As Dub Champions kicks off in Europe today, we were lucky enough to catch up with a staff member of OT301, the underground, DIY venue that plays host to Amsterdam’s forward-thinking music scene and more. Tahdeo “T” Sparks, an Amsterdam transplant, is a programmer at OT301, a spot that he enjoyed before becoming involved professionally.
“What makes OT301 unique is the versatility of its programming and the diversity of the people who attend events or frequent the space. It is more than just a venue; it is a gathering space for all arts and artists, all sounds and styles. It is non-profit and the crew at the OT are invested in the work they do.
“There is a sense of passion and pride that can be felt. There is also a sense of community not only with the crew, but also those who come to the space. Unlike other clubs where there is a sterile, anonymous feeling, people who come to OT feel a sense of home, and a warmth of sorts. I see people really free up and relax and not just because of booze and smoke, but because of the comfort and unity that is felt between the walls.
“OT truly supports and gives opportunities to up-and-coming artists and young promoters. It has been a real spring board for many great events in the local scene that wouldn’t have been given a stage at other clubs. The willingness to give a chance to the ‘unknowns’ is a truly unique thing for a venue in these times,” said Sparks.
Dub Champions, the NYC-based dub festival that we covered back in October, makes the pilgrimage to Amsterdam each year. This year the lineup boasts the likes of Mala as well as the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, but it doesn’t stop there.
Sparks said of the lineup, “This year we have so many amazing acts. I’m always eager for any material from Mala and the Deep Medi crew, and I’m also extremely excited about the upcoming vinyl release from dub wizard Twilight Circus. Also have heard of some very interesting forthcoming remixes and new productions from Process Rebel who is really pushing the sounds into new territory. On the local front The Illuminated continue to impress.”
Based on Sparks’ statements, It is no doubt that the OT301 staff is integrated in to the scene that they are spearheading. As the conversation unfolds, it’s clear that Sparks wears different hats in the scene. In addition to his position at OT301, he is an artist and a founder of True Soldiers Productions, a production company that throws a party in Amsterdam called Dub Explorations.
“True Solders and the Dub Explorations concept started while I was still living in Costa Rica up in the mountains looking at the Pacific, painting and listing to proper dubs at maximum volume. The goal was to bring the true foundation: vibes, spontaneity, energy and bass weight that I had experienced in the dance-halls during my time living in the Caribbean, and combine them with the future sounds that continue to develop in the UK and Europe.
“I genuinely wanted to offer a stage to the under-the-radar artists & producers. It has always been about sonic explorations and not following standard norms. The sense of exploration and not re-hashing the same sounds & formats is what has afforded the session’s longevity. Amsterdam has been a perfect city to bring it all to life. I feel very fortunate to see it grow and have such positive feedback.”
The above sentiments matched perfectly with OT301’s vibe, and there’s no doubt that the party’s success helped pave the way for a strong relationship with the venue. Fast forward some years and he is now playing an integral part in the Dub Champions Festival, which works to promote vintage dub/reggae sounds as well as the futuristic, low-end music that is thriving off sound-system culture.
“The [Dub Explorations] sessions have laid the groundwork and opened the door for an outside festival like Dub Champions to grow from a 1-day to a 3-day event in just one year. Many of the artists on the Dub Champions line up have been guests at Dub Explorations and even [Dub Champions Founder] Emch of Subatomic Sound System made his Amsterdam debut at Dub Explorations. So it only made sense to join forces to host and build this great festival in the ‘Dam,” said Sparks.
Dub Champions Europe kicks off today, February 5th, in Vienna, Austria, before making a stop in Linz and finally coming to a conclusion with 3 days in Amsterdam. More information on the festival, including tickets, daily lineups and more, can be found on their official site and on their Facebook.