Music, dance music especially, is fractious in the extreme—genres mutate and divide; artists shift identities. But few musicians are as gleefully schizophrenic as Luca Venezia, known
alternately as Curses! and Drop the Lime. The NYC-based producer began his career producing breakcore, a microgenre based on hyperspeed drum drills, caustic synths, splatter beats, and digitally destroyed samples. In 2003 and 2004, he released a series of 12-inches on Ambush, Broklyn Beats, Shockout, and Tigerbeat6, mulching hiphop, jungle, rave, dub, and noise into one giddy, crack-addled soundclash. Since then, Venezia's sound has evolved as Drop the Lime switches and synthesizes styles with each new record, but he's remained a prolific producer—so much so that a single identity can't contain him.
"Curses! is me doing house and electro, whereas Drop the Lime is everything," says Venezia, on the phone from New York, en route to a Halloween party for his Trouble & Bass crew. "Usually, a Drop the Lime set will consist of dubstep, house, techno, electro, old-school rave, b-more, jungle even, drum 'n' bass—all the music that I'm inspired by."
Live, Venezia rocks a laptop, turntables, and a microphone, mixing songs on the fly, triggering samples, and singing over his own tracks. But for an artist who chops and spews such disparate styles at an often breakneck pace, he approaches his live sets with a kind of casual spontaneity.
"It's very loose," he says. "I like to see how the crowd feels. Maybe I'll drop a dubstep tune, and if the crowd really goes crazy for it, then I'll focus on putting more dubstep into the set that night. Or if I play some old-school Chicago house and people really go crazy for that, then I'll shift gears and take the set in that direction. And that keeps it really fresh for me; every time I play, it's a different set. I'll have a rough outline or certain combinations of tunes that I like, but I like to jump around and not stick to one method."
Over the years, that responsiveness and restlessness has moved Drop the Lime away from breakcore's hectic beat mangling and toward more palatable, poppy club music. His latest full-length, 2006's We Never Sleep, even finds Venezia singing standard verses and choruses over relatively relaxed, almost jazzy electronic tracks—it's alternate-universe radio pop. He's also remaking conventional radio pop in his own image via bassbin-blowing "refixes" of Europe's "The Final Countdown," Cutting Crew's "Died in Your Arms Tonight," and Justice vs Simian's "Never Be Alone."
"It's been a natural progression," says Venezia. "I've always been DJing club music, if that's what you want to call it. That's what I grew up on. I think what happened was I became involved in more experimental electronic music when I was in college. I was studying with people like Bob Gluck and Richard Teitelbaum at Bard who had a huge influence on electronic music in America. They really inspired me to try to make a song not sound like any other dance song while still using the same equipment you could use to make dance music. And the stuff that I did in college just happened to be the first stuff that got released as Drop the Lime. The new stuff is more clubby, more pieces of music I could DJ rather than kind of abstract pieces of sound that you'd listen to at home."
Venezia's latest evolution has Drop the Lime performing as a full band, with MIDI equipped drums and saxophone (although his Seattle show will be a solo performance).
"We just had our first show last night," says Venezia. "We have a drummer with MIDI triggers on the drums, and I'm sending samples to him. We also have a saxophone player, Alan Astor. We basically stripped down all my songs, and I send him my bass samples and he's playing them via MIDI sax. It looks crazy, like a sax, only smaller and more futuristic. You know what it looks like? Remember the He-Man movie Masters of the Universe with Dolph Lundgren? There's that time-machine whistle that they play that opens a time portal? That's what the MIDI sax looks like. It's pretty epic."
For all the avant promise of his earlier work, it's Drop the Lime's current "pop" mode that will appeal to most listeners. His multiple musical personalities are still there—you can just hear the voices talking over each other in his mashed-up live set—but Venezia's managed to turn that nervous chatter into banging beats.