Opening letter from festival founder and curator Sean Horton

Perpetually shy and socially awkward, I consistently found refuge in books, art, film and music. I came to appreciate music in particular as a universal language, which I learned both as a musician and connoisseur. As my music tastes expanded working a music store in my teens, I began to interact with various subcultures and communities forming lasting bonds that I’ve carried with me as an adult. In particular, the early 90’s gave way to a massive influx of Detroit Techno artists and parties that would pave the way for an international sensation unlike the world has ever seen. To be part of that community in its infancy was inspirational to say the least.

As a Detroit-area transplant who had been bouncing around the Pacific Northwest since 1995, it wasn’t until landing a job in the music industry in Seattle in 2002 that I truly felt at home. Though I appreciated Seattle’s urban beauty, I couldn’t seem to connect with a community here. Up to that point, nearly everything I’ve done in my life had centered around music. With the new career, home and financial stability, I finally had the time and income to do something substantial.

My first production company “Dreaming in Stereo” emerged from a basic idea: how can I unite a seemingly elusive community of electronic music fans who, like me, had grown disenchanted with the “post-rave” cultural landscape? I wanted to meet like-minded individuals who appreciated music, art, technology and their intersection. New digital audio technology was on the rise, giving way to a fledgling breed of “laptop performers”, much in part to companies like Ableton. A new age of digital improvisation, collaboration and performance was born, which gave me an idea to showcase the producers, deejays and companies exploring this new territory.

Though founded in 2003, the 1st Annual Decibel Festival took place September 23rd through 26th, 2004. The modest four-day program took place across four venues and attracted 2,500 attendees. Funded primarily on credit cards and run by a volunteer crew, the festival focused on live electronic music performance and collaborative visual art. I also wanted to incorporate education through daytime audio workshops. At the end of the day, I lost money but made lifelong friends. Those friendships and the surrounding community have continued to support the vision over the years and become the lifeblood of Decibel.

Today, 10 years later, not much has changed. Decibel is still a volunteer run festival partially funded on credit cards. It’s still based in intimate venues; we still host free daytime educational workshops; it’s still largely comprised of live electronic music performance and collaborative visual art. Though the size of the festival has grown to over 25,000 in 2012, the vision of the festival has remained steady.

Despite the financial and physical toll the festival takes not only on myself, but on the incredible team fueling the now monumental program, I never want to stop. Considering the sheer size and magnitude of the festival, it would not be possible without the dedicated people that make up our team. If you know them, thank them…hug them…hire them! They truly are some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Decibel Festival and with that comes a great deal of pride and reflection. More than any other edition, this program features highlights from years past, including Green Velvet, Speedy J, Thomas Fehlmann, Nils Frahm, Mount Kimbie, Machinedrum, Gold Panda, Nosaj Thing, Kode9, Max Cooper, Shigeto, Tiger & Woods, Pezzner and Lusine. As with every year, we’re excited to host several forefathers of electronic music, including Moby, The Orb, Peter Hook, Juan Atkins and Derrick Carter. Lastly, we look forward with anticipation to several festival debuts, including Nicolas Jaar, Lorde, Art Department, Zedd, Ben Klock, Olafur Arnalds, Zola Jesus, Henrik Schwarz, Flosstradamus, Neon Indian, among many others. Combine them all with the dB Conference, boat parties, park event and other festival activity and you have our most complete program to date. We look forward to celebrating it with you!

-Sean Horton