Above many other things, we are constantly grateful to live in a city that calls itself home to such a vast array of musical scenes. From the recent Echo Park Rising music festival, FYF and HARD fests, to Grand Park Summer Sessions and the Twilight Concerts at the Santa Monica Pier, this town is certainly not lacking in melodic entertainment. We get some of the worlds greatest orchestras, including our own LA Phil, at the Hollywood Bowl and who could forget the eery-yet-exciting performances in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. While festivals and concerts abound during the summer, the rest of the year we often find ourselves turning to the radio to catch our favorite classics and discover new jams. Sadly, most of our radio stations churn out the same songs that are all starting to sound the same… and at a rate of about 30 times per hour. Ugh. Though all may seem lost to these hair whipping, roaring, twerking teen ‘idols’, don’t you fret fellow Angelenos, for, thankfully, there is Dublab.
A+A: For starters, what exactly is Dublab?
M: At its core, Dublab is a non-profit internet radio station. Dublab is a group of creative people, musicians, DJ’s, filmmakers, visual artists who have come together to create this collaborative organization. We’ve been doing radio since ’99 but we also do a lot of tangent projects that are all music related as well.
A+A: Well, that’s just plain awesome. How did Dublab get started?
M: I first got really involved in music back in 1994 in college radio. I was lucky to land there at a time when a lot of interesting folks were coming together (many of the founders of Dublab) like Daedelus, my brother and Edit of The Glitch Mob. We were developing this new kind of underground sound that was really exciting because there wasn’t much of it around at the time. Wu-Tang would be on one night and maybe a techno guy the next. We were also an illegal/pirate radio station and we knew at any moment we could be shut down. Because of that, I started looking into Internet radio and was able to get it up and running online by early 1998. We wanted to keep the momentum going and so we just went for it!
A+A: Can you tell us about some of the events and projects you guys put on?
M: In the fall and winter we have a night called 'Give Up…Stop Dancing and Cry' where we play all sad music and films. We also have a signature event called Tonalism, which is an all night space/drone/ambient music happening that we do worldwide. We also produce art shows that are music related. We did one with Creative Commons called Into Infinity, an infinity-themed art and music show. The art was circle shaped and the audio was 8-second sound loops recorded from artists all over the world. Then we combined the visual and sound over and over to create different combinations and new sounds. Over the years we’ve had these various art and music shows that are intended to explore the edges and angles of music. We like to play with how people interact with sound.
A+A: What is your role in Dublab?
M: I am the executive and creative director. I work with our team to create the radio broadcast schedule and I also conceive some of the special projects we do, whether it’s an album release or curating a show or making a film. I try to set those things in motion and guide the organization creatively, while simultaneously figuring out the logistics and funding. We want keep the identity of Dublab loose enough so it’s still fun, but strong enough so that we have a unique identity.
A+A: So, who are the kinds of people that create a place like Dublab?
M: Each person involved with Dublab inspires the next. We all try to do things for the passion of music itself. We look to inspiring individuals, record labels, other artists and organizations, like the radio station WFMU out of the east coast. They are over 75 years old and are always doing things that are progressive. We try to remain on our own path but also to bring the right people together.
When we first started we were always told to click one box to describe the type music we played, but nothing really fit. We decided to coin the term Future Roots Music for our genre. We like to play the most progressive music, sometimes straight from the artist’s studio. We are playing music that hopefully influences people. Music that might not have a large audience at first, but may grow and inspire. In one set you might hear 1920’s music from Baghdad played next to a brand new song from LA. We select DJ’s that feel very strongly about their musical taste and we just let them do their thing. We never tell a DJ what to play, we just find the right DJ’s to play the music.
A+A: Tell us about some of your DJ’s.
M: We have a really broad range. A lot of them actually make music themselves. Diego Herrera aka Suzanne Kraft, who is on right now, got involved when he was 15 as an intern. Today, he just completed his first European tour and participated in the Red Bull Music Academy. Aaron Coyes aka Slayron of the dub-psych group Peaking Lights just started a Friday show called The Analogue Players Club. The record label and PR group Friends of Friends host a monthly show as does the producer Daedelus who is a founding Dublab DJ. Staff member Ale of Languis and the band Pharaohs hosts a weekly show right before Matthewdavid who runs Leaving Records. Matthew’s wife Diva is also a Dublab DJ and also recently signed to Stones Throw Records. Dublab DJ Danny Holloway is a legend in the record world. He lived in Jamaica in the 70’s while working for Island Records and produced bands like The Heptones. Mahssa runs a store called Mount Analog which is one of the best new record shops in the country. They do a lot of in-store shows and serve as the US base for the Finders Keepers record label. There are so many more amazing folks involved which you can see and hear at dublab.com/labrats.
A+A: What are your favorite music venues and/or music nights in and around LA?
M: I like more of the unconventional ones. Natural spaces are always interesting. One of our DJs does a lot of forest shows and this year is doing a desert party in Joshua Tree where he will have yoga classes and a Japanese chef. I like collaborative work. Incorporating different senses gives a variety of experiences. Museum venues are also fun. We have done a lot of events with LACMA, MOCA and The Getty. Being able to expose the public community is always exciting for us. I love Human Resources and REDCAT. They both have a big variety of shows. We work with Cinefamily a lot, which is an amazing space. That’s one of the things I love about LA: it has so much space!
A+A: where are your favorite late-night food spots?
M: I’m a fan of classic LA spots like Pacific Dining Car on 6th just west of downtown LA. It’s an old train car, the waiters wear tuxedos, the food is great and they make amazing martinis. It’s open 24-hours, but from 11pm on they have a half price menu! The mulitas at Taco Zone are so good and really authentic. Sqirl just down the street on Virgil is amazing. G&B Coffee in Grand Central Market is great. The owners are big supporters of ours. They put great soul and craft into what they do. India Sweets & Spices is a favorite lunch spot and you can actually buy old Indian music cassettes in the attached grocery store. Speranza in Silver Lake has wonderful Italian food and a great vibe! Elf Café in Echo Park is my favorite restaurant. It’s all organic and vegetarian North African style cuisine. The atmosphere is super cozy and the food is mind-blowing.
A+A: And any favorite bars?
A+A: What is you favorite music of the moment?
M: I’m really into Michael Hurley. He’s this amazing old vagabond (in the best of ways) and one of the best song writers out there. Peaking Lights new album is one of my favorites, Pharaohs, I listen to a lot of Alice Coltrane, Caribou’s Daphni Project, Ariel Pink’s new album and this producer out of the UK, Andy Stott.
A+A: On your 85th birthday where do you picture yourself?
M: I hope to be feeling no regrets, to have lived a life on my own terms but also very aware and thoughtful of people around me, and to have a happy family whom I have passed my values onto. I want to have done my part in the community by doing positive, creative things that have influenced people, to have sent out a positive ripple in the universe. Also, I hope to have a great beard and be totally nuts!
A+A: What’s the most important quality in a best friend?
M: With full trust anything is possible. Being able to have adventures and try new things with someone is most important.
A+A: Anything else?
M: Dublab has always been a radio station at the core. We end up doing so many other things that sometimes people can’t guess what we are but we have expanded our live broadcast schedule a great deal and are focusing on radio in a big way! It’s our dream to keep operating as a radio station that does other creative projects, is free, open and accessible. Also we are having a celebration of 14 years on September 21st, so save the date!
Mark ‘Frosty’ McNeill