Besides Kate Moss, dubstep has to be Croydon's premier cultural contribution to the world. The BRIT school, located in Croydon and boasting past alumni (not from Croydon) who have gone on to become global superstars, doesn't really count, I'm afraid. But that's fine, because dubstep is largely a lot better than The Kooks anyway. Veteran of the genre, Artwork, is set to appear at the upcoming Red Bull Culture Clash this November, alongside his Magnetic Man brothers, Skream and Benga.
In fact, it will be his very first appearance at Red Bull’s respected sonic dick-swinging contest, but is he on a mission to help mend broken dubstep hearts and claw some of the genre's credibility back? Or does he just want an excuse to play music stupidly loudly in Wembley Arena? I set out to ask him, but then ended up having lots of awkward talk about groupies, discussion over Korn's dubstep roots and the golden days of UK garage producers getting their knickers in a twist.
Noisey: So, you were saying that you’re not a huge fan of photo shoots?
Artwork: Hate ‘em.
I can completely empathize. I’m really unphotogenic, myself, which is a bit surprising because I'm incredibly handsome in real life.
That is 100 percent right! How can this camera not capture how good looking we are? It always upsets me, because you look in the mirror and that’s what you want. It’s perfect. But as soon as you get the camera out? Nah, photographic lies, every time.
They say it’s worth a thousand words but for me it’s…
Nah, it's two words: "Fuck off".
Have you ever gotten into trouble with misleading photographs, say, ladies on Twitter?
Well, I—I don't have groupies.
We’re surrounded by so many people who deflect them away from us. I mean, we’ve got Benga in the group, he has all the groupies.
He’s the groupie magnet?
He’s like a light that you can put on, so all the groupie moths go to the lightbulb.
Ha, good analogy. Anyway, let's get to business. You've been in the dubstep game from the beginning, how do you feel about Jonathan Davis, Korn's frontman, claiming that Korn were making dubstep before dubstep? Does it irritate you?
No, that’s absolutely fine. A lot of people can say they invented this, they invented that, they did whatever, but, for us, we were in a very small record shop in Croydon, a sound was made and we called it dubstep. They may have invented it at the same time, you never know, that’s up to them, but, for me, I know where it came from.
So, is he a phony?
No, I didn’t say he’s a phony, I’m just saying he may have invented it. You never know, they could have been sitting there making dubstep at the same time, it could have happened. It really could have happened [laughs].
I like your diplomacy. You said you were all in a record shop around that time and that’s how it evolved, do you worry that, with the increase of record shops closing, some new sort of sound or scene is going to be prevented from springing up?
From my perspective, it’s difficult to see it because of what we had. We were living in a shit town, there was nothing to do, but we had one place where people who were into music would get together—the record shop. You'd go there and listen to music, buy music, but also you would interact with other people who were making music.
Record shops have done that for as long as they’ve been around and I find it very sad to see that culture go. Yeah, people meet online and all that, but it’s not the same as going to a shop. Kids in the middle of nowhere don’t have that place to come together and meet. Yeah, they may meet in a night club, but everyone’s off their nut. It’s weird, but there will be another way. I suppose it’s just we can’t see it at the moment because we’re from this era that grew up with that and are used to that way of doing things.
True. I have to ask, how do you feel about the Americanized version of dubstep that’s taking over the world? I know Skream defended it before, but how do you really feel about it?
I think that music always has to move on. There will always be the purists who get upset if you deviate from the exact style of music, but you just have to, otherwise we'd all still be stood in caves, banging a log on a rock. When we started making our own stuff we were listening to amazing old garage, like Tuff Jam, and didn't really know what we were doing, just bashing stuff into basic machines and being, like, "Yeah, thats kicking!" It was like a nastier, grimier version of dark garage, which made people freak out and have meetings over how we had to stop making it because otherwise we'd lose dark garage. Anyone who does that kind of thing can fuck off, in my opinion.
I think it’s quite funny that they actually sat down and had a meeting. That’s very Mothers Association of America.
Yeah, it actually happened—there was an actual meeting they put together. There were people from, like, the old guard of the garage fraternity who got together for a meeting.
Were the people who pulled you up on it all garage producers?
Yeah, there were meetings in the East End, on Brick Lane, where garage producers of the time were trying to get distributors to stop putting out our type of music. It was a big lesson for me, because I looked at it and thought 'Wow. I will never, ever be like that.' And I never will be like that. Everyone says to me, "Oh, what do you think about Skrillex turning dubstep into blah blah blah?" It doesn’t matter if I like it or I don't like it, it’s music, it moves on, it changes into something new. If you slag off every different style, you’re going to fuck everything up.
Wise words, thanks!