DJs Ryan Organ, Jon A.D., and Monkeytek are way ahead of the curve on bass culture. Three years ago when they started Various, Portland's first dubstep night, the genre barely had a name. The idea grew out of a few key bass-driven releases by artists like 6Blocc and Starkey, and a desire to share the new sound with Portland.
"It was kind of like the whole grime and UK garage sound, but different. We thought we'd have to sneak it in because it was a new thing. Nobody knew what to call it," explains Jon A.D., from behind the counter of his newly relocated Anthem Records location in Chinatown. "We'd anchor it with related styles like house and reggae, but over time, the sound and our sensibilities with it have really grown."
Jon A.D. believed in the sound with such devotion that he used his tax return money to launch the LoDubs imprint and release the single "Dementia" from Philadelphia artist Starkey. The success of that record set the stage for LoDubs to crank out 20 more releases in three years, always with Various serving as a testing ground for upcoming tracks.
The rampant spread of dubstep into different genres and commercial territory has led to some grumbling from within the scene, but the Various crew doesn't seem to mind. Monkeytek shrugs, "Dubstep is growing up, but it still has a lot of room to grow, and that's exciting." Ryan Organ adds, "Every month we see new faces. They're coming from techno and house scenes, rock, reggae.... As all these people come together at Various and other dubstep events, it's pushing the sound in different directions, and that's a good thing." Even the infamously cynical Jon A.D. shares a similar view: "As long as it's undefined a bit longer, more creativity can get through. It's a palette for everybody to apply ideas and have a completely fresh perspective on how to work on music."
It can't hurt that as dubstep continues to grow, so does Various, which consistently packs the dance floor and threatens to vibrate the walls off Branx every first Saturday. "People look to the thing in culture that is moving and follow it, and that's what Various was in the beginning, so we built a strong base early on," says Jon A.D., pausing to roll his eyes. "No pun intended."