Fwd>> at The End, dubstep’s media attention etc…
My note books and USB cards have been full to the brim these past few weeks. There’s so much going on in London it’s silly. The combination of the sunshine and may’s moonsoon seemed to have give the earth a new burst of energy. Flowers are bloomin’ marvellous and with them, dubstep, is gradually being pushed through from the underground to the stark light of the mainstream. This seems to be in a good thing in terms of evolution – the sound’s freshness is in turn attracting a new air of inspired and inspiring talent from throughout the UK and further as documented by myspace (similarly it’s attracting nutters who feel it within their rights to set up myspace accounts on behalf of artists, but booo to them and let’s not give them anymore attention.) Basically, people wanna know more now and as a result it’s currently rare to come across a music publication or radio station without finding some reference to ‘dubstep’.
The questions being asked at the moment are pretty diverse but still centre around the trusty when, what, how, where, why, rule of journalism that we ‘freewheelin bloggers’ are often ignorant of, in the same way that much new music defies rules and convention.
I personally find it difficult to put this sound and it’s history into words that will do it some kind of justice, but not through want of trying. The only thing I could compare this task with is that of recalling my family tree, it’s biography and how I feel about it to strangers. It’s possible but difficult when attempted in a few words and all in one go. Even something as seemingly simple as recalling my 5 definitive dubstep tunes has been tricky (see below). There are so many I love for the mood that they put me in, or the memories I associate to them- just as there are those tunes that I love simply for that one toe curling bass sound.
That’s why trying to project the general vibe that’s in the air rather then the hard facts is a good way of doing it. Which is where carrying a camera comes in handy.
Forward’s momentus leap forward into The End (not literally), was for me and plenty of others, another huge tale for the grandkids. As usual, some of the dubstep forum heads (be they the consistently buzzing ones, the quirky ones or the irritants ) were discussing the poignancy of such an event. Magnetised by the huge FWD posters that have sprung up all over the endz this past month, the announcement of the night’s relocation to weekly Friday’s and the recent media attention (including dubstep’s first ever and awaited mention in the OMM), there’s a strong feeling of sometimes scary change.
Obviously, I was hoping to get some photos to mark (or merk?) Fwd’s next step into the big bad world but upon asking, was given a firm ‘no.’ Needless to say, I turned up camera-less only to see another photographer snapping away. So I grumbled for the first hour but soon recognised the blessing; a rare oppurtunity for me to be as much a part of the dancefloor as those of you that I’m so used to photographing within it. Whilst there, dancing in my own space, focusing on the sound and the dust that was illuminated by the strobes, I heard some familiar music in a totally new way.
There was a certain clarity to the sounds- particularly in the high-end and percussion that I don’t always hear. The abundance of space in the main room was also a positive factor- it made the Tubby and Newham Generals and the Youngsta and Riko sets sound completely cinematic. Those big, aggy voices were set the challenge of filling the massive cavernous space that is The End, and trus’ me they rose to it. With the added impact of the blessed DMZ sound courtesy of Mystikz and Pokes plus Hatcha, Plastician and Kode9’s individually diverse mix and blends- Fwd at The End was indeed, the lick.
Despite this goodness that’s coming out of the scene, the grim reapers (be they in the minority) are hanging around maybe sensing that this peak of energy may not last forever. They’re foolish to think that oneday it’ll die out forever and are far too quick to label and box things as ‘this’ or ‘that,’ blatently ignoring the fact that the boxes are actually all stacked next to each other within and part of the same construction as well as the natural cycle that ties art, nature and religion together. Their fatalism commonly manifests itself in the question ‘will dubstep explode and then die- like drum n bass has (as I was hit with as soon as I walked down the stairs and into the hallway of The End)!’
Hopefully, it goes without saying that my own answer to that question is a huge fat N-O. This beautiful and awe-inspiring thing is so because of it’s huge appetite for new sounds and inspiration. Most artists I know of have vast musical collections that include the likes of Mel & Kim, Bjork, Miles Davis, King Tubby, Mazzi Star, Wu-Tang, Photek, Jehst, Sarah Vaughan, Roots Manuva, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Nirvana, Miss E and Sam Cooke to name just a fraction. Artist who are equally inspired by TV, movies, comics, computer games and grafitti culture, not to mention geography, the environment and the elements. It’s this healthy appetite for life that has fuelled the evolution of the sound from seed to flower so far and if dubstep manages to sustain itself as it always has done, then there’s nothing to worry about. Besides, who actually officially announced Dnb as dead anyway and why weren’t we invited to the funeral? If someone as prolific as Bailey still has faith in today’s Drum n Bass scene to the point where he’s willing to run a label specifically for new dnb blood then trust me, it aint dead.
On that note, there are now plenty of drum n bass artists being inspired by Dubstep, naturally sharing a love and respect for Jungle, Ragga and Roots as promoted by the likes of Bash and Mary Anne Hobbs as demonstrated in her recent Jungle show.
Fridays’s Forward>> was just as much about looking backwards which is increasingly important in the midst of the recent spotlight on the scene. Soulja’s just as respectful of the past and of roots as indeed the writer of’Root’- Loefah, as well as the writers of ‘Ancient Memories (Mystikz), ‘Memorys’ (Zomby) and ‘Pirates’ (Burial).
To my knowledge, the history specific to Soulja/Tempa/Fwd as penned by Blackdown on the back of the roots of dubstep vinyl sampler that I happily received on Friday lays largely within Garage- the genre that produced the likes of Horsepower, El-B, Hatcha- all of whom repped for the bygone era in the second room. Wicked to hear some of classics that first got me hooked on this sound… but anything earlier than the Dubstep Allstars Vol 1 era made me feel a little bit queasy solely due to my personal preference for darker, slower beats. I reckon that had the booked a couple of jungle dj’s, we would have seen the roots in a little more detail and I might have stayed in that room a little longer.
Not that I’m in anyway degrading what the Forward team achieved on Friday. They came straight out of a dark basement club in East London, to the bright lights of the West end and quite literally smacked it. As a whole entity, the night included many other Dubstep souljah’s of today and genuinely repped the whole scene with force and in a hugely positive light. Had they been able to get some of the other representatives on the bill as well, specifically: Loefah, D1, Distance, Chef, Benga, Random Trio and Vex’d it would have been too good to be true but thanks to the good line up of diverse DJ’s at least their sounds were heard. Anyway, no doubt that DMZ which has always maintained an ever changing line up, not to mention the now weekly Fwd nights which despite knocking the routines of us semi-autistic Forward heads (shattering the unique Thursday night feeling and leaving us scratching our heads) will surely allow space for everyone, including the brand new talent.
At the end of the day I have faith in this community of beatmakers, DJ’s, promotors, poets, singers, story-tellers, pirates, bloggers, writers, magazines, messengers, archivists, scientists, venue staff, photographers, visual artists, labels, ravers and visionaries.
You lot hopefully do too. Hold tight.
5 tracks that define my Dubstep journey:
B (Digital Mystikz), Highland Spring (Hatcha), Horror Show (Loefah), Third Choice (Vex’d) and 9 Samurai (Kode9)…
…but then there’s The Blues, Forgive, Haunted, Jazz Lick, Intergalatic, I, Prayer, Mud and Distant Lights and that’s without thinking about all the other classics and new dubs that have infected me. As a result, I didn’t end up sending a list to the magazine that burdened me with such a task.