Of all the Dallas crews, DJs and producers who dived head first into dubstep during its early days, Dragonman and his Fort Worth-based crew Dub Commission are one of the few who stuck by the genre as it got sucked into the mainstream and eventually faded from the spotlight.
The genre's original heyday was the early 2000s, when it evolved from '90s UK garage, which itself had Jamaican influences. London has a significant Jamaican immigrant population, and their dub sound system culture had been popular there since the '70s.
The face of dub in the 2000s was a groundbreaking dance genre built around bass, slow to medium tempo and minimal, if any, vocals. Pioneering producers like Horsepower Productions put it on the map.
But at some point around 2010, dubstep's rising star got caught up with electronic dance music (EDM). The two are now virtually synonymous, and dubstep has mutated into an endless cycle of wobbles and drops that has more in common with nu metal than its namesake. Dubstep is a dirty word to many.
But throughout this boom and bust cycle, the Dub Commission has remained loyal, and now it's paying off: Quality dubstep tunes that appeal to purists have been making a modest resurgence. Saturday, the Fort Worth crew will celebrate their 10 year anniversary at Shipping and Receiving.
For this week's mixtape, Dragonman helps set the record straight about one of the most misunderstood genres in modern dance music history with an all killer, no filler mix that reflects the current state of dubstep. Thankfully it sounds a lot like the glory days of the bass music genre. Don't be scared.
Dallas Observer: How did you start deejaying?
Dragonman: New Year's Eve Y2K, my last year of high school, someone played Oakenfold's Tranceport and I was hooked ... I spent all my Christmas money that year on a Numark Battle Pak and a dozen records from Tech*Sun. I pretty much self-taught for the first few years since that was before YouTube and I had no other DJ friends.
Where did the name Dragonman come from?
Never really went by anything the first few times I played trance in public, and when I got booked for my first dubstep event I just chose Nasty Nate but didn't really like it. I looked around my living room, and there were dragon tapestries and statues everywhere, so there it was. Dinosaurs and dragons were always my thing as a kid.
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
This was the first mix after trying Traktor for a few years and going back to CDJs, so two CDJ400s, a 1200MK2 and a Pioneer 700. It was recorded in one take, but practiced beforehand. I like to do longer blend mixes instead of always just cutting over between tracks. ... There were a lot of mixes I would often do live that always got love, so I wanted to finally get some of those onto a studio mix, so this one has some of those “classics” as well as a spread of the OGs' newer work.
Dub Comission is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. That is quite an accomplishment. How did you guys get started?
Thanks, some are busier than others, but we always have a few things each year. It just started after attending a handful of shows around Texas at Gritsy [Houston], Dub Assembly [Dallas] and Weight [Austin]. Myself, Adam [HotSauce], Gerry [Capaz] and Will [Black] all decided we wanted to be a part of that movement so we just started throwing shows in DFW. Our first steady gig was our monthly at the original Absinthe Lounge as the owner, Kevin, had been the one to first book me in front of actual people for trance at his private events. We made lots of new friends, added new members and learned some good lessons along the way, and now we just get together to play our favorite tunes.
What has kept you going?
Originally it was being able to show people something fresh and new but now that most are familiar with the sounds, it's the feeling of all that bass under my feet and good times with good people.
Where do you like to dig for tracks?
Redeye for vinyl, Junodownload for digital and just following the artists online for freebies and updates on what to look for. I've got a few friends still sending me bits, too.
Dubstep got swept up by EDM and detached from its roots. Where do you see dubstep going in a post-EDM world?
I think the people who were initially there for the substance are still around having fun and pushing the sound now that all the hype has come and gone. The roots sound is back in the foreground with some new drivers behind the wheels and things seem to be going very well now that the scene isn't the main focus of that EDM limelight.
Do you still buy vinyl?
Yes, mostly Mala records and Deep Medi releases, plus the occasional white label, but those are all few and far between these days. I've been trying to expand my Fat Wreck Chords and non-electronic back catalogues as well, but its slow going.
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What has been your most significant musical experience of the past year?
Finally seeing Aphex Twin at Day for Night in Houston. [Oakenfold] may have hooked me on deejaying, but Aphex is what got me into electronic music to begin with.
Are you producing?
Not really anymore, especially now with a day job. I'll pop open Ableton on occasion but never get too far into anything. I would like to get back at it more though.
What gigs do you have in the near future?
After the 10-year anniversary on the 15th, we have our usual stage at the Annual KISS Park Party at Trinity Park in Fort Worth on Sunday, April 23. It's free all day, with multiple stages covering all sorts of genres. We plan to keep the ball rolling in Fort Worth over the summer at Shipping and Receiving with some more Dub Commission shows, and I will be on the lineup for a second Fort Worth Evol Intent show on Aug. 19 at Lola's Saloon for Fracture’s birthday along with Dirty Flaws and fellow Dub Commissioners 3D and Experiment.
Kahn - "Dread"
Nanobyte - "Never Believe Remix"
Noah D - "Seeerious"
Loefah - "Root"
DJG - "Screwball"
Loefah - "Twisup (Youngsta & Task Remix)"
Kaiju - "Snagglepuss"
DJG - "Late Night Blues"
Kaiju - "Monster"
Joker - "Zim Zimma"
DZ - "Just Rolling"
The Bug ft Warrior Queen - "Poison Dart"
Rusko - "Jahova"
Search & Destroy - "Food Chain"
Slaughter Mob - "Dub Weapon"
Loefah - "Goat Stare"
Hatcha - "King of the Trees"
Kaiju ft Flowdan - "Hunter"
Kaiju - "Belcanto"
Mala - "Curfew"
Goth Trad Ft Max Romeo - "Babylon Fall"
Goth Trad - "Cosmos"
Goth Trad - "Itinerant Priest"
Pampidoo - "Synthesizer Voice (Goth Trad Dub Mix)"
Kahn ft Flowdan - "Badman City"
Mala - "Changuito"
Sparrow - "Good Old Days"