September 1, 2005
by BOB DORAN
Dub Cowboy in the Mix
Corrected from printed edition.
When Dan Giannotta came to Humboldt in 1999, he was spinning house music and techno records under the name DJ Receiver. Since then Dan has spun off in other directions, pulling hip hop and reggae into the mix. Somewhere along the line his dancefloor personality split and he added a second alias: Dub Cowboy.
He currently hosts two different radio shows: Friday afternoons 2-4 p.m. he plays reggae as Dub Cowboy on KHSU's "Reggae Jamdown." Saturday nights he reverts to his DJ Receiver persona for "Church of the 12-inch Circle" on KSLG, playing house, techno, trance, drum and bass from 10 p.m. until midnight. Thursday nights, he's Dub Cowboy spinning hip hop and reggae at the Sidelines on the Arcata Plaza.
This weekend he joins forces with DJ MuziqLement for Labor Day Jam 2005, a hip hop/R&B/reggaeton dance party in the basement of the Eureka Veteran's Hall set for Saturday, Sept. 3. He figures it will be his 550th show in the county.
For most of the last year he was also holding court at Club West with weekly dance nights known as "Bling!," but the club has been quiet since it changed hands this summer.
"It happened kind of suddenly," said Cowboy, calling on his cell just after dropping his daughter off on her first day of 2nd grade. "The party on the 3rd is to fill the gap, bringing back some of what we had going on on Fridays [at Club West] and what we hope to do again some time in the future."
The soundtrack that gets people
moving varies from crowd to crowd. He says at Club West it was
hip hop with "heavy dance beats that got people into a frenzy
of ecstatic dancing. We were playing all the chart-topping hip
hop. I have a partner, DJ MuziqLement, and we'll mix it using
double copies, scratching, blends, all the turntable tricks."
"What I'd like to do is tie all the different groups together. Through the Sidelines I fell into the hip hop crowd and I can entertain them. I've got the reggae show; you know I've done techno. Now the next step is to get everyone into the same environment, and that's what I'm working on for Indigo. Nothing's confirmed, but that's what I'm hoping to do."
He's sees the merger of dance scenes as a natural, something that's happening across the country. "The popular thing in the San Francisco area right now is this mash-up of hip hop, house and rock. Reggae is another branch - reggae and hip hop have been merging in dancehall. Reggae artists have broken out, guys like Sean Paul - he's a pure Jamaican artist, but he has a huge American following. He was really big last summer."
There's another big change since he started playing music in clubs locally seven years ago. Today, he seldom plays records and his Technics turntables are gathering dust. "I'm pretty much only using CD turntables right now," he says. "I haven't used record players in a performance in a long time."
Instead he uses a rig with Pioneer CDJs, a pair of CD players that can be manipulated like a turntable. "It's changed everything. It's so much easier to pull in a CD player than a record player. And I can bring in the equivalent of 12 crates of records in one book of CDs. I can have a whole collection of hip hop and a collection of reggae at every show."
Additionally, it simplifies the search for cutting-edge music, since songs can be sent over the Internet and burned onto CDs. There's a touch of irony there since Cowboy once owned Release Records, a retail record store that specialized in hard-to-find vinyl for the DJ community.
He says he's not looking back since CDJs. "As a DJ I'm able to manipulate the music in new ways: I can create loops and use a lot more sampling and scratching. I should say, I feel the scorn of some DJs because it's not vinyl, but I can do a lot more than I could with vinyl. Since I used to own a record store, it's not like I have no clue where the stuff came from."
And as he looks to the future, he sees another new technology looming. "I have a friend, Dave, in the City; he was the first Sidelines DJ. Now he has 20 gigs a month down there where he uses MP3s and Final Scratch," a computer program that allows you to manipulate music stored on a hard-drive using a faux record on a turntable.
"There are still a handful of DJs who will only touch records and it's hard to get recognition from them, but a lot of DJs working the clubs today will just bring in a laptop and an iPod, and that's it. I know it's not the same as digging through a crate of antique records to find a unique horn part and scratching it, but that's all been done before. Now it's time to up things a bit.
"When I opened my store [in 1999] everyone wanted to buy turntables and become a DJ; now you can buy an iPod mixer where you hook up two iPods, with a crossfader and everything.
"It's true everyone can
download a song and burn it onto a CD. Now it's what can you
do with that song, or what did you do with it before you play
it to make it your own. It makes it more of a challenge to become
a unique DJ. The question boils down to this: You can manipulate
the music, but can you get people to dance?"
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