Chris Warner, raised and still residing in the Southtowns, is a DJ who goes by the moniker Just Dubbs.
Chris Warner, 30, is a resident of Boston, nearer to Hamburg. He attended Hamburg High School but graduated from Eden. In 2006, he started DJing under the moniker DJ Dubbs, but now, he is known as Just Dubbs.
The latter came from Brandon Chase, a DJ from Buffalo’s Igloo Music crew.
“I was DJ Dubbs, and you know when you first become a DJ you put DJ in front of it, you got to let everybody know you are a DJ,” Warner said with a laugh. “And then after a while, I was getting sick of DJ Dubbs.” So for an upcoming event, he asked Chase to put just “Dubbs” on the flier.
“The flier comes out, it says Just Dubbs. So I thank him all the time for coming up with that one.”
During the days of Napster®, he discovered Bad Boy Bill, a DJ prominently known for his influence in the Chicago house music scene. “I got a set of turntables after I went to my first rave,” Warner said.
Most, if not all, of those who become enveloped into this scene have an introductory story. Warner’s started at a party in Toronto.
“I got my first experience. I walked in and literally within five minutes, I was like, ‘How am I going to make it until four in the morning or nine in the morning.’ Everyone was dressed weird ... by the end of the night [the group I was with] lost me; they couldn't find me for like, three hours, and I was on stage dancing with the headliner,” he said. “I hated the music but I loved the vibe. I loved just, whatever it was I just experienced.”
His familiarity for beat-matching came from his experience playing drums in his youth, during grade school band, and eventually for a punk rock garage band.
After graduating from Saint Bonaventure University, a friend of his taught him how to mix with turntables; Warner was playing sets out at venues within six months. He claims that he does not have a signature genre that he mixes, although it did begin with trance music on vinyl. After going to a George Acosta show in 2007, he was introduced to electro house, had a genre epiphany and “literally bought CD decks, and switched over to playing electro house and fidget.
“I’ll play trap. I’ll play house. The only things I really don’t play is drum ‘n’ bass.”
Warner recently played an opening slot for Claude VonStroke, founder of Dirtybird Records. Besides that set, he said his favorite event was Christmas in July 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Approximately 800 people attended.
“I’ve never had people climbing into the DJ booth to slap me high-fives, to the point that they were hitting the tables and the decks, and skipping the decks ... It was an eye-opening experience and that’s when I realized I want to start catering not only to Buffalo, but to try to get myself out there, just because I like to play for people that like to dance," Warner said.
In addition to working his day job as a judgement enforcement analyst for a debt recovery service, he also runs the Buffalo chapter of B.A.S.A.S.S. RAVES, a promotion company based out of Maryland.
“I’ve just been taking bookings for that,” he said, adding that he will be bringing a big event in September, with more details to be announced, at a later date. “We’re going to be doing something pretty big in the works here, and we hope to start rebuilding our chapter,” he said.
Previously, he was throwing events at Subzero Niteclub, which was located underground on Chippewa Street, but is now paved over.
“I was throwing a lot of shows there. Where I'd bring up three DJs from Pittsburgh, and then I’d send three Buffalo DJs to wherever they were having shows, and that really got everything started. It was great, I mean, we were doing DJ trades up to eight a month ... But then, years after years of throwing parties and losing money, and I was throwing shows before it got mainstream and popular ... It just took a toll on me," Warner said.
He added that even if he is not spinning, he wants to get the clique involvement back on track in the Queen City. “I have a responsibility that I have to do, for my end, for this chapter and I'm hoping to get back into it."
The underground electronic music scene has been going through waves, not only in the Buffalo area, but also on a larger scale.
“It's going through patterns. It's been going through some different changes. It’s more mainstream, currently. Not even just the specific music. It’s more mainstream to see people say, let’s go see that DJ on Friday night, who maybe would never say that. I mean that's good and bad. You got people now that, they don't care if the DJ’s playing on a laptop, not mixing at all, or just standing there doing nothing. As opposed to the older crowd who was up in front because they wanted to see what the DJ was doing; they wanted to see what’s going on, the technique, the style. It’s great because it’s got a lot of exposure, which has led to a lot of great things. It almost seems it’s growing too big for itself and is leading to a collapse, not just in Buffalo, but in the grander scheme of things. But I like it, I like it now ... It's interesting to see where it's going to go," Warner said.
But where is this subculture’s place in the Southtowns?
Access is the main factor, according to Warner; “There's so many people that electronic music is geared to. Is it for everyone: yeah. Is it catered to a certain group of people: yes, a certain age group. Are there more people in the city that are just there than there are in Hamburg/Boston: absolutely.”
He also proposed that the lack of scene outside of city limits is “maybe not having a location? Somewhere where we can call our own and do it. There might be a crowd out here [in the Southtowns] that we don’t even know about, that we haven't even touched ... That would be awesome.”
From 2007-2011, he threw a party at his house called Mix in the Sticks; friends attended, reaching a count of 250 people. A friend of his approached him and asked if he could play a set for the fun zone during BurgerFest in Hamburg. He said a lot of people were intrigued by what he was doing and added that having DJ involvement in the Southtowns may be something to pursue.
In referencing BurgerFest, he said, "It would be great, one of those nights, to have a jazzy house DJ play ... There's a lot of people that might not realize that's something they can actually listen to."
Warner scrolled through his phone as he sought a quotation from Carl Cox, a highly influential DJ and producer. The sun was shining bright and warm on Buffalo Street in Hamburg, and outside of Great Harvest Bread, he recited the quote aloud.
Carl Cox said, “I don’t think it’s ‘underground versus overground,’ I just think it’s pop culture versus people who actually love the music. Some of these people have no clue why they are standing in front of these DJs in the first place.”
As modern culture evolves and morphs, it is taking the electronic scene and forming a less than flattering stigma. The “EDM” world is now seen through the public eye as saturated with Ecstasy and underage criminal behavior. Additionally, DJs are becoming increasingly popular and mainstream.
“Is that bad? Yes, it is for the scene that we know. But is it bad to try and build it to something else?” Warner paused. “I’m on both sides.”
Arrests and deaths (especially at summertime music festivals) are on the rise, but, “It’s not just about the drugs. A lot of people come for the drugs, but they stay for the music,” Warner said. “You don’t have to do drugs to appreciate the music.”
The underground electronic scene dominates in areas including, but definitely not limited to, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Baltimore, Houston and San Francisco. It is a developed subculture that – like all cultures and subcultures – has various physical and metaphorical tropes.
As parts of the underground become uncovered, Warner questioned the possibility of “breaking that stigma, without losing our uniqueness, our underground, our taboo.”
But can Buffalo get to the level of our Canadian neighbors in Toronto, Warner answered, “Absolutely.”
Check out Just Dubbs during his radio show on WaxMuseumRadio.net
from 8-9 p.m. on Thursdays, or visit his SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/justdubbs
Want to be featured in Sounds of the Southtowns? Email Agreco@thesunnews.net