By Blair Jackson
Ricky Black is a local DJ who specializes in dubstep, a genre that has led the trend in the underground electronica scene for the past two years. Under his stage name, Domewrekka, Black has spent seven years perfecting his craft, building a fan base and making plans. This year has held some major milestones for Domewrekka, and he has even bigger plans for 2012.
Black’s passion for electronica started with the club and festival scene.
“I liked to go to parties and dance,” he says. “I liked it so much, I listened to it all day, every day, and all different kinds.”
Eventually, Black’s passion for music evolved into a curiosity about the actual process of meshing beats. He began watching DJs as they worked and started asking questions.
In 2004, Black returned from a pawnshop with a set of turntables. He was set up within two hours, but it took him four years to land a gig.
“You don’t just learn to beat match and have doors open up,” he says.
Beat matching is the process of matching up the tempos of two different songs, by speeding up or slowing down the track in order to provide a seamless transition between tracks.
“My job is to make sure the music doesn’t stop,” Black says.
And Domewrekka does his job. During a tag-team set between three DJs at Fix Lounge on Nov. 30, the music never lost its pulse — and oh, what a pulse it was. At 140 beats per minute, the tempo of dubstep runs at almost twice the pace of the human heart, and of course, it isn’t as regulated.
When he’s in the DJ booth, Domewrekka serves as the connecting point between the crowd and the music. The success of a DJ relies heavily on the ability to read the mood of the crowd, not only to give the fans what they want, but also to show them something new and exciting. Domewrekka’s rise to popularity can, in part, be attributed to the rise of dubstep, which is his specialty.
One of the unique aspects of dubstep is the sense of the unpredictable. Standard time signatures are interrupted by drops, wobbles and tempo changes. A variety of synthesized sounds, vocals and even acoustic instrumentation are woven into the tapestry of the sound, making it what Black calls, “a smorgasbord of all genres.” The effect of the music is the ultimate mash-up, a type of organized chaos composed of samples, modulated beats and synthesized sounds. From beginning to end, a single dubstep song offers a multi-dimensional experience.
It was the intensity of dubstep that inspired Black’s Domewrekka name.
“I play the hardest kind of music,” he says. “It’s the kind that twists you, takes you on a ride. It’s a head-trip.”
Paring down electronic music into different genres is tricky business. Trance, house, dubstep, drumstep — the categories are based on the technical variants of the songs. For example, drumstep is classified as 170 beats per minute. Drum and base, or D&B, has the same BPMs as drumstep, but has half the snare. Black says all DJs are doing multi-genre sets.
“There are so many new genres,” he says. “The sound is constantly evolving.”
As for being a well-known local DJ, Black calls himself a D-list local celebrity, saying “I’m not an Arkansas Razorback player or anything.” For Domewrekka, meshing tracks is a passion, not a full-time job. He also moonlights as a stage technician. During the day he is a full-time father to his two young children, Koa and Maddox, and often spends time playing with the dogs or throwing a flying disc around.
Black’s growing list of achievements offsets his humble self-representation. In the past year, the DJ has opened for Bassnectar, played a set at Wakarusa and organized an outdoor festival. Domewrekka admits he was nervous playing at the larger venues, but says he looked out at the crowd to see his friends and was encouraged.
Another factor behind Domewrekka’s rising success is his unique relationship with his fans, whom he considers friends. One such friend, Shammy Starbrite, remembers when Domewrekka was banned from George’s for playing dubstep a few years back.
“That was when dubstep first hit the scene,” Starbrite says. “It was a little grimier and dirtier, and a lot more underground.”
Earlier this year, at Domewrekka’s Galactic Butterfly Festival, Shammy and her husband Chroma were married on-stage. Domewrekka officiated the wedding as a minister of the religion of womp (dubstep), and the two traded candy rings as a token of their love.
Now, there is evidence of mainstream acclaim for a sound that was once an exclusively underground phenomenon. Skrillex, a dubstep artist who was recently nominated for five Grammy awards, has become the first DJ artist to ever be nominated as Best New Artist. On a local level, Starbrite notes there has been a growing fascination with dubstep within the festival scene for the past few years. “A lot of people started recognizing dubstep because it started happening everywhere.”
Domewrekka says his sets are designed to create a “hard, heavy energy that gets your blood
flowing.” Dancing to dubstep is a rising trend in itself. At the most advanced levels, robotic pop-and-lock movements are paired with the acrobatics of break dancing. For fans with less skill, there are no stigmas on the dance floor. Dancing to dubstep is all about having a good time.
“I enjoy seeing everyone having a good time,” Black says. “When people are dancing, they aren’t thinking about anything.”
After seven years, Black says he is beginning to understand what makes up the backbone of a solid dubstep song. In order to be considered for the Wakarusa set, he was required to create an original track.
“I’m such a perfectionist,” he says. “It took me 15 tries just to get it perfect. Sound engineering is no joke.”
The song, entitled “Wrekkarusa” can be found on soundcloud.com.
Producing an original sound is the next step for Domewrekka. He has ideas for original tracks and is preparing to release at least four EPs in the spring of 2012. For DJs, booking shows is where the money is, and Black is hoping to become a full-time DJ. With an original sound, Black says more shows will come.
“Everyone wants to get paid to do what they love,” says Black, whose ideal show would be in the United Kingdom, the birthplace of dubstep.