American-Italian DJ Luca Venezia has been pushing his own vision of club music as Drop The Lime for the best part of a decade – an amalgamation of everything dance-floor orientated that’s taken in (and spat out) breakcore, dubstep, bassline, crunk, classic house and vocal grime – sometimes before anybody in his native New York had a name for them.

Venezia’s known foremost for founding Trouble & Bass; the New York record label and musical collective made up of himself, Math Head, Star Eyes and the Captain – and associated with like-minded Philadelphia producer Starkey. But for all the dance-floor reverence that surrounds their parties, some of Venezia’s most rewarding work comes in the album format – he’s recorded two excellent full-lengths for Tigerbeat6, most notably 2006’s considered We Never Sleep.

The entire Trouble & Bass crew are playing FACT and Night Slugs‘ event at Shoreditch’s East Village tonight, and as the man was in town, we thought it rude not to call him for a catch-up – discussing We Never Sleep, the formation of Trouble & Bass, and what the future holds for him, the collective, and the label.

How’s the UK treating you so far?

“It’s great man, I just got off the plane yesterday night and hooked up with some freebees from some PR companies – free clothes and shit [laughs].  I’m just at Paddington now…”

Are you freezing? It’s Baltic in our office.

“No, it is warm in here. I’m cosy, I’m drinking a coffee, I’m chillin’ in this nice little chair. I got the pigeons though. It’s the pigeons man, you know, those one-legged, claw pigeons, walking around while I’m trying to eat my snacks and drink my coffee…”

Can’t win them all. How does playing London differ to playing New York?

“You can play anything here. I could drop the craziest bassline, and people will go off because they understand it. In America you’ve gotta trick them a little. Play some hits and reel them in, and then we can let them loose, but you don’t have to work at that here – you can just go out with a bang and people will get down man. They’re really into the music, and not just there to be seen with the music, or seen at a certain party… It’s more open minded – there’s more of a dance scene, and dance culture.”

Didn’t you live in Berlin for a bit too?

“Yeah. I mean I’m from New York, so I’m used to like, hyper-activity, non-stop, everything open all of the time, something always to do. And Berlin’s the complete opposite – they have amazing parties, like there’s amazing clubbing, especially in the minimal techno scene. You’ve got thousand people getting rowdy ’til twelve in the afternoon from like nine o’ clock at night.”

But it’s a different pace there.

“During the day-time it’s so slow. Like I’d be chilling at a café with friends and they’re all just relaxing, and I’ll be like “hey, what you guys gotta do – where you going tonight?” and they’re like “nothing, we’re here. We’re drinking lattes today”. [laughs] Like what? It’s crazy, I gotta go walk around – I gotta do something. Let’s get things going around here, you know? But it was really an amazing experience – I lived there for nine months, in 2004 and 2005, and it definitely like – I was into a lot of breakcore, and it brought me back into club sounds, and that kind of movement…”

I guess around that time New York clubbing had changed a lot, with the cabaret laws – did that have anything to do with why you left?

“That’s kind of the reason why I left, yeah. A lot of shut-down clubs and stuff…”

What’s it like now you’re back?

“It’s incredible right now; it’s so exciting. It’s blossoming. More artists coming out, and more clubs opening up, like Brooklyn is on fire right now. So many good club things are going on, and so many fresh jams are coming out – like the energy is coming back to New York, and we haven’t really had that since Strictly Rhythm in the early nineties – there hasn’t been that much energy in dancing ’til right now. It’s really vibrant.”

Was it while you were away that those laws started to decline?

“Yeah, things started to level out. I stayed in touch with a lot of my friends, and it was when I came back that I started the Trouble & Bass parties. As soon as I got back it was like “we need to do a party, let’s go – boom.” Let’s start bringing dubstep to new levels, let’s start mixing it with crunk and old school house, and bringing 4×4 versions of grime and mixing it with that, mixing it with old school club, and it really took off, yeah.”

How did you get started with music anyway? I appreciate that’s a broad question…

[laughs] “Yeah. Well when I was seven years old I wanted to be like Ritchie Valens or Chuck Berry, so I was like “mom, mom, I wanna guitar”. And my parents are both artists – my mom’s a photographer, my dad’s a painter – so they were grateful I wanted to be an artist too and not like a lawyer or a stock-broker, and like “let’s support this passion.” And they did, they were really supportive of me. So I was making songs, and making music about girls man, when I was nine years old. But I’ve been at it forever man; like when I started going to rave parties was when I started getting into DJ music.”

What sort of age was that at?

“I was like sixteen. I heard jungle when I was thirteen, on this mixtape that my friend gave me; he recorded DJ Hype on a pirate radio station based in London. He was like “listen to this”, and he was sampling like Wu-Tang and KRS-One, and I was like “what the fuck?” Like that tune ‘Six Million Ways [To Die]’ that has Method Man on it? Like what the Hell? It was amazing – like what’s going on? I was blown away.

“And it’s funny now, because I’m like linking up with [DJ] Zinc, and we’re on the same page and trading tunes, it’s crazy man.”

How did Trouble & Bass properly start then?

“It was actually started about six years ago at college, it was a way of being able to throw parties that were not on campus, and that were more like, renegade parties. ‘Cause I went to college in up-state New York, and we had a lot of abandoned land up there, like old cement factories. So we were just taking over – even if there was only like a couple of hundred there, we’d bring sound people in there, two decks… We had no problem with cops, nothing. And it was crazy, because that was part of going to art-school – like people were coming in crazy outfits, and wilding out, and really going at it.

So this was pretty under the radar at that time?

“Yeah, real under the radar. It was just like a fun thing. And when I connected with [Trouble & Bass label-mate] Math Head, who just by coincidence I went to high school with, I re-connected with him and we were doing the same thing; into the same music, but outside the parties. So we were like let’s bring back the Trouble & Bass name – it adds a little humour into the game, and that’s that really.”

Why did you decide to focus on digital releases with the label?

“Well we did a vinyl release, and that was in 2006 with the aid of AD AAD AT. After that we were like why “don’t we do some more”, but we would’ve gone bankrupt. So we were like “fuck it, let’s do digital” – you know, ’cause we’ve got Beatport, and Juno… But now we’re back in vinyl, because we just got a deal with Universal, so now we’re back in that. But yeah, really when [Trouble & Bass] took off was 2007, doing digital releases and making it a label. That’s when I brought on the Captain; he’s the label manager and really helps run the label, and I do a lot of A&R with him.”

Do you feel like those albums you put out on Tigerbeat6 are a different era now?

“It’s really crazy, like when I listen to We Never Sleep, it really went under the radar, but it’s got a lot of the same elements as what we’re all doing right now. It’s very bassline-y. And I’m looking ahead now, and I see 140BPM, wobbly bassline, 4×4… I think [We Never Sleep] came out way too soon, and I hope people do pick back up on it. But I’ve definitely progressed a lot in terms of sound and in terms of production technique.”

Are you working on a new full-length?

“Yeah, I’m working on a full length – it’s gonna come out in June.”

How will it compare to We Never Sleep?

So different man. It’s like – I dunno if you know, but we have this single [‘Hear Me’] that’s gonna be on the album, and it was Hottest Record in the World on Zane [Lowe]’s Radio 1 show. Like a lot of good shit’s going on around that single, but the full-length isn’t necessarily for the clubs, it’s more of a record – it’s a lot more song-orientated. I’m playing a lot of guitar, but it’s gonna be like a very spooky, Ennio Morricone, psychedelic Western bad-ass guitar, and then mixing it with those rough basslines and dubstep sounds. It’s really come from working with a live drummer – this guy Guy Licata, the drummer for Hercules and Love Affair, and a lot of other people.

“So it’s going to be very, very different to We Never Sleep. But the releases that we’re putting out as singles on Trouble & Bass will still be crazy bassline stuff.”

Do you still consider it a dance album?

“Not at all. I would consider it just an album, man. Like someone like Brian Eno, who would have a record that’s all over the place – and that’s inspirational for me, I’ve got songs that could sit on some ambient record, I’ve got songs that could be dancefloor, I’ve got songs that could be on some weird disco tune. I just wanna make music where I’m outputting everything that I’m inspired by.”

It’s funny, ’cause you mentioned ‘Six Million Ways to Die’, have you heard Zomby’s new album [Where Were U In 92?] that samples it?

“Yeah man, it’s incredible! I absolutely love that album – it’s fantastic, really brings you back to the hardcore tunes that really set me off. Like I’m a huge fan of that, Sonz Of A Loop Da Loop Era, all that stuff was really inspirational to me. So that new Zomby record… It’s hot. I love it. I just wish some of those tunes were un-mixed though. I would drop some of those.”

Tam Gunn



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