Bed-Stuy Record Label Celebrates Sound System Culture
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new Brooklyn record label is bringing drum and bass, dubstep, jungle and other electronic dance music genres to New York City through a towering, custom-built sound system.
Dub-Stuy Records is a Bedford-Stuyvesant-based label inspired in part by the sound system culture of Jamaica in the 1950s, in which local DJs would build large, custom speakers and set up parties on the streets of Kingston.
"When we talk about sound system culture, we're talking about the culture of events that took place around the sound system," said Dub-Stuy founder Quoc Pham, 29, who built the massive speakers to pay homage to the performance style. "The culture around it, and the music that was born around the object."
The idea for Dub-Stuy Records spun out of work that Pham and a few of his partners did with Sound Liberation Front, a local nonprofit that hosts events in the borough including Rub-A-Grub, an annual Memorial Day backyard party at neighborhood restaurant Do or Dine.
While there, Pham decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and build the sound system. As he came to realize the complexities of the process, he started thinking about the importance of the sound system to music in general.
After construction of the speakers — which took about a year from conception to final product and cost about $30,000 — Pham started the label with partners Kai Ando, 28, Jay Spaker, 40, and Damian Ashton, 30, as a way to promote that culture.
The music the label hopes to promote will utilize the sound system that Pham built, the partners said. By providing their own sound system for each show, they're controlling the method of music delivery.
"It's not music to play on your Mac speakers," Ando said. "If you just play any record on here, it sounds good, but it's not neccesarily produced for those frequencies."
That creates sound-mastering challenges, Pham said, because the producers will have to create two sets of tracks: one for the massive custom speaker system, and one for commercial speakers.
"When we started producing tracks, as most producers, we had the mentality that the end result would be the ear buds — or as long as it bumps on typical speakers, then it's good enough," Pham said. "I personally got more in depth into the science and the engineering and the frequencies."
The system itself is a 12,000-watt, five-way system, meaning it's powered by five separate amps and reaches five ranges of frequency. It can reproduce frequencies down to 30 hertz.
"Those frequencies are very visceral," Pham said. "You hear it, and you feel it in your guts."
Pham himself is one of the label's flagship artists. Along with Spaker, he creates music as Tour de Force, or TDF. The duo have a single coming out this summer, and an album will be released in October.
In addition to creating their own work, the group continues to plan events as Dub-Stuy and as part of Sound Liberation Front. They're also collaborating with a clothing brand for a collection that will be launched sometime this year.
But the label's central mission is to promote the different styles of music and ideas associated with the sound system, Pham said.
"A lot of people like to think in terms of a box: 'It's a hip hop show, it's a reggae show, it's a dubstep show,'" Pham said. "We're inviting everybody. It's all sound system music — this is all the sound system experience.
"It's more just than an object," Pham added. "It's a philosophy."