The Worship Recordings DJ has always had chocolate in his peanut butter.
by Sean O'Neal
It۪s another rasta-flavored Friday night in Filo۪s intimate and dimly lit basement. The cozy joint is jam-packed with Jamaican-music lovers who dance around the room or lounge out, bobbing their heads gratefully to sounds produced by the two hairy boys with fuzzy faces and dreadlocks dropping a heavy dose of roots, reggae and dub. But this is just one of many musical approaches made by Rob Paine (who only recently lopped off those dreads) and partner Zack Eberz (a.k.a. Zacharijah) here in their own hometown.
Following the lead of Philly dance-music legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who amalgamated disco and soul in the '70s, Paine and Eberz fuse dub reggae with house music. The DJs have found the combo can be a difficult sell at times. "It's easier to open up the house heads to reggae," asserts Paine, "but it's harder to get the reggae heads to open up to house music."
After minimizing his use of hallucinogenics, Paine's musical mission became clear. For Paine and friends, outside support is crucial and the timing is utterly relevant. "It really was just my life's progression toward finding what really moves me," Paine remembers. "Reggae moves me; house moves me. House is an extension of dub and disco. There was no You put my chocolate in your peanut butter.' It has always been there. I just feel we are part of the scene that is doing it right this time. I play house when I am out of town for the most part now -- and more reggae nights in town. That isn't by choice, though. Our reggae weekly at Filo's is always packed. ... I would love to play more house in Philly, it's just a tough town like that if you want to keep your events away from the slackness that 85 percent of the clubs in Philly project. So now we end up dealing with smaller venues (like Saint Jack's and Aqualounge) a few times a month for house events."
Back in the fall of '98, Paine and Dan McGehean (later joined by Eberz and DJ Willyum) let loose their vision by launching Worship Recordings. Since then, the label has attained global recognition for 12-inch records (now up to its 13th) that concentrate on the dub factor of house music, yielding stark, echo-y, blissful, West Coast-ish, four-to-the-floor sounds with bubbly, rich synth pads and some occasional Rastafarian vocal snippets -- a conscious and meditational message in sound. Artists like Pete Moss, Hollis P. Monroe, (E)motion Detectors (Chris Udoh and June Lopez), Sweden's prolific H̴kan Lidbo, SF's Rocket (DJ Garth and Eric James) and, of course, Paine and Eberz (as Solomonic Sound), have dropped their deep and rolling late-night groovers on the Worship label. But at the time of Worship's inception, there was no telling what the future might hold. "It comes down to us really just giving it a shot. This is all we ever wanted to do: make music our work and work our music. Just didn't know it completely until that moment how it was all going to happen," says Paine. "We still don't," he adds, laughing.
Rob Paine, 30, has been DJing for nine years and producing for five. Throughout his life, music has always been his fix. He started playing a variety of instruments in the fourth grade, which led to playing saxophone and keys for the successful ska/funk/reggae group Hyperactive in the early '90s. The band didn't work out for Paine, and he returned to college to study jazz improvisation. But soon after, he got all his teeth knocked out during a disastrous car crash, which put a dire constraint on his sax playing. From there on in, DJing became Paine's No. 1 passionate hobby.
Paine claims he was first moved by bands like The Police and The Clash before migrating to hardcore bands like Bad Brains and heavily reggae-driven groups like Boogie Down Productions. Even when he first started DJing, it was the raga breaks on labels like Shut Up & Dance and XL that initially won him over. So reggae has always been the foundation for Paine, but he himself didn't cite this aspect and take it in until he started producing house music. "I am usually listening to reggae at least 70 percent of the time outside of clubs and the studio," says Paine. "It is the most uplifting music to my ears and soul. ... I have always been about the bass lines in my house. You can hear that on any of the tapes I have done over the years. The deeper, the better. Reggae is known for its bubbling bass lines."
Now, Paine and Worship unleash the label's debut CD, Wor.CD.01, 15 tracks from Worship's first 10 vinyl releases persuasively mixed by Paine himself. "I want to give the listener a good feeling for all the colors and elements involved with each release," explains Paine, "but at the same time, make it an enjoyable DJ-mix CD to vibe from. I feel that this CD is a great representation of both a Worship compilation and a DJ mix. I am hoping that with Caroline/EMI Distribution, we can reach a much broader audience than only just the DJs that pick up on our sound already. of course," he chuckles, "we want to reach the masses and sell millions someday."
The Worship crew is definitely in this for the long haul, planning a tour for the upcoming months in support of the CD and putting together a debut Solomonic Sound album by the fall. They're also working on making their amazing Third Story Recording studio in West Philly open to the public for production and engineering -- with a focus on blending electronic music with live elements like vocals, hand drums, horns and much more.
"So every day we expand," says Paine. "Whether with new contacts, friends, musicians, producers, releases and so on, we just keep trying to follow the right path that lies before us. Our choices are made on instinct. Everything we have always done just seemed like the right thing to do, so we did it. In the beginning, we just wanted to put a record out. Now, we just want to put a couple CDs and records out and hopefully turn on a new generation that hasn't had the chance or access to hear our music."