Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wot do u call it: future garage?
Blackdown: So for those people who don't know you, can you introduce yourself: who are you, what music are you into, how long have you been DJing, where do you DJ, what label do you run...?
Whistla: I'm Whistla I run Sub.FM (under the alias Atari-420), I run L2S Recordings, the Future Garage Forum and Future Garage Facebook Page. I've been DJing properly since 97, and have been producing for the same length of time. I got into music from raving to hardcore back in the early 90's and as I got older decided to start producing and DJing for myself, rather than just being a listener/raver. I first got into radio by playing on pirate station Addiction FM, which I then started to assist in the management of until it folded.
I then moved to Eruption FM and moved away from hardcore and into the early breaks and growing garage scenes. I guess my "progress" through music has been pretty "nuum-ish" except that I never did the dnb thing, I went from hardcore to garage & breaks, d&b was always a little too fast for my taste. In 2000 I went on a long travelling spree and went all over Asia and lived in Australia for a while. Once I got back, I got straight back into doing the music thing, this was the very early Forward days, I was playing in various places that had fluid music policies, where i would play dark garage, some breaks, and some classics.
It was at this time I started Sub.FM, I had always wanted to do an internet pirate ever since the early broadcasts that Interface did. Once I started the station, the ball really started to roll, and dubstep became the name for what I was playing, and the growth of the station spurred me on in my own productions and I guess that takes us up to where I am now. You can hear me playing every two months at my residency @ Superdubpressure in Brighton, I also regularly play all over London and the UK, you can catch me @ the next Woofer Attack, and also on my European tour to Vienna and Kiev this December.
B: I've suggested this interview to talk about the term 'future garage' that you coined a while back as a "movement more so than a genre" designed so "garage can have a future" (rather than futurist garage per se). That term has gained some traction recently, can you give me a little background to it? What lead you to head in this direction?
W: Well I think the realisation that what i wanted to make and play wasn't "dubstep" anymore came when I would be at a night and I wasn't vibing like I was before. That led me to think about what I did want; skittery hats, and swing, and shuffle, and drums! And not just bass, though of course bass is still very important!
For me, at least, the word dubstep has come to mean a different type of music to what it meant to me personally in the beginning, which is fine, words and there meanings change all the time. But it did leave a void "so what shall I call this stuff i'm playing?". So I just started saying various different names, these included "Psychedelic Garage" "Detroit 2 Step" etc .. but the one that seems to have resonated with people is future garage, in this way I think its a name that "chose itself".
I also think that "post-dubstep" trying to make one sweeping name to describe various different aestetics is a bit dangerous, I also think the idea of "pushing" a genre name is misguided (this happened loads with dubstep ie. "let's push the sound", of which I admit I was also guilty of). I think "pushing" a sound in that way actually leads to formulaic productions as people rush to make new tunes and "become part of it". The name future garage has appeared as an attempt to help describe the music rather than to market it persay.
In this respect I think future garage isnt really a genre at all, its not a final destination like dubstep was, instead I see Future Garage as a collection of DJ's and producers that share a vision of what garage can and should be, but who all have different visions at the same time. Future garage is like a moment in time, its garage not reborn, but garage re-envisioned. Who knows what will come from it, but its not an end stop, future garage is just the beginning of a new generation using the best bits of garage along with there own aestetics, creating lots of new musical avenues to explore.
B: So, why now?
W: Well I think its happened now due to the general ill fitting "dubstep" tag for a lot of the garage influenced producers who were/are working under the umbrella term "dubstep". I know that dubstep doesnt really fit for me anymore, and the same is true for a lot of people. A new way to describe the music was needed.
B: What labels, artists and DJs should people be looking for in this vein?
W: Some of my fav labels are: L2S Recordings, Night Audio, Bass Machine Music, Furioso, Frisjfo Beats, Smokin Sessions, some of the latest bits on Keysound are big too!
Some producers and djs I'd say to look out for are: Submerse, Littlefoot, Clueless, M2J, Monz, Dawntreader, Erra, Touch, Sines, Demos, Dom, VVV, ReSketch, Synkro, KingThing, Fused Forces, Sully, Sclist, Kanvas, Pangaea, Dokument, Cosmic Revenge, Point B oh and me ;)
B: And Dusk + Blackdown ffs! :) But moving on... you've made a Future Garage Facebook page and now a Forum, which seemed to have helped to bring interested parties together for discussion and debate. Was that the intention?
W: Yes, exactly. There was nowhere for people to go to get info and to communicate with each other, threads on dsf would get lost in amongst the sea of threads that go up there and often go completely unnoticed. I started the Facebook page to try and gauge if a forum would be worth doing, and the response was a resounding yes, so I launched the forum and its been going from strength to strength. It reminds me a lot of the early days of Dubstep Forum.
B: Lots of those interested parties have been through and come out of the dubstep scene. There's lots of different areas of creativity that are being explored by people like this, be that the hyperdub/wonky/synth/hip hop stuff, grime, UK house and funky as well as classic 2step/uk garage styles. Are you open to cross pollonation and interaction with other scene or is the future garage a distinct direction in itself?
W: I think the cross pollonation is what makes future garage what it is. It's something that blends lots of influences from lots of places, but puts it into a garage framework. Thats what makes it future garage, cross pollination within a garage framework. To this end I have been contacted by various producers from other scenes interested in doing future garage releases, one that I'm particularly looking forward to getting released is traditional UKG producer Duncan Powell's forthcoming EP on L2S "Came Into View EP".
B: You've talked a little on the Future Garage forum about your concerns around just the using the term "garage", primarily that "So Solid and the like destroyed any hope of 2step being accepted again in any really serious sense". I mention this because was at FWD>> a few sundays ago for Joy Orbison, a house-influenced artist in a dubstep club, and he'd attracted quite a following, much younger and more student-y than the usual FWD>> crowd. Spyro was on before and dropped Wiley's "Eskimo" and So Solid's "Dilemma" - and like much of his set, these total anthems got air. Which makes me think that to lots of people, there's so much water under the bridge that "garage" might not be a dirty word anymore. What do you think on this point?
W: I think that your right, to a younger crowd the "garage" word isnt so much of a swear word, but it does however have a different connotation of being "mum's music" ie. 18 year olds now, there parents probably listen to old EZ mixes in the car etc... This then becomes the other problem with it just being simply "garage". And to me it really isnt just plain "garage", there are no straight rnb rip offs (the staple of what I call traditional garage) and the whole approach is totally different, its not music designed to get dressed up in shoes and shirt for, its music to dance all night too, too take the dance somewhere new and exciting, rather than music to lear at girls to.
The 2step tag equally has similar problems, but these are more to do with noterirty rather than simply "meh garage, posh birds and moody fellas". With 2 step people like So Solid etc engendered an image that was so alien to a lot of the garage faithful, that they lost faith completely, and in most instances went completely over to house. I wouldn't want to use a name that has such a chequered meaning to so many people. And anyway to say all future garage is 2step would be incorrect.
Photo: Todd Edwards and Whistla
B: The elephant in the future garage room for me is that you can very effectively argue that UK funky is future garage, or certainly UKG mark II. For me any move to revive garage ideas should do its best to work with the energy and ideas of the funky scene, as it has grass roots support in London and tons of momentum. But I sense you're not so keen, what's your feeling on if or how future garage and funky could interact?
W: Yeah your right, I'm very uncomfortable with UK Funky. I don't particularly like the idea of UKG pt2 and I can see the same patterns repeating already that happened back with UKG pt1, the dress codes, the mc's, the "cheesey crossovers", except that its all happened in a year and a half, rather than over 5 yrs. I do however really like the fact that there is UK Funky, as it "leaves us alone" to build our thing without "scensters" trying to jump on it. I guess if pushed to make UK Funky and future garage interact I would have UK Funky in one room and future garage in another. Thats how I would envision it.
I personally dont hear UK funky as being very "garagey." I dont often hear the "swing" and even less "the shuffle", plus tropical beats and soca patterns have never really been my thing. Most UK funky I've ever heard has been either very housey or too broken beat for my taste. I actually hear a stronger Acid House era influence to a lot of UK Funky than a garage one. Future Garage has that indescribable something that I want from tunes, funky hasn't given me that. And trying to "cash in" on the success of another scene also seems slightly wrong, I'd rather future garage do its own thing, on its own terms.
B: While after the wonky debacle, which wasn't intended as a genre name but quickly nobody noticed that detail anymore, I appreciate I shouldnt talk about names too much but I have a concern about the use of the word "future" and how it will be seen, despite your best intentions now. Futurism is a school of thought in itself and to me is one that has been over-used in a musical context. It's also a prophecy that doesn't fullfill itself: you can't be the future forever and eventually you will look and sound dated, just, for example, as (the wonderful) records from 80s Detroit now do. Also it doesnt seem accurate in this case: going back to garage is less 'future' more 'past' or 'present'. What's your thinking on this?
W: Like we have already said, I see this as a movement, not a genre. It's an easy way to find out about a lot of new music that currently has a shared aestetic and complimentary sound. To me saying "future" implies newness and a contemporary approach, and yes the term might sound dated possibly in 10 yrs time, but I am sure that by then everyone you associate with future garage will have been termed something else by someone anyway. Thats the nature of dance music, esp dance music that is made by producers that try to keep moving and progressing in there sounds. Future garage is a movement, taking garage to new places.
Once garage has been given a new future (outside of Time and Envy and one off events thrown by EZ @ the O2) we will be "in the future" once this is the case who knows what we will be calling it? I dont think people should form attachments to names, look what heartache that caused to people that had invested so much emotional attachment to the word "dubstep". The word just lets you know what your getting.
Once its no longer relevant then fine use something else, that is the stage dubstep reached, it stopped being a useful descriptor, and the name we are using instead is future garage, at some point in the future sure people might start calling there stuff something else, but man come on lets not worry about the unknowable, just enjoy the music, as its the music that will live forever and is what truely matters, the name just helps people find there way thru the map of dance.
I wouldnt say people are particularly going "back to garage" either as most future garage producers werent even around for garage the first time round, they are building based on a whole different framework. That is what is so refreshing. Its going forward with all the best of the past as its bed-rock, its not a retro trip, or some kind of nostalgia buzz, its a whole new thing.