Modern bass sounds from a Hard Wax staff member.
Berlin is not exactly a hotbed of bass music, but the sound has always had a few strongholds in the city. One of them is Hard Wax. Aside from being the world's most influential techno shop, Hard Wax has been a steady source of dub and its modern offspring, especially dubstep, since day one, a devotion that's clear in their Wax Treatment parties and in the staff's release notes. Hops, a man often spotted stalking in and out of the shop's back room, has been a fixture of Hard Wax for years—it's the "day job" he refers to below—and embodies its bass obsession. He's released sparse cuts of dubstep on his friend Orson's label, Version, and is a regular DJ at the Version parties at OHM, where recent guests have included Loefah and Ben UFO. He is, quietly, one of Berlin's best bass DJs.
Hops is flexible behind the decks—he's as comfortable playing a Sex Tags Mania party as he is a Swamp 81 night. Still, he has more clarity of vision than most selectors out there, pushing a sound that's sparse, swinging and fresh, melding only the most timeless elements of grime, dubstep, dub and techno. With 19 powerful and sub-heavy club cuts, many of them unreleased dubplates, RA 512 is a closely considered showcase of this sound, presenting one man's take on the vanguard of bass music.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been busy with my day job, radio, doing mixes, a bit of gigging and the Version and 81 events. Also I've been hanging out in Orson's studio and we've made a beat or two together.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded in my room with two 1200s, Shure M44-G cartridges and an Xone mixer. All vinyl and dubplates mixed in one take. It took three tries till I was ok with it. There was zero editing. The only post-production was adding a dub siren sample in order to watermark an unreleased tune. I don't know how to use CDJs or certain software. Hence it was done like in the old days.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I tried to make a fresh selection with new tunes alongside some tried and tested bangers.
For readers who might not know you so well, tell us a bit about yourself. What's your musical background, and how did you arrive at your current sound?
When I was a youth I was into hip-hop, jungle and early d&b. For me it was all about Wu-Tang and Metalheadz. Also, I gradually became an expert for all things reggae. Me and my friend ran a soundsystem in my home town and I was deep into UK roots and dub. While staying in the UK in the early 2000s, I got introduced to this dark garage stuff that would eventually become dubstep. I didn't even know people were calling it dubstep, and some people were calling it grime even. Some people were calling it ongibongi. When I first heard Youngsta on Rinse back in the day playing the now classic Mystikz, Loefah and D1 dubs, I was hooked. It was like I was waiting for this sound all my life and everything came full circle. It was like jungle, bashment, dub, techno and hip-hop all at once. This was when I became serious about DJing.
In clubs you play records of many different styles and plenty of old records, but here you limit yourself mostly to new music from a small family of artists and labels. Why did you take that approach?
It entirely depends on the context what a DJ plays. I wouldn't play a set like this when I play an opening set obviously. My selections can be quite diverse. However, since there is so much good new music around, I don't have to put out "eclectic" or "old school" mixes anymore. I might do it for friends, though.
What are you up to next?
Day job, radio, cutting more dubs. I'm playing the 81 night on Wednesday at OHM with Chunky, Lamont, Loefah and Orson. I have a gig on Sunday at Griessmühle, just down the road from where I live. I will play completely different sets though, of course.