[Afrojack and Diplo - " Look at Me Now feat Busta Rhymes (Dave Q RMX)". Photo by Vince Kline.]
Six years ago this month, a couple dozen people began gathering in a small basement party in Bed-Stuy to hear a new sound called dubstep. The style had been gathering steam in London for a few years but was still practically unknown in New York and America in general. The Dub War parties sought to change that.
Many people here cautiously entered those dark environs not quite sure what would happen, and left with a new appreciation for this growing, diverse, and evolving movement. Dave Q, along with Joe Nice and later Alex Incyde, would drop tunes that would open the minds of producers and listeners alike to a new world of possibilities.
But as dubstep exploded into the consciousness of the world, it also began to change. So even as Dub War thrived with lines wrapping around the corner at Club Love, Dave Q felt that it was time to move on. “I felt like Dub War had made its mark and said all that it had to say,” he explains in an interview. “That’s something I’m really proud of. But once it started to feel like people knew what to expect, like some of the mystery of going into that dark room had faded, I felt like continuing to do the party would be a disservice to everyone who knew how amazing it had been. I decided it was better to go out on a high rather than to see it decline.” Shortly after their 5 year anniversary, the monthly party came to an end.
But with an end is always another beginning, and Dave Q began to explore the sounds in his backyard with his new party, Twisup: “I’ve purposely avoided booking many big name headliners from overseas, instead featuring younger artists with different interpretations of dark bassy music. It’s quite a thrill to finally look around me at the people making music in New York and be excited to book them at my party!”
Twisup aims to return to Dub War’s early days, where people would show up expecting to be surprised. It’s featured a number of local artists who took dubstep and launched from there into new areas of bass music. But the party has also invited a number of deejays from Chicago who play juke and footwork. So here you’ll find a new incarnation featuring a broad range of tempos and various moods, but one thing you can anticipate is the same love for the music. - MS
[Dubspot Podcast 001: Dave Q. Photo by Funafuji.]
Tell us a bit about the Dub War parties before it got to Love.
There were a few different homes before Dub War reached Love, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each had a vibe that I felt was a good compliment to Dub War’s ethos of focusing on the music first, and creating a positive environment for people to come together around this music that we all felt was something special, and which was a source of connection for everybody in the room. Remember, almost no one knew about dubstep in those early days (2005-2007). So whether there were 40 people in the basement of Bar Sputnik in Brooklyn, 150 at the grimey LES venue Rothko, or 250 in the majestic but frightening Chapel at the Limelight, it always felt like an experience that was unique to Dub War. When it reached Club Love and started to become more established, by that point people had a bit more of an idea about what dubstep was all about, but for the first time since Dub War started, we finally had a soundsystem that could really deliver the chest rattling bass that dubstep demands.
How did you meet the other residents?
Joe Nice I had known for a few years from the forum at dubplate.net (which was the predecessor to dubstep forum), where all of the early players in the scene used to talk about music. When I finally decided to start my own night, it just seemed natural to invite Joe to be a part of it since he was the only other person I knew in the States doing it. And he was already cutting dubs from the London guys and was an amazing DJ, so it was a no-brainer. Juakali actually saw the flyer for the first Dub War at Sputnik and asked me if he could come through and toast. He had never even heard dubstep before, but it worked really well and we all gelled and kept collaborating from then on. Alex Incyde got involved a few years later, after Dub War moved to Love. He had just moved to New York from Boston, but I had met him before in London, where he was already involved in the scene in a number of ways, interning at Hotflush Records, hosting a show on Sub FM (as well as allowing Boomnoise and Pokes to run their show from his flat), and generally working hard promoting the music in the right way. We became quick friends when he was in New York and I liked his musical selection a lot, so it was an easy decision to bring him into the fold.
How come Dub War ended?
It was a combination of factors. I felt like Dub War had made its mark and said all that it had to say. We taught people in New York and across the US about this amazing music from overseas, and tried to show them how there was a place for it here. We tried to represent it in the right way, and I think a lot of people would agree that Dub War was a special experience to have been a part of. I know that a lot of people who did their time in the dark corners near the bassbins at Dub War have taken those experiences and used them to inform their own pursuits. That’s something I’m really proud of. But once it started to feel like people knew what to expect, like some of the mystery of going into that dark room had faded, I felt like continuing to do the party would be a disservice to everyone who knew how amazing it had been. I decided it was better to go out on a high rather than to see it decline.
What happened to Love?
The sound system gradually went into disrepair, and the vibe of the people there started to change for the worse.
Were you throwing parties before dubstep?
How does Twisup differ from Dub War?
Twisup has been a pleasure for me to do. By the end of Dub War, there was so much pressure and expectation for it to get bigger and bigger, for the lineups to be more and more massive, and to make people get ever rowdier. But that didn’t make me happy, and I found it difficult to do all of the work required to keep that up without my heart being 100% in it. I’ve always gravitated towards a dark room where people are very open minded to different musical ideas and moods. With Twisup, I am returning to something a bit more like Dub War in its early days. It’s a bit more underground, and people don’t always know what to expect from the music. I’ve purposely avoided booking many big name headliners from overseas, instead featuring younger artists with different interpretations of dark bassy music. It’s quite a thrill to finally look around me at the people making music in New York and be excited to book them at my party! Dub War was largely built off the music being made in London, and it was frustrating to me that there weren’t more people making music I loved here. But that has finally changed, and I’m really proud to have played a part in helping to build up New York again as a place that supports fresh musical ideas, and has a strong community of people supporting each other. On a related note, Club Deity, where Twisup takes place, is just down the road from my apartment, so it’s a great thing to live close to the club.
[Dubblestandart w David Lynch & Lee Scratch Perry - "Chrome Optimism (Dave Q RMX)". Photo by Mikey Dubs.]
What do you look for in a club?
No frills. No attitude. Just a simple, dark room with a good sound system and a certain mystique that is hard to explain. Deity is an old synagogue, so those stone walls definitely carry an energy that I feel is unique and contributes something special to the event.
Does New York suffer from a lack of quality systems?
Is it difficult to draw crowds without out-of-town headliners?
It is definitely more of a challenge. Some months have been rammed, others not so much. But as long as the party isn’t bad and people have a good time and the music is good and the vibe is good (and the club is reasonably happy), then I’m happy.
What lessons in dealing with guest performers have you learned?
It’s important to me to spend some time with artists who I have booked and get a feel for them as people. I have booked them because something in their music speaks to me, and most of the time, when I hang out with them we form an easy friendship, because the qualities in their music which resonated with me are also true about them as people. Over the course of the years that I have been throwing parties, I’ve come to know some truly inspiring people and made life-long friendships with people who I admire deeply. So one of the main lessons for me is that throwing events is all about bringing people together, and that starts with all of the people involved — from the DJs to the club owner to the sound person to the bar staff — all getting along and caring about creating something positive.
How about dealing with club owners?
See above. It’s important to me that the club owner actually likes the nights that I throw. Even if they don’t know what to make of the crazy music we play, they will at least see what a good crowd we have and how much everyone in the room is happy to be there, and they will feel like the party is a good thing for their venue.
What makes for a good crowd and how do you go about drawing them?
A good crowd is one where people are open to different sounds, where they come to have fun and enjoy themselves with no unnecessary drama. If the music is consistently forward-thinking, and it’s played on a good soundsystem in an interesting space, people will find it. I try not to overhype events, so that it feels a bit more special and secret.
Do you ever work with promoters?
I haven’t worked too much with other promoters, because club promoters are often a shady bunch, and I always wanted Dub War, and now Twisup, to be as independent as possible. Having said that, in the early days of doing Dub War, DJ Seoul, the longtime DnB promoter from Direct Drive, was an important mentor who took a chance and supported us in a number of ways. There are also a number of other promoters who I respect a great deal in NYC who all get along and have worked hard to build a solid community behind underground dance music here.
How has the movement away from a specific genre affected how you throw parties?
I never intended to be an evangelist for a single genre. Some people think of me as the guy who brought dubstep to New York, and I’m proud of whatever contribution I made in that regard, but anyone who knows me knows that I am a true lover of all sorts of music. It just so happened that at a time when I was bored with most of what was happening in music (2001-2005), dubstep was a much-needed source of excitement and inspiration which fit with my own ideas about what music should be at the time. Twisup has been a great opportunity to take some of what made Dub War a unique musical experience, and apply it across a broader range of music that comes from different places, operates at different tempos, and occupies different musical moods. As long as the music shares some core values about sound and movement, my hope is that when you put it all together it creates unexpected connections for people.