Exclusive: An Interview With Scientist

I was half way through Friday night’s Pick N Mix show when someone came to the studio door and said that two gentlemen were in reception and that they wanted to drop off a hard drive.

“Want to meet Scientist?” asked Brendon, the studio manager.

So we had a quick huddle, switched around the timings for the last hour of the show and went outside to meet Mr Hopeton Brown and his manager, and asked if he had a spare ten minutes to come on the show. He did.

Here’s what happened, though of course you can hear the whole thing here.

Welcome
Hello and thank you.

It’s our pleasure. In terms of dub reggae, you’re one of the guys that originated things back in Jamaica, influencing much of the music we’re all enjoying today.
Yes.

Hmmm. Short but sweet. Some people will have seen you last night at Fabric, playing with The Upsetters. They were on the stage and you were in the booth, controlling things. How was it for you?
I can’t complain. It was very good, one of the best gigs I’ve done in a long while.

Can you explain why you weren’t up on the stage with the band?
I am shy.

You must have had a problem, then, with all the eyes peering at you through the grid around the DJ booth…
I felt it, but I had to keep focused on the objective which was to make the band sound as good as possible.

It was a really nice evening. You spent all of the day before down here at the studios. Can you tell us what you were doing?
I recorded three tracks with The Upsetters. I shared some recording techniques. They captured some of it on tape: how to mic the drums, and after that I did a dub mix of one of the songs we recorded.

Are you usually a fast-working person?
Growing up in Jamaica you’re pushed to the max, just like they pushed that racing car outside. A lot of folks doesn’t have an unlimited budget. Some folks can only have a bit of studio time, and exactly what happened here happens there. You do four songs in four hours: mix, overdub, horns, percussion, the whole nine yards.

Another thing you’ve done recently is work on an album that’s forthcoming on Tectonic where you reversioned tracks created by dubstep artists. Can you tell us how that came together?
I played at Bloc Weekend and after that I came to Bristol. I was interested in doing some more dubstep after I saw what I saw that weekend. I’ve never seen anything like it before, a whole weekend with 20,000 people. Lee Perry was the only person there with vocals.

That was your first introduction to dubstep. It must have been interesting and strange: you must have seen the connection to what you guys did, but you must also have seen how it’s been switched up…
Yes, and I appreciate the switch. The guys doing dubstep, they’re onto something very good. I personally endorse it and want to see more of it.

What do you know about dubstep now that you didn’t know before you entered into the fray so to speak?
I am hooked on it.

Is that the addictive quality of bass culture?
Yes. Music is music. It’s like good food. Everybody appreciate good food.

What else have you got coming up?
When I get back to the States I have a Santigold mix I’m finishing up. But who knows what else. I might end up mixing the Fairy Godmother.

I’d like to hear that one. Scientist, thank you very much.

Thank you.

Interview with Juke’s DJ Rashad


I interviewed DJ Rashad for the ongoing footwork feature I’ve been working on, and have just finished. I’ll post it when it’s up, but in the meantime, here’s a short interview with the man behind tracks like ‘Itz Not Rite’ and one of my personal favourites ‘Teknitianz‘. It’s short, but that’s because after about 15 minutes he said he needed to finish packing and that we’d carry on the interview later. That didn’t happen, but it didn’t really matter cuz I’d got enough to get on with.

So can you tell me where you are?
I’m on my way to Atlanta… I’m good. I’m packing.

Are people taking notice of juke?
I think it is the case… why? Maybe cuz it’s something new to the people who haven’t heard it before. And maybe they want to juke.

Has something changed in your scene?
We’ve changed as well as the outside. We changed more. We matured in our music over the years. As far as me and Spinn and Gant goes, I think it’s us that changed. Plus the time and the generation as well. The newer kids coming up in the dance world. Music today kind of sucks in my opinion. The rap game has fallen off ain’t nothing really good coming it. I feel music ain’t what it used to be, R&B and hip hop. Jay-Z… today you could make a song about anything. It’s hard to explain. Maybe six years ago it was more hip hop, now it’s just about shooting everybody and hitting girls in the mouth. It’s not real any more.

Juke tracks are pretty raw…
Very raw. That’s the thing. Juke, the juke I make is more commercial. Footwork is more the raw. I express myself more in the footwork area and it more raw, there’s no law. Juke has to be DJ and radio friendly.

Can you break it down for us. What’s the difference between juke and footwork?
Juke is the music but footwork is the music and the dance. I was doing footwork from the beginning, but due to going out of town, people weren’t familiar with the one-clap, so we had to remake top 40 tunes, juke ‘em out. [Kanye West's] Flashing Lights or something we juked it out so people that were familiar with that song could get familiar with our songs, and get ‘em interested.

What are the main components of a juke track?
Depends. If it’s a remix it has to be a good sample, good nice, toms, nice hi-hat. I like to use synths and pianos. It all depends on how you feel. I just go in and go from the tops. 160 -150 bps, 160s the max.

What about footwork. What are the basic ingredients of a track?
It’s the same thing, only difference is I might chop the sample up a bit different or loop it a bit longer than for a juke remix. On a footwork beat the claps might like be half time instead of 4/4.

Can you give us a basic timeline of juke?
They stared calling it juke in 2000, 1999, cuz at first it was ghetto house. Then DJ Poncho and Gant Man came up with the word juke. It was something that was a word for ‘it’s going down’ or it’s jumping or popping. That’s how it came out, Then they came with a song called ‘Juke Dat’ and that was it.

What’s happening for you now?
I’ve gotten more parties over the last couple of months. We get a lot of pop to do out of town gigs. A lot of interviews, as well as in the US. It’s a good things. I’m glad people are checking us out and appreciating the music.

Juke: Chicago Speaks

I’ve been trying to track down some of the Chicago juke DJs and producers for a few weeks now, for a feature for Hyponik. I’ve still got a lot of research to do but I’ve got a few sneaky bits from this interview with new Planet Mu signing DJ Roc (I’ve done half an interview with DJ Rashad but I had to call back because it was tricky to give me juke timelines at the same time as packing a suitcase for an imminent trip to Atlanta). I’ll put all the transcripts up when the piece is out.

Definitely check out the Wala link at the end. Some crazy dance moves there.

Over to you, DJ Roc…

People are taking a lot more notice of Chicago music again. Why do you think that’s happening now?
There’s a lot of activity in Chicago and a lot of talent. Chicago is the originator of a lot of things. We got history. Now people are paying attention. They giving Chicago a chance.

How connected is juke to Chicago’s history of house music?
I sit back and I wonder and I listen to the tracks that were made in the ’80s. It’s a big transformation to juke and footwork. Time just changed, people keeping up with new things. It’s more modern than it’s ever been.

What made it speed up?
The footwork. The dancing.

A lot of the old Chicago DJs started playing when they were really young. How long have you been DJing for?
I was always a speaker head. I would build my own speakers. I’m into electronics and I’m into music so I’d build my little system and put it by my window and have a little party outside my window. I’d use two Playstations, a four channel mixer, two 15″ woofers and I’d do my stuff out in the back yard and I’d throw parties in my hood. I was getting connected with DJ PJ, there was a lot of things going on.

Where did you start throwing parties?
This place we had, it was really no name, it was on 111th between Ebrook and Michegan. It was a hall There was a church on the first floor, we were on the second floor. It was a nice little space. That’s when we first at our peak, and filling the place up to full capacity, 400 people. It was super packed.

What was the vibe?
It was peaceful, everybody was dancing, you had footwork circles all around the place, hip rollers hip rolling to their favourite song, it was just fun. DJ Clent they was doing the same thing, Spin and Rashan doing the same thing at the YMCA right up the street from where we was doing ours. We went to their parties.

When was this?
Probably… I only went there a few times. I was a freshman at high school, probably ’98-2002, I’m not sure.

Where do you hear juke now in Chicago?
If you want to hear juke you got to go to a Wala event. That’s where they do footwork competitions and hip rolling. If you want to get a feel of the whole movement, what’s going on here, that’s where you got to go.

Skream Interview For Groove Magazine

Sometimes you end up interviewing the same person over and over again because they’ve got a record out. I remember interviewing Dizzee Rascal about eighteen times for various magazines circa 2001/02 and went on similar multiple interview missions with a whole load of people from Massive Attack to Mike Skinner over the years. And so it is with Mr Oliver Jones. This interview is for Groove Magazine’s version of Desert Island Discs, the Radio4 programme where a person of stature talks about their life through a selection of eight records. The German version of this comes out very soon.

When did you first start buying music?
To be honest I first started buying music when I was in primary school, mostly East 17 and Peter Andre. I was six or seven. It was generally from Woolworths and I’d always buy the deluxe CDs with bonus remixes on it and I always liked the remixes best. Return Of The Mack, that remix was sick. Back then, the boys liked East 17, the girls liked Take That. Then I realised my brother worked at a record shop and I would find any means of making money so I could go and buy records. Anything I heard I needed. It wasn’t that I wanted it, I needed it.

How much music do you have?
I got fucking loads of vinyl. I was buying vinyl from the age of 12 and that’s a lot of garage, a lot of ’99-2000 drum and bass. And I got all my brother’s records from ’89 to ’94. I got every big garage record, every big remix that was every made, every shit bootleg that was ever made, any record that any big MC MCed over, then as I got older I got into disco. I went into this shop in Canada, and me thinking it was the same price as buying garage records, I picked up a pile and it cost $500. I bought three records. I got into a phase of buying funky house, not UK funky but Naked Music, soulful funky house. I’ve got a Paul McCartney album. Temporary Secretary! That was electro back in the day. I got a few hip hop acapellas that I tried to turn into dubstep before dubstep existed.

What does your collection look like? How is it stored?
Up ’til two years ago they was on my wall, shelves on my wall. My old bedroom was my brothers old bedroom and he built stacks on the wall, but then my mum boxed them up and put them in the loft. He was very not happy. The one thing about all my records is that they’re made around the baselines. I’ve got a two faced record collection: one’s really pretty, ones horribly disfigured. Some I’m ashamed to have bought like Eminem Vs Judy Cheeks. It was sheer boredom. I didn’t even play it. I used to play a lot of house parties and them tunes was necessary.

OK, so let’s move on to the tracks you’d take to a desert island….
Artwork
Rank

Artwork had just bought this Nord keyboard from Japan and I’d never heard nothing like it. It was so dark and weird and horrible. It amazed me. I actually heard this record while it was being made because their studio was upstairs from Big Apple and me and Benga would go and hang out up there. It was the same with Sounds of The Future. I made the ringone for that actually. That was my sideline at the time: Arthur would give me the notes and I’d programme it on the Nokia 3810. I head the first loop of the bass and I was gone. I once tried to remake this record but I couldn’t do it.

Elephant Man
Log On (Horsepower Remix)

We all first heard this tune for the first time in Big Apple. I remember it really well. There was me, John who ran the shop, Benga, Hatcha and Artwork. It was a real ‘fucking hell!’ moment. This tune is so heavy. The vocal was there obviously, but the beat behind it was so original and it was a massively inspiring record to us all. This mix was around even before FWD>> started and it came out around the time when Big Apple did the Xmas party in Croydon, when Fonti from Heartless Crew did the dubplate-only party. That night was how FWD>> started. It gave everyone the idea to do our own club and that’s how the night got started.

Wiley
Eskimo

This track sent everyone mad. There wasn’t one person that didn’t like it. It was a tune that made people do gun fingers before gun fingers were trendy. I listened to a lot of pirates and I was obsessed by the clashing and good MCs. One of my favourite clashes was the Heartless Vs Pay As You Go when Heartless proved they were kings. It was amazing. Heartless were fun whereas Pay As You Go were a bit more ghetto. Dizzee was my favourite, though. There’s a reason he’s so big. When he come on the circuit on those old Sidewinder tapes, he’d bring such a strong vibe and agginess. The only equivalent now is Tempa T’s Next Hype, that’s a tune with agginess and hype. I think Wiley’s a genius.

Tortured
Coki

All I can say is it never heard anything like this tune before and it nearly made me break my neck once, I actually injured myself going mad to it. It used to send people bonkers. I’ve always been been amazed by Coki. Everything he has ever done has been groundbreaking. In my eyes, he’s the best engineer around and I’m really glad he’s starting to step out of the shadows. He should be headlining places, getting ten grand a set and producing for everyone. He don’t sound like nobody. But it’s musical at the same time. I listen to the programming and I swear I can’t get my head around it. And his basslines talk. It sounds like they’re saying words sometimes.

Prince
Erotic City

It’s amazing. And I love the fact it caused so much controversy. At the time it couldn’t get mainstream play because he never said if the lyrics said ‘fuck’ or ‘funk’… I think it says both. It’s a dance record but the record is really political: Am I straight or am I gay? Am I black or am I white? When i’m walking in the sun, and you’re listening to this, you just start shrugging your shoulders, getting a swing in your step. People think it’s a swing record. Those classic Prince chord changes are just killer.

Jimmy Edgar
Hot Raw Sex

I bought the album yesterday. It’s sexually creepy, it’s quite nonce, and the whole album is filth. You can imagine someone whispering it in someone’s ear. It’s the nearest to that Prince era I like, though the shameful thing is that it won’t be massive. Why would I take this to a desert island? It would make me feel a bit sexy and if I was stranded alone I would need to feel sexy somehow. I’m saying I’d take Jimmy Edgar, I’m just talking the music. I’d be laying there under the stars, no-one watching, at one with myself.

On Desert Island Discs you can also take a book and luxury item. What would you take?
Anything by Martina Cole. I read The Take and that’s amazing. It was the first book I read since I left Primary School. Luxury would have to be a laptop with some kind of production otherwise I’d fucking go mad.

Skream Guardian Music Weekly

I’m intervewing Skream tonight for The Guardian’s Music Weekly podcast, for an piece around the release of his new album.

You can hear the tracks he’s released as part of his Freeizm series here. I rang Rosie to find out what equipment I’d be using and she told me that they use a Flashmic.

Wow. What an incredible piece of technology. I’ve done more print than I have radio so I’m still getting my head around how to make sure an audio interview records properly. I’m guilty of recording interviews on my iPhone way too often but when you’re writing for print it doesn’t matter – as long as you’ve got it, that’s enough. But for broadcast you’ve got to check so many other things: what’s in the background, how’s the ambience, does it sound warm enough, is there a clock ticking in the background that will render the whole thing unplayable? It’s a whole different world.

I’ve been interviewing Skream on and off for the past four years, most recently when I wrote his biog, which you can read on my biogs page. I interviewed him on the couch at the Red Bull Music Academy in Melbourne back in 2006 right at the start of what became a massive dubstep odyssey. I wasn’t the only one: I know tens of people who had the same experience as me, of becoming fully immersed in that world in the most adrenalised, complete, fully-in-it way possible. Four years later, I’m interviewing him for a newspaper not as a leading artist in and up and coming scene, but as an artist with an NME cover and Top Ten hit under his belt with Magnetic Man and someone with massive international pull. Some things don’t change though: we are meeting in Croydon.

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