What made the early 2000s so great for dance music, according to Kid Kenobi

At the tail end of last year, Ministry of Sound kicked off one of their most popular tours to date. They brought together the likes of Kid Kenobi, John Course and Mark Dynamix for a very special reunion tour, celebrating the greatness that was dance music between the years of 2001 and 2004.

Inspired by the tour, Jesse “Kid Kenobi” Desenberg waxed lyrical on his blog about what made the early noughties so good for dance music. We thought what he had to say was on the money, so we asked Desenberg if we could republish his blog post on ITM and he was kind enough to say yes. He’ll be publishing a part two to this piece next week, so stay tuned for more – but we’ll let Jesse take it from here.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in the lead up to the MOS reunion shows, the interviewer asked us if we thought the 2001 – 2004 era could make a comeback.

The answer was clear to me: no. Why? Because it was a convergence of so many factors that could never be recreated no matter how much we tried. For me these were they way music was distributed (especially to DJs), the place held by dance music as it emerged from the ‘underground’ into the mainstream, the pretty much non-existence of the internet, and lockout laws.

“There was no way for people to hear dance music other than to actually go and see a DJ play it”

In the late 90s and early 2000s the only way most people could hear dance music was in a club, played by a DJ. There were of course compilations put out by labels like Ministry of Sound, and community radio stations that played it, but the main source was clubs and DJs.

As most dance music was pressed on vinyl (especially the more underground styles) there was no way for people to hear dance music other than to actually go and see a DJ play it. This intrinsically made DJs important and club nights special, as both were gatekeepers to a sound that didn’t exist anywhere else.

Of course anyone could buy vinyl, but buying vinyl in and of itself was an art form. It was something you had to be dedicated to. It wasn’t a matter of clicking ‘buy’ on a website, it was about physically taking yourself to a record store on the right days (shipment days), getting to know the staff, listening to a million records in store, and then spending some decent cash on the tunes themselves ($15 – $20 a 12 inch, which could mean just one track). Yep, I would often starve in order to have new music.

“Yep, I would often starve in order to have new music”

That’s what DJs did and that’s why people followed them, and in turn why people went to clubs. DJs were dedicated, and worked hard to bring that music to the people. Not everyone could do it. In short, this made DJs ‘special’ and in turn helped make club nights special. It made the whole thing special.

In 2016 there seems to be less division between what is accessible to DJs and what is accessible to the general public. In fact DJs and the general public often have access to the same music at the same time. Many record labels release music publicly around the same time DJs receive it on promo, which means the whole concept of DJs being the ‘gateway’ to ‘special’ and ‘unheard’ music that couldn’t be accessed ‘anywhere else’ has pretty much gone out the window.


Kid Kenobi in 1995, when he first learnt to DJ

I recall having promos for months before anyone else got them. Imagine that? I was the only person in all of Australia with a tune that tonnes of people loved, wanted to hear and lost their shit to when they heard it. Of course I would cain those tunes and as a consequence, built a good part of my career and profile on having tunes other people didn’t. That kind of culture doesn’t exist as much these days for non-artist DJs.

With everyone now having access to the same music at the same time, I think a lot of people now think the only difference between those on the dancefloor and the DJ, is that the DJ just happens to be the person in control of the music at that point in time. They think that anyone could do it. It’s the reason why I’ve often been asked if people can plug their phones into the decks so they could hear their favourite tune – that would of been unheard of 15 years ago (both because phones didn’t play music and because people would never cross that line with a DJ unless they had a dub plate). In this sense the cultural importance of the DJ has shifted, and perhaps lessened in some ways.

“Without a doubt, clubs and local DJs were far more “special” in the early 2000s then they are now”

In essence the concept of what clubs are and what DJs mean has shifted dramatically. Without a doubt, clubs and local DJs were far more “special” in the early 2000s then they are now because they were pretty much the only way you could hear dance music.

But that’s what made those days great. Imagine not having access to certain tunes all week, and then finally getting to go out on the weekend to hear those songs played by your favourite DJ – no wonder there was such an electric energy in so many clubs, and why so many local DJs could build such strong followings.

Now that we all have the same music, I’m not sure we will ever see that level of excitement return to local clubs with local DJs who are just playing dope tunes. It was a time and a place, altered forever by the rise of the internet and a new era of ‘artist-DJs’. More on that next time!

Ministry’s Reunion Tour has already Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, with Darwin, Perth and Brisbane still to come. To grab a ticket head to the MOS website.