The Theory of Rave-ativity
Few people can brag of having met while recording a "booty" track -- a song made specifically for rump shaking on the dance floor or for being piped through speakers in certain car stereos. One exception is that of musicians Dan Warren and Keith Rosenberg. Four years ago, when Rosenberg was a member of 2BMF (a band signed to local dance label Pandisc), a friend took him to the recording studio in which Warren was a partner. Rosenberg needed some background vocals on his booty bass song, so he recruited Warren. The track was laid down and a fast friendship was forged. Later Rosenberg went back to the studio for help in engineering Have a Very Bass Christmas, a hokey, holiday-theme bass album, but his booty and bass days would soon be over. The age of electronica was just beginning.
At the time, raves -- all-night parties featuring electronic music -- were becoming popular in Miami. Rosenberg, who as a musician and producer worked on the periphery of the local party scene but was not immersed in it, wanted to discover what all the fuss was about. He and Warren attended a rave on Valentine's Day 1997 and were not overwhelmed by what they heard. "We went and we were just sitting there looking at each other saying, 'Why the hell are we doing this?'" recalls Rosenberg. "We were disgusted!" interjects the boisterous and outspoken Warren. "Most of the music was crappy. There were a lot of DJs there, but the only people who impressed us were in a live group called Soul Oddity."
A few weeks later, inspired by the utter banality of the affair, Warren and Rosenberg formed their own two-man electronica band -- Trip Theory -- locked themselves in the studio, and started experimenting. After two hours they had created their first tune, the insistent electro-breakbeat "Times Up!!!" They've stuck together since, though not all the pair's creative exchanges are so quickly productive. "Sometimes we sit for hours and we come up with absolutely nothing and walk out frustrated," Warren says. Sometimes we just come in and in a couple of hours something is working."
Over the next few months something definitely worked; it was not long before the pair had written a dozen songs, enough material for an album. By then Rosenberg had left 2BMF and Pandisc and landed a multi-album deal producing bass music with Intersound, the Roswell, Georgia-based label that has long been a stronghold for gospel music. "I tried to persuade them to [let me] do something different from what I was already doing," Rosenberg explains. "I sent them three tracks, and they said go for it. They gave us complete creative control. They trusted us." Trip Theory became Intersound's first electronica band.
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Last spring the duo finished their first album, Trip on X, a collection of insistent electronic songs that, to some ears, might sound like catchy but annoying video game scores. They played their first show during a rave at Hallandale's Club Kay's in May 1997. In the year and a half since, they have logged thousands of miles on the road, from Houston to Puerto Rico and New York. "We play for the crowd, to make them happy," Warren says. "Our responsibility is to keep the audience rocked for an hour, so we make sure we do." In concert Trip Theory does a bit more than the average electronica practitioners (many of whom stand around, nonchalantly punching instructions on computer keyboards). Both men try to rouse the audience, starting and ending their shows by bellowing into the microphone. "We want them to have something to remember," Rosenberg says.
So far people have remembered, and radio has begun to take notice. More than 200 college stations have added songs from Trip to their playlists, and the album was highlighted twice in the magazine Dance Music Authority. Not surprisingly, word of mouth has proven the most effective means of promotion, though Intersound has recently begun to pitch in. "Every time we did a show, the audience told their friends, and the friends told other friends, and then promoters started calling us," Rosenberg recounts. Out-of-state gigs came next, in places such as Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Houston. The band has secured some bookings simply because their e-mail address and phone number appear on the album. "It's seems a bit unprofessional, but it's also more personal," Warren explains about fielding calls from fans and promoters. "It helps us remember where we came from. But all that's probably going to end tomorrow," he laughs.
A Georgia native, Warren studied classical music informally as a child. He moved to Miami in 1986 to take part in the University of Miami's recording engineering program but, disgruntled by the absence of hands-on instruction, left to attend another recording school in Orlando. After graduation he returned to Miami and found work at radio station Y-100 (WHYI-FM 100.7). Five years later, when he began producing for local musicians, Warren met musician/engineer Luciano Delgado. Delgado ran a studio in Miami Beach with partners and local musicians Frank Falestra (a.k.a. Rat Bastard) and Ariyah Okamoto. Shortly thereafter Warren joined the trio's recording business, known as the Studio, and has been with them ever since.
The New York-born, Miami-raised Rosenberg developed his musical inclinations during his teenage years as a break dancer and DJ in Miami Beach. In the late Eighties Rosenberg was a member of the band Vicious Bass, which recorded two successful dance albums for Orlando-based Cheetah Records. By 1990 he and a bandmate had left Vicious and formed 2BMF, which signed with Pandisc two years later. In 1994 Rosenberg also collaborated with Neil "Beat Dominator" Case. The duo, known as Bass Inc., released their debut, also called Vicious Bass, on Streetbeat Records, a company Pandisc formed with the distribution company R.E.D. During a subsequent stint in the band Bass Tribe (Case, Rosenberg, and a local musician dubbed the Bass Automater), Rosenberg got his first taste of electronica and slowly gravitated in that direction. Once he met Warren, he realized how much they complemented each other musically. "What he's missing I've got. What I'm missing he's got," Rosenberg notes.
Apparently they've got it all. Rather immodestly, Warren and Rosenberg believe their strong sense of songwriting is far more developed than that of other electronica acts. "Anybody can buy a drum machine," exhorts Warren, "but do they know how to operate it? Are they musically inclined; do they have the ability to put together a song? Do they know what people listen for? A lot of people can go buy the toy but can they make the toy work for them? What makes our stuff so successful is structure -- we have a song that starts from bar one and ends at a certain point. It goes through verses, hooks, and bridges. There are identifiable parts of a song. It's recognizable in the listener's mind. A lot of groups just have monotonous beats that play on forever, and the same pattern going over and over."
Trip Theory is also distinguished by a positive attitude toward its record company. Unlike many other musicians, they think they've been treated fairly. "As part of Trip Theory, I've had it a lot better than I have in the past," says Rosenberg. "I've paid many dues. Our record company has been better than most that I've dealt with. The big thing is money, and that has never been a problem." Warren concurs: "Our record company has been very, very good when it comes to paying; they pay us like clockwork. It's extremely impressive. They've never slacked at all."
Warren and Rosenberg are no slackers either. Six songs from their first album were featured as background music on the MTV shows The Real World and Road Rules (though the band didn't find out until the programs aired). Encouraged, they hope to land a self-directed video on the network as well. And in late August they released their second electro-breakbeat album, Something for Your Mind. They are promoting that new record through gigs around the country, to which, owing to Warren's wariness of airplanes, they invariably drive. ("I'm not afraid of flying," Warren declares. "I'm afraid of the condition of the aircraft!")
Even without collecting frequent-flyer miles, Trip Theory has had some lofty moments. One occurred this past summer when they played on the second stage at Bayfront Park, just after electronica giant Prodigy wowed the crowd at the main stage. They performed respectably, stealing more than a few listeners away from renowned DJ Josh Wink, who had spun after Prodigy. It was a heady experience, one that impressed upon them their position as an up-and-coming electronica band and added to their already well-developed cockiness. Perhaps the extroverted Warren explains his band's appeal best: "The electronic music we do is not for everyone, but it's still a refreshing alternative to that crap you hear on commercial radio!"
Trip Theory performs to celebrate the release of its new album, Something for Your Mind, at 11:00 p.m. Saturday, October 24, at Studio 183, 2860 NW 183rd St. Tickets cost $20. Call 954-925-5642.
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