Over the past couple of years, dubstep has taken off in a big way in Tampa Bay.
Every week, scores of young electronic music fans gather at events like Turbo Tuesdays at Fubar and Dangerous Fridays at the Ybor Social Club. National artists like Deadmau5, Borgore and Mount Kimbie have packed local concert venues. And in August, the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre will host the Identity Festival, a traveling electronic music fest featuring dubstep favorites like Kaskade and Rusko.
All of which has left the uninitiated with the same question: What is dubstep, exactly?
For the answer, we turned to Devin Spears, a 23-year-old Tampa DJ who goes by the name Nerd Rage. Host of the aforementioned Dangerous Fridays, he shed some light on the genre while filling us in on his own backstory.
Forged in metal: A Tampa native, Spears attended Chamberlain High School and once played bass in a metal band. "I didn't get into electronic music until I graduated," he said. He started by mostly making trance and drum 'n' bass.
Rise of a nerd: Spears has been DJ'ing for about five years, largely under the name DJ Sonic, before deciding that handle was boring and unmarketable. "A friend of mine suggested Nerd Rage, and they thought it was really funny, because I play a lot of video games with my friends, and I'm pretty much a nerd. All music producers, in some way, shape or fashion, are huge nerds."
Then and now: In the beginning, Spears started with one DJ night at G.Bar in Ybor City. He now DJs multiple nights per week, and mixes some of his own songs and beats into each playlist.
Early support: Spears did a remix of the song Rise of the Idiots by Skism, and sent him a concept for approval. "He's actually a huge music producer for dubstep in the U.K., and he really dug it, so he sent me over the official stem files to remix the song."
So, this dubstep: What is it? "Extremely crazy bass lines portrayed in a really creative way, at a slow tempo that people around here can associate with," Spears said. "Especially because hip-hop is so popular in America. There are hip-hop tunes that have been produced at around the same BPM as dubstep. Dubstep is 140 beats per minute, but half-time, so it's really 70. So I believe that when these college kids come out to the club, they hear this crazy bass music, but it's in a slower tempo that they feel comfortable dancing to."
The Tampa scene: Spears says local dubstep crowds are all super-friendly. "Everyone's there for the sole purpose of just having fun and meeting other people. It's always really great. And it seems to be getting more and more popular as the days go by. The shows get more and more packed, especially Turbo Tuesdays. It's a small bar, but it packs out so quickly and so well. It's unbelievable."
Choice gigs: On June 15, Nerd Rage will open for Borgore at the Ritz Ybor. And on June 30, he'll open for Skism at the Honey Pot.
Get a taste: The best place to sample Nerd Rage's music is soundcloud.com/nerdrage. "I really don't have any public releases out on major labels - yet - but they are forthcoming. I have about two EPs ready to go, and a single. I have a remix I did for an EP recently out on 1111Records, and that came out and really didn't get any buzz, so I decided to kind of sit back and not rush anything and do it properly and make sure that if I do make a song, that it is able to get its proper press, and I can gain popularity that way."
Production vs. remixing: "I really enjoy doing remixes. It's fun for me to take a song and put a new perspective on it, and kind of twist it up and give people something else to listen to, while still familiarizing themselves with the tune. But I also love doing originals, bringing something fresh to the table."
Are you feeling it? "Being aware of what I like in music allows me to figure out what I like in a melody, how I like my song to move, how I could picture people grooving to it, how I would groove to it. If I'm sitting in my studio and working on a song and getting tired of it, then I don't feel like it's going to be a good tune. But if I'm sitting in front of my computer and laughing and actually rocking along with my tune as I'm writing it, I know it's going to be great. I know it's going to do well if I play it live."
Check him out: Nerd Rage hosts Dangerous Fridays every week at the Ybor Social Club, 1909 N 15th St., Ybor City. Cover is $5. You can also check him out at 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Kennedy in Tampa. For more, follow Spears on Twitter @nerdrage_ .
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*