DJ SS has been there since the beginning.
"From day one we created this sound that they now call drum and bass," he says. "It's been a very long road. It's been inspirational to be part of the history of this great music."
Otherwise known as Leroy Small, this pioneer of a musical genre is currently careening down the highway towards Miami where he, Blokhe4d, Cabbie, MC Skibba Dee and a handful of other drum and bass artists (including local Phroh in Whistler) are performing as part of the World of Drum & Bass tour. "It's been absolutely wicked," Small says. "All the shows have been great. In America, people are a bit more conservative. It's a bit weird sometimes. It's been good on this tour so far."
The British DJ and producer first began performing in the U.K. during the '90s before co-forming his Formation Records label to help break new artists into the scene. At the forefront of the genre, he's watched as it's shifted over the years. "We transform. It's all about drum and bass. It's doesn't matter what the music is doing. The music can be anything from jazz to rock 'n' roll and soul and pop. It's like a chameleon. We can adapt to the situation," Small says.
Although he's still deeply involved in the label — and has a young family in the U.K. — he has kept busy touring the world. This year he's been everywhere from Estonia to Germany, Bulgaria and Finland. (And he'll be back in Whistler this summer to perform at the inaugural Believe Festival.) "That's since the start of the year," he says. "A lot of my life, 85 per cent of my work is abroad. The U.K. market is not what it used to be. I think everyone is trying to be a pop star. The music took a hit because students are going back to the commercial kind of (music). The underground club events are not getting numbers like they used to."
Elsewhere, drum and bass has continued to flourish, he adds. The cities on the tour — which includes Whistler as its only town stop — vary from Cleveland to Minneapolis, New Haven, L.A. and Toronto. The schedule was curated based both on the talent's experience and connections with local promoters. "It's the same kind of vibe (in these cities) because the music creates the vibe. It's different cultures, but the same vibe. Drum and bass is that same party. It's hype no matter where you go," Small says.
Grooverider was originally slated to perform, but has since been replaced by both Blokhe4d, a U.K.-U.S. collaboration between Michael "Vegas" and Jonas "Uman," and veteran London DJ Cabbie. (No reason for the lineup switch accompanied the announcement.)
"Right now, we've been trying to take things to a different level, really," Small says. "Whistler will be off the hook. We always have a great time in Whistler."
Tickets for the March 29 show at Tommy Africa's are $35 in advance at the venue or Hempire.