The Black Box Owner Nicole Cacciavillano Celebrates 2 Years In Extended Interview
Electronic music has blossomed, transformed and fused from a multitude of worldwide origins and continues to unite people everywhere from pop culture to the underground.
Denver’s participation has been quintessential in the vitality of the underground electronic scene which continues to persist across the world. Passionate music disciples have found themselves flocking to the mecca of authentic sound, whether it be to play their tracks or support the culture - others have found a path in making it all happen.
One of the leading cultivators of this genuine movement in music is a woman by the name Nicole Cacciavillano, owner of Sub.Mission and The Black Box. From starting as a small production company to owning her own venue and agency, Nicole has been a catalyst in the introduction of international dubstep and the development of EDM in the States.
We had a chance to sit down with this diligent force and ask her a few questions concerning the road to her current accomplishments.
Photo credit: Dark Matter Photography
iEDM: Sub.Mission is over a decade old. What do you remember from your first couple shows? Initial obstacles. Unforeseen hiccups.
NC: Geez. Yeah, It’s actually crazy to think how long we’ve been doing this. In the beginning, when we found out about dubstep we couldn’t afford to fly to London every single weekend. So, it was myself and a group of three friends who were like, “Let’s just bring it here.” So that’s what we did. I was a teacher and they all had day jobs. We just used whatever money we had to get the artists out here and it was just kind of a family affair.
One of the obstacles was that no one knew what dubstep was at that point. Another was that it was easier to get Denver people to the events than it was to get venues interested in letting me bring in a sound system into their spot. Denver has always been very hip and people are always down to experience what it has to offer. At this point there wasn’t a lot of underground stuff going on, there was some drum and bass, but dubstep didn’t exist and the bass scene was not was it is today. The biggest obstacle was just getting through to the venue and them allowing us to do it.
iEDM: You originally pursued a career in education before venturing into music. How do feel that your prior schooling has helped you in the music industry?
NC: Aw, man, in every way possible. I went to school and taught kids with behavior problems and pretty much that’s exactly like what I do right now except they’re all drunk and don’t know what they’re doing. No, but its crazy. I almost had my doctorate in behavior science. Why do people do what they do? Why did they make that choice? So I do apply my education to what I do right now. There are lot of laws, paperwork and backend work to working directly with people. It’s exactly like working with my students.
iEDM: What are some of your outlets for discovering new music?
NC: Well, since the internet has come around….back in the day dubstep wasn’t really on the internet. It was dubplates and mixes and you had to get them from people directly. A lot of websites and avenues we have today didn’t exist twelve, fifteen years ago. Because we have a venue now and have eight shows a week, considering both rooms, we hear a lot of music. Now I have the opportunity to just listen. I don’t have to search and spent hours because in the past that what it was. Searching on Soundcloud and listening to sets trying to figure out who’s it was. Electronic Tuesday is a huge angle for that because we have the battle and they’re always trying to play the freshest tunes. I also have inspiration from the people around me and what they are listening to.
iEDM: You were recently named one of the most important women in EDM. Do you feel like being a women in the music industry had been a huge obstacle for you?
NC: I don’t. I feel like there’s definitely been times where that first initial approach or my first initial reaction to people made them realize that they are not going to push me around. Being from Philadelphia I’m a really blunt person. I don’t like drama. I’d rather smash it and move forward professionally. I’m not the type of girl that puts myself in situations with artists where things might happen. I have always kept my professional boundaries in that aspect. So, I’ve never really dealt with any issues. I’m lucky because I know there are females out there that would have a very different answer.
Photo credit: JV Photography
iEDM: As a pioneer in the Denver/dubstep music scene, how do you feel about the growth you’ve seen in the past decade?
NC: I love it. I think it’s amazing that we are at this point, not just in Denver, but everywhere. When dubstep started, it was Denver, LA, San Francisco and New York. There were only a few cities in the whole country who were even involved. And now, Sub.Mission, it’s not just an event or a production company, it’s an agency with all these artists. And now I’m talking to these promoters who are like, “We started throwing shows because of Sub.Mission.” Now I get to work with them and see them throw shows in their city. It’s amazing. Denver’s the capital. It’s the hub of everything. From our fans to the promoters in the city, it’s not just me anymore which is great.
There are the corporations and they do their thing which is completely different from what we do. Then there are underground people all over the place. We happen to have a well represented crew that happens to be run by a bunch of ladies. That is actually crazy because we are getting ready to do this event where I had to pick a bunch of local crews who I thought were properly representing the Denver sound in their genre.
Every single one of those crews is ran by a women and I’m not just saying that. Legitimately, they have been doing it for 15 years. It’s cool to see that and the people who have hustled for so long to push something that they love. It’s difficult to do and finally get recognition. And we now have a scene in Denver where people finally know about drum and bass or dubstep or halftime. We’re in a healthy place right now.
iEDM: What advice do you have for those wanting to get involved in the music industry/culture?
NC: I think as far as getting involved in the music culture side it’s your own individual journey. Enjoy. Sit back and listen to the music. Don’t be afraid to like what you like. Music is like that rabbit hole. Once you start to find something, and you start digging, you are going to find more and more and more.
I think that’s really important. It’s especially important if you want to get more into the industry side of things. Stay true to who you are. Don’t let the music industry change you because it does and it can. And it will, if you let it. It will eat you alive. We’re here for music, on both sides, and that’s what the focus should be. If it stays the focus, it’s going to be your life.
iEDM: The Black Box is celebrating 2 years. How do you feel about its current evolution?
NC: The Black Box. It’s crazy. For me, I’ve known I wanted to own a venue for probably eight years. After 2012/2013, I knew if I wanted to recreate the experience that sold me, made me quit my job and make this my job, that I needed a venue. I was really lucky because I had an amazing team of people around me that I could see being in certain positions like production manager or marketing. And I spent a lot of time working with those people prior, so that when we made the dive we could easily transition into it. Even though its all new and every day we learn 57 new things, it’s still really unbelievable. It’s all love.
Photo Credit: Dark Matter Photography
iEDM: You have built Sub.Mission on the premise of “Moving people thru sound not hype.” How do you work towards promoting a culture that is music-centric?
NC: From the very surface level, we pretty much just have a black room and a sound system. The purpose of that is so that people can really hear and feel the vibrations of the music. That’s what it’s about. From a marketing side, we try to spend time on our blog with an article called, “Hustle Knowledge,” where we really talk about the artists and who they are. We really try and educate. I guess that’s my teacher side. I think it’s really important that we provide content for people to understand where the artist is at. Music is such an individualized journey. I might be talking about an artist today and in five years you might be like, “I remember that.” It might be like a year. Turn around time is so fast now. Back then you could find out about an artist but the only way to hear their tunes was to book a different artist - because he was the only one with their dubplates. So to hear any Skream tunes you had to book Hatcha. Today because of the internet where everything is spread and shared, it’s out there. But it’s not always factual and it’s not always right. So we are providing as much content as we can and exposing as much music to people as possible. On our two year anniversary, we’re going to put out all of our sets we have been recording. So that it will be out there to provide real genuine content about the music that we love and the artists who make it.
Our blog is through our Sub.Mission website which has a few features. We talk about our agency artists and new clients. We do a podcast every Wednesday. A different mix from a different artist that we really support. They’re all free and downloadable.
On The Black Box two year, we are going to start a new page on the site that is an achieve of every set the artists have played since we’ve opened.
iEDM: You are no stranger to the trials and tribulations that come with life. What can you share about persisting through hard times?
NC: Right when we opened The Black Box my mom died. That was probably the hardest thing I’ve been through. All that plus trying to be here. She lived in Philly. I’ve always been one of those people who was like, “I will work through it. I will work through it. Push it away. I don’t want to be sad.” Man, did that come back and hit me hard. The beginning of 2018 is when I realized how important it was to take care of yourself. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually in every way possible. Your body just has a way of telling you, stop. The biggest advice from me would be to make sure you are surrounded with people who genuinely love you. Strip out all of those motherfuckers who don’t. You don’t need those people in your life. They’re leeches. It’s important to know who’s in your tribe. Once you have that down, it might always change, but whatever you put out there you will come back. You’ll always naturally find those people.
I think it’s important to talk to people. I have a newfound appreciation this year for actually having a therapist, discussing mental health and what you feel. You can’t give power to certain things or they will control you. You have to find a balance. Those are two important things: balance and self care.
iEDM: Anything else you’d like to share about the future of The Black Box and Sub.Mission?
NC: We’re getting ready to launch four shows in Europe next year starting in January. We doing a London show and then we’ll announce Bristols, Vienna and Amsterdam after that. As far as the agency goes, we just signed the Slug Wife guys, Mala and Commodo. It’s a really good time for me, personally, I’m representing these guys I grew up idolizing. It’s finally at the point where everyone is coming together for the right reasons.
With The Black Box, we just finished building a studio where we will be opening The Black Box studios. This is where we will have our Master Classes. For two hours prior to artists sets, if they agree, they are going to teach people about production, mastering or mixing. Whatever topic they want to discuss. We are going to start a Twitch channel and all of it will be archived. Tying in the teacher part of me with music education.
We even have our sound engineers, stage managers and VJ talk about their stuff. A lot of music industry education. So many people want to work in the music industry. We have so many applications and so many people wanting to do internships. There aren’t enough outlets for people to do it or every figure out if this is really what they want to do! I am really excited for all of that. We just applied for the Denver music and art grant and we got it!
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