One of the masterminds behind the What Next Ohio Music Showcase, Scotty Niemet has been an architect of Music Scenes for some time in Central Ohio. He has always looked forward and never looked back. He has never been afraid to chuck a bad idea if it isn’t working or boldly go in a direction no one else is willing. For this reason, I think he is ideally suited to help us understand the aims of the show on saturday, why music scenes matter, & how music offers us ways of growing as human beings.
Beyond that, I think we can learn a lot about from him about how to make our scene as strong as it possibly can be because his “ethics” of music scene development reveals core values that any person in Columbus would be crazy not to embrace. Its his embracing of ideas that advance a Do-It-Yourself ethos, community, and challenging of reality, which are so fundamental to our scene today. In fact, my passion for getting involved with our dance music scene was cemented when Scott Niemet was interviewed by Sybling Q from Ohio Stand Up (Read that HERE). In fact, much of this interview builds on their questions and goes in different directions based on the show saturday. Without Further adieu, I offer my interview of Scotty Niemet up to you:
LA: You have been so essential to so many different music communities around the city. What is it about music that you love so much?
SN: Growing up there was always music in my house being played. I grew up going to Columbus public schools where kids always seemed to be in tune with pop music at a young age. Then we moved to the suburbs, kids were so oblivious to music. By this time I was super into Prince and it just blow my mind that kids didn’t listen to music, this is 4th grade we are talking about. From that period I could already see that music was gonna be a huge part of who I was as a person. Music has given me focus to understand my emotions and keep me sane, as a teen I was realizing I was always gonna be different from most kids, I would just go home and sit in my room and drown myself in records, reading lyric sheets, looking at the sleeve’s artwork. I take music personally and always attempt to make a personal connection to it. Heading into high school I was a full fledged punk, rebeling against so much of mainstream youth shit. By my junior year, I was attending a downtown art school where I met kids from all over the city, kids that made art, music and expression high on their priorities. Music connected me with a lot of amazing people and friends, taken me around the country, and given a voice to many causes and ideas. By the time I graduated my friends and I were creating and contributing to the local music scene. We were booking hardcore shows anywhere we could find, going to campus bars to dance, and traveling 4-10 hours to go see shows and fests in other cities. Soon I was starting my own bands, booking shows in my living room and basement. The people and communities I have weaved in and out of thru my years has shown me music will always be the most important tool to get people to interact and feel the have a voice.
LA: Based on your quote in the Ohio Stand Up Article: “I guess that going out to see djs, bands, films whatever it may be is the most important thing you can be doing at your age… Music and art is supposed to take your emotions to somewhere you yourself probably can’t take it on its own.” Do you think Music has unique emancipatory powers that allow someone a fresh outlook on life or the ability to find freedom?
SN: Yes, like I kinda said in that interview, if you allow yourself to clear up your inhibitions and don’t let yourself get too wrapped up in politics of things, you can open yourself up to lots of ideas and approaches to music that has the power to make you think and feel in ways you could not express or feel on your own.
LA: When was the moment that that love of music transferred over to wanting to take part in building music scenes? what made you say, “Hey I need to put on shows”? How did you get your start?
SN: In high school and my early pre-drop out college years, being involved in the DIY hardcore punk scene, it was part of the culture to be a contributing factor to making the scene survive. There was a lot of emphasis on the mindset of “if its not being offered out to you and you want it, you have to create it yourself”. That went for bands, shows, media/zines, art shows… we lived in an environment where you were encouraged to make your ideas heard. In the 90s there was a parallel universe of DIY ethics and desire thru the rave scene. I used to work at a clothes store on campus called Avalon where we sold every kind of “counter-culture” attire out there: UFOs, Doc Martens, leather pants, Jncos… the whole spectrum. So the employees all came from diverse scenes as well, when raves took off in the midwest Avalon was one of the main info hubs for finding out about parties around the region, remember there was no expansive usage of the internet back then, 99% of it was done thru fliers and hotlines. Well what I am getting at is I was exposed to that culture and saw all the similarities between the rave and hardcore punk scenes and being pretty open minded and also into electronic music I went to a few handful of raves and that experience took me into further involvement with the Columbus sector of DIY electronic music, mostly in the form of the ele_mental crew’s events.
LA: Putting on and promoting shows isn’t the most glamorous act, what made you stick around and continue to innovate in our music scenes today?
SN: My main driving attitude with everything I do is, I do it for this city. My love/hate relationship with Columbus is what keeps me hacking away at what I see through my optimistic lens, a city where people are proud to be part of such a great city. I want to help create a community here where people fall in love with Columbus, and don’t just come here for school and walk away feeling unfulfilled that the city is lacking at offering up their needs and move on with their energy and ideas. The reality of it is Columbus is a transient city because of OSU & CCAD, it’s always been a struggle to attract new people to what Columbus has to offer in that window of schooling. I try to create enough varied events to maybe insert some love for things in the way of nightlife. I see the importance for people to go out and socialize and experience human interaction, I am a paranoid freak that we are on this downward spiral were the internet and smart phones are keeping people from enjoying others body language and a simple hug of a friend.
LA: During your Ohio Stand Up interview last June you said this: “I stand behind DIY (do it yourself) ethics and creative culture.. I build social environments, I try to create places where people can share time together and walk away feeling a part of a community.” What role do you think community plays in Columbus and why is DIY community building so important to you?
SN: Columbus has a hell of a lot of potential to create itself into a real (pardon the corny phrase) 21st century city. With such a high population of young people, Columbus has the opportunity to have fresh new ideas accepted by the city. We are in economic instability, which has made a lot of people some by force due to being laid off to reassess their wants and path for their livelihoods. It’s a great climate to experiment with new approaches and methods to create art and music. Columbus is one of the cheapest large cities to live in, and that has allowed people such as me to be able to take some risks that usually consumes too much of peoples time in say a city like New York that they are not able to make ends meet when its time to pay the bills. Here there is an air of confidence brewing for people to want to build things with a completely new mindset with end goals that prioritize creativity higher up the list. Building small pockets of like minds to create a sub-economy that can self sustain itself while supporting the arts is a concept I see encouraged over and over in Columbus.
LA: You are a perennial powerhouse when it comes to innovating and thinking of new ways to promote our scene from the bottom up. What are some of your creative influences when you are trying to think of ways to build community?
SN: In my head I always remember how intrigued I was when I saw footage or read about the disco days and studio 54, all these different people together from different backgrounds, with their main goal to dance and cause debauchery. ha. The experiences I had later on with going to raves and being friends with those involved in the underground electronic scene, I got to witness something that was along those lines of Studio 54. There used to be an event in Columbus called Red party held at Valley Dale. Easiest way to describe it is as a huge gay rave, but there was so many different people there and the staging was always way over the top and fabulous. So with a blender of all these events from our roots I try to strive to get people excited and on a wave length that they would want to be a part of something like those events.
LA: I think one of your hidden talents that people in our scene don’t recognize very often is your graphic design of show posters. In what ways do you think music scenes, art, and community building are intertwined?
SN: Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t ever see any distinction that they are separate entities. Music when I was growing up was always packaged via record sleeve, music video, and magazine layouts. Buying a record at the mall running home putting it on and just having a tangible real life piece of art in your hand that the band and others involved took a lot of time into. Making a record cover or music video that could represent a song our whole album was such an important part of giving music more dimension. With download accessibility today lots of music has lost that visual partner, It’s kinda sad. With all that said I feel most musicians find common threads with visual artists.
LA: One of my favorite quotes from that interview was when you said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I just road this wave. That’s not why I do this. I want to be known as someone that is always putting himself out there, risk taker.” Why is risk taking so important to you for this time period in the development of Columbus’ electronic music scene?
SN: I enjoy challenging people’s comfort zones. Getting into a routine or sticking with something that “works” in my head is so stagnant and destructive for any creative community. There is validity with trends, rebranding, killing something that is getting too popular…. when dealing mainly with a youthful demographic people get bored quickly and want something new and refreshing. Reinvention will always keep me interested and challenged, maybe that’s a horrible business model, but I’m not really looking to run a business. I’m in this to misplace common thought and to try to push people to find it in themselves to lighten up and figure out that doing shit they aren’t comfortable doing is healthy and can really help mold them in new ways. I like placing people in an environment where they have to witness and face their stereotypes and assumptions about others. I have laughed so many times over the years hearing the pigeon-holding “sweatin’ is full of ____” or that bar is blahblahblah… people need to slightly get over themselves and realize they are their own enemy and are doing everyone a disservice continuing limiting themselves to what they think they like and the should start experiencing more of things they “might” like.
LA: The What’s Next Ohio: Electronic Music Showcase is a step in a new direction for our scene. Why did you want to put on this showcase? What motivated you to do this now?
SN: I want to show people here in Columbus that there are many talented and driven electronic acts. Dance parties are a dime a dozen anymore, which I don’t see as necessarily a bad thing. But I do feel that its splintering the community and making it harder to bring a diverse crowd under one roof. I think doing an event like What Next Ohio opens up the opportunity for people that are coming out to see certain acts to be exposed to something completely different than what they have in their head as to “what electronic music is”. Face it there are kids out there that just started listen to dubstep 6 months back and are super stoked on it and live for it, but I personally do not feel its healthy for them as music fans to submerse themselves in just one genre of electronic music. One of my typical catch phrases is, I want people to connect the dots and see where the music they loves comes from, takes from, is influenced by, what’s similar to it… and give some history and future to what they are really into at this certain point in music. This is no bag on dubstep at all, it’s an observation when a certain underground music blows up and has new fans tenfold in a year’s span. We have an obligation as a scene to educate younger kids with their roots and what things are really about. Otherwise we will end up with kids “growing up” and just dumping all of this excitement. Leaving with the mindset of “oh the crazy things I was into”. The end goal I feel most involved with this event and other local promoters is to create a city that openly supports its local talents and can self sustain this culture.
LA: Sweatin’ & KLVT have both been highly successful events for you, as you have been able to highlight many musical styles not heard in other venues in Columbus. What are your thoughts on the development of each show since they began?
SN: Sweatin’ has been through lots of reinventions. But for the most part the focus of Sweatin is to keep the format fun and slightly different from other parties. Its a homegrown party and has had its growing pains. In the end I like to keep Sweatin’ for the “townies”. Of course all are welcome to party and have a great time. What I means is, Sweatin was built because there wasn’t shit goin’ on, and we as a scene made something super fun and successful amongst ourselves. There’s a lot of community in that. KVLT was created to showcase acts that come from a much darker and experimental approach to electronic music. It as well has a visual direction that feeds of the minimal synth and goth scenes. We do them as often as we can, we like to use the night to support a touring act that is doing interesting things with music and to give them a large audience of people that appreciate their efforts.
LA: Being in music scenes for much of your life, what do you think about the Columbus electronic music scene today? How has this changed from 5-7 years ago?
SN: I love so many people involved in the scene right now. And love that most nights of the week there are kids playing electronic music in venues. 5-7 years ago, you had just a handful of events you could go to, sometimes that rarity made it exciting and most of the scene would guarantee be there. There were a lot more parties at people’s homes, from my end of the party spectrum at least. You have to realize that most of the kids I hang around with were never involved in some established electronic scene but were campus kids into hardcore punk, hip hop, indie, and whatever. We didn’t live to attend dance parties at bars and clubs. When Sweatin and Get Right began its because we couldn’t find houses to throw parties anymore. It was never about “lets do these parties at bars and clubs and make a established scene and career out of parties”. This shit just fell in our laps. Kareem(GR) and I still don’t view what we do as a career. We do it for fun, and our success has perks.
LA: Do larger neoraves and smaller bar nights both have a place in our scene today? Can they coexist?
SN: Ya, of course. I kind of put it in perspective in my head like this… Underground music is made for the simple reason of pushing boundaries and creating a self-sustaining community of like-minded people that will support your music. I hate the term, but tastemakers are people that strive to create new approaches and what eventually happens is those tastes hit a more mainstream crowd. This happens in all underground scenes, this isn’t exclusive to the age of Skrillex. What happens usually is the element of the music that made it so intriguing and different gets repurposed and more palatable over time that “edge” goes dull and the people that were creating it and taking risks become disinterested and start working on something more challenging… what is still left on the table starts getting more mutated and either runs out of steam with ideas or people start seeing profit in it and you have a pack of wolves trying to make a buck off it. It’s a stupid routine that gets repeated over and over with various musical genres. As for neoravers…this goes back to reasoning for doing an event such as WHAT NEXT OHIO, we have a huge contingent of young excited kids attracted this new massive “rave” thing. What we have the obligation of doing is educating them and exposing them to the amazing local and diverse acts we have HERE.
LA: Do you think one unified EDM community is possible in Columbus?
SN: Sure, but you have to realize that when there is only 2-3 nights of the week where 75% of population go out you will always have conflicting events. When money and ego is involved you start breaking down some unity. We are approaching what I call the moneygrab, where venues are starting to see the profit in what we do and I can tell you most venues do not have your best interest in mind as a promoter or dj…if you are not brining in numbers you are nothing to them. Columbus also lacks venues, let alone supportive venues. I would love to see 4-5 more spaces open. Legit raves need to happen, if the venues cant support a unifying scene then we should be able to do it on our own under our terms.
LA: What is your vision of the future for the Columbus EDM scene? What role do your events like Sweatin’, KLVT, & What’s Next Ohio play in that future?
SN: More local acts getting signed to labels, more of our djs touring, more spotlight on what we have going on here, real raves, more kids getting inspired to make music and to get active.
Sweatin Presents, as the whole umbrella to what I do sees 2012 and on bringing more one off special parties, usage of unique spaces for events, locals playing with national acts, and living the motto : smug like ohio
Check all the updates and special features for this saturdays show on Sweatin’s blog HERE.