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Dead Can Dance: Appleblim

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As one half of the Skull Disco crew, Bath-based Appleblim has been making a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic with his debut release “Mystikal Warrior” and the recent monster-riddims “Girder” and “Cheat I.”  On the verge of his second joint-12″ release with Shackleton, Appleblim talks to us about raving in Bristol, his approach to production, playing out, and what to expect from Skull Disco over the next year.

Paul: Am I right that you’ve recently moved back to Bristol? Locals there like Pinch, Thinking and others have helped build what’s probably the largest dubstep scene outside of London.  How do you see the Bristol scene shaping up? Have you been playing out since you got back, or you focussing more on making tracks at the moment?

Appleblim: Bristol is wicked, though I have to say I really haven’t been there much, I have only really been there raving or record buying ( big up Rooted Records!). Its got a great vibe tho….the silly thing is I actually live in Bath, which is only 13 miles from Bristol, but may as well be 1000! There isn’t much flow between the cities…its very hard to get there and back for a night, as the trains stop stupidly early, and there ain’t no night buses down these ends!

I first heard of Pinch in the very early days, an old mate used to run Imperial Records in Bristol (now sadly defunct) and they mentioned a guy had been coming in raving about dubstep, and that he was starting to promote it in Bristol….that was Pinch and we went to his Context nights….they were bad! We saw Loefah, Distance, SLT Mob, Hotflush, and that was amazing as I couldn’t go back to London so much…Pinch really has done a huge amount for the sound….& people are loving it in Bristol…

I put Blazey and Pinch on at my Underground nights in Bath, the first of their kind in Bath, which isn’t really saying much coz at the time I think it was only me and my housemates that even knew what dubstep was!  They are both just really cool enthusiastic chaps, who love pushing music….and its really working…I’ve played warming up for them and Loefah their Subloaded events, and played the room they had at the big Bristol D&B night Drive By, and am due to play with Chef at Dubloaded soon. It really is an honour to grace the decks with people I admire, so I just try my best!

Unfortunately, Uni has to come first this year, as I’m in my final year, so things a moving a little more slowly on the production front, but I do as much as I can! Look out for ‘Fear Riddim’, I think people are gonna like that one!

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P: You and Shackleton are known for doing events a little differently from the norm (costumes, odd decor, etc.). Can you describe a Skull Disco party for those of us who’ve never been – what sort of vibe you’re looking to create and how it compares to a typical DMZ or FWD event?

A: Well, I won’t speak for Shack, but yeh, we want it to be different……a place where u can shock out without havin to worry about how u look, or what people think…..Shack is very steeped in reggae and dancehall tradition, so it was important that that had a place there too….and it was in a venue that I have a long relationship with, run by friends, so its just a good local vibe for us…I lived right across the road from it for years, so it is really nice bringing our music and this whole sound there…the last one was great! There were people from the local estate where I used to live flashing their lighters and jumping up to the Spragga Benz and Elephant Man that Shack was playin, just as much as for the Loefah and Skream bits! Coki & Sgt Pokes from Digital Mystikz honoured us by playin last time, and it was just great fun….Pokes is a total vibe creator, really funny on the mic, without being stupid u know? And Coki…well….nuff said! He has built some of the heaviest rhythms of all time in my opinion, so naturally he shook the place down! Big up Coki!

P: You’ve mentioned elsewhere that, for you, producing this music is mainly an experiment in seeing what you can come up with and how it’s received.  And both you and Shackleton seem to take a refreshingly loose approach to the conventions of dubstep production when it comes to tempos, sonic materials and the frequencies you work with.  When you start making a track, do you have the FWD or DMZ dancefloor in mind or are you more interested in experimenting with those conventions and seeing what comes of it?

A: Our tracks have only just started being played out really, with people like Joe Nice, N-Type, Pinch & Paul Rose repping them….i’ve never heard a track of mine dropped at FWD…it is a total dream for me, and if it ever happens I think that will affect my life hugely, and the way I make tracks… Seriously, when a place has inspired u so much, I think I would actually faint if I heard my tune coming out of those holy speakers!

P: You’ve mentioned that your production setup is relatively simple – mainly step sequencing in Fruity Loops.  Do you stick to a limited set of tools in order to order to push your own inventiveness?  Do you feel your old punk/metal/prog roots coming through as you work?

A: I stick to limited tools because I don’t have the means to do otherwise…I’ve never been into outboard gear, simply for financial reasons…..its lazy, but it really was an experiment, a mate gave me Fruity, I got given an old PC, and I tried to make beats….strangely I come from a background in playing very mathematical, syncopated music, the band I played in were known for our refusal to play in 4:4!  So that came thru in my tracks I think, I used to try and keep things irregular and not on the 8s, 16s, 32s and so on….i have had TOTAL change of heart though! I am no longer afraid of that structure…..i think I will try and craft my tracks more for the DJ in future…after all, I want people to play them!

P: “Mystikal Warrior” (from Skull 001) struck me as one of the most oddly original tracks to come out in the last year.  It sounds like a nightmare: cathedral-reverb washes, discordant bleeps and a brutal mid-range synth line.  The effect is totally disorienting at high volume, and the ” brothers and sisters” hook comes through like a mad incantation.  Although the sound is totally different, it reminds me in some ways of some of the old darkside tracks – Bizzy B’s distorto-brutalism and Bay B Kane’s voodooisms in “Hello Darkness.”

A: I am really glad u see the whole darkcore influence….i was really into that sound, Top Buzz & Jumpin Jack Frost and so on really changed my life musically, they just blew my mind, this MASSIVE sound, totally disorientating and DARK but still rushy and danceable…it was the first rave music I heard LOUD thru a massive system, so it left a big impact on me….i love that feeling of being overwhelmed by music, so if my trax create a similar vibe I am very happy…

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P: How has it gone down on different dancefloors (dubstep and others)?

A: I have never heard it out! I don’t think people drop it much, but u know what, I think I’m gonna give it a try next time I play!

P: You’ve got two new tracks coming out in December – “Cheat I” and “Girder.”  “Cheat I” in particular really fits in well beside some of the wobbly-bassline stuff that Loefah and his mates have been putting out.  Was your approach any different on these ones?  What sort of feedback have you had since the CD-Rs went out?

A: Still just building beats really, tho I’m sure u can hear more DMZ & D1 and so on, as those are the producers I am inspired by.

Girder got played on Rinse by N-Type….that was a HUGE buzz! Me and my mate were sat round and I’d got a message off N saying he was into Girder and that he’d cut it…that was enuff for me! And we were like”is he gonna drop it?!” and literally the minute we said that we heard it being mixed in! it was a real moment for me, we were fully jumping round the room! Its weird too, hearing it all compressed, from my cd, to his dub, to the London airwaves, then squeezed down a stream into my crappy speakers, it actually sounded better! Something about the slight distortion and grainyness added to it…or maybe it was just cos it was on Rinse!  Pinch dropped it at DMZ too, that was crazy, even tho there weren’t many peeps there as it was really early, it was still amazing to hear it thru that system….getting the nod off Infinite and Blackdown was cool! They were like…..”yeh!”

P: What do you do when you’re not being Appleblim?

A: Well, like i say I’m doing Music Tech at uni here in Bath…its hard but great fun….its turned my life round really, got me active, got me producing again, given me purpose….without Uni and FWD I don’t know what I would have done. Seriously!

The rest of my time is taken up with promoting Skull Disco, and  recently Sarah from Ammunition asked me to help out with press and promo at Tempa. Its just a couple of days work per release, but I think I used to hassle them so much by email saying, this journo wants this, this dj is playing that, and they thought why not make it official. Its an honour to work for one of my all time fave labels, that has inspired me so much,  and i just see it as an extention of helping out with music that I love and think deserved to be more widely heard.

 P: In the last year, a lot of dubstep labels (DMZ, Hotflush, Hyperdub Terrorhythm, Ital, etc.) have started to go the way of digital downloads on sites like Bleep and KarmaDownload.  But Tempa has been noticeably absent.  Any word on whether Ammunition is planning to get into mp3 distribution as well?  How about Skull Disco?

A: You will see Skull Disco on some MP3 sites soon, for the next release I hope – not sure about Tempa but I will keep u informed

P: You’ve mentioned that you don’t see yourself as being right in the middle of the scene, but more as a fan happy to be a part of things.  Between this and being in Bristol, do message boards like the Dubstep forum and the late Dubplate.net take on extra importance when it comes to keeping in touch and staying involved?

A: They are essential…..giving people worldwide the chance to hear Rinse FM, to talk about dubs etc….its a brilliant thing….massive props to Ammuntion for the first Dubplate forum, and also to Dubway for the new one….he is a total fan and I think he can’t be thanked enufff!

P: So Skull Disco #2 is about to drop with two tracks by yourself and one by Shackleton.  What can we look forward to from the label?  Do you think Limb by Limb will get a release?  Are you guys bringing on any new artists in the near future?

A: Yes its been a long time making, but it will be worth the hard work…..next year we are planning on a release every two months at least….we had Chef and Kode 9 booked for Skull Disco but the venue is taking it easy at the moment,  due to hassle from police, but I’m sure we will find somewhere else soon…

P: We are vainly trying to get hold of Cutty’s reprasentatives, or Cutty himself, but are having no joy….if anyone can help please get in touch – info<at>skulldisco.com – but it WILL come out, we just want to give him his dues properly u know…..mine and Shacks friendship was forged over Cutty, and he is a near sacred figure to us! Ultimately we want to get him over to host a Skull Disco party, and to spit some exclusive lyrics for some tunes, but these are just pipe dreams at the moment…

P: Many thanks for taking the time Laurie. I really appreciate it.  Braps!

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All of the original photos used in this piece were donated by Georgina Cook (Infinite) of Drumz of the South blog. Big up to her for help out.  See more of her work at Flickr and d.o.t.s.

Interview by Paul Jasen

Category: Interviews

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).