Subscape happens to be one of the long time disciples of Caspa’s Dub Police since erupting in 2008 with "Badman". A student at the same college as The Others, the Surrey-based beatsmith has slowly built himself a reputable discography stooped in melodic, sub-heavy dubstep. Dub Police, as one of the genre's most seminal labels, steps into fatherhood with a compilation celebrating its enviable lineage of releases. Past, Present, Future came out earlier this month buddying old school classics like Emalkay's "When I Look At You" up tight with upcomers like J:Kenzo, Ethic and Oiki. While previewing some of those tracks in this week's Touching Bass, me and Subscape also had a natter about dubstep's evolution right up to 2013.
YNTHT: DJs regularly describe how they fell in love with the genres they now make and it never fails to be interesting. Can you remember when you first found the dubstep sound and what it was like for you?
Subscape: I met Alex from The Others when we were both on a DJ course at the ACM. We were making drum and bass at first and then he told me about this new genre he had been producing, dubstep. I guess it was the same principal as drum and bass; it was bass music, but slower. I made my first tracks “Bad Man” and “Transaction”. Alex had a release on Dub Police, so he passed them onto Caspa. He liked them and that became my first Dub Police release. Back then the scene and sound was more minimal – sub-heavy and darker. Especially the first tunes that I heard knowing they were dubstep like Skream’s “Midnight Request Line” and Digital Mystikz’ “Anti-War Dub” and others that had influence from the dub sound, like Caspa and Rusko. Nothing else was really around the 140BPM area then except trance and fast breakbeat. Making music at that speed was really fun.
Having grown with the genre too there must have been some particular highlights, right?
All the memories are great because everything I’ve done in dubstep was something I never thought I’d actually get to do. My first release is one of the best memories. I was so happy that my music was pressed onto vinyl. I loved seeing it sold in shops in London, then eventually worldwide! Everything was new to me. Another great memory is the first time playing Fabric. Never thought in a million years that I’d be in that position. I went on my first North American tour with Dub Police in 2011 and it opened me up to how people see Dub Police and my music in the US. There have been loads of good moments though. My first single, first EP and then my second EP, Universal, which really took off for me, also my first mix compilation MyStyle 003 came out on Dub Police this year.
In the same way, you’ve also seen the sound itself develop from its earthy, darker roots into its current form. What’s your opinion on its recent incarnation?
It has evolved with what people have been making, certain sounds have created a knock-on effect for other people to inspire them to make new music. I like to keep an eye on what everybody else is doing, but I’m also in my own bubble inside Dub Police. It’s like a dubstep world in itself. So much is happening with all the artists, it’s almost too much to take in but I think the scene is still healthy. I’ve seen the progression of all the producers around me since 2008, either getting bigger or moving on to different things. I love dubstep as a genre. There are some sounds I’m not keen on, but then some people may not be into what I’m doing. I’m in my own bubble, doing my own thing; I don’t like to let opinions fade my judgement of dubstep.
You briefly mentioned how some of the dubstep cohort have moved on to different genres. The biggest of those names is probably Skream but when he said that dubstep was essentially dead to him, what was your initial reaction?
That would be his opinion. The dubstep scene is way bigger than Skream but for him to say that affected a lot of people. People follow and look to him for where the scenes going and he was a big pioneer in the early days. If he says it’s dead a lot of people will think it is. People aren’t looking deep enough, and are willing to be a sheep in the herd. Skream’s a great guy, he’s doing big things, that comment has been a big topic but my reaction was more towards people who were ready to take that as fact rather than look into it themselves.
That’s very true. As I was listening to N-Type’s Rinse show the other night, there was a wealth of new names that I hadn’t yet tapped into. Who do you personally think is holding the torch for new dubstep?
The people putting releases out through this quieter time in dubstep are the ones holding the torch. The new artists who really want it will be the ones who come through, especially the new people on Dub Police – Mydas, Ethic, Variations, Dirty Dog and BadKlaat. People still making music when it might seem like others are ducking out. As long as they keep pushing themselves to write dubstep it will work out for them. They’re the ones to watch. There are more on the heavier side like Trampa and Disposition too. There’s a new artist I like on Terrorhythm called Ganz and he just released a tune called ‘Pvrple Forest’. It reminds me of the Turn Me On feel because it has that energy which I really like. Plastician is putting out good music at the moment. I’ve been searching for music to play on tour and I stumbled upon a lot of great stuff, which is good to see.
Naturally, melody is an important hallmark of any tune, but I think that with dubstep especially, my ears always prick up to well-thought out rhythms.
I find it important to write melody because I feel that's what gives a track energy. It’s the one thing you might hum at home or the thing that will stick in your head. It can be a melody in the breakdown for a ‘throw your hands up in the air’ moment or a rolling melody that keeps the pace going, whether it be an arpeggiated sound or big soaring chords. I see it as one of my best tools in my tunes. I’ve always said I make melodic dubstep – that's quite a broad term to use. I guess my tracks are dancefloor friendly!
One of my favourite tracks from your discography has to be "When I See You". Do you remember where you were when you strung the track together?
When I made that track I had actually just moved in to my new studio space in Woking. Lena Cullen already had the vocal part and we wanted to collaborate so she sent me the pre-recorded vocal. It’s all her own lyrics, she wrote it herself and it sounded amazing. The tune I made flowed really well around it. I actually made it in a short space of time. I find that’s the best way to write music – the quicker it’s made the better it is. It’s not given too much attention and the idea flows and sounds really natural. I didn’t actually record in the same session with her which is a little bit odd I guess. It would have been nice to record with her but I like the way it fitted together – it was a good way of doing it.
Dub Police holds such an illustrious position among dubstep royalty with such a rich history of releases. Looking back at your time with Dub Police timeline, what's been your proudest moment?
My first release, "Bad Man/Transaction". Back then I was completely new to it and young and so excited. I was so proud of myself, telling all my family and friends. That was a very proud moment for me.
And now you're immortalised within the 'Past, Present, Future' compilation.
I love the whole idea around it. Classic back catalogue tunes are released with current tracks, and brand new fresh music from Dub Police artists. It’s such a great project to be involved with. A lot of promotion stuff is going on with everybody’s pictures – we were made to look old to represent the ‘future’. Everyone looks hideous and it’s hilarious. I aged the best, which is great. Alex (The Others) has got massive drooping cheeks. It’s been good revisiting the past tunes like "Girl From Codeine City" – I think that will be a big seller. A lot of people may not have heard about it but it’s a unique tune with a saxophone/trumpet sound and a catchy riff. I hope that now everybody will discover it and like it.
Tapping specifically into the 'future' section of that title, what are you looking forward to from the genre most of all?
One thing I always look forward to is what direction the scene might take or what other peoples’ new directions will be. I’m constantly looking for new music, and I’m looking forward to what music I might start making as well. I’ve already got a bunch of new things I’ve been writing, not really typically Subscape – I’m excited to push myself. I’m still making stuff I know I love, and what people like to hear from me. I like producing that type of music, but I also like trying to experiment and trying new things. There’s a lot to look forward to with everyone on the Dub Police label – more tours, more releases, new artists. It’s good.
Finally, what does the future hold for you?
At the moment I’m writing my album, which is coming along pretty slow. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I want to make sure everything is exactly how I want it. It has to be the right music and I want it to be a good mish-mash of tunes, from stuff I used to make, to present stuff and also future music, almost like the compilation that's just come out. I may put out something beforehand, an EP or a new single. I’ll also be doing gigs, along with some other really exciting stuff happening soon.