Google L.A. producer and DJ 12th Planet and you’re likely to find bloggers claiming he’s responsible for bringing dubstep to the U.S. He’s a central player in the genre’s buzzworthy rise, but I wanted to investigate the lofty praise further.
When I caught up with the trendsetter—whose real name is John Dadzie—on Skype while he was resting up at home before his latest tour brings him to the Bottom Lounge on Thursday 16, he had a chance to set the record straight. “It’s a weird sitch, I’m definitely not the first person,” he says. “There’ve been many more before me. But I think what I did, mainly, was I brought a lot of kids from drum ’n’ bass into dubstep.”
The 29-year-old, who got his start in high school making drum ’n’ bass records under the name Infiltrata, discovered an enticing new world in dubstep while touring the U.K. during the early 2000s. As his career gained momentum, he found himself in front of larger and larger audiences. He also found himself working these fresh sounds into his sets. “I’d open up for people like MSTRKRFT and Steve Aoki and Diplo, and none of those guys were championing dubstep at that time. So I got to play a lot of people’s first dubstep experience,” he continues. “I wouldn’t say I was the first in the U.S., I just got to play in different markets.”
Easygoing in that Cali boy sort of way, Dadzie is more comfortable with the idea that he was one of a handful of early adopters who helped increase the bass-heavy genre’s popularity here. Through SMOG, a party, label and brand that he spearheaded with a few like-minded friends, he’s certainly a pioneer in L.A., having kick-started the dubstep movement there.
“Being hooked on drum ’n’ bass, that’s all I did for a six- or seven-year run. I just wanted to do something different,” Dadzie says. In 2006, he changed his DJ and production alias to 12th Planet and started experimenting with music in the vein of U.K. heavyweights like Skream and Benga. “Those guys are my heroes,” he says. “I don’t want to say I bit their sound, but that was my main inspiration on how to make dubstep. I used their sketch to make my drawings.”
The shift catapulted his career to a whole new level. He’s part of a new generation within the genre, one centered on headline stealers like Rusko and Dadzie’s pal Skrillex. They’ve injected the sound with an adrenaline shot of intensity, ramping up the ferocity for rave-ready and increasingly younger fans.
More so than many of his peers, you can still hear the lineage of dubstep’s roots in Dadzie’s music—many 12th Planet productions exude a steelier vibe akin to his U.K. forebears. “There are different spectrums of dubstep,” he says, referencing disparate acts like post-dubstep crooner James Blake and aggressor Flux Pavilion. “The one thing I’d tell people, especially all the bass snobs out there, is that there’s not just one sound of dubstep. There are so many different avenues for it, and it’s up to the listener to do some research.”
That said, Dadzie still has an image to uphold as 12th Planet, and it’s one that adheres closer to dubstep’s hard-core side. “I try and have my sets reflect upon the persona, so nowadays it’s more high energy,” he says. “My persona has become this party animal, have fun, stage dive, take your clothes off and party your ass off kind of mentality. If it’s peak hour in front of 5,000 people, I’m going to rock out.”
12th Planet rocks out at the Bottom Lounge Thursday 16.