At 5pm on a Friday, most people are finishing work and heading home or wandering down to the nearest pub/bar to start their weekend off with a bang. A couple of Fridays ago at 5pm however, I was not doing either of the aforementioned activities. I was in fact at a press showcase in a secluded Park Lane venue for a US artist by the name of Mystery Skulls.
‘Who is Mystery Skulls?’ I hear you ask. Well the man behind the name is Luis Alberto Dubuc Jr, a Texan musician who has been based in Los Angeles for the last three years and this was his first ever performance in the UK. But there’s one reason why I’ve told you all of this and that reason is that the live set that I witnessed was INSANE.
Mystery Skulls entered the dark room full of industry experts (what was I doing there?) and placed himself behind the decks, immediately showcasing his DJ skills, pumping out his unique blend of self-produced ‘Disco meets Dubstep by way of House and Funk’ tunes, but it was when he picked up the microphone to simultaneously sing and DJ that the set really caught my attention. I’d never seen someone juggle the two talents in such a way before and the passion and enthusiasm that he clearly had for every track was so infectious you couldn’t help but smile.
“Sometimes when people ask me how to describe the music I say funk-electronic or digital soul. Sometimes the singing DJ comes up, so somewhere amongst those three descriptions” Dubuc responded when I asked him how he describes his music. “One time I said that it sounds like Prince meets Blade Runner.”
The fact that he incorporates a number of genres into his own music could be explained by the fact that he once worked in a record shop and regularly checked out any music people bought which he had never heard before, broadening his knowledge in the process. “By the time I started making music I was a kind of a weird hotch potch guy who was into Metal, tonnes of Hip Hop, Soul, Disco, R&B and I’m still into everything” he says fondly remembering past times. “Not listening to all types of music is like going to a buffet and just having one thing. It’s better to have one of everything.”
But from those humble record shop beginnings, Dubuc has since released his first album as Mystery Skulls in the US (soon to be released in the UK) and even managed to get R&B star Brandy and music legend Nile Rogers to feature on two disco-heavy tracks. “Nile and I have a mutual friend and he played him my music. An hour after he heard it, Nile called me himself and said that he loved my music and wanted to work together, which was trippy. We hung out and got in the studio and made [the track] Magic“, Dubuc informs me, almost still in a state of disbelief that what he was saying was actually real. “With Brandy, someone I knew was friends with her boyfriend and I really wanted her on a track, then before you know it we were in the studio!”
The thing that really makes Mystery Skulls stand out though is Dubuc’s ability to sing and DJ at the same time. “I was writing the songs first and people were asking me how I was going to perform them” he reminisces, “Then I played my first show and everyone was so freaked out that there had been a singing DJ, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I didn’t really realise that it hadn’t been done before.”
Having personally witnessed the intensity of his live set, it’s clear that Dubuc gives everything he’s got in his performances, which only adds to the brilliance of the show. It would be interesting to see how the likes of Calvin Harris, Chase & Status or David Guetta would get on if they were tasked with the challenge of belting out a note-perfect vocal performance whilst mixing in the next tune.
Why then, would a man of such talent choose to promote himself under an alias? “I felt like if I wrote music from behind a moniker, I could kind of do whatever I wanted and be whoever I wanted to be, almost like climbing into the machine”, Dubuc explained, “I think there’s more freedom to be expressive. With my real name being Luis Alberto, if you were to see a poster with that, you would maybe think I was a Spanish singer or something!”
So with his album Forever due out in the UK shortly (you can stream it now on Spotify!) I guarantee that you’ll be hearing a lot more from this guy during the rest of 2015. If you’re heading to a festival, make sure you look out for his name because once his album drops, booking agents across the country will be straight on the phone, so he’s bound to be appearing at a few before you know it. Dubuc even told me that when he started making music, he dreamt of playing Reading and Leeds and having graced the holy grounds of Reading Festival for the last eight years myself, I can safely say that a set from Mystery Skulls would blow the roof off of the Dance Stage without question.