Ben UFO on Dubstep: "Now It's a Huge Global Movement, I No Longer Feel a Part of It"
These aren't so much distinct genres of music, as a generation of producers with a shared penchant for sub-bass and broken beats -- and more importantly, a reverence for the roots of bass, from dub to jungle, drum 'n' bass, UK garage, and beyond.
One of the labels at the helm of this movement is Hessle Audio, the brainchild of DJ-producers Ben Thompson (AKA Ben UFO), Kevin McAuley (AKA Pangaea), and David Kennedy (AKA Pearson Sound and Ramadanman).
Chatting with Thompson ahead of his debut Miami performance with Joy Orbison at Cafeina this Saturday, we here at Crossfade got a first-hand account of the scene that shaped this collective.
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"David and I met in the queue for the FWD>> club night sometime in 2006," Thompson tells Crossfade. "It was the first regular dubstep night, run by the same people that run Rinse FM and the Tempa label. It was at a time when there were really very few releases, and even fewer opportunities to hear the music in the environment it was designed for -- on a powerful sound system. The crowds at these nights were small and loyal, and a lot of connections were made there."
By the time Hessle Audio was taking off, dubstep was going commercial and losing its dub low-end in favor of unrelenting distorted screech bass -- the kind of bastardization taken to the extreme by artists like Skrillex a couple of years later. Already, though, the Hessle boys were expanding their sonic horizons.
"We were all studying in Leeds at the time, running small parties and playing on an Internet radio station every week," Thompson reminisces. "We cultivated a small following through our radio show, which became known for its fairly varied selection of music, and for presenting dubstep alongside house, techno, and older UK garage records.
"We occupied a niche within an already very small scene," he adds. "There were very few outlets for the producers who were sending us music. It seemed like a natural step to start a label in order to try and release the most exciting music we were playing out, and to provide an outlet for David and Kevin's own productions."
To be clear, Hessle Audio's output bears no resemblance whatsoever to the brostep your bros play on their Top 40 radio dial. By looking to classic house, techno and garage for inspiration, Thompson and company have imbued their sound with soul and understated elegance. Not to mention that authentic sub-bass.