Rock & rave, rave & roll, rave-abilly. Luca Venezia has heard them all. As New York–based DJ, producer, label owner and fashion designer Drop the Lime, Venezia has made his own dance-music niche combining fuzzy guitar licks, jump-blues bass, dance beats, a whole lot of low end and a pomade slick. His unique output has inspired a lot of new subgenre names. “Electro-billy is the worst one,” he says on the phone from L.A. “It’s always something ‘billy.’ Dance-abilly? It’s like, what? Some journalists do; please don’t make up a genre,” he asks of me in exasperation. I wasn’t going to, Luca, but I’m sorry, wonky-tonk is too good not to throw in the mix.
All joking aside, Venezia’s sound is no novelty. Guitars combined with a dance beat are nothing new, but Drop the Lime isn’t mimicking Vampire Weekend or even electro-rockers Justice. Venezia’s rock & roll is of the ’50s greaser mold; think Gibson hollow-body guitars, Roy Orbison and the Black Keys. The songs on his latest full-length, Enter the Night, present a singular vision of electronic rockabilly, and it’s a more seamless fusion than you might think.
“That’s what everybody says to me, ‘I didn’t expect to understand it, but I do. I love it. Was it hard to do?’ It’s music, it’s natural,” Venezia explains. Whether he’s working with a moombahton, dubstep or techno framework, when he applies his bluesy guitar and voice—one that’s raspy from too much whiskey and fast living—to the mix, it works. “All of it is dance music when you think about it,” he says. “It’s what teenagers turn to to rebel against their parents and to be wild, hook up with each other and get crazy.”
He’s elusive about his age—when I interviewed him two years ago he was 28, so I suspect it’s because he’s recently turned 30 (again, sorry Luca)—but the heavily inked and slick-haired producer has been championing a rock attitude for most of the new millennium. Whether through signings and his own singles for his Trouble & Bass label or through his genre-spanning DJ sets, Venezia has always played the part of the rocker in the dance world.
“Just incorporating anything that’s rock & roll, anything that has that raw energy and sexiness, I think is really important to spike it into dance music and give a more human touch to this very synthetic sound,” Venezia says. Though his Chicago appearance at Lincoln Hall on Tuesday 25 is a DJ set, he’s passionate about adopting this aesthetic for his new live show as well.
“I’m trying to move away from this insanely huge, ridiculously competitive light show, like, dick fest, where everyone’s like, who’s got a bigger dick, who’s got a bigger spaceship, who’s got a bigger laser light fuck fest?” The Drop the Lime live show is him, his guitar and sampler, a drummer and burlesque dancers. “I feel like I need to bring the sexier side, to be more intimate with the audience.”
Venezia’s radical attitude applies to every aspect of his image. Beyond his stripped-down live show, he’s also working with multiple fashion designers to craft a look that’s all his own—and all black. “I’ve always been intrigued by darkness, the mystery of darkness, the danger of darkness,” he says. This explains why he thrives in nightclubs and dive bars, behind a guitar or behind turntables, spinning doo-wop and dubstep. It also explains the musical world of Enter the Night—a world that, despite this talk of darkness, is well worth shining some light on.
Drop the Lime deejays the Red Bull Thre3Style finals at Lincoln Hall on Tuesday 25.