Their popularity, especially in techno circles, has been helped greatly by none other than Ricardo Villalobos, who has championed their records and famously provided a remix of Shackleton's "Blood On Our Hands." "He did it for us for nothing," Laurie informs us. "He just loved the music so much that he wanted to remix the record." A weighty endorsement, indeed. But it’s not just Shackleton that's been getting his tracks remixed by techno heavyweights. Osborne’s "Vansan" has been given the remix treatment by Chain Reaction legend Torsten Pröfrock (aka T++), and is due for release later in the year. Inquisitive ears can check it out on Appleblim’s April podcast for Rinse FM here.
While Shackleton has stepped up a gear and started to play Ableton-aided live sets, Appleblim has kept his focus on DJing, showing his skills to full effect on last month’s Dubstep Allstars mix for the Tempa label. A total departure from the series’ previous instalments, Osborne finds time to showcase the deeper, more techno-influenced side of the genre, alongside proven dancefloor bombs such as the post-junglism of RSD’s "Pretty Bright Light" and the menacing bass pressure of TRG’s "Decisions." As last week’s RA podcast proves, the quality of the Tempa mix is definitely not a one-off.
You’re living in Bristol now but you’ve moved so many times, it’s hard to keep track of. Where did it all start for you?
Well, I was born in Derby, and lived in Nottingham after that. At thirteen, I moved to Plymouth, and then in ’94 I moved to London where I played bass in a band called The Monsoon Bassoon.
Oh yeah, I was going to ask you about that. You had three singles of week in the NME, didn’t you?
We had a really trendy moment where for some reason the NME started getting into progressive music. There was a writer called Simon Williams who runs Fierce Panda who discovered Coldplay, Super Furry Animals, and so on, and he was really into us, so we had a moment of strange trendiness in amidst eight years of terminal untrendiness, you know?
by Richard Carnes
1. Peverelist – Infinity Is Now (Tectonic, 2008)
Punch Drunk boss Peverelist is central to Bristol’s dubstep scene, what with his position as buyer for the city’s specialist record store, Rooted. ‘Infinity Is Now’ sees him wrap mind-altering arpeggios over elastic beats, whilst adding one of his idiosyncratic basslines to proceedings. Classic in every sense of the word.
2. Pinch – Qawwali (Planet Mu, 2006)
‘Qawwali’ still stands high and mighty two years on. The original is the choice cut; a spacious arrangement that exposes flickers of melody, only for them to subside again into the hypnotic percussion and rhythmic bass rumblings.
3. RSD – Pretty Bright Light (Punch Drunk, 2007)
This 12-inch was Rob Smith’s first foray into the world of dubstep. The warm junglist bassline and affected toasting show echoes of his old Smith & Mighty sound, but the subdued skittering percussion takes these trademarks and frames them in a whole new light. One for the old school bass freaks.
4. Headhunter – Initiate EP (Tempa, 2007)
Originally part of the Hench crew, Headhunter has been carving out his own style of dubstep for a good few years now. The Initiate EP saw him merge UK garage, techno, and drum’n’bass influences into a mechanical and muscular whole. Check for the rolling beats of ‘Locus Lotus’, and the relentless darkness of ‘Sushi Brain’.
5. Komonazmuk – Bad Apple (Hench, 2008)
This particular cut is quite a departure from Komonazmuk’s usual rough’n’ready style of production. The snare on the third beat adds some steppers’ weight to the steady four-to-the-floor kick, whilst hypnotic arpeggios and deep chords create an all-encompassing atmosphere to get lost in on the dancefloor.
Very complexly arranged, note for note, experimental rock really. Bass, drums, two guitars, three vocals and then flute, clarinet and sax and stuff. Every note was very worked out and there wasn’t much repetition.
Did you have much influence in the band’s output?
Kinda. The two guitarists played together in a metal band when they were little. There is a band called Cardiacs—we absolutely love ‘em, and they were a big influence. Also we loved XTC, Henry Cow and all kinds of experimental rock; but we always really wanted to make pop music, experimental pop music.
How did the band finish? You were going well right, with the response from the press and all that?
Well, we had no money and we didn’t get signed—there was this big push to approach a label and get signed and it just didn’t happen. We did alright, you know—we did a CD and five 7-inches. After that, the drummer left and after that it was just, well, ‘if one of us leaves…’ We were just such a family unit that we had to split up. We’d been together, and lived together for eight years at that point. He left because he had a kid and a family.
It was at that time that I just lost all sense of direction because I didn’t have music as my focus any more, and had a very weird year in London. From there I basically decided that I had to do something and I decided to go to Uni. I went to Bath and did Music Technology, so that basically totally changed my life, you know what I mean? It completely turned me around.
I wouldn’t have done what I’m doing if I didn’t do that—the opportunities that you get when you’re around people who’ve got that software, or are into it… I got given this old PC by my dad, with an old copy of Fruity Loops and I just started fucking about, and that’s how it all started basically.
How did you first start your relationship with Sam (Shackleton)?
I used to work in Soul & Dance Exchange in Notting Hill. I was there for years and I worked with one of Sam’s best friends. It kind of got a bit like Groundhog Day after a while, but there’s so much knowledge—even if it does get a bit male and "I know more than you". You inevitably were working with people who are blues experts, or soul experts, or jazz experts and you get to hear the best of everything, and so it really widens your mind.
What does the future hold for Skull Disco, release-wise?
Well, we have SKULL010 ready, which is all Shackleton stuff, then it’s the second label round-up on CD, kind of a Soundboy Punishments 2. We may release some of the remixes on white label vinyl, and then that may be it to be honest. We want to leave on a high note you know, leave a body of work we can look back and say we are proud of. Ten releases feels right, we’ll still work together in the future though for sure.
Do you handle all the business side of the label?
Sam stumped up the original money to put a 12-inch out, and the label didn’t actually start paying for itself until the fourth release—before that we were in a loss, and from now on we’re making money. It’s officially Shack’s, as he came up with the name, the logo, the whole thing, but I was instrumental in the promotion and running of the label along with him.
It must be satisfying to now have full creative control with your own label, right?
Shack releases his own music on Skull Disco, and of course, we’ve opened it up, but Shack’s not into tunes the way I’m into tunes in terms of ‘dubstep’ or whatever. He had his golden period in ‘03-’04 with FWD>>, Digital Mystikz, and that was like when it was unidentifiable, just this mad music, you know? No one was saying, ‘it was this’ or ‘it was that’. It was just this bonkers music, and that really inspired us.
Shack was always very uncomfortable with the term, but we were inspired by it. I don’t even know what ‘dubstep’ is, really. It was just a feeling, a group of people, and a club—FWD>>. There weren’t really many restrictions, just whatever you needed to do to make it. I wouldn’t really lump myself in with all of that as a producer but I was inspired by it though, completely. However, a lot of people who have made it were into that original spirit.
You’re obviously into a wide range of stuff from listening to your podcasts—really enjoyable listen by the way.
Oh, thanks. When I first started working at the shop, that’s the stuff that everyone was feeling. I was working with a lot of house people in the Soul & Dance Exchange part, and you get to know what records are big, and what people are playing, and getting to hear these things that you wouldn’t normally hear. It was pre-file sharing, so that was how you listened to records. I fell in love with it—I love records, that’s only the thing I’ve ever known anything about, or cared about, so it’s really nice to be involved in that higher up on the scale. I just love the making and manufacturing of music.
The stuff you play in the first hour of your radio show isn’t exactly typical Rinse FM material.
If I’m going to do a radio show, it’s not just going to be ‘dubstep’. It’s one strand of music—and it’s great—but I want to be able to turn people on to a few other things. I love so much music and to be able to spread that to people is what I’m all about.
You’re doing a remix swap with Torsten Profrock, T++?
That was a real mad one. Yeah, I got into his stuff when he first put stuff out on Chain Reaction and Fat Cat—I didn’t originally know that that T++ was his pseudonym.
You’re also doing quite a few collaborations with Peverelist and Geiom, right?
That was mainly borne of the fact I don’t have a good studio, in fact I don’t really have a studio—I don’t really have the money to invest, but I’m hoping to do so soon. So visiting other people and seeing their studios and working with them is very interesting.
Are you into sampling records at all?
I don’t know much about synths, so what I tend to do is sample, and twist things up so they’re unrecognisable, even some of the onboard Fruity sounds, you have to work quite hard to get them sounding good because they’re fairly boring sounds.
Do you ever think of using other programs?
There is so much you can do with simple tools; reverse, copy, whatever… With the simplest tools you can do really experimental stuff. I’m not a gear head, I’m not a technical kind of person really—sometimes it seems to take the magic out of it. That said, especially with a scene where you’re trying to be heavy on the dancefloor, you need it to sound good and loud, so there are certain things that you should know about and do, and that’s the rules of sound, you know? I tend to just do it, and if it sounds good, that’s it. It’s just different ways that people work, it’s all interesting and valid.
Do you feel quite limited producing at home now?
Yeah, I’m not too inspired by it at the moment. It’s just so fun to work on an actual analogue synthesiser where you can see where the oscillators are, you can see the filters, and you can attain those sounds that I’ve been searching for. That’s why working with Geiom was so fun, he’s got these vintage Junos and Prophets, all this other stuff, it was so much fun to experiment with. That’s my hope, to get into more of that sort of thing.
So what have we got to look forward to from your new label, Apple Pips?
Well there’s the Brendan Moeller remixes next, and then some newer unknown artists that I’m going to try and bring through. There’s a chap called Jus Wan from the US and a guy called Greena from Brighton. I’m also going to do something with T++ on there, and hopefully Ramadanman as well.
What’s the T++ track like?
It’s a really deep techno tune. It’s unlike some of his other recent stuff which can be quite breaky almost. It’s a lot more straight up techno but it really works. I’m very happy to have T++ on my label, it's something I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was digging his Chain Reaction stuff all those years ago
What’s your stance on digital distribution?
Well, you can get the Soundboy Punishments CD on there now. Shack didn’t really get it, he wasn’t really on the whole digital thing when we started off, but you have to be. We managed to make vinyl work though—obviously you don’t make a large amount of money but it’s paying for itself more and more. CDs are the ones you can make the money off. I just love vinyl though. I’ve never downloaded an mp3 illegally. That said, I’ve never paid for one. I download plenty of mixes though, and it’s the sort of the same. Every time you download a mix, no one’s getting paid either.
Speaking of what makes vinyl so special, before we finish can you tell me a little bit about the Apple Pips artwork?
Basically that’s the designer from Tempa who does loads of other stuff as well, called Give Up Art. There was a bit of a hold up at the design stage because we wanted it to be very different, very special. It was all about die cutting sleeves, inserts, all that stuff. I just wanted to make something that people would want to own.