The music scene is a lexical minefield; one misplaced syntactical structure here, a floating definite article there and it can all mean ruin in the eyes of a given genre’s credibility-gatekeepers. Whether you’re po-going around the stage in spray-on jeans or gazing wantonly at your shoes – names are an intrinsic part of an artist’s aesthetic. Call yourself Test Icicles and you’re halfway to fucked already…
Whilst such dictionary-plunder translated into brash sloganeering during Punk’s gobby heyday, twee nouns throughout Britpop, and an excess of Z’s wherever there’s a sniff of da urban, the burgeoning sound of dubstep has claimed it’s own alphabetic doctrine; the kicking K. Amongst the subterranean bass and clipped tech overtures, dubstep’s royalty began to emerge – all proudly grasping their consonants with pride. Digital Mystikz, Kode 9 and, lest we forget, Skream.
I listen to loads of different genres. At the minute I’m really feeling Goldfrapp… They’re sick!
Hard, angular and bestowed with the ability to subtly transform an innocent entity into something far more brusque, the use of K (alphabetic not narcotic) provides a neat encapsulation of dubstep’s recent aural ascent – maturing from the more polite environs of Millennium Garage into a visceral strain of instrumental polemic that shares a genealogy with Grime but eschews the more glamour-obsessed aspects of the genre.
Emerging blinking from the bedroom, dubstep’s formative years have seen cheap PC software enable anyone to become a producer – yet where this ensures a refreshing democracy, it also means there’s a shitload of banal vinyl to wade through. Thankfully from time to time an artist comes along who ensures there’s no need to finger the crates endlessly in search of that elusive gem – with their inherent brilliance writ large for all to see. In the case of dubstep this mantle has fallen firmly at the uber-talented feet of Skream – aka Olli Jones – whose virulent strain of bass punctured beats and piquant melodies has opened up the genre to a whole new audience. When even the BBC are giving you the crossover thumbs up (“if this weird new sound is ever to make its way overground, this is the man to take it there”) then you can presume you’re making an impact. When Villalobos starts playing you out, it’s time to accept your fate…
Call yourself Test Icicles and you’re halfway to fucked already…
With the kind of back-story that reads like a PR team’s wet-dream, 2000 was year-dot of the Skream arc; aged 15 and in bother at school, Olli met Benga and Hatcha who, through their connections with Croydon’s Big Apple record shop and club sets at Forward>>, together minted the dubstep game plan. Uniting the vicious predilection of dub, seedy menace of drum & bass and head-nodding gravitas of hip-hop, dubstep quickly gained a reputation as the underground noise of choice for those in the know – bringing a genuine thrill to even the most jaded of ears. Yet, as is always the case with such a closed-gate community, the smell of potential stagnation hung heavy in the air. Thank fuck then for Digital Mystikz.
Introducing a more melodious aspect to the sonorous silicon, Digital Mystikz laid the foundations that Skream then built on; bringing tunes in from the shadows and allowing the ear access to a lighter thread with which to balance the noir-couched backdrop. If that all sounds emotionally redundant, suffice to say the actual records are searing diktats on the power of vocal-less music – battering the senses in a way which is neither oppressive nor intimidating, yet somehow enveloping the listener in the kind of serotonin-etched experience that makes having ears worthwhile. Hyperbolic? Maybe. Bollocks? Not a chance.
I’ll hopefully be doing a track with Warrior Queen later this year and my full length will be appearing in 2006: So be ready!
This all brings us neatly to the release of ‘Midnight Request Line’ on the superlative Tempa; undoubtedly the definitive dubstep release thus far, Skream’s fifth 12″ sent a shudder so fierce throughout the underground that it was only a matter of time before it breached the genre levies and flooded out. When Ricardo Villalobos started spinning it even Skream was shocked. “Yeah that’s sick” Olli confesses “I was really surprised when I heard a techno DJ was playing one of my tracks.” So would you consider returning the favour? “If I liked it…”
Having started dabbling in production at the ripe old age of 14, Skream’s musical life was nearly cut short due to a technology-provoked apathy. “I was about 14 when I started dabbling with Music 2000 but got bored really quickly. Then my brother introduced me to FruityLoops 3 and it all started from there”. From here on in things progressed quickly and the music matured at an alarming rate, so surely his set-up must have changed considerably over the years? “Well no, not at all really – there’s been some updates on my software and a new keyboard, but other than that it’s the same. I will be moving on to a Mac soon, but not just yet”.
there are no rules to making music
As is the danger with any emerging genre, dubstep has to run the fine line between progression and stagnation – making sure not to become a bass-heavy exercise in sonic tail-chasing, whilst ensuring things move forwards in a manner which excites the punters but doesn’t leave them alienated. The last thing we need is a dubstep Ocean Colour Scene. Thankfully through the likes of Skream, Digital Mystikz and Kode 9 this seems an increasingly unlikely proposition – with ‘Midnight Request Line’ juxtaposing upfront melodies with a basement of grimy (small G!) lowend-business, simultaneously managing to be both dank and inviting.
One possible explanation for this willingness to embrace a broader sound can be found after a quick root through his record collection; “I listen to loads of different genres. At the minute I’m really feeling Goldfrapp… They’re sick!” In addition to a trend-bucking love of horse-headed glam-electro, Skream also professes a softspot for House (DJ Gregory etc.) and makes another frank confession “You might not believe it but I also listen to a lot of Disco/Funk – Gap Band, KneeDeep, Fatback Band: All the masters_”. Whilst this certainly helps to signpost his melodious top-shelf, how did the Skream basement come to be such a lightless place? “When I was growing up I was always on stuff that was a little bit darker – Underground garage, Artwork, Zed Bias, El-B, Nude, Oris Ja. It taught me to do what I feel and realise that there are no rules to making music”.
Describing the future of dubstep as “bigger subs ‘n’ bigger clubs”, there remains a danger that coffee-table vigilantes will claim the genre and fuck it all up ala drum & bass
Until now the dubstep rulebook seems to have a triptych doctrine; avoid overt vocals and if you have to use them keep it subtle (lest it become just another avenue of the bewildering Grime universe), don’t try and make an album (the scene is obsessed with dub-plates) and make no concessions to commercialisation. Guess what? Skream’s having none of it. Quick to counter accusations of allergy in terms of vocals and full-fat LP’s, Olli quashes two of the governing diktats outright. “I’ll hopefully be doing a track with Warrior Queen later this year and my full length will be appearing in 2006: So be ready!” As to the third maxim, Skream is just as direct, proclaiming “I don’t think dubstep will ever go commercial” – but whilst there’s no doubt he believes this, given the hub-bub surrounding his releases it might just be that he’ll unwittingly prove himself wrong.
Describing the future of dubstep as “bigger subs ‘n’ bigger clubs”, there remains a danger that coffee-table vigilantes will claim the genre and fuck it all up ala drum & bass. Whilst this currently seems unlikely, does Skream feel there’s been any animosity within the scene towards him since ‘Midnight Request Line’ piqued the attention of a wider audience? “Not to my knowledge and I would do anything to spread the sound and create links in other scenes.” Would this include remix work? “Yeah. I love remixes, I could honestly do them all day long!” Quick to give those around him credit, Skream’s top-tips for the future are Quest and Ironsoul (“both big producers to watch out for”), as well as forecasting that “whilst Britain is where it originates from, dubstep will cross many borders. Take my word”. Does this signal the perennial obsession for British music to crack the American market? “No not at all. I think dubstep will likely end up breaking boundaries without actually trying to”
Closing with a discussion of what currently constitutes the cream of dubstep’s canon (see list below), Skream is evidently in love with making music (he has a rumored 1,500 tracks nestled on various hard-drives) and seems poised to take the genre in a direction which will prevent it dying on it’s underground-obsessed arse. So buckle up and skream if you wanna go faster…
Skream’s Definitive Dubstep List:
* Tempa’s-16 (all of them)
* NeverLand -Mala/DMZ
* Midnight Request Line – Skream
* Root – Loefa/DMZ
* RED – Artwork
* Skank – Benga vs. Skream
* The Judgement – Benga vs. Skream
Skream’s Current Top 10:
* Ironsoul – Kalawanji
* Skream vs. Hijak – BabylonTimewarp(rootremix)
* Mala – Left Leg Out
* Quest – HardFood
* Coki – Shattered
* Benga – Ms20
* Distance – Cyclops
* Skream – Colourful
* Skream vs. Distance – Wisemen
* Mala – Antiwar
Original Source: Boomkat