Imagine being pulsed in the chest with a sonic pressure washer while globules of sweat drip off your forehead. The air is viscous, the lighting — or lack thereof — is inconsequential, and a 180-degree head spin displays an abyss of black hats and hoodies.
That is what it feels like to be at a RESPECT show.
Since March 2, 1999, the weekly Los Angeles event has been dishing out drum and bass — along with its many subgenres — to an enclave of loyal acolytes. Founded by a group of south L.A. misfits (many of them friends since middle school), they dubbed themselves the Junglist Platoon. The original group consisted of DJs Machete, Scooba, Clutch and NoFace, but has since grown to include more.
Billboard Dance spoke with RESPECT emissary Rob “Machete” Gonzalez about the lore of drum and bass as well as the roots of the weekly L.A. night. Celebrating their 21st anniversary Friday (March 6) at downtown’s grimy and beloved 1720 warehouse with Dillinja, DJ Craze, Crissy Criss, Armanni Reign, DJ Clutch, Junglist Platoon, MC QuestionMark and MC Dre, RESPECT has remained a steady pulse in the L.A. underground for more than two decades.
“I was learning about drum and bass music and culture before it really was a culture, back when it was still primarily in the U.K.,” says Gonzalez, who began spinning jungle and drum and bass as Machete in 1994. “We were building it out here in L.A. and kind of figuring out what to do with it.”
Here are Machete’s 10 essential things to know about drum and bass:
1. The Sound
For those who have not yet stumbled into the drum and bass dungeon at a rave or music festival, the experience is akin to instantly going from slow motion to warp speed.
According to Gonzales, who originally discovered his passion for DJing in hip-hop, a lot of drum and bass’s baselines were derived from dancehall reggae. Additionally, many of the samples used were similar to hip-hop, a familiar sound to which he was drawn.
“The producers back in the day were experimenting with different variations of tempo,” explains Gonzales. “The early acid-house days led to four-on-the-floor and hardcore while also incorporating breakbeats, and it just continued to evolve. The tempos slowly got faster over time — the average BPM for drum and bass is about 174 to 180, but a lot of the early jungle could be somewhere in the 160 range. And then there’s stuff like dubstep, which is in the 140 range.”
2. The U.K. Genesis
The U.K. has many claims to fame, but for dance music culture, drum and bass may be one of its most impactful. An amalgam of influences, drum and bass has roots in dancehall, reggae, dub, breakbeat, funk, techno, house, jazz, electro, hardcore and hip-hop. London and Bristol are known for their drum and bass culture, and for the L.A.-based Junglist Platoon, this was their haven.
“A dozen of us took a trip to Europe for the first time back in ‘96 to bring in the new year,” Gonzalez says. “We traveled to London to experience the rave culture out there. We saw people like Grooverider, DJ Hype, Roni Size. From that trip, we really saw what things could be like in L.A.”
3. The Subgenres
Just like all electronic music, drum and bass — which is also referred to as drum ‘n’ bass, D&B, DnB or D’n’B — has a dizzying litany of subgenres. These include jungle, liquid funk, jump up, neurofunk, rollers, ambient drum and bass, breakcore, ragga jungle, hardstep, darkstep, techstep, drumfunk, funkstep, sambass, and drill ‘n’ bass — plus more that are probably created (and forgotten) daily.
4. The Junglists
Sometimes synonymous with drum and bass, the jungle subgenre was actually the progenitor. In the early ‘90s, a sect of electronic music began to feature more bassline and breakbeat-driven tracks, often adding elements from dancehall and reggae. This bore the jungle genre, whose subversive fans referred to themselves as “junglists.”
“During our London trip in ‘96 and ‘97, everyone there was calling it drum and bass,” says Gonzalez. “For us it was still jungle, but everyone was like, ‘Yeah, this is drum and bass now and this is where it’s going.’”
5. The Early Pioneers
Some of the most messianic pioneers of the drum and bass genre include Goldie, Grooverider, Fabio, Andy C, Dillinja, DJ Hpe, DJ Raw (aka 6BLOCC), Oscar da’ Grouch, Dieselboy, Ed Rush, Krust, Bizzy B, Shy FX, Peshay, DJ SS, LTJ Bukem, Jack Smooth, The Prodigy, Omni Trio, Rebel MC, Soul Slinger, DJ Special K, Rob Playford and many more. Get to know ’em.
6. The Current Influential Artists
The list of current influential drum and bass artists contains many of the aforementioned pioneers alongside a plethora of new(ish) artists. Though the list continues to grow, it currently boasts artists such as Alix Perez, Chase & Status, Pendulum, Noisia (though they recently split after 20 years), London Elektricity, Sub Focus, Netsky, Camo & Krooked and more.
The aforementioned Thursday-night drum and bass bacchanal came at a time when the genre had barely grazed North America. Though other Los Angeles weeklies existed — Science on Sundays and Viper Room’s Atmosphere on Tuesdays among them — they eventually dissolved, just in time for RESPECT to make its debut.
“Back in the day, I put out a mixtape, and its purpose was to pay respect to the music,” Gonzalez shares. “I didn’t put my DJ name on it; all I put was ‘respect’ with a cover that my friend designed. I gave them out to people for free.”
“Then when it came time to name the club,” he continues, “we all talked about it and we decided, respectfully, that the way to go was with respect. It wasn’t just a name — there was a message and it was positive. That’s where we were born.”
8. The Labels
Major drum and bass labels include, but are not limited to: Hospital (founded by London Elektricity and Chris Goss), RAM Records (founded by Andy C and Liftin’ Spirits), Metalheadz (founded by Goldie and Kemistry), Shogun Audio (founded by Friction and K-Tee), Viper Recordings (founded by Futurebound), and Formation Records (founded by Leroy Small and Eidris Hassam).
9. The Culture
While many harder electronic genres such as dubstep and trap have seen rises and falls, drum and bass has remained consistent. Though barely breaching beyond the underground, its down-to-earth community shows an undying loyalty unlike most any other electronic genre.
“I honestly think the fact that drum and bass has remained mostly underground is part of its appeal,” says Gonzalez. “It’s the underdog of dance music. It’s always going to be there, but we’re always keeping it real and moving it forward — just slightly under the radar.”
10. The Drum & Bass Arena Awards
Touted as the longest-running award ceremony in bass music, The Drum & Bass Arena Awards just concluded their 10th year of doling out recognition to the icons of the underground. Founded in 1996, the ceremony is fully fueled by fans who diligently vote for their favorite artists. This year saw winners such as A.M.C. for best DJ, Chase & Status for best producers, Hospital Records for best label, Urbandawn featuring Tyson Kelly for best track, and Kanine for best newcomer.