This weekend, the Unity Gain Reunion show will be taking over 2200, with special guest (and former Colorado resident) Liondub playing a reggae and dancehall set, along with guests Mr. Anonymous and Psychonaut, and house/slomo stylings by Patricia Hertz, Ejay and Ivy. We caught up with Liondub to ask about his career progression, his thoughts on dubstep and more.
Westword: Can you talk about your introduction to the electronic music scene? How did you enter it and how has your career and approach grown and changed in the interim?
Liondub: I was originally inspired to become a DJ by hip hop and reggae dancehall in the mid-to-late 80's. By 1991, I was DJing roots and dub reggae in New York City. Then, in 1999, I moved to Colorado for about three years and was exposed to the Mother Earth Sound System, the Humble Souls and the Trust Crew. That was when I began DJing at parties with individuals like Ivy, Psychonaut, Ejay, Ed Colmar, Satori-C and Royale at clubs like Soma and Tulagi's and outdoor parties all over Colorado and the West Coast. These crews and individuals really opened my eyes to the electronic music scene and inspired me. Not to mention my brother, who was involved in the Konkrete Jungle parties in NYC back in the '90s and had always pushed me to explore British electronic music. But honestly, it wasn't until I moved to Colorado and then traveled to London in '99 that it all clicked for me and my focus shifted from reggae and hihHop to jungle and other forms of electronic music.
What is it about bass-centric music that drew you in?
I've always loved bass. I worked for sound companies through the years, and there was always something about the low frequencies that just captivated my attention and moved me. That's why I love reggae and dancehall so much, 'cause its super bass-heavy music. People seem to respond instantly to a powerful b-line, and I remember that turning up the bass while engineering would drive people mad, putting them in frenzies.
How do you feel about the increasing popularity of dubstep? How do you think it's fit in to your style personally?
Dubstep is taking over the electronic music scene in so many places that I travel to, as well as in NYC. People gravitate toward it on so many different levels, and there are so many genres and styles of music evolving out of dubstep. It's like watching and taking part in the mutation of jungle, two-step garage, house, techno and grime. To me, it's fascinating, and in all honesty, i think that its a really amazing genre to follow, to be a part of, and to see evolve. I'm glad that dubstep is popular, as it stems from music that inspired me from a long time ago, music which I still play to this day.
How are you connected to the Denver scene?
I used to live out in Colorado, and I spent most of my time between Denver, Boulder and the mountain towns. I was a founding member of Unity Gain along with Ivy, Psychonaut, Alala and Angelina. We all started the party with a group of women who I met when I first landed out there. I literally met them all within three days of arriving. These women hosted incredible house parties in Boulder, and after a few months of building with them and DJing their parties, we decided to take it to the club and started Unity Gain at Soma, which at the time was a mecca for electronic music events. Unity Gain was an amazing party, one of the best I have ever been a part of, hands-down. It was about the music, the community, the people and, to me, it was inspirational to be a part of.
What would you say is your biggest musical accomplishment -- or top three, if you have trouble picking -- to date?
Developing and running my record label (Liondub International) is my biggest and most challenging accomplishment by far. It's rewarding to be able to push out my own productions, as well as music by producers that I love, and to see it touch people around the world. Working with artists like Marcus Visionary, Benny Page, Noah D, and the countless singers that i have voiced in Jamaica and NYC (ie: Johnny Osbourne, Sugar Minott, Capleton, Jahdan, etc.) has been inspirational to this day. Aside from that, my tours in Europe have been my most rewarding accomplishments. Being able to travel the world, playing music, absorbing the different cultures, and learning from legends that have inspired me while performing alongside them is something that makes me tick.
What would you still like to accomplish in your musical career?
Just to be able to continue pushing the boundaries of what i have already done and am doing now. To improve my live sets, and keep DJing all over the world as well as in my own city. To keep producing great music that touches people worldwide. To be able to continue working on projects with talented and powerful musician and artists. This is what I live for, what I love -- but of course, it would be solid to win a Grammy and push out a few platinum records before too long.
What are you working on right now, and what can fans expect from you in the future?
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Basically, I'm preparing to hit Europe again this summer for a two-month tour, which will take me to seven countries. I'm looking forward to touch down in the UK, which is my favorite place to be, and perform at Boomtown Fair, Pinch's Dubloaded night in Bristol, and then DJ Hypes infamous Playaz Party at Fabric in London on August 26th. Then I'm off to Croatia for Outlook festival, which -- in my opinion -- is one of the greatest electronic music festivals in the world. Aside from the tour, I'm building some really great parties in New York, and pushing the boundaries of my work here in my city as a promoter and DJ. I'm also focusing on my first full-length album release, a grip of serious remixes, preparing to push out numerous singles over the next year on the label as well as a full length reggae and dub album with Ticklah, which will feature tracks by the late Sugar Minnott, Ella Fitzgerald and a slew of other artists like Miike Snow, Alice Russell, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Rob Symeonn, etc. It's a busy time, and it's really exciting to have so much on my plate.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate your interest and support. Thanks to those people who have always supported me and my work in music for all the years: My family and friends, my colleagues and collaborators, and for all the music-makers and music-lovers who have inspired me. For me, music has afforded me the most incredibly rich experience, and has allowed me to live a life that is one of the best I could ever ask for.