January 10, 2011
LA Beat Guru
After an extended heyday in the 90’s, electronic dance music is back off the radar and is presently going through an intense period of exploration and innovation. A new generation of bedroom Producer/DJ’s are rolling out bass heavy product for diehards again, inventing new sounds that have a way of trickling down into the mainstream. Joe Conway caught up with CA booth lurker Don Froth to talk about what’s pushing progression in his particular field of expertise today.
What led you into making dance music?
My dad brought me a garage two-step CD back from London in 1996 and as soon as I heard that I was pretty much hooked. I grew up playing drums in a punk band and my parents were heavy in to jazz and soul, but for a while I guess I was moving around in dance music and looking for stuff that I liked.
For a long time I was really into downtempo and instrumental hip hop, and house, too. I’ll listen to a jazz album and then I’ll listen to a drum and bass album all in the same sitting—to me it’s all the same thing.
You cut your teeth making dubstep tracks though, right?
Yeah, one night a good friend of mine took me to the Higgins Gallery in Downtown LA. It’s a perfect set up—a dark cave with colossal bass and one light. That changed everything for me.
Dubstep was a sound I had been looking for without knowing it. That was in ’07 and by the time I caught the bug it had been around since about 2000. It was still underground but even then the exploration had set off in new directions.
Was the underground thing part of the appeal?
Definitely. When I first heard this stuff it wasn’t readily available, so for me that made it that much more exciting. And especially going out at night and having to get a password to go into some place. It was like a rave, but dubstep was a different kind of rave, it was amazing. All the negative things that came to be associated with raves don’t necessarily apply. Technically a rave is just a party that goes late into the night.
Your sound varies somewhat, like you don’t have any one set formula that you rely on. How do you know when you’ve got it right?
By not being able to do the same thing twice. I have tried many times to match a previous track sound, but I fail, hard. I usually start a new track with new sounds, chopping things up, playing with parts and all that. There’s definitely no formula and most of the time the track is 180° from what I set out to do.
Sometimes I sit back and stare at the speakers, confused about what happened in the last four hours. A lot of it is time and experimentation. I know it’s right when it’s like, “Enough!” [laughs]
What are you working towards with your sound?
I think a lot of the stuff I’m doing is dark, which is a trait associated with dubstep, but dubstep is more like 140 bpms. I don’t hear a lot of dark music at 120 bpms—that’s what I’m more interested in. I’m trying to make ‘dubstep meets house.’ But it’s all rooted in bass oriented dance music.
I don’t really make this stuff for hanging out with your friends and listening to it on a laptop—it might actually make people uncomfortable if you did that. It’s not meant for that, it’s meant for big sound systems that can hold bass. It’s a whole different way of looking at music, it’s dance floor oriented.
You took off for a while and got to see what’s happening overseas this past year, what did that do for you?
Yeah, after a slight day job burnout I decided to take a break and concentrate on music. At that point I had put out a few records and had just finished the most recent 12″ on Phonica White—10,000CC’s—so I went over to Europe to connect with some DJ’s/producers I had been doing stuff with remotely.
Playing in different countries, being sent on a train to the next city, not knowing what I was doing next was the best adventure. I thrive on the unknown and the unpredictability of life like that, going by the seat of your pants, not really knowing how or when I was going get home or anything like that, just making it work. It was definitely super inspiring.
So what’s next?
Trying to keep away from genres and formulas, some new artists/releases on Froth’n Records, remixes, checking out street sweepers, maybe some more travel if I can swing it—basically anything to keep it unpredictable and keep exploring.