Is it possible to be too underground? Difficult question to answer, kind of wish I hadn’t proposed it to myself, but I’m committed now! In the last couple of years, particularly in the UK we have seen the emergence of Bass, some saw it as a healthy divergence from the rapid commercialisation of dubstep, and like dubstep a number of artists have used it, inadvertently or not, to establish their underground credentials and then go onto write generally more accessible bass tinged House music. Whether this was an intentional tactic is hard to know, however what has become very evident is that the emergence of bass and the explosion of House has resulted in an interesting migration of acts. We have those who have stuck to their guns and remained very underground, dabbling in house but not overly, you’ve got those who kind of sit in the middle and those who have totally defected (non pun intended) and plumbed for an all out assault on the House / Deep House market. You can understand those in the latter category as the plumb gigs and big money are clearly in the House market right now, you only have to look at Duke Dumont getting to Number 1 a few months back to know this. So does that mean artists are selling out, underground producers are being overly stuffy writing purposely obtuse records or is it just a natural progression of individual tastes and an enthusiasm for a particular sound?
Realistically these type of questions can never be definitively answered, and usually result in furious debate, we may say so and so has sold out, where as 20,000 screaming fans at a festival make a compelling argument to suggest such a statement is a little churlish. Therefore Id venture to say that some underground producers do get caught up in their own coolness and consequently their music becomes overly detached and devoid of musical merit, whilst others attempt to move into the big time for the wrong reasons and their music also becomes equally detached and devoid of merit, however a generic soaring synth hook tends to make more money than a skittering underground drum beat.
Therefore in answer to my question “Is it possible to be too underground”, really depends on what your motivations are. If you’re wanting to make loads of cash, sip champagne whilst surrounded by beautiful woman, or you are just writing music blinkered by your own perceived coolness, Id suggest the answer is probably yes. However if your hunger has always been the music, and you are writing or playing what you are passionate about, then no. Naturally their are exceptions to the above suggested answer, with certain acts plying their trade with unwavering commitment and reaping the benefits, however Id suggest the majority of those exceptions come from a different era of club culture, e.g. Carl Cox, Sasha, Digweed, and Tiesto. Incidentally the four acts ive just mentioned are collectively worth £$178m if the 2013 DJ Rich List is to be believed.