Decadent Dub Team, an early hip-hop industrial group from Dallas, will reunite for a show at The Kessler Theater tonight, their first since 2009. Jeff Liles, artistic director for the Kessler, has been along for the band's entire, 30-year ride. But there have been many notable members over the years including a legendary radio DJ, a high profile fashion designer and a multi-platinum producer.
DDT formed before hip-hop was really starting to take off. After being used to complement live instruments, artists were combining drum machines, sequencers and samplers for a new sound. In 1985, there were a few art galleries where you could see live music in Deep Ellum, but the Mitchell building was the nexus of creativity in the neighborhood, where many artists and musicians lived.
“Hip-hop and punk rock were kind of on a parallel track,” says Liles. “Both were totally underground. You had to dig to find the music. Both were reactionary movements against the mainstream.”
Paul Quigg, who did sound for the Kessler until the end of last year, lived in the Mitchell building at the time and had a great collection of analog synthesizers, early drum machines, MIDI gear and ADAT machines, back when the stuff was brand new. Quigg and Liles both had backgrounds in punk rock and connected in Deep Ellum. David Williams, a musician from Denton, also had an early sampler and together they formed DDT.
“Jeff began exposing me to underground hip-hop,” Quigg says. “He asked me if I wanted to do something like that. And I always liked hacking and manipulating.”
With Quigg and Williams using equipment that few if any people had in Dallas, Liles became the DJ. “I had this old Sears turntable that literally had a speaker in front of it,” Liles remembers. This was before people spent big money on DJ gear. He would scratch records and stick a microphone in front of the speaker, running the sounds through effects. Amazingly, the record player lasted for years, even if Liles had to tape a quarter to the needle to keep it from bouncing off the record.
DDT really started as a noise experiment with new gear at the Mitchell building. But Liles had a background in booking and they quickly played their first show at The Prophet Bar. The band started putting their equipment on hospital gurneys thrown away by Baylor, rolling their gear onstage as they started sets. With samples from industrial groups like Coil, metal bands like Slayer and words from comics, Beat writers and politicians, DDT’s fan base was initially industrial music fans.
By 1987, they appeared on the Island Records compilation The Sound of Deep Ellum, which also featured Edie Brickell & New Bohemians and Reverend Horton Heat. DDT met N.W.A. when Island was considering signing both groups. “Six Gun,” a demo DDT recorded for Island, became Dr. Dre’s first remix and appeared on the soundtrack for the film Colors. Island was pleased with the track and sent DDT to the Bahamas to record more demos, but not before Quigg left the band to pursue other endeavors. The label decided to pass on DDT after hearing the new demos from Liles and Williams.
But DDT bounced back and produced two tracks on Boogie Down Productions’ 1990 album, Edutainment, which went Gold. This also made DDT one of the first hip-hop groups to have affiliations on both coasts. By the late ‘80s, Eddie Murphy — better known as DJ EZ Eddie D, who has one of the longest running hip-hop shows ever on KNON — joined DDT. Murphy did some of the beats on early '90s recordings for Triple-X Records, which also featured production from MC 900 Ft. Jesus.
Murphy and Liles were both on KNON before he was asked to join DDT. Murphy remembers Liles being the first person to take him to Deep Ellum. “My first show in Deep Ellum was Red Hot Chili Peppers,” Murphy recalls. With DDT, the first thing that comes to mind for Murphy is playing a huge show with Tone Loc in Tulsa. He also remembers recording with DDT in the first portable studio he ever saw. “Now everybody has it,” Murphy says. “But back then it was brand new.” Producer David Castell parked his truck outside a house and they pulled the wires inside.
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DDT had several members over the years. Tracy Feith, a fashion designer admired by Michelle Obama, was actually an MC for the group for a few months. Ty Macklin was in DDT as a teenager, before going on to work with Erykah Badu and becoming a multi-platinum producer, songwriter and engineer. He was somehow able to use the band for a work program in high school.
By the mid-'90s Liles decided to focus on his Cottonmouth, Texas project. But DDT never officially called it quits. Liles liked the idea of a reunion for a few reasons. First of all, they are playing an event for Wordspace, the non-profit literary arts group. The show is also scheduled on the Kessler’s sixth anniversary, making it a proper farewell to Quigg.
“One of the things we did in DDT was re-contextualize and/or pick on media and political figures,” Quigg says. “By cutting up their sentences and having them say different things than they intended. Like a televangelist having a conversation with a hooker, for example. There’s an enormous amount of fodder for that right now and some of the loudest mouths on the landscape will be featured.”
DECADENT DUB TEAM play The Kessler Theater's 6th anniversary at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 18, at The Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St., $20-$320