SubPirate: Dropping dubstep beats on St. Pete's party people
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2012 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: SubPirate.)
Jason Feder loves bass. Can’t get enough of it. If you’ve ever been to one of his “Overdrive” shows on a Turbo Tuesday at Fubar in St. Pete, you know this for a fact.
At Overdrive shows, Feder, otherwise known as SubPirate, brings in 12 18-inch subwoofers, lighting up Fubar with 25,000 watts of power. Dust falls from the ceiling tiles. Jars and bottles rattle on their shelves of a neighboring convenience store.
“If it’s got a heavy bassline, I’m into it,” says Feder, Turbo Tuesday’s architect. “It’s whoever’s got the loudest soundsystem, whoever’s got the newest tunes — that’s where I’m trying to push this.”
So is the rest of Tampa Bay’s electronic dance music (EDM) scene. In the past year, EDM has exploded into mainstream America, thanks to the Identity Festival and the success of DJ-producers like Skrillex, David Guetta and Avicii. This sudden sea change in the music world is due in part to the emergence of dubstep — a ferocious, club-rattling, hip-hop-influenced cousin of electro and house music — as a musical force to be reckoned with.
Dubstep has developed a huge following among everyone from rave-craving college students to disaffected hardcore metal fans (think singer Jonathan Davis of the band Korn). And locally, few have more to do with nurturing the scene than SubPirate.
After years of playing in punk and metal bands and working as a session musician, Feder got into electronic music after hearing a song by British dubstep DJ Caspa at a festival. He bought some DJ gear and started messing around with synthesizers and beats, and digging deep into dubstep’s underground.
He realized there wasn’t a night devoted entirely to dubstep in Tampa Bay. So a couple of years ago, he approached Fubar’s owners about turning their sparsely attended Tuesday open-mic night into a dubstep night. He printed flyers and “guerilla-flyered” USF and Eckerd College campuses, and began spinning every Tuesday, along with fellow resident DJs KingKrow and Sidedraft.
Quickly, huge crowds began showing up. Pabst Blue Ribbon came on as a sponsor, and DJs from as far away as England started hearing about this hugely popular night at a grimy punk club in sleepy St. Pete. Now, more than 100 young dubstep fans come out every Tuesday night, even as other dubstep nights — such as # (Pound) at the Amphitheatre in Ybor City — have arisen around Tampa Bay.
“At this point in time, there are so many bedroom DJs,” Feder said. “I get asked 10 times a week, 'Can I play Turbo?’”
In addition to his role as a prime curator of Tampa Bay’s dubstep scene, Feder is working on his own music. He scours the internet for stem files to create his own remixes, and each week he drops one or two SubPirate tracks into his mix, even though he’s a tough critic of his own abilities as a producer. “Most of my time is just spent creating a sound,” he said — a drop, a wobble, a whoosh. He says he’s tinkering with more than 300 songs.
For Feder, the challenge now is trying to maintain whatever’s left of Turbo Tuesdays’ underground vibe. He makes it clear that he’d rather spin lesser-known artists like Genetix, Megalodon, Persist and Magnetic Man than mainstream dubstep. “We’re an underground party,” he said. “We don’t play Skrillex.”
For Turbo Tuesday fans, who gets played is almost beside the point. The experience is all about ear-splitting dischord and gut-rippling bass, all tinged with slight undertones of pop, metal and soul. As Feder delivers drop after drop from the stage, they twirl neon lights and bounce side to side with abandon, thrilled to be anywhere but the mainstream.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo/video: Carrie Pratt, tbt*