Tycho Records

By Mel Rygus

If you’ve braved the packed dance floor at ThursDen over the past year, chances are that the following scenario has probably happened to you. You’re singing along with your favorite Top-40 jams, a beer or mini jug of vodka slime in hand, crammed alongside a number of your fellow University of Calgary students doing the same thing. Suddenly, the song changes and heavy bass starts to shake the room. A few people around you may recognize the song and start dancing to this strange jam in a way you’ve never seen before– a mix of rhythmic flailing and vigorous head-bobbing along to a track which sounds a lot more like robotic wobbles, and a lot less like Akon. If this has happened to you, then you, my friend, have listened to dubstep.

Dubstep is a branch of electronic dance music that, according to the almighty Wikipedia, consists of “overwhelming wobble basslines and reverberant drum patterns with occasional vocals.” Others have described the genre in a number of different ways, ranging from “filthy” to “deep” to “the sounds of robots having sex.” Regardless of how one describes it, the genre, which first originated in south London in the late 1990s, has taken the world by storm. The genre now covers a wide range of sounds, ranging from the melodic, deeper sounds characteristic of the earliest dubstep producers, to the “heavy and filthy” side of dubstep that has had made big name at to a number of Canadian artists, such as bc’s own Excision and Datsik.

Across Canada, the dubstep genre and edm as a whole have caught on like wildfire, but ask any local producer and they’ll all tell you that Calgary’s scene is the undisputed champion of Canadian bass subculture. One of the fruits of Calgary’s blossoming edm scene is locally-based record label Tycho Records, which has put out 18 releases (many to international acclaim) since its establishment in 2010. What once started as the glimmer of a pipe dream for the label’s founder Kyle van Yzerloo in 2008 has become a highly-respected outlet for the freshest basshead tunes. Tycho has established a niche that balances carefully between dubstep’s grassroots community-vibe origins and its recent flirtation with mainstream pop culture. I sat down with Kyle (who djs and produces under the alias TrebleSum) and one of the label’s signees Donald Dinsmore (a.k.a. Janana), to learn more about what Tycho is all about, and their take on dubstep’s sudden rise to fame.

Although initially shy and seemingly a little skeptical about the whole affair, both Kyle and Donald immediately perked up as soon as I begun asking them about Tycho and their love of electronic music. Kyle had been tossing around the idea of starting a record label as an outlet to release local music for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until he finally took the plunge and quit his job last year that he was really able to delve into putting a business model together.

“I just had a lot of free time on my hands,” says Kyle, rather sheepishly. “A lot of it began with contacting guys I was really a fan of. Some local friends and I put together a release and then our buddy from Vancouver did another one.”

The rest, it seems, is history.

Despite his sudden success, Kyle remains admirably humble. One of Tycho’s signings, Minnesota, is quickly becoming a household name among edm fans worldwide yet when asked about him Kyle said, ‘We just picked him up at the right time, I guess. Things kind of blew up from there.”

No big deal, or anything.

After mulling over Kyle’s surprising yet refreshing take on Tycho’s success to date, I turned the conversation to dubstep’s sudden takeover and its new identity as a form of “pop music.” Despite both being low-key guys and big purveyors of the local scene, they were on board with dubstep’s mainstream permeation.

“I’m glad electronic music is starting to get the respect it deserves,” Kyle remarked, after taking a moment to think about the question. “You’re starting see big shows at the Big Four and huge stadiums in America, and it’s really good for the scene in some ways. A whole family can go out to a festival now, not just young, rowdy kids. People are starting to accept it, whereas edm used to be kind of shunned.”

Donald echoed similar sentiments, but with a slight nostalgic twang. “I think its great. I love seeing all the artists coming through Calgary now. Sometimes I do kind of miss the small community center vibes, though.”

Finally, here was a taste of the cynicism I expected from two guys so heavily entrenched in the local scene.

Kyle seconded Donald’s nostalgic sentiments. “There are not a lot of small shows here these days. The crowds have really changed at shows.”

So to what do the boys attribute dubstep’s rapid climb to the top and the sudden influx of people at shows?

Everyone’s best friend– the internet. More specifically, blogs.

“Blogs are the biggest thing in the electronic media world,” said Kyle. “Some of those guys have hundred of thousands of followers. That’s what’s really helped us get our name out there. Facebook, too, has been a huge helper, allowing us to connect with people and embed tracks from external sources.”

Donald also credited the internet for getting his tracks noticed. “When I’m actively posting in forums and stuff I get way more listens for my tunes. That’s how my relationship with Kyle really started. Through an iPhone, essentially.”

May you rest in peace, Steve Jobs– what would dubstep have done without you?

For those of you who may now find yourselves curious about what Tycho and Calgary’s dubstep scene are all about, fear not. The Tycho boys (and girls!) hold a collaborative show every two months, the next of which will feature Kyle himself and fellow Tycho artist Kraddy, among others, at the Distillery on December 18. Donald speaks fondly of these nights, describing them as having “an intimate crowd feel. People are just friendly. It’s definitely not like a big club scene.”

Big club scene it may not be, but dubstep is still making soundwaves in Calgary’s no-so-underground– and will be for a while yet.

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