King Unique on the great dance divide: “That’s why we ended up with Guetta”

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“It’s because we just didn’t take people with us.” UK producer King Unique aka Matt Thomas is one of the dyed-in-the-wool names in club production, churning out progressive house and techno for more than a decade, and currently bashing out remixes for the likes of Guy J and Luke Chable at a rate of knots. Last week he shared some insights with ITM about the single most talked about topic in dance music right now: America and the ‘EDM’ movement.

With Electric Daisy Carnival drawing in excess of 100,000 punters to Vegas over the weekend, not long after the scene received a savage rebuke from the most unlikely of places, the Wall Street Journal, Thomas claims the underground side of dance needs to shoulder some responsibility for the gaping canyon that’s opened up between mainstream and specialist club music.

“Right around the time the whole minimal thing happened in 2005, the underground side of things became so specialist, so utterly demanding of people who were into this scene and sound,” Thomas told ITM.

“In a way that wasn’t quite the case before, as you could often occupy more of a middle ground; you could produce a vocal remix of a mainstream act, though it might have been done in a more underground kind of way. It made the culture seem accessible to people.”

Thomas argues the determination of underground dance came at the expense of maintaining a connection with a wider audience. “That’s why we ended up with Guetta, Afriojack and all that shit. It’s because we just didn’t take people with us. We decided we’d be completely underground, and completely cool. It’s created a situation where mass appeal went elsewhere.”

Thomas describes somewhat of a culture shock amongst his producer colleagues in the techno and house ‘underground’, in seeing DJs like Guetta and Tiesto embraced on such a massive scale. “It’s why you’re hearing DJ Sneak bitching on about the Swedish House Mafia. When people feel like their value is being completely sidelined, they start bitching. But ultimately, it’s immaterial; if every single last person in house and techno denounced Guetta tomorrow, that’s a tiny voice compared to the people who think he’s fantastic.”

He describes a situation where underground dance has been “ghettoized” into “just music”, at a time when the industry’s revenue streams are being drawn from a variety of places. “The whole ‘EDM’ thing is showing us we’ve either gotta adapt, or else we’re gonna keep ploughing this increasingly narrow thorough against the greater cultural shift.”

Want to hear more? Have a look at our in-depth feature on dance music in America.