Camden Town's Music History and Electronic Future

June 12, 2024
Written by
Buster Bennett
Camden Town's Music History and Electronic Future

Discover Camden Town's  Rich Music Scene and the UK's best Electronic Music School

Camden Town, located a stone's throw from Central London, is one of the world's biggest music destinations. Camden Town has been the cultural epicentre of many of the UK's counter-cultural music scenes and has nurtured some of the biggest musical talents in the world. It's no wonder why Camden Town is the biggest tourist destination in London attracting millions of music fans and aspiring musicians.

Camden Town's influence in music began in the 1960s with the Beat Music, Rock 'n' Roll and Psychedelic Rock scenes. The Roundhouse, originally built as a railway engine shed in 1847, was one of the first major music venues in Camden. In the 1960s, it was transformed into a music and arts venue and hosted concerts for famous rock bands including Pink Floyd and The Doors. Rock and guitar music were woven into the fabric of Camden's diverse musical output from the very start.

The Roundhouse as it stands today

Fast-forward to the 1970s and the famous Camden Lock Market was founded alongside another famous Camden venue, The Falcon (later renamed Dingwalls.) Punk Rock was birthed in Camden and became the counter-cultural sound of the 70s. Bands including The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones took centre stage in Camden during the 70s. To this day, Punk Rock is still a major music scene that calls Camden its home. Later in the 70s Joy Division performed at Dingwalls and The Cure performed regularly in the town.

Even the iconic David Bowie played The Roundhouse in the early 70s along with archetypal groups The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and more.

Music in Camden continued to evolve and in the last 70s and early 80s and Camden Town became a crucible of Ska, 2 Tone, Reggae, Mod Revival, New Wave, Goth, Industrial, Alternative Rock, and Post Punk.

The Dublin Castle on Parkway became another vital performance venue for emerging bands from 1979. It hosted performances in the late 70s and early 80s for hundreds of bands including The Specials, The Police, The Clash, The Jam, The Pogues, The Psychedelic Furs, The Members, The Ruts, The Vibrators and more.

The Electric Ballroom, another famous venue still around today, hosted performances for bands including Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Stranglers, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Adverts, The Slits and more. Many of these bands would play multiple venues in Camden making numerous appearances over the decades.

Up the High Street near Mornington Crescent, stood a grand old theatre used as a cinema. In 1972 it was repurposed into a live music venue and named The Music Machine. It later became Camden Palace and nowadays it's called KOKO. In the early 'The Music Machine' days the venue played host to many of the bands playing the Camden scene and was to become one of the biggest and most iconic venues in Camden Town.

Other notable pubs that hosted bands during this era include; The Enterprise, The Gold Lion, The Lord Stanley and The Abbey Tavern.

Dingwalls in Camden Town

The scene in Camden was exploding in the 1970s and Camden had easily become the most important centre of music in the world at the time. The sheer intensity of the furnace that created new music genres, bands and sub-cultures was unmatched by any other region. To have a small town play host to the emergence of globally important music trends was truly something special.

In the 1980s music was electrified. The popularity of synthesisers and electronic sounds reinvigorated the music scene and Camden was at the forefront. Bands like Soft Cell, The Human League, New Order, Erasure, Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Culture Club (Boy George) and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD performed in Camden. The electronic music scene in Camden also embraced DJ culture in the 80s and venues regularly hosted bands and DJs. These bands and DJs pushed the boundaries of popular and underground music and catered to the various counter-cultural movements Camden housed.

In the 1990s Camden Town continued its meteoric rise to international musical acclaim. Britpop had arrived and there was an explosion of bands like Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede, Supergrass, The Verve, The Boo Radleys, Elastica and The Charlatans regularly performing in Camden. During the same period, Grunge was imported from America with bands like Nirvana performing at Dingwalls while Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Hole became household names. In the late nineties, Coldplay performed an early gig at The Dublin Castle.

During the 90s Hip-Hop also found a home in Camden with Public Enemy and The Roots finding the town's open-minded approach to genre-bending invigorating. Trip-Hop groups Massive Attack, Faithless, Portishead, Morcheeba, Lamb and Sneaker Pimps found common ground in Camden too. Drum & Bass and Jungle were also important genres of electronic music and Dingwalls hosted many D&B events.

Camden's live music venues increased in numbers with the addition of the world famous Jazz Cafe, The Hawley Arms, The Monarch (later rebranded as The Barfly, and again later as Camden Assembly) and the Lock Tavern adding the districts draw. The heavy metal scene also gained popularity and venues like The Underworld (located under The World's End) The Devonshire Arms (The Dev) and The Black Heart became local hotspots for metal heads.

While firmly the focal point of punk rock and guitar music, Camden's electronic music scene was also growing during the 90s. Famous DJs such as Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Sasha, LTJ Bukem, Goldie and Paul Oakenfold all performed in Camden Town. Camden Palace, Electric Ballroom and the Roundhouse played host to the biggest DJ performances in Camden, while smaller venues supported upcoming acts.

KOKO in Camden Town

Electronic groups Prodigy, Faithless, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers performed in and had strong links with Camden Town's underground dance scene. Along with other pockets of the UK, Camden became a home to alternative dance music. Genres like Techno, Trance, Psytrance and UKG we all embraced. Notably, UK Garage rose to prominence with artists like DJ EZ, Artful Dodger, and Craig David gaining notoriety in the 90s and was popular with Camden's youth.

Camden was always a place with its finger on the pulse of electronic music. Ravers would flock from all over the country and beyond to find flyers for club nights and warehouse raves, buy records and even clobber. Alternative rave-wear retailers like Cyberdog would spring up to provide clubbers with appropriate clothing and even host DJs within their shops.

The turn of the millennium in Camden Town saw no slowdown in the area's creative output. The sound of Camden Town continued to evolve while Indie-Dance, Electroclash, Grime and Emo took the limelight. The mass adoption of the internet and early social media platforms like Myspace and the MP3 player oversaw a new mash-up generation. Musicians would freely cross-pollinate different musical styles and subcultures to create a myriad of offspring. While this process was nothing new, the internet greatly accelerated it by linking musicians in Camden to a wider global network at the touch of a button.

Inspired by rock and eighties Synthpop, Electroclash musicians, DJs and bands like Chicks on Speed, Ladytron, Adult., Peaches, Le Tigre, Miss Kitten and Felix D Housecat would perform in the UK and Camden Town. It's worth noting that during this era Soho and Shoreditch played preeminent roles in the London's nightlife and music scenes and many alternative acts would also play in these districts. Club nights like NagNagNag at The Ghetto and KashPoint (various venues) would become zeitgeist melting pots whose club kids would also frequent venues in Camden and Shoreditch. These three musical neighbourhoods were vitally important at the time alongside South London scenes in Brixton, New Cross Gate, Camberwell and Peckham. West London also had some influence, notably stemming The Notting Hill Arts Club and Notting Hill Carnival.

Primarily a sound from East London, Grime created a new off-shoot of Hip Hop. Artists including Wiley, Dizzie Rascal, Lady Sovereign, Lethal Bizzle, Kano, Skepta and Jammer would also perform in the borough of Camden.

The electroclash scene was relatively short-lived and was soon replaced by Electro, New Rave and Indie-Dance. Groups like LCD Soundsystem, Justice, Simian Mobile Disco and Digitalism would focus on the electronic aspect of electroclash but carry forward the energy of rock music. Their performances would be electronic and often consist of hybrid DJ sets.

Bands like Klaxons, CSS, Shitdisco!, Hadouken and Crystal Castles would take rock music to new frontiers crossing the boundaries of rave and guitar music incorporating computer game nostalgia overtones and a punk aesthetic. These bands were often labelled as 'New Rave' however the term New Rave was originally coined to describe the subculture of the time (the mashup Myspace generation) and not a genre of music. Club nights like Antisocial and All You Can Eat would epitomise the New Rave culture in London.

These groups and DJs were influenced by The Second Summer of Love and the story of rave culture in the late 80s and early 90s. In essence, New Rave was the first internet generation's reimagining of 90s rave culture, infused with a kind of cultural copy-and-paste that reflected the growing diversity of London both culturally, aesthetically, musically and politically. New Rave club kids created a resurgence of London's dress-up culture and often wore eclectic self-made outfits, as if the internet had thrown up on them.

While Electroclash, Electro and New Wave were more underground, Indie Dance was the most popular trend to blow up in the 00s with bands including The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Ting Tings, Gossip, The Rapture, Foals, Friendly Fires, Hot Chip, The xx, Metronomy, MGMT, The Presets, and more making appearances in Camden and London as a whole.

More internationally and broad was the American-influenced Emo music scene, popular in Camden. Camden's new generation of goth-inspired punks embraced bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, Green Day and Avril Lavigne.

In the late '00s Camden Town once again found itself the centre of action and Amy Winehouse rose to fame. Her music was heavily influenced by Camden's unique bohemian atmosphere coupled with Jazz, R&B and Soul. After her death, it became a sound that would become intertwined with Camden's rich cultural heritage. A statue was even erected in her memory. During this time, bands including The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Florence & The Machine, London Grammar and the Arctic Monkeys were popular.

During the '00s and the 2010s, Camden became so popular as a tourist destination that many creatives fled east. Central London was also losing venues at an ever-increasing pace so musicians and artists began to favour East London. Brick Lane and Shoreditch were the go-to destinations but quickly became gentrified. London's underground music scenes then began to spread further east and north into Hackney, Hackney Wick, Tottenham and further afield. However, Camden still retains an impressive number of music venues and a thriving live music scene unmatched by any other area in London. Camden's music scene has branched out to offer even more variety and diversity with many hip-hop and EDM nights and is still a major music centre in London, the UK and if not, the world.

Camden Town's True Genius

Camden's true genius is that it has always been the home of the outcasts, the freaks and the weirdos. Camden Town is a safe harbour, where creative musicians and artists can freely experiment and be encouraged to break the mould. Camden Town has always been at the forefront of musical innovation. As a result, many sub-cultures call Camden their home. There is something for everyone in Camden Town.

It's clear to see why aspiring musicians flock to Camden Town to enrich their lives with the area's musical history. Camden is one of the best places to forge a new music career and London Sound Academy (LSA) is at the forefront of electronic music in Camden. While guitar music is an evergreen trend in Camden, electronic music and electronic dance music are on the rise. EDM is a growing branch of Camden's music scene and the fastest growing sector in the music industry. The digitisation of music and its accompanying technological advancements have opened music education to a wider audience. If you want to learn how to create and perform electronic music and become part of Camden Town's musical story London Sound Academy is a fantastic launch pad.

London Sound Academy in Camden Town

London Sound Academy (LSA) is an electronic music academy based in Camden Town, London, UK. LSA was founded by Buster Bennett in 2009, initially under the name 808 DJ Academy and later re-branded to London Sound Academy in 2015.

Buster was a notable DJ and club promoter in London during the 00s heavily involved in the electroclash, electro and new rave scenes. His club nights Anti Social, Calling All Tribes and Nuke Them All were all influential parties during the decade, often garnering the eye of national and international press including Paper Magazine, NYC, i-D Magazine and Time Out. Buster was also a music journalist working with zeitgeist music magazines SuperSuper and Disorder. As a DJ, Buster toured the world with his distinctive mash-up style of bass and electronic music supporting the likes of M.I.A and Diplo.

In 2008 Buster began teaching privately and later in 2009 established 808 DJ Academy offering DJ lessons from the upstairs room at The Ghetto on Old Street. Later the studio would move to Egg and rebranded to London Sound Academy when launching a new studio in Camden Market. Growing in size, the academy began offering both DJ and music production tuition and expanded with several small studios in Soho, Hoxton and Hackney. After the pandemic, LSA closed its smaller studios to focus on a new much larger cutting-edge campus in Camden Town which would house its expanded course offering. During this time, the faculty continued to grow and now comprises of eighteen tutors of international merit.

In 2023 London Sound Academy gained industry recognition and was awarded the coveted status of Official Pioneer DJ Education Partner. This accolade recognised LSA's contribution to excellence in the field of electronic music tuition. LSA also has long-standing industry relationships with Ministry of Sound, Egg London, elrow and many clubs that help provide real-world experience for LSA's alumni.

Since LSA was founded in 2009, it has taught some of the UK's most influential DJs and producers. Alumni and students include Aluna George, Sarah Story, Jammer & Skepta, Alex Mills, Tough Love, Skin, Katherine Ellis, Kasra, James Haskell, Steven Bartlett, Romy, Bimini, Crystal, Josh Le Tissier, Samantha Togni, Ryan Spicer, Leo Kalyan, Jevanni Letford, Shane Codd, Danny Rhys, Geminis, Arielle Free, Angie Brown, Markhese, GXD, Seedphrase, Lady Tazz, Mickey Friedmann, Lowsteppa, Franky Wah, Toby Green, Bestley, Sophia Kearny, Liam Cox, Ali Story, Nwando Ebizie, Becca D, Amazonica, Minna, Lottie Lee, Harriet Scott & more.

London Sound Academy (LSA) is truly London's premier electronic music school, offering unparalleled opportunities for DJs and electronic music producers.

The DJ Booth at London Sound Academy in Camden Town

LSA's Camden Town Campus

London Sound Academy's Camden Town campus is a creative environment where talent can thrive. The studios are adorned with art, flooded with light and brimming with good vibes. At LSA you will find the cutting-edge of DJ technology coupled with professional music production studios. Here’s why London Sound Academy in Camden Town is the perfect place for aspiring electronic musicians to learn how to DJ or produce.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

As a Pioneer DJ Education partner, LSA's DJ studios are fitted with top-of-the-range DJ equipment. Studio One is the biggest and best-equipped DJ studio in the UK and is the perfect place to film content, record podcasts, have a DJ photoshoot, practice, and learn the skill of DJing. Our music production studios and acoustically perfect production pods give our students the habitat they need to grow as creatives.

World-Class Expert Instructors

London Sound Academy's faculty, tutors and guest lecturers are world-renowned. LSA is home to artists who hold Global Talent accolades, inspiring the next generation of DJs and producers. LSA's carefully curated team brings an international wealth of experience, wisdom and industry insight.

Hands-On Learning

We believe in learning by doing, so all our courses emphasise practical hands-on techniques. With both one-to-one and group tuition, we can deliver programs that suit the modern learner. Our accelerated courses mean you can learn new skills at a deeper level and get real-world experience. We take DJ coaching to new levels with the use of the latest DJ tech coupled with incredible tutors. The Elite DJ Course is recognised as the most advanced DJ course in the world. Similarly, LSA's production lessons are also hands-on, making sure all our students are confident using industry-standard software and hardware. LSA also boasts an in-house record label to release production graduates' music.

Networking Opportunities

London Sound Academy hosts a monthly networking event for students, alumni, faculty and music industry professionals. LSA's networking events have become a hotbed of connectivity in the London music scene and attracts the attention of the industry. If you want to launch your music career LSA's monthly social is an unmissable opportunity. In addition, LSA runs numerous events at some of London's biggest electronic music venues. The networking possibilities for LSA students and alumni are immense.

Performance Opportunities

London Sound Academy's DJ graduates have the unparalleled opportunity to perform at some of the most famous venues in London including Ministry of Sound, Egg London and XOYO. Furthermore, LSA organises DJ performances in Ibiza during the summer months. These opportunities LSA organises are astonishingly valuable for alumni as it gives them work experience within the music industry. These experiences provide enriching on-the-job training and are totally unique to London Sound Academy.

Industry Connections

As the UK's most established electronic music academy, London Sound Academy has forged many important industry relationships. Strategic partners include The Ministry of Sound, Egg London, XOYO, Louder, elrow, Pioneer DJ (AlphaTheta), Beatport and more. Students and alumni benefit from LSA's important connections.

Five Star Reputation

Students studying at London Sound Academy are treated as individuals and receive tailor-made support and learning experiences. This personal approach to electronic music education has created impressive student success stories and resulted in a five-star reputation with hundreds of heartfelt testimonials.

Become Part of Camden's Musical History

If you want to become part of Camden's rich musical heritage we invite you to discover a passion for electronic music at LSA. Our studios are open seven days a week for DJ and music production courses, masterclasses, seminars and more.

Our friendly team can answer any questions you have and direct you to the best music course for you in Camden. Reach out to our office using our contact form.

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