Early this year I headed down into south London. It was the Thursday before January’s DMZ: Mala and Loefah had been at Transition cutting for their dance. But initiated by the prospect of a feature in Dummy magazine, I began a long interview with the pair of them. It had been a long time since I’d interviewed Loefah. My first and only interview with Mala happened even longer ago, for Deuce magazine around 2003/4, when “Pathwayz” came out on Big Apple. For a collective that have had such a profound and positive effect on my life, I admit I had always wanted to revisit them in interview, just once, to do the weight of their achievements justice – but only when the time felt right. That January evening the opportunity arose: this is that interview. I’d like to publicly thank Loefah and Mala for making it possible.
· Many thanks to George Infinite for the photos.
Blackdown: 2006’s was an amazing year, where dubstep broke out of its borders and went global. Where have you DJed this year?
Mala: America: New York and Baltimore Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Scotland, Wales. I haven’t been to Sweden or Danmark yet.
Loefah: I had a booking in Denmark but it was around the time of the bomb scare last year. I spent a lot of time on the roof of Gatwick airport carpark. They weren’t letting anyone inside the terminal building until last minute. I waited for six hours before they went “your flight’s been cancelled mate.”
B: What gigs have been highs and lows?
L: The lows are blatantly when they haven’t got the soundsystem set up right. When you get there any everything’s wrong, usually the soundsystem.
M: It’s always the soundsystem I will moan about. You always look forward to going away, seeing new things and meeting new people. For me the highlights are the people I’ve met. Learning about their cultures, what you have in common with people miles away from you. What I always find funny is that people talk about “you’re from England or London so you’re a certain way, and someone else who lives in another part of the world is another way.” But I don’t see that because I’ve found that there’s people who live thousands of miles away from me that I have more in common with than my own next door neighbour. That’s why I find the categorisation of music nuts as well. “World Music” sections in shops… at the end of the day it’s all music.
B: I came into music because I love the music but I’ve come to love the culture and what you learn about other cultures through music just as much as the music itself. Like Pinch’s “Qawwali”. How many people in dubstep knew what a “Qawaali” was before Pinch sampled that?
M: Yeah that is a deep thing. Like Portugal, walking around Lisbon, it’s nuts. The architecture is all old but it’s covered in graffiti and posters for dances. It’s a mad contrast of history and now. I find these places fascinating. I just feel truly grateful for the moments I’ve been having.
L: Crenshaw is in LA. It’s like, Boyz in Da Hood area. Morgan from Spacek is in the studio next to me but is out in LA mixing his album. He rang me and goes “I went to the shop today to get a juice and boys came up to him, some local kids from the area. He thought they were coming on top but nah, they asked him ‘are you that guy from London?’” Word had got round that he was in the studio. They said to him, “if you’re from London, do you know about dubstep?” He replied “yeah, Loefah is in the next studio to me in London” and they went nuts!” Out there, apparently, dubstep’s the new underground hip hop.
B: That’s the interesting thing: you take dubstep out of London and stick it in the Bay Area and does it come out a bit hyphy? Or Brazil and does it come out a bit Baille Funk? Every person that hears one of your gigs in Portugal goes away and says, “now I’ve also got some Moroccan music, I wonder how that would sound.”
L: It’s kinda like the Kode9 theory: the virus.
M: Music does that. It’s down to you as an individual to be as expressive and creative as an individual with your influences and your ideas. Just because you’re from somewhere or you do a certain thing doesn’t mean that’s how you’re always going to sound or stick to. It’s important to always try and do what comes natural, not box or limit yourself. You talk about that theory [that environment influences music] but then that should happen in every home because everyone’s home is different. Everyone’s quite individual.
B: Mala, your music writing always seems very natural and organic [more heart than head, say]. Do you ever go against that natural flow, say to yourself “I’m not going in that direction” and make yourself go the other way?
M: Not looking at other people’s music doesn’t make me think I am or aren’t going to do that [musical direction], but listening to music I’ve finished or half finished, I think ‘nah, that’s not what I’m on.’
L: Now I do consciously do what you said. Not always but I have done this year. I’ve been writing beats, put an element in and then thought ‘nah it’s not about that.’ I’ve limited myself – ‘I can’t use this, I can’t use that’ – until I’m down to an 808 kit and a sub. Yeah, it’s a mad one. As soon as I heard someone else’s dubstep track with an element that I had in a loop, if someone came with that track before me I’d be like ‘fuck, I can’t do anything like that, ever again.’ For examples arpeggiated sequences [a Skream trademark since “Request Line”]. My synth in the studio I can make the sickest arpeggiated sequences ever, they sound amazing. But I can never have them in my beats, ever.
B: Your sound Loefah, has been built by reduction, it’s the path that got you to “Horror Show” and so on, and your sound is quite minimal. So if you’re down to an 808 kit, what do you do next?
M: Do you think they’re really minimal though?
B: Each element varies a lot but the number of actual elements in Loefah tracks is low, which makes them feel minimal.
M: Loefah beats are deep.
B: I’m not saying they’re not…
L: Nah I’d agree they’re minimal. I’ve got this minimalist style and it minimalist in the truest form: it’s reductionist, taking away elements but…
M: I don’t really think about it that much.
L: I do a bit… I’ll tell you what, I tell you what I can’t do. I’ve tried to write things away from halfstep in the last few months. Not 4/4 but a bit more uptempo, and I can’t do it. I mean I can, I write a loop and bang my head to it, but it’s dry. It’s so not me. Influences man, I personally have got really lost in it.
M: You can have good influences and bad influences.
L: I’ve had a weird year musically. That’s the way I feel. I haven’t liked a lot of stuff I’ve done, to be honest, not 100%. I took a step backwards for a little while. What I needed to do was to stop writing beats for a bit. Consciously I paused for two weeks but if you take into account when I wasn’t finishing things, I dunno, three or four months? Maybe longer. But when I decided I had to get away I didn’t listen to dubstep or write beats and I went and started to enjoy being a music listener again and did it intensely, catching up, finding out about new stuff which I didn’t even know was going on, getting old stuff out I used to love. Just remembering my influences. And remembering what I’m about, musically. I can listen to a country and western tune, a hip hop tune and maybe even a rock tune and they’ll all have something which makes me like them. They’ll have some kind of common denominator.
B: I don’t think people realise sometimes how much music production makes you over analyse music sometimes. You can’t detach from it.
L: I had to though, it was driving me mad. You’re in the studio and even before you’ve turned your computer on, it’s like it’s an enemy of yours, staring at you. It feels like it’s conquering you. There’s a balance too. I got too anal this year into EQing and shit and forgetting to do the rest of the track. I’d spend two days working on a snare and be like ‘the track’s done now, because the snare sounds sick.’ I think being a good producer is knowing when to leave a sound alone, not keep going and going. If you look that music that gets over-produced, prog rock or whatever, it’s dry. It’s boring. A lot of house, a lot of drum & bass: it’s the same thing. Drum & bass: amazingly produced. Great mixdowns using fantastic pre-amps. But where’s the soul? Where’s the groove?
M: That’s what I’m fundamentally dealing with.
B: I think this is what’s good about a lot of tracks you both have made, is that people can engage with them emotionally, not just because they’re well made. But Loefah, I always got the impression that the fact that struggling with your own music had pushed you to higher levels, from the times of “Jungle Infiltrator” to “Horror Show” to “Mud” and beyond…
L: I think it did. But then it got to the point that is like when you mix paint too much and it all turns brown. I had to step back and say, “alright, do I need to know any more about a snare?”
People often talk to me about “the Loefah sound” but I’ve been trying to get my head around what that actually is. Because it’s not always clear, when it’s your own thing.
B: I always find with producers that they find they’re making what seems to them like very different tracks, but that’s because they’re comparing one of their tracks with another and looking at the differences. Whereas to other listeners, who might compare (say) a rock track with several of yours, they see the similarities in your tracks.
L: That’s why it’s about stepping back and looking at your own stuff like that. I’ve been listening to a lot of other DJs’ dubstep steps, more so than I would have. Really in depth. You look at what DJs play what tunes and what tunes they play at a time in a set, and why. You get an idea of what they see music and your music within their own context. It’s all guess work but it does help me.
B: How do you feel the DMZ parties are going? They seem consistently busy…
L: I suppose that’s what they are: consistent, so far.
B: A lot of people would have said “OK we’ve got a really popular night, let’s make it monthly or weekly.” Why haven’t you?
M: Because this is how it feels right.
L: if you do something too much, it gets boring.
M: The workload is a factor and time is something that in this day and age a lot of people seem to be chasing.
L: On a completely selfish level, if we were to go monthly, I’d have no time in the studio. I’m struggling to get in there as it is.
M: I like it how it is, it’s just right.
L: There’s other dubstep nights all over the place, there’s no need for us to monopolise.
B: To me I like it because it’s a focal point for new music, a high point. People make an effort to write and present new music.
L: [South London dubplate cutting house] Transition was open today [Thursday], even though it’s closed, specially to let people cut for DMZ on Saturday. Clue Kid and Cotti were there with 100 tracks to cut.
M: It’s the same reason now as it was then. We love hearing weighty tracks on a weighty system and just sharing that with people. With it being New Year I had a kind of reflective moment and I honestly can’t believe things are moving how they’ve moved. You don’t plan for anything like this. DMZ’s a nice atmosphere. It’s fun to be doing these parties.
B: What I enjoy is the balance between all the different types of people. I see people in there from all races and classes, all parts of town, people I haven’t seen in raves in ages.
M: So do I. That’s the thing I love, same when you go away to DJ, you just meet different people. There’s so many people in the world and we’re all so different but at the same time, we’re the same.
L: The maddest thing ever was New York. When I played there I really thought it would be a hard set. Because a lot of sets abroad, even now, you can play to a room of people standing still… but they’re loving it. In Portugal they wouldn’t call for the reload but when we reloaded it, they went nuts.
M: In Portugal they delayed the start, so we went on at about 12. All of a sudden we realised it was ram in there, at least a thousand people. We played our music and yeah, people aren’t necessarily skanking out: but they don’t walk away either.
L: I was expecting this stand still crowd in New York. I got the shock of my life. The room was packed and you’d have the tune in the mix for ten seconds and they’d react: they knew the tune. You know Joe Nice’s “5” thing? They all had pieces of paper with “5” on them. “Qawwali” was the biggest tune out there. I didn’t play it, but all the other DJs did, and it got three reloads. Sick. I’ve never seen a reaction to it like that.
B: “Qawwali” has a life of its own. People in different scenes love it. People that don’t like dubstep like “Qawwali”.
L: This is why I mention New York. They get it and they love it – but on their own terms. The tracks that are big out there are the tracks that they decide are big, not the tracks that come over from London. “This fits our vibe.” And I like that.
M: That’s what it’s about. Let them think for themselves. We’re not trying to force feed or lay false impression down. We do our thing and let people take it how they take it.
L: New York was amazing. So inspiring to have that reaction. It’s legendary… New York man! I still haven’t come down off my cloud. No jokes, it was amazing.
B: I still am delighted that after all these years of struggle this music has generated enough momentum to break out of its borders.
L: When we were in New York, Pokes and I were staying with Dave Q, the Dubwar promoter, who lives on this apartment building in North Brooklyn. It’s got a flat roof with a roof garden for all of them. We went up there to smoke a cigarette because we couldn’t get any weed and have a beer. All we could see was this Manhattan skyline. You could see the Brooklyn bridge and it was this skyline that you’ve seen in so many movies, depicted in drawings and comic books, t-shirts, everywhere. And there it was in front of you. We kind of looked at each other and were like… I’ve been knocking about with Pokes, doing not a lot, smoking weed and having a giggle, for years. We exchanged glances and it was like “how are we here? How did this happen? Our music has got us to this place that we’ve dreamed of.” It was a mad experience.
B: It’s right though, because you guys have worked for it.
M: People say stuff about your music but you can’t really see it that way but the things that it gives back… are just deep.
L: It proper humbles you.
M: It’s too much to put into words really.
B: It must be mad to be accepted in New York, a city that has had such an influence on the music we’ve all listened to.
L: Me and Pokes, when we were 19, we worked in this bar. We used to sit in my room, before or after work, and sit listening to hip hop, jungle too, but a lot of hip hop and just smoke weed and dream about going to New York one day. “One day we’ll go, we’ll have it up in New York, we’ll paint a train.” Then suddenly we were there and it was just incredible.
B: Didn’t King Tubby’s son just turn up at your New York gig Mala, because he liked your music?
M: Yeah. But that’s the thing that shocks me, it’s the people you bump into, talking to, that you can relate to.
L: Apparently Hank Shocklee came down to our gig in New York. He rang Dave Q for guestlist - and Dave Q doesn’t know Hank Shocklee. But Hank Shocklee knows dubstep. He’s in it. The Bomb Squad, man! Rah.
B: So can you explain a bit about how you managed to get to where you are now?
M: I don’t think I had just an initial hunger for anything, I just like building beats.
L: We’ve always done music together, that’s been our link. We used to make jungle mixtapes and never get nowhere.
M: We were never trying to get anywhere, we were just doing our thing.
B: But you always seem to be reaching out to achieve things.
M: Well if that’s what’s going on, it’s not something I consciously do.
L: No but you’re good at them things. When opportunities arrive, Mala will clock it.
B: Like for example at some point you must have first wanted to take music seriously. So how did you go about making the first step?
M: What I did was: bought a good pair of monitors. When I decided I wanted to make a beat, of a certain standard, then I got some monitors so I could tell exactly what is going on with the frequencies. I kinda new what I was after, because that was just natural. You find your program which works best for you, which at the time for me was Reason. And just went deep in it, played it like it was Streetfighter. That’s how I saw it, that making music was like a computer game. And you’ve got all these things that you’ll be twisting up. You start with silence and at the end of the time that you’re looking to go deep in it, you end up with five minutes of some’tin that just come from no where.
B: How do you fight off distractions – playing computer games, going out – to write music?
L: I don’t. when I’m writing a beat I’ve got bare other things going on. Playing computer, on the internet. If I just have me and the computer, I can’t get nothing done. Mala’s different though. If you get him on any computer game… there’s nuff times we’d be playing computer games at home, lean, we’d both be playing. Then I’d get too lean and just watch and Mala would be like “I’ll have another game.” I’d fall asleep, I’d wake up and it would be 6 in the morning and Mala would still be there: focused.
M: I can push through sleep mate.
B: Being able to live off lack of sleep has got to be a key asset to be a producer.
M: It’s a key asset to dying young as well I swear.
L: I’ve definitely found that the best time for me to write music is from about 3am to 6am. My proper going in gets done then.
M: Do you know when I mix down? For the final mixdown I will go asleep, and go into in first thing in the morning when my ears are fresh at just a moderate level. Then you can hear that everything should be where it should be.
L: My mixdowns always happen last thing. I need a deadline like going to Transition. That’s what makes me finish a track.
M: A kick up the arse. Haha…
B: To me dubstep is right to be listened to at night. It’s not daytime music. It’s also great to drive to.
L: Our agent Rebecca told us she was on the phone to grime’s JME. They were taking about how you’d describe grime music. He was saying “grime’s like going down the park, having a sandwich and seeing your mates play football.” And she said “I kinda see it like driving around in a car, late night in London.” And JME was like: “nar nar, that’s dubstep.”
That isn’t dubstep for me so much these days but the old days for us, the Hatcha years, the Youngsta years, Rinse, that was car music. Mala’s car. Coki’s car. Do you remember them early, early days, when we used to just block up in your car?
M: Yeah, many a time we’d listen to Rinse sets. 2003.
L: Park on the road, build a spliff, listen to Rinse. There’s only certain spots we could get it around south London.
B: How did the initial link with Hatcha come about?
M: I’ve known Hatcha for years man. I remember hearing Hatcha play, when Forward>> did a thing at Fabric in 2002.
B: The Tru Playaz night?
M: Yeah. I went with Coki. I remember Hatcha was playing there and I’d heard Hatcha play a few sets at garage raves and he was always deep because he’d play different record from what mainstream garage heads were playing. He’d always have a sound. I knew him from then. I don’t even know why… we were just writing these beats but it was only when we went and checked Hatcha in 2003 that he said come down Forward>>. Some of the beats we were making weren’t too far away from the beats we heard. So I played some beats to Hatcha and he was like “I could play this man.” It was a track that me and Coki had done in February 2003. He played it once and that was that. After that he played “Pathwayz”, “Mawo Dub” and “Indian Dub” and that was that. Hatcha heard some’tin, I’m not sure what he heard. But he introduced some’tin to a few heads.
L: Youngsta too, but the initial thing was Hatcha.
M: Like everything in life though, I’m the type of person that things in life you have to work for, one way or another. I aint really a person to ride on a next man’s back. So I wasn’t going to give someone music and do nothing else. That’s not my nature. My nature’s is to do more shit. I guess that’s how things started moving. We were getting beats played but not enough were coming out, so we decided to start a label to put our beats out.
L: Dubstep is what taught me to do think like that. If you want something in life, you have to go and get it. You can’t just wait for it or expect it to happen.
B: To me, it’s finding the strength to get up and go do it, that is the hard bit.
L: Mala was making his tunes for Hatcha, and he knew Hatcha. We used to link up on a production level, we’d link as friends and by the end of the night we’d get on a beat.
M: We’d always be talking about beats.
L: Playing each other the beats we’ve just written. I remember Mala was doing what he called “broken dub house” and it was live, man. I liked it. In my head I was going to bring back 1994 jungle. I was going to write this cross between ‘94 jungle and Metalheadz b-sides. Then I went to Forward>> with Mala when “Mawo Dub” got played and I had such a person connection with rave scene when I was younger, it used to be very important to me on a level that was probably a bit too serious, and I felt something in Forward>> that night that I hadn’t felt in years. It just felt like the Blue Note again.
B: Lots of people who helped start Forward>>, had wanted that Metalheadz/Blue Note vibe again.
L: But with Forward>> it wasn’t the music so much. I remember what blew me away the first few Forwards>> were [Wiley’s] Devil mixes. I think Youngsta was playing and I was just blown away. Then I was listening more to Mala’s stuff and it was then that it became known as, in my head anyway, “138 shit.” I was writing at 145-155bpm. That was then when it became music to be played at Forward>> but I still didn’t know it was called “dubstep.”
B: To me it seems like to a lot of people dubstep has filled a hole where jungle used to be. People have come over from drum & bass saying “this is what I’ve been waiting for.”
M: That was me as well. Loving jungle and then loosing interest… you just needed something else.
L: Something happened to drum & bass: it was Bad Company, though it wasn’t their fault. They come along with a new style that was fresh, and everyone jumped on their style. That was the start of formula drum & bass. The trend was: ‘everyone writes in this style.’
B: Everyone was waiting for that jungle replacement, which is why the DMZ night is so key…
L: The thing I love more than anything about DMZ is when you walk up the stairs you walk through into the main arena, that is what it was like at a rave. You got hit by this wall of bass and loads of sweaty people who didn’t actually give a fuck about the fact that you’ve walked in the door. They’re not looking at you. You find your spot, you get your drink, big bass, crashing beats and that’s the dance.
B: 2006 was a mad year for dubstep, unlike any other. What do you guys hope for, for the next few years?
L: I still don’t think about the future.
M: Nah, not like that. I just want to finish some beats. You know when you’ll get a drink that you love? And you’ll just rinse that drink out for weeks. Every day you’ll go and buy it. Eventually you’ll get sick of it and I love music so much I don’t want to get sick of writing it.
L: At the same time I feel with writing music I’m just scratching the surface.
L: It’s a rabbit hole.
B: Kode said something that’s haunted me for ages, that’s music’s like a drug, and like all drugs eventually its effects ware off. I don’t want to believe it.
L: I don’t believe it. I think if music’s a drug it’s an opiate. Heroin addicts say that once you’ve taken it once, the devil’s on your back for the rest of your life. That’s music isn’t it? Once you’ve got it, it’s there, in your ear, talking to you, telling you what to do.
B: It definitely feels like an addiction to me. But I’d rather be addicted to music than anything else.
L: It’s not an addiction, it’s just part of life.
M: Standard. It’s not even something I can think about: not having music.
L: It’s breakfast. It’s sitting up in bed, a cup of tea. It’s the standard things in the day. It’s always there. It’s birdsong.
B: Birdsong is a better way of putting it than an opiate, for me.
L: Can you imagine no music? I can’t. If I was in the desert I’d be beating on the sand. Or humming. Singing at the top of my voice because no one else is about.
M: It’s part of life, it always is, from when you’re in the womb, hearing certain frequencies and shit.
L: Kode9 told me that when you get that big bass, no gnarl to it, it makes you feel cool, feel nice, because it reminds you of the womb and your mum’s heartbeat.
M: This is why I think a lot of people like house, that four beat, is like a heartbeat. That shit is infectious mate.
L: 140bpm is supposed to be a good speed to write at because it’s double resting heartbeat. Benga told me that.
M: Benga’s deep.
L: But it doesn’t apply to me because I’m kind of writing at 70 bpm. I am! My hats are at 140 bpm though…
B: What are your thoughts on a Digital Mystikz album, Mala?
M: The way I try and work is if something happens, it happens. And now, it’s not happening. I’m not trying to put that thought into my head, try and get something done by a certain time. Because I just can’t work like that. I’m not writing nothing off but I don’t think it’s important for me to do.
L: It would be rude not to though. Nah it would! [Joking] Actually there is a Mala album coming. It’s coming out on Loefah Bootlegs Volume 1 ahahah…
B: I think you’re right not to force it Mala, but I do think an album would reach people that don’t normally buy 12”s.
L: But then those people might not reach Mala, and they reach him now when he plays.
M: It’s not something I’m thinking about it. And I don’t think about it because then it becomes tricky. Haha simple.
B: How does DMZ the label work?
L: [Smiling] It comes down to paper, scissor, stone between the three of us usually.
M: It is what it is really.
L: We have a meeting and sort it out.
M: The whole dubplate thing means you can see tunes doing certain things and then you can tell from that. And that’s the interesting thing about it because although the people don’t dictate, it’s ultimately what the people talk about that builds the music up. But we’re not trying to confine ourselves to any one sound.
L: I think you know when a certain track’s right for the label, because I’ve said ‘no’ to tracks of mine going on DMZ, when I don’t feel like they’re good enough. But there’s no definite sound to the label. I just want the beats to be my favourite, the ones I like myself.
M: Everything should be quality control.
B: It’s a shame Coki wasn’t about…
L: … he’s here man [smiles].
B: That’s what it’s like in clubs with him! You won’t see him but he will be there somewhere - no one will have noticed him. But everyone will notice his track smashing the club to bits. And what about Pokes, you seem to have known him for a long time?
M: I’ve known Pokes years.
B: He seems like the fourth member of DMZ…
L: It ain’t even four members, it’s one member. We form like Voltron, like Wu Tang. We go away and I’ll play a Loefah gig and Mala will play a Mystikz gig and it’s alright. But when we come together and do our thing, it’s bad. Captain Planet, man: our powers combine.
B: Pokes seems to be a master of jokes. His banter on the Dubstep forum is second to none.
M: I’ve known him years, yeah, and he is one of the funniest people I know, without a doubt. He has me in stitches. If he were here it would be a different interview, he brings in that type of energy.
L: Every time I see him, he makes me laugh. You know “funny guys,” sometimes it’s like “give it a rest mate.” But Pokes doesn’t even try.
M: And that’s what he does in the dance.
L: I’d describe his humour as sadistic. Please quote me on that, because he’ll like that. But no, he’s really quick witted, you can’t leave yourself open.
B: He’s key to the DMZ night because he conveys that everyone – DJs and ravers – are all in it together and it’s a positive vibe.
L: Exactly he’s the communication. Everyone talks about bloody lyrics, right, but he’s actually having a conversation with people. Not just “listen to me.”
M: Through Pokes, there’s people that name dances, from his sayings. I saw something talking about “doing a Churchill” and that’s what Pokes talked about in DMZ Leeds, because everyone’s nodding their heads like the Churchill Insurance dog. “When this one comes in, all you lot will be doing the Churchill…”
B: My favourite is “redeye jedi.”
L: Yeah that’s an old one, that’s a jungle lyric.
B: It’s one thing to work with an MC you like, but it’s deeper to work with someone you’ve known for years.
M: This is the whole DMZ thing. It’s natural. Mans is just rolling like when we were at college and shit.
L: When we first got into dubstep, Pokes wasn’t in it.
M: The first time he came in, was when we did [Rephlex’s] Grime party at The End.
L: And we had to hassle him! “Come on bruv, just host it for us, please. Don’t chat, just intro it.” And he was like “It’s strange but I just don’t think you should chat to this music.” We really had to twist his arm.
B: It could have been so different.
L: I think Pokes is a big, big part of DMZ. Because it needs a vocal aspect. But I think it’s not that lyrically driven. If you want lyrically driven, go to a grime rave. We have our thing which isn’t lyrically driven. It’s not better or worse, it’s just not that.
M: Strickly good vibes. You’re coming into our house man.
B: People probably don’t realise, but wasn’t your first ever DJ set was at The End Mala?
M: It was.
B: That’s a pretty amazing place to have your first DJ set.
M: When they asked me, I looked at it like an opportunity. I was like: I’ve always loved DJing but I’ve never really wanted to be a DJ, but the reason why is because I’m totally deaf in my left ear. So I’ve always thought that if I’ve got to DJ in a big place I’m not going to be able to do it, even if I could mix in a bedroom. But I had decks when I was younger, I’ve been buying records for years but I wasn’t looking to DJ. So when Rephlex asked, I thought even if it only happens once, it’s an experience, so I’ll do it. Later I thought to myself, ‘shit what am I going to play?’ And then I thought, I might as well cut loads of dubs, because I had music so I might as well cut it. And that for me was when the step was made where it’s like not just like a couple of my beats in people’s sets but now you’re gonna hear my sound. This is my sound. We both played that night and so this was the first night that the DMZ sound got showcased. I remember it not being that busy compared to the first party, which I’m actually quite glad about, because I was shitting myself.
B: Fair enough, it’s The End!!!!
M: I’ve seen big DJs in there, so to play there was just… rah. It’s one of those things where you know you’re alive because you’ve stepped into something that you’re fearing. But you go and do it anyway. Plus the fact that people might not dance to my sound was quite daunting but after playing a few times and people don’t always dance, you realise that perhaps people don’t always dance to the music that I’m making but people aren’t leaving. But it started changing the perspective on what my music might be for. I don’t think I necessarily make beats for the dancefloor. I make beats for a dance, a big system.
B: I think it’s the next challenge for dubstep, now it’s popular, that producers can write beats that don’t have to be the biggest beat every time or the most rewound tune. Like the risks taken for Devil mixes, you don’t have to play them all the set, but just some of the set.
L: You are right though. When we played Leeds, the room was packed but it was like being at Slammin’ Vinyl. Birds in bikini’s a guy on stage with white gloves and glowsticks.
L: It was different, it was “a rave.”
B: Did bits of the roof fall off onto the decks due to your bass this time?
L: No they had a canopy. So yeah, something dawned on me that I didn’t want this, I’m not trying to create rave again, me personally with my sound or where I want to take my sound.
B: This is why I think you guys get it right by using good soundsystems because it means tracks don’t have to be the fastest or the hardest, because you can feel them properly. I mean, look how well your “Cray’s Cray” remix has done Mala? And that’s not the fastest or the hardest.
L: That’s the baddest dubstep tune written. It’s sick mate.
M: I worked hard on that. Because it was a remix, the way I approached it was different, because you’re writing for somebody. I remember it being a really different process, but I enjoyed it.
B: It’s nice to hear vocal tunes in dubstep.
L: Nah. Not all vocals but certain vocal tunes. But that track does it… that track’s the one.
M: The vocal, for me, created in inspiration to piece everything around it, even though the vocal isn’t used throughout the track. All I used from the original was the vocal and the trumpet. Everything else I played, like the melodica, the keys.
L: It’s not just a scene tune, it’s a really, really good piece of music.
B: It’s one of those important tunes, because it appeals to people beyond the core dubsteppers.
M: I don’t like one type of person. The whole “dubstep” thing, I don’t think in that box.
L: Dubstep is a box now. It didn’t used to be a box, but it is now.
M: But that’s just natural because we put everything in boxes, man. But I just keep trying to fight that.
B: And as long as people keep doing that there’ll still be enough different spaces to grow into. It definitely needs to be pushed though.
L: I think it’s going to break. I think there’ll probably be a split somewhere along the line.
M: I don’t really see it as splits because even though you say there’s scene or whatever, everyone’s still doing their own thing.
L: Yeah but I can still see there being a definite shift in the music. But literally only in my crystal ball, it’s not like it’s definitely going to happen…
M: It’s natural.
L: I could see it splitting into two different things.
M: Just do your thing and enjoy your shit. Serious. Don’t worry about the rest of the world.