My parents indulged my super power fantasies for several years. This is what good parents do. Cloaking devices, x-ray vision, you name it, I lived them all. This was because my folks, knew (hoped) I would follow the ‘normal’ path of development and grow out of it eventually. In fact, half the skill of being a good parent could be nothing more than working out how to disillusion kids without shattering their confidence. You don’t bring kids up, you let them down – but you do it gently.
My parents were justified in their beliefs – my comic book hero delusions faded by age ten – well, most of them. The socially unacceptable ones, at least. But what about those who never ‘grow out of it’, like Rudolph Hess, Adolf Hitler’s number two? The one who looked like Henry Rollins’ craggly lovechild. No? You know, the one who ‘escaped’ the third Reich in a fighter plane in some hair-brained (and hair-oiled) attempt to negotiate peace. But peace was not forthcoming for Hess. He crash landed the plane in rural Scotland, where he was apparently met by a non-plussed local with a pitchfork – the ultimate reality check.
It’s hard to know what Hess thought would happen, but then again, it’s hard to know what Hess thought about anything. This is, after all, a man who thought that he had psychic powers. Apparently, he was convinced he was psychokinetic (PK). For the Deputy Führer, PK wasn’t just ‘a freshness burst that refreshes your breath,’ it was also the ability to send glasses skating across table-tops, a skill that he would practice while surrounded by his personal guards. Given what we know about the arbitrary manias of the Nazi elite, you can imagine the pressure on the guards:
‘Look!’ says Hess, ‘It moved!’
‘Yes, Herr Deputy Führer!’, says the lowly guard, quietly muttering, ‘crackpot!’ under his breath.
The infallible belief in one’s own super power is analogous to what happens to rock stars who’ve been living inside the bubble of their own success for many years – surrounded by people who pander to their every whim, and who are desparately afraid of their (David Lee) wrath, should they shake the gilded cage of illusion. As ‘parents’, these terrified employees are failing their ‘children’, but the best bet is just to nod, smile, and take the money: for the Mariah Careys and James Hetfields of this world, it’s probably too late. The only type of ‘parent’ a rock star wants is the one who’s going to let them continue to sup the warm milk of the bottle of their fantasies.
But if you’re not privileged enough to be cosseted in a world of make believe à la Axl Rose or Rudolph Hess, it’s very difficult to maintain these kinds of fantasies. If your partner is any kind of ‘normal’ adult, then the reaction to your indulgent ‘Look, I can fly, I’m a plane, I’m superman…’ outbursts is probably a cold hard dose of reality. (S)he is the pitchfork-toting farmer to your Hess plane flight. And this is why you love him/her, strange as it may seem. (S)he’s prodding you for a reason: ‘reality’ might not be really real, but as a couple it’s all you share, it’s the essence of your ‘common ground’. Either you ‘ground the plane’ of your fantasies when (s)he asks you to or the whole thing crashes and burns. It’s either that, or (s)he joins you in midair…
Super power fantasies can consume your life to the point where you find yourself faced with a pitchfork or face down on the asphalt, but ultimately they’re all inside your head. However, somewhere over the North Atlantic in 2005, a new fantasy landed… and one which is scarily omnipresent. Mixing between two vinyl records, perfectly sufficient in 2003, suddenly became an unpardonable brake on creativity, and the search to take ‘total control of the creative process’ with a transparent, all-parameter controller began to possess the imaginations of people like Richie Hawtin and Robert (Monolake) Henke. Enter the custom control surface. Richie Hawtin describes it thus: The biggest thing that I’m looking for, or hoping for, is/are new control surfaces and interface devices for computers and technology… We need a new way of human/technology interaction.”
Unlike Hess, Axl or Mariah, Hawtin et al are not the only ones living in the fantasy. The idea of total, almost magical control has swiftly percolated through the industry, so by 2007, the distinct impression I get from interviewing producer/DJs is that everyone wants a fat controller of their very own, to have one and to be one… In becoming common, the shared fantasy has formed the new shared reality of electronic music. Jazz Mutant, makers of the ultra geek-chic ‘Dexter’ controller, sing the manic hymn from their website, and they only thing about them that’s depressed is their caps-lock button:
“HASN’T EVERY MUSICIAN OR PRODUCER FANTASIZED OF CONTROLLING THEIR FAVOURITE DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION BY TOUCHING THE ACTUAL USER INTERFACE DIRECTLY ON THE SCREEN? JAZZMUTANT HAS PARTNERED WITH LEADING SOFTWARE COMPANIES TO MAKE THIS DREAM A REALITY.”
And here you were thinking that DJing is still about mixing records? Who’s the deluded one now?
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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