Dubtribe Sound System Explains "the Magic of House Music"
This Saturday night, Stache will commemorate the arrival of its first birthday. To celebrate this event, the speakeasy did more than buy a cake with one lonely candle, it invited house legends Dubtribe Sound System to play a live set on November 15.
Comprised of Sunshine and Moonbeam Jones, Dubtribe has been pursuing its dance-at-all-cost ethic since its '90s San Francisco warehouse days. New Times recently contacted the duo. The two reminisced on the group's origins, time spent apart from each other, and what to expect when they hit Stache.
New Times: How did Dubtribe Sound System start?
Sunshine: Well, it really started up as a party. In the late '80s and early '90s, there just wasn't any kind of place for a collective of musicians -- who were playing live and mixing their songs together and improvising with drum machines -- in either the dance clubs or on the stages of venues. So we started up a monthly party in our flat. It was fun.
That's where we got our name, and how we sort of cut our teeth. It was when people started asking us to "play" at their party, or at their club that we had to sort of get a little bit more organized and figure out who did what, what we were called, and what we wanted to do. But we were born as a party, a thing. Not really a band.
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Moonbeam: Sunshine and I were doing another band at the time. Then Sunshine introduced me to some of the clubs that were going on in San Francisco at the time where house music was being played. I had never heard anything like it before. I was totally intrigued and excited about the scene around this kind of music. So, we worked on a new set with this inspiration in mind, and we never stopped.
Can you go into the details of your hiatus years ago and how you reformed?
Moonbeam: Well, the details of it are deeply personal. But, I can summarize my experience of it. Sunshine and I had been working relentlessly for years focusing solely on Dubtribe and Imperiald Dub Recordings. It was a wonderful and creatively rich time. All of this peaked around the time of our trips to Maui and Mexico. We were beginning work on Baggage and then we had our son.
This was a life altering event for me. I found myself completely lost creatively, and longing to be a mother. I felt that everything else paled in comparison to this singular moment in our lives. Sadly, this shook the foundations of what Sunshine and I had worked on for so many years. We ultimately split up as a couple and a band. While I knew it wouldn't be forever, it seemed as though it was necessary to find -- speaking for myself at least -- who I was and what I wanted out of music again. I love Dubtribe.
I love what Sushine and I have created together. I am very happy to be performing with Sunshine again and thinking about the future and new music. I can't wait to write new music!
Sunshine: It's funny because I was actually just rereading an article that was published right around the time Baggage was released. "Do It Now" had just sort of snuck up on everyone and was killing it, and I was mouthing off about how having a child was only going to add something wonderful to our lives, but not particularly change things. Ha.
I think that for all of our magical powers to unite people, and reinvent the rave and house music for people, Moonbeam and I went up against the major labels, the mainstream, and really gave bringing house music as we understood it -- from the perspective of a live band who had been touring the United States on the ground -- forward into the consciousness of the country.
We talked long and hard about what we were doing, and we really wanted to succeed at vindicating independent electronic music. I know I was pretty beaten down by the idea that our history, the classics of house and techno, were never going to be recognized. I wanted to champion house music and bring it forward.
It's funny saying this now because between the creative revolution in R&B and the popularity of EDM, I think the net result is that "house" is now mainstream. I never expected it to happen that way. But still, back in 1999, it seemed completely out of reach, and so we really got our hopes up that there might actually be a way to find support from the music industry to bring this craft that meant so much to us into the light of day as a valid artform.
To be honest, even though our most popular song was yet to come, that was a pretty crushing experience that was very hard to get up from.
I think the impact left us questioning the previous decade of our lives. I had to go inside myself, learn to focus again on who I am, what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and where I'm coming from. That took almost a decade for me to recollect my thoughts. Moonbeam remains the best friend I've ever had, and I love her deeply. She's my partner creatively, and as much as I enjoy my own solo work as Sunshine Jones, these all seem like sketches and exercises of my other colors. My real work is with Dubtribe, and using that powerful voice to bring people together and tear down whatever walls are in front of us.
But the thing of it is, and this is the main point I think, if we don't do that work on ourselves, then we aren't actually being authentic. You can't go around telling people to love when you wouldn't know love if it kicked you, right? So this period of time, both breaking and reforming, has been all about rediscovering ourselves and each other. It's been all about placing our bare feet back on the ground to better evaluate what we are actually undertaking. I think it's a good idea to know who you are, why you're here, and what you're trying to accomplish. Otherwise we'd just be hauling off half-cocked. And that's fun, but basically fruitless.
What's your process in creating music?
Sunshine: As a musician and a producer, I stay current with music and also with my craft. I practice every day. That's not really the part where music is created, that's more about keeping my instrument in good condition. So I do scales on the bass, play the piano, hand drum, warm up my voice. I do these things to be ready. I want to be ready because I don't know when inspiration will arrive.
I mean, there's music in my head, or in my body, or just past the corner of my eyes all the time. It's flowing through me. I am not a person who likes a lot of distraction. I don't have a television. If I listen to music, it's usually with intention -- looking through records to put a set together, or playing a Coltrane album and laying on the floor with my eyes closed to really experience it.
I think I am deeply affected by sound, so I want to be in a place to embrace it. But most of my inspirations have usually come at the worst possible times. I'll be far from my studio, dancing in a club somewhere, or walking down the street in a hurry and something will just begin to unfold inside of me. I'll hear it, or see it, and it will just start happening. I used to panic and try to run home or write things down or scramble in some way to preserve the moment. But those notes never made any sense later. So I just let them pass through me. I let go.
What's important will come back when it's time. In the end, almost all of my compositions happen in my head in silence. The hard part is living up to them out loud later.
Moonbeam: I have found that my process exists outside of the studio largely. At least that's where I find inspiration. In the world, in the sky, hearing music on the radio, driving, working outside. I always check out the latest releases on Beatport or the other digital music sites. DJing is always inspiring too.
I always have a journal with me and write notes or record sounds that inspire music in my head. I am always writing down bits of lyrics on pieces of paper.
I think the biggest challenge is to not to let frustration get me down. If I work too long on an idea, I will get really down about it. That just means I need to walk away and clear my head. When I come back to it, I am usually happy with it.
What can we expect from your live show at Stache next week?
Moonbeam: I am so excited for this gig! I think we are going to put on a great show. We will do some old favorites and play with some newer ideas. We just want to play and for everyone to have an awesome time.
What's your preparation for such a show?
Sunshine: Well, mostly it's a kind of internal preparation. Of course we pack and travel, connect and feel the vibe of the place we are in. That's really important. But mostly, it's about opening an internal channel to be prepared for the reciprocal experience of performance.
I open to Moonbeam, she opens up to me, and we then reach out to the crowd. The crowd responds, and we respond back. This is more or less the magic of house music. I love it. It's the best thing in the world when it happens. It's what I live for. To prepare for this is really more about clearing the past, removing expectations or specific ideas, and trying to really be present. To be "here."
Moonbeam: I think a lot of it is mental. I do some positive visualizations and practice meditation. I also do a lot of singing to get my voice warmed up and ready to go.
Dubtribe Sound System at Stache's One Year Anniversary Party. 10 p.m., Saturday, November 14, at Bar Stache, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Visit stacheftl.com.
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