Mikey Dubs searching for the voices. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Mikey Dubs prefers to step in and out of different styles, trying them on for size. He’s made industrial, post-punk, garage, techno, and house musics. But it’s always the dub reggae that keeps him grounded. “You can expect my music and deejay sets to traverse a number of scenes,” he says, “but I take all my influences and relate them to dub.” Hence the name.
Dub has always been the one constant in this Bushwick resident’s long running musical exploration, combining it’s signature production elements with whatever genre he is playing with.
As a genre, dub began in the 1970s, spearhead by early innovators like King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Reggae music singles often include a dub version as a B-side, which is basically an instrumental with some added effects like echo and reverb, sometimes including small bits of extra instrumentation. Eventually the dub style grew independent of vocal tracks and flourished on its own.
“Dub reggae has always been a running thread in my music. Original deejay culture comes from sound system culture, so it’s no surprise that influence is there.” He’s referring to the events where Jamaican deejays would bring big sound systems into the streets and play to huge crowds. This is the the root of reggae.
The dubplate — limited vinyl pressings of someone’s music — is another tradition of sound systems that Dubs continues with some of his own songs: “It’s basically a promotional tool these days. But digital music is so ephemeral. I love the tactility of a record. And there’s a warmth to an analog recording that you can’t get from digital.”
Given this interest in combining dub reggae with other genres, his attachment to dubstep would seem obvious. The simple constant of bass, syncopated percussion, and a speed of around 140 beats per minute allows the artist room to be creative, he explains: “What’s great about it is that it’s constantly evolving. Sure, there’s these hardcore ‘dubstep’ guys making brostep — that aggressive, wobbly mid-range bass frequency set to a half-time beat — and so everyone’s coming up with different names to describe their stuff and differentiate themselves. But for all these names, these artists are still being lumped in with dubstep, but they all have a different take on it.”
“In a lot of scenes, there’s this urge to do what everyone else is doing," the artist adds. "And they become staid, locked in. Every few years there’s this hot button genre that everybody runs to. But at some point the creativity dries up because everyone’s on the bandwagon.”
But Dubs points to the Hotflush label — and particularly their new release by Mount Kimbie — as an example of why dubstep is still vibrant. “Sure, I wouldn’t know what to label the music, but it’s there because of the dubstep scene. They’ve made their own niche style and are getting away with it.”
And that’s what he aspires to with his own music. “I’m always trying to find my signature element,” he says. "That way I can be happy being a cultural tourist.”
You can catch him next on Sept 4th at Love when he spins alongside artists from the Dirty Bird label, Tanner Ross and Sergio Santos. Alex Incyde, Falty DL, and a special, unnamed guest will also play. Expect Mikey Dubs to spin a set in the upper-tempos peppered with names like Martyn, Untold, Kode 9, and Shackleton. “Tell your sisters, lovers, and mothers,” he advises. You can also hear him at his monthly Sexytime Explosion party at Keybar in Manhattan.