How was 2018 for you?
Rick Bull: 2018 was certainly an eye-opening year – one in which it’s more than fair to admit that techno has well and truly become mainstream economic collateral. After almost seven years in Berlin, and a short hiatus in Sydney, I’m currently based in London. Here I’m seeing large billboards emblazoned with the faces of Peggy Gou in sportswear or Honey Dijon branded with a vodka logo, or the incredible Black Madonna as a video game character. The paradigm is shifting, commercially, but also politically, and it’s a fascinating shift to witness.
I never would have imagined that big corporations might be willing to risk the conservative backlash of having these remarkable and outspoken women endorse their products. If nothing else (and this is a BIG thing), 2018 was really a fulcrum year in electronic music for gender diversity. I mean, you do NOT fuck with Honey. She, and many like her, are weaponized in all such needed ways, and welcome reprieves from the toxic masculinity which has been resurfacing in techno culture in recent years.
I suppose that 2018 has been the year I’ve become obsessed, once more, with the political complexities of dance. It’s been a ‘man’s world,’ but not for long. Thank god. Beyond dance music though, the values which drew me to the form endure — a place to belong, a space for outsiders. I think these places still exist.
For me, personally, living in London has necessitated a radical change in my work practices. Sure, I’ve been gigging (some wonderful shows in Berlin and Sydney remain highlights), but moreover I’ve been quietly making new work, teaching and tutoring on the side, and working with kids to help with after-school literacy. London breeds a necessary tenacity in order to survive, and for me, this has resulted in a solid partnership as a freelance writer for Native Instruments, and a great deal of audio production work for sounds.com, as TRX Machinemusic. I’ve been diving deep into hip-hop production as a side project and have been stunned to recently reach the number one position overall for the site for all genres, as well as in the hip-hop/trap category. I guess there is life after techno?
It’s also been a joy to release a long overdue EP again on Face To Face in Berlin called Thousand Plateaus. In part, this is a response to studying the work of Mark Fisher, who’s life as a music critic and voice in contemporary culture is so enduringly precious. Personally, seeing OneOhTrix Point Never, Nils Fram and Max Richter performing in London all gave me so much reason to hope in electronic music’s its ability to remain relevant and compelling.
Witnessing the class disparity and absolute grind of life for most people in London has been difficult. Brexit remains a devastating prospect, and hearing so many Londoners lament a city whose vibrancy and hope has been tarnished is hard to bear. Like so many megacities, the deepest cost of London’s outsiders is not economic as much as psychological. The loneliness of late capitalism is its most brutal blow. Thank god for the quiet fortitude of the small community projects in the city though … It really feels like the country is bunkered down, ready for change. I know it will come … but the city feels like it’s on lockdown, in a way. I’m stunned and saddened that such a wealthy place can be so divided among class lines. The real heroes, as ever, are the immigrant lifers — the Windrush generation, the diverse underbelly of immigrants from Eastern Europe to Pakistan. I suppose that change is the only constant, but we are currently in a the trenches in Britain, as it were.
Song of the year?
Oneohtrix Point Never – “Black Snow.” Superb, sublime, political, future-primitivism.
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
To be kinder. To reimagine a life directed less by neurosis and frustration, and more by a desire to serve and laugh as loudly and frequently as possible.