The Soundtrack to My Life: A Deep, Funky, and Uber Geil Odyssey into the Dance Music Scenes of Amsterdam and Berlin


By Krabin

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein

Day 7,348 of existence. Vinyl spinning. Bass thumping. Snare and kick drums pounding. Cymbals sounding tsssss tsssss tssssss. Body swaying. Sweat dripping. Whooooosh. A train passes by, horns blaring. “9-1-1, I think I’m having an overdose…okay, an overdose of what…of marijuana.” Oh relax, that’s just the vocals kicking in. Where’d the DJ go? Wait, the fuck is going on? Why are the visuals now the Pac-Man game? Ohhhh, I see now. The DJ has casually thrown on a Pac-Man suit.

Since my first experience with house music at Hard Day of the Dead sophomore year of college, house and deep house and techno—what I like to call HAUS music (and will use to refer to house, deep house, and techno for the purposes of this paper)—has spoken to me, resonated with me, and rooted itself in my being. I still think that night had to have been some sort of weird hallucination. I’d never grooved like that before in my life. Rocking a One-Piece ski-suit, I was dancing my way between the pink discotheque tent and the outdoor “underground” stage with some of my friends who were more familiar with Haus music than me. I hadn’t heard of most of the DJs we saw that day—like Dusky, Tensnake, Skream, Maya Jane Coles, and Jamie Jones—and was introduced to a whole new musical scene that my friends loved, and for good reason. The set that really catalyzed my new-found love for Haus music was Jamie Jones’ set to close out the festival Sunday night. Seeing him deejaying in a Pac-man suit with the Pac-Man game behind him on screen for visuals was a trip to say the least. And the music, dear lord, was it incredibly filthy. He dropped some real groovy, dirty, booty-shakin’ house, like “Planets, Spaceships” and “911.” Before that day I thought house music was that big-room garbage like Steve Aoki, Avicii, Diplo, etc. that I saw in the media and on TV and heard on American mainstream radio. This paper is not about that garbage. This paper is about Haus music; music that is textured (layers of sounds: i.e., basslines, snare & kick drums, cymbals…). Music that is bumping and groovy. Music that is chunky, funky, and wunky (gritty). Music that gets me grooving, socializing with my friends, and all around feeling the good vibes.

I personally feel that music falls into a middle space between speech and silence. It has the ability to describe the inexpressible: thoughts, feelings, emotions, moods, and vibes. While I have journeyed through various genres and styles from more indie and punk-ish in middle school to hip-hop and big-room house in high school, I always found myself bouncing between genres and styles to fit the mood I was in or the emotions and feelings I was having—that is, until I found Haus music. It speaks to me in the beats, grooves, melodies, rhythms, and tells a story that words often fall short of. Like the golden-bird-masked, Berlin-based DJ Claptone says, “I am not and never have been hallucinating. It’s just like, that if music doesn’t speak to you I feel sorry for you my friend” (Georgieva, 2014). That fateful, misty November weekend a year and a half ago when I discovered Haus music, it spoke to me. And I found the soundtrack to my life.

Ever since I was implored to shake my ass to Jamie Jones’ thunderously groovy, drum‘n’bass-fueled house, I have been hooked, consuming Haus music the way Pac-Man consumes all those little dots in that game: non-stop. I wake up in the morning, open up the laptop, go to my Breakfast Beats playlist on SoundCloud, and jam my way through my morning routine with some indie Haus. When I walk or bike to class, I have my headphones in listening to some upbeat, sunny, spunky Haus to keep me pedaling. If I’m chilling in my dorm smoking a spliff with the jabins (what my friends and I call each other—a spin-off of the joke “Jobin” from the movie I Love You Man), you know some lounge-y, jazz-infused Haus beats are bumping in the background. I go to the gym and guess what, bumping some chunkier, tech-haus beats with more bounce, more energy, more grit. As I’m getting ready for bed I throw on my “Inner-monologuing mix” of melodic deep house as I wander off on a pre- bedtime internal soliloquy that would rival the famous monologues of Shakespeare. Haus music is something that can identify and express my every mood, feeling, emotion and thought. It’s something that is part of my everyday life, even become part of who I am.

But what exactly is Haus music—not that commercial, mainstream shit (my humble opinion)—but this expressive, emotional, groovy, funky Haus music that inspires self-expression through dancing, that brings individual strangers together and gets them to experience emotions from tragedy to heartbreak to happiness together, to socialize and share in this musical experience of one and oneness?

(Brief) History of House Music

“When I first started touring the UK I was the first established artist to play some of the smaller cities, now the scene is huge clubs in every small city, and house music is the music that university kids listen to predominantly…In the US I’m not sure kids had even heard a 4/4 beat in most places but now it’s huge. House has grown from a niche music genre to a global phenomenon.” – Jamie Jones (Hunger Magazine, 2014)

Inspired by English electronic and new wave pop, European disco, and especially gay disco music in America in the 1970s and 1980s, Haus music was born in the dark warehouses and clubs of Chicago and New York in the 1980s. It was influenced by diverse sounds on both sides of the Atlantic—from legendary gay disco DJs like Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, David Mancuso, and Nicky Siano, to radio hosts like The Electrifying Mojo radio personality and techno DJ in Detroit, to electronic pop groups like Depeche Mode in England, to the Italian disco kingpin Giorgio Moroder (Cheeseman, 2003). Places like Paradise Garage in New York and The Warehouse in Chicago, presided over by the godfathers of modern Haus music Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles respectively, laid the groundwork for what came to be known as “Chicago House,” a musical style that eventually grew and diverged into the countless genres of electronic dance music today. Like shit, even the name “house music” comes from the 80s in Chicago, referring to the Warehouse where Knuckles spun (Arnold, 2012).

Chicago House was predominantly inspired by the gay disco movement of the 1970s and early 1980s, which broke down racial, ethnic, and sexual barriers for black and latino youth in the U.S. Gay Disco of the 1970s provided a space where people could truly be themselves, where the lights were dimmed and things not possible in the light of society could happen in the dark. Life for black and latino youth living in the impoverished areas of Chicago and New York in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s was difficult: there was no federal funding towards HIV/Aids research, a major crack-cocaine epidemic, and gay love was policed on the streets—it even resulted in violent conflicts like the Stonewall Riots of 1969 where police raided a “gay bar” and the gay men there fought back (Echols, 2010: 45). Places like Paradise Garage and the Warehouse, in addition to the legendary house parties of David Mancuso, provided an outlet for these marginalized gay youth to play with their identities, to explore gay love and sexuality in the dark (and sometimes drugs)—to be themselves without fear. And disco music was the soundtrack to these spaces of acceptance, togetherness, and love. However, the famous movie Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta brought disco to mainstream America, appropriating and commodifying gay music and style without regard for the youth who created and were part of that scene. As a result, the music evolved: the sounds of gay disco went a little deeper and evolved into a newer sound that crossed disco with hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, and the new-found art of deejaying while still maintaining the spirit of openness, togetherness, and acceptance that characterized gay disco scenes.

As house sounds started to percolate through the underground club scenes in Chicago and New York as well as on the radio waves in the late 80s, England was taking note and club cultures—“the colloquial expression given to youth cultures for whom dance clubs and their eighties offshoot, raves, are the symbolic axis and working social hub” (Thornton, 1995: 3)—made moves in Britain. Through the 90s house, techno, and acid house grew in England with the help of radio yet again, as the iconic tastemaker and DJ Pete Tong “was greeted by a receptive youth culture on the now iconic show, Essential Selection in 1991 on BBC Radio 1.” With the help of radio and popular radio personalities, this new style of house and techno music spread beyond England throughout Europe in the early 1990s to places like France where artists like Daft Punk popped up and combined elements of house with new age technology (i.e. synthesizers) to catalyze and pioneer the French house movement.

As this new explosion of electronic dance music was percolating through Europe and in places in the U.S. like Chicago, New York and Detroit, artists like Jamie Jones, Nina Kraviz, Joyce Muniz, and others were tuning into these radio stations, combing record stores searching for Haus records as their friends listened to pop on mainstream radio, building vinyl collections, going out dancing at Haus events, and spending as much time as they could immersing themselves in the music and learning the art of deejaying. Over the years these artists honed their craft, and the late 90s and early 2000s—with the availability of all the multiple media platforms to make music (computers, ableton, MIDI-controllers, even phones) and all the platforms to release music (social media)—saw an influx of Haus music releases and the growth of Haus music into many stylistically different branches that define much of the electronic dance music (EDM) scene today. Haus music grew from underground and niche scenes into a global phenomenon thanks to the commercialization of Swedish Progressive House like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Axwell, and other big-room house producers that brought house to the American music industry and mainstream radio.

Today there’s house, progressive house, deep house, tech-house, Chicago house, soul house, electro house, robot house, gangsta house, trance house, indie house, and many other genres of house music, but these genre labels often get quite confusing. There’s overlap, collaboration, intermixing, and interplay between genres, musical styles, DJs, cultures, and music from different places, eras, and backgrounds—though at the same time these styles are definitive too. There’s mainstream and more underground production. There’s vinyl and digital Haus music. There’s music festivals, clubs, warehouse parties, church raves, and more I do not even know about (yet) that provide different dance music styles and different interpretations of the Haus music vibe of acceptance and oneness. There’s thousands and thousands of new Haus releases every day—it goes on and on and on.

In modern discussions of electronic music today, EDM serves as an umbrella term for many different types and genres of electronic, house, and dance music, but it cannot adequately define, explain, or give meaning to all the varieties of dance music out there. There’s so much out there that what it is and what it means will change depending on who you ask and where you are in the world. My experiences in Amsterdam and Berlin exploring club cultures has led me to encounters with many different genres and styles of EDM that, while musically different, still connect people together in an atmosphere of agency, where the good vibes provides a space for youth to socialize and express themselves through dance without being self-conscious, without fear of what other people will think or how society will judge them.

Exploration of the Good Vibes

“I got into the music aspect for simply the music aspect.” – Kenny Dixon Jr. (Moodymann Interview – Scion TV, 2011)

During my time studying abroad in Europe, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the dance music scenes of Amsterdam and Berlin. I’ve explored Dutch clubs like Studio 80, Closure, Chicago Social Club, Air, and Radion; Dutch festivals like Hyte and DGTL; and even took two mixing lessons at the DJ School Amsterdam. I also ventured into the techno capital of the world, Berlin, to check out the Haus music scene there. I danced my ass off (though not nearly as hard as the Germans do) at clubs like Ritter Butzke, Golden Gate, Salon Zur de Renate, and Kosmonaut. I’ve seen DJs like Maya Jane Coles, Jamie Jones, Job Jobse, Loco Dice, Cinnaman, Robosonic, Pleasurekraft, Smash TV, Marcus Meinhardt, Mat.Joe, Maceoplex, Bob Moses, Hot Since 82, Koletzki & Shwind, and countless others. I’ve heard music ranging from savagely groovy techno, to raw and industrial tech-haus, to captivating and steady trance haus, to bouncy and rough haus, to dark and mental haus, to space and galactic haus, to groovy and woozy haus, to melodic deep house.

What I initially believed to be research into the “house music” scene was in actuality an exploration into the different scenes and subcultures of dance music that were all bridged together by a love of music and dancing, that all shared in the g-o-o-d vibes and feeling of one and oneness. My experience here exploring the dance music scene—mainstream and underground, in Amsterdam and Berlin—has been a really life-changing experience that has taught me a lot about myself, the world and the people in it, living in the moment, alternative (sub)cultures and lifestyles, contemporary socialization, and the power of Haus music and dancing. So much to discuss, where to even begin?

Subculture / Scene / Neo-tribe

Unfortunately, the “underground” scene has long had its fair share of music snobs eager and willing to snub anybody who is into anything that doesn’t get their stamp of approval, while the mainstream  EDM circle has developed a notoriety for obnoxious fans and press-play DJs. – Jamie Jones (Dancing Astronaut, 2015)

Perhaps I’ll start with my overall impression of the dance music scene itself, exploring the tension between the mainstream and underground scenes. What is a scene for that matter? A scene, which “reflects and actualizes a particular state of relations between various populations and social groups, as these coalesce around particular coalitions of musical style” (Bennett, 2011: 496), seems to be based on interpersonal relations around musical style and dancing. But what’s the deal with all the fragmentation in the dance music world (countless genres and styles, tension between mainstream and underground, profit and personal expression)? And how is there a common thread of unity linking all the stylized communities under one umbrella label—EDM?

Coming from Los Angeles, home to the music industry in America, I would mostly argue the Haus music scene is more up and coming, fairly underground and concentrated to deep house and house music fan subcultures—or “distinct social groups within wider cultural formations that define themselves in opposition to mainstream culture…those social groups, usually youth groups, use style to signify resistance to dominant culture” (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009: 461). Americans label big-room house artists like Calvin Harris, Tiesto, Zedd, Kaskade etc. as “house music”—and the Haus music I am speaking of is almost left without a label to define it. For example, Chez Damier—a Chicago house legend—played at this ratchet, but weirdly awesome junkyard in L.A. decorated with giant disco balls and strobe lights, with a legit full-scale taco stand (guilty of fiending for tacos that night), and a room with a fully purple-sequined wall, for a crowd of only 100-200 people. But here in Amsterdam, Chez Damier headlined a night at Radion, supposedly one of the frontrunners to replace the legendary Dutch club Trouw, that was advertised online and around the city. The disparity between the popular nature of Haus music in Europe and California as well as the fluidity with which youth in Europe move between scenes of Haus music makes it appear much more flexible in Europe than in the U.S and complicates explaining the tension between mainstream and underground through a subcultural lens. It’s not entirely one or the other, but more of a blend that one can recognize when they go out says Luc Mast—a music blogger, former DJ resident at Trouw, and current member of the DJ collective Malawi—so using a subcultural lens to explore the Haus music scene seems insufficient.

A concept that cultural studies theorist Andy Bennett (2011) suggests to look at youth cultures is that of neo-tribe, a kind of modern hybridization of youth memberships across borders of all sorts (in this case, borders of musical genres and styles). This lens is “without the rigidity of the forms of organization with which we are familiar, it refers more to a certain ambience, a state of mind, and is preferably to be expressed through lifestyles that favour appearance and form” (Bennett, 2011: 495). Studying the Haus music scene in this manner allows for a better analysis of how group memberships are fluid, how youth are spontaneously exploring and crossing borders between more mainstream and more underground scenes, and creating hybrid identities through bricolage by appropriating and combining existing (cultural) elements of differing Haus music scenes in new ways to create new distinctive styles (artistically, musically, and fashion-wise).

In contemporary dance music, youth can be part of a scene but not wholly defined by it as they adapt their views, self-image, and identity to the options available—Luc Mast talks about how he is influenced by house, funk, disco, and hip-hop and combines those styles in his own vision to create a hybrid musical identity and tell a story through his deejaying that is personally meaningful to him. As a deejay myself, I mix and match between funky Dutch house, hard German techno, and melodic deep house because I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one category. While mainstream house, for the most part, is referenced to talk about obnoxious fans who go to concerts/festivals/parties to get fucked up rather than enjoy the music and underground house refers to more secretive, ‘exclusive,’ often illegal events attended by a fair share of ‘music snobs,’ there is fluidity: one Dutch guy I met at Hyte talked to me about how he loves big events like Hyte’s warehouse parties, but also throws some of his own underground-ish afterparties in his apartment deejayed for maybe 50 to 100 people. It’s not definitively one thing or the other, but a blend, a mash-up of underground and mainstream that changes based on musical, stylistic, socioeconomic, and even geographic factors. DJs, too, cross back and forth between mainstream and underground, playing gigs that attract crowds from the various subcultures of Haus music, gigs that can range from festivals like Burning Man, Coachella, and DGTL to secret parties in junkyards, abandoned Church raves, and even kitchen parties.

The scene is fluid, for both artists and dancers! I’ve seen Maya Jane Coles (dark, mental, trippy, sub-aquatic house/tech-house) at a fairly publicized warehouse party in Amsterdam (at Warehouse Elementenstraat) as well as on the ‘underground stage’ at Hard Day of the Dead. I saw Jamie Jones at the same ‘underground’ stage at Hard, at the mainstage of DGTL closing out one night (the big-ticket act of that day), and seen a video of him dressed as Santa deejaying a Santa-sleigh shuttle at Burning Man for a group of maybe thirty people. I explored the more touristy, mainstream (in my opinion) Chicago Social Club to hear Subb-An who I also saw at a more ‘underground’ party for Club Rhonda (recognized as a gay club) in Los Angeles. The whole conflict between mainstream and underground has been clouded by experiences at venues of differing underground-ness in the same city as well as by experiences of similar music (styles, record labels) in different places in the world, where the people view the music differently.

I can say, however, that being in the know about the music and being there for the artist or event makes me feel more included in the scene (though not knowing wouldn’t totally exclude me). Certain events like the junkyard party in California, nevertheless, are definitively more underground, but here in Amsterdam it’s hard to differentiate because dance music is making it into the mainstream music consciousness. Ministry of Sound, a London-based house radio station, is the soundtrack at USC Amstel Sport and Fitness; flyers around Amsterdam advertise dance music events (not the case in L.A.), and in Berlin there are so many dance music events on the weekend (on Resident Advisor online) that it’s hard to just look through them all—though Berliners know which clubs attract more tourists, like the infamous Berghaine. There’s freedom to explore the entirety of EDM scenes, to cross stylistic borders, to mix and match among the options available that often alternate between mainstream and underground. However, even with the blending some themes did emerge. Mainstream scenes are more characterized by (obnoxious, rowdy, and/or fucked up) musical tourists as opposed to music lovers, underground scenes tend to attract more locals than internationals, and being in the know definitely helps you blend in more—subcultural capital and “good” musical taste make a difference.

Taste and Subcultural Capital in EDM Cultures

“Underground electronic music is art — fundamentally it’s based on contemporary art, culture, dance, and real music. If you look at EDM, how many of those cultural standpoints are the same?” – Seth Troxler (Dancing Astronaut, 2015)

As an American in the dance music scene in Europe, it’s been interesting to experience dance music abroad because of the interesting tension between mainstream and underground that is significantly different in California as opposed to Amsterdam and Berlin. As Thornton (1995: 3) argues in her research on British acid house culture, “club cultures are taste cultures. Club crowds generally congregate on the basis of their shared taste in music, their consumption of common media and, most importantly, their preference for people with similar tastes to themselves.” Just like the acid house movement, the dance music scene today is a taste culture: taste and distinction play a role in differentiating authentic from phony, hip and underground from mainstream. Especially coming from America, I definitely have noticed how subcultural capital and taste—which Bourdieu defines as “the practical affirmation of inevitable difference” (Bourdieu, 2000: 205)—help differentiate those more in the scene from those more outside of it. Taste, distinction, and subcultural capital are a means of differentiating between the subcultural communities of house music; they are a way to differentiate between the obnoxious fans of mainstream sounds as well as from ‘snobs’ who pride themselves on taste in more underground scenes. Taste also reflects the power and privilege of being in the know, of uniting and separating certain groups of people through a common shared love for a certain genre of Haus music.

When I talk to Europeans about being into dance music like house and techno and deep house, there is usually a little initial skepticism, like hey this guy is just another American among the hordes of obnoxious mainstream fans who goes to clubs, warehouse parties, and festivals to get fucked up rather than enjoy the music. But once I really get to talking with people about music—DJs we like, events we’ve gone to, my passion for deejaying, etc—there’s a noticeable change of subtle respect and admiration. When I saw Robosonic in Berlin, one grungy, dark Berlin girl remarked how she was surprised I knew about Robosonic and Pleasurekraft who were spinning that night because she drove from Hamburg to Berlin just to see them spin because she “loves that more intense techno, tech-haus shit.”

Being in the know is a way to make yourself seem more authentic, more relatable with the underground fans who go to Haus dance events for love of music and dancing. At my first ever DJ lesson with the Amsterdam DJ School, the instructor asked my friend and I what we were interested in doing with deejaying, why were into learning how to DJ, and a little about who we listen to and admire. After we told him about our passion to DJ as a career and who we admired—DJs like Jamie Jones, Andre Crom, Nina Kraviz, and Hannes Fischer (who he hadn’t heard of, subcultural capital points scored there, boo-yah) who live and breathe music—the guy smiled and said something along the lines of “thank God. I get so many fucking Americans in here saying they want to be the next Martin Garrix or Tiesto, who come in with their fancy, shmancy top of the line equipment and say teach me how to use this —man, if you wanna learn to DJ you gotta practice, you gotta fuck around with it, mess around and just jam. You DJ because you love house music—for me, it’s my life.” Being into the music for the music is a form of subcultural capital, a way of making yourself stand out as one of the authentic music-lovers. Feeling passionately about music like OFF Recordings boss Andre Crom, who says he “would either have to succeed with music or end up sleeping under a bridge” (Price-Salsbury, 2015), being knowledgeable about current artists across genres, and attending events are forms of subcultural capital, or a “means of separating/distinguishing from the mainstream” (Bennett, 1999: 612). The more knowledgeable you are about music (artists, events, venues) and the more you delve into the scene leads to a more authentic image, which often provides the subcultural capital necessary to win the respect of others and learn of their experiences.

Hipness also functions as a form of subcultural capital. One of the two days at DGTL, I said fuck it and wore a dinosaur onesie pajama suit. It wasn’t the first time I wore it to a music festival: they’re so freakin’ warm and cozy, but despite all my coziness, I faced the stares and smiles of more eyes than I would’ve liked to at DGTL as I was the only jabin running around as a dancing dinosaur. When most people (mainly Dutch) talked to my friends and I they assumed we were American, but in a way that was oh so condescending. Like, hey, you guys are with the dinosaur? Must be Americans (slight head shake). However, when they talked to me for a bit (usually after asking to take a picture with me) they felt some remorse for their earlier judgments because I went to DGTL for the music and was stoked to see so many different DJs there—some I had seen before (Hot Since 82, Jamie Jones) and others I hadn’t seen (Maceo Plex, Koletzki & Shwind, Sidney Charles). The experience of that day got me thinking that the whole scene and what it means to those a part of it, those who are in it for love of music, dancing, raving, is given an unfair treatment by society and the media because of the over-the-top nature of American festival scene and rave culture that sensationalizes EDM music festivals and parties as escapes from reality for teens where they can indulge in wild partying, rampant and crazed drug use, and sexual encounters (Westhof, 2014). The authenticity, the real and authentic magic of Haus music, is overshadowed by ridiculous Americanisms like getting fucked up, dressing ridiculously (moon-boots and booty-shorts for girls, native American apparel and bro-attire for guys), over-indulging in drugs, and simply being there for something other than love of music and dancing. The tension between mainstream and underground is navigated through being in the know, through authenticity: love for music and dancing.

Another concept that seems to separate the underground from the mainstream in house music is the notion of authenticity and originality, which I believe is heavily tied to the intent and motivation for listening to or making house music. As the notoriously enigmatic Detroit-based DJ Moodymann said in describing his style:

“I’m not into this to press up a mass amount of records. I’m not into this to be travelin’ around the motherfuckin’ world. I’m not into this to press, to impress anybody. I’m into this for my own heart and soul. A lot of people, after work, you gotta go home you take a bath. A lot of people you go home you fuck your wife, a lot of people go home, you cut your grass. I go home and I fuck that motherfucking MPC all fucking night. You understand?” (Red Bull Music Academy, 2010)

It was about his love to just create music. DJs are deemed more authentic (at least by myself and others inside the scene) when they stay true to themselves: their sound, sharing their environment or feeling or emotion, when it’s about the music above all else. When it becomes about churning out tracks for the sake of the marketplace, the magic and sense of authenticity is lost; as Sacha Robotti of Robosonic believes:

“It’s a sad time for pop music, most of it sounds interchangeable, on steroids and a bit shitty. There‘s little dynamics, no more air, no more room, the music can’t breathe and subsequently the listeners can’t either. The feeling of a track gets lost and the groove gets washed down in a track that’s mastered overtly loud for ‘competitive’ reasons. Pick any billboard track, load it into Wavelab and take a look at the soundwave: it just looks like one thick pile of shit flattened by a tank” (“15 Questions with Robosonic,” 2011).

I personally really fucking admire DJs like Andre Crom and Nina Kraviz who are so real about what the music means to them and I think that raw realness and authenticity translates through their music. For me, Haus music is intensely personal and emotional just like it is for many DJs like Nina Kraviz who believe “art, music…everything I do is extremely personal…I establish a certain connection with something…very human, very personal, a lot of emotions.” (Nina Kraviz, Resident Advisor Exchange, 2015). Connecting to this feeling, this passion for Haus music like authentic and real DJs do works for dancers too; it works as an inroad to the subculture. One Dutch girl I met at my first warehouse party in Amsterdam remarked that she went to deep house raves every weekend last summer because she loves the music so much (in her own words “it was her life”) and she even introduced her friend to deep house by bringing her to the warehouse party that night—and her friend loved it so much she could not stop raving about deep house, in more ways than one. When it’s about love of music and dancing like that, and when the listener and DJ are in harmony with that feeling, it creates this vibe, this magical feeling of connectedness: of one and oneness.

G-O-O-D Vibes: Being in the Moment

“If the vibe is there all you need is a sound system.” – Jamie Jones (Hunger Magazine, 2014)

I think one of the most intriguing, mystifying, and unifying elements that really inspired my love for Haus music is the vibe. Well, what’s the vibe, or a vibe for that matter? A vibe is something so intangible and something more that you feel than you can put into words. It’s like walking into a room, a party, or an event and wham, bam, shablam. Immediately, in the blink of an eye, subconsciously, you absorb the vibe and feel some kind of way about it. You like it or you don’t almost instinctively. Our world wants explanations, reasons for decisions—like why I can feel the good vibe or what the vibe feels like or is—but sometimes “we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgements. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that” (Gladwell, 2007). The vibe is something not always so easily put into words; like trying to define the undefinable. For me, I dig the vibe of Haus music so much because I believe it brings together people from different countries, different cultures, different musical and stylistic subcultures, and unites them through their shared passion and love for music. The sounds may be different but the vibe of oneness, of openness and acceptance, of willingness to share and socialize with others who are different from you, permeates all the scenes I’ve explored. On a night out solo dolo in Berlin (which I will cover in more detail later), I met youth from New Zealand, all around Germany, England, France, and even another American, who were brought together by their common love for the hard techno of Pleasurekraft because they loved dancing hard as fuck—fist-pumping and shuffling—to music like that.

I think the vibe, the house/techno/deep house music vibe, can best be expressed in words—though not adequately—as a complete, full harmony with reality. It’s being in the moment, a total letting go of everything and being there in the time and space right then and there, being in the now. When the music-maker and music-listener are both feeling the passion, love, and emotion in the music, and when they are connected to that same feeling yet drawing intensely personal meaning from it, that’s how the vibe is created. Nina Kraviz could not have said it better when she said: “music somehow absorbs the energy of what is going on around.” I think part of the reason the Haus music vibe is so accepting, open, free, full of possibility, and emotionally packed is that the roots of house music draw from gay disco—a genre of music that created a space of possibility, acceptance, freedom, and openness for marginalized black and latino gay men to be themselves. With roots in a music that broke down barriers of race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and gender, there is an almost unspoken tradition that real, authentic Haus music re-creates this space in a modern setting with newer, more diverse sounds and technology—it creates a space of togetherness that the music somehow absorbs.

My first Berlin club experience at Salon Zur de Renate seeing Bob Moses—more melodic deep house—was uncanny. Walking up the stairs of the club into the main dance floor was like walking through a haunted house. There was so much fucking fog, it was everywhere clouding everyone’s vision as well as their inhibitions of self-consciousness. The crowd was mixed: straight, gay, black, white, tall, short—open to anyone and everyone who was into the music, dancing, and raving. During a few moments of the set, I got glimpses through the fog and saw most of the people there singing along to the vocals of Bob Moses’ songs (i.e., “Grace” and “Winter’s Song”)—they were there to groove to the melodic music of Bob Moses. Yet, at the same time everyone was listening and connecting to the music, they were on their own internal voyage of the mind creating and imagining their own meaning from the music (many people had their eyes closed and were swaying back and forth while singing along). The vibe was there, a harmony between the DJ and the dancers, both there for love of music and dancing.

The vibe was a persistent thing at the events I’ve been to, even if the style of music differed. The music roots you there: in that one place, in that one time. One of my friends at DGTL (her first “rave”) remarked that she was so in the moment, so clearly there listening to the music and grooving with her friends that she hadn’t experienced something like that before. Like the gay disco scene of the 1970s, “nonstop music was central to the ‘throbbing lights, the engulfing sound, the heightened energy, and the hyperbolic heat,’ which together created…the feeling that the world is enclosed in this hall, that there is only now, in this place and time.’” (Echols, 2010: 57). The moment and, thus, reality, becomes so powerful and packed with meaning, its like your tripping in the now. And you’re not there alone. There are other people, mostly youth from different places, cultures, countries, etc. who are sharing in the same experience as you.

Haus Music’s Agency: Socialization

“I loved the poetics of Trouw. How people of all ages, cultures, money-backgrounds, and races came and danced…even some homeless bums were there and developed a love for Haus music” – Luc Mast (personal interview, 2015)

After my experiences, I truly believe Haus music—largely because of the vibe and incredibly emotional music—serves as a platform for socialization amongst young people. Haus music bridges cultures through the platform of music; it breaks down physical barriers of distance and bridges youth from all around the world. I’ve met people from different countries and continents, from different cultures and backgrounds, and even socialized with these people in different languages and even through dance at times.

One of the craziest nights in my life—and also one of the biggest nights for my personal journey in discovering and becoming who I am—was in Berlin the first weekend of May at Ritter Butzke. I went out by myself for the first time and wasn’t exactly sure how the night was going to go. I got on the U-Bahn subway heading towards Ritter Butzke. Nerves were wracking. Started feeling a little hot and sweaty. I thought to myself, what the hell am I even doing? Why am I going out solo in a foreign country? I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know German. I don’t know this, I don’t know that, a lot of getting inside my own head and stressing out about all the uncertainty of the night. So I took a hot second, looked around at all the darkly dressed, grungy Germans drinking beers and enjoying the subway ride with their friends—mocking my anxiety without even realizing it—and decided to care less. Rather than inner-monologue my way further down the rabbit hole of my consciousness, I brought myself back to the moment. I felt all the nervousness and anxiety I was having and said to myself, “It’s normal to be nervous and anxious going out by yourself. Fuck it. I’m doing what I want tonight. I’m going to Ritter Butzke and seeing Robosonic and it’s going to be a fucking legendary night, one for the books.” Well, I really underestimated how surreal, how legendary, how nucking futs it would be.

When I got to the club it was still pretty early…by Berlin standards (around 1AM). So before I made any moves or danced any grooves, I sat outside in the smoking area/walkway between the three dance floors to relax for a second and ripped a heater. Taking a page from the playbook of this French dude my friends and I met in Berlin a few nights earlier out at the same club, I started high-fiving and fist-bumping everyone that walked by as I smoked. Sure, some people didn’t respond or looked at me like I was some sort of lunatic for acknowledging the presence of other human beings at the club, but it honestly surprised me how friendly the majority of people were. It surprised me even more how many people loved that shit. Most people hit me back with a high-five or fist-bump. More people than I can remember actually stopped, sat down and talked with me for a while about the music, the club, and being in the grunge and techno capital of the world, Berlin.

I met a group of a group of gorgeous, inked-up girls visiting from Hamburg for the weekend, a group of French black rugby players who looked like they were carved and chiseled out of stone, a group of kiwis from New Zealand visiting Germany, a young American who recently moved to Berlin and claimed he dealt tens ounces of pot on a monthly basis, and a grungy, darkly-dressed girl from Dortmund who was out alone too. Interestingly , all these youth from all over the globe came to Ritter Butzke that night for Robosonic, Format B, or Pleasurekraft—they came for their love of music and love of dancing all fucking night long, to see a DJ that they really dug. I digress back to myself smerkin’ the cig outside. It was almost poetic the way each passing high-five and fist-bump settled my anxiety and got me feeling comfortable in an initially uncomfortable, nerve-wracking environment of uncertainty. As I ashed the cig, the American living in Berlin (“name redacted”) told me Robosonic was coming on, perfect timing. Stroll in to the backroom, the smallest dance floor of the three the club had, where about 20 people are grooving. The music was chunky, like a groovy tech-house with some soul and hip-hop infusions. Alright alright alright, I can dig this I thought. As I threw out some power moves, the unnamed American I met asked me if I was looking for some xtc. Well, wasn’t planning on it, but fuck it why not, been on that experience-enhancing roller coaster of energy before. Let’s see what happens. Well, that shit went straight to the cranium and I was feeling some kind of way. Like the Germans and non-Germans alike around me, I started feeling the vibes and the music and busted out some serious power moves—shufflin’, shaking my ass, grooving and pouring out my earlier nerves into each progressive move and dancing almost as hard as the Germans dance themselves.

The nerves I had at the start of the night dissipated to the beat of each passing moment, the anxiety I had about going out alone evaporated with the melody of each groove, the self-doubt I had about going out solo danced away. What started as a nervous night of self-doubt and social anxiety quickly became a personal test to see how absurd I could make the night. I decided to just go with the flow and be there, singularly in the moment I was in: in Ritter Butzke, in Berlin, on a vacation from my “vacation” studying in Amsterdam, and proving to myself that I can have a fucking unreal night out solo dolo. During the first few minutes of Robosonic’s set I saw the darkly dressed, grungy, beautiful German girl from Dortmund across the dance floor—and shit, I’m a sucker for girls with nose rings, especially the septum piercing—and dear lord, this girl was eye-fucking the shit out of me. She slowly danced her way over to me and tried to start talking to me in German—which I don’t really speak. So I tried to talk to her in English—which she didn’t really speak. Even with the language barrier, our dancing did the communication. And naturally, shit went down and got real weird. That’s Berlin for you, the grunge-capital of the world, endless tech-house and techno, party supplements, and dancing with people who you cannot always communicate with through words.

After that whole escapade, I didn’t stop the flow there and kept that mojo rolling. What a perfect time, I thought to myself, to whip out the finely-sculpted spliff I brought with me and get real weird. I sparked that bad-boy up right in front of the DJ booth and before I even knew it, I was behind the DJ booth with Sacha (one of the Robosonic duo), his friend, this hot chick (presumably one of their girlfriends) smoking the J. As the smell of weed and tobacco filled the air, I told Sacha he was killin’ it on the music, shit was real chunky and I was loving the grooves—which he really appreciated considering he was a little pissed about playing the smallest dance floor to a crowd of under 50 people. When I said chunky he thought I wanted to hear their song “Chunky”; I mean, I was simply complimenting him and told him he can drop it if he wants to. Well, he did. Wouldn’t you know it, I got a song request that night because Robosonic appreciated someone digging their music. As the song was being mixed into the next, Komet Bernhard (Berlin’s EDM Gandalf who has gone out every night since 1989 because he just “feels the music”) made an appearance with his famous bubble-wand and mini disco ball. Spent a solid 30-45 minutes or so behind the DJ booth a little mesmerized watching Robosonic DJ, letting the good vibes take over, blowing a few bubbles occasionally, chatting it up with Sacha, and grooving to the Haus along with 20-30 other people who were in that tiny dance floor simply to listen and dance to Robosonic’s music. As Robosonic wrapped up their set and packed their bags, I gave them a genuine thank you—a high-five and a hug—and look up at the clock and read 430 am; the night was still young.

I wandered over to the big dance floor, made my way to a solid spot with some room to groove, and next thing I know I’m up on one of the platforms jamming out to the music alongside this group of kiwis from New Zealand. Real homies too. They were visiting Berlin for the weekend like me—at Ritter Butzke because they wanted to jam out and dance all night to Format B and Pleasurekraft—and throwing out some heavy fist-pumps and shufflin’ like they’d been doing it their whole life. After another two hours of grooving to the bumpy and hard techno with my new-found friends, I decided to peace out and call it a night. I walked outside into the early morning sunshine with the beats pounding to each step and only made it one block. Throw a 180 and make my way back to the club with the intention of partying all night (or at least until my 10 am check out of the hostel). Get back inside and pretty much ran into the kiwis who laughed their asses off that I came back. They loved that though and understood: the music was still going and the groove was still hot. Locked back into the groove, I kept dancing until about 8 am when Pleasurekraft’s set ended. With that, I bid Ritter Butzke and my kiwi friends goodbye…but wait. To my astonishment, as I was leaving, one of the kiwis told me he liked my dance moves, thought I was hot and asked if he could kiss me. Well, didn’t see that coming, but honestly, I said you know, I’m not into the men but fuck it, go ahead. And with that the night was over. I met youth from England, France, Germany, New Zealand, even America—and I danced with most of them at some point during the night and shared in the feeling of togetherness, connecting with these strangers through the music and through dancing as most of them “fucking loved Pleasurekraft” (in the words of a few of the Berliners I met that night: the Hamburg girls, a 28 year old tech designer, the kiwis…). I smoked a spliff with Robosonic and got to see behind the scenes as they spun their chunky mix. I blew bubbles with the legendary Komet, Berlin’s EDM gandalf. I met and had an adult escapade with a beautiful, grungy German. I even kissed a kiwi. Was it all real? Sometimes I think I had to have hallucinated parts of the night, but it’s all so crystal clear in my head. A truly legendary night.

Youth Agency in Dancing: Self-Expression vs Self-Consciousness

“I was just so into dancing … I would dance somewhere for 8 hours totally on music” – Nina Kraviz (RA Exchange, 2015)

In addition to Haus music’s power to facilitate and promote socialization among youth across cultures and languages, it also has power on an individual level to break down walls of self-consciousness and promote self-expression, even agency through dancing. All I will say is you better bring your dancing shoes if you go to a house and techno party, club, festival, rave (at least in Amsterdam and Berlin, maybe not so much in the States). In my experiences here in Amsterdam—at Hyte and DGTL and in Berlin especially—part of the vibe is that people are grooving, and I mean really fucking grooving to the music. Some nights when I’m out around Amsterdam with my friends we try to mimic the moves the Dutch and Germans are doing and it is so tiring the cardio gets shot within a matter of minutes. I dunno how they do it, it’s a lifestyle, a lifestyle revolving around love of music and dancing. When I interviewed Luc Mast, he talked about how he got into haus music as a high-schooler going to hidden, secret, underground kitchen parties in the small Dutch town he grew up in and dancing all night long. Like Luc, some party-goers are there simply to dance all night long; at Marcus Meinhardt this German brother and sister duo I met was completely sober, they said they just wanted to go out and dance all night long because they loved dirty-ass, womping techno like that. That’s a serious love of dancing.

People in the scene just love dancing, and I personally believe a huge reason for that is that dancing is a form of self-expression. Everybody dances differently even though they hear the same music. In expressing their individuality and selves in dancing, people drop normal societal concerns regarding self-consciousness, about giving a fuck what other people think: they are just dancing how they want to dance and it says something about them. I move to the beat, but in my own way (I’ve been told my “go-to dance moves is a little side to side shuffle with a little body swaying and some flowing hand movements), and that way is different from my friend next to me and that is different the person next to them. Everyone has their go-to dance move: some people throw their hands up in the air and sway side to side, some rock the Dutch shuffle, some get their ass shaking, some are bouncing back and forth with their hands bumping to the beat. The girls I met at Hyte for Loco Dice were feeling the beat, raging a little with fists pumping and a little shoulder shimmying; the kiwis at Ritter Butzke had a strong shuffle game; and the brother-sister duo at Marcus Meinhardt had a simple side-to-side groove. Everybody is different in the way they dance, and that is something so beautiful and incredible to see. Everybody is doing their own thing, expressing themselves in their own way—yet to the same music as the person next to them.

While everyone is connecting to the oneness of the music and the emotion, mood, feeling—the story the DJ is creating through the turntables—they are using their own imagination to make it personal to them. As Nina Kraviz puts it:

“The most beautiful thing about deejaying and playing records is that you can always create your own mood and your own story and your own world by playing music which is not too obvious enough already…that always leaves you a little bit of space for your own imagination…to reconstruct the picture according to your own means.” (Nina Kraviz, RA Exchange, 2015).

And that’s not only the DJ, as a dancer you get to interpret the mood in your own way—you get to use your imagination to make it mean something personal, to express yourself in a way personal to you: “imagination has become a social practice; in countless variants it is the engine for the shaping of the social life of many people in many different societies’ (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2008: 4). When you are feeing some kind of way, much like everyone else around you, connecting to that one shared experience of music, feeling the vibe, you are in that moment dancing away in your own groove. People don’t have the same dance moves, everybody is doing their own thang, and that’s because everyone’s imagination interprets the meaning differently. In dancing away, you drop the inhibitions that normally govern social behavior; you express yourself in the ways you move your body without giving a fuck what others will think. In dancing, you’re less self-conscious about what other people think of you because everyone is jamming out in their own respect. It’s a place of free self-expression, which I believe works as a form of agency for youth: a way to freely express their emotions and feelings in an incredibly unique way in an environment of acceptance and freedom, without fear or criticism or judgment.

For me personally, dancing has helped me express emotions from frustrating anger to happy funkiness to deep emotion to wild rowdiness. My first night out abroad in Amsterdam at Studio 80 was for the funky, jazz-infused house of Glenn Astro and Detroit Swindle—capturing my emotions and feelings of initial excitement and cheeriness at being abroad. Funny night, the photographer for the event was following my friends and I around because we were grooving pretty hard creating some dance circles and throwing out some Michael Jackson-esque moves. Two of my friends there who were visiting from Rotterdam were digging the funkiness as well, and remarked “what a solid, groovy night for our first night out in Amsterdam, loved it.” In Berlin I felt and let go of the rising anger and frustration I was having with some personal issues, going through the heavy, dark techno of Marcus Meinhardt, where I fist-pumped and danced as hard as one of the nutty Berliners. At Salon Zur de Renate in Berlin I went on an internal odyssey to the melodic, enchanting deep house of Bob Moses (the fact that the room was consumed with fog from smoke machines like a haunted house helped too), and sang along to the vocals with most of the crowd there, simply moving back and forth, eyes closed, feeling some deep emotion. At DGTL, my friends and I got rowdy at Hot Since 82 with some bouncy beats and dance moves before migrating to Andhim and feeling a more robotic groove and capping the night with none other than the legendary Jamie Jones where I can say I was feeling that booty-shaking house that perfectly captured the happiness and upbeat blissfulness of that day. Across venues, to different musical styles, with different artists, I got to express myself and my emotions through dancing without giving a fuck what anyone else thought, and I got to do so in an environment where other people were doing the same thing.

Stigmas and Stereotypes

People were saying the identical things about groups like Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones. … [Drugs have] been going on at concerts since there were concerts.” – LA City Councilman Parks, former LAPD Chief of Police (“Death, Money & Megaraves” — Dennis Romero)

Although dance music provides a place for youth to express their agency and selves through dancing and music, it is not always so widely received by the rest of society. At least in America, there is a social stigma attached to dance music that labels it as a drug-fueled rave culture serving as an escape from reality for white, middle-class youth who want to waste away their parents’ money. Like other subcultural movements from the Mods and Rockers in England to hippie counterculture in the 70s, subcultural movements like dance music breach society’s expectancies and social norms and, consequently, “the emergence of a spectacular subculture is invariably accompanied by a wave of hysteria in the press” (Hebdige, 1979: 153). Drugs play a role, I’ve indulged a few times, but it would be a lie to say that’s what the scene is all about. I’ve also gone out sober before and had an incredible time dancing and feeling the music and vibe. Like when I saw Sidney Charles, Darius Syrossian and Sante at Westerunie—I had a beer or two there but other than that I was there for some serious Haus music. Shit, I even met a few people that night out alone in Berlin who stayed longer than I did and were completely sober (drinking water all night) and went there simply to dance because they loved the music of the DJs that night.

I personally feel there are a lot of old men and women who followed the letter of the law growing up, went to Church every Sunday since they were little kids, and are now filled with regret at their own boring, unhappy lives (because they didn’t do the things they loved or step out of their comfort zone), who feel the need to demonize youth and a culture they don’t understand, don’t try to understand, and don’t see from an insider’s perspective or even try to see from another perspective aside from their own. At home you read things in the media full of scare tactics, from tragic stories of drug overdose to drug abuse like this ridiculousness about Hard Summer, “‘my friend had a large bag of molly he was dipping from during a set,’ says the twenty-something. ‘The bag spilled all over his hand when he was jostled, and the crowd of friends around him immediately began licking his hand like a bunch of crazed lizard people’” (Westhof, 2014). Perhaps a lot of it has to do with American culture, where there is less acceptance and tolerance towards drugs (unlike Amsterdam, where there’s a general tolerance towards soft drugs as long as you’re not bothering anyone and more policy focused on education, health, and safety towards hard drugs). Really, is writing a scathing criticism of youth EDM musical culture without trying to understand why people love the Haus music culture doing anything besides creating a moral panic?

While I willingly admit that when you indulge in the turnips (turn-ups) you feel that shit—your fingers are snapping, your feet are shufflin’, your body is bouncing and swaying, and you are busting out your self-designed set of power moves and able to do so for a longer period of time than normal (unless you really love music and dancing like me and countless others and keep it grooving sober)—the whole perception and drug debate (at least in the U.S.) has stained the image of a beautiful and artistic musical culture. Drugs are nothing new to the music scene (acid punch during the gay disco age, LSD during the rise of rock in the 70s, cocaine and cannabis with hip-hop in the 80s and 90s), I think the way drugs are used at these events not only leads to stigmas and stereotypes, but also helps differentiate the in-scene crowd from the outsiders simply touring. The drugs are an experience enhancer for in-scene users, a way for them to amplify the moment they are in the music (sometimes, not every time!), whereas for many outsiders, the drugs almost constitute the experience; it’s more about “rolling” than feeling the emotion and magic of the music, moment, and vibe.

I had a very scary and enlightening experience at Kaskade a month before my experience at Hard Day of the Dead where I saw a guy (who I later learned was “candy flipping”—mixing acid and MDMA) having a seizure and being taken out by the paramedics. Up until then I knew drugs—as fun as they can be at events like that—were pretty fucking bad for you and can have serious consequences if you overindulge or don’t know what you’re doing. After that, I can say I don’t need some morally righteous, ignorant writer sitting in his cubicle on Hollywood Boulevard to preach to me about this shit—those shitheads can write about horror stories and drug use at festivals, but have they seen it first-hand? Have they tried it for themselves, do they know what it’s like? No, because it’s easier to sit in their safe little cubicle labeling younger generations as reckless and telling them how they should live their lives. Seeing that happen was enough of a deterrent, enough of an education about using hard drugs and how they fuck up your body, your health and safety, more than any columnist could provide.

At least in the U.S., there is a big social taboo (stereotypes and stigmas, too) attached to rave culture because of the widespread media sensationalism regarding the role drugs play at music festivals. But these mother fuckers don’t know jack shit about the real Haus music scene, about underground events going on. As a legendary house DJ Seth Troxler points out: “underground culture has been pumping this balloon [of house music] for over 30 years.. and now people are coming in, and not bringing it.. and how close are they to popping our balloon in all these different markets—that is the conversation I always try to make aware” (Sundius, 2015). Mainstream media has no clue about the illegal junkyard parties like Chez Damier going on, ‘illegal’ warehouse parties like Feels, the kitchen parties Luc Mast went to as a teen, or what these events mean to people who go because of their love for music and dancing.

A group of Dutch students from Haarlem I met out at Westerunie one night told me about the amazing beach club Woodstock ’69 and some bangin’, underground Haus parties they had been to in shipping crates and warehouses. Do these 9-5, button-down collar wearing journalists sitting in their cubicles know about that? They label something they do not know or understand because it makes it easier for them to label these youth as deviant. Yet, “deviance is created by society… deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’…deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label” (Cohen, 2015: 6). If people are reading these media accounts that sensationalize drug use, implement scare tactics with horror stories, of course a stigma around the scene and unfair perception is created. How often does the media promote a story about someone who goes sober to a rave or concert because they love music and dancing? I haven’t heard of one aside from interviews with DJs, and its because those stories don’t sell as well and don’t circulate as much. Man, fuck dat. I’m into this for my own heart and soul and I know I’m not the only one.

Music as an “Alternative Career”

When people talk about music, musicians, DJs, and what not, it often frames music as an alternative lifestyle or alternative career. If I agreed with all these intellectuals then we would both be wrong. Music has been around as long as time itself. Plato even philosophized: “music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” The Ancient Greeks often sung poems like Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad as lyrical ballads; religious hymns were sung in Jesus’ lifetime; medieval monks gathered for meditative gregorian chanting; classical composers like Beethoven in the 18th century created the art of the symphony; jazz and swing in the early 20th century spread from New Orleans to mainstream radio; rock gave the soundtrack to the counterculture of the 60s and 70s; Nirvana provided the discography that embodied the structure of feeling of Gen X; hip-hop served as an outlet for marginalized youth in the Bronx to survive and tell their story. Music evolves and changes over the course of time, but it has been around as long as people can remember, as long as history itself and pervaded all parts of this planet. How can something that has played a role shaping societies all over the globe be an alternative career or lifestyle?

There has always been a demand for music and talented music-makers, and perhaps the future will still have a demand for authentic, real music. Maybe Haus music will be in high demand in the future; maybe it will become the ‘structure of feeling’, as the philosopher Walter Benjamin puts it, of my generation. We are the first generation to grow up alongside this electronically based musical revolution and as a result, maybe it will be a reflection of the lived experience and quality of life at this particular time and place in history, creating a common set of perceptions and values shared by a particular generation, reflected in artistic expressions of Haus music. Today’s scene is growing increasingly dominated by EDM—it’s breached mainstream radio in Europe and is making moves in America (Coachella, an indie music festival, had more electronic than indie acts this year; Meadow, 2014). With the increasing momentum of technological evolution, perhaps the future of music is digital and the globalization of EDM, the global spread of Haus music and culture. Perhaps, EDM will embody the structure of feeling for a new generation of youth who find agency in dancing, who socialize at clubs, warehouses, and festivals—youth who create and find meaning in Haus music.

What is life? Does anyone really, definitely know what life is, what it means, even what constitutes what is real? Life—our reality here on earth—and the meaning behind it is just one of those undefinable things. Perhaps music is the way we describe it, how we describe the experience of living, how we describe humanity and who we are. Music is a way to define the undefinable: feelings, emotions, dreams, nightmares, stories, all these things inside of us that can’t make their way out in words. After spending a few months here abroad, exploring the Haus music scene from Amsterdam to Berlin; from warehouses to clubs to festivals; from interviews with a DJ to personal experiences (like my night out), it’s really inspired and solidified my personal dream to be around music, to DJ, and perhaps even produce my own music someday. My experiences have helped bring me out of an introverted shell, helped me feel emotions that I had been internalizing during my years growing up and had always tried to shut out. Haus music has helped me discover who I am. I listen to all different kinds and styles throughout the day because it can express the things I can’t always express in words. Fuck, my identity is even connected to haus music: my friends always joke about my distaste for new-age trap/top 40 radio music (migraine music a.k.a. manufactured garbage), make jokes about things being too mainstream for me, and know if they pass me the auxiliary cord they are going to get some Haus beats. Perhaps there is a soundtrack to your life like there is for me. And maybe this soundtrack tells you more about life, how you see it, what it means to you, what is real, who you might even be more than words ever could. Haus music is the soundtrack to my life and I’m gonna dance and live life with a groove in my soul.

“Not everyone understands house music. It’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing.” – Eddie Amador – House Music (Robosonic remix)

(Written for Youth Cultures in a Transnational Context)


1. Reagenz – “Keep Building”
2. Kerri Chandler – House is House
3. Mr. V – Jus Dance (Dario D’Attis edit)
4. Homework – I’m Into This (Andre Crom & Martin Dawson remix)
5. Noir – “Music for Me” (edit)
6. Eddie Amador – House Music (Robosonic remix)
7. The Reason (Original Space Shaker edit) – Jay Lumen


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