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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.

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.

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland

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