“I want you to all smell a dubplate because they smell really good. You might never get to smell one ever again…”
Vivian Host, aka Star Eyes hands me a dusty disc, an old DnB record from Renegade Hardware. I smell it and have to admit, it smells perfect. Like old musty books but better, because it’s music. On the bed sits Jess Gentile, better known as Jubilee. We’re chillin’ in the infamous 181 spot in Brooklyn, Vivian’s current residence, while our lovely photographer, Kaitlin Parry of Shoot People, sets up for this Gotta Dance Dirty exclusive look into the lives and music of two of the best bass DJs and producers around.
Hailing from Hollywood (Vivian) and Miami(Jess) each of these badass ladies got their start young as ravers but it wasn’t long before they began making a name for themselves through DJing, music and events. As a founding member of the Trouble & Bass collective, Vivian makes dark grimy beats as Star Eyes in between planning some of the dopest underground shows in Brooklyn and beyond. When not moonlighting as one of my favorite twitter personalities, Jess is a member of the Mixpak collective, bringing her deep, bouncy Jubilee beats to dancefloors nation wide as well as on Radio Lily every Tuesday from 6-8pm. And naturally, they’re best friends and awesome collaborators.
GDD: So you guys used to be roommates right?
Jess: I used to live in this apartment.
Vivian: And before that we lived in Greenpoint with Dre Skull.
Jess: Yeah for like 2 years
Vivian: Until we got evictedddd…
Jess:Yeah, we got evicted…
Vivian: Yeah, we were on tour in Canada and found out we had to move out of our place and we moved back here to 181.
Jess: It was really weird, I lived in this apartment for like 4 years, maybe, before I moved in with Vivian in Greenpoint, and I moved out of here and lived with her there for 2 years. But my really good friend still lived in this room and lived with these 2 other people that I know, and the day after we got evicted, literally, she texted me like ‘I found my dream apartment, we’re going to move out of 181, do you know anybody that needs a place? Cuz we kinda want to keep this apartment in the family.’ And I was like I NEED THIS PLACE. Haha, it’s really funny because it was actually the most smooth eviction ever.
Vivian: Yeah, Jess has a tattoo that says 181.
Jess: Yeah, I have a tattoo of the address of this apartment, and so does our friend downstairs and the other girl that lived here.
Vivian:Yeah it’s like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or like Three’s Company or something, we all call it 181.
GDD: Let’s talk about your collaboration! How did it come about and what platforms do you use?
Vivian: I use Logic and Ableton, but when Jess and I work together we did it in Ableton, it’s just easier. It can be an easier tool to collaborate with people on. The file sharing is simpler and when you’re making tunes with somebody you just want to make it as easy as possible to get the ideas down before you lose the vibe or the mojo of it.
GDD: Haha so how did the collab come about?
Jess: Because, duh..why wouldn’t we collab? Haha, it was just one of those things…I was like Ok, these are the things we like, so, we should just collab..so we went on a juice fest. It was just kind of one of those things, like why aren’t we doing this?
Vivian: Hahaha, we went on a juice fest because we had to make it even more difficult for ourselves and extreme!
Jess: Extreme! But actually when you go on a juice fest when you collab it’s way better because you don’t take any breaks to eat.
Vivian: Yeah, you spend an hour in the morning making juice, and then you don’t have to think all day long. You don’t have to think ‘What am I going to eat?’ and you don’t have to stop to eat.
Jess: You just get your pre-made bottle of fucking cucumber juice or whatever you made and then you drink it. And it’s already in the fridge so you just walk to the fridge and that’s it.
GDD: Is this your first time doing a collaboration?
Jess: We did some remixes together when we lived together. Like we did one of Drop The Lime and we did one of MiKiX The Cat.
Vivian: And the Creep one…
Jess: Oh yeah, we did that in SF. For some reason we didn’t go on a juice fest. But those were the only three things.
Vivian: This one, we sat down with an idea, which was that we were going to make Grime tracks, we were going to make a Grime EP. It’s not like pure Grime, like, I don’t think a British person would necessarily listen to it and be like ‘Yeah, that’s Grime’ straight off. But it’s good to have a concept in mind and a starting point and we just sort of listened to tracks that we liked and got on a very specific vibe and that is how we made those two. But there was one point where we were like, ‘Where does this go from here?’ and then I threw a break in and then of course Jess being the Miami breaks Don was like ‘I love that!’ But when you put a breaks thing in, then it’s not Grime anymore…but it’s about getting our personalities out and getting down tracks that are something different and something that reflects both of us. It’s not about being the most purist of the genre.
Jess: A lot of people replied to me and were like ‘I can totally hear both of you in both of these songs.’ So weird… Another thing is that the samples of Slimzee’s voice was like an accident. He plays everything we like! And at the time we had listened to a few of the Rinse podcasts 50 times and everything they were saying was just so funny, so then we wound up chopping that up while doing it and it just kind of worked so we were like, ‘Oh my god, what else does he say?’ He just says a bunch of really weird shit! He’ll be like ‘Hold-up the Security Guard!’ and we put that in there, just cracking up laughing. And some of the stuff you can’t even understand.
Vivian: And it was fun too. The other track “Merkwood Estates” has a lot of howling wolves in it and it is actually named after…I had just seen “The Hobbit” and there is a place…I should never admit to this…There is a place in it called Merkwood and it’s a forest..
Jess: And of course Vivian was like ‘Hehehe…’
Vivian: Haha, yeah as far as Grime jokes go, saying somebody is merked means they got fucked up. Like you beat them up…
Jess: Or, like, you merked that party…
Vivian: Yeah, like you killed it. But yeah, we like to have fun and not take everything super seriously. Alot of the songs we make have alot of personality and they’re fun! We are serious about DJing and making music and working hard at it but we don’t take ourselves super seriously.
Jess: Yeah, we just want people to dance and laugh!
GDD: So how did you each get into electronic music, your sound and the influences that got you here?
Jess: I was born in a rave…
Vivian: Kind of though…
Jess: I was born in a rave..I’m sure it’s happened at least once (laughs).
Vivian: I was..like the first music that I was really in love with was, I guess like, New Wave. And kinda like 80’s synth pop. So Depeche Mode and The Cure, stuff like that. I mean, I was a huge Depeche Mode fan, but even growing up I used to…I grew up in LA, and on the radio there was like a lot of Freestlye and I used to love. Like, when I was 8 or something my favorite song was “Rock me Amadeus” and I always liked those songs like “It Takes Two” in the 80’s when people first kind of were discovering sampling and just do all the crazy stuff they could. ‘Let’s put a scratch here,’ ‘Let’s put like a Mozart sample,’ ‘Ok lets put a crazy 808 drum machine.’
Vivian: So it’s not like I was thinking about that when I was 8 years old, but I always loved songs that were like that. So it’s kind of not really that surprising that, fast-forward, some years and I’m into rave music – which is basically the extension of that, of what people started back then.
Vivian: Because of Depeche Mode, I used to watch this video show after school. And they would show like alternative videos….cuz like that genre was called “alternative” in the 90’s (laughs) and I started seeing rave videos. Like they would have a Prodigy video and an Orbital video and they actually had a video for this song…(pulling out an old vinyl record from her wall of vinyl) called “LSD is A Bomb,” which is why I bought this record…It’s really a corny, ridiculous record…BUT it was a cool, trippy video, and I was like ‘Wow, this is cool!” and then I started…like I’m a total Lisa Simpson, secretly a Lisa Simpson, like such a nerd. Um, so I would go to the library and I started seeing pictures in magazines from England, like NME and Melody Maker, like the “indie band” magazines – but they would show pictures of these illegal raves with thousands of people, and I was like ‘That looks awesome.”
Vivian: So once I started seeing rave flyers, I was like Yes, that’s me! I actually decided that I wanted to be a raver and I found this guy in a coffee house, that me and my friend became friends with when we were like 13 and he was 19. And he took us to the first rave, in an umarked van, like a white delivery van…with everybody sitting on the floor in the back. And like no one knowing, we didn’t know where we were going. It was me and my friend when we were 13…
Jess: And now, people see 13 year olds at raves and we’re like ‘There was a 13 year old there!!’ But in your head you’re like ‘Hehehe’
Vivian: Yeah, that’s why I can never say anything about young kids at raves.
Jess: Me neither..
Vivian: Cuz that was me! You know, that was fully me and who am I to say anything. You know if I wouldn’t have done that then none of this would have happened. So…big up to that guy wherever he is.
Jess: Kind of the same thing in the beginning as Vivian, like a lot of it was the radio, and I used to listen to Freestyle, but sometimes I feel like she used to listed to Freestyle – but totally different music than me and I didn’t like any of that stuff. I did more Rap, which Rap back then was not the same Rap today obviously. And I lived in Miami, and I’m sure you read that thing that just went up about me, but a lot of Miami bass was on the radio, a lot of things that I can’t believe were on the radio were, like 2 Live Crew and all that. So you just kind of grow up listening to that and I never really thought that that was such a local thing until I moved to New York and I was like “What do you mean you don’t know this song?” But a lot of it like Vivian said was like really samply and 808s and it’s kind of drilled into your head. Radio and MTV were like your only source.
Vivian: Radio was so huge, like I used to listen to KDay when I was a little kid. It was like the station in LA that broke Gangster Rap. I was probably like 8 years old or 9 years old. Like listening to N.W.A.
Jess: Same here. I was like listening to “Your Mom is on Crack Rock” and I was 8. Like, I don’t understand how those things happened, but they did.
Jess: So anyways, just listening to alot of that. But it’s not like I was really into it or I was special..you just are really into it. Because like Vivian said, radio was so big that it was just part of your life. And then I started listening to punk, like right before the whole Emo hardcore scene got big. That missed me. My sister is three years younger than me and she got really into that, but right before that I was listening to like Bad Religion and NOFX and stuff like that also. And there was this place called The Edge in Fort Lauderdale, which is actually now called Revolution, and all our friends like 12th Planet would play there now, and I’m like “You don’t even know what this place used to be!” It was totally a borderline illegal venue..
GDD: Those always seem to be the best spots though.
Jess: Yeah, which is weird because where it is now is like the most posh area, things are just different. They used to have Punk shows and then at like 4 in the morning they would start these crazy raves with people doing nitrous balloons, really anything goes. So I also had a really shitty boyfriend at the time..
Vivian: Yay shitty boyfriends!
Jess: Haha yeahhh, yay shitty boyfriends that somehow got you somewhere. He was like a crazy, nutcase drug dealer horrible person. There is nothing good about him, like at all. But he of course went where every stupid scene was. Wherever he could sell drugs, or do them. So he somehow figured out to go to this place at 4 in the morning. So of course, I remember being like “I’m just gonna tell mom that I’m 16 and I can do whatever I want.” Like I remember saying that. And I started going, and I went to a few without telling my parents but then I got really into the music and I was like “I have to go to this stuff.”
Vivian: I guess that is what is really similar about us. I did the same thing.
Jess: Like I could not look at a flyer and know that I wasn’t going. I didn’t know anybody there, I just went.
Vivian: I was like ‘Mom, I need to do this. This is like all I want to do with myself. You have to let me go.’ And my mom was like, ‘I knew that if I didn’t let you go, you would just sneak out. I have never seen you so determined to do something in your whole life.’
Jess: Yeah, My mom was like ‘I know you’re gonna sneak out so you can go. BUT I might give you drug tests every once and awhile.’ Cuz my mom had been a drug counselor and has worked in rehab centers, she’s a therapist. Oh and..like you don’t understand, I had to sit them down and tell them this was my life, I have to do this. And my dad and my mom were like ok, you can go but you have to write a 10 page paper on what ecstasy does to your brain with footnotes and shit, and then you can do whatever the fuck you want. So I wrote the paper (laughs) and clearly went out every night. And I think she drug tested me like once, but I made my sister take it. But after the first year I got super into it and I ditched the boyfriend. I went to Isreal, found Drum N Bass there
Vivian: Haha, found the God of Drum N Bass…
Jess: Yeah, found the God of Drum N Bass, ditched the boyfriend before going to Israel so I didn’t have to deal with him anymore. And then I got really into breakdancing.
Vivian: I was really into breakdancing too…
Jess: I would like practice, on cardboard…my parents were probably just like “OMG our daughter..” So I was really into that, but it’s weird cuz I hate breakdancers now, they fuck up dancefloors. But in Miami, Miami was really Latin and into Bass and Freestyle and stuff like that and also really thugged out. So the raves in Miami weren’t like anywhere else. The scene was just different than anything else really, and there were all these breakdance circles, which was a whole scene in itself and people looked up to them like they looked up to DJs.
Jess: Then I moved to Orlando for school, and the music was horrible there, it was awful. Just like really bad Trance. So because of the Israel thing and Orlando I started to listen to Drum N Bass. They had a pretty decent scene there, and got really good acts. So then I graduated and literally moved right here (Brooklyn, NY) and was like oh, I’m gonna buy turntables. And Electroclash was really big here and I was really into Chicks on Speed and The Faint and all those weird bands and also Miss Kittin, I don’t know, It got kinda weird here for a quick minute.
Vivian: That reminds me, when I started going to, not the first ever rave, but when I was like 15 I was like a total regular at Insomniac, but like when Insomniac was like 300 people in a warehouse somewhere. And I pretty much watched that, it was my favorite party. I went to it religiously. I think it happend like every weekend and I was obsessed with it. It was the best party. And it is so funny now, given how big Insomniac has become. But I pretty much watched it grow from starting off at 300-400 people to then becoming 1,000 people and then 2,000 people and then now. And Pasquale [Rotella] used to always flyer for his own parties, he would wear this crazy fake fur, brown coat and he was instantly recognizable because he would always be wearing this coat. Come to think of it, it’s super weird because LA is hot all the time, but you would ALWAYS see him outside the party flyering for Insomniac. It’s just wild.
Vivan: But in the beginning Insomniac was just one room and it was all people playing old school rave music. It would be like R.A.W. would play and he would play more Jungly stuff and then DJ Trance would play and that would be more like Housier or Gabber. And like Ron D Core would play Gabber. They always kind of mixed it up. But I was just thinking about this the other day, because I was in the Jungle scene from so early on. But that scene was so not about PLUR. Like it was the least PLURy place possible. And it is so funny to me that people are like “Raves, yeah it’s about PLUR” cuz being in the Jungle scene is not about PLUR at all.
Jess: Haha yeah it’s like “Let’s be angry.”
Vivian: And it was a lot of what were called “Tag Bangers” which are basically like taggers, like graffiti writers, but they fight. It’s like gang bangers but they’re tag bangers and they get in crazy fights and like shoot each other and shit. So alot of kids like that in different graffiti crews would do shit. Like they paid all homeless people to clear out of this house on like Belmont Tunnel, which is a famous LA graffiti spot. So all the homeless people were sitting in the back around a trash can fire and we were like having a Jungle rave in the building with R.A.W. There is like this legendary photo of him with like 4 nitrous balloons in his mouth, scratching. And everyone in there is a dude. I was probably one of like 5 girls and everyone was wearing a black hoodie and black pants or camo, just like thugs essentially.
Jess: You know, I can’t wait until you interview DJs and Producers 10 years from now and they tell you the story “I sat on soundcloud, and my mom kept yelling at me.” and that’s it…
Vivian: It’s soooo much less dangerous now! I used to go to raves in like, Compton. And I remember one where I had just left, and it had gotten so hot in there that the sprinklers came on, but they were filled with sewer water and everybody came screaming out of the building all like on E and doing nitrous and all their baggy pants and gloves and furry shit just covered in sewer water. We were just like “Oh my god….”
Catch Vivian and Jess live at one of their upcoming shows:
March 8th: Locked feat. DISTAL, JUBILEE, STAR EYES & RIZZLA (NO COVER)
March 16: Trouble & Bass at Barcelona, 2p-8p, B2B set w/Plastician, Austin
March 16: Smog vs UKF at 120 W 5th, Austin
March 22: Trouble & Bass @ Gramps, 3p-10p, B2B with Salva, Miami
March 22: Lil Death: Paris vs NY with T&B and Bromace @ Jelsomino, Miami
Mar. 6: Mixpak Pressure Release Party, The Flat, Brooklyn (8-?)
March 8th: Locked feat. DISTAL, JUBILEE, STAR EYES & RIZZLA (NO COVER)
Mar. 13: Dub Academy and New Gyration present: The Surefire. Boat Party, SXSW, Austin (1pm-4pm)
Mar. 14: XLR8R SXSW Showcase, Speakeasy Kabaret, Austin (8pm)