Everything you need to know about the sound of drum-and-bass pioneer Dave Minner is in his pseudonym.
Minner was dubbed DJ AK1200 because his Technics 1200 turntables are used like AK-47s. Manic drumbeats and rumbling bass drown samples struggling to keep afloat amidst his torrential storm of sounds.
The Orlando, Fla., DJ was among the first Americans to tap into drum and bass (aka D&B), and he continues to be one of the scene's most active DJs.
"Drum and bass is a form of electronic music that caters to the faster side of the tempo meter," Minner said. "It evolved from jungle, which came from the UK originally as an urban form of expression. Junglists were people who were using elements of hip-hop, soul, reggae, rare groove, jazz and funk. It was pretty much the UK's answer to American hip-hop."
EMERGED FROM JUNGLE
D&B emerged from jungle when computers started replacing stand-alone mixing equipment and outboard gear, Minner explained, spurring a style less "rootsy" and more synthetic. He said that American D&B soon became synonymous with the less soulful, darker edge of the genre, because of breakthrough DJs like Hive, Gridlok and Evol Intent, but added that America's electronic-music scene is actually more complex and varied.
Minner will headline a D&B concert 10 p.m. Friday at The Conservatory with a half dozen other DJs, including Krispe, Stoic, Mayhem and Brian Zero.
"Global D&B has developed its own personality since it found its way across the borders throughout the world, and now no matter where in the world you are, you can find excellent DJs and producers who make every style of D&B imaginable," he said. "It's a global thing. I wouldn't say we are any different now from any other country or region, including the UK."
Minner is often called the "Godfather of D&B in America" by journalists and Web sites that follow electronic music, but he insists he doesn't call himself that " outside of including the moniker in his press bio " and added he's fought for the scene since it crossed over to the states, and has mentored other DJs along the way.
"I have been a record store owner, a promoter, a journalist, a label rep, a DJ, an artist/producer, and a label owner," he said. "I know everything there is to know about this music, and it's been my life's passion since I began this journey in 1989. I followed this music from 128bpm all the way to where it is now, and I always made time to lend a hand."
Like every other music genre, D&B has been hit hard by the global economic downturn. Despite the harsh climate D&B finds itself in, Minner started his own label this year, called Big Riddim Recordings.
"It's not about sales; it's about the survival of a scene," he said. "This, to me, is my scene where I belong, and I owe it to this scene to give it all I got in any and every way I can, especially through the bad times."
On beat with DJ AK1200, reviewing the hits and misses of the D&B scene:
Q: Your style is very frantic and complex. How do you keep it from getting cluttered?
A: I don't see myself as having any certain style. I play for the crowd. No matter where I am, I try to cater to what I feel the crowd wants, and sometimes that means I have to play all across the board until I can find what the crowd reacts to the most. I like to play things that do well on the dance floor, because the more I get from the crowd, the more the crowd is gonna get from me.
Q: Has American D&B developed its own personality since it first immigrated?
A: Most of the D&B world outside of the USA associates America with the harder-edged stuff: less soul, more techno, which is not the case. Global D&B has developed its own personality since it found its way across the borders throughout the world, and now no matter where in the world you are, you can find excellent DJs and producers who make every style of D&B imaginable.
Q: How do you think the current economic climate, as well as the dire state of the mainstream music industry, will affect your new record label? Is now a good time for new, independent record labels to start up?
A: Forget the label for a second. If I was that guy who was more about the money, then you wouldn't see me in your city in times like these where there is no money, no kids going out, no people with money to spend on going to a club, or paying for a ton of drinks. We are all in this together, and I am the first one with my hand up, saying, "Let me in. I am down." Struggle always brings emotional music, and D&B is emotional. It isn't senseless, shallow cheese-pop that your radio station is gonna play.
Q: Is creating a remix of an existing song as satisfying as creating a song from scratch? Why?
A: It depends on the original song. If you have no connection to the song you are set to remix, than it sort of just becomes your own song that happens to have some parts you are required to use. If, however, it is a song you know and love and has some meaning to you, then you are paying homage to that original piece of art and doing your best to try and add to it and give it more life and more exposure.
Q: How accessible is D&B for newcomers to the dance scene?
A: People in the scene make it a bit less accessible for a newcomer, almost as if they are overprotective of what they feel is their personal scene. That has been a pretty big problem in the scene, especially in the USA. It intimidates people and deters new fans, and it certainly isn't the best thing when you go to a club and it's, like, 20 dudes with their arms crossed. If some people can take a step back and look at the big picture, or take a look from the outside in, they would see how truly destructive and counterproductive certain things can be.
Q: What excites you about the future of D&B?
A: The endless possibilities. Simple as that. There are no rules, no formula. The only thing required is a tempo range, and the rest is up to them. "Charles Martin