Hard to believe it’s been a few years since we last heard the low rumble of Subscape’s latest exploration into the dark side of dubstep busting out our speakers. But even with real life calling, including the untimely passing of his mom to cancer, Subscape’s influence on the scene is so indelible that his “return” feels like a momentous occasion worth celebrating by old and new-school dubstep heads alike.
Having forged a sound and style all his own, Subscape’s dark and brooding atmospheres continue to stand the test of time as does his ability to mash up the filth with the celestial. Take any of his releases on the seminal Dub Police imprint to get a feel for the way that Subscape is not only pushing genre boundaries but doing so in a way that feels familiar and at home on underground and clubbed out dancefloors alike.
With his comeback release, “Mallet” and “Ease the Pain,” surfacing on Caspa’s Sub Soldiers imprint (out now so lock yours in here), Subscape blasts his way to center stage in inimitable style. The only other artist outside of Caspa and Rusko to release on Sub Soldiers, it’s more than obvious that Subscape is in rarefied company but one listen and it’s clear that this is a position that is well-deserved.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Subscape promises the best is yet to come including a full-on album project due to drop in 2018. To find out more we thought we’d check in for an in-depth chat with the man himself to not only touch on his comeback but his full-on takeover that’s about to go down in the new year.
It’s been a minute since we caught up! The inevitable question on everyone’s mind is, “Where have you been?”
2014 was my last release with “I Would Have Loved You,” then in 2015 I went back to work and I slowly found that I had less and less time to devote to the studio so there wasn’t any scope for releasing. Then my mum developed cancer at that time and I moved back home for a while to look after her and that really shocked our family to the core. When she passed I had to take time for myself and look after the people around me.
I was always planning to come back and I’ve been in the studio writing and adding to a bank of about 40 tracks so that when the time was right I’d have the music to back up my return. Now that I’m here, it feels like I’ve never left, and in addition to all the planned releases coming up, my creative mind is in overdrive and the ideas are flowing again.
We can definitely sense that energy and not just because you’re posting things like “I’m doing what I love again!” on Facebook. How important is music to your mental health and overall well-being as a human?
I honestly think not playing out was making me go crazy, I miss that so much. [Laughs] But you’re right, I’m doing what I love and so it wasn’t a question of if I was going to come back but when. I would be so disappointed in myself if I didn’t. With the music I’ve released, remixes and tours, you never forget that feeling and it never leaves you, so in a sense I had to come back not just for my fans but for myself.
One thing that always stands out in your music is your ability to touch people on an emotional level—deeper than your average dancefloor tune—what sort of tunes or artists do you remember moving you growing up?
I was a massive drum & bass head growing up. There was a record store called Vinyl Frontier in my hometown Woking, where my love for music really developed. I have a lot to thank for the existence of that place. Unfortunately, it’s not there anymore like many other record stores but it was a place to meet like-minded people and that was also where I used to be the first to cop new white labels. At the time, I remember loving what Hospital Records was doing and High Contrast and Logistics were my favorite producers then. I do think those influences, specifically that uplifting melodic style, still shows in some of my production. Logistics’ “Together” is an absolute classic for me.
What was it about dubstep that attracted you and keeps you coming back for more?
Dubstep gave me the platform for my creative outlet. There’s no rules with dubstep and it gave me the opportunity to create something of my own. Everyone in the scene is encouraging and I really found my home with it. I’ve always just released dubstep but I’m also branching out into different tempos for the album to showcase some other styles I’m really feeling. So expect some drum & bass as a nod to my roots and some other styles I can’t quite put my finger on.
Sounds mad exciting. Your output has always pushed genre boundaries on a number of different levels. Take your latest release—the one-sheet calls them your “most unconventional tracks to date.”
“Mallet” and “Ease the Pain” were originally planned for release in 2015. Of course they never came out so with a 2017 revamp I think it’s an honest way to come back to the scene, exactly where I left off. They were a follow up to the darker side of my styles like “Close your Eyes” and “Screw Up”—you know, back to raw gritty basslines. So in that way it’s not your usual Subscape, but that’s what I like about it.
You also have the distinction of being the only artist beside Caspa and Rusko to release on Sub Soldiers. What does that mean in the larger scheme of the universe?
It’s the mothership! That’s the way I saw it in the early days. I’ve been on Dub Police almost 10 years now (if you include my time away) so for the comeback I think it’s the only place I wanted to go. Sub Soldiers has been putting the fire out recently so it’s great to join the elite and showcase my material on there. It’s also going to allow me to distinct my identity in the scene; I’m free to do what I want on there and make my own mark again.
Well, it’s obvious that you are well loved and welcomed back to the scene with open arms. Give all the heads out there a last shout-out and let us know what we should be expecting from you in the coming year.
First of all, shout out to the Subscape soldiers, patiently and not so patiently waiting for new music from me. In the new year, the plan is to release the best music I can deliver which will include my debut album. I want there to be something new in your speakers from me as much as possible. I am also planning on playing at the best shows I can to share the new sound I am pushing. 2018 is gonna be fire!