What Can Save Drum and Bass?

The article I wrote months ago has finally been published! Read it here in Covers Magazine.

Update October 8: I just noticed the magazine cut out about half my article including the end paragraph which sums up the entire piece. So, I am just going to post the whole thing here:

What Can Save Drum and Bass?

The only thing people seem to be saying about drum and bass these days is that it’s dying.

But how can a musical genre that so recently burst onto the scene with such power and aggression be dying, especially in a city like Los Angeles, which is the biggest stronghold of the DNB sound outside of the UK? What can save drum and bass? Moreover, does it need, or even want to be saved?

When people start declaring an artistic movement dead, it is usually because of a lack of innovators in the genre, which may be true for drum and bass as fresh young minds head towards other bass-heavy styles over the perceived-to-be-dying DNB. Drum and bass producers and deejays are defecting by the masses to dubstep, grime and electro or taking a multi-genre approach to their music, and in doing so they are finding an upswing of success. Drum and bass artists Infiltrata, Evol Intent, Ewun, Terravita, Gigantor, Orion and DJ Daniel now play out more often as 12th Planet, Treasure Fingers, Kill the Noise, Hot Pink DeLorean, Computer Club and LA Riots. Each performer has abandoned a strict drum and bass regimen in favor of a more eclectic approach, which in the past has been eschewed by many DNB fans who tend to avoid other genres like bad acid. It is often said that drum and bass heads play only for other drum and bass heads; that they are out of touch with the rest of electronic arts culture, too busy holding up their anointed genre as the end-all-be-all of the musical experience.

Some people blame the drum and bass heads themselves for the fatal wounds to their own genre. DNB is extreme music for extreme people, and the defiant sound has always attracted certain “harder-than-thou” permascowl, urban-warrior types who prefer an aggressive style in their music, dress and life. Most DNB heads are actually very nice, chill people; and some in the EDM community find this artifice of hostility to be more off-putting than actual antagonism would be. The overt machismo of the drum and bass sound as well as the über-exclusive nature of the DNB community exists in contrast to usual electronic music crowds, who are accepting, tolerant and anything but homophobic; anyone and everyone is welcome with their fuzzy backpacks and green hair. Wave a glow stick or make out with your gay boyfriend at a DNB show, however, and you just might get your ass kicked faster than the BPMs.

It is this exclusivity that has turned off many drum and bass fans who say that they now only listen to the genre at home, avoiding the contentious crowds, MCs and haterade that is too often served at DNB nights, which are decreasing in attendance and frequency in Los Angeles and across the globe. The “I Love LA” drum and bass-heavy event series threw its final night in June, and there seems to be a disturbing lack of action in the DNB crews around the city. At the time of this writing, LA’s biggest DNB crew Respect hadn’t updated the news on their website in six months, and other local music collectives like Bassrush, Tonz of Drumz and Ghettolife seem to be suffering from an acute lack of activity in social media sites and upcoming parties and shows.

However, DNB by no means stands for dead and buried. The genre continues to have a fairly large presence in many parts of the world, Los Angeles included. Drum and bass is still going strong in its drizzly birthplace of the UK, although multiple sources confirm that the shows are a mere shadow of the mad parties thrown five or ten years ago. DNB boasts many experienced producers such as Stunna and B Complex who are skilled in the sound production and harmonics characteristic of the genre and are still releasing innovative new tracks. LA’s biggest electronic music event, the Electric Daisy Carnival, devotes an entire stage to drum and bass, showcasing local and international talent in front of dozens of thousands of electronic music fans, from candy kids to jaded been-there-done-thats. DNB’s signature sexy sound can also be found at the local Scion House Parties, free events taking place around LA that feature DNB along with dubstep, electro and house. There is no room for bullshit in drum and bass; the genre has always been faster, harder, louder, angrier and darker. Perhaps it is just finally evolving past its trendy stage and the energetic core of DNB producers and deejays, all very experienced at this point, will be taking the reigns to slow what is only an ebb of the frenzied and forceful genre.

For many electronic music enthusiasts, drum and bass was a new and exciting niche genre, a fetish of sorts that had its time exposed in the sun and is now fading and receding to a nucleus of a few producers and fanatics: those DNB heads who lead and follow the sound with a religious intensity and will never, ever stop. These passionate DNB zealots were the ones whose fervent devotion made the genre and the community so special and inspiring, and it is now those same heads with whom the future of DNB rests. It is in their hands, and therefore, drum and bass will never die. However the days of flash popularity and main stage appeal are gone. Drum and bass is returning to the heads, and isn’t that exactly where they want it, and where it should be?

Drum and bass must save itself. If DNB heads want to end the downswing and attract fresh producing minds and enthusiastic fans, the genre needs a major breakthrough. To save itself, drum and bass must touch people again, which is kind of hard to do when it is so busy punching them in the face. The future of DNB is yet undetermined, but one thing is certain: drum and bass is not going down without a fight.

Since I submitted the piece in June, LA drum and bass crew Respect has started back up their weekly, held at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. It is the longest running night of dnb in the city and this week features Infiltrata vs. 12th Planet, aka drum and bass vs. dubstep!

Back in June, I asked my readers what could save drum and bass and received some great insight! Check out the comments at the bottom of the original post here.

12th Planet/Infiltrata

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3 Responses to “What Can Save Drum and Bass?”

  1. Good article. It really is going to take artists being inventive and more importantly for me, parties with a fun atmosphere and maybe a little less of the harder than though attitude. I can say pretty straight up why I stopped paying attention to it.

    1) The parties wern’t fun anymore and they were being marketed at the Rave scene which I had grown out of.
    2) There were maybe only 3 artists that I was enjoying and they were all on Hospital Records.
    3) Pendulum happened.

    Not that long ago though I caught Kid Hops play and really enjoyed his work though. The Marcus Intalect Fabic mix has also been a favorite of mine since it came out and the recent High Contrast Best of made me remember what I loved about the genre. I smell a revival for me.

    Idea for next article: What can save Trance?

  2. this has been linked via Junglescene.com

  3. I can’t speak for the scene over there in the USA – but over here we experienced something similar a few years ago. I think you will always have these periods where things slow down or go “stale” in comparatively smaller scenes like DnB – unlike larger commercial music where you have hundreds of thousands of people worldwide trying to make it, trying to be the next star. Thing is, when it does come back there’s a progression – new sounds, new ideas and overall it makes drum and bass better as a whole. As I said, in the UK we had something similar a few years back (some would argue up into this last year) but in my opinion certain producers, labels & promoters have burst through that and you know what? It feels fresh again. It’s an exciting scene to be part of once more.

    I hope for you guys sakes that this happens over there for you – it’s the silver lining of the cloud!

    Check out my site – http://mymcdnb.wordpress.com

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