Squirming out of the muck that has become the Top 40 nightclub scene comes a new wave of DJs for whom the music is the star. These venerable heroes of the dance floor bring with them an underground crowd of fans who regard electronic dance music (EDM) as more than the soundtrack to a night on the town, but also as a way of life.
EDM began out of the need for simplifying the music-making process. Through the 1980s, producers substituted synthesizers and drum machines for orchestras and personnel, drastically reducing costs but also employing a unique sound, one now associated globally with the many sub-genres of EDM (techno, trip-hop and trance, to name a few) and the new wave of EDM superstars, such as Skrillex and deadmau5.
“It’s taken a long time for it to make it into the mainstream,” says Brian Parra, whose wife turned him on to the EDM scene from her many travels through Europe. “It’s almost a mathematical dance concept. It’s very clear how it gets made; it’s machinery, sometimes.”
On a Friday night in the back room of restaurant/bar/night club Bombay, Zefram Cochrane works to set up what would be that night’s Halloween-themed EDM night. Frequency Friday brings together local DJs and producers with a revolving theme, for which a costume is a must.
Frequency Friday, and its sister event ElectroShock Sunday, moved across town from Pangaea, where it began as a Wednesday night event. From meager beginnings, the electro-centric nights have grown to twice monthly.
“For a lot of people, EDM is just an escape. It’s completely open to interpretation,” said Cochrane.
Bret Bradley, also known as Serenity, was an original producer of the Pangaea EDM nights before teaming up with Cochrane and Jared Joster to move to Bombay. His musical style — if one were to narrow it down — could be considered a melting pot of many.
“I try to make tracks from many different genres: dubstep, drumstep, drum and bass,” said Bradley. “A lot of the genres fall into beats per minute (BPM) categories, which determines how they’re labeled: 128 bpm is house or electro; 140 is dubstep; 175 for drum and bass; 110 for glitch hop.”
Behind Bradley and Cochrane on the Bombay stage, DJ QuickPheet (Collin Blair) begins setting up a multitude of digital instruments. On the counter beside his equipment rests a mock deadmau5 head with working LED lights and a speaker for a mouth. QuickPheet is one of many guest DJs invited out for the night, among several house performers, including Serenity, Jared “Casanova Frankenstein” Joster and DJ Brian “Inatrance” Rogers.
Diego Gamba, Bombay’s event coordinator and manager, surveys the scene in the back room before heading toward the front, where, on the same night, Alexandra and the Starlight Band would perform.
‘This, to me, is a scene that needs to be nurtured and pushed,” said Gamba. “There’s not much of it around here. I feel like it’s a good time for a change, to make it happen. I definitely want Bombay to be a part of it.”
Across town, however, the global implications of EDM are realized. For the second time, Oxnard’s La Dolce Vita hosted Smashtales, a showcase of local DJs in the basement of the Heritage Square restaurant. Edgar “Esgar” Vergara, who hosted the event alongside DJs supa koopa, Footwork and Hector “Fuzzone” Nava Jr., realizes the impact that the worldwide scene has on Ventura County’s burgeoning pop-ups.
“We love the soul of electronic music and we want to have something there, where we’re from. We’re trying to bring all of this energy here,” he says.
After the second Smashtales event, Hector “Fuzzone” Nava Jr. passed away unexpectedly. For their upcoming event, Esgar and the eclectic group of DJs present Smashtales Presents: Fuzz in Time.
“Hector was always striving to bring that global energy,” said Esgar as he rode passenger on his way to San Diego, where several Smashtales DJs were invited to perform. “When we got [La Dolce Vita] locked down we were all excited. To him, that was his night. The set he played was amazing — from the origins of disco to ’80s to funk — a lot of varying influences.”
Back at Bombay, DJ Quickpheet tests the sound system while Zefram Cochrane takes a breather before the night begins.
“There are DJs getting inspiration from places like Australia and Japan; Korea and Europe; from the larger hubs in America — New York, San Francisco, LA — and Miami. I definitely think that Ventura is kind of on that rising trend,” Cochrane says. “It may only be a matter of time before it’s close to the same level as L.A.”
Bombay hosts Frequency Fridays every other week, and ElectroShock Sunday’s “V for Vendetta” — themed night this Sunday, Nov. 4, with raffle prizes donated by Hypno Comics. Smashtales Presents: Fuzz In Time will be hosted by La Dolce Vita in Oxnard on Friday, Nov. 9.