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hatcha

Hatcha – Terry Leonard – is such a larger-than-life character that on the surface of it, it’s puzzling why he isn’t a bigger star.

In person, every word and gesture is effusive and expressive, his mannerisms part wideboy, part showbiz impresario, and he bubbles over with opinions, ideas and facts about the scene that he more than anyone could claim to have created: dubstep.

In fact, though, the more of his personality you see, the more you realise that his place is at the heart of that scene, not up front. Though he is one of its most under-rated producers, his releases have been sporadic, and his biggest role has always been as someone who made connections – as a DJ in clubs, on pirates and latterly on Kiss FM, as a buyer in Big Apple records, as a label owner and promoter.

In doing all this, he’s maintained connections with all parts of the scene as it rose, rose, rose, exploded into the mainstream, then stumbled out of the wreckage of that explosion. His refusal to pledge allegiance to one or other subset or aesthetic within the sound maybe means that to outsiders his identity is diffuse – though this may be about to change with his new, highly focused Hatched label, and ongoing series of Hatcha & Friends releases – but it has ensured his continued importance to that scene, and perhaps most importance to us, it made him the perfect person to chart its rollercoaster ride over the past decade plus.

He refers himself to his own short attention span, and as you’ll see, he is easily diverted – particularly tending to swerve back to the debates over hard / tear-out dubstep, which he became associated with. It’s clear he feels some responsibility – guilt, even – for certain aesthetic shifts, and being someone with very few filters, you can see him processing his relationship to his own past as he speaks. However, we kept more or less on track, his company is never less than entertaining, and in an hour we pretty much managed to set the world to rights…
  

“I’m a 13-year-old and people are like, “What the fuck is this kid doing walking around here?””

  
So let’s begin at the beginning: are you Croydon born and bred?

Croydon born and bred, Joe. I am indeed, my love.

The mean streets of Croydon, as Tony Thorpe once put it?

Well, the clean streets of Croydon they’re now becoming… we only had four stabbings last week. [laughs heartily] It’s a scumhole. [laughs more]

And what were you into growing up?

I was a jungle baby. My family were involved in a big drum’n’bass jungle rave, called Sunday Roast, when I was growing up, so come the weekend I’d wake up and mum and her friends were still raving from the night before. I’ve just always grown up around music basically, as long as I can remember. I always had a short attention span, I couldn’t keep focus on one thing, but music just… [clicks fingers] seemed to get me, so everything went out the window: school, the whole lot. It was just music.

So there were decks in the house, I’d guess?

I got my first set of decks for my tenth birthday. Yes! What a birthday present. From then on, that was it. Every night I was on them, every couple of pound I got I put away so come the weekend I’d be down to the record shop – down to Big Apple in fact, I was shopping regularly down there from when I was ten, down Big Apple seeing John and Arthur and Hijak and Bailey cos they was all working down there then. And again, that was it: I built up a good relationship with the boys in the shop over the years, eventually started working there just out of coincidence one day, and I was in my element there. Surrounded by music, vinyl, good people, you couldn’t really ask for more.

What age did you start working there?

16, 17 I think.

And what age did you get out to raves or clubs?

I played at my first rave at 13, in Brixton Arches, with Terry Francis, quite a few old house boys, Loftgroover, and I was in the other room playing old Philly Blunt, Urban Shakedown, Suburban Base, all the old jungle drum’n’bass bits. And that was me after that, mate, I’d found something I liked, it caught my attention – it made my attention span longer than ten minutes, let’s put it that way!

So if you learned right back in the jungle days, you must’ve got your mixing skills early – there’s no faking it with proper 93-95 jungle, right?

Yeah. A lot of percussion, a lot faster, a lot more going on. They say if you can make drum’n’bass you can make anything – well, if you can DJ drum’n’bass you can DJ anything. So yeah, it got me off on a good foot. It didn’t come overnight, it took a good couple of years to be able to put an hour’s worth of music that was listenable, that fit, and I didn’t have anybody teaching this, I worked it out. Then from the drum’n’bass and jungle, I moved onto garage, started building up a little bit of a name for myself in the garage industry – but always playing a bit more of the deeper garage stuff, the harder stuff: Wookie, Zed Bias, J Da Flex, El-B, Phuturistix, all these kind of guys, the more deeper stuff.

And while I’m playing this on the pirate radio shows locally, kids that were listening to the shows were coming into the shop asking “What’s this? And what’s this?” and it’d always be just those deeper and darker bits they were asking about. Then these same kids that were asking about it and buying it were getting into music production while they was at school, so they’d make music that was similar to what they were buying, and this is where it all started. It escalated from there: these kids wanted their own artist names, they wanted information about how records get out, about the industry, what was this, what was that, get going themselves… next thing you know we’ve got Skream, we’ve got Benga, we’ve got Digital Mystikz, we’ve got Caspa, we’ve got Distance, we’ve got Artwork and Souljah Records, then it kept growing and growing and growing and growing…!

I remember you saying ages ago that techno was important too – Arthur taking you down to Lost, which he was part of, right?

Oh yeahhhh. Arthur – Artwork – played a big role in my DJ career and in my whole life really. I spent every single day with him for years in the record shop; I’d never had any kind of father figure and to a certain extent, not that he was that father figure, but he was the right hand man that I turned to when I needed advice or anything like that. He took me under his wing, as did John, Hijak, all the guys in the shop – they put me on that right path. But yeah, Arthur used to take me to Lost, and once I got to them, and see them proper raves, I just thought, “Yeah, this is me.” Dark, dingy, sweat dripping off the ceiling… I mean, I’d been doing proper gritty, grimey raves since that first gig at the age of 13 in Brixton Arches. Walking around, people are off their faces in the corner, dribbling, I’m a 13-year-old and people are like, “What the fuck is this kid doing walking around here?” I’d experienced all of that, but this was my first experience of going out with a bunch of older people, being with them, helping set up the soundsystem, see how everything at Lost worked, that was just another life experience that I benefitted from.

But garage was your focus…

Well yeah, I loved jungle but obviously I’m in the shop and I see the trends coming. So as I started to get my feet under the table at Big Apple, and I’m starting to get my name on flyers, the garage industry was seriously at its peak. We’re talking 2000, 2001, 2002, garage in full swing, and it grew on me more and more. I started to play it, put out mixes, and I’d send them to Garage Nation, Sun City, Cosa Nostra, Stush, and I started doing all these garage raves. But at this time the big artists in the scene had made themselves, they’d become an establishment, and it’s hard to break into a scene that has big founders in it…
  

“Eventually the dark garage stuff is diluting itself out and I’m just left with a record box full of youngsters.”

  
…and committees!

Yeah, and that – so when you’re younger and trying to break in, it’s not easy at all. I didn’t go out of my way to say “Let’s bring all these young kids together and create a new scene”, though – far from it, that wasn’t in my plan at all. I was just focused on trying to become a big garage artist, but as these kids coming in the shop were getting better and better their music slowly started intruding on my sets, so it got to the point where I played gigs and I wasn’t playing the Artful Dodgers and Ramsay & Fens and MJ Coles, I’m now moving darker down the spectrum through the Wookies and El-Bs, then Skream’s coming in, Distance is coming in, Loefah’s coming in and it’s becoming a mix-up of a set, until eventually the dark garage stuff is diluting itself out and I’m just left with a record box full of youngsters. And that’s where the next step happened.

None of this stuff could’ve been released – so you must have been cutting dubplates, right?

I started cutting dubs when I was 14, 15. All the way up ’til about two years ago! There’s a lot of metal sitting in my bedroom collecting dust, I tell you – a good few quid’s worth. [laughs] It’s history, it can’t be parted with, but I can go through it, look back and say, “I was there at that stage, and that moment, and this is what I was doing.”

Have you considered recording them all for posterity?

Oh, I’ve spent the last two years digitalising them, the whole lot, every plate on a USB key, every single one of them – recorded direct from the plate, every crackle, every jump.

That’s a USB to guard with your life, there. 

I’ve got a few back up copies in a safe, we’re good to go there, buddy!

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Hatcha3

Was it you that came up with the name “dubstep”?

Yeah, as a category in Big Apple. I can’t put my finger on why, I guess it was just minimal, so it was kind of dubby, influenced by the instrumental dubs in garage – it wasn’t a dub reggae kind of thing, though that came in after. Just it was dub music, an instrumental stripped-down sound.

And how was it in the clubs playing that sound? 

It was hard. It was difficult for a good few years. I remember one of my first ever international gigs, I flew to Germany and it was tough. They didn’t know what the hell I was playing. And it stayed like that for a long long time until it’d created an underground scene at home and other people would look at it and think, “This is cool”.

Even the serious fans early on didn’t exactly go mental to the music on the dancefloor…

No. Most times it was not exactly moody, but it was about head-nod, body from side to side, everybody just picking up the vibe.

To an outsider that didn’t seem like much – my first introduction to dubstep as distinct from dark garage was those Rephlex raves at The End, to see these boys standing almost still, hoods up, I thought, “Is this raving?” It took a while to twig that there was an intense reaction to the music going on.

BUT… there was the FWD>> rave, and people came out of their skin there, no hoods up, have a few drinks – from the Velvet Rooms onwards. At FWD>> it could be party music as much as anything. It became a religious party, same people there every month or every week. We’d get limos up from Croydon! Get a cab up to London would be 30, 40 quid, so why not just bung a tenner in, get a big stretch limo for X amount of us, get smashed all the way up there and all have a good laugh. It’s great looking back, I’m so glad to have been a part of that… but I guess it’s sad that the genre’s not in the state it was then, that nice family vibe, everyone going out and having a good time. Now there’s so much politics involved, everyone wants to split up the genre. Is it tear-out, is it tribal, is it this, is it that…

Don’t get me wrong, dubstep’s going strong, and I play out every single weekend in places that are still heaving to the rafters – but it’s got that dirty name now because of there being only one form that is what people hear if they go on Google or YouTube, which is chainsaw tear-out, “DANANANANANANANAA!” stuff. That is still dubstep, mind, that is a valid sound within the genre, but the thing is that nobody’s teaching ‘em that there’s other stuff. There’s people playing deep stuff, but that’s all they’ll play, and they’re sort of keeping it for their own crowd. So there’s no way for people who get into this noisy stuff to know that there’s other stuff and you can rave to it too. So I have to do that. I’m a DJ, I don’t get bookings off being a producer, so I’m not tied to a sound – which is why now, when I go to a rave, I play the best of everything. I play the best classics, the best of the minimal sound, the best tribal, the best tear-out, and give people a feeling of how it’s all dubstep, still, and what’s involved in it.

Well it’s an interesting time now, of re-assessment of just what dubstep is – but we’ll get to that in more detail later. Going back to the timeline, in 2002, 3, 4 – what was the relationship with grime, which was popping off on a bigger scale than dubstep at that point? 

Grime was in my sets. The first few years on Rinse, the first hour of my set was grime, then the second was dubstep, and it stayed like that for two years or so – until there was enough dubstep to fill the two hours! I was mixing in the grime instrumentals, it was a big thing, but like garage, there was a lot of attitude in it, and it got a bad name from that. People couldn’t help themselves but go to the rave and have an attitude, which scared off the girls, which meant you ended up with a rave full of men, which killed the genre. It was lovely music though!

I always thought there’s a grime influence in a lot of your tracks, even later on in things like ‘Dark Claps’ which is, what, 2010…

Well, when I was doing the producing seriously, really knuckling down, it was early on, and the grime was definitely an influence. But I didn’t have time to get into it then – I had a baby at young, I had a job in the day, I was DJing, so I didn’t have time to sit up all night making it. While I’m out DJing, all the Croydon youngsters were making the music and bringing it in, and it worked out nicely like that. But I’m playing the grime in with their tracks, I’m playing people like Agent X, Youngstar, Jameson, Danny Harrison and Arthur and them boys, TNT, Geeneus from Rinse of course, Wonder – another Rinse dude. There were so many talented people out there then, and yeah, of course, it was all an influence. I was involved with everyone, guys in East London would come down to Big Apple, and being there I would reach out to people and it made networking so easy and I benefitted massively. 10, 15 years down the line, I still benefit because I’m still involved with all these people in the industry, which is handy… especially when you need a favour!
  

“Every gangster, every pretty boy, every pretty girl, every thugged-out chick, all of these people under one roof…”

  
Now you mention the attitudes in garage, but was that really its downfall? It seemed to drop out of the charts incredibly suddenly…

Garage was there, it never went away. But it’s a hype thing, we see it with every fucking genre, it becomes big, big, big, big until everyone is going to these raves. Every gangster, every pretty boy, every pretty girl, every thugged-out chick, all of these people under one roof, everyone’s excited, everyone’s doing drugs, everyone’s drinking and eventually the inevitable happens and people start getting shot and stabbed, which puts a downer on it. Touch wood we’ve never had anything quite like that in dubstep, but honestly I think it’s the people who go to the raves that kill the music. Not now – the music always survives, and garage and grime are OK now – but back then, it got to the point where you couldn’t put garage raves on because people was scared that they were going to end up with an incident. Once it’s got that reputation, it becomes a downward spiral, people start playing up to it. But garage never died out, it just got overshadowed by other styles that got bigger. That’s what happened to garage… weird that drum’n’bass / jungle never had it so bad, though it was there.

So with garage in decline, and no overground audience, how did dubstep maintain its identity?

Well, it came up at the same time that the internet did. It was slow for that first while, but then it suddenly blew up so quick because you could find out about it. Barefiles, Blackdown, Hyperdub, Dubstepforum – even if you weren’t in the raves, you could hear it. And there was a short while where the original dubstep was visible to the outside world – but then it went mental. And that’s where it gets confusing, because that’s where the people that I consider the real dubstep sound – the Digital Mystikz sound, the Anti Social sound, Silkie, Quest, Kromestar, Mala, Coki, Distance, Lost, Jakes, all of these guys here, and a lot more names on the list I could roll off and who always support the scene – those guys didn’t get the love and attention that they should’ve done, and the media and the public only seemed to look at the noisy, chainsaw stuff. They only wanted the craziness.

Sure, but before it going mental, what was the turning point? Was it ‘Midnight Request Line’? 

Yep, ‘Midnight Request Line’, then Benga & Coki’s ‘Night’. They were the turning points – when they went public, shit hit the fan, because everyone wanted to know what it was. Then there was Caspa & Rusko’s Fabric mix, then Caspa ‘Where’s My Money’ – each time, each year, it was another massive turning point. And with each turning point, the more people from outside got involved, the more metal kids, the more people from drum’n’bass, and you’d play these harder tracks and the place would go fucking mentalist. So what are you going to do? You’re going to give them what they want, not knowing that you’re shooting yourself in the foot because the other stuff’s getting sidelined. For me, ideally, I’d only play the best of the deeper stuff, but I might not get the right exclusives of the deeper stuff and I was getting tear-out stuff, and I needed to have the very best, so I’d play more of that stuff, but it spiralled out of control. It happened so fast.

OK, well let’s try and break it down, so again, going back before this period of massive acceleration – where were the places outside the hubs of Croydon and Bristol that picked it up first? 

The States, definitely. And once you crossed that pond it was party time! But Europe too – Belgium was quick on it, Germany crew were on it, Amsterdam crew were on it… then odd places. Israel – I was playing in Tel Aviv yeeeears ago, which was shocking, mad, for us who’d never been that far afield. And that never stopped, that spread, it’s constantly mad the places it takes us to.

And what was the atmosphere like among all of you when it moved from being mates going up to London once a month to flying around the world, big gigs, worldwide interest?

Bit of an eye-opener really, pretty much surreal. From playing little residencies for £50 a night to being in demand – interest from magazines, radios, agents, bookers – it was proper what-the-fuck. Then it was, “OK, let’s just ride it!”

Did it go to anyone’s heads early on?

Yeah, loads. And they’re not around now, that’s what happens. We’ve lost some good producers and DJs from the scene because of that. On the other hand, some people benefit because it goes to their head in the right way and they do crazy things and people love it.

You can say the names “Ollie” and “Beni” you know…

They’ve become legends for it. Give them their props and their dues, because they’re both lovely people, but any of the rest of us try and pull them off and we just can’t do it as well [laughs ruefully]. So high five to Beni and Ollie! [Note: perhaps ironically, this was a day before Benga’s retirement from DJing was announced].

But at this early stage, it was more hype than you’d been used to – but you were still underdogs in the grander scheme of things, right? I remember it being a big thing when drum’n’bass raves started having a dubstep side room.

Yep, we did all of them. Innovation, Hospital, all of them – then it got to a stage where we said, “We’re not a second room sound” and we stopped it. I remember Mala saying to me, “Why are you accepting all these gigs?” and I said, “Well it’s a gig!” Then he said, “Yeah but we’re not a second room sound!” and I realised, “Yeah, you’re fuckin’ right, we ain’t”. So [screech sound effect] we put the brakes on that and concentrated on getting headliner status.

So there was actually a group decision? Almost like your own committee! 

Yep. I mean I still talk to all the guys to this day, and there are plenty of friends from then that I will sit and talk all night when we meet about music, about the industry, about what we should be doing and all that. But back then it was such a tight knit scene from being so small, we would all talk all the time and make decisions. Now dubstep is a worldwide industry and none of what we say matters any more, it’s out of our hands, it’s not like we’re in a record shop and we’re debating what we’re going to play at the weekend and who’s got a new tune and who’s going to get that tune. Now there’s millions of kids playing this music, hundreds of thousands producing it at home, thousands actually putting it out – now there’s politics and board meetings, what happened to the good old days eh? But we move on.
  

“Now there’s politics and board meetings, what happened to the good old days eh? But we move on.”

  
We do. So you explained what it was like musically as things picked up, but what about your routine – was it just steadily getting busier?

Yep, from that 2006 kind of point, each year it was just bigger gigs, bigger gigs, bigger agents, and it was exciting. Even now to this day it’s exciting, pulling out the tunes for a gig, doing the gig, it’s exciting. This weekend I’m just doing a set of garage gigs and I’m buzzing off going through the tunes I’m going to play. So yeah, of course as the gigs got bigger, it was constantly more exciting. I mean let me tell you, I’ve drunk many a drink, done many a drug, smoked many a weed, but no buzz can beat the adrenaline buzz of being behind the decks in front of hundreds of people – even in front of ten people – and seeing them happy and dancing. That’s me. Still excited about it, still love it, still get that nice little tingling feeling going through the tunes and picturing how a crowd is going to react to each one. I never pre-plan sets, but I do get bundles of a particular sound together – ten of this, ten of that – chuck it in a folder and say, “That’s my set when I get to the club”. I have never once lost that love of the music, never once.

And when did you decide that you needed a bigger brand – nights of your own, and your own label?

That started from early, it started with John and Arthur in the shop starting the Big Apple label and Big Apple parties, I just watched and took it in and saw how things were done. Then as I get older, I set up my own label with N-Type, Sin City, because people are sending us music and, boom, we start releasing music. That gets a nice following, so OK, we’ll do some Sin City parties. Just like with my own DJing, there weren’t a breakthrough as such, it was just step after step after step. Just like now there’s the Hatched label to represent that particular sound. That felt like something I should do because I was getting this music that didn’t have an outlet, and now that’s growing too. It’s just about seeing how far I can go in this industry – OK, I’m DJing, I’m getting paid every weekend, well what else can I do? OK, from that: start a label, and from the label start a night, it’s just about keeping options open, keeping making new ways for people to find the music, and keeping fingers in pies.

Are you a natural multi-tasker then? 

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t sleep a lot, losing hair fast, brain is always active, always networking [points to phone on the table], always keeping myself busy.

And how did the partnership with N-Type come about?

Oh, we’re going way back now – it’s six, seven years we’ve had the label now, we launched it at Bar Rumba on Shaftesbury Avenue with Chase & Status, Slimzee I think, who else? Me, N-Type, Chef… And it’s gone since then, it’s lovely to look back at all the flyers, the records, everything.

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Hatcha2

But why him in particular – as you say it’s a small scene so you must’ve known him from before that…

Yeah he used to come into Big Apple, basically. He had a DJ partner then, Walsh, who runs Biscuit Factory records, and the pair of them were getting better and better at DJing, giving us mixtapes, and me and Arthur would go, “These are fuckin’ good, these two”. Then because I was involved in the pirates, my friends from Delight FM would come in the shop and I passed them a tape of N-Type and said, “Can you get my pal a radio show?” So I got him his first show, but aside from that him and me got on like a house on fire, him and Walshy – just a good relationship based on liking the same types of music, having a mixed taste in the scene and not just locking into the minimal or the noisy or the tribal or whatever and saying we’re only gonna play this. People basket themselves, and they might benefit from it or they might not, but N-Type and me have always been the same and liked to play everything. So we clicked. He’s a funny guy, he’s never miserable or pissed off, my sort of person to knock about with, so we clicked straight away, started the label, started the night and we’re still rolling.

It’s funny, thinking about it, that a good few of the dubstep labels have maintained over several years being based on the same groups of mates on the scene that they started with, and seem quite straight-up in their dealings. Obviously I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but it feels a long way from the garage industry which was basically pretty crooked. 

I think like I said earlier, a lot of people involved in dubstep had been involved in genres before that – in garage and drum’n’bass – and had seen everything. They didn’t want that shit. But maybe more it’s that dubstep was coming out as everything became more technologically based, with emails, email invoices, the taxman going online, all that, you just couldn’t be as crooked and naughty as we’d all like to have been to save a few quid! Again, times change – I’m sure if dubstep had come out ten years earlier it would’ve had all the same bent crooks dipping into it as garage and whatever else did… but then nowadays music just ain’t as much of an earner any more, so maybe they just weren’t interested.
  

“I was going to be doing tracks with Skrillex and Fresh and Adam F and all these other big acts… but that’s not me. I thought, “What am I doing here?””

  
So as the scene got bigger, the sound got bigger and lairier…

Well wait, despite what I said, it wasn’t always about noise. ‘Fat Larry’s Skank’, Matty G’s ‘50,000 Watts’, Benga and Katy B’s ‘On a Mission’, Martyn’s ‘Broken Heart’ remix, even the Skream mix of La Roux – massive tunes that people remember, and not the tear-out end of the spectrum at all. But then, people are like sheep, it’s a known fact. If you’ve got a video that goes on YouTube that gets 300,000 views then there’s a huge section of people who are going to say it’s good because, “Well, look: it’s got 300,000 views – it must be good!” It’s really good now that I can see the genre turning back. The hype, the noise, the madness: it all seems to be filtering out and it feels like nothing but good music back around again. Tribal sounds are coming back, minimal sounds, not just the generic 8-bar loop dropping into a tear-out bassline. And that’s everywhere – Russia, the States, all over, everyone’s producing stuff that’s deeper, weirder, properly out there. Each tour I do, more and more they either want the history stuff, or the newer deep stuff. Not necessarily the moody half-step, kick, snare, bass – but the tribal, percussive stuff. They want the grooves back, which is really interesting. I’m pulling out tracks on dubplate that were never released and people are going, “What the fuck is this?” And I’ll go [laughs] “this is Loefah from nine years ago!” “REALLY?” “Yeah” [broad smile]

So you can actually go back to the tight-knit nature of the original scene and benefit from that again? Because there are so many tunes that were dubplate-only, maybe got heard in three or four clubs maximum, they’re not retro as such – they’ve retained their newness somehow.

That’s right. We’ve got a deep well of stuff to draw from.

OK, so we talked turning points on the upward journey, but where was the peak? When did the madness start to subside?

2011-12 really. 10, 11 is when it started getting a little bit out of control. More than a little, just completely – because everyone wanted to be a dubstep producer, everyone wanted to be a dubstep DJ, whether they were rappers, rockstars, whatever. We’re flooded with music, and people are getting fucking confused, we didn’t know what to play. From 2009, 10, 11, 12, I seen a lot of people drop off the dubstep genre because it was too much for them, too much noise and confusion, too many people shouting, “No that’s dubstep”, “No that ain’t dubstep”, “No you don’t know what dubstep is”, “I never called it dubstep, he called it dubstep”, and on and on and on. Everyone got just a little bit out of their trolley, the whole world wanted to own it – which is ridiculous when it had come out of this tiny bunch of people in London: the Souljah camp with Tempa, FWD>>, Sarah Lockhart and Neil Joliffe, the Big Apple boys, Black Market to an extent… there was only a few of us bouncing these ideas and tracks off each other, which just makes it seem so ridiculous when it’s a worldwide phenomenon with everyone and his auntie getting shirty about what’s this sound, what’s that sound, who’s allowed to do what. For FUCK’s sake, here we go. Us guys, we were just like, “If you don’t like who’s playing, don’t go, don’t waste your time badmouthing them.” The thing is, I always said, from years ago, is that the thing that is best about dubstep and will keep it going in the long term, is that it has so many diverse sounds, styles and rhythms within it that there’s always something else to turn to. I love house, I love garage, I love drum’n’bass, but each of them has one pattern that will dominate all night, but with dubstep you’ve got a half-tempo track, then a tribal track, a tear-out track, a four-to-the-floor track, a reggae track even – we’ve got so many opportunities there, why are we not benefitting from it instead of sitting around picking at each other about what’s better than what?

How do you feel when someone does step away from dubstep into something else?

It only hurts me when I know ‘em and they’re good friends. But you can’t get the hump about it, how could you? I almost can’t understand why anyone did want to stay in dubstep when it got to that shirty sort of scene. Look at Skream. He is Skream, the legend, the top lad, but how can you blame him for not wanting to be involved in a scene that globally became so political and pathetic and wanting to tell him what he could and couldn’t do, when if it wasn’t for Skream – and Benga and Mala and all these guys – there would be no dubstep. They created the tracks that crossed the water, ‘Midnight Request Line’, ‘Night’, ‘Anti War Dub': everyone ate off of these tracks. They made the genre, and nobody now saying they’re part of the scene would be here if it wasn’t for them. And we all knew that the bigger each of these tracks was, the bigger it made all of us. But then you had that period where people weren’t making tracks for the scene, they were making them for themselves in their own little corner… Thankfully that didn’t last long, which was good. In other genres, when people started getting shirty and demanding they get their own little genre, that lasted ten years and put that scene in the shade for ten years. Dubstep, it lasted six months, a year maximum. The sense that it was a dirty sound, a dirty word – that didn’t last long.

I did some looking at Google Trends, and the fact is that dubstep may indeed have had a crash in 2012, but that only took it back to 2009-10 levels of interest worldwide. And dubstep in 2009 was pretty decent place to be, especially if you think how far it’d come in the five years before that. So is there a sense that you’re trying to pick up where you left off? 

Yep, yep, it’s really like going [shakes head, looks dazed] “Hold up, what just happened?” You look around and go, “Fucking hell I’m still here, thank fuck that didn’t last long.” And the last 12 months of what happened, of it being up in the air and people saying it’s dead and all the nonsense, that’s filtered out the good, the bad and the ugly. And now it’s coming back to the good stuff. All the people that are involved are the people who have heart, and they’re involved in the scene because they want to be. Even people who gave up completely in 2011 are thinking, “Hmm, I could do something interesting now.” It’s different at the very upper end, it’s different for Skream – he gets slagged off a lot for leaving the genre, but he’s got to maintain his status as an artist now, he’s out with Pete Tong and all these millionaire artists, so he has moved on, you can’t hate him for it… it’s not like he’s slagging us off, is it? People say he said dubstep was dead, but he never said that, it’s just he’s moved on. If he feels the spark inside to make a dubstep track, and I’m sure he will do sooner or later, then he will, he’ll bang it out in a couple of hours and it’ll come back massive, sell a couple of hundred thousand! But for the rest of the scene, those days of bickering and slagging someone off behind their back, shitting on someone, stabbing someone in the back then buying them a drink in the club the next weekend – forget about it, all you’re doing is slowing yourself down and everyone else. It looks like everyone’s realised that and we’re back now. We’re back to cool sounds and not having to jostle all the time, we’ve got guys doing weird minimal sounds who weren’t getting recognition a year or two ago getting good recognition – the Commodos, the Kahns, the Convexes, all the youngsters coming through, and they’re regenerating the sound for all of us.

And as you were saying, a lot of those are coming from abroad – case in point being Gantz, one of the most innovative producers right now, coming out of Turkey. Is there a sense that that phase of madness made you realise that you had to let go of the reins, that Croydon no longer owned dubstep any more than anyone else did? 

Oh fucking hell yeah, it’s way out of our hands now. It’s long gone. It was out of our hands, what, six, seven years ago in fact. No matter how selfish you might want to be about something, like [suddenly hunched over in a creditable Gollum impression] “Oh it’s my precious”, you’ve got to let it be what it is, so that it can be what it is. We all know who’s real about it… talking of which, you look at some promoters’ lineups, and you think, “Fucking hell, mate, you made your rave on dubstep, and now, you fucking sellout, you’ve got a lineup without one dubstep artist – which shows your heart wasn’t in it in the first place.” Yet you got other people who’ve been putting on raves since right back in the day, they still put them on, they’ve still got a good following, their ravers love them, they’re still going strong. Only the strong survive, buddy, only the strong survive. Sin City still sells out Fabric. We launched Hatched at the Vibe Bar… busiest Vibe Bar they’ve ever had in their history! And this is a minimal, weird label that’s only been around for a year. I only played for about 20 minutes, the whole rest of the night was just the young guns that I’m signing, but people turned up to hear them because their music’s viral, they’re on the net already…
  

“Deep, tribal mud-dancing. Perfect.”

  
And you’ve got an album coming out – your debut album!

Yeah, got the album coming – that’s my main focus for the rest of this year until it’s ready.

Hatcha & Friends right? Is it all collaborations?

All collaborations bar one or two little tracks that are just me, the sort of minimal little gothic tribal twisted shit for five o’clock in the morning which we all like now and again. But really it’s all about the collaborations – I changed my mind a bit since I started about which artists I’m going to work with since I started the project, I’ve taken a fair few off the list. I think if I’m going to release a dubstep album, people are going to look and say, “Let’s see what Hatcha’s got to say for himself.” Whether I like it or not, it’s a statement, so that statement’s got to be what I want to say about the dubstep scene. I was going to be doing tracks with Sonny – Skrillex – and Fresh and Adam F and all these other big acts… but that’s not me. I thought, “What am I doing here?” Yeah, it would smash sales figures, but that’s not being true is it? I’m a dubstep artist, I’ve got to be showing them what’s fresh, what’s true and what time it is. So that’s all year, might even take longer because I’m a lazy bastard, but that’s fine, I’m in no rush. But in between, there’s the Hatcha & Friends EPs coming out every few months just to keep the interest up and keep giving people tracks for the clubs.

So you’re turning prolific. Given that you seem to have released about a track a year up until now, that’s quite a turnaround!

Yeah, it’s been mad. Thick and fast. That first Hatcha & Friends EP we’ve got a tear-out thing on there, a deep tribally thing on there, a garage track on there. It’s just me working with my friends, it’s not a Hatched release which is all about that very particular sound, all about getting those kids that are making the stuff that we want dubstep to be like. Hatcha & Friends, the EPs anyway, is me and my friends from the industry, getting together and making a few tunes.

And have you finalised who’s going to be on the album yet?

Yep.

And…?

[raises eyebrows] I’ve got a good old list, and all I’ll tell you is that it’s going to be deep. Deep, deep, deep. Deep, tribal mud-dancing. Perfect.

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