5 Questions with Rags #53 - WBBL

“I used to play in bands back where I lived in Dorset in the UK - ska bands, pop cover bands. That's what you gotta do in Dorset to make fun, you gotta make your own fun down there. It's a lovely little countryside area but not a lot going on there at all, nightlife especially. I think there's one club that's only open once a month.” This is where WBBL's music started. WBBL, one of the leaders of the next wave of great bass-masters coming from the UK. Before he was smashing open the ears of clubs and festival crowds around the Europe (And Canada!) the good homie, known in the real world as Joe Gale, was laying a solid foundation for his eventual assault on bass-seekers everywhere. “I went to ACM in Gilford in the UK - Academy of Contemporary Music. It sounds fancier than it is,” laughs Gale. “They're a great school. It's all about the experience you get from going there. I met so many great people there, loads of people trying to do the same thing. People who just want to make their music better, who want to meet and collaborate.” Taking a look at WBBL's output, the collaborative spirit is alive and well, as evidenced by his ever-growing list of tracks with wobbly peers like Slynk, X-Ray Ted, Mr. Switch and Father Funk.

Too many years in the making, a long-established heavyweight of the ever-popular Ghetto Funk label, WBBL made a triumphant Shambhala Music Festival debut on the legendarily funky Fractal Forest last month. A dance floor filled with a couple thousand people was, then and there, turned into a legion of WBBLites. (WBBLers? WBBListas? What's the term we want to collectively coin for the growing mass?) If you want some more in-depth talk of his set, GO HERE, and read the thing I already wrote about it. Earlier today the powerful homie gifted his Shambhala set onto the world, so you don't even have to read what I wrote. You can listen for yourself. Pair up his blistering set with another tasty round of the 5 Questions to get a full helping of wobbly goodness. Here we discuss the Gorillaz, welcoming-ass Canadians and Hendrix's proclivity for plain bagels.

1. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

WBBL: It was the first Gorillaz album on CD. In 2001, or something. It was a good introduction because it was pop but it was dub and reggae and hip-hop and garage. It opened my mind up to a load of different genres. I thought it was such a cool thing to have in the charts that were all bubble-gum pop and you get this dark, awesome album.

2. First time you did something for the last time?

WBBL: Well, this is my first Shambhala. So that's the obvious one. But last year was my first time in Canada, my first time being out of Europe, coming to do international shows. That was a brilliant first time because everyone in Canada is so ridiculously welcoming and nice. That's what Shambhala is about as well. I want to do this first time every time.

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#festivalseason - Atmosphere Gathering 2017 might have been the most joyful festival of the year.

The people behind the Atmosphere Gathering have built something truly special and unique in the increasingly large and saturated festival world. In the heart of Vancouver Island, nestled in the midst of the Comox Valley, they've built a festival that is part folk festival, part rave ala Bass Coast or Shambhala, part yoga/health/body festival ala Blessed Coast, an interactive arts festival – the breadth of art contained in the relatively small park is astonishing. And on top of everything, Atmosphere Gathering is all-ages to boot. Maybe more than ever in my life, I thoroughly enjoyed the presence of children, running around oblivious to everything but the immediate need for more fun, more dancing. Their energy was absolutely infectious and helped to power me through an incredible weekend in the soft, grassy embrace of Cumberland's Village Park.

The creative spirit of that youthful energy was on display everywhere you turned in the small, but never crowded (!!!) area. Paintings were on-going works of art, changing each time you passed by. The Elixir Temple was dispensing all variety of remarkably healthy beverages, created with a seemingly-endless array of fruits, veggies and spices. People of all-ages, suited up in a harness to help them climb safely, piled milk crates impossibly high throughout the day. There was a misting station that looked like an octopus! A strong selection of local vendors brought their most colourful and creative wares. And the musical performers all brought their best stuff, delivering some of the finest sets I've seen this summer in by far the most intimate festival environment I've experienced. Each provided highlights that hold up to anything else I've seen this year. These are some of those highlights.

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#festivalseason - 20 years in, Shambhala is as memorable and magical as ever.

Every year I step onto the Salmo River Ranch for Shambhala (This was my fifth consecutive year) I'm amazed and inspired. It's not just all the great music – though the amount of high-quality, incredibly creative music is near-baffling – but how Shambhala brings the best out of everyone involved. The organizers seemingly outdo themselves every year with new instalments, a keen eye for talent and various tweaks, small and large, to the well-oiled machine that is Shambhala. The Djs, visual artists, dancers, hoopers, etc, all bring their A-games, bringing out their finest beats, strokes and moves to the funky proceedings. And my fellow attendees – their willingness to let the weirdest parts of themselves shine and bathe in bass makes me smile. Seeing all the little pieces of oddness people have found for themselves, the novelty we all gift to each other as we traverse the four days on the farm, is unlike anything my imagination can come close to. I am astounded every year and this year was no different. Please Shambhala, Shambhalovelies, please don't ever stop astounding me.


There have been many stories about the Sunday cancellation/evacuation/cancellation of the evacuation. The good homies at Betty & Kora just put out a great breakdown of the timeline and events of the whole thing. There's nothing more to be said on the matter. However, what is becoming more interesting to me is hearing stories from attendees of how different people and camps came together and dealt with the impending chaos in their own ways. My campmates sat down Saturday afternoon for a very well moderated meeting that included a time to share our favourite moments of the first couple of days of Shambhala, in an effort to keep spirits high. This is when we found that two of our Sham-fam had got engaged on Friday night! In the same spot at the Pagoda where two other members of the fam had had their wedding ceremony a couple of years earlier. I'm sure we would have found out soon enough, but to discover this beautiful thing in the midst of what kind of felt like impending doom was a deeply moving moment. One that I'm sure no one who experienced it will forget anytime soon.


This is an untouched photo of the river on Thursday, in the midst of what would prove to be the worst bout of wildfire smoke all weekend. It's burned into my head forever now – the relentless partiers continuing unabated in front of what looks like the bloody apocalypse. At this moment it felt like the smoke would never let up, that this is just how life was going to be, gasping for fresh air in between dance moves. Obviously it wasn't like that, crisp air wasn't that far away, but it's a pretty good summation of the most challenging parts of this Shambhala20.

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Jimi Needles - Of synths, sounds and Jungle Strikes.

“I recently came to the realization that I've been Djing half of my life,” Jimi Needles – world-class DJ, producer and drummer for knock-out soul band Ephemerals – recalls, talking to me from home, shortly before leaving on a well-deserved holiday. “I had my CD decks first when I was 14. I bought really cheap CD decks and hated it, then got vinyl decks when I was 15 and restarted again. Not many people did that back then. You didn't touch Cds like that. It was all vinyl and then suddenly it was all Cds and I did the opposite. I've been djing full-time about half of my djing life. And only about the last four have been giving a real shit.” Four years is probably about the length of time that Needles has been on the radar of an ever-growing contingent of bassheads here on the Canadian west coast. His Needlewurk mixes are some of the most reliable I've found, able to keep all the members of the crew happy – no matter where they lay on the spectrum of bass music enjoyment. The good homie combines his incredible arsenal of sounds, tempos and feelings, with great taste in music and a penchant for juggling the best parts from an unyielding scope of genres.

It's been a year and half since the last time I've talked to Needles. It's been a fruitful time that has seen him touring relentlessly on his own and as the drummer for Ephemerals, the creation of the Jimi Needles Band and the beginning of the final stretch toward his long-awaited debut album. “I think I've become a worse DJ and a better producer since we last talked. I've sacrificed a bit of the Djing. In the past 18 months I've really collected a bunch of sounds that I will use for all of my tracks. Every producer has their signature thing, like Stickybuds has his signature bass. 'Oh yeah, that's a Stickybuds tune there.' Featurecast has got his signature boom-bap-shuffle-drums. You can't miss those. A. Skillz has own kits and stuff. I've done a lot of tracks that share the same synth,” says Needles. “The whole album is going to speak to that synth. It'll be the “Jimi Needles Sound.” Really moving away from bootleg stuff on the album to more original stuff. It's exciting. I've really learned to create space in tracks. When I was just bootlegging I would just go, “Let's just feature loads of stuff!” Never give it a breather. You kind of learn to add those spaces in.”

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#festivalseason - There are way too many amazing musical people to see at Shambhala20. Here are a few highlights to help deal with the crushing burden of choice.

The best thing about the legendary Shambhala Music Festival – hidden away in the Kootenay mountains, in Salmo, BC – also happens to be the worst thing about the legendary Shambhala Music Festival: There is an overstuffed cornucopia of a lineup that is completely impossible for one human person to consume. With six stages thumping bass near-endlessly , Shambhala has something for everyone in amongst the chaos. Whatever your groove is, there's something on the Farm to satisfy your bass-lust. Rather than attempt to run down the near-endless list of everything Rags Music is hoping to check out, or to randomly select things with little to no regard for scheduling, I'm going to recommend an artist (or two) per stage with the “Rags Music Home-run Guarantee,” spaced out throughout the four days (Hint: Get there for early entry on Thursday. It's worth it). This being a milestone year 20 for the Festival, I'm going to try to split the list between new faces and what could appropriately be called Shambhala Legends. I promise, if you catch even a couple of these things, your ears will be very happy.

THE AMP - MAT THE ALIEN b2b The LIBRARIAN - Thursday @ 12-1:30pm

Like I said previously, I'm getting into Shambhala Legends mode this year and this begins with planning my Day 1 festivities around a few festival cornerstones. Opening the AMP with Mat the Alien & The Librarian?! Yes, please! Mat the Alien is a DJ I'm happy to see any time I can. The veteran bass master is as versatile as anyone in the galaxy, able to shift moods and genres on a dime, and a fantastic scratcher to boot! Big, big legends vibes on this. The Librarian is someone I've been wanting to see properly for a long time. Her dark, spacey bass vibes call to me. Now is the time. I caught a very tiny portion of her set at Shambhala last year and everyone I've talked to who just returned from Bass Coast (Her home bass) said hers was the set of the weekend. I blew my chance to see them when they toured together for their Mutiny tour, but honestly, would it have been as good as seeing them team up to wreck the AMP at Shambs? Nah. This'll be better.

FRACTAL FOREST – MARTEN HØRGER – Sunday @ 1:30-2:30am

Finally! I get to see Marty fuckin' Horgs, the German bass phenom in his proper environment – the middle of an old tree, armed with a bananas powerful PK sound rig. Marten Horger has been one of my go-tos any time I need a little extra OOMPH! ZORP! BLAMO! in my breaks diet. His mixes and tracks come at your ears like a crazed monkey with a knife, but the monkey is wearing a little hat, so while it's pretty dangerous, it's also super fun! A veteran of the always reliable PUNKS label, Horger, the talent behind of some of my absolute favourite tracks like “Blood” and “Deeper Down,” I can, in the words of the immortal Vince McMahon, “GUARAN-DAM-TEE” Horger will lay down the perfect blast of hard breaks energy to fuel through the last few hours of your Sunday night. (And he's a past answerer of the 5 Questions! Extra points!) Also, Horger also just recently got into the world of drum 'n' bass – a world I still don't understand – with an uplifting gem of a track that hit me right away!

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