Loefah, also from Croydon
A lack of hype is one of the most striking things about the dubstep scene. It’s run so much along self-managed, mutually supportive lines that some players jokily refer to it as ‘communitystep’. The forthcoming debut album by Skream (due out in November) may have a high-profile PR company working on it, but it’s the first release to do so. Dubstep has been thriving without conventional industry props for years and most producers are keen to keep it that way.
DMZ club promoters and label managers Loefah and Digital Mystikz (the production duo Mala and Coki) exemplify the dubstep philosophy. ‘Part of what DMZ is about is a rejection of celebrity culture,’ explains Loefah, who started going to jungle raves when he was 14 and, along with Mala, was a regular at Goldie’s legendary Metalheadz.
‘We don’t want anything else apart from big speakers in a dark room. It really is as simple as that. We’ve never had anything on the flyers apart from text – where the night is, who’s there and how much it is to get in. We don’t even say “dubstep”.
DMZ’s growth is purely organic and we do the same thing every two months; we set up the speakers and put out 5,000 flyers. We’ve never pushed it and we’ve always said that if it’s three men and a dog, then it’s three men and a dog!’
That’s highly unlikely. DMZ has grown steadily since its debut at 3rd Bass in March 2005 and blew up big-time at its first birthday celebration this year. Before the club (part of Mass) opened at 10pm, there was a queue twice around the complex and, an hour later, an anxious manager told Loefah and Mala they’d have to move from 3rd Bass (capacity 500) to the bigger upstairs room, next door. After they’d set up the soundsystem, at midnight Mala took the mic and made an announcement to the queue outside. ‘It just erupted,’ remembers Loefah, ‘Everyone was cheering and the rest of the night was a bit of a blur, really. It was amazing.’
Mala, of Digital Mystikz
Mala reckons the relaxed, democratic and almost tribal nature of the night is crucial to its success. ‘When we put on DMZ,’ he declares, ‘it feels like I’m inviting people into my home. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are or where you come from – you’re welcome. Women can come here and really enjoy the music without getting harassed by men. Even my dad’s come down to see what it’s all about and he enjoyed himself. That’s what’s different, especially for a London club. Sometimes, you’re pissed off with the attitude before you even get in the door. What we cut out is all the unnecessary bullshit. To me, the dubstep scene and, in particular, DMZ is about two things – music and people, with a positive experience of the two.’
Years before DMZ launched, Fwd>> at Plastic People – now held every Friday night – was dubstep’s social centre. The brainchild of Ammunition Promotions (whose Tempa label was vital in the early days of dubstep), Fwd>> gave the scene a huge shot in the arm when it relocated to The End for a one-off night in June and has just celebrated its fifth birthday. It was at Fwd>> that Hatcha debuted the dub plates of Skream and his partner-in-beats Benga and his sets there helped shape the current dubstep landscape. Herbal now hosts a night called Grunk, where DJs play across electronica, grime, crunk and dubstep, both Bristol and Leeds have dubstep clubs and Digital Mystikz, Loefah and Skream have all played as far afield as America. If, as The Bug and Camberwell producer Kode9 believe, dubstep is a virus, then it’s clearly contagious as bird flu and – with the help of internet carriers like www.blackdownsoundboy.blogspot.com (the blog of journalist and producer Martin Clark) and the crucial www.dubstepforum.com – it’s already gone global.
Cavernous sub-bass is the beating heart of every dubstep tune, but each producer has developed his own distinctive style: Loefah originated the spacey, half-step wobble which is now the genre blueprint; Digital Mystikz reference old-school steppers for their melody-strong sounds; Skream’s clipped and tech-y style taps everything from house to film soundtracks; The Bug favours bashment and dancehall influences; Vex’d models industrial-toned noisescapes; Boxcutter mixes dubstep with twitchy electronica, Hyperdub label boss Kode9 and dread poet The Spaceape together summon darkly seductive visions of a dystopian future and Burial builds beats of a moodily beautiful, cinematic ambience. Such differences distinguish dubstep from the jungle/drum ’n’ bass and UK garage scenes, which were killed off by creeping homogeneity and, in the case of the latter, champers-and-charlie culture.
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