Friday, 16 May 2008
After making her name as a journalist at Jockey Slut and The Face, and being a four times judge on the Mercury Music Prize, Emma Warren now writes for Observer Music Monthly and can be found regularly with her head in a bassbin at DMZ and FWD. I managed to catch up with her (and break my AIM interview cherry) over instant messenger and have a quick chat about her new dubstep compilation Steppas’ Delight out on Soul Jazz Records.
What was the initial inspiration behind the Steppas’ Delight compilation?
Just loving dubstep. That came first. Then after a while I really wanted to start doing something. I really felt that I shouldn't dive in and pretend to know everything.... like I might have done as a journalist, and probably have done in the past as a journalist. I wanted to live it properly. And then do something.
The initial idea though was to do a compilation around cutting houses, but that ended up seeming a bit niche. So I talked to Soul Jazz about trying to put together a snapshot of dubstep, something that rounded up the different styles and sounds and gave the listener and idea of where it had come from and where it was going.
And I think you've succeeded. Steppas’ isn’t a nostalgic or stale release, which is so easy to do in a underground music that moves as fast as dubstep. The comp has a lovely balance of classic, contemporary and fresh.
Well that was the hard thing! Because I took the idea to them in May 2007 and they OKed it after a few attempts at the tracklisting. So a lot of the stuff on it was more futuristic at the time than it is now! Steppas has been a slippery thing to put together. The ‘past’ thing was tricky too because of the timing... a lot of the things which look like classics now were really new when they first went on the tracklisting, and there is a temptation is to keep updating it... but you can't.
There were definitely things I missed though, or couldn't fit on for one reason or another. I would have loved to have got Distance on but it never seemed to find a place where the tracks fitted right - and who knows, I might not have got it anyway. The same goes for Caspa. And at the risk of talking too much, I definitely don't claim this as definitive. There's way more music around, and way more music I don't even know about. This is just my personal snapshot based on the music I've loved and the mad, brilliant, energetic time I've had over the last couple of years.
I think it's an important release, as it is the first holistic comp to come out, which is totally inclusive. Not from one stable or another etc. Which has kind of been the norm for comps so far.
That's interesting, because all those compilations are brilliant. Martin Clark's Roots Of Dubstep and all the Dubstep AllStars comps are genius. They serve the heads brilliantly because they showcase a DJs style and loads of new music. I suppose the idea of Steppas’ was to provide an easier 'in' for people who weren't in that deep - and the chance to get some classics like Hardfood for those who know.
The first draft of the comp was only a single CD. How did getting an extra CD help with expanding your vision?
Broadening it out to a double CD meant that I could really try to tell the story properly. I could give more space to the big tunes that had shaped the scene and get more future-facing stuff, and seek out a few exclusives too. It has to be said that a dubstep compilation without any Digital Mystikz isn't a full dubstep compilation, but they have a special kind of militancy which I totally respect. But there is a Loefah mix. :-}
Also, props where due - it was Soul Jazz who suggested taking it over two CDs. It's definitely made a massive difference, because with only one CD I don't think I would have been able to do the music justice. I hope the end result is a good 'walk-through' of the music. I went on Ross Allen's show the other night and he was joking that it had a feminine touch..... not sure what that means but I'm aware of being pretty thorough about trying to show music from all sides, without getting into the politics, and trying to make the whole thing a coherent listen for people who don’t necessarily know that much about the music. Yes, it was a lot of work!
Can I also mention a mistake I made? Gatekeeper's MC Grilza is on the compilation with their track Shade Darker. And he's wrongly credited as Grizla. He is GRILZA... pronounced Grill – Zah… my bad.
The sleeves-notes are quite extensive and offer a fantastic snapshot into the world of dubstep. They were all part off the plan to demystify or open up the music and players within it, right?
I suppose I wanted to share some of my enthusiasm for the scene. People have misconceptions about the music - that's it's all bass-heavy mentalist noise - and they have pre-conceptions about the scene too. I wanted to share my insights into it, that basically it's peopled by some of the most talented, interesting, funny and colourful people I've ever met. I'm talking about the producers and the people who are into it. Plus I wanted to get some brilliant photography in so it was good to get Georgina Cook involved.
And moving onto the Steppas’ Delight launch party tomorrow night. Are you looking forward to it?
Yes because loads of my favourite artists are playing, but I'm a bit nervous... I was really nervous about what people would think about the compilation. I've got such a lot of love n respect for all the people that make the music and run the events and didn't want to jump in and get it wrong (tho I did with Grilza... aiii!). Kris and Nicole from Soul Jazz have done a great job of sorting the line-up out... it's going to be good. It's been a long journey, Steppas, and I've learned a lot.
Steppas Delight is out now on Soul Jazz Records.
Complete with extensive sleeve-notes, interviews and exclusive photographs the album comes as deluxe-double CD pack with booklet and two heavyweight double-vinyl LP editions.
STEPPAS' DELIGHT LP VOLUME 1 TRACKLISTING:
Kode9 - 9 Samurai
Benga - Evolution
Search & Destroy - Candy Floss (Loefah Remix)
Plastician Feat. Skepta - Intensive Snare
Uncle Sam - Round The World Girls (Tes La Rok Mix)
The Bug Feat. Warrior Queen - Poison Dart
Goth Trad – Genisis
Seventeen Evergreen - Ensonique (Bi-Polar man Mix)
STEPPAS' DELIGHT LP VOLUME 2 TRACKLISITING:
TRG - Broken Heart
Quest – Hardfood
Silkie - Dam 4
Geiom Feat. Marita - Reminissin
Shonx - Canton
Gatekeeper Feat. Grizzla - Shade Darker
Martyn - Broken
Shackleton - Blood On My Hands