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By Tom Murphy
DJ Ishe (aka Nate Lappegaard) has been making music longer than most of his fans have been alive. Nearing his two-decade mark as a DJ, Ishe is one of the underdog producers in Denver who's helped propel the dubstep scene, and he's done so by keeping true to himself and true to his music. Fittingly, we spoke with him at the former home of Twist & Shout, where he once spent entire paychecks on vinyl records just to hear a new sound.
Westword: You've been producing for almost twenty years. How do you view the change in electronic music since you've been in the game?
DJ Ishe: First of all, I've been here a long fucking time, and the only reason people like this music right now is because of people like me, not because of people like Skrillex. People like me have been slaving, been playing shitty residencies, dying of alcoholism, right? Not being able to take jobs, not being able to buy houses, not getting married, not having kids, and just basically giving up their lives for this scene.
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We need to unplug people from this bullshit society that we are living in. This is not about money. If I wanted to make money, I would be a hip-hop producer or a hip-hop DJ. You know what's funny? There are probably twenty dudes in this town who play at all these other clubs in town and probably make three times as much money as I do deejaying. I can barely make a living wage playing music. This is about what happened to me. This is about reaching into a kid's mind and showing him something that is true in a world full of fucking lies. It's always been about change.
Something you told me once always rings in my head: "We aren't stealing Timbaland's sounds; he's using ours." Can you delve into that more?
I did this presentation on dubstep at the MCA, and it was about the history of dubstep. It comes from house music and two-step and garage, which is like chicks singing club music. It has a lot less to do with drum-and-bass than a lot of dubsteppers would have you believe. I was listening to music, and one of the really early guys, MJ Cole, was making two-step. He had this tune called "Sincere," and I had it on twelve-inch vinyl. This is like ten or twelve years ago, and he made it in a nice studio. On a rig that I have, it sounds so good.
One of the reasons we can make trap and trap-like music now is because we can control the sawtooth wave, the sine wave, or whatever we want. You couldn't make this stuff in a studio ten years ago. I started out with Reason 1.5 — talk about feeling old — and I was like, "This is going to change the world." I had Rebirth Pro, which is freeware now. But, what's going on with music now? People like this music because it's good.
I was talking with Downlink about this in Salt Lake City, and we were talking about Excision. He's probably the number-one or number-two guy out there right now. There are a lot people in the industry now that forget that music is about change. They think this stuff sounds like pop music. Fuck that. Pop music sounds like this.