There really is something in the water here. At least that's what it seems like, judging by the number of San Francisco electronic music producers touring across the Atlantic and releasing tracks on U.K. and European labels. Dubstep and bass-driven club music producers have been especially prolific, including S.F.'s Eskmo, who signed to London label Ninja Tune last year, or Comma, whose dreamy post-hip-hop album Colortronics is being praised by critics overseas.
In another coup, noted BBC radio DJ and Brownswood Recordings founder Gilles Peterson has seen fit to include no fewer than three San Francisco artists on his latest genre-smashing Brownswood Electr*c 2 compilation, out this week in the U.S. The album features 14 acts representing various bass-heavy sounds that go beyond dubstep. Selections from Bay Area producers Dean "DJG" Grenier, Noah "Dials" Bennett, and Justin "Jus Wan" Shields blend sonic artistry with dancefloor heft and embody San Francisco's diverse, post-everything electronic music scene.
Pursuing fresh formats has paid off in other ways, too. Grenier has just returned from his first European DJ tour, while Bennett departed in June to spin in Germany, Spain, and Greece. Meanwhile, Shields has been active on the production front, including new remix projects and additional tracks on Brownswood. We gathered Grenier and Shields at the Summit Café in the Mission and summoned Bennett from Athens via Skype to discuss their work and the future of San Francisco bass music.
How did you all meet each other?
DJG: I used to see Noah [Bennett -- aka Dials] everywhere. He's hard to miss and he does a lot of good work for San Francisco. He's one of a small group of people who are dedicating themselves to pushing really interesting [music] and helping people out.
Jus Wan: I have definitely heard of Noah but haven't met him because I've been kind of closeting myself at home most of the time. But I've been to some shows that he's been involved in, like his [Change the Beat] party Tuesday nights at SOM Bar.
DJG: The reason San Francisco has so many great producers is because we all know each other and support each other. I go to other cities and find that producers are very cliquey and they don't really cross-pollinate. But because San Francisco is a relatively small place, and the dubstep and bass music scene is so closeknit, we all help each other. Even guys whose music I don't necessarily like, they're my friends and we'll trade studio production tips and gear or help each other with mixes. It would be strange if Justin and I didn't know each other.
Jus Wan: [DJG] and I started writing a lot of [dubstep] music at the same time. I was working on [KUSF show] Future Breaks and going to [SF producer] Juju's club NarcoHz. Dean and I knew all the producers would be there and we'd play each other's tunes. It was really fun. It's always great when you can play a tune by someone you know.
Dials: I feel like such a new-jack compared to Dean and Justin. These guys have tons of amazing releases out and I just have my first single out. I never thought I'd be releasing music. So it's a real pleasure and honor to be around two people whose music I really admire. And after putting out this one track, things are starting to roll for me. Basically what I'm saying is I'll be over at Dean's asking him to help me with mix-downs.
Do you have any particularly memorable experiences from your recent tours?
DJG: I just came back from three weeks in Europe. It was an excellent experience. I had played London last December but this was my first European tour. It was really positive. I did a few dates in England then went to Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Holland, and Kiev, Ukraine. Kiev was very post-Communist and a very bugged-out place! It was my favorite gig of the tour. In London I met with the Brownswood guys and actually got to listen to the comp for the first time.
Dials: I'm at an Internet cafe in Athens, Greece. Outside in the streets there's a riot going on, literally, over the economic situation. Other than that I had an amazing show at the Lucky Me showcase for SONAR in Barcelona with Hudson Mowhake, Lando Kal, Mahcinedrum; it was packed with people and the club had a rotating dancefloor!
Jus Wan: In the past I've DJed in New York, Chicago, and Denver a few times but other than that I haven't toured. I play maybe one or two gigs a year here but I've never really been a serious DJ in that way. But I just got back from two months traveling in Argentina and Peru. It wasn't music-related at all. I needed to travel and be in the mountains. I feel a lot more inspired about everything in my life now than before. I don't know what that will mean for my music, but we'll see.