Ben Cantil is obsessed with sound.
Growing up in Kenai he idolized music producers, played instruments, joined his high school's jazz band and couldn't make it through a conversation with anyone, even his own mother, without mentioning his passion.
Rock, jazz, electronic -- anything was food for his hungry musical mind.
An open ear for new textures led him down the path he now walks as a prominent DJ in the thriving music scene known as dubstep.
"I realized that production was all about taking a sound and perfectly preserving it, and that is what they train you to do in the production department," he said. "I realized that is not quite what I wanted to do.
"I really wanted to take a sound and get creative with it. I wanted to take sounds and destroy them, not preserve them. Turn them into something completely different."
Much as he diverted from production and into sound engineering, the musical world he now embodies has diverged from those that came before it. Dubstep might be unlike anything you've ever heard -- mostly it is the inevitable convergence of several electronic music movements into one distinct sound, Cantil said.
Despite playing to packed danced floors around the nation as Encanti, his DJ name, pursuing the music he loves and making hundreds move and dance as one, Cantil isn't convincing himself that he's reached any level of success, he said.
"To me success comes in quick moments," said the Alaska Native of Tsimshian heritage who now lives in Boston. "There is a moment when something goes right -- you're either in front of 20 people or 20,000 people, and you are exactly where you want to be."
The 26-year-old Cantil has returned to Alaska and will give a show in Anchorage tonight. He graduated from Kenai Central High School in 2003 and started playing guitar in middle school. Music quickly became a passion.
He found KCHS' jazz program and fell into the hands of the school's band director Deborah Sounart.
"She let me be weird and into all the weird music I liked, and she really encouraged me to be an artist even though it's something that might bring you more hardship than it brings you reward," he said.
Sounart said she isn't surprised that Cantil has become the musician he is today and said the two communicate often. "Ben has always had potential ... even when he walked through my door as a freshman" she said.
It was during Cantil's formative high school years that he laid the roots for his later musical career.
His work ethic -- waking up early to go to jazz band.
His showmanship -- playing open mike nights at Busters Coffee House.
His ability to move a crowd -- working as the DJ for several high school dances.
He also was encouraged by his mother, Patricia Schaeffer-Patterson, who pushed her son to take risks and make an adventure of life, he said.
"I really attribute feeling like it is OK to do something that people don't normally do, something that might not be safe (to her)," he said. "Toward the last years in high school that's all I did was live and breathe music."
That musical tenacity carried over into Berklee College of Music, where he eventually graduated in 2007 with a degree in music synthesis and fell into a community of musicians he could collaborate with.
Cantil said dubstep is a "trick genre" of music.
In his analogy, it is to electronic music as skateboarding is to sports -- simple ingredients with endless combinations of elements unique to each DJ, he said. The DJ pulls the audience in slowly and then surprises them with the trick.
"In the course of a dubstep song you kind of build this tension, and then there is a moment called 'the drop' and that is when the bass suddenly comes on," he said.
Whereas heavy metal and rock are concerned with fast drumming and distorted guitar, dubstep is "all about the bass," he said.
The genre has really evolved since Cantil first discovered it. At that time it wasn't popular and there were only a handful of DJs dialed into the sound.
"The feeling of having a whole crowd really follow you through that journey of tension and everyone just jumps on the drop is just so, so amazing," he said. "I've been chasing that feeling ever since I first experienced."
Now dubstep has entered into the mainstream music scene, claiming more famous DJs like Skrillex, who recently won three Grammys for his work.
"To me, I'm just happy there is more dubstep in the world," Cantil said with a laugh.
How Encanti is different from other acts comes from Cantil's influences -- Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and a wide range of electronic and psychedelic music, he said. He doesn't like to follow the traditional form and structure of the genre, he said.
His main project is the Zebbler Encanti Experience, which, along with visual artist Peter Berdovsky, known as Zebbler, seeks to create a sensory representation of the dubstep sound.
"We are one of the first acts as far as I know where visuals are an inherent part of our performance and our show," Cantil said.
The group recently toured the nation with fellow dubsteppers EOTO throughout 2011 and recently co-headlined a sold out New Year's concert in Minneapolis with Downlink, a fellow dubstep producer.
One of the biggest pinnacles, however, was playing in front of a crowd of about 20,000 at Camp Bisco X with Shpongle Live, a live version of a popular studio project from Europe. Cantil was one of 11 musicians that played Shpongle's music as the headlining act.
"I'm the guy that is playing the laptop," he said jokingly.
Kenai High School grad is bringing his new sound of music back to Alaska