Q&A: Drop The Lime On Growing Up With New York's Dance Underground, Bringing Punk To Le Bain, And The "Devil's Music"
Dracula is the image most frequently equated with Trouble and Bass founder and DJ Drop the Lime. "It's because I'm a night owl, always showing up everywhere," says Luca Veneziaand he's a New York night owl at that. Born and raised downtown to artist parents, Venezia has lived through three decades of the city's growing dance community: hardcore and punk shows and warehouse raves in the nineties, his own drum-n-bass and breakcore experimentations in the early aughts, and the early days of the now-massive DIY bass and electro scenes in Brooklyn via the Trouble and Bass collective.
While electro, club, grime, and bass influences have always been the most prominent in his better-known dance productions, Venezia has always had a slightly odd rocker undertone to his live performances: He identifies as much with rockabilly as he does with dance, and credits Elvis Presley as one of his idols as a performer. With last week's release of his new album Enter The Night (Ultra), Venezia brings his rocker edge to the forefront with a sultry, downtempo collection of songwriting that rely on techno minimalism and more subtly knocking synths to back it up. The result sounds something like a score for an an old-timey Western directed by David Lynch.
SOTC talked to Drop the Lime a few days before Enter The Night's release about the growth of the New York dance underground, how rockabilly and electro aren't all that different, why sex and music are inseparable, and the motivation behind his new album.
You're born and raised in downtown Manhattan, right? How did that affect what you were listening to growing up?
I'm an only child raised by an abstract painter and a fine arts photographer. My dad is Brooklyn raised; he bought a loft in the '70s in Tribeca. He and my mother always played music in the house. Like, constantly. He was more classical and opera while my mother was more rockabilly, blues, and jazz. Bob Dylan and stuff like that. But she also had a keen ear; I heard Björk for the first time through my mom. Talking Heads and Radiohead too. It was weird. So at a really early age I wanted to play guitar. And then I saw the Ritchie Valens [biopic] La Bamba. Seeing all the screaming girls, the showmanship, while being passionate about an art and making a living while inspiring other people, I wanted to be that.
I was seven years old then and my parents were supportive and bought me a guitar. I took guitar lessons and immediately got into it; I was making love songs and tapes and recording on a straight-up tape recorder. I would make tapes for girls in my class and, I don't know, I was trying to live this rockstar lifestyle at young age. This was the late '80s, early '90s. I had a girlfriend at eight and would get in trouble at school for putting my arm around her in class and stuff. I had no idea what I was doing. [Laughs.]
When did you start getting into dance music?
Probably the mid or late '90s. The time felt so raw. I was hanging out with people who were older than me so my first real musical outing down in Tribeca was going to hardcore shows at Wetlands. I lived on North Moore street, right across from the [firehouse] in Ghostbusters. When you're growing up in New York, you end up go to a lot of house parties and hang out on stoops. As a teenager, it's a very mixed group of people. I went to public school, Professional Performing Arts school, so I hung out with a mixed group of people; people who liked the Cramps and then people who loved Wu-Tang.
Around 15 I was dating a girl who brought me to my first rave. At the time I was in a hardcore band and was really into Minor Threat, Fugazi, Helmet, Quicksand, and Jesus Lizard. But I reluctantly went to this rave, Chemical Brothers were playing, and this big promoter Scotto from [club night] NASA days put it on. It changed my life. I was like, what is this?! I didn't understand; there was this one guy up there and thousand of people are dancing. You could feel the music more than you could at a punk show because of the all of the bass and so on. So, yeah, it immediately became my lifestyle.
You became a raver?
A straight-up raver. Immediately. From a punk guy and skateboarding guy to a raver. I was still into playing guitar but, yeah. I think that happened to a lot of people though.
Going to see dance music while living in New York during the mid-'90s house era must have been great.
I was not into house music at all. I was drum-n-bass through and through. Hardcore into drum-n-bass. I thought house was commercial and boring and couldn't find anything interesting about it.
It's interesting that you thought house was super commercial when you were going to see chart-ranked acts like the Chemical Brothers.
I know, right? It must have been the people I was hanging out with. What happened was that I was hanging out with these guys Burner Brothers, DJ Pish-Posh, DJ Scene. DJ Scene, Al, really taught me about DJing and beat-matching. I bought my first turntables and they weren't Technics, they were, like, American DJ Pro or something. I got this old Akai sampler, an S-20, it's not even an MPC. I was so clueless at the time that I even thought jungle and drum-n-bass records were made with drum machines. I didn't realize they used samples. I would try to make that "Amen Break" by compressing sounds and distorting sounds. It finally just killed me one day. I called up Breakbeat Science, where I got all my records and was like, "How the hell do you make this sound" and then played him a DJ Hype record over the phone. He was like, "Uhhhh, it's a sample."
As an outsider looking back at that time, '90s New York always seemed very DIY to me. With the punk-rock, dance...
Even in hip-hop. RZA's productions were very punk. Very DIY, very gritty. He didn't give a fuck.