SMOG Records Celebrates Six Years of Bringing Dubstep to American Dance Floors

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Alejandra Loera / OC Weekly
Danny Johnson, 12th Planet, SPL, Flinch and Drew Best of SMOG Records


The SMOG crew has single handedly helped pioneer the dubstep music movement in Los Angeles and Orange County. Starting as a promotion company to throw dubstep shows at a time when there weren't many places to hear this new sound, Drew Best and Danny Johnson teamed up to create an event called "An Experiment in Dubstep" in downtown LA on August of 2006. Soon this underground dance movement grew exponentially and so did SMOG which became a record label a year later with12th Planet (born John Dadzie) as the main artist and partner.

This weekend SMOG Records celebrates their six year anniversary with artists like Antiserum, Truth, SPL, Noah D, Pawn, Kelly Dean, Steady and more at the The Roxy Friday November 23rd. We met up with Best, Johnson, 12th Planet and Adam Glassco better know as Flinch as well as Sam Pool or SPL as he is known in the bass world, to talk about their incredible success as a record label, artist development hub and lifestyle brand.

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At the time, 12th Planet--who has been called the American dubstep king--was producing drum & bass music like his fellow label mates Flinch and SPL. His DJ name was Infiltrata, but he was soon turned on by this new blend of UK garage music with Jamaican dub called dubstep. "Lets just face it, drum & bass is UK music and dubstep is UK music," explains 12th Planet. "It's only natural that the drum & bass kids were going to gravitate towards dubstep being that it's all from the same country."

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Oliver Scherillo / OC Weely
12th Planet at this years Nocturnal Wonderland

The drum & bass community was very small in LA and when dubstep started making waves those in it's scene either hated it or didn't want anything to do with it. "These guys were so deeply rooted in drum & bass culture at the time. They were drum & bass dudes," says Johnson. "It was even the lifestyle that came with it that they represented." Dadzie soon changed his name to 12th Planet to go along with the re-branding of SMOG Records and from then on the crew began making dirty bass music which is now known as dubstep.

At first dubstep was a hard sell on the dance floor for the SMOG Crew. "I ran into a lot of resistance when I was playing drum & bass shows in Europe," says SPL. "That audience was even less receptive than the US was to dubstep which made it very tricky." Yet these guys continued to master a sound which they felt was the future of bass music. By 2010 SMOG Records had gone on to produce dubstep events in Miami, Austin, Chicago, Las Vegas, Detroit, even bringing dubstep to OC at their infamous Dubtroit night hosted at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa.

"It took us almost ten years to get any credibility in the UK," Best says. "When we finally got some sort of validation in the UK, Rusko came on the scene." Between 2007 and 2010, dubstep in America grew exponentially, but the SMOG crew explains that defining moment when they knew it had blown up was when 12th Planet opened for a sold out Rusko show at Avalon in Hollywood. "As soon as the curtain came up and Rusko opened with his remix of Doctor P's 'Sweet Shop' 4,000 motherfucking kids swarmed the dance floor," 12th Planet says "That was unheard of! No one in dubstep had ever done anything like that."

Today SMOG Records is a respected label worldwide and encompasses so much beyond the world of dubstep. "I think it's pretty diverse right now Antiserum and 12th Planet are doing trap stuff," Best says. "We did a jungle remix for one of our releases that came out last week as well." They recently released their first label compilation SMOG City with the first track "Bass Salt" by 12th Planet and Antiserum being released on Rollingstone.com. The compilation features nine original tracks by 12th Planet, Antiserum, SPL, Flinch, The Juggernaut, Noah D, Kelly Dean, Bare and Djyuna representing the evolving multi-genre sounds of bass music while sticking to their original dubstep roots.

"You could have been making drum & bass music for the last five years and now your drum & bass friends aint gonna be mad that you're trying to do electro house," says Flinch. "Purism is old-school and the new kids don't care. They just want to have fun and hear the music." Flinch has been greatly influenced by his current label mates by progressing from drum & bass then electro to his current heavy synth-based dubstep sound. Together they help push each other forward to create a record label they can be proud of.

"We just want to be a brand that represents quality, integrity and allows these guys to grow as artists," Johnson explains. "We want to allow these guys the opportunity to distribute their music worldwide, tour and live out their dreams." 12th Planet just got back from a tour in Asia with Skrillex, is playing his end of the world show at Exchange LA on 12/12/2012 and then heads out on tour in Mexico right after. Likewise Flinch is currently on his 20 stop Night Owls North American Tour with AC Slater and Harvard Bass. While SPL plans on hitting a lot of studio time after a string of shows in the states.

"We have some great music coming out that's really hot right now," says Best. They have continued to be ahead of the game in productions and have garnered an outstanding following in LA and OC. "As the music keeps moving forward and continues to amaze me it's just as exciting as it was 12 years ago when I started producing," shares SPL. "I've just become more open to checking out new styles and new equipment. If I've learned anything from this is that change is good and that's what keeps things amazing."

When asked where they think bass music is headed, veteran producer Flinch says, "The tool is made and then the artist is created. Who knows what the next tools will be, but that will create the next artists, artforms and sounds." For the moment the tools they use are creating all sorts of bass heavy, melodic and banging dubstep which is only to be celebrated at this weekends show at The Roxy. As dance music continues to explode in America, these guys will continue to be on the forefront of bass culture and everything that it encompasses.

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3 comments
riiizmalex
riiizmalex like.author.displayName 1 Like

someday, i wish to shake the hands of these gods

kittysnake
kittysnake

@SPLSamuel awe thanks Sam!! You guys have an awesome Thanksgiving and see you Friday ☺

garyroyale
garyroyale topcommenter like.author.displayName 1 Like

What I like about the dub/d&b DJs is that they can be the guy next you that is raging in the crowd. This reminds me that I met Flinch at the Yost bathroom in the urinal next to me..

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