More Low End Theory Oral History From Those Who Helped Build It
The Low End Theory CrewPaul Dimalanta
This week we published our oral history of the Low End Theory, the Lincoln Heights weekly club night that has spawned a constellation of internationally hailed electronic musicians and rappers.
Due to space constraints, much was excised. Here, then, are some of the best anecdotes from the cutting room floor. Topics discussed include Flying Lotus's switch from rap beats to techno, Low End precursor Sketchbook, and the eerie parallels between the club and the rise of medical weed.
Daedelus: Three or four years ago I spent a Halloween at Low End. There's a DVD of that night that came out later, but the DVD can't capture the energy in the room. It was when the club used the outdoors space, and there was crowd surfing and moshing -- the sort of stuff that kids heard about from their older siblings who went to hardcore shows. Low End had people bundling that into electronic performances. Kids with baby faces were experiencing music for the first time on their own terms. They were singing along to songs that I had just written. It felt like we were on the same page to the 10th power. Everyone was present.
Dibia$e: Before Low End, there was Sketchbook, organized by DJ Kutmah at Little Temple. We'd go every Tuesday night and I'd post up outside with my boombox and everyone would play what they made that week. This was when we were still playing tapes and guys like Ras G, Sacred, Flying Lotus, Ta'Raach, Take, Daedelus, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Exile would come through on the regular. Everyone would play their new stuff and then come back the next week and do it again. Then they stopped doing Sketchbook. It was never really crowded but it had a strong following. We all eventually found our way to Low End.
Nosaj Thing: Obviously, everyone was interested in hip-hop and electronic music but it's also the product of music technology. Production software and equipment is just so much more accessible now, and all a sudden we had access to these songs and tools and ended up bringing that to the sound itself.
DJ Nobody: In the first year or two, I was really into the early beat stuff like Dabrye, Daedelus, and Prefuse 73. Plus, Dilla all day and 90 BPM beat stuff like Take and Ras G. Kev was mostly on the hip-hop tip for a bit. [Gaslamp Killer] was all over the place, playing instrumental beat stuff from the 90s, hip-hop, psych and just weird shit. Then dubstep kind of crept in, and we all slowly incorporated that and eventually found our own niche, I went with more modern hip-hop. [Gaslamp] played more psychedelic. And Kev is so hard-core deep into the beat shit that I can't keep up with him.
Gaslamp Killer: Flying Lotus went from rap beats to playing techno in one month. And we were like, 'What the fuck just happened,' and he was like, 'I'm just fucking around, this is fun for me, I'm going to get weird." Then he played his Mr. Oizo remix and everyone was like, 'You did not just chop and screw a techno track and make it your own.' No one thought it was even a Oizo track. They thought it was a new track that [Lotus] had made.
Daddy Kev: Somebody asked me once about the connection of the rise of Low End Theory and the rise of the medical marijuana dispensary. Yeah, there's a connection, the quality of the weed has contributed to the success of Low End. But we don't go to get stoned out of our minds. It's the metaphor of freedom. You're not worried, you can be operate, you can be yourself.
Nocando: Losing edIT was pretty bad, but adding D-Styles made us more of a machine. There was less push and pull. Adding him onto our roster added two or three years to the club's life. Like Mixmaster Mike or DJ Muggs, D is from an older time. No matter what trend has gone down since the early 90s, he's been there. And he can always play shit the kids are into, whether it's the new hip-hop shit, dubstep or beat shit. I don't know how he finds this stuff. His ability his ability to adapt is unparalleled.
Jonwayne: The Low End Theory changed my approach to making music. I'd never taken my beats seriously before I went there. But the first time I showed up, I talked with Kutmah. I gave him one of my CD's that he ended up playing in his sets. In return, he passed me his Sacred Geometry mix and that basically changed my life.
Shlohmo: Having access to something like Low End was fucking amazing. There's only so much you can gather from a record at home. When you see it live, or hear the new stuff that a DJ hasn't yet released or maybe never will release, it's a whole different story. Going to Low End and seeing everyone experimenting with their music was super mind opening.
D-Styles: The Odd Future show was really memorable. I knew nothing about them before that night and saw six or seven kids on-stage and half the crowd was filled with young teenagers. I was looking at Kev like, 'Who are these kids?' Then they went on and it was nuts. I felt like I was watching Slayer.
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