The night after our interview at the Perry Hotel in South Beach, Kristen Schrot invited me to watch her perform at SET Miami as Miss Nine. She texts me to meet up with her in front of the club around 2 am, just before her playing time. Waiting for me in a sleeveless black T-shirt, denim cut-offs and big red boots (an original design by her friend, international fashion model Evelyne Verpaalen), Kristin is dazzling beyond words.
“Ready?” she asks with a grin, and whisks me and my friends past the red velvet rope into the club and onto the DJ stage where fellow DJ and model Tatiana Fontes is wrapping up her set.
“When I’m in the studio, it’s just the computer, the software, my ideas, and me and how I can bring those ideas to life. In a club when you’re playing, you’re basically telling a story with each song, so it’s like poetry.”—Structure
Although artists and listeners alike have dubbed it a dying genre, pure drum and bass, I’ve found, is far from dead. You just have to know where to look.
In the city of Philadelphia, Mike Harrington is hard at work producing his own breed of D’n’B. His listeners know him better as Structure. Entirely self-taught, Structure has been producing drum and bass since 1996, although his passion for the music began in 1991, when he spent a year studying abroad in Germany.
If you come to Infusion Hookah Bar and Lounge on a Monday night, expect to hear a different kind of musical set. Mondays belong to Pillager—you’ll recognize the name if you’ve ever heard him spin at Basscamp on Thursdays at the Vault.
Having already experienced Basscamp, I was expecting the same kind of high-energy, fist-pounding electro and dub step. Pillager—known as Eric Olsen by his familiars—surprised me with a set that alternated from haunting atmospheric trance to hard and sexy reggae dub so smoothly that I didn’t even realize the transitions taking place.
Slovenian DJ and music producer Eros Umek has been wooing crowds with his pioneering techno/tech house style for over ten years. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Eastern Europe’s electronic music scene and his record label, Sixteenofive, is one of the world’s fasting growing techno labels.
In 2011, his unique sound and relentless musical successes earned him the title of Beatport’s Best Artist. He was ranked 29 in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJ’s. His music continues to top Beatport’s techno charts, and has been mixed artists like Carl Cox, M.I.K.E., and John Digweed.
This is all passing through my mind as his agent ushers me into his trailer behind the Carl Cox arena at Ultra Fest. I tell him straight away that he’s the first international artist I’ve interviewed; he smiles encouragingly and offers me a seat.
Anyone who claims there’s no future for genre blending has never met Parker Robinson and Masson Rager.
The crowd that has amassed tonight to hear them perform at the Vault’s Loft is proof in itself that the days of musical cliques are dying fast.
I’m amazed by the diversity of their audience: blacks, whites, frat guys, hippie chicks, raver kids decked out in neon and sequins; in the center of the dance floor, a man wearing a sweat suit and glow sticks begins to breakdance and insanity ensues.
I’d heard about Andy C long before I started listening to drum and bass. Considered by many a pioneer in the D’n’B scene, his name came up often in my conversations with other DJ’s of the “turntablist breed.” So when I hear it called out in the press tent at Ultra, I make my move and introduce myself.
“Mandy, my love,” he says in a delightful London accent. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
Press traffic in the tent has slowed down for the moment. Taking advantage of the temporary lull, we pull up chairs and start to chat. I ask Andy what drew him to drum and bass.
His songs have topped electronic music charts worldwide. He earned a record deal at the age of 15. I listen to his tracks on my iPod, in the club, and on Sirius XM’s BPM station.
Waiting for John Dahlbäck in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, I am little nervous. I expect him to come out of the elevator surrounded by agents and in a hurry to get to some show or other.
I’m surprised when he approaches me unaccompanied, looking a little sleepy from his show last night at Cameo. Hands thrust into his jean pockets, wearing a black t-shirt and sneakers, Dahlbäck looks less conspicuous than many of the hotel guests I’ve seen pass in and out of the lobby.
He sits down across from me and I introduce myself. His kind eyes and soft-spokeness put me at ease, and we begin talking about his past. Born into a family of musicians, Dahlbäck picked up the art at an early age.
Don’t let his tattoos and his stage name fool you—Mister Black is probably one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met (I hope I’m not ruining your image here, Corey.)
The only thing wicked about Corey Nielsen are his bass drops and the energy he generates in a crowd when he performs. Just stop by the Vault on a Thursday to watch him spin at Basscamp and you’ll see what I mean.
Spiff is New York City-meets-Miami. Born Arnaldo Mieles in Brooklyn, his speech alternates between 1000 BPM and the slow, Latin meander of South Florida. The latter he probably picked up during his time attending the University of Miami and DJ’ing clubs on South Beach.
“Miami really helped open my eyes to the industry and what it was like, and it got me excited about pursuing this,” he says.
While his career plans may have formed during his college years, Spiff has been working with music since childhood.
“When I was a little kid, my mom would throw parties and I was the one controlling the CD player. I made sure I was in charge of playing all the track selections.”
During his high school years, Spiff attended teen-nights at local clubs in New York City. Fascinated by how the DJ’s were able to move the crowd, he started playing gigs in the area until Heavy Hitter and Hot 97’s DJ Camilo took notice of him.
“The one thing that always gives me goosebumps, no matter where I’m at, is the hearing of that needle drop on the vinyl, and there’s that silence before that record starts. There’s something about that.”—Spiff
In case you were wondering, the name is a throwback from his breakdancing days when he was known as Causin Ruckus. When he’s not wearing his Skullcandy headphones and standing behind his battle-set decks, he goes by Gary McClain.
DJ Vijay Seixas is a busy man. I’m watching him zoom around Spannk, the nightclub he co-owns with his friend Jimbo, preparing his equipment for the night. It’s Tuesday, so he’ll be playing 101 Downtown’s Techno Tuesday.
For Seixas, who DJ’s Monday through Saturday, the week is just getting started.