As a dubstep DJ from Baltimore, Joe Nice is swimming against the tide. The city has long been ruled by one sound, although the charismatic Nice is doing his best to forge his own little nook for another. “Baltimore is known for Baltimore Club,” admits the man himself. “There hasn’t been much room for anything else because Baltimore Club has been the dominant music for the past 15 years. Sure, there’s a dnb crowd and a robust house music scene but Baltimore Club is king. We don’t listen to GO-GO. We’re from Baltimore. This is who we are. No different than Detroit and techno or Miami and Miami Bass. It was my first love.”
For a while Nice was content with his city’s homegrown sounds, but then he met a new love at a music festival. “The first time I heard dubstep on a big system was Starscape Festival in Baltimore. They had a tent called the UK Invasion. Zed Bias, OrisJay, Emma Feline, JDaFlex, Benny Ill and Hatcha. Hatcha was really the guy that you could say was playing ‘dubstep’ (as we know it) before anyone else. His set was full of old Benga and Skream dubs and this was 7 years ago. When I heard and saw what was going on, I had to really devote myself to the sound.”
Devote is what he did and Nice has worked tirelessly to develop dubstep’s US chapter. He writes about it on his website (gourmetbeats.com), he talks about on his radio show and he plays it at clubs, including his own Dubwar nights in New York.
If dubstep were edible, Joe Nice would gorge on it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eventually, his dedication paid off and gigs began to stack up for him across the country as more and more people began to tune into the music, largely thanks to its prominence online, which Nice has harnessed with his usual spirited enthusiasm, “My old roommate and I created gourmetbeats.com and one of the things we wanted to do was radio. I’ve always been fascinated with radio because listening to radio is how I became interested and involved in EDM. Radio is an opportunity to present new music to a new or existing audience. Sharing fresh sounds, that’s my thing. There’s nothing more exciting than dropping a big tune on radio and it’s the first time most or all of the listeners have heard the tune. The next step is a thread on dubstepforum.com talking about the tune and where they heard it. Radio allows for people to find you through your sound. Once they hear you on radio, the same listeners will want to see you live.”
And so they should. Hearing dubstep live, over a big sound system is utterly essential to understanding what the music is all about. It’s a physical listening experience where you can feel a sub bass so heavy it makes the air thick. Joe calls them ‘big belly’ bass lines and they lay the foundation upon which you can place pretty much anything you want. “Kode 9 referred to dubstep as a virus – a mutating organism. It’s constantly changing. That’s the beauty of dubstep. I don’t want to say that it’s a ‘catch-all’ but there’s freedom in the sound.” Visiting our shores for the first time, Nice is relishing the prospect of unleashing his selection of dubplates to a new audience, “The crowds, they’re gonna see a DJ that loves what he’s doing. They’re gonna hear fresh tunes. They’re gonna be involved in the show.” Clearly a guy that loves his job, Joe Nice is a DJ who deserves our attention. “You’ve gotta understand, I never imagined that I’d be doing this. I mean, you sit and daydream and you end up saying, ‘wouldn’t that be nice’ but you never think you’ll be ‘that guy’. Sure enough, I was and I couldn’t be happier.”