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Dubstep for dummies: A primer

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The crowd at Forbes during the Pubstep St. Patrick’s Day dubstep party in March.
Courtesy of Joe Borusiewicz

What is dubstep?

Dubstep is an emerging genre of electronic music, rising in popularity and finding its way into mainstream tracks. It has been embraced by noted artists such as Snoop Dogg, Eve and Donald Glaude, to name a few.

“The easiest description of dubstep is just 140 beats-per-minute bass music,” says Jerad Howard, aka King, with Smash Monthly, an ongoing Vegas dubstep party. Adds Mike Puliz with Detn8or and Circle Management, “Dubstep still has real dark and dirtier bass lines that drum and bass has — and it’s got a lot of the same elements — but I think because it is a slower genre, it’s a lot easier for people to accept and understand. It’s not quite as chaotic for a newer listener.”

Where did dubstep come from?

“It’s kind of a merging between different UK styles and a little bit of drum and bass,” says Joe Borusiewicz, aka Stasis, of Vegas’ Hyper Audio crew. He also cites UK garage and dub as specific influences.

A packed house at Forbes during a dubstep party in March on St. Patrick's Day.

A packed house at Forbes during a dubstep party in March on St. Patrick's Day.

“It’s got a lot of reggae elements to it, kind of like drum and bass did in the past,” says Puliz. “There’s a wide variety of dubstep out there as well. There’s a little bit more softer, vocal stuff. There’s the harder bass lines or the robotic sounds.”

“Right now there’s so many influences from house to trance to drum and bass — everything. It’s crazy. There’s a lot of 4/4 dubstep, there’s a lot of half-time dubstep. There’s a lot of the harder stuff,” says Howard.

How can you tell the difference between dubstep and drum and bass?

“Drum and bass, I always used to call the punk rock of electronica,” says Puliz. “It’s definitely an acquired taste. There’s a real love/hate relationship with it, too, and I think the biggest reason for that is just the speed of it. The tempo of [DnB] is up to almost 180 beats per minute. It’s real kind of more aggressive, it’s real fast-paced music.”

“At first it seems like everyone was hating on [dubstep],” says Borusiewicz. “People were like, ‘What’s this half-step bullshit music?’ We’re used to 175 BPMs and pounding stuff. Eventually the evolution of the genre, a lot of the drum-and-bass producers kind of picked up on the bandwagon and started taking dubstep in new directions and in doing that it made it more accessible to fans of some of the other genres who maybe never even thought they were into it before.”

Who’s involved?

Noted artists in dubstep include Excision, Datsik, Skream & Benga, Caspa, and even drum and bass DJ/producer Dieselboy is delving into the genre (look for the interview with Dieselboy next week in the Nocturnal Admissions podcast).

Locally, the dubstep community can be found at events like Smash Monthly thrown by Howard and co-promoter Rob Scott. New Galaxy and Konkrete Jungle sometimes incorporate dubstep into their event lineups as well.

When can you experience it for yourself?

April 21: Circle Management, Detn8or, and HyperAudio present Wreckage with headliners Dieselboy, Datsik at Forbes; doors at 10 p.m.; $15, or $10 for locals with proper ID.

April 17: New Galaxy presents Sounds of the Underground at the Ft. Cheyenne Events Center; 8 p.m.; $15-$20.

April 30: Smash Monthly with SPL, Seven, King and more, also at Forbes; 10 p.m.; price TBD.

“Dubstep is something you have to experience live on a proper system,” says Howard. “It’s music that you have to feel because it’s based around bass. Without a lot of subwoofers, it’s not going to work. ... We purchased our own proper system just to do Smash. That way, any venue that we went into, we already knew that we had the proper sound handled.”

Why should you even bother to care about dubstep?

“It’s really taken off nation-wide,” says Puliz. “Dubstep is one of the hottest genres out right now. A lot of people are throwing in dubstep with their electro or their house sets as well.”

“It’s exciting because we’re literally witnessing the birth of a new genre and it’s rare in electronic music that you see that,” says Borusiewicz, adding “I would say just give it a shot. Do something that’s outside the norm. Don’t be afraid to expand from the nights the big clubs throw at you. Come check out something that maybe you haven’t heard yet and see what you think.”

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