By Karolina Kapusta
VANCOUVER – Blame it on the wobbly bass, the UK warehouse party-inspired vibes or the tight-knit house music community, but there ain’t no party like a party thrown by AC Slater.
“My name is Aaron Clevenger, I was born in West Virginia and live in Los Angeles,” the bass music DJ and producer says over Skype from what looks to be a darkened studio. Clevenger – better known as AC Slater both privately and publicly – is known for his underground house sound that’s inspired by UK garage and old school rave.
Self-proclaimed king of heavy bass house in America, the title is more believable when you learn of his past filled with old-school raving and his several bass-focused record labels and collaborations. Add in his features on massive radio stations and his ongoing hype monthly parties that showcase cutting-edge basslines and the alleged nickname is more than commendable.
Touring like mad these past few years, Clevenger has been sharing his party-ready reverbs with club and music festival circuits around the world this past year from North America to the UK and even Japan. And as tiring as constant touring may be, it definitely has its perks too. “When I DJ, I’m showcasing my own music as well as music from my label,” he explains. “Most of my set is unreleased music [too] so it’s almost like [each performance] is a trial. Getting those positive reactions from all over the world; it feels really good to see it connect.”
Raised in a house filled with music and a jazz musician for a father, Clevenger chose to listen to something a little more rebellious like rap, punk and metal growing up. “I grew up on that until I discovered electronic music,” he says, reminiscing. “I lived near Pittsburgh in West Virginia and there were tons of raves there, like super underground, warehouse stuff.”
Once he and his friends discovered the underground EDM scene, they were hooked and started going out to raves every weekend. “It was like this magical new world, because it was so not a mainstream thing like it is now. No one knew it existed unless you were a part of it, you know?”
Clevenger taught himself how to make music in the late nineties and his fondness for the genre that is electronic dance music continued into the millennium where he created his first label, Happy Hardcore. “I basically used all of my student loan money to start that label,” he confesses, laughing. “That was 17 years ago. It’s definitely been a long journey.”
Clevenger also discovered UK garage and bass music, which continue to influence the producer’s music to this day. “Back then they used to have these things called tape packs. It’s like a plastic case filled with twelve cassette tapes, which were recordings [of all the sets from just] one party; I discovered a lot of [new] music that way,” he mentioned speaking about a time before Spotify, SoundCloud or even YouTube. “I would order from magazines, send money and lik, six weeks later I’d get music in the mail!” What he eventually heard on those coveted cassette tapes was definitely worth the lengthy process it took to acquire them. A blend of live UK garage and bass performances complete with MC hosting and crowd cheering. “I could feel the vibe… and I wanted to be there,” he shared.
Those tape packs later went on to heavily inspire Clevenger’s branded event party and label, Night Bass. “We record all of the parties in LA and I put them online and called them a tape pack,” he says. “I want other people to be able to experience it; if they can’t be there I at least want them to hear it.”
Night Bass started three and a half years ago as an alternative to the mainstream EDM that was blowing up around that time and celebrated the music that Clevenger was into but didn’t really exist yet in North America. “I was kind of frustrated [as] I didn’t really fit any event; and at festival stages I was too heavy for the house stage but wasn’t heavy enough for the main stage.” Transforming his frustrations into productive energy, Clevenger decided to throw his own party in LA and it quickly resonated with so many people that Night Bass emerged out of the dark naturally.
Evidently too much bass for one city to handle, Clevenger is touring with Night Bass worldwide now, delivering one-of-a-kind vibes and hard-hitting bangers at every show, the vibe falling somewhere in between purist house party and wild EDM festival. The cassette-wielding bass pioneer chooses to fill his mob with cool, liked-minded people. “I really, deeply, invest my time into people who love and are dedicated to the music, and who I’ve known for a while.” The Night Bass party is now a globally recognized brand and has no plans of shutting down. “I want to take it around the world more. I want to take it everywhere. I want to do my own festival, eventually.”
AC Slater performs at M.I.A. Nightclub in Vancouver on Saturday August 19.Aaron Clevenger, AC Slater, Night Bass