Goodbye

In my 50 years on this planet, I’ve become the guy you could depend on to tell you anything you wanted to know about the 80s and 90s punk, indie, mainstream, garage, and alternative bands and their music. Still, a genre and culture always intrigued me because of its electronic composition and outlandish parties: Trance.

America was always a few years behind Europe when it came to a lot of music, so I had little choice but to pirate the Pete Tong hosted BBC Radio 1 Creamfields and Gatecrasher mixes that literally took hours to download from my dial-up internet connection with Napster. Coupled with reading about and looking at photos of our favorite DJs in actual magazines, I developed a wonder and fascination with European people and their surroundings. But, once the scene shifted from the underground to mainstream EDM, leaving many Trance producers and DJs in a quandary of whether to stay or chase the EDM money, my love for the genre began to fade, and eventually lost touch. 

Fast forward almost 20 years to a late night in 2017, a rabid addiction to alcohol and cocaine, and I aimlessly searched YouTube for clips of the Tom Cruise movie “Risky Business.” Don’t ask me why because I’ll never answer you truthfully, but what I found instead was a photo of a record label that I had not seen in ages. The blue background with white lettering made me say to myself, and I’ll never forget this, “That’s Paul van Dyk’s label, so this song has to be good (I now laugh at that), and hit play on the “Risky Business” title. Suffice to say, that song changed my entire outlook on life.

Courtesy: VANDIT Records

I got sober on December 15, 2017, and wasn’t on Facebook because I had probably gotten booted for some bullshit reason. I made a new profile and sought after the guy whose name was attached to the VANDIT Records song: James Cottle. He accepted my friend request and became the first Trance artist on my list, and I was stoked. My journey back into Trance had begun.

After chatting with James and not understanding how evolved Trance had become or even the significant players in the game, I started hunting for relevant names. And, through “mutual friends,” my friend’s list grew along with my desire to provide something articulate to the genre I was just reintroduced to.

Having written for a local newspaper as the beat writer for a local professional baseball team, I wanted to continue my part-time love of paid journalism, but this time I wanted to get to know these Trance artists – you know, really get to know the person – not the same bullshit questions every other writer asks about inspiration and choice of DAW. 

One day after a chat, James agreed to be interviewed for a feature article – the first for both of us musically. With the article in hand, I started to shop it as any good freelance journalist would to all the blogs I could find on the internet. I purposely stayed away from the “big boys” like Mixmag, DJ Mag, Dancing Astronaut, and EDM.com due to fear of rejection. No one replied. Not even a “No” or a “Fuck You.” I was devastated. So, I sent the article to the above-mentioned “big boys” for pure shits and giggles, and low and behold, a response. 

“It’s a great article that deserves to be shared” were the words that I’ll never forget from the-then editor of EDM.com, and as a freelance journalist would naturally respond, I asked, “Great! What does it pay?” Again, like many freelancers, I was used to being paid for my work. I would never work without pay or expect anyone else to because I was raised to fairly compensate people for the time, energy, and even travel it takes for services rendered – more on this in a moment. 

The editor responded that they didn’t have it in their budget to pay for articles even though they had a Facebook following alone of over a million people. On the heels of James’ newcomer status, I was instead offered a byline and a bi-weekly “Breaking Through” series highlighting up-and-coming producers – for no pay. I accepted, and wrote several feature articles on people that are now some of today’s top Trance and Progressive names before quitting eight months later – because I wasn’t getting paid – but the fact that I had “Contributing writer at EDM.com” on my Facebook profile had afforded me the luxury of adding every relevant name in the industry.

Taking a break and deciding what to do next, I consulted with two prominent people in the scene that I also wrote about. They both recognized my talent and suggested I launch my own website. So, with the help of a friend in picking out the name, Trance Farm was born on March 11, 2019 (311 day for fans of the band). Now I could do and write what I wanted (or so I thought), and I could explore topics that other blogs wouldn’t touch. After all, I had nothing to lose, right?

Wrong.

You see, when you run a blog (let’s face it, that’s what Trance Farm and all the others are) with journalistic integrity, you begin to experience things that are often hidden from you when you’re just a contributing writer for someone else. As a contributing writer, it was my job to get to know the person musically and personally for the reader to enjoy, and nothing more.

As Trance Farm’s owner, it was my responsibility to read and answer countless emails a day from publicists and companies from all around the world asking if I’d provide coverage for an event, product, or artist. In addition, there were feature articles on people I thought had a story to tell, but they were very time-consuming to write; a typical feature could take anywhere from 10-15 hours to complete, and together with the endless stream of record company promos on top of a 50 hour work week, Trance Farm was literally becoming a second job and it wasn’t fun anymore. Plus, I was going against my morals of being paid or paying for services rendered. But this was somehow different, it was as if I was putting in sweat equity for something I truly believed in, but the blinders were so tight that I couldn’t see how it was negatively affecting me.

I noticed throughout my four years of writing the trust I developed with most of the people in Trance, and it surprised me how much of a punching bag I was for many of you. Being told things in confidence, knowing that I wouldn’t print anything, I became a pseudo therapist because I was the only one of “importance” you could tell without fear of retribution. So, the dirty laundry spewed like a volcano, and we were all 12 again.

But this time, it was people’s careers or side projects at stake.

In the end, it’s a pretty small world, especially in Trance. If you start writing articles on topics you feel strongly about that go against the grain even though you’ve multiple sources telling you the same bad thing, you’ll be blacklisted in a span of one Facebook post. So, for years I held my tongue and typing fingers at bay.

But, wait, don’t people deserve to hear the truth and decide for themselves what’s appropriate? That’s the sticky part, isn’t it? How far down this rabbit hole do I wanna go? Do I want to expose who is ghosted and by who, or who is paid for gigs and who isn’t, who is blatantly displaying a false online facade and the majority of the scene is buying it, what really happened with Gatecrasher, why more than half the people you respect online can’t DJ worth a shit and the other half have their music produced for them, and how multiple people were chosen as A&R’s for reputable record companies that had never created a song of their own in their life, how people you interviewed only a year ago and admitted to wanting to learn how to produce are now signing contracts with the most “respected” record labels in the world, and using your name and status as a way to solicit sex from up and coming attractive females – yes, there’s literally a casting couch.

I can go on for several more paragraphs, but I’ll spare the humility of some of you who will read this because it’s about you.

There are some good people in the scene, and I’ve made some great friendships along the way. Without mentioning names, I hope you know who you are. These are the few people I chat with on an unfortunate infrequent basis (we all live in our tiny world bubbles), and I genuinely hope that continues.

Back in July, I created a two-part Facebook post tagging every person that had been the subject of a feature while asking them to print the article(s) as a keepsake when Trance Farm went offline. Some of the more appreciative people thanked me in the comments, but only one person messaged saying they had printed the article(s) and kept it. Was I expecting more or being selfish in wanting some feedback in return? Probably, but I deserved it.

With all this being said, there’s a catalyst to the manipulation, deception, and narcissism in which the Trance scene thrives, Facebook. The social media giant is an addiction, and I’ve overcome several in my life, most recently cigarettes, so along with the scene, I’m leaving that cesspool of an environment as well.

I’ve heard it all: “Don’t worry about the negatives, man. Only concentrate on what you can control. Don’t let those negative people affect what you’re trying to do in improving the scene.” Oh, bullshit. Come on. For such a small genre, I’ve personally witnessed more corruption and lies over the four years that I have been back than at any collective points in my life.

In closing, I wrote over a thousand articles, and I’m damn proud of every one them. I brought more positivity and truth to a struggling scene when it needed it the most. I wish it didn’t have to end like this, but many of you made it this way, not me. So, I’ll continue to listen to my favorite DJs and radio programs on SoundCloud during my off time – that I’ll always enjoy, but quite frankly, I don’t need you, and I pray to whatever God may be above that a good portion of you can live with yourself when you’re old and gray.

Erik Lake

All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted.

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