Thursday, February 18, 2010

Whighzeguy - Talks about Dubstep, DC, genre hopping, and the dubbiest villains

[Editor's note] One of my motivations is the need to establish a ‘represent’ thing across expression and context. In the social/cultural, it’s establishing yourself as alive and vital. In music, it’s a combination of the Hip Hop ‘represent for your….’ as well as the notion that Dubstep, Jungle, Cumbia, and other soundsystem musics are quite regional. So, I’m really happy to share with you my first interview with a big supporter of mine (and so man/y other folks in the area) Greg Dillon, aka Whighzeguy, a DJ here in the DMV area. His development of music and DJing runs very close to my own And, I really enjoyed learning about his approach to working across different genres, and development of sets. It’s this building across Dub, Dirty South, Minimal Techno, and so forth that draws me in, and highlights why I love this music.

Tell me about yourself. How did you get into music and DJing?
I first got into EDM when I was in transition out of college and met up with a new group of friends who were into raving. One of my good friends picked up a DJ kit from Tower Records that included some belt drive tables and we started f’ing around. His mother was from England so he was exposed to a lot of the UK Underground sounds when visiting over there and began buying lots of 2-Step while I was into Trance & Progressive House. It wasn’t until I attended Starscape in June of 2000 that I really caught the fever for Drum N Bass. After that party I immediately began buying DnB records and really working hard at trying to become a solid DJ.

Where can I see/hear you play out?
You can hear me play on Expansion Broadcast roughly twice a month. As far as playing out, that doesn’t happen all that much anymore. I go through phases where I’ll really be itching to play out and then go months where I have no desire to do so. Unfortunately a lot of gigs I was getting were at places where the setups & sound-systems were really lacking and the fact that I’m a volunteer DJ made me take a step back and be a little more selective about taking gigs. Playing a gig at a bar with 0 sub-woofers just began to seem like a waste of time. I currently play out now as part of the Dubstep Legion of Doom (DLOD) collective. Everybody I play with is really cool and talented but it honestly gets a little frustrating when the only gigs you get are playing 3-4 tunes amongst 5 other DJs in a really crowded tag-team set. I love building a set and when you’re playing with so many other DJs who all have contrasting styles it makes it really tough to do so. Hopefully the crew can secure some bookings where we have 3-4 hour sets and are really able to present things right.

Tell me about DJing Dubstep, what is your approach? Angle? Objective?
I’m a real nerd and a perfectionist when it comes to programming. I almost never sit down and mix records continuously to practice. I will shuffle through tunes and take physical notes on what tunes work together and what tunes don’t. There are so many different styles of Dubstep that I like that I try to represent them all at some point or another. It seems like a lot of DJs in the area are pretty specific as far as what style they play, I try to rep all the flavors. I tend to lean toward the funky stuff or the deeper side but every couple of shows I’ll take a turn to the dark side and try to play predominantly rough stuff. To keep things fresh I’ll step out of the box and do a set of mixing Hip-Hop and Dubstep, or Techno and Dubstep. Another thing I focus on is trying to play tunes with contrasting drum breaks that complement each other. Nothing bores me more than hearing the same 1⁄2 step beat tune after tune. I love mixing a 1⁄2 stepper with another tune that almost sounds like its straight Techno. Another thing I’ll try to do is find combos that allow you take a dramatic style turn in your set. This can be disastrous if you don’t do your homework, as it’s often tough to find a banger that works well out of something really deep.

I remember you mentioned in buzzlife that you got into Dubstep through Reggae. And I notice you play a lot of Hip Hop in your sets. How did this connection across musics come about? What were those tracks that made that possible?
I’ve always been a big fan of Reggae and the first couple of Dubstep tunes that really caught my ear were heavily Reggae influenced and I thought maybe I’d do more exploring. The Hip-Hop connection is kind of funny. I’ll start by saying I used to HATE the Dirty South type of Hip-Hop with a passion. But early on, I heard a couple remixes (“Throw Some D’s”-Parson “ & “Relax and Take Notes”-XI) that had Hip-Hop vocals and it dawned on me that some of the slower tempo Hip-Hop tunes could be worked in with Dubstep.

I was also really into Matty G’s stuff which was heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. I’ll run through a couple Hip-Hop tunes that I’ve featured a few times. “#1 Spot” – Ludacris, “Back Then”- Mike Jones, “Poppin My Collar” and “Stay Fly”- 36 Mafia, “Anotha Level”- 8Ball & MJG. The fact that I can mix some of the Dirty South stuff into my Dubstep sets has allowed me to tolerate & even appreciate SOME of the stuff. The same can be said for Techno. I normally would’ve gone nowhere near the stuff but the Techno influence in a lot of the Dubstep I like sparked my interest to explore and I’ve actually done a couple shows playing nothing but Minimal/Techno


One thing about Dubstep is that it changes and moves into new spaces at such a fast rate, from garage beat patterns with atmospheric samples from the Hatcha days, Half-steps from Loefah, to electro sounds and bouncy Funky beats from Untold. What are some classic aspects of Dubstep that you feel stay true? What excites/or doesn’t about where Dubstep is going now?
I don’t have enough knowledge or love for the early days of Dubstep to talk about the classic aspects to be perfectly honest. So many people get up in arms about how things are changing, and it’s not what it used to be, blah, blah, blah. That shit is so tired. The only thing I know is there is a ton of good music being produced within the genre and that music covers such a huge spectrum of sound, as long as I’ve got a wide-range of quality beats coming out I’m happy. Some have mentioned the “UK Funky” movement may lead to more people producing between 127-130 and thus lead to the downfall of Dubstep. I really don’t see that happening but hope the producers I like just dabble with the slower tempo and continue to work in the 140 range.

If you were to convince someone to get into Dubstep, what are the three tracks that you’d use to do it, and why?
Great question since I’ve made a number of mixes for friends with the sole intention of introducing them to Dubstep. The first thing I think about is trying to find tunes that draw on something that people are already familiar with. The obvious direction for me would be to steer them to something Hip-Hop or Reggae influenced. My first track would be “Dutch Flowers” by Skream. People can identify with the melody right away and many may even think they’re just listening to Reggae. On a good sound-system they’ll likely notice that the thundering bassline is a little different from Reggae but still sounds great nonetheless. The next tune would be one of Matty G’s but it would be the Caspa remixed version, “West Coast Rocks”. The beat is nice and simple, it has vocals a noob could identify with and he uses his wobble effects brilliantly putting all kinds of effects on them and essentially “dubbing” them out. There are a few producers out there who apply the principles of Dub (Reggae) in their DUBstep. What a concept! LoL. The last tune I would pick would probably be “Warface” by Jakes and the reasons would exactly the same as why I picked “West Coast Rocks”


What else do you listen to besides DJ music?
To be honest nearly 100% of the music I listen to is “DJ Music” consisting of Dubstep, DnB, Downtempo, Hip-Hop and Minimal/Techno. I have lots of love for other types of music that I like and I honestly don’t listen to music that much. I will probably spend 2-3 hours a week f’ing around working on programming and maybe listen to 1 mix a week, other than that I listen to a shit load of sports talk in the car and will occasionally play music. To answer your question though I like Go-Go, Classic Rock, Salsa, 80s, Jazz, late 80s/90s R&B, and Classic Soul.

I read through sites and boards of Dubstep blowing up in LA, Austin, and NYC… We have dedicated Dubsteppers, and talents like JoeNice and Martyn chillin on our block, but can you tell us more about the DC scene? Is there as big of an audience in DC? What are you thoughts on it? What can help it grow?
Oh man, the classic “state of the scene” question, LOL. Such a tough one and one I can’t answer. I think/hope that more exposure will allow people to realize that Dubstep has much more depth to it than they think. The whole “whale-step” thing was kind of funny but I honestly think people hear it once out somewhere, and if it’s not something they like they think that all Dubstep sounds that way. As a whole, most of the stuff people are playing in this region is pretty aggressive which I think is a huge turnoff for a lot of people and thus they never give it a second chance. For the longest time DnB was always in the side-room at parties and then all of a sudden you’d see DnB in the main-room and then all DnB parties, I think/hope if we keep pushing Dubstep can get there. I also think showcasing how versatile it is can help draw people in. Playing an all Reggae influenced set out, or playing a Hip-Hop/Dubstep set out could go a long way in gaining new enthusiasts. I think promoters can play a big part too. When booking a night I’d try and get some diversity into the lineups and not just have 3 DJs playing wobbler after wobbler. One thing I’ve told promoters in the past is that I’m very open to playing a very specific style if need be. Nobody has taken me up on that offer but it still stands. Having someone open with some real deep stuff and the next DJ playing a Reggae influenced set followed by someone playing bangers would be the ideal evening in my eyes.
I notice that a few Dubstep parties are up in Baltimore as well. Being that I’m from DC, can you tell me about Baltimore? What are the differences, if any, in the music or shows between Baltimore and DC?
Baltimore has the best venue I’ve ever been to for a Dubstep party, Bourbon Steet. D.C. doesn’t have a spot that can touch it. The MAJOR drawback is that 90% of the people at the parties are 18 and glowsticks and all kinds of glowing paraphernalia seem to be big. Steez (Baltimore’s biggest Dubstep promoter) does a great job of bringing in top notch Heavyweights on a pretty consistent basis, but they don’t have much love at all for the deep stuff, it usually stays pretty wobbly up there. 88 D.C. (D.C. biggest Dubstep promoter) does an EXCELLENT job of pushing the deep stuff and has a great venue themselves in Gallery (Silver Spring, MD) but they don’t host nearly the number of Dubstep parties that Steez does. I don’t blame them at all. When it comes to promoting, if it don’t make dollars it don’t make sense. The fact that they’ve brought Martyn, Headhunter, Ramadanman and Untold to town has been really sweet.

Tell me more about the Dubstep Legion of Doom. What were some motives of creating a collective?
When we first started there was only a really small number of people playing Dubstep so it kind of started as a joke and then blossomed. It was pretty much started so we could all just go hang out, drink a few beers and play some tunes.

What are future plans for you and DLOD?
I’d love to see us get some “takeover” gigs. As I stated before, when there are 5-6 of us sharing an hour & a half it doesn’t give you much of an opportunity to get into a zone and build. We’ve got a few guys in the crew who produce and we play a wide range of styles so having us play for 3-4 hours would be ideal. I may get back into promoting if the right situation presents itself and if that happens you can be sure DLOD will holding it down as residents.

In classic Hip Hop style, who would you give shout outs to right now?
First and foremost all the promoters who are pushing things in the region, 88 D.C. and the LODA parties, Ray Casil and the “I Love Bass” parties, Wicked Sway and the Dubline parties, Illeffect & Ransom who are going to be promoting more events in the future, Steez Promo and the Dub Nation parties in Bmore, Good Vibes who have hosted a couple shows at The Black Hole in Dundalk and lastly Ben Freeman who does his Braptizm event in Harrisburg, PA.

Ricky Ricardo gets a big shout for co-hosting and starting the Dubstep extension of Expansion Broadcast. He also played a big part in exposing me to new stuff and helped shape my style. Signal gets a big shout too as he played a big part in helping with our Shockout parties we did back in ’07 and is always cool about hooking up tunes he makes. My fellow Expansion Broadcast hosts get a shout, Deinfamous, Stepan, Ransom, Encryption, Dave J, and Illeffect, the man who started it all. I gotta shout Harry Ransom again, as well as Ill Selection and Heider for the same thing, they’ve always been real cool about sharing & hooking up new tunes they’ve worked on.

All DLOD gets a shout, Encryption, Amitai, Heider, Quannum Logic, Psykofly, Lycan and Redlab. I have to give Joe Nice a big shout too for being a big influence on what I play. He hosts 1 of the 2 best shows in the World and usually half his shows are a preview of what I’ll be buying over the next year. I have to shout the Anti-Social family as well, someone from their crew is always doing a show and the stuff they play is brilliant and usually 3⁄4 of what they play is stuff people in their crew have produced.

Most importantly I’d like to shout out all the people in the D.C./Bmore area that don’t DJ, don’t produce, don’t promote, and just purely love the music and help support what we do. That ties into my last shout out which goes to our loyal Expansion Broadcast listeners and podcast subscribers, our #s have really grown over the years which makes it all feel worthwhile.
Catch the DC massive on Expansion Broadcast each Friday.

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