L.A. DUBSTEP: How the U.K. Import Landed on the West Coast and What Residents are Doing With It


How did Angelenos come here—to host an electronic-music revolution in our own backyard?

In the same way that no one is really from LA but they are still all part of it and it’s a part of them, dubstep is a musical export that has been adopted and adapted by the city. By the time that L.A. native and the (sometimes contentious) face of American dubstep Skrillex received the nod from the musical gods at the GRAMMY awards, dubstep had long been a living, breathing, beating entity in Los Angeles for almost a decade.

It wasn’t long ago that producers in the south of London were mashing up garage, 2-step dance music and Jamaican dub sounds to create the genre that was characterised by overwhelmingly rhythmic bass wobbles set within a range of 140 to 160 beats per minute. In 2005, the UK-born bass genre started filtering stateside and by 2006 two of L.A.’s biggest clubs—SMOG and Low End Theory—had already started to mold the unique shape and sound of Los Angeles dubstep.

Today, on any given night in the county—from Low End Theory’s Wednesday nights at the Airliner and Smog Sundays at Dim Mak Studios in Hollywood—there is some sort of dubstepping going on.

The world of dubstep in Los Angeles today, which incorporates art installations and wisps of weed smoke into its aesthetic, is the younger more successful sister of drum ‘n bass which remains in LA’s underground electronic dance music scene.

Dubstep’s infectious momentum has swept the city, replacing the upbeat, synth-heavy music that formerly dominated the dancefloor. Young people of all ages from Long Beach to Pasadena are now hosting, going to, producing, listening to—doing dubstep.

The UK’s dark and grimy basses have found new life in the bounce of West Coast hip hop, the splice and dice of remixed hometown jazz and the mid-range guitar-like synths of L.A.’s cock rock past. There are people who love dubstep—photographers and graffiti artists and t shirt makers, producers, DJs, MCs—who can be found at every show and have watched the music through its meteoric rise to ubiquity. For most electronic music fans, it’s been a long time coming and though the sounds have changed since it crossed the pond a few years ago (and many proclaim that dubstep is in fact already dead), it seems like Los Angeles is only just beginning to show its dubpresence.