Where does your artist name come from?
During the early to mid-80’s I went by Sir Swift. I was a Breaker, Beatboxer, Graffiti artist and DJ. But as my DJing progressed and I matured a little I realized it was time for a name change. At the time I remember digging through a dictionary, for days, and finally stumbled across Dabster: One likes to dabble/ One who is a master of their own trade. The latter seemed fitting. LOL. Around 1991 I shortened it to Dab (also means Donald Allen’s Boy)
You have been a beat producer since the early 80’s whether it was house, hiphop or any other style. Could you tell us a bit more about your early hiphop records and collabs?
All my exploits in last question led up to me making a progressive move to go out and attempt to get some gear and start making some music. My friend Mike (Electro Shock > E-Dawg) was also a DJ, Breaker and Beatboxer and began to start writing lyrics. I picked up a Casio SK-1 sampler and a TR-505 drum machine and got to work. After that I started working with 10 or so local rappers. Around 1988 I started to get into house music and one of my Rap artists (J. Slice > 5th Pyramid > Chris KnuckleheadBanga Washington) had lived in Chicago so we also made a couple Hip House tunes. Later, those tracks, along with some other tunes, got us booked to open for Rob Base. After that it was all about Underground Dance Music!
Free The Funk & Free Records? We want to know more!
After years of dabbling (HA!), Donald Glaude, John Cassels (Life Force Entertainment) and myself got an opportunity to do the opening track on Donald’s first Moonshine CD. So, we started Free Records. From the beginning I took the reigns and steered the label into a techno driving direction. Shortly after I decided to start a sister label, Free The Funk that would capture the house sound I was feeling at the time. Within a few short years, I managed to sign EP’s and tracks by Hakan Lidbo, Martin Venetjoki, Gee Tee, Eddy Airbow, Jacob London (Bob Hansen, Dave Pezzner), Vitamin D, Mile High Club, MattLok, Chris Anderson, DJ ESP / Woody McBride, Tim Trip, Donald, myself and others. Unbelievable, I also secured licensing deals with Carl Cox, Dave Angel, Chris Simmonds, DJ ESP, etc. and was also considered for deals that didn’t get signed by Kevin Saunderson, Da Hool / Hooligan and Gus Gus DJ – Magnús Guðmundsson / Buckmaster De La Cruz. Radio play by Ministry of Sound, XM Radio, lots of chartings, etc. Even, one of my remixes used in a Showtime fashion / culture show (Name of the show escapes me). So, I guess the labels made quite a buzz.
As a producer, you have one of the most extensive collections of gear. Especially analog synthesizers and drum machines. What fascinates you about the sound of these?
Analog Fucking Rules!!! I started building my collection in 1985 and it just keeps growing. I love the touch, look and sound of vintage pieces. If you just play plugins and never plugged in an actual synth, I suggest you save up and start gearing up. You’ll love it but watch out… It’s an addiction! And, be prepared to solder (Modular builds take up all my time!)
Do you ever incorporate synthesizers or drum machines in your DJ sets?
Yes, I do actually. Last year I did a set incorporating a Theramin, a Speak & Spell and a Drum Machine. I know there were some iPhones in the house. Maybe someone captured some clips? Got do that again!
How do you feel the dance music scene in Seattle and Tacoma evolved over the years?
Seattle and Tacoma both have a core of devoted / educated listeners and I do think things have evolved but too many times I do feel we’re a little behind. Even in this digital age. We need our own sound so bad. The so called EDM clubs are so caught up with Vegas, etc. it pisses me off!!! Let’s move forward and tread some new ground. I would love to see more togetherness / unity from DJs, promoters, clubs and the likes. Props to Decibel, Shameless, ETG, Flammable!
If you look at your list of productions you have done so far. Which of those stands out the most to you and why?
Actually, a project I took on recently involved recordings of my father that surfaced about two years ago. My dad (Don Ober) was a fairly well known Classical / Jazz guitarist in the NW. At one time he was recognized as the best teacher of guitar in the Puget Sound area. Three of his students became the trinity of South Sound guitar gods – Jerry Miller (Moby Grape – # 68 on Rolling Stone’s “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” 2003), Rich Dangel (The Wailers – Top 40 Recording Artists) and Joe Johansen (Little Bill Engelhart collaborator and early Jimi Hendrix influence). My father passed on NYE 1979 due to a long bout with cancer. I pretty much grew up knowing very little of his career and was left with only a couple badly recorded cassette tapes, some sheet music and his guitars. Well, in the last year I’ve done tons of research, hunted down 20 cassette tapes and 15 reels of music, including a second generation source of a recording that featured his playing on a release recorded for Epic Records. Now, I’ve gathered it all, digitally captured it, remastered it, documented it and compiled it all on a website devoted to his career: donober.com Also, I’ve rendered the whole lot to CD. I plan to put together and release a compilation cd, in his name. That has to be my proudest moment.
You have a rather big vinyl collection but you also DJ with a modern set up of tablets. Technics turntables nowadays are rare to see in clubs? Is it a loss, or is it nostalgia?
I believe it is a loss not to have the option of having the 1200s in the club. We can’t loose that art form!!! I embrace both… the old and the new! I love the endless possibilities digital offers but playing on decks is like riding a bike. And, you can’t beat the feel, sound and even the smell of wax! There is no replacement but there are great alternatives.
Since you were always on top of the latest developments in gear-land. Is there something you would wish existed, but has not been available on the market as of yet?
Hmmmm, maybe better Midi options for multi port / channel in for large studios. I have tons of gear and would love proper midi routing / merging for playing on the fly from any piece in the studio for sequencing. Sorry, that just popped in my head :o)
What is the worst thing someone ever asked you in the DJ booth?
To play Country music!
Pick 5 favorite records of all time with a quick line for each why you chose it.
Oh crap… I can never chose just 5! For today let’s just give props to the following artists: Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Art Of Noise, Egyptian Lover, Dr Dre (When he was a dj / Rodium tapes / World Class Wreckin’ Crew), Sir Mix-A-Lot (K-Fox years along with Nasty Nes) DJ D.St. (The DJ from Herbie Hancock’s Rockit) and Todd Terry (Royal House).