THE BLOG

The British Electronic Music Scene Is Alive and Kicking

15/12/2015 17:59 GMT | Updated 15/12/2016 10:12 GMT

How does so much talent come out of such a comparatively small territory as the British Isles? In music, it's long been the case - ever since the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zep and Bowie conquered the world way back when.

In geographical terms, Britain may be small compared to the land mass of many other countries, but what's packed into these islands is a wealth of creative talent. In electronic music, there are a disproportionate number of acts from the UK lighting up the world's stages when you take into account that we're just a fairly insignificant territory off the west coast of Europe.

Britain isn't alone, of course. Holland's population is about a quarter of the UK's, and yet 30% of the Top 100 DJs are from the Netherlands. However, Holland has a hugely supportive infrastructure and a dance music industry looked upon favourably by the establishment - where conferences are state funded and grants readily available for creatives within the electronic music sphere.

The UK dance scene is still shining worldwide despite the attitude of an oft-hostile government. The ruling Conservative party is no friend of the UK dance scene, having legislated against it in the past, and yet somehow artists and labels and festivals and club-nights flourish despite a financial recession and indifference - at best - from the powers that be.

And this is all in spite of the UK - and London in particular - losing a significant number of nightclubs over the past few years. Local authorities and the police have made it increasingly difficult for clubs to comply with every restriction put upon them, and in London the sprawling Crossrail monolith has deprived the night-time economy of the Astoria, LA2, Cable, SW1 Club and the Kings Cross venues Canvas, The Cross and The Key in recent times.

There's no night-time industries champion for London, as there is in those other chief western European cultural capitals Paris and Berlin. And there's no Agent Of Change law, whereby property developers have to pay for soundproofing themselves if they build a new apartment block near an established music venue (although one has recently been proposed in Parliament as part of ongoing discussions about the proposed Housing and Planning Bill).

So artists, labels, promoters, DJs and festival organisers have to plough their own furrows - spurred on by self-belief, willpower, and a do it yourself professional attitude. It's down to the vision, talent, creativity and hard work that the UK electronic music scene is still a major player on the global stage - and is worth billions of pounds a year to the UK economy.

The UK has innovated many facets of the global dance scene. House and techno may have come from the US originally, but we popularlised them and effectively sold them back to our Stateside cousins, just as the Beatles and the Stones did with rhythm & blues back in the day. Hardcore, on the other hand, was a very British invention - a product of the slightly crazy turn-of-the-nineties rave days - and that in turn led to jungle and then drum & bass, a very British genre that's now conquered the world and made stars of great black Britons such as Fabio & Grooverider, Goldie, Roni Size, LTJ Bukem, Shy FX, Bryan Gee and Jumping Jack Frost.

The UK also birthed 2-step/garage in the late '90s and then dubstep in the noughties, the latter of which plummeted in popularity as quickly as it had risen thanks to the instant connectivity of the worldwide web.

At the end of every year, DJ Magazine highlights the cream of British talent via our Best Of British awards. Instead of looking outwards internationally - the scene has become global, after all - we focus exclusively for one month on what's happening on our own doorsteps. And what do we find? A scene in rude health.

There's a new generation of superstar DJs who've risen up from the underground, without selling themselves out to commercial considerations. So joining Carl Cox and Pete Tong, Sasha & Digweed and Fatboy Slim, we now have cats such as Eats Everything, Jackmaster, Skream, Jamie Jones, Maya Jane Coles, Scuba, Huxley and Breach. Garage-tinged brothers Disclosure can now sell out Madison Square Gardens, while drum & bass don Andy C sells out Ally Pally - on his own.

Big live juggernauts like Faithless, Leftfield, The Prodigy and Underworld have been joined by newer live acts such as Hot Chip, Bonobo, Karenn, Paranoid London and Crazy P. The quality new acts keep coming in all spheres.

Goldie breathes new life into his landmark mid-90s d&b album 'Timeless' by working with the Heritage Orchestra. Aphex Twin wins a Grammy. World-beating festivals such as Glastonbury and Bestival continue to astound, with ever-increasing dance music coverage. Even much-lamented Manchester venue the Hacienda is 'going classical' now, all without so much as a sniff of an Arts Council grant.

In Scotland, despite the closure last summer of leading Glasgow venue The Arches, the scene is flourishing, reflected in the DJ Mag Best Of British awards by nominations for techno stalwarts Slam, breakthrough label Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, best album contender The Revenge for his disco opus 'Love That Will Not Die', breakthrough DJ Jasper James, and long-running Glasgow nitespot Sub Club.

And it's a similar story in other regions. The UK is still dancing to its own drum - and for this we should all be very proud.

CARL LOBEN, editor, DJ Magazine

The DJ Mag Best Of British awards are at Heaven in London on Wednesday 16th December, featuring sets by Leftfield, Steve Lawler, Fabio & Grooverider, Yousef, Nocturnal Sunshine (aka Maya Jane Coles), Special Request (aka Paul Woolford), Slam, Tim Green, Justin Robertson, The Revenge, Greg Wilson, Jasper James and many more.