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Maneesh the Twister
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Feb 03, 2009
Maneesh the Twister has been a prominent staple to the San Francisco dub scene since the quick rise of the three little letters that have since revolutionized the club scene. Pioneering events such as the long-running Dub Mission and Surya Dub, and voted Best Club DJ by The SF Bay Guardian, itís no wonder that he is not only admired and respected by his peers but also by his audiences. Mixing all forms of dub like dub reggae, dubstep, breakbeat, drum'n'bass, dancehall, and global beats, Maneesh shows his versatility to appeal to all genres and cultures. Sitting down by The Embarcadero with SF Station, this DJ shares his thoughts and mind-workings on the dub scene.
SF Station (SFS): How did you get into DJing?
Maneesh the Twister (MT): I started basically out of college radio, and I was kind of doing that for a while, then I got into commercial radio in Austin. I used to do the equivalent of Live 105 in the mid 90s, and then I moved to California and started working at an independent electronic music distributor. That was my introduction into club culture. Before drum ní bass was popular, we were the first distributors of bringing in super left-field stuff. Small labels and stuff. Then, I started, along with two partners, this down-tempo Friday night happy hour at 111 Minna called Stir Friday with all kinds of music like downtempo, house, drum níbass, and that was my first club DJing experience. I was also DJing at KUSF and thatís how we started Dub Mission. Sep started that, along with a lot of KUSF DJs. That was my second thing, and then I did Dhamaal.
SFS: Since youíve been here for awhile, what are some changes that you have seen in the dub scene?
MT: I definitely mainly think dub styles have 100% influenced every form of electronic dance music. The whole remix culture would have never been around had it not been for sound system engineers coming out of reggae like King Tubby, who basically started the first remix forms. If you hear reverb and delay, thatís an aspect that came from dub culture.
SFS: So do you think itís grown a lot in San Francisco?
MT: Yes definitely in San Francisco, for sure in Europe. I think San Francisco in the U.S. scale, is definitely there because reggae bands are so popular in Norcal with festivals along with the hippie and herb culture being so prominent, people definitely respond to dub and DJ nights very well. In a way though, itís too saturated. Thereís literally 20 reggae nights a month in San Francisco. But for us, for Surya Dub and Dub Mission, I think it's a little less dub, and it's cool for us because we can play some of that stuff and also other stuff.
SFS: Tell us about Surya Dub.
MT: It started a couple years ago, and basically the concept behind it was to kind of bridge the gap between more organic roots types of music: reggae dance hall, bhangra with more underground club culture music. So we were playing dubstep, breaks, drum ní bass, glitch hop, etc, but there still was a common thread, a kind of a dub-wise aesthetic. Not every track was going to be a dub-influenced, but the general vibe was if people were coming to hear reggae and dancehall upstairs and they go downstairs, they made not have heard the music, but there would still be some aspect that they get, because there is some commonality in the production, like reggae samples and drum fills.
Thereís elements that cross-over, and I think itís always been very easy for electronic music people to get roots music, but itís really challenging to get roots people into electronic music. They're a more a purest kind of crowd; it can be seen as a bastardization of the original form, as opposed to innovation. How I see it is more like: stuff is going to change; roots music from the 50s is different from roots music now. For me itís just like, instead of being purest, I wanted to bridge these gaps.
One of our taglines is uniting all dub-wise vibes, and the idea was to bring together these seemingly disparate scenes, but still having a common bond between all these different cultures. That was the same thing with Dhamaal, we had one area which was live classical South Asian format, where we had live sitar players with a lounge area, but we had DJs downstairs with scratching, urban vibes, and we were playing tracks with drum n bass with dub tracks but they had elements of dub. It was a natural progression in the community. Iíve never been into just one kind of music.
SFS: Then what would you say some of your influences are, since you have a pretty eclectic palate?
MT: Definitely dub-reggae is a huge foundation for me. All kinds of really break beat music (not breaks breaks, but addition to 44 music). Iíve always been really interested in drum programming. Itís a little bit left of center. While I appreciate house, itís a little too easy to digest, and I like to listen to edgier stuff. Also, on the South Asian side, my grandparents and parents were listening to 50s and 60s Indian pop music. While I donít necessarily keep up with current Bollywood music, listening to that growing up influenced me doing Asian electronica. I understand that area, and breaks and drum-n-bass are my current era.
SFS: Who would you say some of your influences DJ-wise?
MT: Well production-wise, Kush Aurora, who is also in Surya Dub, and a few productions under Dhaamal. DJing-wise, there wasn't really one person who was telling me "Hey, hereís how to DJ." I really like DJs who understand itís not all about mixing well, itís not just about playing dub plates. While they are important, itís also really important to keep a party going, and understanding a crowd while interacting with people. For me, I feel thatís a really important thing. I feel like thatís something I can do - go into a situation and catch the vibe of a crowd and change it up. I got booked to play a breaks party in Hawaii, and I got there and it wasnít a breaks crowd. So I was like, ok, let me play down-tempo and reggae.
SFS: Have you ever thought of doing this full time?
MT: I actually did for five years.
SFS: What changed your mind?
MT: I feel like if youíre not doing really commercial music, itís difficult to make a living. If youíre playing progressive house or commercial hip hop and you have residencies at bigger and more commercial places you can live okay. And if youíre producing you can definitely live well. But if youíre doing any form of left-field music in America, I would say itís difficult. In Europe, totally doable. If I moved there I can full-time DJ for sure. America is still guitar culture-oriented, whether it be rock or country, aside from hip hop. You can go into England and a corner deli-market will be playing house or trance, and get into a cab, and a cabbie will be playing drum n bass, and it permeates more in that culture. I think thatís a limitation in doing underground music here.
SFS: Is there a motto you live by in your DJ world, because youíve been around for awhile?
MT: Iím pretty open to stuff, and the same time I can take elements of things I see as valuable and others I see as crap and sift through it pretty well.
SFS: So if you could give some advice to upcoming DJs, what would you say?
MT: Know your music, know your crowd, understand the co-existence, and leave your ego in front of the DJ booth. At the end of the day, even if you are a producer you are still somewhat of glorified jukebox, I wouldnít say that about any DJ, but if youíre a DJ who is only about you, then you're missing the point of creating this journey and experience for people on the dancefloor. The idea is to take them to another place, and if you are consumed with yourself, youíll never make that connection.
Come celebrate the two-year anniversary of Surya Dub with Maneesh the Twister,
KidKameleon, Kush Arora, Jimmy Love, DJ Amar , Ripley, J. Rogers, CONTACT VJs, MC Daddy Frank pon da mic THIS Saturday and get more dub-lovin at http://www.suryadub.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/maneeshthetwister.
by Christina Li on Feb 03, 2009