Saturday, May 16, 2009
Over the Christmas holidays last year, I ended up having a few long, quite amazing phone calls with Loefah. I don't know why it'd been quite so long since I spoke to him, but he seemed inspired, as inspired as I could remember in the interviews I did with him in 05 and with Mala in 07. What was he inspired about? Kryptic Minds.
On a cold January evening, Loefah suggested I come down to his studio, meet Si Kryptic Minds and talk about their plans for the Kryptic Minds album on Loefah's new label Swamp 81.
The result is the longest interview I've ever done and took me over a month to transcribe. It's inflused with echoes of the past and glimpses of the future. Circles and cycles abound as the pathways of British urban music loop back on themselves at different points.
The interview got used for my Pitchfork column, where I made the case for the importance of negative-energy, stripped back halfstep. It's probably what Simon Reynolds would call a structuration element.
Kryptic Minds have also been kind enough to record me an exclusive studio mix, to go with this interview. And while some of it is the trademark dark halfstep that the album pursues, it's fitting - a summer begins to appear - that there's new, lighter material too. Bigup to Kryptics for sorting this out.
Kryptic Minds Studio Mix for Blackdown
Download it HERE:
Kryptic Minds - Untitled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - The Weeping - Disfigured Dubz Dub
Kryptic Minds - Untitled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - Untitled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Leon Switch - Latin Dub - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - Wondering Why - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - Untitled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - Unititled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Leon Switch - Untitled - Osiris Music uk Dub
Kryptic Minds - Three Views Of A Secret - Swamp 81 Dub
Kryptic Minds - Mercury Rising - Dub
Kryptic Minds - Bad Man - Dub
Kryptic Minds - Rubberman - Dub
Leon Switch - Untitled - Dub
Kryptic Minds - Dissolved - Swamp 81 Dub
Kryptic Minds - One Of Us - Swamp 81
Kryptic Minds - Organic - Swamp 81 Dub
Kryptic Minds - Follow Me - Dub
Kryptic Minds and Loefah interview: late January 2009
Blackdown: So tell me about how the connection between you both came about? Because the album sounds perfectly made for Swamp 81…
Loefah: It just came about through iChat, I was like “how’re you doing?” We were talking about this snare he made by hitting a stick against a tree and recording it on his mobile phone.
Si Kryptic Minds: He thought I was crazy I think…
L: I was really into it, I was like ‘alright.’ I wasn’t sure how to take it so I was like… ‘alright.’ Then he offered to send over some beats. I’d had some missed messages from you before that I’d been meaning to follow up on, but if I’m totally honest, the whole drum & bass thing made me go ‘hmm, I’ll follow it up when I’m ready.’ But that night I listened to the beats and I was like ‘fucking hell,’ I couldn’t believe it. Blam.
B: Had you heard a lot of Loefah’s music before you sent him some beats?
S: To be honest, in terms of dubstep, I’d heard a few bits when it first came around [for reference, I think he means 2006ish here – Blackdown] but I was so heavy into what I was doing I didn’t get it, to be quite honest. I was listening to things on shop websites and the stuff I’d listened to it just reminded me of slowed down wobbly drum & bass, which is the stuff I really don’t like…
S: …so I just shrugged it off, quite kind of arrogant I guess, because I didn’t look deeper into it. Because it’s exactly the same issue with drum & bass: you can go and listen to wobble but if you look deeper, there’s some good music. Then basically a friend of mine, Skitty, sent me a link to Mala’s page and said check this tune out, and it was “Bury the Bwoy.” When I heard that and the “Jah War remix” that I thought, ‘yeah I can make something like this.’
B: Interesting because once you get past the wobble, those two tunes are quite different ends of the percussion spectrum.
S: I fell in love with both tracks and I had messaged Mala on Myspace but the real connection came with Loe when I sent him some beats. The “Jah War remix” I was really into, it had that whole b-boy feel to it. So it made sense to bring the album out on Swamp. The vision of what he’s got is bang on. So, it’s good.
B: I can see how you [Si] would like his sound, but it sounds like it was found Loe at the right time for him too.
L: Totally. I didn’t know what was going on: throughout 2008 I was very confused about where the sound was going. There was this whole jump up thing going on, which is what it is. To be honest it’s not my preferred music but … it fills a gap nicely. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and Benga and Skream, for example, and what they play at the bigger rave kinda clubs. I mean, look, if you are under 25 and you’re taking pills and this is the first time you’ve seen this…
S: You’re going to love it!
L: You are. But I’m not, so it was like: OK.
B: I think your approach to this is quite “philosophical”. I say ‘I fucking hate it and it’s a tragedy that it’s turned out the way it was,’ but you say ‘well…’
S: I think it’s like drum & bass: there’s a place for everything and I do hate the whole ‘putting music in a box’ thing, you’ve got the jump up, the liquid stuff, but with dubstep I do feel there’s a place for that [wobble] but personally I’m just not into that.
B: Yeah, I agree, the only difference with dubstep is that it happened to dubstep fully knowing it had happened to jungle. Most of the people in dubstep, at one point or another, were into jungle. They came via garage or they directly from jungle in 04 or 06 but they loved the darkness of jungle. So it seems sad to have it happen again with a sound that’s now detached from it’s roots. From Splash “Babylon” to Pendulum and then it happens again…
L: The worst thing was we, in 2004/5 were all saying we were never going to make that mistake. No it’s not going to happen to us.
B: But ‘we’ is mostly not the people who are now doing it, with some exceptions.
L: Yeah it wasn’t us lot, as it were.
S: This is where I don’t know about it all, I’m quite outside it all and I do quite like that. We just make music because we like it.
B: I’m sure it’s a good position to be in, in many ways, because you just do what you need to do and find your own direction. But one of the things I really do like about your album is that you really can hear the echoes of jungle in it. Now I don’t know if you can hear that too, because it’s just so much what you do. Some of the tracks have elements that remind me of Goldie’s “Timeless” and I’ve never stopped listening to “Timeless.” In fact I’ve started intensively listening to it again recently.
S: Yeah same here. “Sea of Tears” I’ve been all on that last week.
B: Photek too is a reference for the album, not in a percussive sense, but in the way he places sounds…
S: Yeah that’s where we came from, from the Photek thing, from the Metalheadz thing, hence why we recorded for ‘Headz. Tracks like “Generation Dub” on the album the way the hits are, that reminds me of being very Photek-esque. We weren’t trying to rip him off, we were just so new to making dubstep. When we started making it we didn’t know anything about it. We’re only going back a year: we first started speaking to Burial Christmas of last year. We was making tracks at 128bpm because we thought that was the tempo. And it wasn’t until I started speaking to Youngsta that he said ‘nah bruv, your tracks need to be 140 bpm ish’ so he schooled us a bit. We sent him tracks and he’s say ‘try this, try that, you’ve got the tempo right’ and it was just really nice to come away from 172bpm and drop it down and just have fun with it instead of ‘your music has got to be like and got to be like that, and if’ it’s not like this it’s not going to sell or so and so is not going to play it.’ That’s why I got so annoyed with drum & bass, people are so locked off into playing this music to get that booking.
L: That’s even happening in dubstep now, which is kinda the point of this label. ‘Actually, fuck that… y’know?’ What I want to push with Swamp is the gap that isn’t really being represented anymore. The roller, the halfstep. Mmm… spacious. Because I think even to just say ‘halfstep’ is to give it a formula.
B: Because technically most of the wobble stuff is halfstep. So to me the word I like is ‘edgy’. Because a lot of the tear-out drum & bass and the wobble dubstep is comically aggressive in a kind of embarrassing way. I’m not scared of it, it’s ridiculous. If you want to be hard, I’m dealing with grime MCs, I think those boys mean what they say. But with good halfstep there’s a lot of edge, of tension.
S: It’s feeling. You gotta have that feeling.
L: I definitely take the “Timeless” link from Si and Leon’s music and I do see the Photek in it, but I also really hear a link to Reinforced in ‘93. Darkside and not the ‘horrorcore’ or whatever, but the real experimental side of like ‘you know what, we’re making music for pissed off people in the rain’ kind of thing. I don’t know if you [Si] have that in mind but I get that vibe from your beats, from hardcore when it just was about to turn into jungle. And that’s what I want to bring through on the label, y’know? That’s why I think the Kryptics stuff is perfect, right now. Because to say the only thing going on in dubstep is wobble is not true, there’s the deeper side. But to be honest, personally, I’ve got as much interest in doing deep shit as I do in wobble.
B: When people say ‘deep’ dubstep it reminds me of liquid v clownstep in drum & bass, because liquid was as formula-ed as clownstep. And the way it’s quite safe is boring in itself. I don’t mind a few of those liquid tracks, but as a formula it got a bit much, just like house got a bit much. When people say “deep” I say “Mud” is deep, but its not polite.
L: Yeah exactly. Some of the “deep” stuff – for a want of a better word – is sonically better for my ears but it’s still not something I’m interested in going into the studio and going ‘yeah lemme write, this ‘deep’ sound.’ But I think the Kryptic Minds album and this 12” as well it’s just making a bit of a statement, saying ‘you know what? It’s not this, it’s not that, we’re right in the middle and we’re headstrong with it. You either like it or you don’t.
B: I think the album is really timely because its long enough away from what you, Loefah, were originally doing that it feels really fresh. So much other stuff has gone on that people have kinda forgotten about what you and Youngsta were doing in 2005, which was saying ‘we can make ‘dance’ music that’s half the tempo.’ It was quite shocking when you first did that because you’d taken it further than most people were willing to go, especially coming from where we were coming from, which was basically dark garage. It’s good because it suggests there’s something possible out there that’s not just party music. Dubstep can be something else.
S: Going back to when we started writing the 140bpm stuff, literally the only tunes we listened to was “Bury the Bwoy” and “Jah War remix,” though obviously I’d heard some of Burial’s stuff. And to be honest I still don’t listen to a lot of stuff, only what Headhunter sends.
So with the album it was just about putting the headphones on, walking down the street, music to make you feel cool. Like “Timeless” you walk down the street and you’re on top of the world. It’s not about wobble or anything else, it’s about does it make you feel cool? Hopefully it will make someone else feel cool.
L: When you say ‘cool’ you don’t mean ‘trendy’ though do you, you mean ‘good’ or ‘happy.’
S: Yeah, just cool. Put’s a smile on your face: it’s cool. That’s it, that’s all we’ve ever done within any music we’ve made. And we’ve made music that will make you cry as well. On our last album we done a tune called “Opus Dei” and I couldn’t listen to that track without crying. And I couldn’t for months possibly because it was an emotional tie between the Album and my brother. It’s a full on orchestral piece. But it still makes me feel cool, even though I’m in floods of tears
B: It’s interesting the Reinforced reference. Because I get the sonic connection but the difference with early jungle is it had a rhythmic chaos to it. By comparison your album sounds very controlled, everything sounds perfect, in its perfect place.
S: It’s a fluke haha…
B: You’ve got me there! It doesn’t sound like a fluke it sounds like you put the work in.
S: I mean we have put the work in but it just kinda happened. First of all we did do one album, a “One of Us” album, but when I took it away and mastered it, I spent three weeks doing it, I said to Leon we’ve got to ditch half these tracks because it sounds like a collection of 12”s, there’s no deep tunes. Tunes like “Three View of a Secret,” that’s when I went into the woods. There’s a track on there called “Organic” that has so many wood samples in it: me in the wood recording 128 kb on my mobile phone and getting a natural bit reduction. The intro is me walking to the car and me slamming the car door. There’s three tracks on there build up from me hitting trees with different thicknesses of wood against trees.
B: When you hear the album do you see yourself in these rural spaces?
S: I dunno…
B: Because it doesn’t sound organic album, like I’m seeing fields when I hear it, it’s dark corners and textures with urban grit.
S: Yeah… to be honest it just kinda happened. It was just literally from “Jah War” and “Bury the Bwoy,” taken those two tracks and just two tracks, not listened to much else and then took our influence from old “Timeless” and Photek and kinda set the tempo at 140bpm and thought ‘OK, I want to get an Eastern feel with this one. OK let’s do it.’ And that’s it and it’s been really good fun. No pressure, just brilliant fun. So when you hear the album, it sounds like it’s been fun not like the last album which was so serious because of the dedication to my brother and it was so intense. Meeting Loefah at the time he was saying about Swamp, I didn’t even know about Swamp.
B: Did it even exist?
L: It kinda did, I came up with the name, registered the blog/myspace/webspace etc in May last year. I just couldn’t find anything for it. I didn’t want it to be just another dubstep label bringing out whatever.
S: And that’s what I like about it, because like I said to Loe, I’d never give anyone our album, apart from him. That’s how much I trust in what he’s saying and the vision of the label.
B: I think it’s going to be interesting for people to hear the reference points you’ve taken, because hearing the album I think people might have assumed you’ve heard a lot of Loe’s stuff, the “Mud” era.
L: Do you know what I think it is? I think it’s Youngsta, I think he’s the link.
S: I think it’s a full circle thing.
B: The first time I heard your beats I walked into the Rinse studio and he was playing them, but the monitors were so loud when he told me who they were by, I couldn’t hear the name. Then Loe, you dropped them at DMZ in November, they sounded amazing but I didn’t make the connection.
S: “One of Us” was built for Youngsta.
B: There’s the symmetry: because Loe used to write for Yunx.
S: Youngsta would be on the phone to me, just like he was with you Loefah, saying ‘move that there, put that here, turn your sub up…’. It really helped because it introduced us into the scene. It was like ‘I’ve given you some tips, now go do your thing now.’ And from that we made the album. But the halftime thing of Youngsta and Loefah, I only heard about that recently. I don’t know any history at all.
B: That seems really healthy, because it allows you to experiment in your own way. There was a time when people were copying Loefah, badly, because they thought it was ‘easy’ to write halfstep, though that time has now gone and since then people have gone on to copy Coki and Skream.
L: And that’s what the scene is now, just Coki and Skream clones.
S: Same as what happened with Pendulum. Exactly the same: a million clones.
B: And how many of them were better?
L: For me, when drum & bass first did that, it was Bad Company, when I stopped buying drum & bass in 1999-2000. I really liked the first set of Bad Company tunes but then you’d go to Blackmarket or Section 5 and everyone was doing it. The people that weren’t, unless your name was Photek, you played the tunes and people were like ‘whatever.’
B: Loe’s always been a junglist at heart but how quickly did you guys both work out you had a shared love for it?
S: We’ve just chatted so much.
L: The connection was made quite quickly but then I think it comes into most conversations about things.
S: All the time.
L: It’s totally my reference point.
S: We like the same stuff as well. The whole “Timeless” and Photek thing, Reinforced: we’re from the same group and, well, that’s just a beautiful thing. To me Swamp is like an early Metalheadz , in a sense of fresh music. That’s what I see.
B: Hyperdub is like Metalheadz was, in terms of it’s a label of immense quality control but I don’t hear a really obvious sonic link between Hyperdub and Metalheadz, whereas I hear more of a one with Swamp.
S: I want us to be sitting here in ten years having another interview saying ‘we done good, look at the back cat. Every release is rich. It’s something to be proud of. That’s what I want. Whereas a lot of these labels, big or small, are not going to exist in ten years. That’s me as an outsider looking in. Because I’ve seen labels fall by the wayside because they’ve not kept true to themselves, they’ve jumped on the sales and jumped on what’s fresh whereas this label isn’t about that at all.
L: For me the core labels in dubstep are Deep Medi, Hyperdub and Tempa.
S: Not DMZ, no?
L: For one, I’m not going to say it because it’s my label already. But DMZ’s interesting, it’s at an interesting point. We set a trend but where do you go with that now? And to be honest I don’t really want to talk anymore on tape about it.
But yeah, for dubstep where it is right now, it’s Medi, Hyperdub and Tempa. Am I forgetting anything?
B: Well I think Peverelist’s done a really good job with Punch Drunk but it’s getting to the point with the wonkier stuff that it’s parallel to dubstep, it’s affiliated but different. But I think Hyperdub have put clear water between themselves and everybody else. They’re the one to watch. They’re the ones I look to when I’m running Keysound to see where the benchmark is but it’s great that there’s people around who are willing to push the levels. You need them to inspire everybody else.
L: I just think those three labels have their own ‘markets’, I don’t want to be talking about ‘markets’ but it’s part of it, you know? But I definitely think Hyperdub deals with the more experimental side of things. I think Medi is dealing with the deep shit which is good, pretty much the Anti Social stuff. Tempa – jump up, which whatever thoughts you have is there and has its place. So there’s this gap and that’s what I want to fill.
It’s kinda on the Metalheadz thing but it depends when you’re looking at Headz really.
S: Yeah I’m talking when Metalheadz first started and you had J Majik, Adam F, Dillinjah and they were all new.
L: I’m thinking Wax Doctor, Doc Scott, Goldie – that kind of thing. It’s that transitional phase between Reinforced and Headz that is in my heart. That’s what I’d like to do with Swamp. And I don’t want it to be labelled as “the halfstep label” I want it to have that kind of tunnel vision Metalheadz had in 1996, that kind of ‘we’re going this way.’ I’m not watching what you’re doing, I’m not watching what you’re doing – I’m going straight ahead.
B: I think this is really healthy and I think the Kryptic Minds album will remind people who got into dubstep in the last few years and perhaps didn’t catch all the things that happened in ‘04/05 and it’s a reminder that that really has a place in dubstep, whereas some people really don’t know it exists, if you’re talking mass market audience.
L: It’s funny, me and Pokes were on Broadway Market just after Christmas before January DMZ, just getting a burger and a coffee. This girl came up to us and she was a student doing her dissertation questionnaire. So we said ‘yeah, we’ll talk about shopping habit at the market, blah blah blah.’ We got chatting and she was like ‘oh, what do you do?’ We said ‘music’ and she asked ‘what music’ and we said ‘dubstep.’ She was like ‘oh I LOVE dubstep… what’s your names?’ And we were like ‘DMZ’ and she was like ‘what’s that?’
B: So what acts had she heard of?
**knowing smiles all round**
B: Right, exactly.
L: Them lot… yeah.
B: I had a similar thing recently but I’m not afraid to say names. A younger friend of the family said ‘oh you like dubstep?’ I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘what, like Chase and Status?’ Now I know they were in it from early, had a Bingo release in about 2002 but they’re much bigger than, and not really the defining act of, dubstep. Calling them just dubstep is doing them a disservice.
But this is about entry points really and I think it’s getting to the point where a lot of the entry points for people – and I’m not talking about Chase & Status here – are by people taking the dubstep sound away from what it is about or weren’t there to start with.
L: You know what, Chase & Status don’t bother me as much? Have you heard / track “Bits?” Ah fuck me it’s amazing. You would have heard it if you listen to Youngsta: it’s John Carpenter halfstep. Fucking brilliant. And yeah there’s other stuff but it doesn’t offend me as much as … those boys.
B: I think it’s interesting that in the last three years – 2006-2009 – there’s been a massive influx of both fans and producers from drum & bass. And so a lot of the music that has been made has reproduced that clownstep sound at 140 bpm. But there’s other stuff trickling through too. I saw D Bridge’s set at FWD>> on Sunday and I couldn’t really work out what tempo it was and I didn’t particularly care as it had that kind of common vibe that tied it all together, kinda epic, that made it D Bridge. He’s been working with Burial and working with Skream so it all kinda ties together.
S: He’s doing a remix for us, he owes us one actually. He’s a good guy man.
B: And Martyn had a background in drum & bass working with Marcus Intalex a bit. And I really like how these guys are finding their own take on dubstep.
L: I really like how D Bridge is doing it because he was one of my influences for starting the halfstep thing, through his work with Spacek.
S: Another full circle…
L: I’ve also got mad personal links with them, they grew up around the corner from me, they were mates with my mates. I didn’t know he was going to be at FWD>> but I heard it was great.
B: Busiest I’ve ever seen it, of all time. The back of the dancefloor crowd, which is normally at the curtain, was at the loos. Sardines. But I don’t think Martyn got a lot of love from drum & bass.
L: He’s quite open about that.
S: But that happens a lot in drum & bass.
L: I dunno, it’s quite a good thing really. If he had, he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing now.
B: So how did you go about ordering the tracks on the album? Because to me it feels very coherent…
L: It’s got a great narrative, right?
B: Some parts of the tracks sound connected but they’re all in their own ways different.
S: Basically as I said the first version sounded like 12”s, so I had to ditch half the album. I had the album in the car and was thinking ‘it’s cool but it’s not me…’
L: For them albums, why wouldn’t you just do them as 12”s? Tempa do well with the Skreamisms: four or five Skream tracks that are bangers, why not?
S: For the CD we almost wanted a couple of tracks like “One of Us” and “Six Degrees” that you could still play in a club but come home and chill to them. Going back to the last track on there, “Distant Dawn” that’s a bit of a Craig Armstrong-y thing.
B: That to me is the least similar track on the album. An end track.
S: We dropped the tempo to 90 bpm, got a piano out and said ‘right, let’s end the album now.’ The first track is the short bit of “One of Us.” I really wanted an intro, a middle and an end.
L: To me the album – and this may be really gushy…
S: Gush away…
L: …it’s like a night out. Leaving the house or wherever you are, going through the night and the last track is morning. The sun’s come up and it’s time for bed.
S: It sounds funny but I wanted some tracks I could play to my mum.
B: You sound like Burial haha!
S: It’s totally true though. The last album, because it’s dedicated to my brother, I gave it to my mum - and she’s always hated all of our music, she doesn’t like Amen drums and stuff, fair enough which I can see now I’ve got older – but with the “Lost All Faith” album I’d quite often come home and she’d have the CD on when her friends were around, listening to “Opus Dei” and I’m just standing there like ‘ohmygod, this is the maddest thing, it’s amazing.’ So I kinda wanted a bit of that as well. Obviously “Six Degrees” she isn’t going to be bumping that in the car but tunes like “Organic” and stuff it’s not offensive and I kinda wanted that as well.
B: I don’t know the history of your other album, you said it was dedicated to your brother, what’s the background to that?
S: Bascially my brother died in 2000. In 2003 we signed to Metalheadz and were doing a lot of work for Goldie and originally the album was for Headz. It was going to be the first artist album on Headz. But it didn’t really pan out and one thing lead to another. We do literally a couple of tracks a year and so we just left it because I was too emotionally tired: three years in and I’d just lost my brother so I was drained, at the time I was trying to write vocals dedicated to him and I can’t sing, at all. So it was kinda just a mad one because I’d lost all faith in drum & bass and because of the drugs, the drink and my brother killed himself, he had also lost all faith. That again was another circle. It came out in 2007 and so the album took about five years on-and-off to make. So the new one has been great fun. We’d been making tunes at 128 bpm thinking its dubstep…
B: It can be if you want to…
S: …so we just had fun with it. So last year was the best year I’ve had in music. I locked my phone off and wasn’t speaking to many people apart from close friends and it was jus beautiful, just really nice. The whole link with Youngsta and then with Loefah, it was just natural, it wasn’t like I had to go down to DMZ shouting ‘excuse me mate, wanna listen to my demo?’
L: That is the worst way of going about it…
S: It was just so natural, now we’ve played at DMZ which is massive. So yeah, we’re just really pleased.
B: You mentioned Amens and a lot of 170bpm drum & bass has so much percussive momentum. When you dropped tempo was it a deliberate choice not to replicate that type of drum programming? To go the opposite way…
S: It’s quite funny because in drum & bass I don’t think we’ve ever done a track without drum fills. The first ever 140bpm track we did was a remix of one of ours called “Minor Nine”. The remix had drum fills all the way through. Youngsta was like ‘nah nah, this is like slow drum & bass, it’s got all these fill things in it…’ He said ‘just take all those fill bits out,’ we did and it sounded a lot more like what we wanted to do. We were honestly that naive to it and to some degree we still are. And I wanna stay naïve, I don’t want to know who’s doing who and what’s doing what, I just wanna make music at 140bpm or not even at 140bpm.
B: It’s funny, because when I worked at Knowledge Magazine about four or five years ago there was talk of a drum & bass ‘scene meeting’ lead by Dillinjah, saying drum & bass needed to slow the tempo down.
S: I was at that meeting. It was at a pub, Laurence Road, at the bottom of SRD. At that time I was talking to Dillinjah because we were meant to be doing a “Nasty Ways” remix. We turned up and there was literally about 15 people there, I remember seeing Dom & Roland, Brian Gee, Lemon D… that was about it. And it was literally ‘what we got to do is slow the tempo down.’
L: You know they called a meeting like that for dubstep as well?
L: They were saying the opposite, like dubstep should speed up to 150bpm.
S: Nah that’d be the worst thing.
L: So it’s in between dubstep and drum & bass. I don’t think anyone influential in the dubstep scene went, I just heard about it.
B: The sense of it that I got from people who went was that they, the dubstep people, were being told how they were going to run dubstep. And it’s a bit like ‘riiiiight…. Creatively, we’re doing alright. You lot, on the other hand…’
S: People should be left to do their own thing. Music, initially, should be from the heart. And that’s why I want to stay as innocent as I possibly can in dubstep. I send the beats over and if they’re cool for Swamp, they’re cool. That’s why I like living out of the way. Me and Leon we just go in the studio, we don’t go out to clubs anymore. We literally just do our thing and any influences we get is totally outside any scene. I play bass so I listen to Jaco Pastorius and Victor Wooton and I love Craig Armstrong’s music.
B: I only mention the meeting because it’s like drum & bass couldn’t slow itself down even if it wanted to and so you can see how dubstep provided an outlet for people to say ‘there’s enough similarity with d&b so we can come over…’ instead of them slowing down.
L: We were playing in Bristol in about 2006 or 07. And it was a fundraiser so everyone was playing for free. Me and Mala had our set time, 1-2am or something like that and then Friction rang up and claimed he needed that set because he had to take his son to football or something and really played the ‘I’m the big drum & bass DJ’ card, ordering everyone around. He got his own way. So that’s that. Three weeks ago I was in a black cab with Benga coming back from the West End, we’d just been and eaten ribs or something. Benga gets a text message from Friction and he showed it to me. It says ‘I’m playing a set tonight do you have any dubstep?’ It’s like ‘why?’ I fucking hate it to be honest it gets right on my nerves. It’s not the producers as much it’s the DJs who are fucking killing me. How would they have felt if in 1994 all the big techno DJs went ‘yeah yeah yeah, we’re in it [jungle]?’ Even Squarepusher and all that lot tried to do it in their own way…
B: But they just got pushed away…
L: Right, so why don’t these guys have the same respect for us? Why don’t these guys – and that’s what breaks my heart in a way – would have the respect for us that we did what they did in a different time? We took fucking nothing and made something out of it. We made it our own. Why can you then come along and go ‘yeah yeah yeah, I’m a top boy in another scene…’ Would Pete Tong be able to come along and go ‘oh yeah I’m a drum & bass DJ now, give me all your dubplates and book me at your biggest raves?’
B: It boils down to the fact of whether you see music as something you make a living out of or something you care about emotionally. And as long as it can preserve the latter it’s fine. But it’s people’s careers now.
S: I haven’t made drum & bass in a year and a half now and I said to Leon: we actually need to change the name and forget Kryptic Minds. We’d only had one dubstep release on my own label, with a Headhunter thing on the flip and we kept it at Kryptic Minds because the original was by us.
L: You could have changed your name and it wouldn’t have mattered because the reason you’re doing what you’re doing in dubstep is nothing to do with your name it’s to do with the quality of your music.
S: That’s why we kept it.
L: It’s nothing to do with the name it’s the fact that you’ve written good beats and when you first wrote dubstep it did sound like slowed down drum & bass and when you got told about it you weren’t arrogant like ‘fuck you, this is what we do, we’re gonna put it out and people are going to love it.’
B: This is the impression dubstep people got of the attitude from a lot of drum & bass people, the attitude that dubstep is “easy” to make, you just drop to 140bpm and chuck a snare on the 3rd beat and that’s all there is to the scene.
S: Yeah so why wasn’t we all doing that ten years ago?
L: If it’s so “easy” why are you getting it so fucking wrong?
S: I do agree.
B: In your sound Si, I can totally hear “Jah War remix” as a reference point but I can’t hear as much of “Bury the Bwoy” which is really percussive, with the galloping kicks and the snares.
S: Yeah. We done a track called “Mercury Rising” which almost ripped the beat off, we just tried it and we’d never programmed a beat like that before. With tracks like “One of Us” there’s a flanging ride that comes in and that’s an old techno trick. A good friend of mine, who actually produced my first ever track, a guy called Paul Mac who makes Detroit techno and lives up the road from me, he always used to say: flanger on the hats, it’s an old techno trick. It adds something because you’ve got a lot of space in halfstep without the breaks. Some of our drum & bass tunes had six breaks in a track. Layering and switching and all this stuff. But with all this space you can hear the reverbs on the hits, you can do little hat things and really notice it. And that’s why more than anything I love the space in it.
B: I do like with your album that it forces you to listen to the details. Each bit. Because it’s so well mixed down, you can hear and follow every sound. It’s not just loops: the percussion evolves and changes. It’s a really interesting aesthetic, instead of making a series of big emotional statements. It draws you in.
S: I’m really pleased with it and it was just so much fun to make. We’ve only be making this music for a year and we started making it so slow but with no clue. I’d never heard of Skream and I’d only heard of Kode9 because I’d spoken to Burial. And that’s why I think it’s so special to me.
B: So how did you find Youngsta though?
S: It was my label manager at SRD, and we told him we were playing around with different tempos and did he know any dubstep DJs? He said the person to get it to was Youngsta, he works at Blackmarket records. So I literally just rang up and asked to speak to him. He was surprised because he’d been playing one of our tracks on the radio, a drum & bass thing called “Far East.” From there we just sparked up a really good friendship and we made this deal: we make tunes, you school us and give us some advice and we’ll give you the tunes first. He was just buzzing. At that point I’d never heard of Soulja or Tempa or Forward>>, it was all Youngsta.
B: Of all the people to find, him or Loe were perfect!
S: Even when I was speaking to Loe on AIM he said he “knew” Youngsta…
B: He’s pretty good with understatement haha…
S: Youngsta basically said to me, Loefah would love your beats. I just messaged him, he ignored the first few and then he liked the stuff.
B: Getting past Loefah’s production threshold is a trick in itself. But you guys know what you’re doing.
S: Then I heard “Root”
B: How did the remix come about? Because that’s a brave move…
S: Again, with these tracks, I don’t know the history of them, all I know is I like that tune, it’s cool, I wanna remix it.
B: It’s a bit like touching Adam F’s “Metropolis”. Something classic of that magnitude from the mid era of d&b/jungle.
S: Er, bloody hell... We just liked it and then as Loe’s lost the samples, we had to track them down and just rolled it out. But I had no idea it’s like remixing “Metropolis.”
B: Yeah, like remixing “Metropolis,” “Shadowboxing” one of them ones…
S: [blood mildly draining from his face] Jeeeezus Christ. I honestly didn’t even know.
[Loe pops back in the room from making the tea]
B: I just kinda mentioned that “Root” was a quite big tune at one point…
L: Oh really? Haha…
B: It’s probably never been remixed because no one dared ask. Loe can I remix “Mud” then? Haha. Don’t answer that, I don’t want to try…
L: Do you know what it was? I knew he’d not heard “Root” before and no one talks about it anymore, so it was like OK fuckitt.
B: So Loe, can you explain a little bit about the name Swamp 81?
L: Well, Swamp 81 was the name of given to the stop and search police operation which resulted in the Brixton riots. It’s something that’s been playing around in my head for a little while. Ultimately the label is to bring out good art, good music and to put things in people’s heads to make people think about them, maybe not think about them. Things that shouldn’t be forgotten. One thing that I’ve always been into is society and society’s wrongs. And to draw reference to the Brixton riots is a cool thing to do. I think a lot of shit started after the riots. I was chatting to Ricky Ranking one day when he was working with The Bug. We were talking about the riot and he told me the best party he’d ever been to was the night it all finished, a party on Coldharbour Lane in a disused warehouse type gaf. He said it was black, white, Asian: it wasn’t a race thing. It was lovers rock all night long. I was like ‘fuck, that’s brilliant, that’s what it’s about.’ Not dub, reggae, rockers, but lover’s rock. It’s a south London sound really. There’s like lovers reggae but I think that lover’s rock sound is very south London.
B: There’s a connection with DMZ with the night being held there.
S: And the whole DMZ name means what it means but also means something else outside of the music, it’s the demilitarised zone. I dunno… I don’t want to contrive [Swamp] too much I just wanted to put it in people’s heads.
B: And presumably if people search online they find the police operation first.
L: It’s like, why are we doing this whole thing? Why are we writing our own music? Why are we starting our own communities outside of the norm? It’s because of shit like that. It’s because fundamentally … haha… the society we live in is corrupt and immoral and we have to make our own joy.
B: Certainly the main centres of power and control are things that people don’t want to be identified with anymore.
L: And there are things that would like to be forgotten. There’s something I want to do later in the year on Swamp yet, called Operation Countryman. For one it sounds like a dubstep name. But it was actually the internal police operation in the ‘80s clearing out all the bent coppers. A large percentage of the Metropolitan Police were sacked. Suddenly they weren’t there because they were that corrupt.
B: Countryman also makes me think of the reggae film.
[Vinton, Loefah’s Staffordshire Bull terrier goes a bit mental and gets escorted out to the kitchen. No interview tape with DMZ is complete without Vinton snorts and some minor kerfuffle. Last time she licked the back Mala’s neck…]
B: I like the graphic direction of the label because you’ve invested some time and thought into that too.
L: I’ve always liked getting cool records with cool artwork and then sometimes the artwork would have a bit of history behind it, meaning behind it, which would make it even better.
Yeah so Swamp’s for things that should not be forgotten and its kinda a metaphor for the fact that you’re on your own in this mad world, it’s not all sweetness and light, not what you’re fed on the TV y’know?
I’ve got all kinds of things I want to do within the label, visually, like this Operation Countryman, I think I was to do something about Stephen Laurence. Jean Charles de Menezes. This is just a personal thing of mine. At college I did do fine art but what I really ended up studying was surveillance theory.
S: Big Brother…
L: Yeah exactly but the actual book “1984”. That and “Brave New World” and how the fact that they are without out a doubt the society the US and UK live in. It’s a combination of two. So it’s music for people who want to escape from that in a way. That was always my escape from whatever “the madness” was when I was young. Going home on the bus with my head pressed against the window with, I dunno, Dream FM on my headphones…
B: Burial talks of the same experience, of headphones and bus stops.
L: Me and him talked about that yesterday and we’ve both talked on the record about that before. The Burial hookup is a great thing, actually.
B: How did that come about? Obviously you Si had been speaking to him.
S: He was the first person within this scene that I was chatting to.
L: It was honestly through Si. It could have happened so many other times. It never came through Kode9.
S: It’s like you hadn’t spoken to Youngsta in a long while, and I was like ‘you should just call each other…’
L: The Burial thing’s deep, it’s like I’ve met my long lost brother. Our grandmothers grew up maybe two streets away from each other. There’s some weird links there. We just get on so well and we’ve got such a similar take on what we want to do musically.
B: An he too is a junglist.
L: He out of everyone has the same sort of path as I did, in the way we listened, yeah we went raving but it was very much about the pirates, very much about the tape packs y’know? He grew up in south London and had very similar experiences to me? So having him on the label was honestly something I never though about. If this whole thing hadn’t come about through Si, he’s not someone I would have approached.
S: That’s another full circle.
L: In a way, or maybe it’s the start of one, y’know?
B: it’s funny because in some ways you’ve drawn a lot of parallels between you and Burial and in others there’s a lot of differences. His music is definitely garage-based and El-B influenced in the way that you’ve never really been. He has a phobia of sound engineering whereas you are very good at it and the halfstep thing has never particularly been him either. So it’s brilliant you find common cause because you come from the same root and agree on the same records but you both took different takes on it…
L: It’s not like I’ve poached him, or I’ve said “fuck Kode9…” none of that shit. I’ve said to Burial that I don’t want 2step and I’m not interested in that beat pattern, you can do that with 9. And I get the feeling that we might just work together. Well, we are working together, on projects.
B: It’ll be interesting because the list of people Burial has collaborated with is in double figures now. The number of those collaborations that he has allowed to come out is zero. I’m not going to spoil it by saying names on the record but the point it… good luck.
L: To be honest a lot of people have said that to me. I chat to him every day and he’s around here a lot.
S: It is going to happen.
L: Without a doubt. Me and Burial are bringing out a release remixing Si’s tracks and it should be in the shops in about four months.
B: Well I would love to see that, don’t get me wrong…
S: Burial had the same kind of year, last year, as Loe. Kinda “where is this going…? What’s going on?” Burial had blow up but then was not productive within music. So I can see where he’s started things with people, promised people remixes and not done it because he wasn’t in that frame of mind. But when I told him I’d hooked up with Loefah he was completely buzzing. “You couldn’t have hooked up with a better person…” But I can see how he’s made promises but not done it because deep in his heart he’s a really nice guy, he wants to do a remix but his heart’s not in it.
L: Originally this 12” was going to be one side his remix the other side mine but now we’re going to do one side Loefah v Burial the other side Burial v Loefah.
S: I’d even pay money to get that…
B: It would be the most amazing turn up for the books because to be fair Loe you haven’t put out many records recently either so if you both did finally on the same 12”, it would be unbelievable.
L: The 2008 thing was one of the first things we chatted about. “2008? It was a shit year wasn’t it…” So uninspired but now we’re both saying ‘fuckit, what else is going on? Let’s do some cool shit.’
B: I’ve been saying this to him for years: stand your ground. Everyone who’s interesting stands their ground. It doesn’t mean don’t change what you’re doing but don’t compromise.
L: Well hopefully that’s what going to happen with him and Swamp 81.
S: Everything’s been so natural so far and the natural progression has just got to carry on.
L: He approached me, I didn’t approach him: read into that what you will.
B: You have seemed to hit 2009 with a real positivity and energy.
L: Yeah I’m just excited by it. I don’t smoke weed anymore: I think weed is a fucking terrible drug.
B: Haha, oh the irony…
L: Mate, there’s people I’m telling for the first time. I told Kode9 I haven’t smoked in two months and he was like ‘what?!!’ I told Jakes last night and he said ‘yeah I thought I felt a disturbance in the force.’ I chatted to Mary Anne today, she’d been chatting to Flying Lotus this morning. When I used to live with her I used to literally have a big skunk spliff for breakfast and then I’d drink nine cups of the strongest coffee to ‘balance’ it out and I was never not wired in the studio. It got to the point where I was so stoned I’d write a 16 bar loop and then just sit there on that loop for however many hours. Not progressing it.
S: That’s the worst thing you could do.
L: Now if I write a 16 bar I copy paste, do a progression, copy paste do another and before I know it I’ve got 5 minutes there, whereas last year I thought ‘how am I ever going to get to 30 seconds?’ That’s not a joke…
S: I remember you saying you had loads of loops…
L: … which are engineered GREAT! Great kick drums, great snares, deep subs: but… what?
B: Do you feel differently about writing now?
L: Yeah definitely, I’m excited about it, I’m not bothered about the whole pidgeon holing of what Loefah is ‘meant’ to do, not worried about what is ‘meant’ to be a dubstep track for a rave, not worried about putting a cowbell in every tune again. Fuckitt, it’s what I love. I love 808s, I love the Oberheim DMX, I love the Rhythm King. I don’t give a fuck about Battery by Native Instruments. It’s great, fair enough, but it’s not for me. I like a sampler full of drum kits, drum machine drum kits. I like the space you can create with that. I love sub bass and that’s what I’m doing. I like pads, interesting kind of electro pads. That’s what I like. When I listen to shit at home I listen to Beastie Boys, I bang that shit out when I’m cooking food.
B: I think this “808” sound is a whole interesting direction and one that really never got finished…
L: Yeah I started on it and do you know what happened? I wrote ‘Its Yours’ and I played it in DMZ and I saw a kind of lull, which is kinda gonna happen, when I think back now because its slower and it’s deeper but for me I got very scared to be honest. ‘People don’t want to hear this, lemme write some LFO shit.’
S: Do you think smoking a lot of weed at that time gave you paranoia about the reaction to that track? Knocked your confidence…
L: It takes your confidence, it enables you to make a stand anyway, you stand up and you think should I be making a stand? Do people want to be hearing this?
B: In the conversations we had over Christmas, a fragment stuck in my head that really worried me. It was like there was a point last year when you must have started to worry about what other people thought. You guys had always got where you were by being headstrong, by leading and not following. It was like ‘shit man’ because the way you describe these 808 things they sound really next level, stripped back and raw. I don’t know anyone else who does that, it reminds me of Jamaican riddims, and that idea has potential…
L: Yeah I just thought, ‘who else in London is doing 808 shit?’ Why not, why can’t I be that guy. Why can’t I not worry? So that’s where I’m at now.
S: You gotta just do you thing mate.
L: Also I look back at the first track I wrote that came out, was “Twissup” and that is a combination of 808 and 909s. “Indian” and anything I wrote after that before I went halfstep was very derivative of what I heard on Hatcha’s shows. That was me thinking ‘what is dubstep? What should I write? My heart, truthfully, was “Twissup.” It’s the shit I can’t get past and nothing makes me feel as good as.
S: You gotta do it…
L: You gotta take it to it’s logical conclusion.
B: Another thing is, and I don’t know how you feel about it, is that it’s a great place for vocals…
L: Yeah. I started working on my Santogold remix again the other day. To be honest when I lost my confidence it was the middle of 2007. I started writing tunes like “Disco Wrekka.” I think that’s utter bullshit that tune. Terrible.
B: I disagree.
L: To me, it’s dishonest. I remember sitting down in my studio and thinking ‘I have to write a tune that gets a rewind, I have to write a tune for the dance.’ And every time I heard it after it got released, I was like ‘why did I ever let it off? Why did I make it? That’s not true.’ If you compare it to “Ruffage,” which I wrote in – I think – 2004, and I remember when I first played it people didn’t get it but eventually people came round to it. I wont play a set without “Ruffage” now, that’s my tune, that I love. It’s the one tune that I heard in my head and some how managed to translate it.
B: It’s healthy Loe, I’m really excited.
S: I’m excited, listening to what you just said.
B: The more you guys assert this element, not just on record but at DMZ – the most important very large club in dubstep – it reminds people what’s possible, that what was done in Forward>> and 3rd Base can be translated onto a big scale. Because that’s the real tragedy of the wobble stuff, it’s that people have got scared to play stripped back halfstep on a big scale, when actually people will enjoy stuff if you lead them into it the right way.
We played in Holland recently at Dub Infusions in Patronaat, and the moment I realised it was a really, really good gig was we played “One of Us” an hour in, at peak time and took the set straight downwards: and they stayed with us. It was like ‘this is it, this is the gig I’ve been waiting for.’
L: We’re looking to do the launch party in the third room at Fabric, because no-where in the world has that 3rd Base vibe.
B: Are people aware of what’s happened to 3rd Base?
L: It’s not there anymore. Part of Mass is still a church, 3rd Base is their church hall and they used to rent it to Mass to make money that they needed. They don’t need to make the money anymore so they don’t do it. So there’s no more 3rd Base. We tried to get it for the 4th Birthday bash and it’s just not happening.
B: It’s real shame, it’s a special place.
L: Last year at the 3rd Birthday Bash, as soon as I’d finished my set I was straight down there for the rest of the night, smoking fags in the corner.
B: Yeah in a way, its like its sealed up for history now. Have you been to what was the Blue Note, where Metalheadz used to be? The tragedy of it is where the DJ booth used to be, where I saw Doc Scott or Peshay b2b with Bukem, is now the toilets! It’s sacrelidge, it’s like shitting on a grave! You don’t put the toilets where the booth was.
L: You know what though? Fuckitt, I like that.
B: You’re dark.
L: Nah, it’s like: it’s done. You can’t get back to that. I wouldn’t want to go back and DJ there on a random one, with it all being bright. Metalheadz was dark in there, just a corridors. We used to go in the back, that was my spot right there.
B: You talk about full circles or cycles, but the people who started Forward>> had Metalheadz Sunday Sessions in mind when they did it, so people would come for the music. It started at Velvet Rooms but then moved within a year to Plastic People which is just yards from Blue Note.
S: I just think the personal ones are so much better. With drum & bass, we’d been DJing abroad quite a bit in front of 1000 people, and that would be great. But you’re just standing on a stage by yourself. I done like an hour of dubstep and an hour of drum & bass in Leeds University and that was the first dubstep set I’d done and it was great but potentially they wanted drum & bass but it wasn’t until we played DMZ where you’ve got such a big room but you feel so personal with the crowd. You’re making eye contact with so many people, it was such a great buzz.
L: If you think that’s personal you should have seen 3rd Base. Literally if you had people raving just in front of the decks.
S: I love that.
L: It was fucking amazing.
S: Playing DMZ was amazing, apart from the needle broke. Pokes said about it and no one cared. They were on it. I’ve actually been getting messages about that set, it’s weird.
B: It’s also a real statement playing there. We really enjoyed playing there and it’s a real honour. You don’t get many crowds that respectful.
L: And there’s people that have been making dubstep and successfully putting it out since 2003 who haven’t played there. And maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Some people never will. Some people could sell 10 million units and they’ll never play because they don’t get it.
B: it definitely is about the vision of what you guys see.
L: It’s like … I can’t remember who said it, probably some jungle documentary, but… whatever your beat is, you’ll find it there. It may even have been a 5-0 rant in a tape pack. That was the best thing about jungle, whatever your background you could find a beat to get into. Same with dubstep. If you want deep shit, it’s there. Fuckitt, if you want wobble, who’s better at it than Coki? If you call that wobble…
B: I do
L: But you know what I mean. Coki’s on some self destruct shit right now. He’s like ‘fuck these guys, they’re writing my beats for me,’ so he’s taken it to some next level now.
B: Like what?
L: It’s just impossible to say with words.
B: Angrier and noisier than before?
L: You’ll hear it, it’s hard to explain.
S: Are you into it?
L: It’s not about being not into it. A maniacal part of me totally knows where Coki’s coming from, having grown up with him and who he is. And yet I haven’t cut a Coki tune since “Spongebob.”
B: Yeah that was a bit of a threshold.
L: But I love him for doing what he’s done and if the whole scene wasn’t on it, it would make his tunes so much more impactful.
B: They’re pretty deranged sometimes.
L: Exactly, so true. That’s the whole point. Coki: you know he’s just got mad shit in his head he needs to get out somehow. And that’s how it comes out. I totally see Coki’s character in it.
S: He was at DMZ wasn’t he? He didn’t play though.
L: He was supposed to, we both played our three then we turned to him and he just sat there and didn’t say a word. If he wasn’t like that, he wouldn’t be Coki. It’s like … it’s weird… it’s hard to explain.
B: I just find that mid range distorted sound, I can’t… I just can’t deal with it. I can’t accept it. And it’s really metallic and noise in a way I can’t separate from a lot of the stuff people are against right now. Now I know people tell me it’s well engineered or that he was the first to do it and I respect that but…
L: It’s the beat pattern, man. Strip away the metal, hear the beat. The beat’s killer.
B: You can’t hear the beats anymore the mid-range b-line is so prominent.
L: Yeah I suppose… I hear it from a DJs perspective.
B: ”Bury the Boy” is a beat. “Mud” is a beat.
L: Nah, I defend Coki still. It’s just mental, I just know his intros and shit, it’s not doing what others are doing. It’s a 16 bar build up and a drop but it’s so different. It’s like you’re sitting in a quiet room, someone opens the door a big fireball hits you. I rioting crowd runs in your room and just fucks everything up.
B: Oh there’s no doubt that’s what it does…
L: And I don’t think the other shit does that. The other shit just makes you go ‘oh, yeah…’ and nod your head, blah blah blah. You can’t deny all that wobble shit it makes you nod your head. I’d be nodding my head to drum & bass, doesn’t mean I like it.
B: Yeah but the standards are higher, that’s not the objective is it? Just to nod your head.
L: Yeah, heh, yeah. Fair enough, I can’t argue with that. But yeah, he’s doing his thing. I think it was more offensive when people were writing shit digidub then when people were ripping off wobble. It got to the point where it was ‘token Jamaican.’ Any Jamaican accent: ‘right that’s going in a tune.’
B: Yeah we clocked early that it was not something we’d ever be able to do well, so stopped doing it.
L: I never even tried.
B: Mala, Coki their early tracks were just so strong in this, and then “Anti War Dub” used Coki’s relatives in Jamaica. Since they did it so well, I figured it was best to go the other way. I mean… it’s reggae! You gotta know what you’re doing to step to reggae. Even Hank Shocklee said that to me, said that Brooklyn owns reggae, us hip hop boys don’t try and touch it.
L: And also if you hear reggae in Brooklyn? I’m not into that sound at all. It’s got that American side to it. I mean I New York? Definitely, that’s where the dreads are at, but I dunno. Chat to people like New York’s Dave Q and he says the Jamaican influence we have in London is incredible, and he’s not talking about making digidub, he’s talking about the shit we don’t even realise. It’s like … you can’t fake it.
B: You can’t separate it from what makes London music anymore.
L: it’s undeniable. Undeniable. You’ll get influences, you’ll get this eastern thing which comes around again, erm, a bongo tune… which is there, but that’s an influence, not a foundation. A foundation is dub, true dub. And that’s what most of these kids don’t get either. Whether it has a pseudo-Sly & Robbie b-line or a Sleng Teng rip off… but to me “Mud” is a dub tune.
B: Yeah, dub as a process not dub as set of comedy samples. Your album, Si, is dub in the sense that it uses sound as space…
B: …Even though you’re not overtly reggae-like.
L: That’s the difference, dub doesn’t have to be reggae. Who’s that guy from Heatwave who wrote that Telegraph piece? Gervase de Wilde? He said ‘dubstep is at best like unfunky white-man’s reggae.’ And do you know what, for someone who wasn’t deep into the sound just heard it from the periphery, I can see his point. Because apart from Mala and Coki who did it well? The Bug does ragga and does it well. And he knows about dub but I’ve never heard him try to do a digi-dub dubstep tune. Me and him had massive conversations about how gay it was anyway, and the fact that to be honest we didn’t like a lot of digidub in the first place. It was the same thing when it came around the first time. Unless you were King Tubby. In Britain Unity Sound kinda clocked it but apart from that, pretty awful.
B: ‘04/05 there was definitely a phase when d&b was sampling reggae phase
L: I can’t understand why people can’t just come with their sound?
B: I don’t think people realise that they need to come with their sound. I think a lot of people think that they can look to what exists, look to what exists, clone it and then they’re in. and they don’t get what you guys clocked from early that you have to establish your own space. Otherwise what was the point?
L: A scene is people with their own sounds that are similar, coming together.
B: … sharing a tempo and perhaps an interest in bass but not necessarily.
L: My main dubstep stuff I’m trying to do at 138bpm again.
[UPDATE – since this interview was done, Low may have dropped the bpms even lower! Watch this space – Blackdown]
B: I never left 138bpm.
L: I went up to 145bpm
B: Yeah we never went anywhere but especially now with funky at 130bpm… I know you never really liked garage Loe but is was the foundation of what we do, so when funky comes along being UK garage part 2, while I don’t want to rush off and do it, its interesting enough as a movement, so if you’re at 145bpm you cant access it, whereas if you’re at 138bpm it’s not a million miles away. I think Kode9 feels the same, as he now has a whole 130bpm section in his sets. It’s can work
L: Bruv, I’m writing 138bpm 808 beats right now but it’s nothing to do with funky. But you know what, I wanna do some club shit? I still want to make people dance, not force them to dance.
B: Ask them to dance!
L: That’s exactly it, offer them your hand!
B: You’re a gentleman!
L: I wanna write music for the over-25s who are over taking pills. Y’know? I want to write for people who have a bit of a musical grounding. They don’t need to have a huge history, they just know what they like. I wanna hear shit in the dance I like again!
S: At the end of the day we’re not 18 anymore.
L: And this is why I don’t really have a problem with the Benga and Skream thing. Because honestly the most successful shit in dubstep right now, whether you like it or not, is Benga and Skream.
B: Burial is bigger than them, no disrespect to Benga and Skream.
L: Yeah but I’m talking week in, week out, packing clubs and making clubs go off. They make rave music for this day and age.
B: All I would say is that dubstep came along after drum & bass and jungle, knowing what had happened there and there was a moment in Forward>> and 3rd Base in about 2005 when it felt like we could do it differently.
L: Yeah we saw that but you’ve got to remember that their lineage is the end of garage when they were 15 for gods sake. Dubstep from the 3rd Base days: they’ve never had that hype raving. They’ve never experienced it, we have. First time I went to a hardcore club and got off my nut on pills, I loved it, for however long I did it. Then you get over it.
S: Because you were younger.
B: It comes down to fundamentally, is the rave experience the only experience that matters when you’re 16 or 18? Or could it have been possible to translate the 3rd Base experience - with the balance of different percussive energies with the massive physical bass pressures – to a broader audience? “Anti War Dub” mixed into stripped back halfstep, mixed into Coki’s early sound. Could that have been translated to big clubs? DMZ did it but now most big room dubstep clubs don’t.
L: They don’t know what that was: it’s rave music now.
B: I just felt that there was an opportunity to change what people’s expectations were of ‘dance music’ rather than pandering to what they already knew and wanted.
L: It’s in the British psyche that every now and then we need to take drugs and go mad. Even before electronic music: it happened with punk music. I think its going to happen more and more, because it seems to happen around the time of economic downturn. People want to go out and get fucked, let out their energy, their frustrations, their aggression. And I’m cool with that to be honest. I love a bit of that but I don’t want to do it in the same way. I want to do it through groove, through vibrating people’s bones.
You can say people were doing that with punk, and they were, but at the same time there was the whole dub reggae ska revival thing going on. So again it brings me back to why I’m doing this label: to give the balance really.
B: I think that balance is key. It’s certainly why we’ve run our label, done our radio sets: and I hope more people do too. The fact that the biggest selling act in dubstep is Burial is a wonderful thing because his stuff is totally true to early dubstep and jungle, in spirit.
L: We can’t sit back and cuss the drum & bass boys for closing off when we were doing our thing and saying ‘no we’re not going to book you [certain dubstep producers] because we don’t agree with what you’re doing.’ And because of that people went off and did their own thing. Fair enough.
B: Yeah but I’d rather you did that than booked people you didn’t believe in.
L: So am I, but it was a direct response, people starting their own raves.
B: Si, with this kind of talk about dubstep, do you see a lot of parallels with drum & bass?
S: I still don’t know a lot about dubstep, so it’s quite hard to comment. A year ago I’d never heard of DMZ.
B: I can’t help but see it as a positive thing.
L: In 96 when I was at sixth form college, everyone in my college was into jungle. But was like ‘yeah I go Metalheadz’. And they were like ‘what’s Metalheadz?’ I’d like Digital or Doc Scott. But they’d like Mickey Finn.
S: Maybe within this dubstep thing, I think I’m gonna be an outsider, because of the music. When I do get booked as a DJ for dubstep eventually, I’m gonna play what I wanna play.
L: You’ll be a dubstep DJ presenting your sound, which is the true tradition of dubstep.
S: We did the same in drum & bass: we play Kryptic Minds stuff and people we like. We’re not going to throw in a tune we don’t like but goes off. It will never happen.
B: You sound like you’d be actually interesting to listen to as a DJ!
L: That why I think he’ll fit.
S: I wont get booked as much.
L: You might… it depends where you want to get booked. You look on Benga and Skream’s MySpace page and they’ve got a page full of bookings. But you look at the bookings and you ask would you want to do them? Even worse: Caspa’s page. I don’t think I want to do one of his bookings.
S: I’d be happy with two bookings a month that are true bookings.
B: Me too. If I play a place like Forward>> once every three months, I’m happy.
S: The prime example for me was DMZ, that was a real eye opener. I said to Leon, ‘I want to make a tune for Loefah, Loefah v DMZ tune.’ And that’s what we’ve done, really stripped back, half time badman vocal thing. Nothing will probably ever come of it…
L: … I don’t know about that!
S: Basically it inspired us to say ‘what would Loefah do?’ A Loefah v DMZ. We went into the studio on Monday and rolled this thing out. So that’s what I’m talking about and I want to stay really naive and innocent. I don’t want to get caught up in politics because that’s what happened in drum & bass. All I want to do is make innocent beats and then send them to Loefah.
B: Sounds un-complicated.
S: It’s exactly that, I don’t want anything to be complicated. I just wanna have fun because the last year I’ve just had the best time writing music ever. Yeah I had some good times writing for Metalheadz but it’s a lot of pressure, I’m releasing on a label that’s had tunes like “Metropolis” on it. Whereas now all this music you’re talking about, I haven’t got a clue. But with the half time thing, I just really like it.
B: Did you ever like any of the half time drum & bass?
S: Nah I wasn’t into it.
B: Loe, do you remember when Klute used to be nuts about your halfstep in about 2004/05. Sadly as soon as anything changed that wasn’t that, he didn’t seem to be into it.
L: Klute’s cool. We used to talk on AIM about Bladerunner and THX and all that.
B: I think he’s gone back to punk now with his old band The Stupids
S: That’s his roots isn’t it?
B: I remember him telling me about it and I was 23/4 and still too scared to admit I liked anything with a guitar in it. I was like ‘nah nah, it’s not really me mate, I’m a bit too street, I’m from South London.’
L: I didn’t know about Commercial Suicide, I can only talk about Klute up to 1998 and Certificate 18. You was on that weren’t you Si?
L: Mix n Blend?
S: Sort of, because of the Kenny Ken connection. I’ve done things for him. He had another little label called Monitor which we done some bits for, but that was a long time ago, 1999. I forget.
· Kryptic Mind's album is out on Swamp 81 later this year