Smog's Half-Decade of Dubstep

With a party at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, the label celebrates five years of heavy bass and sleepless nights

It's close to noon on a Saturday, and Drew Best is having breakfast. No, he's not the world's laziest man. In fact, he's quite the opposite. The 31-year-old Los Angeles resident runs Smog, a dubstep record label/promotion company, out of his downtown LA loft. And if that weren't enough to keep him busy, Best is also working on the finishing touches of his label's fifth-anniversary show Friday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana. Which explains the breakfast-at-noon thing.

With a bill that includes DJs such as Skream, Flinch, SPL, Noah D, Skeet Skeet and Pablo Hassan; an outdoor, preshow barbecue beginning at 7 p.m.; two rooms of live entertainment; and a documentary screening of a film based on Smog artist 12th Planet, Best should be a lot more stressed than he is. Instead, the Chicago native is typically Midwestern: calm, upbeat and willing to engage in an hour-long conversation about his love of not only dubstep, but also music in general.

"I'm such a music fanatic that I don't even think of it as work because I love it," Best says. "I feel like I'm watching history unfold, which is cool. I learn about all these cultures that happen with music. All these scenes are related and inspired by music. I love what happens culturally through music."

Step to it
Jason "Ohdagyo" Fenmore
Step to it

In June, Best quit his 50-hour-per-week job as a motion graphic designer in the entertainment industry to focus on Smog. Turns out, he's spending more time working from home than he did at his day job because, of all the genres of music one could chose to work with, dubstep might be the most difficult. Best goes to clubs three to four times each week to listen to DJs and network with fellow dubstep fans, promoters and musicians. These clubs often keep the music playing until late into the night, so he doesn't get home until around 2 a.m.

Best estimates that, at one point, 90 percent of his vinyl sales came from Europe, so the label owner needs to be up early enough to field phone calls and emails from his transatlantic cohorts, which is no easy task when you've been out until after midnight the previous evening. Still, he doesn't complain, even when artists on tour in Australia wake him up or when German video directors just have to speak to him at 8 a.m.

Since Smog's first party half a decade ago (which lost money), Best has been involved in numerous nationwide events, including a five-room show in Miami that drew 3,000 people. This cross-country notoriety means he could have chosen any number of locations for his five-year anniversary, but he picked Orange County because of his relationship with John Reiser, owner of the Galaxy Concert Theatre, who was responsible for booking Smog's weekly Dubtroit events at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa. Friday's party, Best says, will be a continuation of those Dubtroit gatherings and, hopefully, will mark the beginning of many shows at the venue.

"We started Dubtroit about three years ago because we wanted to build an interest in dubstep in Orange County," Best says. "We'd have 300 people in there on a Tuesday night, so we started to create a buzz. Now that John is [at] the Galaxy, making our anniversary there is us putting a flag in the ground and saying, 'This is a place we're going to be doing events [at] for years to come.'"

 

This article appeared in print as "Get Smogged: The owner of dubstep label Smog celebrates five years of heavy bass and not much sleep."

 
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