Interview: Trouble & Bass
The low-end-loving crew celebrates a birthday at Sullivan Room.
Tue Sep 10 2013
Photograph: Shoot People
Formed partly as a reaction to the perceived monotony of NYC nightlife at the time, and partly as an avenue for its members to do whatever the hell they wanted, Trouble & Bass sprang to life in 2006, with Star Eyes, Drop the Lime, Math Head and Zack Shadetek as its core members. The self-described “Heavy Bass Champions of the World”—currently Star Eyes, Drop the Lime, AC Slater, and numerous pals here in New York and around the low-end-loving world—are celebrating their seventh anniversary with a balls-to-the-wall bash at Sullivan Room and its ancillary Sullivan Hall on Friday, September 13. TONY recently sat down for a chat with Star Eyes (real name: Vivian Host) and Drop the Lime, known to his pals as Luca Venezia.
Time Out New York:I’m guessing that you didn’t really have a seven-year plan for Trouble & Bass when you started back in 2006.
Luca Venezia: Oh, no, absolutely not. At that point, we had only just done a mixtape together called Shotgun Wedding [released in 2005 on Tigerbeat6 side label Violent Turd] that was by [Host and Kristin Vincent’s onetime DJ partnership] Syrup Girls and Drop the Lime. I was very much into grime and U.K. music back then.
Vivian Host: I think the idea for that actually came from [Tigerbeat6 head] Kid606. He had asked me to do one of those Shotgun Wedding mixes, and he had brought up the idea of doing it with Drop the Lime. I was really psyched about that because I was already into [Drop the Lime’s] breakcore records that had come out on Tigerbeat6. We were in a bit of a synergistic moment, because we were going out to the same New York parties, so we probably would have met anyway. But we met through that mix-CD instead. And it felt like we were instantly friends.
Luca Venezia: We were both ravers, really. And we’re still ravers at heart.
Vivian Host: We’re basically ravers who like Fugazi.
Luca Venezia: That’s a great way of putting it. We’re punk-rock ravers. At the time, there was a lot of stuff like minimal techno and laptop music. But we liked the idea of mixing punk attitude and electronics.
Vivian Host: And we’ve always been attracted to stuff that was both funny and dark. A lot of the parties that were going on then were very tasteful, in a way. I do like to think that we have good taste, but being polite and tasteful isn’t necessarily the makings of a good party.
Time Out New York:Is that attitude what led you to start Trouble & Bass?
Luca Venezia: At that point, we weren’t thinking of doing a label or anything like that—but we did want to start doing a party. The name Trouble & Bass actually started as an artist moniker. We did a 12-inch and printed up 500 copies, and didn’t put any of our names on it.
Time Out New York:That was you and Math Head, right?
Luca Venezia: Yeah. But the record just said “Trouble & Bass.” The music was an extension of what we were deejaying, so it was a lot of stuff like mixing slowed-down drum ’n’ bass tunes with acid basslines or some dubsteppy sounds and producing our own thing.
Time Out New York:There have always been a lot of sounds floating around New York, but I remember the city being rather house-centered back then. Did you run into any resistance to your music?
Luca Venezia: I think that’s actually why we did end up starting a record label. We all would be mixing these different genres together, between songs and within songs, and then nobody would want to release them. [Laughs] They’d be like, “What is this? It’s not house, it’s not grime, it’s not drum ’n’ bass—I don’t know what it is!”
Vivian Host: Having to define what genre we play is something that plagues us to this day. What we wanted to do when we were throwing the early parties was just to have a really crazy, edgy, raw, ravey event—the kind of party that we really liked, and that didn’t really exist in New York back then. But the main point of it, with all of us being DJs and all loving all these kinds of music, was playing all these things that in our minds actually fit together. Of course, at that time—and maybe now, too—every kind of music had its own niche. What we call the Trouble & Bass sound, or “heavy bass,” is just covering everything we play. If you actually describe what we play, you’ll just end up listing all these different genres, like dubstep, grime, bassline, Baltimore club, Miami bass, house, techno.… It gets kind of ridiculous. And even though we have a lot of U.K. influences, I think it ends up being a very New York sound.
Time Out New York:I’ve always thought of Trouble & Bass as one of the major forces in bringing together the many strands of bass music, and of promoting musical anarchy in general.
Luca Venezia: I think the main thing is that we have short attention spans, and we’re always seeking out what’s new. That’s what keeps us excited and what keeps us going.
Vivian Host: I think we’ve probably foreseen maybe 20 different things in music, but as a DJ and as a label—especially as a label—you can’t chase after every single thing that you get excited about. I mean, we get excited all the time! [Laughs] This sounds like a cliché, but we’re just trying to fill a void, by throwing the kind of parties that we want to go to and releasing the kind of music that we want to play. Luckily for us, people were interested.
Time Out New York:I guess it’s worth noting that when you started, bass music wasn’t even a term.
Vivian Host: No, not really. Of course, there’s always been bass music, but nobody called it that. There was Miami bass and whatever—but now if you go to a digital store, they’ll have a genre column called bass music. That certainly didn’t exist five years ago, and I like to think we had some small hand in creating that thing.
Time Out New York:Where was the first official Trouble & Bass party?
Luca Venezia: I wish we could still have them there—it was at Boogaloo! It was this little after-hours sketch den.
Time Out New York:Oh, yeah, that’s right—in South Williamsburg.
Vivian Host: I was just in the space; it’s called Duff’s now. It looks a lot smaller, but it’s still got this crazy, weird vibe. I guess that it’s seeped into the walls and the seats. It’s got a really wild decor, and it feels like somewhere where you could have a lock-in situation.
Time Out New York:You had some pretty crazy parties there, if I remember correctly.
Luca Venezia: We had some really crazy parties. We’d go way over capacity. Then we started teaming up with people like [alt-rock promoter] Todd P, doing things in weird venues, like that Don Pedro’s place. Then we started expanding.
Vivian Host: We started doing them in Studio B. I loved that place; I wish they would bring it back.
Time Out New York: You’ve always attracted a mixed bag of people to your events, right?
Vivian Host: I would say that we attract people who want to have fun.
Luca Venezia: They don’t even necessarily know all the music. They just want to have a blast.
Time Out New York:When did the label officially kick off?
Luca Venezia: That was a year or two after the parties started, around when digital started to become more of a standard thing for record labels. That made it easier to do. We were doing vinyl, but not for every release. It really seemed to take off, and then we started doing the parties worldwide, taking it to London and Berlin and a lot of other places. Because of that, we started meeting all these other artists, which helped to expand things even further.
Vivian Host: We’ve always been a label with artists from all over the place, but we’ve been concentrating lately on putting out music from young artists here in New York. We just put out a record by Santino, Sabor de Tú Amor, which is a freestyle project.
Time Out New York:That certainly sounds like a very New Yorky release.
Vivian Host: Yeah, it’s a real Latin freestyle thing. And then we’re putting out a record by Doctor Jeep, and then music from Jubilee, Tony Quattro and, in the fall, Gotham City Creepers, which is this suspicious new Trouble & Bass project. So yeah, we’re having a real New York moment right now.
Time Out New York:It seems like when Trouble & Bass started, New York was barely on the clubbing world map, whereas now it definitely is.
Luca Venezia: Yeah, it really is!
Vivian Host: I don’t know how you feel, but I think that New York is really back. It feels like there is so much energy here right now, and we’re having so much fun going out and checking out all these different kinds of events. There are so many warehouse parties, and so many people—like Verboten, Blkmarket and the rest—that have really revitalized the scene. We’re really inspired by that at the moment. And everyone from everywhere else wants to come to New York now; three to five years ago, they were all like, “New York’s dead, isn’t it?”
Luca Venezia: It’s really Brooklyn. Brooklyn has spawned this dance-music resurgence we’re having now.
Time Out New York:Let’s talk about your upcoming anniversary party. It’s on Friday the 13th; was that by dumb luck, or did you pick that date on purpose?
Luca Venezia: We planned it that way! We actually had to move some other parties around to get that date.
Time Out New York:What’s on tap for the party itself?
Vivian Host: A lot. We’re teaming up with Verboten and taking over both Sullivan Room and Sullivan Hall. The downstairs part is going to be an attempt to re-create the vibe of Boogaloo. We used to play a lot of old-school rave there, like 1992 hardcore and old-school drum ’n’ bass. Lots of classic rave, basically.
Luca Venezia: And our guest is [U.K. rave duo] Altern 8.
Time Out New York:I used to love them!
Luca Venezia: And then we’ll mix that kind of thing with the new bass sound of New York, with ourselves, AC Slater, Tony Quattro and some others. Then upstairs, we’re tying it in together with what Verboten does really well, with people like Jesse Rose and Oliver $ playing jacking house.
Vivian Host: And that kind of harkens back to when we were doing parties at Studio B, where we’d get guests like Switch and Sinden—that whole fidget-house thing. The party sort of sums up the history of Trouble & Bass; we’re representing a couple of our eras, plus we have all the new people playing as well.
Time Out New York:Besides working together on the anniversary party, you have something else exciting in the works with Verboten—you’ll have a residency at their new club when it opens, right?
Luca Venezia: Yes, and we are so excited about that.
Vivian Host: I was going to a lot of Verboten parties, and I met Jen [Schiffer, Verboten’s cofounder]. She already knew about Trouble & Bass and seemed to understand what we were about, which was cool. We just started talking more and more. And Josh [JDH from the Fixed party] had worked with Verboten a lot, and suggested to Jen that they do something with us. And one thing just led to another.
Time Out New York:This will be your first steady venue in quite a while, won’t it?
Luca Venezia: Definitely. And we really click with Verboten. We’re used to dealing with a lot of unprofessionals [Laughs], but they’re so organized. It just felt really right to do this.
Vivian Host: It’s like, we’re so organized and they are so organized. How often does that happen in the club world?
Time Out New York:So what’s next?
Luca Venezia: Well, one thing is that we’re taking our merchandise much more seriously. We’re going to be doing a lot more select pieces, teaming up with designers and stuff like that. But also, specifically for the anniversary, we’re doing a full tour, going to Miami, Orlando, San Francisco.…
Vivian Host: I think it’s a total of seven dates. There’s a lot of seven stuff happening.
Time Out New York:Trouble & Bass has always seemed a bit occultish, so perhaps there’s something to that number, like a numerology sort of thing.
Vivian Host: Well, we’re both half Italian, and maybe because of that we’re both into superstitious things, magical talismans, symbols and that kind of thing.
Time Out New York:Like a residual Catholicism?
Vivian Host: Yeah, we love playing with that. But I don’t think it’s too serious.
Luca Venezia: No, it is serious.
Trouble & Bass Seven-Year Anniversary Party is at Sullivan Room Friday, September 13.
Follow Bruce Tantum on Twitter: @BruceTantum