If there's one way to tell the true old-school house heads from the posers, it's by measuring the natural spike in their serotonin levels whenever Dubtribe Sound System hits the airwaves. That's because the beloved San Francisco duo has been pulling heartstrings and expanding minds with their soul-warming deep house tunage for two decades now.
In the '90s, Sunshine and Moonbeam Jones epitomized the rave era's free-spirited DIY approach to electronic dance music culture, touring extensively across the renegade party circuit and operating their own Imperial Dub imprint. Most of all, though, they epitomized the uplifting, spiritual good vibes of house music.
In 2005, the pair broke up, breaking plenty of fans' hearts in the process. But 2010 saw them reunite again. And now they're going stronger than ever. See for yourself when Sunshine and Moonbeam join Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, and Voices of Black this Friday's Basel bash at the Electric Pickle. Meanwhile, find out what Moonbeam Jones had to tell Crossfade about the Sound System's early days and the spirit of rave.
Crossfade: What was the Bay Area dance music scene like in the early Dubtribe days?
Moonbeam Jones: It was amazing. There were parties every night in some weird dive bar or warehouse space. And San Francisco was a very livable city at the time. Rent was affordable -- not as populated as it is now. After the horrible toll the AIDS virus took on San Francisco throughout the '80s and the quake of 1989, it was a very humble city with lots of heads. It was out of this environment that house music took root and thrived.
There are high emotions and even strong spiritual or mystical currents in your music. Where do you draw the inspiration for the material you write? What do you aim to make people feel through your music?
I am inspired by people, by love, by the beauty all around us at any moment. I just open my mind and heart to the universe, drop all my B.S., my fears, my worries. I find that place inside of me where I am free and anything is possible. That's where the music lives. I never plan on making anyone feel anything. People feel you or they don't.
What was the whole rent party concept you guys had when you were first performing live?
It wasn't really a concept. We needed money for rent. So we threw a party and accepted donations at the door of our home, where the party was going on. We put all the furniture in one room and locked the door. Then we set up the turntables and wired the house for sound. It was pretty damn cool.
You had something of a punk DIY professional approach in general, right? Shunning publicity, promotion, and other trappings of the commercial dance music scene. What was the impetus to work that way? Is that kind of approach still conceivable these days?
Well, we didn't really shun promotion. We just wanted to do it ourselves. We wanted to be the ones to communicate our message. We were just very selective about who we would do interviews with, who we would put out records for, etc. The impetus to do this was simply to be in control of our destiny, our sound, our whole vision. That's what made it special to us and people who loved us. Yes, it's conceivable that people would use this approach these days. I am sure there are people out there right now doing just that.
Do you think the international EDM scene has lost something along the way, with mainstream dance music and the predominance of commercial club culture? Is the spirit of rave dead or could it come back?
I think the spirit of the "rave" is still capable of coming back. That renegade, revolutionary spirit is always out there. It's dormant right now. Yes, dance music is too easy right now to access, with it being on the radio, etc. But there is so much awesome underground music out there. It's just a matter of time that a rave-type scene will rise again.
Why did you guys originally decide to perform for the last time in December 2005? And more importantly, what brought you back together again?
In 2005, it was because Sunshine and I split up as a couple. We began performing again in 2010. We had both done some healing. And we missed Dubtribe and all that we had done, and realized there was still more to do, and that we wanted to do it together. So we began performing again to see if people were still interested in what we had to offer. And they are! So we are continuing and are beginning to work on a new album.
What have you been up to in 2011? Any personal highlights?
Sunshine and I did our first long-distance remix for Mateo & Matos. And I think it's pretty awesome. That's a huge highlight.
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What can Miami expect during your upcoming performance at the Electric Pickle?
We're gonna have a good time and get down with some Dubtribe Sound System.
Dubtribe Sound System with Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, and Voices of Black. Friday, December 2. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.