Q&A: Thunderbird Juicebox!
Since the genesis of Baltimore club music in the late 80s/early 90s, old school pioneers, like Scottie B, DJ Class, K-Swift, and Diamond K, have meticulously guided the movement, enthusiastically celebrated its existence, and paved the way for its future representation. Baltimore’s new school producers have picked up right where they left off, adding their own style and influence to the legendary sound.
For example, James Nasty stays true to the sample-heavy, old school style, while Murder Mark explores a more futuristic sound of club music. But then there’s the Baltimore-based DJ and producer, Thunderbird Juicebox, who seamlessly blends the funk-inspired, sample-based elements of old school club music with the wobbles and heavy bass of new school dance music. And while he’s young enough to happily co-exist within the new school movement, the passion he nurtures and the field research he’s done on the origins of the sound has given him the drive and appreciation to keep the dream alive.
I was first attracted to the way TBJB celebrates and pays homage to old school club music in his productions. Sometimes, if you close your eyes, some of his tunes sound like they’re straight out of the 90s. But then! As soon as you get comfortable, he throws in some of the stabbing synths, disorienting wobbles, and heavy bass you’re used to hearing in today’s dance music. It’s the best way to reel in the nostalgic club music fans of yesterday all while keeping the interest of all the dance music enthusiasts of today.
TBJB was recently featured on VICE Magazine for the “Life at 130 BPM” feature alongside his brothers & sisters of Baltimore club music, like Say Wut, Murder Mark, TT the Artist, DDM, and more, where they discuss the origins and soul of Baltimore and its unique sound. Baltimore club music comes from all shapes, sizes, and colors and that’s what makes it unique.
The sounds of TBJB are totally new to me, so I had to get to know him! In the interview below, we talk about the beginnings of his career, how he contributes to the movement, and his thoughts on the state of Baltimore club. Read on!
Cool Breezy: How did you first become interested in producing Baltimore club? Are there any particular tracks or producers that influenced you in the beginning?
Thunderbird Juicebox: When I was in high school I had some 21+ friends who exposed me to the warehouse parties in the city. It was the first party I went to where I heard the DJ drop some Debonair Samir tracks. I was blown away, and instantly fell in love with the sound. Then I heard “Kill Em In the Club” by Scottie B and King Tutt and knew this was right up my alley, production-wise. I was raised on heavy music and was already a year or two deep in digital production. I went beyond being a club head and became a full-fledged club nerd. I spent over a year just talking to producers/DJs and researching the history of the sound before I even put my first club beat down.
CB: So…how did you come up with “Thunderbird Juicebox” and does it have any particular meaning?
TBJB: Well, like I said, my friends were 21+ while I was in high school. All of the parties they went to were 21+, so every week the mission was to get me into the party by any means necessary. It didn’t help that I looked like I was 12 until age 20, but what I lacked in appearance I made up in creativity.
One night I was standing outside of a BYOB warehouse event with security while my friends were pulling strings inside. The (already drunk) door guy was just snapping on me the whole time, joking about me sneaking in sippy cups full of mad dog, juiceboxes full of thunderbird, and so on. Finally my friends came out with another security guy, and he asked “wait, so you’re one of the DJs?” without missing a beat, I said “yeah, I’m Thunderbird Juicebox, all my shit’s already inside. Get it together guys.” Like every other dumb stunt I pulled, we were shocked that it worked. The name just stuck with me after that.
CB: How would you describe your unique sound?
TBJB: By the time I started making club music, I already had experience in electronic genres like grime, DnB, and breakcore. I had also played in bands covering various subgenres of punk and metal. The abrasive nature of those styles, combined with an obsessive appreciation for gangster rap, led to me trying to make the most cartoonishly hard tracks imaginable.
Since then, collaborations have expanded my sound palette to attract a wider audience. I’ve since focused more on melody than harsh rhythm and loud noises, but I feel like the overall attitude of my music remains intact.
CB: So far you’ve worked with Baltimore club legends like Blaqstarr and Diamond K, as well as other artists like the Get Em Mamis and Tabi Bonney. Who else is on your dream collaboration list?
TBJB: I’d love to get a collab with some UK artists like Bruza or Tinchy Stryder, their early work definitely played a role in my style. The Clipse is high on my list since I’ve already sampled the hell out of their existing work. I’ve never met a club producer who doesn’t want to work with Missy, she’s like the universal dream collaboration.
CB: What do you think about the current state of Baltimore club music? Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of?
TBJB: I want to see more of what’s going on right now. For the past several years, club went from being a regional sound to something the world hopped on. Everybody starting making and playing this style of music, and when something gets popular, the fans start getting divisive on the basis of “who was here first”/”who’s authentic”/etc. You saw the community polarizing itself, arguing about everything from where artists lived to what they were making their music with. I tended to miss all that drama because my time was better spent making music and networking with the positive elements in the genre. I always tried to remember that I’m a producer, not a commentator or an authority on any “scene”. My job is to shut up and put out tracks.
Now I’m seeing the organization that I’ve been hoping for. Everyone has been carving out their own lanes, and building their own fan bases all over the world, and it’s all coming together now. The mentality of “Bmore vs Jersey/Philly” or “analog vs digital” is disappearing, and people are beginning to realize that you can take pride in your sound without making it a “you vs. whoever” type of situation. I’ve said it before, but the ZOME crew has been inspirational in that regard. Their whole model is so organized, and I see/hear nothing but positivity from those folks.
Are there things that could be improved? Sure. Is everyone involved in Baltimore Club happy with all of the directions people have taken the sound? Of course not. But as far as I’m concerned, anybody putting out club music is getting somebody to look into the genre, and it’s no longer a matter of hunting for mixtapes at flea markets to get an education. I don’t think of online distribution/blogs/etc as making this anybody’s game; it’s more like everybody’s game.
Aaron Lacrate & Debonair Samir – So Freaky
KW Griff – Footstomping
Spank Rock – Put That Pussy On Me (Acapella)
Jon Kwest – Monster (Instrumental)
Diplo – Express Yourself (Feat Nicky Da B) (Thunderbird Juicebox Remix)
Santigold – Look At These Hoes (Moroka Remix)
DJ Boogie – Get Yo Hands Up
Blaqstarr – Tote Go Blum
D-Trinity – Who Got Da Trees (Instrumental)
Rick Ross – Hustlin (Acapella)
Gorilla Zoe – Hood Figga (Scottie B Remix)
Expendable Youth & CRNKN – Gunfiyah
Nader – Bass (El Cucuy FTRFTWRK Remix)
DJ Earl – Lookin 4 Me (Thunderbird Juicebox trap flip)
Sheila D Yeah – Bad Bitches Drop it Low (Thunderbird Juicebox trap flip)
Thunderbird Juicebox – Lux Joint (Get This Dick VIP)
Thunderbird Juicebox – The Quickness
DJ Sliink – Ante Up
Murder Mark & Mike Mike – In My Hood
DJ Smash & Grab – Deep is What You Need (Big Makk Trvp Remix)
Big Freedia Y’all Get Back Now (Token Remix)
Blaqstarr – Tote It
Hucci and Stooki Sound – Ball So Hard
RL Grime – Art Money
DJ Booman – See the Hoes, Do the Buddafly (Acapella)
K-Life – Get Real High (Acapella)
DJ Finesse – Roll It Up (Acapella)
James Nasty – Them Do It Horns
DJ Class – Wuz Up Baby (Acapella)
Vito Fun vs The Deloryans ft Nicky Da B – Droppin’ Feathers
Thunderbird Juicebox – Gator Don’t Play
MIA – Bad Girls (Leo Justi Remix)
Azaelia Banks – 212 (Thunderbird Juicebox Remix)
DJ Jayhood and Nadus – Left Right
Quality – Drop that Bitch (Qyality Bmore Remix)
FRIE – What U Gon Do (instrumental)
Starfoxxx – Left the Club Tipsy (pieces)
Bear-Face – Bruh Bruh
Afruxx – Grind
Ezekiel – Gurrrr Swag
D!rty Aud!o feat nikkimarie – Drop that Ass
Sub Antix – 80 Weight
Beatking, Rai P, P Woods, Queen – U Ain’t Bout Dat Life
heRobust – Malt Flickr
Spank Rock – IMC Acapella
Mayhem x UFO! – Idione Poison
The Hi-Yahs – Everyday
Thunderbird Juicebox – Whopper in the Car
$1 Bin x Hucci – Gold N***a Swag (Paveun Remix)
Kia Shine – Krispy (Thunderbird Juicebox Remix)
Pigeonfox – Get It Poppin
Racecarbed x Thunderbird Juicebox – Hunned Shots