Monday, November 30, 2009
Last week was epic . Monday our first Rinse FM station meeting, Tuesday rolling Clapton deep with LV on a photoshoot, Saturday Hyperdub 5 party which was too much fun, then rolling home double nightbus style with the LHF clan.
Then we rolled up on Rinse. Less talk, more dubs!
DOWNLOAD it here.
**Dusk + Blackdown Rinse FM November 09**
Wiley "Take That" (unreleased)
Roska "Climate Change remix" (unreleased)
Ozzie B "Remix Ting ft Lethal B, Double S, JME, Frisco..." (unreleased)
DVA "Someone is Knocking" (unreleased)
Hackman "Surround 2" (unreleased)
J Kenzo: Conqueror (forthcoming 2nd Drop)
Littlefoot + Spamchop "Mansfield road" (unreleased)
VVV "Blackbox" (unreleased)
VVV "???" (unreleased)
TRG "Groove Control" (unreleased)
Skream ft Jasimine Sulivan "Give U Everything" (unreleased)
Bias and Cole "Rampwidem" (unreleased)
Dom "Mr Fantastic" (unreleased)
Planas "Agbekor" (unreleased)
Dusk "Fraction" (dubplate)
**LHF Showcase pt 3**
LHF "Deep Life" (unreleased)
LHF "Steelz" (unreleased)
LHF "???" (unreleased)
LHF "???" (unreleased)
LHF "???" (unreleased)
Asusu "Small Hours" (Project Squared)
Skream "Sweetz (2005 flex)" (forthcoming Keysound)
Planas "Kutumba" (unreleased)
Terror Danjah "Bipolar" (forthcoming Butterz)
VVV "1120" (unreleased)
Terror Danjah "Creepy Crawler VIP" (unreleased)
Desto "Like Magic" (unreleased)
Trim "Trim Again" (Monkey Features vol1)
Reso "Hyperglide" (unreleased)
Dot Rotten "I'm Not Stopping" (unreleased)
Starkey "Beatingz" (unreleased)
Dot Rotten "No One Knows" (unreleased)
SRC "Tatanga's Kingdom" (unreleased)
Jam City "In the Park" (unreleased)
Endgames "Ecstacy (Jam City remix)" (unreleased)
Jam City "Island" (unreleased)
Saturday, November 28, 2009
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.
Recently United Vibes - aka Vibezin and Amen-Ra (LHF) - put together a series of mixes to celebrate 10 years in the game and truth be told they caught me off guard. Not only are they insanely well mixed and selected but they catch so well the spirit of garage that's in the air right now. They sent me reeling, reminded just how wonderfully weird and abstract the warm house n r&b mutation that garage is can be. They also sent me scuttling off to Discogs.com to locate new-to-me white labels, especially from the man like Steve Gurley. So here they are. Enjoy!
UNITED VIBES 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY MIX PART 1: 97-99 2-Step
"Big up all original garage pirates, special dedication."
Download it here
Skykap- “Ride (U want a ride pt II)
Allstars- “What about us”
??-?? (Emitta Sounds)
MJ Cole- “Shadows” (Ray Hurley Remix)
Slide Bros- “2-step Lover”
Abstrac- “Love Devotion” (Zouk Mix)
David Howard- “Time”
Mr Reds- “Honey”
??-?? (Confetti Records)
Chris Mac- “Alright”
Chris Mac- “Plenty More”
Groove Chronicles- “Hold On”
Anthill Mob- “Give Me”
Hi Times- “Time Will Show Pt. II”
US Alliance- “All I know” (Da Grunge Mix)
D.E.A- “Can’t U See”
Chris Mac- “Set It Off”
Chris Mac- “Rhythm”
KMA- “Kaotic Madness”
KMA- “Cape Fear” (Crush Groove Remix)
Groove Chronicles- “Stone Cold”
Myron- “Get Down” (Groove Chronicles Remix)
"Part 2 of the series. Soulful, dark, fun ,street, twisted 2-step from the turn of the millenium. Essential for all who are diggin for the roots. The celebrations are well under way. Enjoy!"
UNITED VIBES 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY MIX PART 2: MILLENIUM 2STEP
Download it here
Pharoah Monch- "The Light" (Zed Bias Dub Instrumental mix)
Zed Bias- ?? (Contraband Vol. 2)
Seven Wonders- "Crazy"
??- "Realise" (Strictly Dubz)
Beat forensics- "Feel It"
Chris Mac- "Baby Gonna Rock This" (2-step dub)
Zed Bias-"Touch Me"
??- "Give It To Me"
Vincent J Alvis- "Bode Killin" (M Dubs Remix)
Blaze and Glory- "Space Funk"
El-B- "Take You There"
United Grooves Collective- "I'm Glad You came To Me" (Steve Gurley
Tubby- "Don't You Know"
Hutchy B- "Can U Give Me"
Jameson- "Slow Jam"
Steve Gurley- "Power"
Nu Birth- "Anytime" (Groove Chronicles Remix)
Groove Chronicles- "Music" (Dub Mix)
Mad Skills- "Big Up"
Beat Forensics- "We can Do It"
Mariah Carey- "Loverboy" (MJ Cole London Dub)
"We salute the underground"
UNITED VIBES 10 YR ANNIVERSARY MIX PART 3: DUBSTEP HISTORY 2
Download it here
Horsepower- "Triple 7"
Phuturistix- "@ Random"
Roxy vs El-B- "Breakbeat Science"
El-B + Roxy- "Passage Of Time"
Horsepower- "Djangos Revenge"
Horsepower- "Rude Boyz"
Blaze- "De Witch"
Nude vs El-B- "South West"
Singing Melody- "If U Like It" (EL-B Remix)
Londons Unique 3- "Dread"
Horsepower - What We Do (Remix)
Horsepower - When You Hold Me
El-B feat. Juiceman - Buck & Bury (Original Mix)
Horsepower- "Hand Of Death"
Alexis P Suter- "All Night Long" (Nude Remix)
Nude- "Picture Dis"
Zinc- "Tonka" (Menta Remix)
Benga and Skream- "The Judgement"
Artwork- "Round Sound"
Groove Chronicles- "Black Puppet"
Horsepower- "To The Beat Y'all"
Nude- "Wake Up"
Daluq- "Oriental Express"
HMP feat. MC Marshall- "Rolling Touch"
Horsepower- "Special 131"
Alley Cats- "Cover Me"
Kings of Tomorrow- "Finally" (J Da Flex Remix)
Part 4 a 4x4 mix soon come!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Mr Grievous supplies a very tasty new mix to mark the arrival of this on Monday...
Dusk + Blackdown v Grievous Angel “Margins Music Redux” [Keysound] in shops Monday 23rd of November and Sully 12 "The Loot remix/In Some Pattern" due soon. Meanwhile over at Fact Mag, I've let a little off about Keysound 16 (Skream lost dubs) and 17 (LV EP). Can't wait for Keysound 18 neither!
Download Grievous Angel's new mix here.
0:09 MF Grimm / DJ Premier - International Rules
2:04 The Streets - Lets push things forward (Roll Deep Remix)
4:50 DJ Premier / Gangstarr: Mass Appeal (instrumental)
5:05 Blackdown: Beta
7:50 Joe: Rut
13:30 Untold & D Franklin: Beacon
14:30 Prince: Soft and Wet (screwed and chopped)
16:09 Pearson Sound: Gambetta
18:08 D'Angelo: One Mo Gin
22:21 Shortstuff: A Rustling
25:33 Prince: Black Sweat (Grievous Angel Refix)
27:45 Musical Mob: Pulse X
27:45 Blackdown: Defocused
28:56 Big$hot: Glitch
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Line up of the year?
Room 1 (10-5)
Kode9 & Spaceape LIVE
King Midas Sound LIVE
Quarta 330 (Live)
Room 2 (12-5)
Kode9 (3 hour set)
See you down the front... first person to shout "got any brostep?" gets a tenner.
Within the general dubstep-grime-funky space, this year has been one of shifting sands and moving boundaries, with much of the change catalysed by house and funky. Exciting takes on these elements have come of late from Kowton, Joy Orbison and Jam City, while Mosca seems to be getting a lot of attention, and that doesn’t even mention many of the flagship funky producers like Cooly G, Crazy Cousins, Roska and co.
As the sands shifted this year, a new artist crept into Dusk and my Rinse FM sets, Hackman, that had a great take on at 130bpm tempo. Like the best of funky, it seems to zig zag between polar opposites rather than choosing one extreme to pursue. Hackman’s sound is characterised by warm analog sub bass and asymmetric percussion layered over a 4x4 base. But there’s an abundance of interesting groove and warm bass in the 130ish/funky spectrum: what makes Hackman’s sound stand out from the crowd is a great propensity for saccharine sweet melodies that contrast with the dark sub and scattered drums. These melodies seem to echo MJ Cole’s turn of the millennium 2step productions, with lush touches despite a tuff club exoskeleton.
So with one of his tracks now signed to a Fabric compilation, here’s an interview and exclusive mix.
Hackman mix for Blackdown: download it HERE.
Hackman "Blacksnake" (Dub)
Hackman "Feel It" (Dub)
Hackman "Multicultural" (Shifting Peaks Recordings)
Hackman "Funky Tune" (Dub)
Hackman "Always the Same" (Shifting Peaks Recordings)
Hackman "Dusk" (Dub)
Rio Rhythm Band "Carnival Da Cassa (Hackman Remix)" (Dub)
Hackman "Illusionz" (Studio Rockers)
Hackman "Pistol in Your Pocket" (Fabric)
Silkie "The Horizon (Hackman Remix)"(Dub)
Hackman & Bluto "Untitled" (Dub)
Blackdown: To start at the top, can you tell me a bit about who you are, where you’re from…?
Hackmann: I'm from a small village I doubt anyone would have heard of in the south west countryside. Music has been a prominent part of my life since a very early age where my parents forced me (though I'm now grateful) to play the piano and violin. From that I've had a very classical upbringing, being in involved in school orchestras and concerts. After finishing school, I'm now at Leeds College of Music, doing a 3 year production course.
B: Tell me about the totally mental animated gif you use on your Dubstep Forum signature? It seems to perfectly reflect the melodic technicolour in your sound. Tell me you’ll use it on any future label art!
H: Ha, found it by chance on someone's MySpace, can't remember who and nicked it, though its from some big American hip hop artists music video I’m now told, like Xzibit or someone, so don't think that’s possible for label art! Would definitely take some inspiration from it.
B: How long have you been producing for and what made you start?
H: For about 2 and a half years. I used to listen to a lot of d&b, and got my first laptop around the same time, which came with Garageband. Tried to make a few tracks on there, which were pretty shit, but luckily my dad got Logic 6 near the same time so was able to start using that. Soon after that a mate introduced me to midnight request line and was hard on the production ever since then.
B: You produce dubstep and funky, when did funky begin to inspire you and how do you decide which style to approach?
H: Its funny, always used to walk out for an extended smoke during Kode 9 sets at DMZ or exodus when he'd start playing funky. Properly started to get into it about April time, when I heard Roska's two EPs, Elevated levels and Climate change. Since then, haven't made a dubstep tune, except for a colab or two with mates, mainly because it doesn't interest me anymore, and the stuff that still does is all this future garage business, especially all the Blunted Robots stuff.
B: Your funky is what has really grabbed Dusk and I this year for our Rinse show, can you tell me how you approach it?
H: I usually just sit down at the computer with no real idea of what I’m going to do. I always start with the beats, and usually aim to get a solid catchy melody over some, in my opinion, nice chord progressions. Then I usually finish with the bass, as well as additional percussion or samples.
B: You seem to have a great balance between clean melodies and ruff sub bass that reminds me of MJ Cole, what’s the inspiration behind this approach?
H: Probably a lot of MJ Cole, as well as all the old skool 2 step stuff, I think that’s the best music around, just wish I’d been old enough to go out to those nights!
B: You also have a great approach to percussion, using great off kilter/asymmetrical patterns in the bars: what’s your thinking on this?
H: I think the rhythms the most important element of a track, I always like to be able to groove to my beats without any other parts playing. Usually put a lot of syncopation to get that swing in, but a lot of it is trial and error
B: One of your tracks has been signed or licensed by Fabric (since announced by Fact Magazine, how did that come about?
H: Through posting my tracks up on Dubstep Forum, they'd been keeping an eye on my MySpace, then when I put up “Pistol in Your Pocket” they sent me a message, was very happy!
B: Where would you like to get to in your musical career, in the near future?
H: Would really like to be at the stage where I’m trading dubs with all my favorite producers and be at the point where I don't have to get a day job.
Friday, November 06, 2009
My Pitchfork End of Year round up 2009 for funky, grime, wonky (I didn't use the word, they added it in, honest) and dubstep.
I wasnt able to use it in full in the piece in the end but the guys at UKRecordshop.com, were cool enough to help with this...
ukrecordshop.com top selling grime mixtapes of 2009
01 Skepta - Microphone Champion
02 Tinchy Stryder - Catch 22
03 Wiley - Race Against Time
04 Chipmunk - I Am Chipmunk
05 Bashy - Catch Me If You Can
06 Durrty Goodz - Ultra Sound
07 Big H - Street Crime UK
08 Newham Generals - Generally Speaking
09 P Money - Money Over Everyone
10 Roadside Gees - Nightmare On Elmz Street
It makes interesting reading. I know Trim capped his pressing size and Aim High 4 & Roll Deep Street Anthems are only just out, but Roadside Gees, Big H (Sick Boy I see ya!) and Bashy are interesting additions in a top grime 10 of 2009!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Five years ago today I started this blog. It was an accident of sorts: I was curious how hard it would be to register for one. Answer: not very. Liberated to write about whatever I felt strongly, I quickly grew to love blogging... and so here we are.
Over the years I've published a bunch of interviews with Dizzee Rascal, Skream, Burial, Burial again in depth, Shackleton, Trim, Skepta, Grievous Angel, Appleblim, Spyro, Mala n Loefah, Loefah, Loefah and Kryptic Minds, Silkie, Newham Generals, DVA, Dot Rotten, Marcus NASTY and Zomby's parrot.
I've documented my trips to Tokyo, NYC once, NYC twice, LDN by night, LDN by Nico Hogg's bike, Southall and China (imagined).
Some of my favourite posts include the What do you call it: funky? with Supa D, Soulja and Gee, *ahem* wonky, where is dubstep, and Trim's flow.
So, as it's traditional to give presents on birthdays, I've got a little something to share: an exclusive vintage mix CD by Hatcha from the foundational days in high quality.
· Download the Hatcha 2002 mix CD: here.
UPDATE: Skream's worked out a tracklist!
Skream and Benga - The Judgment
Benga - Star Wars
Skream - ?
Skream - Dubsteppa
Macarbre Unit - Its All About
Benga - Skank
Benga - Skank VIP
Jameson - Switch
Skream N Benga - WAR BOOTLEG
Dubchild - Roll That,Light It,Smoke It
Benga - The Virus
Skream - The Bug
Menta - Jacknife
Jammin - Tonka - Menta Remix
Benga - Full Cycle
Benni Ill Vs Hatcha - Highland Spring
Skream - Futures Dark
Skream - CapeFear
In the earliest days of dubstep the scene really was a tiny collective, with perhaps no more than 50 or so interested participants. In those times the way music got distributed (long before broadband), was by the passing of CDs, often down at Forward>> and this promo mix CD by Hatcha is one of several he gave out. I have two or three (including the 2005 "Practice Hours" one) and I bet even more exist. They're unique records in the development of dubstep, not least because more than anyone ever has and perhaps ever will, Hatcha singularly had more influence over what dubstep was and has now become.
The hardest part is dating it. My educated guess is 2002 or failing that late 2001. You can date stamp it by book-ending it with producers it doesn't feature. At one end you have no Ghost, Zed Bias or warm garagey beats, so that rules out 2000 and early 2001. On the other hand there's no Mala, no Loefah or coki, so that rules out 2003 when "Pathwayz" and a whole host of DMZ other beats began to emerge through his sets. And it's long before he began blew up Scuba, Distance and Caspa by playing their new dubs. There's even a little bit of 8bar grime, from Jon E Cash and Soulo (aka Jameson), which was never a huge feature of Hatcha's sets, though it popped up from time to time.
(To go off on a tangent, this CD is from even before Rinse embraced dubstep but I remember one time a few years later listening to Hatcha on Rinse only to hear him drop a mashup of Danny Weed and Cage's "Creeper" and a Whitney Houston accapella! It was awesome but it stuck in my mind as so out of character, as his sets were 90% exclusive dubstep dubs.)
What this CD does have is shed loads of Benga and Skream plus a little Artwork/Menta and Horsepower. The first time I recall hearing of Benga and Skream is when Hatcha boasted he had two new protégés while in the coat queue for the Maddslinky album launch party at 2002. It was memorable because in those times dubstep (though it wasn't really named yet) couldn't get into clubs like Cargo. It seems unimaginable now that Skream's remix of La Roux is a chart anthem and Benga is producing for Eve but it's true - and that state of affairs persisted for years, really up until DMZ proved you could successfully do dubstep clubs on a large scale.
So let’s say this is 2002. What you do hear is a snapshot of the early Benga and Skream sound. In many ways it was this just a little of a broad body of work - they were prolific writers, with literally thousands of tracks made between them, many now lost due to hard drive crashes and PC viruses - that transitioned dubstep from the dark swung garage of El-B, Horsepower and Zed Bias to the mid era of Loefah, Mala, Coki, Kode9, and of course Skream & Benga themselves.
You can hear the differences. On one hand gone is the housey warmth and r&b soul that El-B scattered in his bassy tracks to create a potent sweet/sour mix. Equally this is before Mala brought this bright spectrum of technicolour to dubstep with expansive, visionary tracks like "Neverland" and "Forgive" (compare Skream's sound here to his 2005 promo mix, where he admits Digital Mystikz gave him a kick up the arse). It's also before Loefah popularised the halfstep beat: the structures here are all 2steppy, with snares on the 2 and 4. (Interestingly, I've since noticed that DJ Abstract's early classic "Touch" is sorta halfstep, with snares on the 3 and 4, though it never caught on at the time).
What you see in Skream, Benga and also Plastician's sound of the time is a vision that's dark, clipped, minimal and grime-inspired. Indeed Geeneus has said in interview to me that he and Slimzee (an early champion of Benga), when they weren’t busy smashing up raves as proto grime godfathers Pay As U Go used to refer to dubstep as "safe grime." Listen to their sound, built on Fruity Loop synths, and there's a coldness to it. The warping basslines, which became a signature at the time, were built on the TS404 plug in. It was to Croydon what the 303 was to Chicago in the late 80s.
While Skream and Benga have since made more emotive records, I'm nostalgic for this era, especially as it now no longer makes up such a large proportion of the output of the scene. But this proportion played a crucial role. Around these times UK garage as a scene was all but collapsed, grime was going it's own angry way and no one wanted to touch what would be dubstep with a barge pole. El-B got frustrated at the darkness in the Forward>> scene and disbanded Ghost to form El-Tuff while Zed Bias began to be interested in broken beats. So as the dubstep scene narrowed while everything around it collapsed, in retrospect these sparse beats acted like a palate cleanser. Some critics mourn loss the house/garage/r&b touches, and with good reason, but the narrowing into Benga and Skream's sound made room for subsequent possibilities. Here was a dark minimal plateau: what can we build on it?
Well next came "Pathwayz" obviously, then "Indian" and "B" and before you know it we're into "Horror Show," "Neverland", "Request Line" and beyond. As Snoop Dogg jumps on Chase & Status riddims it's hard to imagine, but at once stage, indeed for several years, dubstep's flame flickered perilously - it could have gone out. This mixtape is primary evidence of what kept it burning.
So anyway, there it is. I hope you enjoy it. To complete the birthday celebrations, I believe it's traditional to make a wish. My wish is to blog for another five years. God knows who, where or what I'll be in five years time, but I hope I still feel as strongly about music as I did on both November 3rd 2004 and 2009.
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