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One of the most creative ways in which rave culture expresses itself is its party flyers. These handouts are to raves what graffiti art is to hip-hop and psychedelic posters were to the acid rock of the '70s. They give vision to rave's sounds. Sometimes--much like rappers' sampling old songs--they appropriate corporate logos with ironic visual twists. The MasterCard logo becomes "MasterRave," or Rice Krispies becomes "Rave Krisp E's." Other flyers employ 3-D images and wild metallic hues that draw inspiration from sci-fi films, anime, even the rounded, flower-power imagery of the Summer of Love. "In a lot of ways it's one of the most modern visual art forms you can see," says Eric Paxton Stauder, a member of Dots per Minute, a network of designers that focuses on rave flyers. "Stylistically, you see things in flyers that you don't see other places--uses of line work and fontography. It's open and unrestricted, and it's a testing ground for combining visual elements together."
Rave iconography is already being co-opted by Madison Avenue, which has learned all about digging up the underground and selling the dirt. TV ads for Toyota's Echo have the trippy look and feel of rave flyers (Toyota is sponsoring a U.S. tour of British electronica acts Groove Armada and Faze Action). Every song on Moby's 18-track album Play has been licensed, popping up in ads for the last episode of Party of Five, movies like The Beach and commercials for Nissan's Altima sedan and Quest minivan. Donna Karan's DKNY label plans to use deejay John Digweed's song Heaven Scent to promote a fragrance with the same name.
Wayne Friedman, entertainment-marketing reporter for Advertising Age, says today's admakers look to tap into underground movements quickly so that they can make use of sounds and images that aren't necessarily familiar but that pique interest. Acts like Moby fit the bill. Says Friedman: "It's almost like you can't be overly commercial when you're trying to make commercials."
Many ravers are wary and weary of the media's embrace. In particular, many believe that the press is more interested in writing about drugs than about the music--and that the press coverage is partly to blame for the supposed ecstasy boom. Says Jon Reiss, director of Better Living Through Circuitry: "The media hype says if you want to do drugs, come to these parties. So all these kids come to the parties looking for drugs. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Indeed, some of the biggest acts associated with the rave scene say they are drug free. Van Dyk says he was introduced to electronic music in East Germany, when he secretly tuned in to West German radio as a kid. He didn't need drugs to enjoy the music then, so he figures he doesn't need them now. Moby says he tried smoking pot when he was 11 or 12 so he could hang out with the "cool kids," but that was pretty much the end of his experimentation. Says Moby: "I've never tried ecstasy, I've never tried cocaine, I've never tried heroin. I don't think there's anything ethically wrong with drug use, but the reason I stay away from it is that I value my brain too much. I don't want to trust my synapses to some stranger that I met in a nightclub. I hope to use my brain for the rest of my life."