As the popularity of our underground scene continues to thrive in the US, so do the tour bookings to bring the leading acts stateside. Mixmag’s Seb Wheeler published an interesting piece two weeks ago which embraced a reassuring truth that the US was hungrier than ever for the foundation sound. Various club nights across the country have been quick to respond to the rising demand, hosting a UK artist more or less every month. It’s an encouraging movement to see for many reasons, but mainly the overwhelming support from our overseas friends to keep the sound alive. There’s one event though that’s had my attention for a while. Located in Houston, Texas, Gritsy has been there from the very beginning importing British bass since 2006. Many of the elite crop have passed through this venue to play at the infamous night often depicted by it’s iconic wall of subs. However, what makes Gritsy special is the dedicated team behind it and the exceptional photography captured during each event. The latter is the remarkable work of Huy Cao, one of Gritsy’s sharp shooters who we featured two years ago when I decided to launch a photography side to the blog. In similar fashion, a duo that can not escape a mention are Suraj and Lea – the brains behind it all. With Gritsy entering it’s 8th year, I decided it was time to catch up with Suraj and discuss the vision for 2014…
TRUSIK: Gritsy, how did you come up with the name?
SURAJ: For a minute, I was following this DJ who’s name I thought was GRITSY. Being from the south & down with grits, I couldn’t believe how brilliant the name was . One day, I got a new mix of his & he had started dropping his name in the mix, but as G-R-I-S-T-Y (soundcloud.com/gristy). 😀 Did I mention I suffer from Dyslexia?
TRUSIK: Take us through a short history of the movement. Who founded Gritsy, how many parties have you organised, what sounds have you been representing?
SURAJ: Being the DNB/2step/garage buyer at one of only 2 DJ dedicated vinyl stores in Houston, I’d get all the promos, white labels, and spend every spare cent on records across all of those genres. My primary love (under the moniker SDF3) was Jungle/DNB, but I also had a steady diet of 2step/garage/dub/house/techno not only from the store but also from the amazing talent that Houston is still chock full of. In 2005 I started diving deeper and deeper into the darker, heavier side of the 130-140bpm spectrum & playing more of it (vs. dnb/jungle) out at events. By 2006 I had ENOUGH of playing side rooms with shitty systems. In July of 2006 the first Gritsy event was held with Joe Nice, the only other Houston dubstep dj (Product) at the time, myself & a custom engineered soundsystem.
TRUSIK: What is unique about your night that sets it apart from the rest?
SURAJ: While Gritsy definitely has had a 140bpm tint, we appreciate good bass music across the bpm spectrum. Our events are built around lineups that show it and our crowd knows it. We don’t care for too much fluff/gimmickry, yet care deeply about the music, the soundsystem, the space, the crowd & the city. We work hard to make it about the artists & their music being showcased in a very intimate vibe, with the absolute best soundsystem we can muster (We
By no means are we unique in our effort. My Chi-town bass brother (DJ The Tornado) said it better than I could:
“Across America it is strong. You have Sub.Mission in Denver which, in my opinion, sets the standards for nights in the States. Dats Wots Up in Detroit, Too Future in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, CHURCH in New Orleans, Gritsy in Houston, reconstrvct and Subverse in New York City, Truth‘s Deep, Dark and Dangerous as well as Ritual in San Francisco, SMOG in LA, Amplitude in Minneapolis, Latter Day Dub in Utah, as well as Dubwise in Salt Lake City, Underground Frequencies in Kansas City, Sub Culture in Iowa… there is even a scene building in Montana! Unlike England, the US is very large and there are pockets where the scene does well and others where it’s still coming together. It’s great to see so many promoters pushing our sound throughout the US.”
TRUSIK: How does it feel knowing that Gritsy is regarded as one of the leading bass music nights in America, especially at a time when the deeper underground sound is becoming more influential than ever?
SURAJ: No idea. I don’t know what that feels like. I just know what some of the best bass music I’ve ever heard in Houston, Texas feels like.
TRUSIK: You’ve hosted some of the biggest names in the industry. Which act(s) gave the most memorable performance, and who would you most like to feature who hasn’t already done so?
SURAJ: From the beginning, we’ve had close relationships with Surefire, Nicole from Submission & many other bassheads across the states. These agencies & people have allowed us to host many an amazing artist not only from all over the world, but also the USA, Texas, and right here in Houston. Each artist has been special in their own right, and it’s amazing seeing (or feeling rather) them dive into their element deep in the heart of Texas. After traveling all over the world, Houston is my home & that’s where my heart is.
TRUSIK: Running dance nights can have its funny moments. Can you share with the readers your favourite anecdote?
SURAJ: Having a car come out of nowhere & almost annihilate Nicole Submission, Biome, Demon, myself. Only to laugh about it later, thanks to years of Nintendo!
Other things include the reaction to our sound system, taking artists out to eat at our favorite local spots (Frenchy’s Chicken off Scott & top local BBQ joints), road tripping with these icons & legends the next day to their gig at Austin’s Sunday special, Mad Classy @ Barcelona, and this photo w/ Mala and Coki 😀
TRUSIK: Huy, you’ve become renown for your sharp shooting skills and stunning photography. Do you ever feel pressured to excel yourself with each new night, or perhaps uphold the high standard you’ve already set yourself?
HUY: Thank you. You have definitely helped tremendously with that. I feel constant pressure from myself to step it up with every event. I am actually on a hiatus at the moment because I was not very happy with my work output for a long stretch last year. It was subpar and Gritsy definitely deserves better than subpar. I’d rather not put anything out than put out a bunch of subpar work. Fortunately, this hiatus will be ending soon and I will be back behind the camera.
TRUSIK: You celebrated your seventh birthday last summer. Congratulations to you and the rest of the Gritsy team. Was the night a success? Any specific highlights worth mentioning?
SURAJ: Thank you! Having Youngsta, Goth Trad, Matty G, the Gritsy fam under one roof & on one system was something words do no justice. Matty G dropping 50,000 Watts VIP, Goth Trad LIVE with the 160bpm business & Youngsta opening up with some deep/minimal tech house, then shifting into 140bpm dubplate pressure, in front of a packed house, in one the best venues in the city made for an absolutely amazing night!
TRUSIK: So, what lies ahead for Gritsy? Will you ever take the event on tour?
SURAJ: For the first time, we’ve signed a contract to run our own Saturday night weekly in downtown Houston for a few months. We’re hoping to bring back all our old friends, and make some new ones as well. As for touring?
TRUSIK: What else can we expect from Gritsy in 2014, are there any forthcoming events you would like to inform the readers about?
SURAJ: Hopefully our February events (the return of Youngsta & Digital Mystikz) are successful and are a sign of things to come. The more we are able to educate/nurture/grow our crowd, the more we can afford to risk on booking new/returning talent, running a weekend weekly, touring with our soundsystem or even starting a label. It might be an incredibly niche affair but one can dream right?
SURAJ: On behalf of Gritsy, I’d like to give an enormous thanks to TRUSIK. It’s always amazing when some one who’s in another country takes such a profound interest in what we do. Thank you!
HUY: Yes, thank you to the TRUSIK blog for always supporting and for constantly pushing the sound that we all love. Brown note connoisseurs unite.