Echoes and Reverberations: Decadent Dub Team, Fracturing the Mash-Up

DDTers Jason Wolford, EZ Eddie D and Jeff Liles
The puke green exterior made the Mitchell Building in Deep Ellum look like a frightening industrial shop of horrors. Far from being accidental, that's by design -- the place was actually a weapons manufacturing facility during Word War II.

In the early '80s, the dark fortress was reinvented as a squatter's art colony. Painters and musicians braved time and temperature to suffer for their means of expression. Dissonant noise was part of the daily fabric; power saws, compressors, welding torches and the banging of nails blended in with new bands like The Daylights, who could often be heard honking and squealing during rehearsals in the middle of the night.

"Decadent Dub Team began at the Mitchell building, in my old studio space there on the second floor," recalls longtime Dallas musician Paul Quigg. "The building was like a magnet that attracted everything from aspiring artists, musicians, writers, future technoids and the like, to runaways, groupies and meth cooks. The scene there on a weekend night was blast. All the bands loading back in at 3 a.m. after their gigs in Deep Ellum, with their attendant admirers, groupies, and partners in debauchery. The freaks came out at night indeed."

It was in the living room of Quigg's dusty loft space that he and I did hundreds of bong hits and started jacking around with tape loops, sampled beats, and snippets of bad rock records. The cold wash of florescent tube lights cast a tungsten shadow on old chrome and motor oil that had accumulated on the concrete floors of the building. All of our drum machines, analog synths, a shitty Sears turntable and a rack of archaic sampling equipment were stacked on silver hospital gurneys we had rescued from a dumpster behind Baylor Hospital.

Boys making noise in a monochromatic chop shop. Sonic butchers carving beats into sawdust.

Paul Quigg: "When Jeff and I got together the first couple of times, we'd hang out in my space choppin' up stuff 'old school' with tape loops, analog synths, and (soon to be primitive) samplers. I was mostly turned on by industrial grit and squalling analog sounds at that time, and Jeff's vision had a home for that shit. There is nothing really like the excitement of exploring something so new and without rules as the scene was around hip-hop/industrial at that time."

Williams, Liles and Quigg
I came up with the name Decadent Dub Team while in the shower one day; I honestly had no idea what the word "decadent" meant, I just liked the way it sounded. The initials spelled out "DDT", yet I had no real understanding of the dangerous pesticide by the same name. It's not like we were really trying to do anything serious anyway; I mean, who would ever book a show for two guys jacking around with a bunch of electronic gear? Would anybody come see something like that? We certainly weren't planning on it.

After a couple of get-together-and-make-noise sessions, we added a third member: a musician from Denton named David Williams.

All of us knew how to play a guitar, but weren't bothering to bring one to a DDT jam session. As a kid, The Beatles were the most amazing band in the world to me; but unlike most folks, my favorite songs weren't the obvious hits, but "Revolution 9," a bizarre sound collage from the White Album. Like that track, Decadent Dub Team's music was like a giant jigsaw puzzle of "found" sound. No two gigs were ever the same, we rarely used set lists, and no song was ever performed the same way twice. Relentlessly tripping in public; three alpha male cut-and-paste culture jammers jacked up on blotter and bong hits.

Blessed with marvelous luck, we were the last band added to a roster of artists selected by Island Records A&R rep Kim Buie to participate in "The Sound of Deep Ellum" project, a compilation album released in 1986. Our contribution, called "Six Gun," then fell into the hands of a hotshot teenage producer in Compton, Calif., named Dr. Dre. He remixed the track for 500 bucks and it ended up on the soundtrack to the Dennis Hopper-directed film, Colors.

Wow. So far, so good.

The three of us then threw our gear into the belly of an airplane and went to Los Angeles to make a demo with former Frank Zappa bassist Arthur Barrow, a producer (with ties to Denton) who now owned a home recording studio in Venice. When the tone arm on my rinky-dink little Sears turntable snapped in half during load in, I called Dre over in Compton to see if I could borrow a turntable for our recording sessions.

An hour later, Dr. Dre, Eazy E and Ice Cube rolled up in a black Jeep with a replacement deck in tow. That demo session was the first time I had ever used a Technics 1200 turntable to scratch a record. Eazy gave me a copy of the very first NWA EP, and pointed out that they had put my name was on the back of the sleeve. Kim Buie was trying to sign them to Island at the same time; and it looked as though we would all be hanging out a lot together in the future.

The music on that particular demo actually had more of a rock influence than funk or hip-hop. One of the tracks was called "Feel Like Makin' Dub," which featured a repetitive sample from the guitar part in the chorus of a generic Bad Company song. ("Du-nuh duuuh... du-nuh duuuh... du-nuh duuuh... feel like makin'... du-nuh duuuh..." over and over again.) Williams hooked up the loop, Paul dropped in some analog synth bass texture, and I cut the droning intro of Led Zeppelin's "In The Light" on top of it all.

Back then, legal sample clearances were expensive and almost impossible to procure. It was very much an "us against them" mentality; this was definitely outlaw cut-and-paste deconstructionist art. The record company knew we would never be able to sell anything that was so overtly derivative, but we weren't tryin' to hear all that. The three of us were all too busy arguing about everything else under the sun.

In the meantime, Island Records offered us a 12" spec deal and we scheduled a trip to the label's studio in Compass Point, Bahamas, to try and make a proper record.

Paul Quigg
After the demo excursion to L.A., Paul decided that he had enough of listening to David and I try to drown each other out -- both musically and during conversation. Quigg left the band and quickly regained his peace of mind. (His next band, Vibrolux, would be the subject of major label bidding war, and as a result, he relocated to Los Angeles for three years.)

"Although we ultimately experienced 'band chemistry' issues as so many do, " he recalls, "It remains a strong and positive memory to me."

(Seven years later, Paul and I reconnected with Dre in Los Angeles on the set of a Soul Assassins music video called "Puppet Master." I still remember what he said as a wardrobe girl fitted him for what looked like something the Pope might wear to Mass: "Man, I didn't know if you guys had died or what... you just disappeared and shit.")

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