This article’s purpose is to attempt to understand what it is about Dubstep that has attracted thousands of people worldwide to it and why it has been coveted by the mainstream music media. Having never been a fan of the genre I enlisted the help of three York (UK) based Dubstep producers, interviewing them for their perspectives on why this genre is so vital and to discuss some surrounding ideas.

I began the interview by asking Diakon, Demeter, who  contribute to a local pirate radio station Cranky Radio and DJ regularly at local night Paradigm, and Spreezy what attracted them to Dubstep and how they had originally got into it. Their answers chimed in with the theory that many fans of the genre (particularly those in York but I’m sure it’s common elsewhere in the UK too) had been nu-metal fans in their teens which lead them into Drum ‘n’ Bass (D’n’B) but years of exposure to these hardcore, heavy sounds had dulled its impact and D‘n’B had grown stagnant and repetitive.

The same line of questioning confirmed that Dubstep’s broader emotional palette was another attractive quality that separated it from its predecessors D‘n’B, Grime and U.K. Garage. Musically, the main features that engaged them were its variety, versatility, tempo, bass weight, its relative newness and smooth sound, in relation to D‘n’B. Tempo seems important in separating Dubstep from its predecessors and we continued discussing its slow and syrupy sound as well as agreeing on its importance to the genre’s identity. Diakon added that it may also have ‘something to do with a majority of producers being stoners’. He felt that D‘n’B and some other dance music genres were too fast and intimidating for people to find a way into electronic music but Dubstep offered an opening for the uninitiated.

We then moved onto the recent moves both by Dubstep producers such as Rusko and media outlets to commercialise the genre and change it to resemble something that is more familiar via music charts, television and advertising. All agreed that it is and always has been an underground genre but recognised that it is under pressure to capitulate to commercial temptations. However Spreezy stated that the leaders of the scene are resistant to this to the point of rejecting requests to appear on BBC Radio 1 and want the genre to remain an underground concern. Diakon approved this saying, ‘I don’t think anyone who truly appreciates it wants it to commercialise too much’ and he felt that it’s possible that Dubstep has failed to light up the mainstream world as there isn’t a definitive Dubstep sound and its constant splintering into sub-genres weakened its public identity.

Demeter believes that it is in Dubstep’s nature to splinter as it borrows from the influences of rock, metal, classical and more, which is what producers have cited from the start, and this has contributed to its interest and popularity as whatever music people are into they can find something to enjoy. This flexibility allows Dubstep to work in different contexts from the club to the home and is coupled with the remixing of a bank advert soundtrack and Dubstep/Future Garage tunes being included in car adverts.

One of the most interesting ideas was that of Dubstep being the first genre to evolve post-internet which was vital was for its development outside London. Dubstep is not a rootless scene yet, due to the internet, it is becoming increasingly outstretched. Location is no longer a limitation dictating what an artist sounds like. The internet has spread the genre from London to the Netherlands, Berlin to South America, Russia to the US. Diakon has used Soundcloud to both find other Dubstep to listen to and collaborate with other users from the US, Dublin and Manchester while Demeter has noticed a concentration of listeners from Romania, America and Chile.

The interview highlighted how broad Dubstep really is. The genre does not solely contain the acknowledged sub-genres like Funky, there are understated differences, for instance, with live Dubstep acts Jazz Steppa and Floating Points Ensemble, variations on the popular whomp whomp bass style, different beat types and rock and metal influenced producers such as Vex’d and Distance. Spreezy and Diakon believe there is a bright future for Dubstep, Spreezy cited the relatively unexplored laid back Dub style as a future development and Diakon thought that the sub-genres may get folded back into the main genre but was unsure of its future. This could be an appropriate predication for a genre that to an outsider can seem overly complex and unstable as a whole.

Though I wasn’t converted to the Dubstep cause by the end of the interview, I felt that it is a far more interesting genre (and set of sub-genres) than what I had experienced and there are areas of it I would like to explore. Demeter may have a point saying that because Dubstep draws from a large range of influences there is something for everyone. Most intriguing was the proposal of Dubstep being the first genre to emerge in the Internet era and how that has affected it and how its development and that of other genres may be affected musically and commercially in the coming years. The speed of the genre’s evolution promises that great advances could be achieved in the future, although this variety also threatens to destabilise and possibly even destroy the genre as it nears its tenth birthday. I may not be a fan but it has much to offer the musical explorer and I hope it continues to long into the future.

A full transcript of the interview will be published in September.

Spreezy

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