Chargement en cours

An error has occurred. Please

First Play: DJ Shub, PowWowStep

This stream is no longer available

Andrea Warner

[This stream is no longer available]

PowWowStep, DJ Shub’s first EP since departing A Tribe Called Red in 2014, is a euphoric and triumphant six-song statement of ownership, identity and celebration. You can stream it now, one week ahead of its release.

DJ Shub’s real name is Dan General. He began working on these new songs a few months after he left ATCR. In the few interviews he’s given between then and now, new music seemed imminent and nobody was really talking about what happened to cause the split. It’s been repeatedly chalked up to “personal reasons,” or General wanting to spend more time at home with his family. When news broke in 2014, just months after ATCR’s win at the Junos for breakthrough group of the year, hip-hop pioneer Manik 1derful alleged General was replaced by ATCR’s other two members, Bear Witness and Ian Campeau, who were the original pair behind Electric Pow Wow nights, theirs bi-monthly club night in Ottawa.

Two-and-a-half years later, General couldn’t be happier that release day is in sight.

“Finally, finally, it’s coming out!” he says, laughing, over the phone from his home in Fort Erie, Ont.  

General began working with a new manager, Alan Greyeyes, and decided that he didn’t want to rush an album. While every track on PowWowStep is a “club banger,” the album will be “a lot different, but sort of the same,” he promises with a laugh.

PowWowStep is a declaration, a party starter and a release. It’s the kind of music that pushes away the darkness, zaps your heart back to life and makes you feel buoyant, unbreakable, fearless. General is happy when I tell him that I haven’t stopped smiling since I started listening to the EP. He wants PowWowStep to be “a light of hope in this whole terrible, evil darkness that feels like it’s happening right now everywhere.”

With PowWowStep, General invites the listener to bring what they want to the songs. If one has an awareness of or identifies with the trauma of colonization and cultural genocide, and revels in the power of powwow as a nod to Indigenous survival and resistance, that’s great. If one just wants to dance up a storm, forget about everything and soak the floor in sweat, that’s fine, too.  

“With this EP, you can live in the moment, forget about things and feel your culture at the same time, and that’s something I thought was very important,” General says.

Below, General continues the conversation with CBC Music, touching on everything from his new EP, the break-up with ATCR, ensuring his legacy as the grandfather of powwow step and what comes next.

The Northern Cree Singers are on half the songs. What influenced your decision to make them such a presence on the EP?

When it comes to Indian country, you can’t really get any better than Northern Cree. They’ve established such a reputation of being "the guys," the group, the drum group, and for me to be able to use their music is, first of all, a blessing. These songs wouldn’t be these songs without them. Without the big drum, without Northern Cree, without Black Lodge, without all these great drum singers, there’s no such thing as powwow step. Northern Cree and Black Lodge, these drum groups have been around for such a long time, and to be able to work with them is just a dream come true. It’s working with the best.

"Smoke Dance One" is a hell of a closer.

[Laughs] Yeah, it’s my favourite track by far on the EP.  Which was a sort of last-minute add, actually. It’s going to be on another project I’m planning on doing and it’s based upon the whole Smoke Dance scene that’s from Six Nations, my reserve, so that’s a project that I’m doing probably before the album. It’s sort of a preview of what’s going to be happening soon. I don’t think I’ve told anybody about that yet! You’re the first to know.

CBC Music loves its exclusives!

[Laughs] Exactly.

CBC Music did a video with ATCR, tracing the sound of “Electric Pow Wow Drum,” and they talk about you, of course, and they said you basically sent them back the song in its “finished state.” Can you talk a little bit about how you feel about that? Their album, We Are the Halluci Nation, has come out and you’re sort of a part of it, but you’re also not.

I’ll start off with the “Electric Pow Wow” thing. When I first met those guys, it was the first time I heard Indigenous music mashed up with other things, in anything. And that was at their Electric Pow Wow parties. That was really a big inspiration for me creating powwow step. So, the first song was "Electric Pow Wow Drum" and that song, when I finished it, I wasn’t too sure about it. I almost didn’t send it to them. But my wife, at the time, she gets used to listening to all my songs because that’s all she hears, and she looked at me and said, “This is a million-dollar track.” Up to that point, I was making tons of hip-hop, but I just had this feeling it was something totally different than anything I’ve ever done before.

I knew my culture, finally. Finally! Because I grew up off the res, you know, my parents didn’t grow up on the res, but their parents did. But it was always this place that I’ve always gone to, my whole life, so yeah, it was finally something that connected me to my culture, to what I was doing. From that point on, it just took off. It was something I’d been wanting to do my whole life, but didn’t know. I give credit to Tribe. The guys in Tribe, because of that, because they were the ones who really helped me start this whole genre of music. That whole wave of powwow step really came from that, and I give credit to them. They opened my eyes to a lot of music I wouldn’t have heard, and different types of music which reflected on the albums and on my production.

That’s basically the beginning of where that came from. Now, it’s a continuation of that. The guy that replaced me, I’ve known Tim [2oolman] for a long time. I knew him before I knew the guys from Tribe. I was always shocked to know that there was another Native producer [laughs] from the same reserve, and we connected a lot. We used to share beats and send beats to each other. I can definitely tell from the album, that’s Tim. He’s a really, really good producer and you can’t fail with him, that’s a good thing.

When I left, I was like, I don’t see this as a bad thing. This just means there’s going to be double the music, more powwow step out there. If that’s the case, that’s the case, and if it happens that way, it happens that way. People get to hear twice as much powwow step music? That’s a good thing.

Going back and reading the various interviews, what was said and not said, left things open for speculation. Canadian music scene, Indigenous music scene, these are small circles and people want to know, did you leave on your own accord? How amicable was the split?

It was an amicable split. We all decided that this was the best thing, I think, can happen right now considering the whole situation that was happening, like, "Yeah, this is probably the best thing for everybody." Nobody put up a fight about anything, it was just, "yes, yes yes." I’m not going to get into particulars about anything. It comes down to personal issues, but when it comes down to it, in the end it’s about the music. Who cares what happens, you know, it doesn’t matter in our personal lives what happened. People didn’t come out to the shows to hear about what’s going on in the group, they come to hear the music, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Now that I am on my own, I enjoy making my own decisions when it comes to where the music’s going and how the music’s done. It’s like being your own boss. It’s a great feeling.

Bear Witness and Ian Campeau had been doing their own thing before, and then you came and joined something that was a pre-established dynamic, and then doing this new sound together. Is it hard to find a place for yourself as one person coming into a group of two?

I didn’t feel that way, simply because I had something to offer. If I didn’t have anything to offer, then yeah, I would have felt that way. But it was obvious that my production and making music was a huge thing in the movement, production-wise, and I had that to offer. I really didn’t think that way, anyways, as far as — I don’t know how you would say. I wasn’t intimidated going in. I was more nervous than intimidated [laughs] because it was the first time, for me, anyways, to be playing away from home, so I was in Ottawa and playing with people I really didn’t know. That didn’t really discourage me because of the love that I felt from everyone out there. That was the big helper to me adjusting to joining this crew for sure.

Calling it PowWowStep, it feels like a bold thing to take that newish genre and use it as your album title and really own it.

It came from both a lot of people telling me that people need to know — I’ve heard from a lot of people that people call me the grandfather or the pioneer of powwow step. Yeah, I take that responsibility for sure. I love that title. I’m not saying that it was — like I said earlier, being with Tribe and playing with Tribe really started that whole genre, but going forward, powwow step, I want to make sure people know what powwow step is and the sound and don’t forget where it came from.

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

DJ Shub’s PowWowStep EP release party:

Friday, Dec. 2, 2016
Velvet Underground, 508 Queen St. West, Toronto