Rock

Dubs White Is Signing Off at KWSS

Dubs White (center, in green) poses with Canadian rock band Mother Mother.
Dubs White (center, in green) poses with Canadian rock band Mother Mother. Dubs White
The music industry is rife with unscrupulous characters, each in possession of their own ulterior motives. Sometimes, though, you meet a guy like Dubs White.

"He's the polar opposite of a dick," says Evan Knisely, drummer for Phoenix's Wyves. "He'd say, 'If there's anything I can do to help' — and this was before he had his radio show."

That show is Dubs' Private Reserve, on KWSS/93.9, where White spins tunes, interviews bands, and generally uplifts the local scene. After four years of work, though, it ends this Thursday, September 30, as White plots his next move.

Life's been a long, musical journey for White. "I wanted to be a drummer since I was a toddler," he says recently via phone. "I was probably 3 or so when MTV debuted."


click to enlarge Dubs White - DUBS WHITE
Dubs White
Dubs White
After he got out of the military, White started playing in bands and later relocated to Arizona. He caught the vinyl record bug in the early 2000s.

"I've been championing vinyl for years," he says. "The connection of actually pulling the arm over and lowering the needle on the vinyl. That pop and that hum that comes right before the music kicks in."

But instead of spinning records, White tried his hand at another musical venture a few years back.

"I realized there was a lot of disconnect between the venues, the fans, and the bands," he says. "It was really hard to [network] and I wanted to create a website that would tie people that do costumes and lighting with people that want to book bands and bands that want to book clubs. It would merge that together in one place."


That business didn't work out, but it did connect White with Dani Cutler, KWSS' morning show host and marketing head. Cutler says as their friendship developed, she knew White would be a natural on the KWSS lineup. After appearing on Kevin Gassman's old show, White launched Dubs' Private Reserve on September 7, 2017.

"I've done a ton of local stuff, old-school and modern," White says of what he plays. "I don't really separate by genre or anything; if it kicks ass, I put it on the show."

His approach is also born out of his love for radio's heyday.

"I grew up on the DJs of the late '70s, early '80s," White says. "My dad was a DJ when I was a toddler, and I listened to how [DJs] were, and then I heard how commercial radio changed it. I wanted to bring that old-school radio experience. If I say you should listen to this, you can trust me because I care."

He also had a "guide" of sorts in developing his on-air presence.

"When I play a record, I go into it like Matt Pinfield from 120 Minutes," he says. "I want to do that really nerdy description about what this album was about. How it was recorded, the atmosphere of the studio; all of these inside things you never knew."

His efforts have paid off, and several local bands have deemed White their champion in the Valley's robust scene.
click to enlarge Dubs White and The Black Moods. - DUBS WHITE
Dubs White and The Black Moods.
Dubs White
Chico Diaz, drummer for The Black Moods, says White's been pivotal in hyping up bands.

"I think it's extremely important to have a guy like that around," Diaz says. "He's had a positive effect, and a lot of bands he's played on the radio wouldn't normally get play."

White has also helped as bands like The Black Moods built profiles outside of Arizona.

"He's done a lot for us," Diaz says. "Because we've been on the road so much over the years, it's hard to keep that local connection. We can come off the road and we get to catch up with him."

Wyves' Knisely praises White's highly sociable approach to new music.

"He'll either link us with the band or we can even ask, 'Have you seen any new rock bands that we might not be savvy to yet?'" Knisely says.

White's quick to avoid credit. Instead, he says promoting a rich local scene is simply a social responsibility.

"It's important for any city to give media and radio coverage to the people who are really working hard," he says. "You know, everybody starts off somewhere. Even The Beatles were a little club band."

Perhaps the most popular part of White's show is the album of the week, where he and guests spin a vinyl record in full. It started in January 2018 to commemorate the passing of the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. It's been an effective way to add to his everyman appeal.

"He preps, but it doesn't feel like it," Cutler says. "You're just at his house, kicking back and having a beer and just listening to a record together. I think that's something that, because of the digital age, has been lost."

For his part, White says the vinyl component has helped build better, more engaging shows.

"I build a show based on feelings," he says. "When we were at the driest of last summer, I said, 'Let's do a rain dance.' I had a YouTube channel playing 10 hours of thunderstorms. I put on songs like 'Who'll Stop The Rain' by Creedence Clearwater Revival and 'Only Happy When It Rains' by Garbage."
As an extension of that, White's used vinyl to get people focused on local radio amid the age of streaming.

"Corporate radio, and maybe sometimes Spotify, they keep people in the safe bubble," White says. "It's all about subscriptions for Spotify or advertising for commercial radio. So I get it, but in the same respect, independent radio has a totally different feel. And that's where I love having the freedom to be able to push outside those boundaries for people."

He adds: "It's hard [for bands] to stay motivated and stay passionate about something that is basically bleeding you dry financially and exhausting you. I think that's a thing where you're putting back into the community. It's not about numbers for me; it's about sharing someone's art with other people."

He adds, "I do have personal relationships with a lot of the musicians in the music scene. And I think [it] becomes like having family over. It's all, you know, the tapestry of life."

Why leave all that behind? White's headed to Nashville, to be closer to family. And he's hopeful that once there, he can pick back up his work.

"I'm fairly certain I could make friends in any scene," he says. "I can get involved with someone who's good at media and recording and video. Maybe we can put our hands together to make a new show."

White says that he's thinking of this decision as "wrapping up right now, but not shutting the door completely." Regardless, he's still thinking about the legacy for this phase of his career.

"I've helped spread the joy of vinyl to other people," he says. "The experience of listening to a full vinyl record, doing it on the radio and doing unconventional radio ... hopefully people are hearing some old-school radio."

Cutler, who appeared on White's penultimate show (September 23) to share memories and spin Green Day's American Idiot, says, "It's going to be very sad that first Thursday that he's not there. But he knows he always has a home with us, no matter what he has planned."

Local musicians, meanwhile, have a slightly different perspective.

"He's going to fly back in and we're going to see him a lot," Knisely says. Diaz and The Black Moods agreed, adding, "He might be leaving Phoenix, but we tour so much, so we're going to be spoiled."

If anything, Knisely says, a relocation will only make White an even greater champion of local music.

"He can still stream and play Arizona bands," he says. "He'll have even more bands he'll meet to throw in the mix, and keep tagging all those people and getting those shares."

For now, there's one more show to do. He's ready to end his KWSS run in style, with friends and great tunes.

"I want to have a party," he says. "There'll be all kinds of wildness going on. I've had a couple hundred musicians over the last four years. I'm going to celebrate with them, and hopefully, we'll get a show out of it."
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan