My daughter is six, and she's just mad for dancing, and she does breakdancing, or her own version of breakdancing. And music's quite important to her, you know, she's into Justin Bieber and a few other artists, but it's not quite at the teenage obsession thing. But it's a real important thing in her life, I mean she really enjoys it. So I think the thing is that it's not like music's gonna go away, I just think it's been demoted in the grand scheme of things. There was this tremendous claim it had as the primary thing of youth culture and the prism that connected it to all the other things that young people were interested in.
For instance, there was a feeling that music had something to say regarding political issues. There've been all these riots recently — the student riots in England, other riots, and of course the Occupy movement — and it's been interesting to see journalists looking at these and saying "Where are the songs that address this?" And it seems like this inherited idea that music is going to intermesh with these political currents and contribute to them in some way. But maybe that's an old-fashioned idea, maybe that isn't what music does anymore, maybe that isn't its job.
RIGHT — SOMEONE COULD MAKE AN EXHAUSTIVE BOX SET OF MUSIC, BOTH POPULAR AND OBSCURE, OF THE LAST YEAR OR TWO AND THERE WOULD BE ALMOST NO INDICATION THAT OCCUPY OR THE LONDON RIOTS OR ANY OF THIS STUFF HAS BEEN HAPPENING; WHERE EVEN THE MOST CURSORY GLANCE AT, SAY, '60S OR '70S POPULAR MUSIC, REGARDLESS OF GENRE, WILL REVEAL TONS OF REFERENCES TO PROTESTS AND THE VIETNAM WAR AND ALL SORTS OF THINGS. BUT ON OTHER HAND, YOU WERE BIG INTO THE EARLY-'90S UK RAVE CULTURE, WHICH WAS SOMEWHAT POLITICALLY CONFRONTATIONAL WITHOUT ACTUALLY MAKING ANY OVERT POLITICAL STATEMENTS IN ITS MUSIC — WAS THAT SORT OF THING ACTUALLY A MODEL FOR HOW MUSIC NOW EXPRESSES ITSELF POLITICALLY?
Well, they never really translated into anything that would be called popular. When there were clampdowns on raves, there were sort-of half-assed protests against that, so that was for freedom to assemble and dance. But I think that you could say that it certainly reflected the mood at a time when there were many public spaces where people gathered. I think it also reflected a desire for people to have a mass experience, and you could relate that to a vague movement against Thatcher-ism, but it was amorphous and it didn't have a direct political consciousness. With a few exceptions, of course.
The thing about the rave thing is that, although it wasn't a proper counterculture, it was a real underground subculture: it had a clothing look and a sort of loose credo and it was a fully formed movement that had branches all over the world. And that doesn't seem to be the mode that music occurs in now, there hasn't really been another subculture like that. Most of the subcultures that we have that you can call subcultures are really just extensions of [an] existing one. For instance, black metal is a subculture, but it's an extension of something that began in the '70s. It's changed a lot but it can be traced directly to something that formed a long time ago.