Each week, Moritz Gayard rounds up the best new music videos, so you don’t have to.
After last week’s hiatus, the ‘drome is back and again, this is your chance to watch the latest cool music videos from your favorite music artists, such as Forest Swords, Lil B, Angel Olsen, FKA x inc. and many more. Have fun.
#1 Penny – “Pen#1″
Do you remember Old Apparatus? One half of the mind-bending duo, the London-based producer Asher Levitas, just gave birth to a new project called Penny. Alongside writer/artist Michael Crowe, the new duo just unveiled their VHS-laden video for the stand out single “Pen#1”. Heavily on repeat here.
#2 Julio Bashmore ft. Jessie Ware – “Peppermint”, directed by Noah Harris
Digging this nice stop-motion animation from Noah Harris for the joint called “Peppermint” by Julio Bashmore and Jessie Ware! If you like Julio’s sounds, come and join us in Warsaw.
#3 Heterotic feat. Vezelay – “Rain”, directed by Konx-om-Pax
Planet-Mu label boss Mike Paradinas and his wife Lara Rix-Martin are back with French singer Vezelay a.k.a. Matthieu Le Berre for their neat, catchy track “Rain”.
#4 Forest Swords – “The Weight of Gold”, directed by Benjamin Millepied
Dancy music video featuring Billy Barry, choreographed and filmed by Benjamin Millepied. Really gorgeous video. Check it out. Read more about their album here.
#5 Gobby – “Red Seal”
You probably know already that I am a crazy Gobby lover. Above you can feel again his extraordinary qualities when it comes to the future of electronic distortion maneuvers. Also, puppets to explore. Go, Gobby.
#6 Lil B – “I Got Bi$%*es”
Here, the BasedGod is letting us know how much he loves bitches. Ach echt?
#7 Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”, directed by Zia Anger
Bit late on this one, but her presence here in this nice, little video is somewhat special. Wanna see more (Angel Olsen) videos directed by Zia Anger. Angel’s new album Burn Your Fire for No Witness was released this month. Go and get it.
#8 COMA – “Missing Piece”, directed by Dominique Lucien Garaudel
Cologne’s COMA, the Kompakt-signed duo which played our Electronic Beats Festival last year, is back with another video for last year’s album, In Technicolor. The video consists of two dancing kids and a lot of colors. Casting (the girl!) is kinda boring, though.
#9 FKA Twigs & inc. – “FKA x inc.”, directed by Nick Walker and FKA Twigs
#10 Beyoncé – “Partition”, directed by Jake Nava
Beyoncé released her official visuals for the track “Partition”, produced by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Key Wane. Video has a Jay Z cameo and a is pretty much NSFW.
For more editions of Videodrome, click here.
Mike Paradinas lives in Brighton and has been creating experimental electronic music under the alias μ-Ziq since the mid-1990s. His latest project has seen him team up with his wife Laura Rix-Martin as part of the synthpop duo Heterotic. He is also the founder of highly respected label Planet Mu.
I first heard Hieroglyphic Being in Edgeworld Records in Brighton. The shop’s unfortunately closed down now, but they were playing “Got No Place To Go” over the speakers. All the other tracks that the guy behind the counter was playing that day were by numbers really, they sounded like they were made to try and impress a crowd—stuff I’d heard a hundred times before. But this was something that sounded personal, interesting, but still with a groove to it. It sounded human and fragile.
I didn’t buy that particular record, but after a while I bought quite a few others by him. His music’s produced quite weirdly, he doesn’t do the expected things—there’ll be no bass on the kick drum, for instance; or there’ll be weird scraping noises going on in the background all the way through. It makes for really interesting atmospheres and it sounds like there are no emotional limits to the sound world he puts you in. Either that, or it just sounds a bit crazy.
He does these releases on his label Mathematics where there’ll be 250 copies of each one, and they’re just white labels with a stamp on it. How Wet Is Your Box is one of these limited editions. It’s a recent one for the series “+++”, I think it’s a sub-label of Mathematics. It’s just completely unhinged in its use of distortion, but really cool sounding. It reminds me of a weird version of Detroit techno or rather Chicago house, kind of like a completely weird version of something between Robert Hood and Jeff Mills or Larry Heard’s Gherkin Jerks with some early Chicago analogue acid. Really tough beats which, due to distortion, sound quite fragile, mixed with completely out of tune synths. By sounding noisy and distorted, he’s bringing it up to blissful levels, I think. It’s like techno is going in some of the areas that shoegaze went with rock.
After dealing with all the footwork producers, I guess I was bit surprised to learn Jamal [Moss aka Hieroglyphic Being] was from Chicago. But of course there’s a similar sort of attitude that living in Chicago gives you, I think: a ‘keeping it real’ vibe. I was sending YouTube links of some of the Hieroglyphic Being tracks to Young Smoke, to see if Smoke was aware of that happening nearby—he seemed to like it. I haven’t asked Jamal if he’s aware of the footwork scene—maybe I should? I’ve only spoken to him via email, and his emails are quite cryptic. It’s probably deliberately written so you could you interpret him in a myriad of different ways.
He is going to be doing something for Planet Mu. There’s going to be an EP coming out soon, which is a collaboration between him and Ital called Intergalactic Prophets. It’s just three tracks but one of them is 13 minutes long and they will certainly take you on a journey.~
In our new regular feature, we ask artists and musicians, whose work entails traveling the world, about some of the favorite places they’ve discovered.
Rashad Harden, aka DJ Rashad, first began DJing at the age of 12 in his native city of Chicago, also emerging as a footwork dancer in the early ’90s during the city’s ghetto house and juke era. While the terms ‘footwork’ and ‘juke’ are closely related and regularly confused, the former’s seemingly broken syncopation not only distinguishes it, but also makes for more rhythmic choices for the footworkers to dance to. Since then, Rashad been one of the leading producers of the footwork scene ever since Mike Paradinas‘ Planet Mu label exposed it to the rest of the world in 2010. His new Rollin EP, released on March 18th via Hyperdub Records, is more evidence of that stature. He starts his next tour today in Edinburgh, followed by a release party on Friday at London’s Fabric nightclub. (As you will see, London is one of his favorite cities in the world, which may or may not have something to do with how it was one of the first places outside of Chicago to wholeheartedly embrace footwork.) He hits Berlin’s Festaal Kreuzberg on March 22nd.
Nando’s – Liverpool Street in London
It’s a popular tourist spot. It has a name recognition like the USA’s McDonalds, (no comparison in the menus). I get the chicken, marinated in Peri-Peri sauce; although it is different from ‘down home’ cooking, it is quite tasty and it is chicken like I have never had it before.
Nike Town – London
I frequent the Nike Town in Chicago, so I wanted to see how the one in London compared. It’s competitive to ours and the backdrop celebrates competition and achievements in sports all over the world. Pretty amazing!
Corsica Studios – London
It was on my to do list in London, of course, because of my music. The location is awesome between the two railway arches and the sound system is a phenomenon in itself. Its atmosphere inspires creativity and it is energizing.
Favorite tourist attraction:
Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
I had read about the legendary Stonehenge, so I was thrilled when Tim and Barry, Spinn and I got the opportunity to film a video there. It was cryptic; how did they carry the stones without any real tools? It was so amazing, so peaceful and surrounded by mystery. I felt a real connection there and I will never forget it.~
Catch DJ Rashad at one of the following dates:
07/03 Thursday UK Edinburgh @ Sneaky Pete’s
08/03 Friday UK London @ Fabric
09/03 Saturday France Paris @ Social Club
14/03 Thursday Spain Barcelona @ Razzmatazz
15/03 Friday Norway Oslo @ Dattera til Hagen
16/03 Saturday Switzerland Zurich @ Longstreet Bar [House Of Mixed Emotions]
20/03 Wednesday UK Bristol @ Bank
21/03 Thursday Austria Vienna @ Titanic
22/03 Friday Germany Berlin @ Festsaal Kreuzberg
23/03 Saturday Switzerland, Leysin @ Worldwide Festival
Darkstar began causing ripples with their single “Need You”, released by Hyperdub Records in 2008. Created by the duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley, that track’s insistent two-step rhythm framed an unusual melodicism and a vocodered tale of an all-too-human robot love. After their next single “Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer” snared the attention of an audience wider than their homebase of venues like Plastic People and club nights like FWD>>, Young and Whalley took what was seen as a radical change in direction.
Enlisting vocalist James Buttery, the new trio released their first album in 2010 (also on Hyperdub), called North, which displayed an increasing concern with sound and song, but very little for the dancefloor the project had come up on. Symphonic pop arrangements rendered on synths and processed for maximum glitch revealed the humanity of their machine.
Shortly after the release of North, Darkstar signed to Warp Records, and have now finally released their new album News From Nowhere. Working with producer Richard Formby, after holing up in the West Yorkshire countryside and writing as a unit, they continue the journey they started with North. With careful attention to small sonic details and a greater range of instrumentation, the popcraft of Darkstar displays subtlety, nuance, and their now trademark introspection. Lisa Blanning met Darkstar before their recent Berlin performance at Gretchen to discuss change, expectation, and the British sensibility of Northness.
To me, what’s interesting about your project is that it started out predominately as a dance project. And obviously, that had a lot to do with the energy of what was going on in London at the time, but then it essentially—I hope this isn’t going to offend you—became an indie band, as far as I can tell.
Aiden Whalley: Electronic version of one, maybe.
James Young: Yeah, it was always based around synthesis and processing. It wasn’t straight up, “Let’s get a guitar out and see what we can get.” It was more like, “That sounds good. Let’s see what it sounds like if we do this, or that, or anything else we can find.”
Indie, obviously, has got certain connotations, especially for people who come from a dance background. But I feel like, even with your earlier stuff, it seems like there’s always been a concern for song.
AW: Yeah, I think I’ve always listened to bands as well as electronic music. It’s an important thing, working around different sections and breaking songs down, the structure of them, and how they move from section to section.
JY: I think what we did do in the early stuff was have a very clear idea of what a beginning, middle and end was within what we were trying to do. And we always try to follow that. Because a lot of the records around at that time that we liked were part of, but I wouldn’t say fully-fledged, things like FWD>> and Plastic People; stuff like that, they were loops, grime loops, essentially. So, I think we always wanted to make it swell and bring it back, and finish it properly.
How did you find James Buttery?
James Buttery: [Aiden and I] went to college together in Leeds when we were 16. We did two years there and we all went to the same university as well.
So, when you had the idea that you wanted to bring on a vocalist did you already have James in mind?
JY: No, we were approached by Mary Anne Hobbs to do a track for a Planet Mu compilation [Wild Angels], and we had an idea to do In Rainbows, but the Radiohead album hadn’t long come out. We really liked that album, we wanted to cover a track off that but put it through a machine—really process it until it’s drenched in glitch. It happened coincidentally: James lived around the corner from us and we bumped into each other quite a lot and talked about his projects, he was in a band that we liked.
JB: Called Sunbirds, quite poppy guitar stuff.
JY: The first lot of demos we really liked, and we liked James’ voice. I think James was curious as to what we were doing, “Aidy’s Girl” was just happening, it was getting a little bit of attention. So we got James to try the “Videotape” track, the cover of Radiohead, and it worked well. By that time we were, say, 75% into an album we had planned. And then we kind of started writing things leaning more towards that Radiohead cover, which became the early demos of North. We got James back in for a few sessions, and that took on its own momentum.
You say that you had 75% of North already written, before you brought James in fully? Is that correct?
JY: Not really, what I’m trying to say was that we had an original plan, a working title called Check My Machine for Hyperdub that was more in tune with “Aidy’s Girl” and “Need You”. That was a fully-fledged album in the making almost, it needed fleshing out, but the majority of work was there. But then we scrapped that and went to North. We had a bunch of demos for Check My Machine and a bunch of demos for North living simultaneously, and then we’d flip between and record James and try and figure out what we wanted to do. But then it came to the point where we actually preferred working on this stuff because it interested us more.
Would it be fair to say that James was a muse?
JY: I wouldn’t say a muse. James would come round and talk about things that we were doing and what he was doing, have a smoke, see what was going on, and see what ideas flew out.
JB: I think there’s a culture of people making music on laptops that’s really important to what we do and how we got together. We all studied music production in university, there’s this whole group of people in London doing these things. So, it wasn’t weird to go round someone’s house and do some singing on a track or play bass or whatever. I was doing that for a long time in London. It was quite inevitable to meet someone where it clicked and I could write for, as well. Because Aiden was predominately songwriter before, too.
There’s this really good interview that you did with Kode9 on the Hyperdub website, where you talk about how you wanted to defy expectations. Specifically, you’re talking about North. With this record, it seems a refinement, a lusher, more detailed version of what you did with North.
AW: I think that’s accurate.
What about that desire to defy expectations?
JY: You’re bringing that up, I haven’t heard that in a long time or read that interview maybe in a couple of years, but I think what I’ve learned with News From Nowhere is that the most important thing for us to do in a studio is to entertain ourselves, and always be satisfied. And I think because we listen to a wide range of music and are pretty studious with records from lots and lots of genres and artists and types of music that we probably lean towards more experimental and progressive things.
JB: I think it’s a constant thing to keep refining what you’re doing, trying to realise your ideas. There’s a certain amount of experimentation, and a quite random way of writing this sort of stuff. It’s not so formulaic. Sometimes you have no idea what you’re going to come out with. That’s the thing we share the most between us: if it feels good, go with it.
AW: That’s why there’s no real limitations to the sound, it’s the way we write it as well.
JY: I think the refinement thing is also discovering new things and refining what we like, and I think that’s evident in what you’re producing in a studio.
What you’ve just described to me implies that any external concerns are less important.
I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but are you saying that expectations of other people was a concern and isn’t now?
JY: It has been a concern in certain situations. For instance, Warp. They’ve been like, “Do whatever you’ve got to do. Go and make the record. We trust you,” which is a great feeling. But then we’ve got an A&R who’s got great taste; really likes what we’ve done with the record. Luckily enough for us he could see where we wanted to go with it, and was cool. Aside from that, I’m not sure if I care what anyone thinks.
JB: There’s a certain responsibility, I felt, when you sign to Warp, to deliver something worthy of their label. But only in terms of quality. So, it’s so subjective, you can’t really define what that is. They really encouraged us to be ourselves.
JY: But also try to tick that box of being entertained yourself, because I do think you need to have that hunger and enthusiasm to get up everyday. Because basically, where we were living was a four-bedroom, secluded spot in this village, so socially we had nothing, really, to go on. But you get to a point in the winter where you just meander around the house. And it got to the point where I wasn’t even looking at a computer. I was just like, “I can’t do it.” It’s a big question, if you care about what people think. I care about what my parents think, I’d like for them to be able to relate to that year that we just spent in the country. Critically, I’m not sure if I care. And then I don’t know if that’s a lie. It’s nice for someone to listen to it and get it.
Does that mean that Darkstar version 1.0 did care about what other people thought? That there were expectations that were trying to be met?
JY: Possibly. I’ve said this before, but I think back with Hyperdub, and especially just before Hyperdub, it was almost like FWD>> was a platform and Hyperdub was a platform to be the most imaginative around that group of artists and try and put your stamp on a particular scene. And I like that, I really like that. It’s really healthy. But with an album, it’s different. Once we got into North, it was like, “We can’t just make ten of those tunes,” or that specific thing. I’m not saying that “Aidy’s” and “Need You” were just, “Here you go, this is what we made. Let’s listen to it at FWD>>,” or anything like that. It was definitely us, there’s a lot of our personality in those records, but with the album that platform wasn’t so much thought of. With North, three or four tracks in, you know it’s not for a club. One track in, really. It was more of a home-listening perspective. You start thinking about the intricacies and the nuances of sound, and what you can get out of subtleties in the mix, and the music.
I would agree with one of the implications of what you just said, which is that dance music operates in scenes—’scenius’ being the term that we like to use. Do you think you’re part of a scene now?
AW: Not stylistically. But we’re electronic and the way we make tunes is from a production angle mixed with songwriting. There’s a lot of people that do that.
JY: There’s a common ground, but there’s no social… there’s no home or house.
JB: I’ve never really felt like part of a scene. It’s really interesting what happened with FWD>> and all that time in London. It’s just like a modern version of Carnaby Street in the ’60s. Or punk music. It’s that phenomenon. People come together and there’s this new kind of music being born. But since I’ve been involved it’s moved on a bit since then, to just being us and us creating something, and not really looking around us.
Obviously, scenes are important because they’re not just aesthetic, they are actually social. That’s really important; it has been, historically, in a place like London. The fact that you think you’re not part of a scene now, I’m assuming you think you were part of a scene then. If we’re talking only aesthetically, it seems as though the new record could share the same space as a group like Animal Collective. You’re smiling, has this been a recurring theme?
AW: It has, since the “Amplified Ease” track came out there’s been this mention of Animal Collective. Sometimes in a derogatory sense. Other times as a reference point. It’s difficult to ignore a band like Animal Collective because they’re so good at what they do. You can tell that they’re thinking on a different plane, I think. We consumed various Animal Collective records, like lots of other people, but it was such a small fraction of what we were listening to as a group, and what we were absorbing in that time in Yorkshire.
Let me just jump in there and say that in no way do I think you’re aping Animal Collective. To me, it’s very obvious that the progression from North to the new record is all there. That this is a logical continuation and it doesn’t have anything to do with listening to that band. You’ve just arrived at a somewhat similar space, but from a very different direction. And in all honesty, one thing I appreciate about your music, is you guys manage to do this without ever venturing into twee territory. I like to think that a part of what you’re doing is spearheading a sort of digital song movement for Britain as well. It melds different worlds.
JY: I think the most satisfying thing about releasing the record is to hear people say it’s odd. And I think that’s kind of what you just described in an articulate way.
There’s such a specific vibe to your music. Even when it was dancier, it still had that vibe. Does that have to do with northness?
JB: Being from the north?
JY: I think it might have something to do with early records. From my point of view, I used to listen to quite a lot of Nightmares On Wax and stuff.
JB: That’s a northern thing as well.
JY: Yes, they’re from Leeds. It was banging house on Warp, or it had a little undertone of melancholy. And I quite like that in dance music, and I think that was important for us to try and capture.
AW: It’s just a natural thing, I don’t really think about it like that. It just comes through.
JB: It’s got to have something to do with where you come from, because London’s so different. That is a factor.
JY: Also, like I said before, the most important thing is for the person who’s doing the job to be satisfied. And that was a vibe that interested us more, because there were lots of opportunities to do quite big, FWD>>-oriented tracks. There was a lot of that disposable wobble stuff going on. And you could even do a good version of that and it would still be fairly credible, but it was so soul-destroying to try and sit there for a day and make something that was banging.
JB: There’s a heritage in Britain of the weird end of pop music and good songwriting and quite inventive production, and that’s something that’s really important to us. Sort of being British about it, whatever that means.
JY: A good thing about this record, that we really set out to do was put a northern English vibe on it. I don’t know if it came across, but we definitely tried.
AW: This record is—not that the other one wasn’t—is honest and it’s trying to satisfy what you think you can do, and not retracing old ground. I suppose the environment that we were in, this kind of northern countryside, and just being a little bit more sure of what we were doing… Naturally we’re from the north, and we’re in that environment…
JB: There was a humble charm to where we were. It does affect you. In London, it’s different. It’s so super fast, you see people with flashy cars and all the things that money brings. Where we were it’s like an old, industrial place that’s in decline. But then there’s all this beautiful countryside. It’s just a totally different vibe. I think that had a massive effect on what we were doing.
JY: Lyrically, we try to touch on this with this record—the subtleties of everyday life. And the importance of certain moments that would go unnoticed by every single person around a specific time and place. Because with the space up there, you tend to take things in that you hadn’t done in London for a while. But they’re familiar—I’m from a suburban town—it’s just a quieter version. You get used to things that you’d maybe grown apart from in London.
Are you ever going to let that material that you never released out?
JY: No. It’ll never come out. I don’t even know if we could find it.
AW: A lot of the way we do things, it’ll reach a certain stage, but they’ll be unfinished. So, they’re not really tunes we could let go anyway, really.
JB: I’ve seen it on a hard drive…
AW: We’ve got quite a lot [laughs].
JY: I think the way we are and the way we think, we always want to look at fresh ideas.
JB: When you create something, it’s not everything that you want so show people.
To me, it’s it’s like an alternate reality of Darkstar. The bizarro Darkstar; I like the idea that the bizarro Darkstar lurks on a hard drive somewhere, trapped in the crystal spinning in the void.
JY: I actually released a track on Twitter at about 3 a.m. maybe six weeks ago. Didn’t tell anyone, just put it up. It was the original of “You Don’t Need A Weatherman”, which has nothing to do with this “You Don’t Need A Weatherman”, we just liked the title. I just put it up for an hour, couldn’t sleep, then deleted the link. So, something’s out there, but I don’t know who’s got it.~
“I’m here now, I’ve been waiting, but I swear down, this is the grand opening … ” So ran the opening bars of “Grand Opening” on Terror Danjah‘s debut. They were spat by an MC but functioned as a poignent statement of intent for Danjah. Terror Danjah had been waiting. A refugee from the drum’n’bass scene at the turn of the millennium, he, along with a number of other street experimentalists loaded with cheap music software, tugged at the margins of garage, darkening it and exposing its gristle until it became grime avant la lettre. Dense, pinched, and multicoloured, his instrumentals didn’t need an MC to impress a character, it was already implicit within the music. Still, while he has provided instrumentals for the likes of Dizzee and Roll Deep or helped launch the careers of Kano and Tinie Tempah, he has staunchly refused to dilute his sound, preferring to continue doing – in his modest words – “what he knows”. When his long time coming debut Undeniable was released by tastemaking label Hyperdub in 2010, he was knee deep in credibility but recognition on the scale that seemed appropriate still alluded him.
Then, in 2012, approximately eight years after grime’s first crest and in the midst of the genre’s second upswing, it finally seems to be coming together. His second album The Dark Crawler is ratcheting up high scores from a new generation of critics now fully literate in the hardcore continuum. When I call him up on Skype he sounds relaxed ahead of a world tour which takes in a large section of Europe, China and Japan … “Grime’s first world tour” – he explains, although nobody’s realised that yet. He’s also overseeing his label Hardrive, and alongside Elijah and Skilliam, running a series of Butterz x Hardrive parties geared towards test driving new tracks. Proof positive that he’s as plugged into the grass roots as ever even if, as he reveals to EB, has been swapping beats with Danny Brown (who has some form in this area). Now, as Terror Danjah and, more pertinently, grime as a movement asserts its prominence once more, we called upon trailblazing producer to reappraise the landscape he help shape and his place within it.
Listening to Dark Crawler, the first thing that struck me was that it has this vibrancy surging through it. With grime becoming prominent again, was this something you wanted to tap into?
Yeah, it’s got more energy on this one than the last one, I feel. The first album from Hyperdub was too broad, too wide, it went over a lot of people’s heads. I thought, you know what, I want ‘Dark Crawler’ to be for the grime enthusiasts, ‘Rum Punch’ will be for the bassheads, ‘Baby Oil’ or ‘You Make Me Feel’ would be more for the R’n’G heads; specific tracks would be different styles or tastes of music in my so-called scene.
Grime is in a strange place right now, on the one hand grime artists have gone been absorbed into the mainstream, while there’s a whole cabel, like yourself, who are championed by Wire magazine or Hyperdub. Being in it, do you feel that there’s this tension?
The mainstream grime isn’t even grime. It’s just grime acts over pop tracks that have already been there over the last fifteen or twenty years, your Kiss FM tunes, the tunes that we used to rave to. You haven’t got something that I produce going into the charts. Someone like Wiley is doing an Ibiza track with Heatwave, he’s still doing grime but those aren’t the tracks that he’s getting known for. If someone had gone along and used an original production and found mainstream success would it have got to where it has commercially? Flipping to the other side. Where grime is at now is not where grime was originally. Now grime’s more like trap, halfbeat, I don’t know what it is.
How do you feel about external influences like trap seeping into the grime DNA? It’s obviously a touchy subject on grime message boards.
I think personally it should go back to how it originally was: dancefloor music. Grime was all about people going to the rave, whereas trap is concert music, as part of rap culture, you stand up and watch. MCs are coming in now and everyone wants to be Maybach Music. All good and well, but call it rap.
What did you think when Darq E Freaker did “Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)” with Danny Brown?
We’re in talks of doing a tune, we follow each other on Twitter and I’ve sent a couple of beats but we’ll see what happens.
Really? What have you sent him?
You know what, I’ve sent him “Dark Gremlinz” off the album and something more sparse. Not trappy or anything. We’ll see what happens, it might not happen but it’s all good that he knows what’s going on.
One of the aspects of your new record that interests me is how the title track is repeated, like a motif. Each time it has a different MC spitting over the top. How come? Was it to create a sense of consistency?
Do you know what, talking of hip hop, there were two reasons: one of the was Lil Wayne’s album Carter IV. On his album he started with an instrumental intro and then another version of it where someone like Bun B and someone else, and then another with Buster, Shine, Nas and that. When it first came out it reminded me of old grime, and that was the second reason. You used to have your “Ice Rink” say, and you had lots of people of on one riddim, just like how the dancehall thing was. That was what grime was all about, everyone takes a track and slaughters it and sees who can do it the best. That’s what the essence of grime in 2003.
We’re seeing this a lot in hip hop at the moment with the proliferation of free mixtapes, with artists co-opting beats and making them their own. But it goes back further than this, right?
I’d interpret it as a dancehall thing really. When you hear a riddim that’s popular, every artist from Jamaica has done a version: Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Movada, everyone on this one cut. That’s how it started off and grime was led by dancehall culture. Obviously rap has that relationship to dancehall anyway but this is how we did it, in 2003.
You’re about to go on a massive world tour, taking in Asia including Beijing and Shanghai. It seems like a huge deal to take something as localised as grime to those cities. Have you played there before?
Never. I don’t know what to expect. I feel I’m the first one, that a producer/DJ is going and doing the first world tour for grime. It’s mad that no one has even documented it like that. If it was someone like Wiley than it would be “oh my god! oh my god!”, but I suppose because I’m not an MC it’s different. I thought about it a couple of days ago if it was anyone else they would be making a song and dance about it, but it’s cool to be doing it first.
Are there any producers that you’re really feeling at the moment?
Nah, I don’t really listen to anything new – I don’t know if it’s my age. I was having this discussion and he was talking about house music in general, he was saying how house music has gone soft and I’m going “Imagine if I’m talking to Champion, people say that Champion’s gone harder but if you really check out his work, he’s obviously improved but he hasn’t changed his sound. I was making the point that if I’m playing funky house tunes in my set, they’re harder than most grime tunes out now, and then when you compare grime tunes from five years ago to now, the tunes now are just head bopping music. It’s across the board for me, the new stuff for dancehall, it’s just trying to mix with other flavours. And hip hop, that sounds like washed r’n’b, r’n’b sounds like electro. Every genre is not what it says on the tin anymore. You need a translator! I prefer the Nineties and early noughties stuff, hip hop and rn’b and jungle and grime. It reminds me of the time when we had the energy. You’ve got sections; there’s your Predators, your Swifta Beaters, your DLKs, your P Jams, Royal Ts and Swindles, they’ve got their own vibe. But Predator, he sounds like 2003 – 2004 Skepta. Spooky’s got that 8-bar thing going on. But look at all the people I was cursed with: Wiley, Davinci, none of us are making the beats we were known for. Obviously Wiley’s an MC so he can command beats off people, but the producers, none of them are making the music we were making then. I know we’ve got to move on, but it feels like a regression, like everyone’s switched down.
Is Dark Crawler is a manifesto? Are you laying the blueprint of how it could be again?
If you check it out I’m just sticking to what I know, I’m not saying evolve. With R’n’G [his prescient, self-coined genre Rhythm n’ Grime] I was a bit early with it because now all the hip hop sounds like what I was doing in 2003. The album, the tour, it’s a testament to if you continue what you’re doing then this could happen. If there was ten of me right now we’d probably be like the dubstep scene but bigger. Maybe even one or two of me is all we need?
How do we switch it up, what would you say to people getting into grime now and wanting to make beats?
Go with your instinct, the reason why all us grime people are here in the first place is because we took that leap of faith ourselves. I haven’t made it yet, I’m yet to break it through, but the goal trying to be set for life. You can have your Nas situation where you never beat your first album, or you can have a Jay Z situation where you mature and get better in time. That’s my motto, getting better in time. I never wanted my first album to be my best album, I wanted it to be good, don’t get me wrong, but I love the fact that Dark Crawler is outshining Undeniable. That’s progression. ~