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.


Bandshell said...

Hmmm, not sure about the whole "future garage" term if I'm honest. I always thought of dubstep as future garage anyway.

foundsound said...

Fantastic interview!

Whistla really has a great way with words in describing "future garage" which largely deals with the very new and yet unknown. Case in point: the term "Future Garage" itself, i thought he did a marvelous job describing why he feels it is an applicable name, and why at the end of the day it doesn't really even matter if its applicable!

oh and this quote-

"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!"

would read again.

-Dan in Portland

Blackdown said...

i'm not too sure either tbh, but i do like the return of swing...

Littlefoot said...

Dubstep was one of the many future garages.. grime, bassline, funky... It's just a catch all term which works as a descriptive against the above, and it's related to all of them. Wicked interview man, big up!

bingo said...

I like the new directions everyone's splintering off into, but i wonder at what cost. Wonder if we'll lose the scene once the abstract ideas holding everything together fades.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting and in depth profile and a good exploration of the concept of Futurism dance music.
I would however contest that far from being out dated 'Futurism' as a conceptual driver for creative output will often result in some beautiful timeless music.
Using 80's Detroit is a bad example to illustrate the authors point as the early output of Metroplex/Transmat and UR/Drexciya both looks and sounds like it was made some time in the year 3000.

Anonymous said...

Funny that above mentioned night at FWD w/ Joy Orbison. There was a mass exodus after Joy played. I mean, who puts Youngsta on after Spyro and Joy at an early party? Head scratcher that was.

The deal with this 'future garage' thing is that some artists flying this flag are trying far too hard to sound like old-school garage and it starts to sound retro instead of futuristic. Make any sense?

Don't force the swing/shuffle/swivel young g's.

tonyharrow said...

we should all really not care so much about whether or not 'future' is appropriate adjective to describe a permutation of a already splintered sub genre of music.
seriously, is there a point to all of this? yes of course it's progressive "new" music - but isn't it redundant to affirm that?

Anonymous said...

Having just listened to a couple of Whistla sets from the Sub FM podcast, i'm afraid to say there was a lot of swing but not much soul. I feel the same way about dubstep at the moment. Something is missing.

pollywog said...

future garage sounds like it is projected from a past thats not quite realised in the present or projected into a future that doesnt exist yet ?

seems more revisionist than futurist especialy for those who didnt live the tunes first time round.

take vvv for instance, a texas garage head making sublime tunes...preposterous:) like emeute is one of my tunes of the year and for all its garage leanings it doesnt sound like it belongs to the UK garage heydays but it doesnt belong to the future either...

its anomalous, not so much out of time but out of place and thats where the future of garage and in the wider geographical spectrum beyond london and the 'nuum nonsense it never really broke free from all those years ago.

Littlefoot said...

As a producer of "future garage", I find the idea of revisionism sickening to be honest. And personally there is only 50% of Future Garage I think is worth playing out, I was never a garage head back in the day, it's more that the swing has given some of us a way of creating a contrast with the machismo of Dubstep.

The FG I play, has almost nothing in common with half of Whistla's selection other than a 2step pattern. This is why I worry about me and my fellow Notts heads being described as Future Garage, as we're as much on this tip as we are on the darker side of Funky, "Wonky", Skweee and wierd Techno.

pollywog said...

ayo littlefoot... ever gone back to back with whistla or alternatively soundclashed with him :)

Anonymous said...

wouldn't it be better if people stopped worrying about different names for different scenes? IMHO, 'post-garage' has been hamstrung by eagerness of scene stalwarts to splinter in order to self-identity.

beauty of DnB and 96-01 garage was this unwillingness to compartmentalize. it meant the producer/consumer horizons were expanded, ultimately resulting in higher quality music.

hopefully the success of joy orbison signals an about-turn although hyph mngo is by no means a ground-breaking track. touch of the deep dish there.

interesting interview martin - keep the insights coming sir!

Anonymous said...

interesting discussion around future garage etc.

to be honest, I wonder about this perennial pursuit of new scene names. IMHO a lot of post-garage music has been hamstrung thus - often by scene stalwarts eager to differentiate and self-identify.

It may be no coincidence that DnB and garage 96-01 were less troubled by this. The result? Wider producer pallette and consumer choice, ultimately meaning better tunes.

If the dubstep v/'n' house thing signals some sort of about turn, all to the good. Mind you, the joy orbison track may not be as much of a bar-raiser per se, sounds like a quantized deep dish tune IMO - but very good all the same.

Xarok said...

Garage did not catch on in the USA like Dubstep did.

Likely due in part that "Garage" is a silly name. No offense but "Future Garge" is an even sillier name. If you want this sound to catch on at all I would highly recommend not calling it this.

My honest opinion is that calling it something like "Progressive Dubstep" would be a lot better.

Blackdown said...

I like the concept of future garage far more than the name, but even so "progressive dubstep" is an even more terrible suggestion, implying that dubstep was "regressive."

Wobble may be regressive, in my subjective opinion, but most of dubstep isn't.

Enis Jusufspahic said...

much like anything that develops organically that's dragged out into the mainstream dubstep has lost much of its appeal as a rallying call for outsider electronic music.

a movement is an undefinable and fickle thing. the best dnb i know is free - look at alphacut and plainaudio. the moment money and more importantly status enter the fold (as opposed to equanimity and devotion to music) the music produced by the newly birthed scene looses its authenticity and erodes as those who truly drive the sound walk away disillusioned.

dubstep has become derided with simplistic rhythms, punishing mid-range bass. it has moved so far away from the dub ethic that it no longer holds any meaning.
'future garage' is an attempt to focus and preserve the dub ethic which puts music ahead of self wherever that music may lead or morph into over time. however, i think that FG is too concerned with building a scene - probably because its acutely aware of its roots in/.with UK Funky.

there is still good music coming out under the broader dubstep banner that wouldn't necessarily fall under FG - ranking, mordant, hotflush, project squared, immerse, hessle, meta-syn etc.

voodoobass said...

it's funny, in my head, 'future garage' would sound more like the trippier side of mnml tech with more swing and speed garage basslines rather than anything dubsteppy. I look forward to hearing more of what people are coming up with...

baze.djunkiii said...

no matter whether the term of FG itself is a good choice or not - seems like there's an interesting idea floating around and i really hope that distributors in germany will pick up on this soon'ish and not being afraid. seems like the big garage breakdown is still present in their minds and terms of doing business as a lot of stuff that can be related to uk garage / speed garage is not really coming thru to german recordstores, take niche / bassline as an example. working @ otaku records in hamburg i know what i'm talking... would be good to see some FG at our shelves soon.

dughug said...

Kudos to Whistla, great interview.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, When you say 'garage' over here in the uk, i think of beats, sweet vocals urban bla bla...makes sense....remember how garage is pronounced over in the US tho

"gar ahje" music,esp future gar ahje doesn't have the same connotations sounds not right

Anyway Big fan of the L2S and Night audio releases, favourite stuff is the synkro stuff which most people shoved under the generic dubstep umbrella, big up whistla for subfm and the this direction, getting fed up with "yeah man that bass is sicker than my gran m8" on every dubstep vid i come across on youtube

Anonymous said...

Loved this article. I thought whistla provided an insightful explanation behind his movement towards future garage. Littlefoot's comments are also spot on. I'd say that FG has roots inspired from contemporary 2 step than dubstep influences (if it's not FG then it's 2 step, certainly not "progressive dubstep"). Either way, it's an exciting sound that encompasses more of the electronic spectrum than other bass-driven genres. Its beat composition enables a more experimental and creative latitude, that will give it far greater longevity than dubstep (rip). Great interview!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Daniel is saying. Garage came from America in the first place but was originally known as Deep House. Future Garage is just the next phase where Dubstep left off since it's been damaged now.

Nice article and we'll see where this new form of Garage goes in the near future of British Dance Music.