even this Mary Sunshine likes to spread a little stormy weather every now and then."
~ Jamie Nicholes [Perfect Beat]
It stands to reason that bored or tweaking DJs playing marathon sets are not going to be in the appropriate mindset to spin upbeat, harmonious dance tracks, and for many clubbers who departed the scene in despair the symbiotic concordance between pots and pans and crystal meth is undeniable. Just as LSD infused acid house with psychedelic rawness, cocaine was the catalyst for hip hop, ecstasy was embraced by the rave scene and, later with ketamine, enhanced the carnival vibe of circuit parties throughout the 1990s, crystal meth paved the way for the fatalistic, post-9/11 era of pots and pans and overbearing percussion. Never before has a hard, dirty street drug in the league of heroin and crack cocaine been so obligingly funelled through the party scene by "professionals" who should have known better.
Viagra and the circuit may have fueled the rampant spread of crystal meth across the States, but the party promoters who created the conditions, and the DJs who then pandered to the drug, served to fan its flames.
["Hey Mister DJ"]
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