Chris Muniz leads an interesting triple life. The USC professor teaches creative writing, critical writing and Chicano studies by day, DJs drum & bass by night as Nightstalker, and finds time to write about the music for publications including Bassrush somewhere in between.
The man who grew up in Colorado and now lives right here in Los Angeles apparently likes the busy life. He developed his interest in music early on, from discovering music through his dad's Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin records, to raving in L.A. and building his own vinyl collection.
"It wasn't until I went to CalArts for grad school and they had an internet radio station that I actually started playing all these records that I had collected," Nightstalker says. "It took off from there. Drum & bass just became part of my little tribe that I was a part of. It evolved from a hobby into a double life for me."
The DJ says his first set was somewhere in Culver City, at a run-down bar — he doesn't recall the name of the place. He does remember the awesome sensation of controlling a crowd, though.
"The power of feeling like you're controlling a big spaceship or something," he says. "The big speakers and people dancing, and then you have to figure out how to work through your music, and never getting to the point when you can play all the music that you wanted. It's just like a rush."
Nightstalker says his role has shifted over the years that he's been involved in the scene, from journalist and DJ to tastemaker and influencer.
"My sets became breaking new tunes that no one had ever heard, but then I was digging deep," he says. "Then also, connecting them to the past. It was this weird education role — storytelling — that I'm fascinated with. Each set is a little cinematic journey."
That "tastemaker" element of his work sees him writing for Bassrush, a website that is under the vast Insomniac umbrella.
"Bassrush was a drum & bass offshoot that I was involved with early as a resident," he says. "We used to have a club night called Funktion on Wednesday nights. It wasn't until recently when Knowledge magazine folded and they were revamping the Bassrush website, I came on over there as an editor and writer, helping them on that side of things. The crew there are helping to push drum & bass in the States and keeping the vibe alive with the bass music — dubstep and trap taking center stage."
That's where a lot of the pleasure comes from for Nightstalker — educating audiences and communicating what he originally fell in love with about the drum & bass scene.
"The music is a unique mishmash of cultures and spaces," he says. "For us in L.A., it's become a Los Angeles thing as well as the U.K. It's become this connection to, for a lot of us, our roots in the rave scene to the warehouse underground days. It all gets meshed up in the music. It's all part of that culture, community and family building. That fascinates me — as a subculture it still develops its own language and people are still fiercely loyal to it after all these years."
Have a quick look around drum & bass–specific websites and message boards, and you'll find people mourning the loss of a scene in their town. Nightstalker says that Los Angeles is unique, in that the music is thriving here.
"We're really lucky — we have a lot of talent coming through," he says. "It's sort of a hot spot right now. I can remember when San Francisco was the hot spot, or New York. But L.A. has been it for at least five years now. It's still this weird space where dubstep and trap — there's an uneasy relationship between the two genres about selling out and stuff like that, especially on a festival lineup. Should the drum & bass be early or later. Overall, I think it's healthy for the scene. We're doing bigger and bigger shows. A lineup like Goldie and Hype has this awesome throwback vibe that should bridge generations of drum & bass people."
Yes, this week Nightstalker performs on a bill with Goldie and DJ Hype. The local guy couldn't be more excited.
"Goldie's the absolute godfather, king and foundation of it all — the first time around but also just continuing to wave the flag of drum & bass culture," he says.
Similarly, he very much enjoys performing in downtown L.A., and specifically at Exchange L.A.
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"Exchange is one of my favorite places to play," he says. "I've played there with different vibes. We just did a night with Pendulum that was really awesome as well. I did direct support for that. The vibe in there is great because it attracts different sorts of people. The venue is set up in a cool way where the DJ booth is down there on the floor but there's this elevated space all around as well. Huge light shows and those kind of things. It's a far cry from the underground days, playing at the Masterdome or whatever. But the energy there is always off the hook, the staff there is great and everything."
Nightstalker doesn't know for sure what his set will bring, as he tried to bridge Goldie and Hype vibes.
"I don't know — it's one of those things where I go in thinking I'll do one thing and end up doing another thing, usually playing off the crowd," he says. "It'll be somewhere in between — heavy on the breaks and rolling bass lines, and maybe a little bit of bubblers starting to lean toward jump-ups. It should be a good vibe with Hype and Goldie."
Nightstalker performs with Goldie, DJ Hype, No Face, MC Dino + MC Dre at 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22, at Exchange L.A.