Interview with Hank Shocklee

Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee needs no introduction. Some of this interview appeared in the current issue of DJ Magazine, in a piece about dubstep. Here’s the rest…

When and where did you first hear or experience dubstep? What was it like?

It’s funny because I was listening to a bunch of drum n bass records and I was listening to Grooveriders shows and things of that nature and I just happened to be picking up some CDs and I saw this CD that said Dubstep Allstars volume 3 and y’know, I picked it up. At the time I thought it was another drum n bass vibration, and it had Kode 9 mixed it. It was a mix CD and I listened to it and I was really feeling it. At first it was a little slower than I was used to then I said OK, let me just vibe with this and I kept playing it. Then I bought the next one, Volume 4, which was mixed by Youngsta and it was pretty cool. Again it just had a nice little vibration to it. It was cool. I really didn’t think too much of it. I didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t know it was a new genre I thought it was another part of drum and bass. I know Dave Q and I went to him invited me down to Dub War. I went one of the first ones and he had a Joe Nice spinning and I was like really, really feeling the whole vibration, and that’s when I got a chance to see it was more like electronic reggae if you would as opposed to d and b.

Then I went to the next dub war and Skream was playing. I got a chance to hang out and vibe with Skream. Skream’s music is a little bit more melodic. He makes his beats and feel more like real songs. He had a whole different interesting twist on it. He had this psychedelic kind of trancey kind of horn arrangements with a lot of classics influence. I went out buying his stuff but I really didn’t… I was just like listening to the scene. I wasn’t deeply into it. I went to the other dub war and I met Mala and Loefah and when I saw those guys perform it really blew my mind. It was… from a standpoint… first of all, music’s gotten mad stale. It’s gotten, everything has become a regurgitaion of something else. Hip hop has just taken records… now hip hop is taking records from the ‘80s and looping records and just putting their spin on it. The only records that are pretty interesting are some of the down south records. But they get monotonous after a while. There was nothing that was cutting edge and taking music to where hip hop used to be. Now, hip hop has become mainstream and mainstream music is the death of any music. Once a record blows up to the point where it becomes as big as 50 cent In Da Club is becomes no longer a hip hop record, it becomes a mainstream pop record and for me, it’s looses it’s appeal. When I saw Mala and Pokes and Loefah perform it was… they made it into an experience.

It moved me to a point where I found finally saw people that was taking music, pushing the envelope to places where I always thought music could go. It intrigued me to the point where now I’ve kind of like, now I know most of the DJs and producers and I‘m touch with a lot of the stateside cats, I just think it’s very very cool. To me it’s all part of drum n bass culture – because the thing I liked most about d ‘n’ b and dubstep is the producers are the artists are the DJs are the promoters – they get involved with writing the articles and forums. It’s the only sector that’s participating and involved in their own culture. And it’s completely independent and that’s a major thing. It’s not influenced by decisions based on everything else other than the music. When pop, R&B got to the point where the music becomes secondary, that’s when I loose interest.

How important or influential do you think the music has the potential to be? Why?

It’s a hard question because it’d become important and significant as long as it remains independent and produced by the people who are into it, who own it. Once it gets outside of that, then it becomes something else. That something else is always… music when hip hop got away from being independent and the people who made it were in control of the marketing and promotion, they were in the clubs, performing, when it lost that vibration then it went somewhere else.

Do you see a paralell with hip hop from when you started?

Yes. It’s just starting. People said when hip hop was just starting, people said it wasn’t just a fad, that it’s be around for a small amount of time. It’s not the dominant music of our generation and it’s amazing to see how it. We have a place called Guitar Centre which now sells more turntables than guitars. It’s a sign of how the culture has changed. I look at the dubstep community and I see the early beginnings of where hip hop started out.

Which DJ set or producer has had the most impact on you? Why?

Defintely DMZ, Mala and Loefah. Kode 9. Skream and Joe Nice. Where do I go? I’m loving Hatcha, Youngsta. My head is becoming more broad on the whole dubstep movement. I’m listening to other DJs taking different boundaries and bringing them into different vibrations. There’s a new artist Composite Human that I’m feeling. Those are the tops.

Will you be making any dubstep tunes?

I’m in the process of putting a 12” at the end of August, put some of my interpretation of dubstep out there. See how people receive it. It’s funny because my parents are West Indian so I have more of a reggae side. It’s going to be psychedelic roots kind of vibration with some crazy wicked bass energy. I can’t even describe it yet, but it’s going to be cool and fun. That’s what music is all about. A lot of music has gotten away from being fun especially for someone like myself who has been doing music for a long time, I’m still excited about music for a cutting edge perspective. I don’t’ produce a lot of mainstream artists, not because I can’t but there hasn’t been anything that really interests me that was willing to take chances. Everyone wants you to replicate what’s happening out there. I create my own style and my own energy. I’m not a copycat producer. So thus, one of the reasons the music is intriguing me so music – it’s independent and the technology and everything around us has caught up to where we are today. The internet allows you to put out your own record so you don’t have to go through the middle man or a record company. And it’s intriguing starting something all over again. A new movement is necessary. I think when dubstep finds characters of personalities that can represent it from a vocal standpoint. The who guys are turning me on are Sgt Pokes, Emcee Child from San Fran and Space Ape. Those are like, to me, the heads that I feel now. I’m just waiting for… more and more people get involved from a vocal perspective then you’ll see the music start to move and grow beyond. But still not loose it’s DJ producer focus. The instrumental focus.

Emma Warren

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