From modest beginnings 17 years ago, the DIY L-Abased station has become a world renowned destination for everything leftfield and left of the dial
On a sweaty summer afternoon in Los Angeles, Carlos Nio sat behind the boards in the modest, un-air conditioned studio of Dublab, the internet radio station thats been broadcasting for 17 years. With a bushy beard taking over his face and a blue-gemmed ring on his pinky thumb, Nio transmits supernatural jazz and acid-licked folk boulder at a bit rate of 320. His co-host Miguel Atwood-Ferguson sat in the corner, with a Mac laptop balancing on his knees and his shoes nowhere to be seen.
At around half-past two, they switched on the microphones for a brief spoken interlude. This is Theme Galaxy, our theme today is mystical, spiritual, and psychedelic. Lets talk about these pieces, said Nio with the easy tone of a waiter explaining your salumi plate. Carioca in the set. He is one of the great keepers of the Santo Daime mystic music of the ayahuasca tradition in Brazil, and this album that he made, which I love dearly, is called Mistrios da Amaznia. We heard an excerpt of the title way, which is much longer and truly keeps going into all these different spaces.
Wow, Atwood-Ferguson replied.
Nio and Atwood-Ferguson are both respected composers and players around the city who have collaborated on anthems with everyone from Flying Lotus to the 1975, and while Nio has had a depict on Dublab in one form or another since the station began in 1999, this monthly joint venture was still less than a year old. Behind Nios head, Dublabs motto glowed in neon letters, FUTURE ROOTS RADIO. Alejandro Cohen, the stations Argentina-born executive director, has pointed out that the sign, and the others around the station, were gifted to them by a Dublab DJ who once interned for the guy who does all the neon for the stores in the Valley.
For the best part of two decades Dublab has existed on a subfrequency of Los Angeles-born radio, one not advertised on highway billboards or emblazoned on tote bags earned with a pledge of $10 a month. Its become a haven and destination for seekers and eccentrics, an unconventional entity that might start its broadcast day with languid disco and that schedules its hyper-kinetic juke reveal for the early afternoon on a Tuesday. People usually explore music in such a limited capacity compared to what is possible, says Mark Frosty McNeill, one of Dublabs co-founders.
Besides what they send out streaming into the world, Dublab has become an experiential presence in Los Angeles. The station hurls its own themed events, like the ambient-focused Tonalism, and defines up club nights where they only play sad music and maintain boxes of tissues on hand. The broadcast schedule is filled with an evolving roster of Los Angeles DJs and music obsessives. As McNeill says: Any night of the week, Dublab DJs are playing somewhere in the city.
A broad swath of foreigners also seek out Dublabs curatorial talents. The High TimesCannabis Cuphad them take over a stage this past summertime at its event in San Bernardino, while the Los Angeles Music Center Downtowns hub for usually staid classical music and opera began a relationship with Dublab a little over a year ago to get them to advise on and volume special events.
McNeill started Dublab and was the stations director for its first 16 years. Now he broadly defines his role as: DJ, members of the security council, creative consultant, project director, spirit guide. He became interested in radio while attending the University of Southern California in the 1990 s. Back in the 1970 sthe school turned its station, KUSC, over to public radio, where it was staffed with professionals and became the regions biggest classical music station. In reply, a group of students made KSCR, an unlicensed, low wattage radio station. While working at KSCR, ONeill became the station director and stimulated the decision, progressive at the time, to schedule electronic music shows throughout the day , not only during the late night hours. More importantly, he discovered that USC had an unused Real Media server sitting in a closet, so the station began broadcasting its FM signal through the internet, a rare move for any radio station during that time.
The Federal Communications Commissioned aimed up shutting KSCRs terrestrial broadcasts, but McNeill already realized the possibilities of internet radio. He observed a partner for his vision in Jon Buck, who was more interested in the business side of medium. With a fiscal investment from Bucks family, Dublab began broadcasting from a storefront off of Melrose Blvd that had been converted into a studio.
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