More Fog. More Lasers. More Ham. Less Sleep: New York’s Trouble and Bass Live Up...
When I hear the word “crew” used to describe a group of musicians, my first instinct is that the reason for the crew is to make up for some lacking in the crew members. For New York’s Trouble & Bass, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each member of this party-promoting, record-producing, track-remixing bass juggernaut can stand alone, but together they represent some of the most aggressively fantastic bass-heavy dance music in the DJ world. The first T&B party I ever attended was a few years ago in a sweaty basement. Someone had provided an ambulance siren, which wailed with increasing frequency between the bass-wobbling, finely-chopped electro pummeling the ears of everyone crammed into 205 Chrystie. Having played countless gigs since, with practically every DJ that matters, huge music festivals such as Coachella, Winter Music Conference and CMJ, as well as individual tours covering every corner of the globe, Trouble & Bass’ uncompromising eardrum takeover shows no sign of stopping.
While Trouble & Bass has seen a few faces come and go, I was able to get together with the core members of the T&B Crew:
Drop the Lime: The club-destroying Italian with the golden tooth, Drop the Lime is also known as Curses! (if you are a fan of the French label Institubes). He began in breakcore (a 150 plus bpm barrage of electronic music) but quickly expanded to include jungle, doo-wop, bass line, and dub step influences. He’s about to embark on the Set Me Free world tour, playing more continents than you’ll probably visit in a lifetime.
AC Slater: From Philadelphia, AC Slater was originally known in the hardcore rave scene, but has since switched gears to a slower-paced bass line and acid-heavy sound that occasionally drifts into undefined newness much to the chagrin of club goers everywhere. Random fact: his remix of “Math Head – Turn The Music Up” was selected by Moby as one of the best songs of the decade.
The Captain: Manages the T&B label, but can also rock the decks and has played more than his fair share of amazing sets. Random fact: although AC Slater played hardcore raves (as in boomboomboomboom), The Captain was into hardcore (as in chuggachuggascreamblastbeat).
Star Eyes: The Siouxsie Sioux of a new generation, Star Eyes not only has the look, but also has the skill to absolutely stand alone as an amazing producer and DJ. She was in the UK garage/breaks/grime DJ duo Syrup Girls, and before that she was a drum and bass DJ for nearly 10 years. In her younger years, she was a fan of new wave, goth/industrial, Britpop, and freestyle/Miami bass. Now she’s known for live vocals and not being afraid to dance in the DJ booth harder than the people on the floor.
Since my first T&B party, I’ve seen members of the crew perform in every capacity from clubs, to music festivals to pool parties.
SLUG: T&B has no problem flaunting and celebrating the label and the parties, and the recent three-year anniversary seems to have exploded a small section of NY. How did this small New York party/record label turn into the flagship for bass heavy music worldwide?
AC Slater: We are all passionate about the music and we love spreading it and having a good party.
The Captain: Hard work, great taste and the passion to be 100 percent about what we believe in.
Star Eyes: Voodoo magick.
Drop The Lime: Siamo una forza potente.
SLUG: Three years is an eternity in a scene where songs become totally played out in a matter of months, yet T&B continues to grow, thrive and innovate. How?
Star Eyes: We aren’t necessarily interested in what everyone else thinks is cool at the moment—just what we think is cool. We trust our instincts, and we pay attention to influences outside of just dance music. The only way to innovate is to do what you really love and believe in. If we’re excited about something, chances are that other people will be too.
AC Slater: We like looking for the next thing, something new and exciting to quell our A.D.D.
The Captain: We’re always paying attention to new music, new producers and new DJs. Part of what makes the party so fresh is that we don’t limit ourselves to one type of music, which allows our parties to take shape in different ways each time.
Drop The Lime: Bass never dies. It’s a frequency that keeps life moving forward. Planes, trains and automobiles all hit the 30hz when in motion. Motion means stepping forward into the future.
SLUG: What is it about T&B that seems to have struck a nerve for fans of not only electronic dance music, but also all of the post-punkers, hipsters and indie rockers now ready to dance?
The Captain: Electronic music in the U.S. is getting bigger and bigger. I think people like the energy of our events—it’s like the energy of a live band, or a punk show. We’ve been a part of (or are familiar with) many different music and social scenes, and we spread the T&B name throughout all these people.
AC Slater: Our aesthetic and work ethic is very DIY punk. I think a lot of different underground-scene types can relate to that.
Star Eyes: We don’t exclude people, and you don’t have to put on a “uniform” to come to our parties. Our music and our events are maybe a little heavier or more raw or dirtier than some of the stuff currently going on in house or “indie dance”—that seems to appeal more to fans of punk rock, metal or drum and bass. In general, I think people can see that we’re doing something real, and the right people respond to dem vibes.
SLUG: The lines between a “live performance” and a DJ set are often blurred with super-pumped sets, live vocals, original tracks and remixes, light shows, crowded stages, “I’ll Bass You” signs, etc. What are we seeing?
Star Eyes: It’s all those things. It’s anything. Chaos, sweat, noise, screaming, dancing, singing, holy rolling-baptism by bass.
The Captain: You’re definitely seeing the future … and a very lively DJ set.
AC Slater: All those things are just us doing what we feel like doing. Drop The Lime and Star Eyes both incorporate live singing into their DJ sets. It creates a nice connection between the audience and DJ and really gives a nice credibility to T&B.
Drop The Lime: Have you ever eaten a fish that was still breathing?
SLUG: Despite the tightness of the crew, it seems a lot of the original tracks and remixes are driven and carried out by a single individual. Is there a lot of collaboration production-wise, or does this individuality run in the family?
Star Eyes: Individuality is what enables us to make something new as a crew. There is some collaboration, but a lot of it takes the form of remixing since it’s rare that people are in the same place at the same time. And when we are all together, we’re usually at a dance floor somewhere or drinking coffee and telling epic tales.
Drop The Lime: Ecco ci qua …
AC Slater: We all kind of have slightly different roles and we all have busy schedules, but we pair up in the studio from time to time.
SLUG: Just when someone seems to have an idea of the “Trouble and Bass sound” it seems you guys are already two steps ahead playing some unreleased jam from next year. How do you have time to even listen and find new music with constant music production, touring, promotion and DJing?
Drop The Lime: I like bass.
The Captain: It’s hard to stay on top of music with the crazy amount of stuff being put out and sent to us. I take time to search out new music and research blogs, mixes and charts. And I always take time to listen to demos. I think of it as part of my job.
Star Eyes: We warp time. On top of that, DTL and AC only need four hours of sleep a night. I think they may even sleep hanging upside down.
AC Slater: I never sleep! Touring is the best way to hear new music, especially in the UK, which is where our biggest influences come from. In general, just being out in clubs you are exposed to a lot of new music and ideas. It’s inspiring. You can’t experience everything online, or on a blog or Twitter.
SLUG: Although there is a selection of officially released material, I am sure there are a plethora of other tracks that either never see the light of day or are leaked onto a few blogs. What do you think about MP3s that never make official release? Is it more important for fans to be able to access and pay for music or be able to attend live DJ sets?
Drop The Lime: Blogs help spread the sound. But sometimes you need a plumeria to come in and tighten up the loose gravy.
Star Eyes: It’s important for fans around the world to access the music any way they can. Obviously, artists need to make money off their tracks, but label release schedules are usually so far behind it doesn’t matter if some MP3s don’t get an “official release.” Having free or exclusive downloads keeps an artist’s name fresh in the minds of fans. In other words, don’t worry, be happy.
AC Slater: As a DJ, it’s good to have some exclusive material to make you stand out a little easier and make it special when someone pays to come see you. Plus, fans can usually hear tunes that aren’t released on a DJ mix somewhere.
The Captain: I don’t produce at the moment. I’ve learned from DTL that making music, even if it’s never going to be released, is all part of the process. Making that track could lead to making a better track, etc. It’s really important to edit yourself creatively, and it’s smart to keep yourself from getting oversaturated.
SLUG: Scion has thrown a considerable amount of money into the industry with their CD samplers and Scion-sponsored events. Trouble & Bass was one of the groups lucky enough to be featured. Despite being a major corporation, the consistent quality of Scion’s CDs and parties cannot be ignored. What are your thoughts on this type of sponsorship?
The Captain: Working with Scion was great. They’ve supported so many good things for the United States, like bringing over a lot of international acts and making it possible for smaller cities to get a chance to see some of the bigger name DJs. And they’ve definitely supported so many people in the United States, from promoters and graphic designers to DJs and producers.
AC Slater: Scion is a major contributor to the independent dance music industry in the States. They seem to have opened the door for corporate sponsorship in the USA, as I now see other companies starting to experiment. This is so common in Europe but not as much in the United States, Scion has done so much for us. They are great to work with, they know what’s going on, and they are really interested in the music.
Star Eyes: Scion has definitely played a role in helping smaller parties pushing new music to succeed, especially in cities that don’t normally have the money to bring in bigger DJs. They have been incredibly good to us in letting us do what we do without putting too many restrictions on our content or our vibe, which is something you barely see with major labels these days. As long as companies are tasteful about their marketing and work with the artists, then it is all good.
Drop The Lime: Scion is amazing. Their support is like that rooster hot sauce on a banh mi sandwich.
SLUG: A “T&B” t-shirt has become a ubiquitous sign of, “I like to party, and I enjoy good music.” How did that happen?
Star Eyes: We sprinkle all the t-shirts with the secret jizz of the party wizard before we give them out.
The Captain: Actually, it happened when Diplo wore our shirt in every photo and at every gig.
AC Slater: Only brilliant people wear T&B brand t-shirts.
Drop The Lime: Whatever happened to the dude that played Boner on Growing Pains!? He needs a T&B shirt…
SLUG: For all of the other producers and musicians out there, what type of equipment or software do you typically use for remixes and original tracks?
AC Slater: Logic for production! Serato for DJing!
Drop The Lime: The best VST for Logic is a synth called GREMLIN. You can’t turn the wobble feature off, but you can add as much as you like.
The Captain: I’m into the Screwdriver with a JVX plug-in.
Star Eyes: I like to plug-in to The Force and get my vibe props tight. Also I like a home studio because that means bigger speakers so you can shock out and FEEL THE BASS. Then you invite your friends over and they say funny things and drink weird energy drinks and you all stay up until 5 a.m. cracking out.
SLUG: What is next for Trouble & Bass?
The Captain: In 2010, we got full-lengths from Drop The Lime and Little Jinder, EPs from AC Slater, Mikix the Cat, Supra1, and 77Klash (produced by AC and DTL), and a couple compilations.
Star Eyes: Euro Tour part 2. Trouble & Bass LA. WMC. More fog. More lasers. More ham. Less sleep.
Drop The Lime: That pretty much sums it up.
AC Slater: Froggy’s gonna be making a MESS.
For the latest on Trouble & Bass’ new releases and tour dates, check out troubleandbass.com.
To take a listen to some of the sweet Trouble and Bass mixtapes, check out:
T&B Crew – Scion Comp Promo Mix – sendspace.com/file/x37edr
T&B Crew – Keep Watch Vol 7 Mix for Mishka –mediafire.com/?znzmtzj2zjy
The Captain + Star Eyes – Subs Up Hoes Down -sendspace.com/file/lgq1b4