Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here comes the lick again

zed bias neighbourhood photoshoot

Zed Bias and friends at the Neighbourhood 09 photoshoot. How many legends can you clock?!

It’s nearly a decade since UK garage was at its peak and decade is, well, several lifetimes, in the hyper evolution of UK urban music genres. Put it this way, if you can be can be a grime MC younger at 14, then you could have been 4 when Architechs “Body Groove” came out.

But despite this chasm of generations, there seems to be some kind of collective memory causing a yearning not just for new vocal funky anthems, but ‘99’s vocal anthem in ‘09. The older smart-and-sexy crowd, 30 in 99 are in their 40s now, and the youngers were in pre-school, yet somehow the demand is there.

How else can you explain the phenomenon of 09 funky remixes of 99-02 garage classics? OK so there’s an obvious cash-in angle but Zed Bias said he was so bored of Facebook requests for the parts and bootlegs having their go anyway, he was forced by demand to reissue it. With that, to date I’ve clocked:

· Zed Bias “Neighbourhood (09 remixes)”
· DJ Zinc “128 Trek”
· Brasstooth “Celebrate Life (Footloose funky remix)”
· So Solid “21 Second (Roska + DVA remix)”
· Brasstooth “Pleasure” (Paleface remix)
· Tina Moore “Never Gonna Let You Go (funky Mix)”
· Heartless Crew “Heartless Theme (Superglue Riddim) (funky remix)
· S.I.A. “Little Man (Wookie remix) [Lil Silva refix]
· Baby D “Let Me Be Your Fantasy (DJ Q mix)”
· Zed Bias "Spare Ribs (Roska's year of da ox mix)"
· Mike Dunn Feat MD Express "God Made Me Phunky(DVA refix)"
· DEA Project's "Love Me (Smasher funky remix)"
· Musical Mob "Pulse X (Lil Silva funky remix)"
· Lennie De Ice "We Are IE (funky remix) - unconfirmed

Geeneus has just gone even further back and cover Inner City’s “Big Fun,” a house classic in the late ‘80s! Monster Boy “I’m Sorry” already got brought back. Drum & bass outfit Nero have done a wobble remix of MJ Cole’s “Sincere,” but that doesn’t count.

Given all this, I think it’d be fun to speculate what garage classics are ripe for a relick. Who knows, perhaps someone from funky will read this and have a go! My longlist includes:

· Reach and Spin “The Hype”
· Double 99 “RIP Groove”
· Amira “My Desire”
· Pay As U Go “Champagne Dance”
· Agent X “Decoy”
· Jameson “Urban Hero”
· Maxwell D “So Serious” – or will his funky vocals negate the need for this?
· S.I.A. “Little Man (Wookie remix) [funky refix]” [not really into this tune tbh but it is inevitable]

Leave comments below: what ones am I missing? Surely no one want’s another version of apparantly they do Baby D “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” do they?

The re-appropriation of these urban anthems bares all the hallmarks of the hardcore continuum: consuming, mutating and taking ownership of great riffs and moments in raving history so that it can be loved again by a new generation.

Grime MCs have been doing this of late too, over a much shorter times span: not unexpectedly given grime MCs, trading in a ghetto reputation economy, seem to feel they only exist or matter for as long as the words are coming out of their mouths and their name is on everyone’s lips.

Dizzee bars are a favourite, probably given the absence from the scene his success has caused. P Money, currently everywhere with his “Money Over Everything” mixtape, did it well on “P is a Rascal” on his previous CD, taking classic Dizzee bars, so embedded in anyone’s consciousness who saw him at this time, and remixing them line by line. In truth, so dense is the language that the grime MCs engage in dialog with each other, that they’re regularly remixing and re-appropriating their own bars. It’s just a fine line between a send (named, direct diss), "in-di-r" (unnamed, indirect diss), tribute (attributed) or remix.

I’m not saying funky doesn’t have anthems with identity of its own, it does in abundance from Kyla “Do You Mind” to the “Migrane Skank.” But I guess this all goes to show the strength of Simon Reynold’s “sceneius” idea, where a scene contains the collective gene pool of ideas, rather than one lone genius. The funny thing is, given the way scenes cluster so tightly around a few ideas (tempo, beat patterns, aesthetics, track goals etc), it’s amazing that the collective memory can last this long.

I suppose this phenomenon has existed since rave and before, with garage remixes of jungle classics etc, but what’s striking here that how within funky there’s acute memory of ’01 UKG anthems but selective amnesia as to ’02 proto grime classics (dubstep didn’t exist til 2007/8 in “road” eyes), like there’s some kind of membrane short-circuit from one bubbling, smart-and-sexy-yet-soon-to-be-ruffed-up-with-‘skank’-youts scene to another, almost ten years on.

Here come’s the lick again, it may taste familiar.

PS Bassjackers & Apster "Klambu" = the Azzido da Bass for 2009?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Exclusive Kowton mix

Download it HERE.

STL - Bird Art (Something)
Andre - Moments in Life (Mahogani Music)
WBeeza - He So Crazy (Third Ear)
Soundstream - "Live" Goes On (Soundstream)
Kowton - Stasis (G mix) (Keysound)
DJ Abstract - Touch (Tempa)
Kowton - Looking At You (unreleased)
Pearson Sound - Wad (Hessle Audio)
Kowton - Countryman (Keysound)
Emvee - Nocturnal (Wireblock)
Kowton - Metronome (LV Remix)(unreleased - Nakedlunch forthcoming?)
Joe - Grimelight (Hessle Audio)
Peverelist - Bluez (unreleased - Punch Drunk forthcoming)
Guido - Beautiful Complication (Punch Drunk forthcoming)

Blackdown: So Kowton, tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you currently based? Where did you used to be based?

Kowton: I’m in Bristol now, I’ve been here a year or so and its working out well. There’s a lot of good things going on here, I’ve probably been to more decent nights this year than in the rest of my adult life. Under_Score, Tape, Crazy Legs, Dubloaded, Focus and SeasonFive have all been putting on forward thinking acts regularly. One of the best things I’ve seen was Bruk’s night where all sorts of quality music went down ‘til 4 in the pitch-black windowless basement of what at street level looked like a dead normal cafe. St Paul’s Carnival was magic too.

K: Before I moved down here I was in the Lake District and you don’t really get much in the way of nights up there, if something good happens its usually because someone’s stepped up and put the time and effort into organizing an outdoor rave or a party in a village hall or whatever. It’s pretty fucking parochial! Most music I’d hear up there would be either sat smoking in cars or playing records round people’s houses. If we wanted proper nights out it was always a question of driving down to Manchester or across to Leeds which was always well worth it but just didn’t happen that often.

B: When you first started sending me tracks, it must have been about 2005. Your take on the dark Youngsta halfstep sound stood out. Can you tell me about the music you were making then?

K: About that time I was living in a box room in Manchester and in retrospect pretty ridiculously depressed over very little, I was going through a stupid amount of skunk and only really going out to go to college or to the pub. When I heard tracks like Loefahs’s “Horror Show” or D1’s “Crack Cocaine” or even melodic bits like Cyrus’ “Indian Stomp” it was just like an echo of my mood, all dark and melancholy and smoked out. I guess making tunes like that gave me a sense of purpose so I put a lot into them, I wish I’d been a tighter producer back then though so maybe I’d have been better at getting my ideas out. It was like a fucking compulsion though – I’d stay up ‘til six or seven every morning, pass out with the computer on, get up at 2 and see if anything I’d done the night before had worked. I wrote a lot of tunes but it was a pretty horribly isolated loop to live in.

B: Where you used to live, I remember you sampling the clanking of boat riggings and singers on the ends of piers, how did these experiements turn out and do you think they had value?

K: I think they turned out ok. There was a track called “the Gift” that I gave away a while back that had some of the recorded vocals in it and it sounded alright, but then it might have sounded just as good with an Beyonce acapella or something. That latest track “Looking at You” has a recording from an indoor market in Bristol that I did in the background and I think it definitely adds something, most probably just helps keep things sounding grounded in the real world.

Probably when I was recording stuff originally it was in some vaguely pretentious “oh I’m recording stuff this will make things good” fashion, rather than being about the value using recordings could add to a tune. I still think its important to source original sounds though, films are amazing for them. Someone has spent months with best gear on the planet just building this artificial world of noise and all you have to do is spend half an hour recording and chopping and those sounds are yours. Its an advantage of the decline in music sales that no ones ever going to chase you up for sampling anymore unless a track goes massive.

B: These days you've, ahem, dropped the bpms and upped the groove, moving to housier realms. Can you tell me about how you got there?

K: Just a slow change in listening habits really. As the number of what I saw as essential dubstep releases started to wane a bit I started buying loads of Berlin and UK techno and a bit of US house after not really buying any 4/4 records for a few years. After a bit I began to try and incorporate various aspects of techno into the music I was making - automating reverbs and delays and fading levels rather than dropping elements straight in and out the mix.

Obviously at the same time as this loads of heads were on the techno/dubstep thing and I’m not too good at working when there’s too many people doing the same thing from the same angle. After a bit I figured rather than making dubstep using techno production styles I’d try and flip it and make techno or house using the same sounds as I would were it a dubstep track, Countryman and a tune called Headaches were the first examples of this.

In some respects having the kick on every ¼ note gives room for the rhythm and the groove to be a little wilder, the kick acts as an anchor for it all and if the tempo’s slower that equals more space to swing the percussion. If you start pushing the kick out of time a bit too then it gives thinks a nice lolloping feel, Theo Parrish plays a lot of shit that just kind of falls along really gracefully.

I want to get more into this cos I find the idea of groove proper interesting, this notion that you can have exactly the same elements in exactly the same order but by moving any of the hits a fraction of a second in either direction you can create a very different feel. It gives so much possibility, it’s like adding another dimension to writing music.

Grievous Angel taught me years ago about capturing grooves so you don’t have too switch the grid off, you just fuck it up. Since then its become a bit of an obsession, sometimes it gets in the way of song writing cos the grid is so stupidly off-kilter that even though the drums sound good its impossible to sit a decent bassline in there and the tune gets lost and I’ll have wasted a day.

B: Your current productions seem to fit in with both house and techno, yet still have that darkness, a dubby edge from dubstep...

K: I think though no matter what I try and make it comes out sounding dark, it’s just a reflection of my personality unfortunately. Hopefully though most of my stuff has a little a bit of light once in a while.. A lot of the stuff I love has that dark/light thing going on: if you’ve got the bass and the drums grinding away beneath then you get the balance with some colour on top. From people like Slam and Two Lone Swordsmen through to classic Dillinja, even Villalobos or Surgeon. Shit where they make you wait for the “good bit” where the tunes really rolling and all in the elements are bouncing of each other.

B: Is this deliberate? Do you strive to have a tension between the elements in your tracks?

K: If there’s tension its just because I try and make sure everything goes together. The bit I enjoy most about writing music is auditioning sounds through the sampler, I’m not a musician so I don’t get off on writing hooks and I’m not that interested techy stuff to be too clinical about mixdowns, that end of things is just very much a case of do what needs doing.

For me it’s just about putting together sounds that compliment each other and trying to give that space I just created some motion, sometimes that’s about switching things, sometimes its about changing the levels or whatever. I use a lot of delays and reverb because that’s how I’ve always done things. In contrast I really like the Pearson Sound tracks for being so sonically dry, they sound sick on a big rig, same with the new Untold bits – I reckon that’s the way a lot of people are going to be headed.

B: How do you feel about UK funky?

K: I don’t know enough about it to be honest. I was slow getting on it and though I know about the big tunes and bought the 12”s but that means nothing really. I dug the Marcus Nasty rinse sets from last year and the Cooly G Fact mix and the bits that you and the Hessle gang play but its dumb to pretend I know too much about it. Roska was good when I saw him Bristol.

B: How do you feel about Berlin/minimal?

K: I’m not as interested as I was in the linear Berghain type tunes or the dub-techno end of things, but the Ancient Methods 12”s have been great and I really love the Anstam tunes, T++ is still a big influence. The bit I’m most interested in though is the kind of slow house Workshop have been putting out because it’s heavy and got a shit load of groove to it. I’ve been buying up the STL 12”s on Something since they’re absolutely brilliant. On a similar tip, I caught Move D twice at Free Rotation, once in front of about 40 people in the café tent on Sunday afternoon and that was a real treat to behold, the shit he plays just seems to make people smile.

The stuff that gets labeled “minimal” I’m generally not into but then I don’t go looking for it and so I’m not that informed. Discussing what exactly “minimal” designates is a bit of a nightmare in itself I find. I’ve seen some dull sterile music this summer that I guess fits that description though – it’s not really minimal in the true sense of the idea though is it? From reading Sherbourne I hear identikit deep-house is all the rage now..

B: Is minimalism ultimately a dead end? Or not... :)

K: Psuedo-minimalism is a dead end for sure, its all too easy to slip into though. I love the Puritanism of the concept of minimalism, though I think it requires some serious concentration to execute with conviction.

Rob Hood, Loefah, Basic Channel all did fucking amazing bodies of work as minimalists and its some of the most emphatic and enveloping electronic music created. Tunes like Artwork’s Basic G too, its incredible and yet less happens in the course of the tune than in the intro to most tunes.

The problem is its just so often the idea is used as cover for lack of ideas of laziness. I think in a club its nice too mix it up too – an hour and a half of Dettmann’s skeletal techno was too monotonous for my tastes though I dig his records as individual works.

B: What or who musically inspires you right now?

K: I’m not really into lists of names but everyone I’ve mentioned so far, generally anyone who’s making involving, grooving and occasionally colourful music. I really like what Guido’s doing with female vocal tracks, and Peverelist’s Bluez is a percy at the moment cos its heavy as fuck and emotive. Geiom is pretty seriously under-rated I think. Mala always. FXHE.

Also good DJ’s who build sets properly are inspiring me massively right now, some people are just next-level and I’ve got a lot of respect for that.

B: What drives your musical direction these days?

K: Listening to new and old music, its literally fucking endless how much there is to go through. I used to have these phases of just shutting myself off from new things in case they were doing what I was trying to do better or something stupid but there really isn’t time for that. Everytime I hear something done in a new way I have to stop the track that’s playing and boot up Cubase. What I end of making generally sounds nothing like the thing that inspired it still.

B: Can you tell me about "Countryman" and "Stasis (g mix)"...

K: Countryman came straight from the film – me and a flat mate had been working through his collection of Reggae influenced films and he was egging me to make a tune from it. There’s a “Babylon” too which is a bit shit, “Rockers” never made it past the sampling stage.. Anyway, sampled every standout noise in it and built it up from there. It started out as a proper bongo workout using a loop from one of the percussive tracks on the soundtrack but after a bit though we chucked that. I was listening to the T++ 12”s a lot at the time I filtered everything down and just let the layers ride over each other. It took about a week to balance the automation out. The room it was mixed in has weird acoustics so I mixed the kick way too loud but I guess that’s what makes it a bit different.

Stasis started of as an experiment trying to build a vocal pattern like in Cassy’s “For You” where the different snippets get increasingly more involved with each other, then cos I’d just got some demo of a new echo plugin ended up all dub-techno sounding. The original Stasis is a techy post Rhythm and Sound tune, its nice and stuff but.. With the mix that’s on the record I was going for an Artwork meets Todd Edwards vibe – the drums are definitely 2-step but the variation is subtle and they just go on. If I’d done it proper there’d have been no breakdown I guess. I definitely want to take the garage drums at slower tempo thing further still.

B: Your music has an edge in it, like '05 loefah/youngsta halfstep but isn't as comically aggressive as a lot of 09 dubstep - do you exercise restraint in your aggression?

K: I’m not sure restraint is the right word – I’m not holding back on the nastiness, rather just starting off with the intention of keeping things sounding low and rolling. I read a good quote on FACT from Regis where he said about how he wouldn’t try to make anything deliberately dark and aggressive, yet his stuff certainly sounds that way to most people. In the same the way I’m not about aiming to sound ‘dark as fuck’ or whatever – space and movement are the important aspects. With the mid-range stuff it seems to be concerned only with the tear-out to the detriment of everything else.

B: Is it important to understand scene's lineages when you're consuming new music or do you enjoy the excitement of finding new music without being aware of its exact context?

K: Yeah I think it has to be important to understand where things come from a bit, obviously not down to every last detail but if you feel you’ve got an interest in a scene or a sound I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to check what came before. Its just the best source of inspiration there is, you start to see lineages in styles and method and patterns emerge. Idea’s getting echoed through different generations of producers.

At the same time finding stuff out of context is so often like a breath of fresh air. After a while obviously that scene or sound just becomes part of what you’re about but its definitely one of the most satisfying things about being deep into music. I’ve been listening to some of the WBMX radio sessions the past month and I’ve no-idea what a lot of the stuff they were playing is, same with a lot of the UK Funky I hear and like. I think for a while I was too concerned with knowing everything all the time - I’m trying to see stuff from a broader in perspective now. It’s daft being too limited to one thing.

B: How do you think things have changed in the last ten years where the consumption and creation of music can be so separate in an internet era? as you say "dark garage in the lake district..."

K: I think the key thing thats changed is the reach and effect of influence - the options regarding what you choose to expose yourself to have just been blown wide open, at the same time its now possible to have an input from a remote location was in what might have otherwise been a very localized scene. When the only way to know about new things happening was via print obviously word about scenes that were low to the ground wouldn’t spread until it was deemed hype enough to be worth column inches, and by that point you could argue that the peak of creativity might have been passed anyway. Now it’s instant. Obviously you need to be open to finding new things, but if you are its so much easier to find things than 10 years ago. As kids we used to ride an hour on the bus to go to Our Price ‘cause that was how you got new music in the Lakes.

B: How has the ubiquity and cheapness of music production software changed music scenes in the last ten years?

K: Its certainly made it easier to get involved, I mean the financial threshold you have to step to in order to get professional quality has dropped by thousands of pounds. A lot of people have access to a computer and that’s the only bit you need pay for really. I’m guessing there’s probably a fuck load more music being written than there was and I presume the number of tunes is accommodated to an extent by the number of digital only labels and so on. It’s effect is diluting but perhaps that’s irrelevant, talent always surfaces I hope. Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t have got into music without the opportunity things like cracked software present, me included.

All photos taken exclusively for Keysound by badgyal Bristol photographer Liz Eve. Find her at www.lizeve.com and on Flickr.

Kowton's "Stasis (g mix)/Countryman" is out October 19th on 12" and digital on Keysound. Hear it here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rinse September

Rinse FM

We were back on Rinse FM Thursday 24th at 11pm.

DOWNLOAD it here.

Tracklist Dusk + Blackdown Rinse September 2009

Slackk "Fire Flies" (unreleased)
Lethal B and Donae'o "Flap Your Wings" (unreleased)
Ozzie B "Maybeee Ting" (unreleased)
Roska "Without It" (unreleased)
Dusk + Blackdown "Dasaflex" (unreleased)
Maxwell D "Iron Monkey" (unreleased)
Unknown "Because of You (Zed Bias club mix)" (unreleased)
Geiom "Luna" (Soul Motive)

Silkie "The Horisons (Funky Hackmann refix)" (unreleased)
Mark Pritchard/Blen "Africa Hitech" (unreleased)
Hard House Banton and $tush "We Nuh Run" (unreleased)
Grievous Angel "Move Down Low" (Souljazz)
Geeneus ft Katie B "Good Life" (unreleased)

Desto "Cold refix" (unreleased)
Sully "The Loot remix" (forthcoming Keysound)
Geiom + Dawn Treader "Toscani" (unreleased)
Basement Jaxx "Scars" (Sbtrkt remix)" (unreleased XL)
D1 "Just Business" (unreleased)

***LHF Showcase part II ***

"Blue Steel"

Kryptic Minds "768" (unreleased Tectonic)
SP "Taiko" (Tempa)
Peverelist "Jarvik Mindstate" (unreleased Punch Drunk)
Skream "Sweetz" (unreleased Keysound)
Starkey "Black Monolith" (unreleased)
Starkey ft Badness "OK Luv" (unreleased)
Ikonika "Fish"(unreleased Hyperdubstep)
Lethal B and Silencer "Don't Run It Up" (unreleased)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Destination Desto


One of the many things about doing a radio show is that it forces you to seek out and listen to new music. Over the last two years we've come across some great producers I didn't previously know and one of them is Desto. His productions have be consistenly great since "Disapearing Reapearing Ink" turned our heads, so it seemed only right to ask the guy for a few beats and words of his own.

**Desto mix for Blackdown**

Download it HERE.

Desto "Broken Memory" (forthcoming Ramp Recordings)
Jtreole "The Loot [Sully remix]" (forthcoming Keysound Recordings)
Asylum Seekas "Magic Words [TMU remix]" (dub)
Tes La Rok "Mandem" (dub)
Desto "Ice Cold" (dub)
Desto "20/20 Hindsight" (dub)
Sully "In Some Pattern" (forthcoming Keysound Recordings)
Desto "Disappearing Reappearing Ink" (forthcoming Ramp Recordings)
TRG "Strobe Lick" (dub)
Tes La Rok "Inta" (dub)
Desto "Dark Matter" (forthcoming Noppa Recordings)
- "Wizard Of Wor" tease-
Khid "Emptying The Ghost Of Her" (dub)
Desto "Can't Take It" (dub)
Desto "Overkrookd" (dub)
Computer Jay "Maintain [Ikonika remix]" (forthcoming Ramp Recordings)
Clouds "Napalm" (dub)
Desto "Stay Strong" (dub)
Desto "Gremlinz" (forthcoming Noppa Recordings)
Desto "Cold [refix]" (forthcoming Noppa Recordings)

Blackdown: So Desto, tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you currently based?

Desto: I'm 28 years old, based in Helsinki, Finland. I started dabbling with music production in '93 with a 386 PC and tracker software which was the only cheap option for sample based music production for a kid at the time. The sound quality was much worse than the samplers back then so it was by no means going anywhere but it was a lot of fun. Sample size was very limited and to work around that took some creativity. Sometimes we'd make tunes of all styles that were called chiptunes that were less than 10kb in size, some of them sounded decent still. This taught me things like how to construct a variety of sounds from a single cycle of a sine wave.

The sound at the time was on the hardcore tip and me and my friends were crazy for it. In '94 I met the fella later known as Tes La Rok. I remember we bumped into this record store in '94 with a Moving Shadow compilation playing and walked out with a copy each. We were mad for the Metalheadz, Photek and the Bristol guys. Tes lived in the east and i lived in the west 1.5h away so we just talked about music a lot and exchanged tunes trying to produce jungle. This was in the days of no internet but there was a vibrant tracker scene supported by guys running BBSs on their home computers. What it meant was kids had files hosted on their computers and you could access them by using an extra slow dial-up connection. People were sharing their tunes of different styles uploading and downloading stuff one at a time and making up what could be described as tracker music labels. It was all good fun.

The music making started getting a bit more serious and around '98 Tes got his first release while i was falling off producing as I couldn't really afford any studio gear and felt DnB was getting boring with everyone jumping for the roller beats instead of the complex rhythms and aesthetics of the early days. The next years went by with me buying soul & funk breaks and hiphop, playing them at b-boy (breaking) events and actually breaking and eventually travelling the world with it which i've been doing for 12 years now.

Dubstep was really the first genre of electronic music that awakened my interest again in '06. I'd kept producing on a dated platform and at a slow pace but hearing the new sounds i started getting back into it. I had a lot of injury time from breaking and had to think of something to do. I called up Tes who i'd not had too much contact with for the past years and he told me he'd already been whipping up dubstep rhythms for a while. My studio was very dated so it took some time for me to get my hands on a new laptop and Cubase in late '07 which was a big step forward. I 'launched' the Desto project then. I felt i'd made music for long enough without making anything out of it apart from a couple of small releases and i thought i'd give it a go. Early inspirations include Youngsta & Tasks sets on Rinse. The tunes Youngsta used to play still make the hairs on my arm stand up. The people behind these tunes get my utmost respect.

B: In the last year or so your productions have been consistently great, starting with "Disapearing Reapearing Ink", can you tell me a bit about your sound and where you're going?

D: My sound is really a mixture of all the influences I've had since I started listening to Kraftwerk at the age of three. It ranges from the hiphop of the 90s to Warp sounds of the same era to jungle to soul. I go back to my old records for inspiration. I feel it took me a while to get used to Cubase and not being too concerned by genre definitions which at the time I got into dubstep were somewhat more vague than the 'recipe' that seems to be popular nowadays. Back then it felt like dubstep was welcoming producers to come in and bring their own influence with them. For a while I tried forcing myself to the halfstep style but I later realized there were enough clones around (and they were doing a better job than me as well) so I decided to go with what ever I felt like doing. I just get up in the morning, down a pint of strong coffee and see what happens.

B: You're played by dubstep-affiliated Rinse DJs like myself, Dusk and Oneman but to me your sound is more like grime or w*nky, more HyperGrime than Hyperdub: is grime an inspiration at all?

D: Grime is definitely one of my inspirations. I'm not the biggest grime connoisseur at all but I have a little section of old Alias, Black Ops & Eski stuff in my record shelf. I've actually bought my best grime records long after it was originally released, a lot of it from Dead-O and the other heads out here who were into grime in it's golden days but I heard it back when I started getting into dubstep. I just recently listened to some of my earliest '06 productions and found one of the tunes having the exact same drum pattern as Ice Cold which is one of my recent more grimey tunes so the influence has been there all along. Then again I'd say hiphop has had a much greater influence on my sound so it's hard for me to pinpoint where it all comes from. The biggest part of my record collection is still soul, funk, jazz and hiphop.

It's fair to say my sonic travels have taken me rather far from the 'core dubstep sound'. I think it gets more interesting when there's less boundaries. I like to keep it around 140bpm though as I'm still very much attracted to the DMZ nights type of dubstep aesthetic although my tracks might not directly imply this. I feel the possibilities with this sound are still endless. It might just take some coffee to realize it.


B: A lot of dubstep is trying to be dark now, almost comically so (except the joke isn't funnny). Your tunes, like lots of synthy, grimey, w*nky stuff is full of melodic light and colour: do you see music in this way too?

D: When a sound gets popular and more producers get into it the clichés are bound to get emphasis - indeed even to a comical extent. After EZ Rollers and the others pushing the effective straight roller beat in the late 90s DnB was never the same again. When every producer and DJ went for it the effect was gone. Being dark for the sake of dark in dubstep works in a similar pattern. But there's still great dark dubstep around.

I love the aesthetic of - for example - Mala and Loefah... I'm really glad these guys are back into their production after a bit of a break. With my music I always try to bring something of interest to the table (with varying results obviously) and lately it has been a lot of the synths i've finally afforded and dry sounds instead of dub echoes and dark atmospheres. Like you mentioned above dubstep has plenty of that. I've been trained as a classical pianist for 10 years when I was a kid so I guess to an extent the melody comes from there. And Kraftwerk. The 'wonkiness' (or post-Dilla sound as I see it) comes from the hiphop. I'm not that great at doing spacious tracks either so I've played with melodies instead as it comes naturally. I've been experimenting with space a lot more just lately though so we'll see what comes out of that. As for visual arts I draw inspiration from anything from Style Wars to old PC CGA graphics to Dali to Commodore 64. I try to approach music differently each time to keep it interesting, it can be drawn from visual arts to dance to just audio.

B: You're based in Finland, right? Can you tell me about the scene where you live, what nights go on, what DJs and producers should we know about...

D: Firstly, Helsinki inspires me. I love the city. It's streets and dwellers are a big part of my music and my part of the city, Vallila is just sheer inspiration. I could write a book on this but moving on...

I'm lucky to live here. The scene here is vibrant and Helsinki was one of the first places that for example N-Type, Chef and Pinch played outside the UK. This is due to Tes La Rok, Dead-O, RPK, Sire and others pushing the sound at an early stage. Nights like Slam It and Alas have been pushing the sound forward and doing the groundwork when the turnout for the parties wasn't that big. They've always made sure the soundsystem is weighty and provided the Helsinki dubsteppers with the full spectrum of the dubstep styles from eyes down vibes to the dubby to the techy to the ravey to whatnot. Due to this the artists they bring over can genuinely do their own thing during their sets without having to worry about playing the biggest bangers. Unless of course playing bangers is their thing.

A guy called Didier (of the Soul Investigators fame) bought dub cutting equipment from Jason at transition a few years back and at the beginning of 2009 opened Timmion Cutting Laboratory here in Helsinki. It's been great for the dubstep scene here, we can get direct feedback on the tracks and cut fresh dubs on the day we have a set. It's like having our own little Transition studios over here which is just a lot of fun. I cut all the music I play out so not having to order from the UK has been a big help. The smell of fresh plates before a good night is priceless.

There's a lot of good producers out here. I included tracks from Tes, Clouds, TMU and Khid in my mix, other producers include Non Person, Late, RPK, Teeth... The list goes on and I'm happy to say more and more producers are stepping up. It's lively out here I tell you.

B: What music (producers, DJs, scenes) are inspiring you right now?

D: All my old records, special mention to RZAs production on Tical which I keep going back to. The positive vibes of the finnish dubstep scene. As for dubstep producers there's too many to mention... Guys like Tes, Clouds and the rest of the local fellas, Mala, Kode9, Loefah, Coki, El-B, Benny Ill, Cyrus, Sully, Untold, Skream, Benga, Peverelist, Fantastic Mr. Fox & Rich Reason, Zomby, Joker, Silkie, TRG... The list goes on. As for DJs, seeing and hearing Oneman mix out here was a big inspiration. The whole thing him, Brackles, Shortstuff and them got going on is interesting. ASE in general and the Transition show is always a pleasure to listen to on Rinse. One of the most important inspirations has been the trips to London for DMZ and Forward. The trips have been very inspirational. I got a lot of love for London streets as well.

B: You've got a release forthcoming on Ramp ("Disapearing Reapearing Ink"/"Broken Memory") and had a release on Argon and BoomBap. What imprints inspire you?

The ones coming out very soon are a 12" on Ramp and a double pack EP on Noppa. There's more to come from Argon hopefully and others but more on that later. As for labels I'm feeling apart from the ones mentioned, Hyperdub, Deep Medi, Wireblock (for releasing Rustie, bless them!), One Handed Music, Lucky Me, Hemlock and Keysound definitely. And no, you didn't have to extort me with dirty gossip for that one, Keysound has been a buy on sight label for me for a while. There would be so much more but an endless list of music would be pointless.

Photos by Anssi Räisänen http://www.chiefgarage.com/.


Creative edge: reconceiving suburban London

On the 26th of September, I'm going to be talking at UCL as part of their Creative edge: Reconceiving Suburban London program. I've been asked to talk a litte about our album and video, but most excitingly I'm going to be chatting with photographer Nico Hogg about his work. I think George Infinite and John "Woofah" Eden will also be there.

Following that Dusk and I will be DJing back in Bristol at Monster Bass 3, on an insane line up that includes Mala, Heatwave and Warrior Queen, Mungos Hi Fi and Monkey Steak. We're preparing an extra-bashy, no f**king about set... I can't wait.

Finally We're playing at the ManSedanse festival in Tampere, Finland on the 9th of October alongside Desto, Appleblim and Clouds. Woyyyy Ooooiiii!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blackdown ft Durrty Goodz Concrete Streets

Blackdown ft Durrty Goodz "Concrete Streets (Vocal, instrumental, Zomby remix)" out now on 12" vinyl and digital. Shout to Zomby: badman.

Marcus NASTY interview

Blackdown: So when did you start DJing?

Marcus NASTY: It was about 2000, because I was playing garage, 2step garage.

B: Obviously you’re pretty well known as the head of N.A.S.T.Y. Crew, but in those times what were you playing as a DJ personally?

MN: The 4x4 stuff, Sticky, Jameson and then it kinda evolved into grime because Jammer stepped in with his tunes.

B: So when did you start getting interested in house?

MN: Well basically, when the grime scene died there was nothing for no one to do, everyone started playing old school garage and stuff. People were playing house but it was taking ages for everyone to get into it. I thought, ‘hang on, this ain’t us, this aint our music,’ because we came from grime, jungle, garage. So to go to house it was like ‘whoah, this is a bit too, erm, soft.’

MN: So I started asking all the UK producers, ‘have you started to make house?’ and they said, ‘we have but it don’t sound like house.’ So I said ‘just send it to me, let me see what it sounds like and I’ll see where you’re going wrong.’ So they sent me all their stuff and bit by bit I started playing it all and I ain’t looked back since. I just took everyone’s stuff and started playing it on radio and I’m taking from Donae’o, to Crazy Cousins, Naughty: everyone. Even down to that Apple tune “Mr Bean”: originally that was made as a grime tune.

B: Yeah “Mr Bean” and “Seigeliser” were a bit a head of it’s time y’know?

MN: Yeah yeah, definitely and it’s still one of the top tunes right now. There’s a vocal of it about this year, “Are You Gonna Bang Doe” by Funky D.

B: Are you playing that tune at the moment?

MN: I do but that’s because there’s a little hype for it in Napa but to be quite honest I don’t rate it because it’s like, it’s so simple it’s going to encourage other MCs who ain’t got no talent to talk shit on good tunes. Screaming “Oi you/are you gonna bang?” isn’t really saying anything. And I think it’s quite rude as well. But because there’s a hype around it, I will play it.

B: Yeah, I much prefer the original instrumental. So, when you said ‘the grime scene died’ what year did you mean?

MN: Well I wouldn’t say it died but the MCs involved weren’t getting much help from certain DJs. In a grime rave you’ll find the artists arguing on stage. It’s not the ravers. Nine times out of ten they’ll be up on stage warring each other, that’s what killed the grime scene. Added to that it turned from a dance music into a hip hop sound. That is what killed it. So it turned into more about the MCs than the music. You’ll go to a grime rave and there’ll be 20 minutes of jumping about and telling each other to ‘suck their mums’ and that will be it. And then the rest of the rave will be bashment and r&b.

B: Or it will get locked off haha…

MN: And everyone has a part to play from Wiley to Lethal B – all those little wars just fucked everything up. No one wants to see big arsed men arguing on stage. That is what killed it, nothing else. There’s no one else to blame for it. It’s not the industry: it was all our fault.

B: It’s weird because a lot of those artists think that’s exactly what grime should be. And a lot of grime fans think that’s grime at its best.

MN: Yeah but that’s because that’s what they’ve grown into. But what it was before was we could go down raves, hear a couple of lyrics, couple of bars. But then it just changed.

B: How do you see MCs in funky?

MN: Some of the grime MCs can not make the crossover. Like Ghetto does not sit right on funky. But at the same time Skepta, JME and Frisco do. So I dunno, that’s a tricky one. I think the way everyone’s jumped on this electro thing and tried to crossover, that is going to be the nail in the coffin.

B: Funny you say that because I much prefer grime MCs on funky than when they do electro. Most electro with grime vocals, with the exception of Wiley “Wearing My Rolex,” just feels wrong.

MN: It is. I think it is wrong. I think they should stick with it and get on with it. You see like with the bassline scene, all the MCs fucked up the scene, but now they’ve gone backwards, made it more vocal and now it’s coming back up and that’s what grime should have done but they didn’t. They chose to jump ship instead.

Who didn’t help the most, was Cameo. He was classed as one of the top guys in the grime scene and he just jumped ship straight away. Westwood is now the number one grime DJ, imagine that?

B: Not Logan?

MN: No, Logan don’t even come close. Westwood’s doing more for the grime scene than Logan all day long.

B: Haha. Westwood is pretty big but I rate Logan more for grime.

MN: Everyone rates Westwood because he doesn’t jump from scene to scene. He hasn’t done what Cameo’s done, going from scene to scene. Westwood’s tried to help every scene. He’s even tried to help the funky scene. He done a Westwood TV and he made me bring all the funky, grime, dubstep and bassline MCs in one room (part 1).

B: So how do you look back on the early N.A.S.T.Y. Crew era?

MN: I think I made a lot of mistakes. I went away for a little while and then came back. Instead of dealing with things diplomatically and listening to each individual member and their problems, I listened to the original members who were in fact jealous of the new members, who were in fact doing better. I acted on what they said and I shouldn’t have. Me kicking Jammer out of N.A.S.T.Y. Crew was a big mistake, and I will say that happily. Everyone who was in N.A.S.T.Y., I’m now friends with. We’ve all sat down and spoke about it. For the break up of N.A.S.T.Y. I still blame Sharkey because of jealousy. But in any crew you can only have two top merkers who get bookings – and that causes the rest of the crew to have bad feelings.

B: So everyone who was in N.A.S.T.Y. you’re cool with? D Double, Footsie, Ghetto, Kano…

MN: D Double was at my birthday bash but the one I haven’t seen in a couple of years is Kano.

B: But he’s on a different path these days…

MN: I think he tried to be a diva and I think it worked against him because now he’s not really doing much, at all.

B: But it’s cool that you get on with the rest of them…

MN: Yeah I’ve been with them all in Napa, well Jammer’s gone back now, but we can talk to each other and where we went wrong. All the grime lot do work together, apart from the ones who kinda blew up… Wiley, Lethal kinda keep themselves to themselves now. Dizzee.. but Dizzee does come back and try help everyone.

B: That’s good because one of the problems with the grime ‘scene’ is the members often don’t help each other.

MN: Everyone was against each other. “Let’s clash.” And even I went along with that and that is not the way, that is what killed grime. All the ‘let’s go and merk’ shut down the scene. But I always say this: we are to blame. There’s no one else to blame. It’s no one else’s fault: it’s our fault. Entertainers who were doing shit raves: the last big Eskimo dance in SE1 ended in total mahem because we were all fighting on stage. Wiley threw bottles at the bouncers, the bouncers tried to beat up Kano, we were fighting SLK: it was just pandemonium. The crowd got involved, they started throwing bottles at the bouncers, they rushed the bar, they rushed the cloakroom. It was just out-and-out war, I swear there were three different rooms full of fights.*

B: Yeah, Eskimo dance was pretty legendary.

MN: It was the biggest and the last one. That was the end of the grime scene right there.

B: I think it would be unfair to only talk about grime with you as you’ve done a lot in funky recently. So how do you feel about all the attention funky is getting right now?

MN: I think it’s good. Personally I think we need to differentiate between the vocal funky stuff and this new MCing on funky stuff, because that is what is kinda putting people off funky at the minute. The “Migrane Skank,” “Oi You Are You Gonna Bang,” “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” – all that stuff it’s just rubbish. It’s people trying it: there’s no future in what they’re doing. Peope like Versatile and Donae’o, they’re the future in what they’re doing, they’re actually making tunes they’re not just making up nursery rhymes and sticking them on tunes, so I rate them guys.

B: I agree with you on the nursery rhyme thing but also just making UK funky sound like US house is a really hard route to go down as well, because it’s really hard to compete with them boys as they’re already established.

MN: What I think is we need to keep it to ourselves which is a house base but it’s got influences from grime, jungle and garage. All the influences that were there before and that’s what makes our sound, our sound. That’s why it will grow and we’ll be able to play our music in other countries. All those other DJs who think they’re gonna get somewhere playing house or minimal-tech, they’re not going to get no where. They’ll only ever be big in England, because they’ll never book us to play US or German music, they’ll just book their top guys. And that is now even more obvious because me as the first person who just played strictly UK funky – I play all over the world whereas the others don’t and they were the so-called top boys before.

B: Yeah I agree 100%: it would be hard to be bigger in US house than Masters At Work or someone…

MN: Exactly. You’ve got a lot to compete against, and as I said, it’s not our music. I think everyone should stick together and… you see Cameo, he’s a major problem. He’s the guy that will take your tune, play it no matter of the quality, and wont even try to tell you ‘you should do better.’ When that “Oi You…” tune came out, because it had a little hype he jumped straight on it, bringing the geezer in. Fair enough, he’s improved a bit now but that is not the way forward because it encourages people to not bother, so just come up with any random crap. I got a tune in the post the other day called “Lipsing,” about kissing girls and people who deny kissing girls, and it’s quite fun, I think it’s better than “Migrane Skank.”

B: Is that the Scorcher thing?

MN: Is that Scorcher? Ahhaha… that is actually quite funny. People will go mad. But I dunno, all the nursery rhyme stuff needs to stop. All the MCs just talking about themselves and their cars on tunes needs to stop. Just need to make. Proper. Tunes. And then this ting will go on and we’ll have our own worldwide scene. There are people in the US. People send me tunes from Toronto. Spain… all over the place. So people are getting involved with the funky scene. It’s a big movement we just need to keep it constructive.

B: Obviously you were on Déjà Vu before, what made you want to join Rinse?

MN: Basically Deja had looked after me for years but when I started playing UK funky, they weren’t supporting it. Even when they were having raves, I was the number one DJ on their station and they recognised that but they wouldn’t put me on their flyers. They were like ‘oh we don’t do UK funky events.’ I was like ‘have you even heard me in a rave?’ there isn’t any such thing as a UK funky event. Their aint, their aint at the minute. There’s just house events and what happens is people book me as the difference so you have different kinds of DJs playing different kinds of stuff but Deja wouldn’t recognise that. So because of that I left them as I knew Rinse pull push anything new and anything that’s going on and they will help you. So I just thought: Rinse. They were offering a lot more.

B: You’ve done well to walk into Rinse, which is the strongest radio line up, and be one of the top boys as well…

MN: There was always that: people kept saying to me ‘don’t go to Rinse’ there’s loads of top guys on there, you’re just gonna be a little fish in a big sea, and I was like ‘no, I’m gonna do my thing.’ And I done it, I got back to number one on another station within a month or two.

B: So tell me what it’s like to do your Rinse show…

MN: You see Rinse yeah, it’s a big difference. Deja’s London based whereas Rinse is worldwide. So when you get people from all over the world just sending you messages about your show while you’re on there live: it’s big. I love it. Rinse is a big difference. Their station sounds different to other stations. Rinse have had this… sound, for years! It’s like an echo kinda sound. Compared to other stations it sounds different. And they’ve got the best system, ever. I actually love it, I can’t get enough. I try and go on Rinse as much as possible. I ring [management] at 8 a.m. every morning ‘is there a show? Is there a show? Is anyone not turning up?’ I ring them 3 in the morning ‘is there show, can I go on?’ I just love DJing. But Rinse for me, out of all the stations I’ve been on, they’re the best. I’m 100% happy with the move I made. I actually tell myself off for not making it sooner. I love Rinse. I’m 100% Rinse: they’ve done it. They make the difference. Deja is about Deja: Rinse is about the scene. And they’ll support that scene. And they listen to me: I give them advice as to what DJs are good and they’ll go and get those DJs and get them on the station. I can respect that. Deja would let me go on there all the time but they wouldn’t let me have no input. Deja they just want your money: Rinse is a business. Straight up and down business and I like that. Deja they’d let anyone have a rave, it was just so over-familiar, friends and that.

B: So tell me about Napa: describe it for those who haven’t been, because it’s quite important to funky…

MN: I think all the little holiday places are important to funky. The only one that got to Ibiza this year was Crazy Cousinz but I would like to take it there, and Dubai – but people have been calling me from Dubai to go there so I’ll be there soon I think. So I’ve done Gambia, Berlin – got Toronto coming up. I’ve done Northern Cyprus, the Turkish side. I was meant to do Malia but I missed my flight.

B: Gambia’s interesting because people talk about the African or Afrobeat influence in funky…

MN: I went there and they’d never heard UK funky before. I went with As It Is TV and like when I played “African Warrior” they went mental. They actually went real mental, they went crazy: it was a lot. I was quite surprised because they were well into the music, straight away: nothing long.

B: So where do you think funky can go next?

MN: It can go big on an international level and for other DJs to play on an international level. I’ve never tried to just keep this scene to myself. I’ve pushed other DJs and given tunes to other DJs, showed them where they can get tunes and educated bare people. They will tell you I share my stuff. They way I see it is one man can’t make a scene big. The more people involved the bigger the scene gets. I’ve actively encouraged some of the grime DJs to cross over. Shame on me but I did haha…

B: What, Mak 10?

MN: Mak10, even Spyro I got playing funky. Vectra, Maximum: loads of them.

B: All those DJs who play with Pioneer CDJs [which have massive pitch range, up to +100 rather than +8 on vinyl Technics, and pitch correction algorhythms], it’s quite possible to blend the tunes together.

MN: Yeah if you listen to Spyro he plays a full on mixture.

B: Yup, Spyro and Maximum are pretty incredible DJs.

MN: Yeah definitely.

B: So tell me about the mix CD?

MN: Rinse has mixed listeners so I wanted to do what I do on my show, which is just a mix of everything. Just do me. I’ve done a mix CD for someone else, and it’s just all commercialised crap. Whereas the Rinse one is what I like, underground and a mixture of both. It’s more of what I’m into.

· Marcus NASTY plays Beyond at Plastic People on Thursday 3rd September. His show is Wednesday 7pm-9pm on Rinse. Marcus NASTY’s mix CD is forthcoming for Rinse, release date tbc.

* Footnote: While researching Eskidance flyers, I stumbled across this, Woebot's review of Eskidance which correlates exactly with Marcus' account. Respect!