dublab: Spreading Future Roots

Interview by Jo-anna Kalinowska
Photos shot by Van Robinson in Los Angeles, USA

I ring Alejandro ‘Ale’ Cohen up at midnight. When he picks up, I find myself in dublab’s sun drenched office, 9 hours behind my time. dublab is introduced as a ‘community supported online radio station’, a tagline that doesn’t really do them the justice. The community goes far beyond their physical home in LA. They’re streamed across the world and over the years have opened up affiliated stations in Japan and Germany, with a Spanish station in development. What’s more, they’re not just a radio station – they host regular events, art exhibitions, release music and provide all round dedication to progressive music.

Ale’s musical background stems from playing in bands; in the late 1990s his band Languis played at the dublab release party – ‘I remember my friend was like; ‘hey, I’m doing this new thing. It’s this radio station on the internet’. The concept alone! I was like what the hell is that?! You know? Seemed kinda out there.’

To avoid selling ourselves as part of a genre of classification, we came up with the idea of being Future Roots music.

Ale’s involvement with dublab has been growing steadily until last August when he stepped up to become its Director – ‘I got into dublab when it first started, the beginning of online radio. Then after a few years a friend was like ‘hey you wanna join full-time’ and I became full-time. It didn’t come from a thing like I was into dublab, because there was nothing to be into back then. There was no history yet to be into it. I didn’t even own a computer to listen to online radio back in 1999. I remember borrowing people’s computers just to check emails once a week’.

Originally from Argentina, Ale tells me he had a certain level of resistance to Argentine music until moving to the States: ‘I think everyone goes through that. Whenever you move to a new place, a new town, you have an appreciation for the things you may not have had when you were there. You know, maybe being originally from there, all you wanna do is escape that and leave it behind, but once you do leave it behind, you kinda look back and are like: ‘oh! You know there were actually good things about it!’ I mean in 1987/88 I was into rock music, I dunno, like Jesus And The Mary Chain. Argentine music seemed like miles and miles away from that. Like always two steps behind. Years later you look back and you’re like, oh yeah I can see some of that. You come from a place where the size tends to be smaller and the sheer number of voices tends to be more simplified.’

dublab pride themselves over diverse programming that shies away from any easy categorisation. Ale’s own show ‘Elevation Through Sound’ is a prime example as it covers a ‘full sound spectrum’, graced with everything from Primal Scream, David Bowie to Suzanne Kraft. ‘To avoid selling ourselves as part of a genre of classification, we came up with the idea of being Future Roots music. We play the music of the past which is the root of today’s music, we play the roots of tomorrow’s music. When you start that way it makes more sense.’

Behind all these walls, people just go deep into their world…

You get to the point you realize how little you know. People come with deep, deep collections.

‘We’re in LA but really we could be anywhere. We’ve gone to London, Amsterdam, all these cities. We’re friends with NTS, Red Light Radio, ah – the RLR guys are class, you know Hugo and Orpheu are the best. We just feel that like-mindedness – that being said… we are so, so Los Angeles. You look at the DJ’s, the DNA of the organisation and it’s very much a product of the city. It’s adventurous. People don’t always see the other side, but from the moment you arrive what you see is the energy – right there in the street. In LA there’s nondescript buildings behind which are entire universes. All with many, many layers. And all these layers are what make it possible to have this very complex, very rich ecosystem of creative people – and by saying great, well… it’s just freaks – and I mean that in a good way! They’re freaks about music, freaks about some obscure part of technology, freaks about their specific bit of art, aeroplane parts, that guy you need to rent it from for a movie, you know, whatever you need, there’s that guy. Behind all these walls, people just go deep into their world, and when you go deep into their world you’re not looking at other places in the world for a model, you’re just doing your thing. And what that means is, you’re going to find people going in very peculiar directions.’

‘What am I a freak about… well, I’ve never been a guy that keeps to one genre. Instead of going deep into one world, I capture different worlds. That’s always been in my nature and I think it’s kind of gone well for working at the station; to have a wider standing of how to see it all. At the station you listen to stuff all day. You get to the point you realize how little you know. People come with deep, deep collections. You’re like what the hell is that? You realise you just know the surface of quite a few things.’

On Friday, 20 May dublab takes part in the broadcasting marathon of the  Online Radio Festival mini edition with a LA Dance Music special, presented by the wonderful crew of The Rest Is Noise. Later that evening you can see Suzanne Kraft, BEA1991, Not Waving and others perfoming at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ.