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The Vinyl Frontier


Why that is remains open for debate. Electronic music has been trumpeted as the next big thing for at least five years, and everyone with even a slight connection to the D.J. world has an opinion about whether American audiences are ready to embrace a genre of music that has its roots in black and gay dance clubs. Nevertheless, the term paradigm shift is thrown around with alarming frequency.

"I really do think the paradigm is shifting away from the electric guitar being the dominant force in American youth culture," says Baxley. "But there's also this aspect to the American appetite for culture that's based somewhat on a macho idea -- the rock god as sexual animal -- that is somewhat in conflict with club culture. Then again, all we're really talking about with D.J.'s today is exploring the boundaries of music and technology, and those boundaries are being explored in every other arena."

Van Helden has his own theories, as does his friend and fellow house D.J. Junior Sanchez. Born in Newark, Sanchez had his uncle drive him to his first D.J. gig, at Times Square's Club USA, when he was 15. He made his first house record while still a sophomore in high school. He met Van Helden at a rave when he was 17.

"One thing is, Americans just like to be able to look at someone screaming to a crowd," says Sanchez. "They also like it if that someone is white -- or looks like Ricky Martin."

Sanchez and Van Helden are eating dinner at a little Italian place around the corner from Van Helden's loft. It's cold outside, but both are still tan from the vacation they took in Puerto Rico, where they also performed after playing in Montreal on New Year's Eve.

"Another thing that people don't take into account," says Van Helden, "is that D.J.'s, as opposed to, like, everyone else in music, genuinely don't really give a fuck about being huge. That's sort of looked down on."

They both laugh.

"But what do I know, right?" says Van Helden. "I can't keep up with it all. I mean, I go to find my records at the Virgin Megastore and they're under 'Electronica.' What's that? I don't even know what that is. The first time I heard it was when Madonna came out with her last album and there was a D.J. on it."

More laughs.

"Whatever," Sanchez says. "Just as long as we can keep doing our thing." A waiter brings their food. Talk turns to Van Helden's plans for later -- he's going out to a club.

"Where?" asks Sanchez.

Van Helden smiles. "Anywhere that will let me in."


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