DJ Q has been releasing bangers for 10 years solid. At the height of the bassline scene he was flinging out a new 12" every couple of weeks, squeezing everything he could from a formula so ruffneck that the police tried to kill it (more on that in a bit). He's witnessed the scene pendulum from underground concern to pop phenomenon and back again, has held - and left - a hugely popular 1Xtra show, and has been an ambassador for 2 step round the globe. He's also been writing, writing, writing; bringing out a clutch of warping, bass bombs year in, year out, from OG classics 'Fear' and 'U Wot', to recent killers 'All Junglists' and 'Brandy & Coke', but unbelievably, in all that time, he's never released an album. Now, finally, he's decided it's time to drop his debut.
Coming out on Local Action, Ineffable is 11 heavy tracks of the UK flavour; with grime, UKG, R&B and bassline all in the blender. The slabs of bass are buttered with sweetly freaked vocal cut ups, and the 2 Step beats stutter and slap. It's as English as Eastenders, and deserves to be as big. We spoke to the big man, and he was kind enough to give us an exclusive stream of the ace Major Grave's remix of Ineffable cut, 'Trust Again'.
Thump: How come we've waited so long for a debut album?
DJ Q: Well, I started writing the album back at the end of 2012. It never started out to be an album though, I was just writing songs and Tom (Lea, boss of Q's label, Local Action) came out with the idea of putting an album out, and I was up for it. I wasn't writing the tunes like, "I'm going to put an album together, this is going to be the first track, this is the second, this is the third". I just waited til I'd written a load of tunes, then we picked the 11 that we thought worked best together. It was originally going to come out in December, but we put it back because we didn't want to put it out at Christmas, then we wanted to promo another single off it, so we put it back again… Now, it's ready.
There's a big 2 Step influence on the record. Do you consider it a retro album?
DJ Q: In some ways, yeah, it is a retro record. It draws a heavy influence from the old school 2 step garage sound, but it's the 2 step sound with a new twist. If you listen to the sounds I'm using - the bass sounds - they're different to the sounds people were using back then.
So, is this you trying to move away from your bassline past?
DJ Q: Nah, not at all. I'm still making bass-heavy music. The first track on the album is a bassline track, it's just that it's slower than 140 bpm. That's the only difference between that track and your typical bassline track. But it was important that the first track was that bassline sound. That sound represents me.
What happened with bassline? How come so many of the producers were one hit wonders? And how come you stayed on top?
DJ Q: When songs like T2 - 'Heartbroken', and 'What's It Gonna Be' by H20 got into the charts, I think some producers started trying to make music to cater towards the mainstream audience, and stopped making music for clubs. That's where they lost direction. Luckily for me, I just carried on making club music.
And at the time the bassline clubs, particularly Niche, was picking up a lot of negative police attention. What was going on there?
DJ Q: It's similar with what happened to garage, when it was towards what people call 'the end' of the garage scene. It was a very popular genre, so the bulk of people who were going out were going to those clubs. When you get lots of people all going to one venue, then certain things are bound to happen. But it's the way that police deal with things as well. Instead of closing down clubs, why not police them better so they can stay open?
Do you think bassline was demonised by the police?
DJ Q: Yeah definitely man, definitely. But it'll happen to something else, it'll happen to another genre. It's a cycle.
And I guess that demonisation played a part in killing the scene?
DJ Q: Yeah definitely. There were no main clubs for the genre to really have a home. There was nowhere for people to go religiously every week to hear the music. When bassline died out, there wasn't one main club where you could hear it. The top 3 or 4 DJs were still getting booked around the country to play bassline, and I was still producing it. Luckily, a lot of people down South caught onto the sound I was making, and it opened up a lot from there.
So where have you been taking the sound to recently? You've been out of England a lot, right?
DJ Q: Yeah, I've been all over. Recently I've been in Amsterdam, Cyprus, Italy, Russia. Amsterdam's got a pretty good scene going on. Since I was there a few months back, they've had Sunship, Flava D, Wookie, Agent X - they've got a scene there, and it's getting bigger. Russia was sick. I was playing in St Petersburg recently, and they're all over the garage sound. They've got a DJ that's been pushing the sound for years. It wasn't like playing to new ears. They knew most of the stuff I was playing due to that one DJ out there!
Do they do the garage dance out there? Like the gun finger dance?
DJ Q: Nah. It's more like they wave their arms around, it's like the shotgun dance!
Boom. Ineffable is coming out on download and vinyl (woo!) on Local Action, March 31st .
Keep an eye out for a launch show happening at Fabric round the same time.
You can follow Ian McQuaid on Twitter here: @IanMcQuaid