The relentless Kurian, who occasionally goes by the nickname "Jungle John," is a man on a mission. By day, he tends the counter at the Montrose techno warehouse Atomic Music. By night, he spins underground mixes for clubs and parties under the moniker SDF.3.
He's a defender, stylist, connoisseur and straight-up rabid fan of drum-and-bass, or jungle or breakbeat or whatever the hell it's called this week. In fact, Saturday, April 20, Kurian takes his show on the road to Austin's Asylum (8610 Lavahill Road) to preside over the statewide drum-and-bass summit called Texas DNB.
Inspired by a DJ show in Dallas, Kurian thought summoning the best drum-and-bass spinners in and around the Lone Star State for one performance would show how serious Texas folk are about their jungle boogie. "They did this show in Dallas called 'Quad City,' " explains Kurian. "What they did was take all the top local DJs from four cities and throw them in one big event with four sound systems. This is kind of a takeoff on that idea, but it's one sound system with drum-and-bass DJs from all over Texas representing." Kurian won't be the only one dropping Bayou City beats. Local boys BMC, DZ, Realtime, Arqer, Cub and SDF.1 also are on the list.
Kurian loves to spout off about jungle's underdog status in local clubs. Many Houston club owners and party promoters have stigmatized drum-and-bass as a second-tier dance genre, he complains. Whenever a rave, party or weekly club night surfaces, some form of house music takes center stage, while drum-and-bass is relegated to brief tenure in a back room. Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) jungle-heavy "Trip-O-Listic Love Lounge" was shut down even before the larger Wednesday-night excursion "Trippin' Tha Love" came to an end. Club Upscale's (5851 Southwest Freeway) dearly departed dance playground "COMMunity" had a drum-and-bass lounge in the club's "Millionaire Room" until the beginning of the year. Last summer the club also housed a weekly drum-and-bass night called "Proper Fridayz," a brief if memorable affair that barely survived into the fall.
There are only two drum-and-bass places left: "Static Wednesdays," a weekly event at Hyperia (2001 Commerce) -- which brings D&B front and center, no backroom crap -- and the "nuKARMA d'n'b" room at Club Space (799 St. Emanuel), which comes to life during the club's sacred "Friday Night Karma" party. Kurian plays and promotes that room along with its residents, husband and wife D&B spinners Chris "G-Wizz" Cardenas and Gracie Chavez-Cardenas, who also hosted the "Millionaire Room."
"I get booked to play drum-and-bass," confirms G-Wizz, before lapsing into a mantra: "I love drum-and-bass. Gracie loves drum-and-bass. We spend a lot of money on records -- on drum-and- bass records."
Kurian believes putting together a Houston drum-and-bass show presents myriad financial and legal risks -- thus his big event's Austin setting. Since drum-and-bass is usually linked to raves, the threat of intrusive officialdom is always in the cards. "It's gotten to the point here where you can't really promote a big event legitimately," says Kurian. "It's gotta be 18 and up, it can't be all night anymore, and it's basically gone to the clubs or you can't do it, period." By placing the event in the relatively liberal state capital, Kurian says, he doesn't have to worry about losing the 17-and-under crowd. "So there's a chance that I might be able to break even or actually make some money," he says.
Brad Slack, one of the organizers for Hyperia's "Static Wednesdays," doesn't buy the idea that Houston's lawmen have created a jungle vacuum. If his two-year-old night has proved anything, he says, it's that you can have a respectable (and respected) recurring drum-and-bass night. Like most local enthusiasts, Slack believes Houston D&B went into a "dark phase" a few years back, shifting to a bleaker, more serious tone that prompted a few finicky fans to jump off the bandwagon and club owners to disown the music. But he also says the genre has recently enjoyed a growth spurt in both sound and audience.
While opinions may vary on how drum-and-bass is being presented in Houston, there's no doubt that there is a scene here and that folks like Kurian and Slack will strive to keep the sound alive. Even DJ/promoter Charles "Deadboy" Cherkui recently announced the June launching of a drum-and-bass night at TOC Bar (711 Franklin), which, by the way, will have a back room -- playing house music.
So you open up a mammoth sports bar across the street from Enron Field with the intent of catching some business after a game and maybe even starting a buzzing ballpark social scene just like the one around Chicago's Wrigley Field. Then a little scandal breaks out at Enron. Does this mess up your game plan? Well, if you ask Todd Dixon, who runs the huge sports bar The B.U.S. (1800 Texas), not in the slightest. In fact, when former Enron employees attended a "Career Day" at the Field Formerly Known as Enron not long ago, many ex-employees found themselves wandering inside the rowdy watering hole for a few drinks. "I don't know if everybody was coming over here to celebrate or drown their sorrows," says Dixon. "But it was almost like a game day."