The story of FILTH, the Perth event bringing dubstep to stadiums

The story of FILTH, the Perth event bringing dubstep to stadiums

On October 17th, Perth event series FILTH will celebrate their fifth birthday with their biggest show. It’s been quite the journey.

Perth has always had an infamous relationship with dubstep. Despite its isolation and comparatively small population to epicentres in the United States and Europe, the Perth has been a hotspot for dubstep since its early inception, both through the artists that have come from the city and the events that have come and gone throughout history to cater to this growing movement. As a byproduct, there is a thriving dubstep community that live within Perth, one that spans from those that helped the city's early embrace of dubstep right through to a new generation of musicians and fans that are still riding this wave, stepping up to take it in new directions.

Damian Campbell and Jake Tasker are two people that have been caught up within this next generation, and they’ve been quick to elevate their specific niche of dance music into its heights. Together, they form the basis of FILTH, a DIY/self-made event series-turned-something much bigger that has been running out of Perth for the last five years, amplifying dubstep - specifically its recent-thriving sub-genre riddim - through Perth venues (and beyond) since their inception in 2015. They’re representative of Perth’s new-age dubstep community, influenced by the generation before them and now, influencing an entirely new community themselves; playing an important part in a lifecycle that’s ensured Perth’s status amongst the international dubstep radar for multiple decades now.

On Saturday October 17th, FILTH descends to HBF Stadium for a peak in the series’ lifetime thus far - a stadium-sized show full of music more-often associated with the dark-lit club underground, rather than a major-capacity venue that has hosted some of music’s most influential names across its history. However, the show isn’t a “book a big venue because we’ve got the big, international acts that could sell it out” type affair. Instead, it’s a show rich with West Australian artists that are eyeing a sell-out largely thanks to a growing, community-like ecosystem that surround their events, one that’s been five years in the making.

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“We met at Shape [Bar] years and years ago, and started hanging out together to talk about music and all that,” Damian explains; FILTH’s foundations starting in a now-closed venue that played a major part in Perth’s current-day dance music space (it’s since reopened as a live music space called Barbes), and in turn, what it will continue to look like in the future. From there, they quickly found common ground over music events - what events they like, what they would do if they could run their own events, what the industry would be like to work in - until one of their mates let them help organise house parties; the two jumping up to DJ house parties, or programming their friends to play the parties when they weren’t around.

Soon, things started taking off, and they were becoming well-known amongst their wider group for being two people in-tune with the growing dubstep scene, and what was next-up before it was getting played in clubs. That turned into routine DJ sets at house parties organised alongside their friend Sam Marshal, before Damian would step up to be a DJ at their local, Hillarys’ Bar1 Nightclub. “That was my first ever club set, and after it, the guy that was looking after it was like ‘can you come down next week?’,” he reflects. “I sat down with him and instead asked about running events in [his] venue, and that was basically the leap of faith that turned into the first FILTH.”

That was in late-2014, and while Damian says the night “was decent”, the event started to pick up more when they could have more say over the music coverage, rather than keeping in-line with their then-music guidelines. At its start, the event provided a home for DJs tapping into a heavier dance music market; a place where they could actually play what they would want to play - dubstep, drum’n’bass, trap - without having to water it down for more inner-city, ‘trendy’ clubs. Soon, it became home to many more people than just DJs; the semi-regular FILTH Fridays growing into a community of revellers who were all fascinated by this darker, heavier offshoot of dance music, one you couldn’t find at many clubs after the closure of Shape Bar in 2015.

As the events grew, Damian and Jake quickly had to upskill in order to grow FILTH into the type of event that they were picturing ages before it was a near-possibility; the events they would fantasise about shortly after first meeting. Back then, they were both tradies - Jake worked in electrical, Damian in bricklaying - with no understanding of the complexities needed to run events. They had next-to-no experience in promotions or events outside of those aforementioned house parties, and things like social media marketing - now-essential to sell tickets to an event - were a long-shot away from their usual day-to-day work. “We were basically just testing what worked and what didn’t, learning from our mistakes and applying what we learnt into the next show.”

Soon, the event found a home in another now-closed dubstep institution - Ambar. Between Ambar and Bar1, FILTH started experimenting with east-coast and international riddim acts, while continuing to elevate Perth’s own riddim space whether it be through headline shows for heavyweights, pairing international acts with high-tier local supports, or even running DJ competitions to extend their ‘family’ into a new generation. “Throughout that whole time, we were just growing a community of riddim fans, who couldn’t find that music anywhere else.”

Eventually, riddim commercialised and became more popular within the dance music space, and with that, FILTH erupted in popularity. Regular shows at Ambar still ongoing, FILTH started venue takeovers. Joining a one-off Villa show they ran before their move to Ambar, they took over the underground Gilkinson’s Studio, then The Court, Villa again and again, Gloucester Park (as DIVISION, a collaborational event with The Compound), Capitol, The Aberdeen Hotel, Metro City (the latter being a highlight for the pair, one they’d “dreamed about”). High capacity, festival-like outdoor shows with riddim’s biggest names would be wedged between intimate, sweaty clubs featuring locals or smaller, still-developing acts FILTH would take a bet on. Often, these acts would blow up in the lead-up to FILTH, or shortly after.

“I feel like we’ve always stayed two steps ahead,” says Jake. “We’ve always watched what’s happening - which artists are killing it, which ones will be killing it - and brought them over before anyone else would catch on,” continues Damian. It was a method that kept FILTH on top of the trends - if they weren’t defining these trends themselves - and one that still remains core to FILTH in the years following its launch as an event they hoped could capture this exciting, constantly-growing space in dance music.

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As Damian and Jake move beyond the realms of event series’, this ethos of spotlighting the heights of riddim and its ever-evolving sound remains central. Every one of their lineups as FILTH are laden with names on the cusp of riddim’s heights - whether that be locally or internationally - and they’re bringing that same factor to a wider range of sub-genres via their new touring agency, which despite its unfortunate launch just prior to coronavirus’ affects on touring, is something the pair are excited in pursuing whenever they can.

They’ve also started a management company to help build acts outside of just in the events realm, with clients stretching from Perth’s underground right through to the US. There’s also a record label too, titled F Audio. Their second label compilation rose to #1 of Beatport’s dubstep chart, and their third compilation - out October 28th - features a selection of names, some of which recognisable from FILTH’s lineups. “It’s grown to such a big thing just beyond house parties,” Jake says, before Damian chimes in: “Like, we’re able to make a career out of this, and pushing has finally started to pay off.”

First, however, Damian and Jake have their eyes set on FILTH’s fifth birthday event. On October 17th, the pair will take the FILTH series to HBF Stadium for their biggest event to-date, even if coronavirus has restricted their lineup to West Australia-residing acts only. That hasn’t stopped them from sticking true to their long-time vision though, packing the lineup full of Perth-based producers and DJs that range from some of the city’s most celebrated names to ones that might not be known outside of the FILTH circle, but ones Damian and Jake believe will soon eclipse Perth’s tight-linked community.  

Then, there’s also the extra steps they’re pulling to ensure that the HBF Stadium show is one for the books, even without international headliners. “We’re pushing the biggest visual experience Perth has ever seen,” they tease. “We’re doing something unique - something that neither of us have ever seen before - and without giving too much away, it’s something we’re really excited over.

“We’ve got an extremely good stage manager and really good lighting and visual artists that we’re confident are doing something outside of the box here - it’s going to be a real experience.” 

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Filth's HBF Stadium takeover runs on October 17th feat. Avance, 7INN x BANXY, SHOCZ x LOCAL x CHXF, and NMD x VINNY. Find more information here, and grab tickets here.