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Fall in ‘wub’ with Boston’s dubstep scene

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 4, 2012 06:19 PM

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20111021-F_ck it! Let's Have Halloween early!-17.jpgBy Kenny Soto

It’s been around since the late ‘90s, but after garnering attention from mainstream media in 2010, dubstep has become one of the most loved, hated, and argued about music genres since grunge bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains debuted on MTV. Internet memes question the validity of dubstep music time and time again, most commonly promoting the idea that the genre is really just the sound of remixed fartsSouth Park even created a whole episode about disagreements between dubstep fans and older generations of music lovers -- and when South Park makes fun of you, you really know you've made it.

At the 2012 GRAMMY Awards, Skrillex, whom many consider the leader of the U.S. dubstep scene, took home three awards, and Deadmau5, his closest competition, performed with the Foo Fighters. But the conversation about Boston’s dubstep scene inevitably begins with VolTran.

A drummer for most of his life, VolTran, 29 and a Hudson native, began DJing after he moved to Boston in 2007. Five years later, many regard him as the king of Boston dubstep.

“I remember my first time hearing dubstep,” he said, sitting on the patio of his Allston studio. "I was hooked to that style, that half-tempo sound, the moment I heard it. It has a lot of power behind it.”

The genre firmly planted its roots at Hearthrob and Thunderdome, two now-defunct local dance nights, VolTran said. "It was more than just a nightclub; it was an art form.”

“The music is like an addiction,” added Kyle Brandse, VolTran's roommate and the artist who was at one time responsible for nearly all of the visual artwork associated with electronic music in Boston. “You just want to find that feeling that you felt when you heard your favorite track for the first time. It’s just something we love to chase.”

While both VolTran and Brandse seem to be as into the scene as ever, pretty much everyone in the local dubstep community will tell you that mainstream attention has changed the way that venues and organizers hold dubstep shows. The crowds are getting younger; the majority of fans are under 21, and a lot of them are still in high school. Many dubstep artists believe that the added attention to the genre has led to watered-down music and a move away from dubstep's roots.

20111024-TRUE-The Drop-99.jpg“Last year, compared to this year, I would say that the crowds have probably doubled,” said local DJ, L.E.DFUT, over the phone. And while larger crowds mean more money and fame for dubstep DJs, L.E.DFUT is concerned about what might happen if the music becomes too mainstream.

"If dubstep goes really mainstream, gets played on the radio and stuff, I can see it fizzling out," he said. "If it stays kind of where it’s at and goes back to its roots, I think it could last. The kids, 16 to 21, are really the ones buying the music and going to shows, so [the future of the genre] is probably up to them.”

Despite concerns for the future of the music, Boston’s dubstep DJs are pushing harder than ever to create the next big track. Groups like Hot Pink Delorean and TERRAVITA have enjoyed success on a national scale, but Brandse and VolTran said that a chance at fame and fortune is not at all the fuel that keeps the scene going.

“You meet a DJ, a guy who’s your friend, and you know that at the same moment you’re working on something, that he’s in his basement crushing it, and it gives you the motivation to keep pushing, keep it going,” Brandse said.

Music fads may come and go, but the drive, DIY attitude, and camaraderie of the Boston dubstep scene are here to stay. This Saturday, April 7, VolTran, L.E.DFUT, Brandse, and a variety of other local DJs, photographers, graphic designers, and artists will launch Tens Collective, a group made up of some of the hottest young Bostonians associated with electronic music.

“This is something people do after their day jobs. Fantastadon works a day job, and then he puts in another eight hours every single night, but that’s just his thing," Brandse said. "It sounds lame to say guys are doing it for fun, but [what else] would we do it for?”

Photos of VolTran by Dan Marino

About Kenny -- I'm a professional blogger and entertainer. In my spare time, I enjoy Boston sports and exploring all of the adventures that my hometown has to offer. You can connect with me on Twitter @RealKennySoto.

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