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Did WORSHIP Revolutionise Drum & Bass In The US?

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Did Charley Kill Rave?

Back in 1992 Mixmag published an article that accused The Prodigy of essentially ruining the rave scene with their cartoon samples. With the value of hindsight it was a ludicrous statement as the band went on to become one of the biggest acts the rave scene ever produced, spreading the sound across the world.

History has ways of repeating itself and a recent article published on EDM.com has sparked controversy online that threw my mind back to the much talked about Mixmag article from all those years ago.

While promoting their current WORSHIP US tour, drum & bass heavyweights Sub Focus, Dimension, Culture Shock, 1991, and their manager, Sebastian Weingartshofer, spoke with music journalist Niko Sani about their experience playing in North America over the past few years.

Major Potential In North America

In the article the collective speak of their frustration playing to smaller crowds in the US…

For a long time, a lot of drum & bass artists were drawing huge audiences around the globe, then traveling to the U.S. and playing to half-empty clubs,” Dimension tells us. “Artists were left demotivated. I had the same experience. After a bad show in New York, I remember phoning Seb and we agreed things had to change.

I remember the moment of driving back to the airport in New York City with Rob [Dimension] and saying, ‘It shouldn’t be like this,'” adds Culture Shock. “We then really made a conscious effort to put our heads together and present the music the way we thought it should be. We’ve had to invest a huge amount but it really feels like it’s working and the momentum is building.

Amid drum & bass’ volcanic rise in the U.S., the group developed a master plan. They saw major potential in North America, Dimension says, to “create something fresh” by joining forces.

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“Our goal was to help bring the genre back into vogue by encouraging a fresh, young, inclusive community of fans into the genre through investing heavily in production and creative, while working with top venues and promoters,” he explains. “It’s been unbelievably humbling seeing a new community of fans grow, with crowds and venues increasing in size. We like to think we’ve played a key role in this growth.”

These statements have seen an online backlash towards the WORSHIP collective, but is this backlash justified?

Pioneers Of The US Drum & Bass Scene

Many perceive the groups interview as a diss to the hard work and ground paved by pioneers of the US drum & bass scene by the likes of Planet Of The Drums (also known as DJ Dara, AK1200, Dieselboy & MC Messinian), artists such as Gridlock, Evol Intent, Armanni Reign & Reid Speed. Perhaps it’s even a slight At the stateside promoters who’ve paved the way for the grassroots scene out there, Konkrete Jungle, Kontrolled Kaos, DnB Tuesdays & of course RESPECT in Los Angeles, the Worlds longest running regular D&B club night!

AK1200, Dieselboy, MC Messinian & DJ Dara
Planet Of The Drums

Personally, reading the whole article I don’t feel the guys took any sole ownership over the current state of D&B in the US. While taking parts of an article make for great click bait on social media ensuring the angry mobs reach for their pitch forks, I think there is a bigger picture here to look at which US based artist Justin Hawkes highlighted perfectly on his Facebook page.

A Symptom Of A Problem

In reaction to the WORSHIP article Colorado based Drum & Bass producer Justin Hawkes wrote a very interesting post of his experience as a Drum & Bass raver in the USA…

Justin Hawkes

For almost a decade I was a solid 10 years younger than everyone else in the clubs, a symptom of a problem that many people were eager to overlook: that drum & bass in the US needed to change. This requires self-reflection, analysis of our events and industry, and a huge amount of work. For many years I heard consistent feedback of “Drum & Bass doesn’t financially work here” from promoters with say and sway. That means tickets weren’t moving to the prime ticket buying audiences, the 18-30 year olds.

In my eyes, the article displayed raw issues I completely agree existed; from 2012 to 2020 the macrocosm of US Drum & Bass was disproportionately behind the rest of the world in terms of production, promotion and industry specialists. That is not to claim that every event was behind, because there have always been some extremely strong Drum & Bass brands in the states, many who set extraordinarily strong precedents and have maintained decades long tenures in our community. Both can be true, however, because as a whole, our scene was struggling to support even 10-15 full time artists on top of bringing international acts to clubs.

He goes on to very eloquently say…

Many things can be true at the same time. We can all have worked our asses off to make something great for our scene, we can all have something we’re proud of that has been happening for 30 odd years now, the worship artists can sell out arenas and move probably over 25000 tickets in the US on a Drum & Bass tour… That’s a massive, massive accomplishment. On the same end, the events who applied similar strategies and global level marketing and production have been seeing the rewards of modernization. We genuinely are in a new era, and all these things can be true separately.

Let’s All Embrace This & Enjoy The Ride

In the comments section on Hawke’s post I saw a reply from an old raver friend of mine, John Columbia from New York. I first met John many years ago at Innovation In The Sun, a D&B holiday rave in Spain. He flew out there several years in a row to hear the music he loved. His comment felt important to me in this discussion as I know of his experience & frustration at being a drum & bass fan living on the other side of the Atlantic…

As someone who has loved and lived for jungle and DnB since 1996 I can fully state it was an utter nightmare when DnB was essentially replaced with Dubstep at all the big festivals like EDC, and Ultra. And had to watch Andy C (my dj hero) essentially clear a dance floor @ E Zoo years back, I was beyond fuming! It reached a point where UK headliners suddenly started doing Psuedo sets, which in my mind did more harm than good as many younger ravers I knew literally thought DnB was sped up dubstep.”

“All that has now flipped on its head where suddenly its the dubstep and even house djs playing DnB this is a great thing at the end of the day. The fact the Worship guys packed out 1 of the biggest clubs in NYC is amazing. Then the following Fri Chase and Status and Bou sold out that same massive club warms my heart! 3k strong to all dnb was something I used to have to take an 8 hour flight for, now I can just take a 40 min Uber. DnB is my in my soul and it always will be. Lets all embrace this and enjoy the ride!

Reddit user PM_ME_UR_SNARES posted on the r/DnB subreddit highlights another interesting point made in the original EDM.com article which US promoters have had issues with…

DNB was seen as unbookable financially for years even though we had some great acts come up over time. Worship and others like Reaper and Justin Hawkes putting the work in on the industry side to bring the US up to speed with DNB like the international side is exactly what we needed over here, I’m so proud to see it and fucking love having dnb in so many cities selling tickets and getting people dancing


Perspective Is Key

So did WORSHIP revolutionise drum & bass in the US? No more than The Prodigy killed rave!

The rise of musically driven social media like TikTok targeting younger audiences has no doubt played its part, live acts such as Pendulum and Chase & Status made the electronic sound more accessible, the rise of dubstep & EDM in the States most definitely opened people’s ears to electronic sounds & the infectious power of bassline, and of course the music of Dimension, Sub Focus, Culture Shock, 1991 will all have helped the currency trend.

At the end of the article, Weingartshofer credits grassroots artists and brands in North America for propelling the scene forward with unabashed passion…

“Brands like Brownies & Lemonade are creating culture on the ground with their DNBNL series, exposing impressionable dance music fans to the genre,” he continues. “Record labels like Deadbeats and Monstercat are getting behind the music and supporting artists from around the world. A decade ago this infrastructure didn’t exist. It’s great to see more confidence towards drum & bass in all areas.”

It’s all about perspective, no one artist is responsible for the interest in D&B in America right now, the WORSHIP collective, their peers, & those that came before them all played a part in compounding interest in the genre’s current popularity across the Atlantic… Long may it last!

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