Jan 28, 2007
Spurred by the launch of the Hyperdub archive at Riddim.ca, Brazilian dubstep boss Bruno Belluomini got in touch, recently, with a few questions for a short feature at Tranquera.org. Since the site is all in Portuguese (I don’t remember writing in Portguese, but anyway) I thought I’d print the English version here.
What exactly made you put the UK Archive back?
There are few reasons. The simplest is that this is the single best collection of late UK garage writings around and it seemed wrong that it was no longer accessible. I was really glad when Steve agreed to let me host them and it was nice to see so much interest in them when they went up. It’s an important collection, both as a historical archive of a particular time and place in music, and as a site where people experimented with the way they write and talk about music. There are some really thoughtful pieces here. The collection is huge too. The Word document was something like 110 pages long.
On a more personal level though, these articles and interviews have been really important to me since I started learning about Dubstep, Grime and UK Garage in general a few years ago. As you know, it can be really hard to find out about a small local scene from so far away. Now the internet is the thing that can partially that take the place of being at the nights and talking to people face to face, but you’re still removed from it. I went through this with hip hop when I was a lot younger, way before the Internet, spending hours and hours tracking stuff down, tracing links, learning the scene’s history. Personally, I think when you’re coming into a scene from outside it’s important to learn as much as you can about where it comes from. Dubstep has attracted a lot of interest in the last year and a lot of people are trying their hand at making it, but very few it seems are trying to learn much about how it developed, what its foundations are, and I think you can hear that in a lot of the less than stellar music that’s been coming out for a few months now. So in that sense, I think the Hyperdub archive makes a good companion to Ammunition’s recent ‘Roots of Dubstep’ compilation.
Do you think that some concepts and ideas developed and written by people like Kodwo Eshun are present today in modern UK sounds like Dubstep?
Definitely. And actually, one thing that gets on my nerves is this reactionary idea that thinking too much about music is somehow doing some sort of damage to it or being elitist. So much thought goes into the production of music (how to create the right sound, what it represents, how it connects to the past/future, what it does to the body) that it deserves to be taken seriously. It generates its own theory so why not engage that?
So for example, Eshun describes different styles of dance music as rhythmachines – abstract machines where technologies of sound, culture and the body come together to generate a particular type of effect, “abducting” the dancer/listener into a what Erik Davis calls “acoustic cyberspace.” With these kinds of links in place, we can talk about music in relation to Sci Fi, cybernetics, physiology, digital technologies, space, mythology, etc. Steve Goodman calls the scenes that organise around these rhythmachines “speed tribes,” which I think is a good way of describing how groups of people follow particular types of sonic experience (rhythms, textures, frequencies, tempos) and distinguish their own scenes from all of these minutely different ones around them. These terms are really useful, for instance, in the case of Drum and Bass fans getting into Dubstep and not always understanding that there’s more to making it than just slowing down the kinds of tracks you were already making, or just taking out the breaks. Dubstep is different type of machine. Following that logic you could say it’s a from the Garage phylum. Historically, Garage emerges as an alternative to Drum and Bass and with a bit of digging you can find out why this splinter tribe wanted to build a new type of machine in the first place. Then you can look at the the Garagemachine’s operating system, see how it works and start hacking it, looking at how whatever thing you want to bring to it can be plugged into it. But the crucial thing is to keep the machine from breaking down in the process, losing its momentum or potential. Right now we have a lot of inertia.
How did you see the whole global scene today?
It’s actually becoming difficult to keep up with all of the new faces and events popping up literally everywhere. Honestly, I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it all right now. In one sense I’m amazed to see such a huge amount of interest coming from all over the world – literally from places as far flung as China, Colombia, South Africa, etc – because I remember when you could count the international heads on three hands and hardly anyone else wanted to know about Dubstep. But quality control has been a huge problem this past year so you’ve got this paradoxical expansion/contraction thing going on in terms of global presence v. creativity. It’s moving but not really being the opportunistic mutant that it was. Or not as much as I wish it was anyway. You can argue against the elitism of dubplate culture (which I have) but you can also make the case that ‘democratization’ via mp3s/CD-Rs has just as much potential to to cause creative entropy. Just because you’ve got an exclusive doesn’t mean that it’s that great. I’m sounding really pessimistic here. There are some problems but there’s still loads of potential both in London and and around the world.
What we could expect from 2007?
It looks like steady growth in the forecast. I’m just waiting for the first pop hit. I’ve got my money on D1’s ‘Give it Back.’ You could have a really flashy ’stormy relationship’ video for that one. Seriously, I’m still watching DMZ and Hyperdub to see what the future holds. They’re on a whole other plane I think. And I’m curious about where Skream is headed from this point on because he seems right on the cusp of something bigger. Then there’s Shackleton who keeps going from strength to strength and has the minimal Techno scene interested in him. It looks like that could be a direction for Pinch as well. Apart from that I’ll be watching things spread and hoping that someone comes up with something utterly shocking. Burial was easily the best surprise of 2006. I’m hoping grime has a better year and that the two scenes get a little closer again. And, I’m finally playing out now too so I’ll be interested to see how people respond to the music, both the new and the old bits.
Also, I’d have to say also some of the Bristol crew are doing really exciting things – Pinch, Monkeysteak – and the new stuff I’ve heard from Peverelist is amazing. In the States I’m interested in what Dev79 and Starkey are doing. Then there’s yourself. I was really impressed with that EP you sent and I’m excited to hear more dubstep via Brazil. Dusk and Blackdown’s productions have also been getting really strong. And then there’s the Bug and his work with Warrior Queen. So yeah, actually, there’s more to be excited about than I was really letting on at first. I’ve been more optimistic in the last week or so.
Anything related to what UK Archives predicted?
Well I’d forgotten that one of the earliest of the Hyperdub pieces is called ‘The Haunting of UK Garage.’ How prescient is that? It seems like the whole year has had this overtone of haunting, memory, lost futures, and retrospective. I’m hoping that some of these lost/found futures have something nice in store for us.
Thanks to Bruno for the interest.
Read this in Portuguese at http://www.tranquera.org/2007/01/24/uk-garage-archives/