Courtesy PhotoRoommate will play original reggae-influenced tracks at Dub Mission at the Elbo Room on Sunday.

Island sirens of dub call to Roommate

The siren song of the Caribbean calls to San Francisco dub producer Roommate, who road-tests a set of original, reggae-inflected electronic tracks at the Elbo Room on Sunday.

It’s not clear how much longer Justin McCauley, the Richmond district resident of seven years, has left in the Bay, he says.

“S.F. has been good to me over the years, but I’m getting the itch to move back out of the country and get some more culture shock in my life,” he says. “I’ve never lived on an island and I’ve always wanted to try being isolated, seeing what it would do to me as an artist.”

You can hear Jamaica’s pull in Roommate’s recent “Pure Vida” EP, which he released on his own digital label Avocaudio. The label is up to 20 all-digital releases, while his all-vinyl Jamaican-vocalist-only label King Dubbist is up to nine albums.

“Treasure Island Dub” in February 2012 offers Roommate’s most personal vision of straight dub, and downtempo: taking the instrumentals of reggae and subjecting them to the rigors of electronic delay, reverb and other effects.

Growing up in Santa Clara, McCauley was introduced to hip-hop and reggae by his sister.

“When I discovered dub I thought it was the best of both worlds — the rhythm and the psychedelic effects, it doesn’t have so much of the vocally saturated content that reggae does,” he says.

McCauley graduated high school in 1999, and started seminal dubstep duo Babylon System that took the kid around the world on tour.

“It just skyrocketed us,” he says.

He lived in Costa Rica, and Portland, Ore., and his label Hollow Point Recordings helped seed the American dubstep craze, even as McCauley began to personally back away from the sound.

“I don’t really hate on it,” he said of dubstep in car commercials and stadium shows. “It was inevitable.”

He remains fulfilled, running two labels and making uncompromising music with world-class artists. His Sunday set will be about 70 percent originally produced tracks, much of it new, that he’s road-testing for future releases. He said he approaches DJing like a band, “all of the set is yours.”

“I wanted to see if what I have personally is big enough to get the energy of dubstep back from the world and I think it’s been working out just fine so far.”


Opening for Twilight Circus Dub Sound System

Where: Dub Mission with DJ Sep, Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $7 to $10
Contact: (415) 552-7788,


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