In addition to his role as transformational deity to the rock and pop worlds, David Bowie left an indelible touch on electronic music. His mid-70s experimental work proved formative for a nascent avant-garde scene and a vast swath of DJs responded with tributes over the years, using his compositions as jumping-off points for head-spinning productions. But in the wake of the art-pop legend's death, it's become apparent that beyond his direct contributions to the dance world, he's had an immeasurable impact on the scene's younger practitioners. Techno pioneers, avant-pop luminaries, and ambient zoners alike all took to Twitter after his death to process the passing of an inspiration.
Words always fail when grappling with the loss of an icon, and even moreso when attempting to distill a man who so readily defied easy definition. For this reason, THUMP reached out to a just a few of the producers and composers influenced and impacted by Bowie's life and work—including Tiga, ex-Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt, spaced-out experimentalist Maria Minerva, and more—to pay tribute to a man whose singular vision sparked several generations of auteurs and iconoclasts.
Bowie was at the very core of believing you can be somebody strange and mysterious and creative and successful and cool and interesting and funny and intelligent all without compromise or contradiction. He was not a god or a guru or a hero (maybe a bit of those), but he was proof that it was possible. Living proof. The only argument you needed against the doubters and the garbage and the compromises. And he made the best music.
2. Steve Hauschildt, Producer/Composer (Ex-Emeralds)
I'm certainly not a scholar of his work, nor am I the most ardent fan of his entire discography. But David Bowie's music has touched my life at certain times like many others and has proved to be one of the more enduring legacies in popular music. You would be hard-pressed to find a person who can't find something to like across his discography, given his unique ability to both adapt and be transgressive simultaneously. When I was a teenager I inherited a worn copy of Station to Station from the remainder of my father's record collection from the 70s and 80s before I ever purchased my first vinyl LP. So his music has unintentionally had a kind of familial, relatable (not alien) quality to it for me from the beginning.
Fast forward to the mid oughts at the onset of Emeralds. While stoned out of our gourds, our "spiritual advisor" Witchbeam blew our minds with the b-side to Low. 'What is this strange music that sounds like early Cluster doing on a David Bowie record?" we thought. With regards to Low and the rest of the "Berlin Trilogy," it's important to understand the contributions of both Visconti and Eno in tandem with Bowie if you're going to appreciate its influence on ambient music. But also keep in mind, they will always colloquially be David Bowie records and that is what is more important since many people who heard these records aren't really trying to pick them apart.
Certainly it's apparent that tracks like "Subterraneans" and "Art Decade" were a kind of genesis of sorts; a precursor to Eno's Ambient 1: Music For Airports which would be released the following year. Equally as influential is the koto and string-synth heavy track "Moss Garden" on Heroes from the same year. In 2009, with an advance, I purchased an old Eventide Harmonizer and used it extensively on the recordings for the album Does It Look I'm Here.
Only years later I would find out that it was the device creating many of the time-destroying, crazy artifacts on some of those tracks that blew my mind way back when. It's even more discernible on the Low bonus tracks 'Some Are' and 'All Saints' if you're keeping count. In any case I would say there has always been an underlying influence from his records despite the equipment and contributions of Visconti/Eno. It was ultimately Bowie's visions of the unseen which pushed the music forward to a new place I think. Rest in peace.
3. Olle Cornéer, Dada Life
I remember being 16 or so and pressing down the distortion pedal with my foot and playing the riff from "Ziggy Stardust" on my guitar. I felt like I owned the world. Those moments...that's whats music is all about. After that, David Bowie has followed me through my life with music in a lot of different ways. When I read about his death I just didn't find any words—and decided to record a short cover instead. That's why I love music. Music doesn't need words or explaining.
4. Maria Minerva, Songwriter/Producer
Everyone has their own idea of Bowie. I was never a Bowie superfan and yet, his death comes as a complete shock. Bowie was the king of the self-styled, king of the working-class-gone-art-school—very authentic in that sense, despite all the different masks and personas. These days, it's rich kids who make artsy music, and the execs who tell 'em what to wear. In that sense, there will never be another Bowie.
My favorite Bowie "album" is the B-side of Low, produced in collaboration with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. A true masterpiece that pays homage to the Eastern Block ("Subterraneans," "Weeping Wall," "Warszawa"), something that I—as someone born in the USSR during its final years—truly appreciate. Bowie said he dove into this subject matter after living in sunny and coked-out Los Angeles (my current hometown). The result is a deeply cathartic voyage into... what it's like to come out on the other side. The other side of west/east, darkness/light, but also drugs. I can relate in so many ways.
We have lost a true visionary.
5. Kevin McHugh (aka Ambivalent)
So many people felt they knew David Bowie because his identity shone through each mask he wore, every character he showed us. Every time he shifted characters, a slightly clearer picture of a remarkable person stood out in the erasure, and we recognized a bit of ourselves. Each bold new character broke through a wall that constrained us in our own lives. If you were trapped by outdated rules of gender, genre, race, culture, class, cliché or some musical pretense, you could see Bowie stride through the same wall and suddenly feel a little safer to be free. And he did it with a kind of captivating grace, musicianship and style that made it cool to be weird. This became his trademark more than any particular sound or image.
For so many of us who are outsiders, musicians or artists, he showed us a way into ourselves by taking fascinating, elegant, terrifying risks. He didn't only cross boundaries, he stood right over them and refused to pick a side, until there wasn't a boundary at all. It's entirely fitting that one of his most famous songs is about standing at a wall, declaring that "the shame was on the other side." That wall, and so many others, are gone now, and so is he. But the feeling he gave us is still here. He let us be heroes.
6. Catherine Britton (aka Cassy)
Now that David Bowie is dead and I am older and more experienced with life and music and the industry, my understanding of his grandeur is even deeper. He must have been an angel sent from heaven to shine this bright and deeply creative light upon us that will never ever let us go. He managed to touch all of us so deeply and profoundly. It's breathtaking. He means the world not only to his friends and family, but to all of us looking for more than just answers in music. He is it. He is the godfather of popular music and expression, style and performance, artistry and fame. He mastered it all—an incredible existence. [I'm] so happy and proud to be sharing this love for him with millions of other people.
7. Nathan Broaddus (aka Evenings)
David Bowie was one of the few true rocks stars of what now seems like a halcyon age. No matter what Bowie did, it never seemed stale or contrived. His interests seemed to genuinely lie in art and expression, and not relevance for the sake of attention. He just did what interested him, and he, if anyone, was frankly himself. I admire him for keeping his health issues private, and his choice to bow out with grace. His death still seems very unreal. His career obviously speaks for itself, and his influence is extremely pervasive to this day. He both lived and died artistically, leaving a final album as a parting gift. One can only hope to live a life so stylized and brilliant, and I'm sure wherever Bowie is now, It's a more interesting place because of his presence.