The Scratch Pad: Dallas Dub Assembly
The Dallas Dub Assembly is a DJ and MC collective. The Dallas Dub Assembly is a record label and production squad. Oh, and Dub Assembly is a quite popular monthly event at the Green Elephant. The Dallas Dub Assembly is a self-proclaimed "sound system." And in the strange and beautiful saga of Dallas dance music, the guys in Dub Assembly are immortalizing their story as the pioneers of the dubstep scene in North Texas.
We made a date with the Dub Assembly crew to dismantle the complex dynamics of an alluring music movement and their role in the swaggering surge of the dubstep sound. What was intended to be a verbal tennis match of inquiries and insight developed into a passionate school of rock – Dub Assembly 101, a unified marathon of words aimed at defining the true spirit of dubstep and the role of deep bass in orchestrating a dance-floor frenzy. I sat back in my bar stool, a delighted spectator, as Jason Mundo, Sam Uselton (Lifted MC) and Kyle Nuss (Royal Highnuss) taught me a little something about the exhilarating power of beats, bats and Dallas pride. [Not present during the discussion was Thanhyen Nguyen (Tiny).]
You guys want to tell me what dubstep means to you?
Mundo: With us, we just like this big, intense party vibe with it. It's not couch music. Its bass is such and the beats are such that it's drawing girls to the scene, it's drawing guys to the scene. It hasn't put itself in a corner yet. It's still very broad. It draws upon different influences whether it's reggae, or some people want to do the science-fiction thing, some people want to do the hip hop sort of thing – but with that variety, it has strength. It's strong amongst a lot of people. We're all on the same page with it. Between the three of us, we bring a lot of energy to the party -- and it's a party. And we have fun. We're talking a lot of smack on stage, but we do it with a smile on our face and we have fun with it. The Dallas crowd gets into it. They're dancing. They're singing along. They're even forcing us to play tunes at times. They started to do that recently.
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[Note: Sam Uselton conducted the entire interview cradling and waving a black baseball bat spray-painted with the Dub Assembly logo. The bat was a gift from a longtime fan of the crew and served as a punctuation to each of Uselton's moxie-coated responses.]
Uselton: Yeah, talking about the party vibe, for me, as he (Mundo) says, it's not couch music. When I hear the music, it's an intense vibe. For me, in the music, there is a lot of emotion behind it. What I always try to remind people… OK, this is what I'm trying to say: the Dallas people will call for different tunes and they're screaming and loving it. And I try to remind them, you're from Dallas and we're from Dallas and this is what we're doing! This is what we've got going on and be proud of this. Be proud of your town and be proud of your sound. And also, be proud of your vibe because we've played in other places where it's ho-hum -- even for their own local talent. But when you come to a Dub Assembly show, Dallas people are excited to see us and they want to hear what we've got and what we're representing for them.
Mundo: When other people come to play our shows, they say that they have heard great things about our crowd and they're excited about it. It's cool and they have a blast.
Nuss: It is cool. And since day one, the city has been behind us for the most part. We started off with like ten or thirty heads in the crowd. It was like DJs and their girlfriends and maybe your drinking buddy that drove you there. But, it's been building ever since. It's momentum. It's a movement that's been going on and it feels good. A lot of people can relate to it.
So I think I've captured the vibe of dubstep, but if someone had no idea what the dubstep genre was, how would you describe it?
Nuss: Well, first, it's not dub, it's dubstep. Those are two different things. Dubstep is fresh because it can get real artsy. It goes from Burial to dirty-south Paul Wall remixes. It's different. It's all over the board; there is no category, really.
Then what's the common link that threads all the songs together?
Mundo: It evolved out of UK garage around 2000. UK garage had swung beats and bass with pulses and space between the notes and space between the bass. It had a lot of vocals and stuff and people wanted to do more. It started out a darker version of 2-step garage with like more instrumentals, maybe more bass-line oriented and less vocals. It didn't really get the play in those kinds of clubs though. It was sort shunned by the UK garage scene and it ended up being its own sound. It evolved out of that as far back as 2000. So, yeah, it started out as a darker, more instrumental 2-step garage with a darker, dubbier vibe to it. It went through a dizzier phase and a more minimal phase. 2005 has this half-time phase where it was about 70 BPM – so it was at a reggae or hip hop tempo. So it's had a lot of variety to it and one of the tying things is the deep sub-bass. It's not a mid-range, dance-music bass. It's more like a deep hip hop bass.
Uselton: Shake your molars bass.
Mundo: It has that dub play culture.
Nuss: It has that street feel, man. It's all urban samples.
Mundo: It was also infused in England coming from the Jamaican culture.
Uselton: So, yeah -- dub music -- where we take the name dubstep - came from the Jamaican culture. It's often time-stretched and there is this echo-vibe.
Mundo: Yeah, your melody is your bass and your bass is your melody. It's not like the bass is counterpoint to the melody.
Nuss: And that's what really moves the people. Everybody goes with that movement.
Uselton: Can I say -- I don't know if this is a family publication, but…
Nuss: Oh, no. [Laughter amongst all.]
Uselton: But consistently, at our shows, the females [carefully choosing his words] that are known to drink more than the others will be seen grinding on the speakers.
Okay, see my next question was going to be, what is it about your rhythms that evoke such a sexually charged response from your audience? But you sort of answered that.
Nuss: Well it's that 70 or 140 [BPMs]. It's got that swagger beat that makes you move your shoulders and your hips start to gyrate.
Uselton: You don't feel like you got to jump around with glowsticks in your hand.
Mundo: Dubstep incorporated the swung beats with a funky, kind of R&B feel to it. It has a loose kind of vibe, you know. --Krissi Reeves
Dallas Dub Assembly performs at The Green Elephant Friday, August 15.
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