If you’ve listened to Ben UFO or Blackdown DJ recently, then you’ll have probably heard a track called ‘Kowloon’.
It’s the one that sounds like a Wiley beat lost in space, and it’s one of several updates on grime’s early characteristics made by Logos, an artist who released dubstep singles but never quite made a name for himself in that scene.
Of course, Logos isn’t the only one looking to early grime’s alien sound palette for inspiration – Becoming Real, Slackk and Jam City have all released tributes to the cold powers of eski (Wiley’s self-referential mini-genre, centered around hollowed out bass sounds and detuned square wave synths) in the last year, while Zomby studied the style hard in late 2009. All the more reason, we thought, to make contact and discuss both his own music and the continued influence of eski on his peers.
If you like what you hear, Logos will be DJing in the FACT-curated Room 2 at London’s Cable club this Saturday, alongside fellow up-and-comers DJ Champion, Ossie and Brey. Sunday Best helm Room 1, with sets coming from Actress live, Photek, Bullion and Rob da Bank. Tickets are available here.
When I first heard ‘Kowloon’, I thought it was the first thing I’d heard by you, but it turned out I had a 12″ with Narcossist [now known as Kowton] remixing a track of yours.
“Yeah, it came out on Mindset. The original never came out, it was called ‘Frontier Dub’. That was the point when I was making 140bpm stuff – I guess at the time that rolling, Berlin-meets-London dubstep kind of style. I remember Ben [UFO] texting me once, saying Ramadanman was playing it at FWD>>, and that was quite a big thing for me at the time. It still is a big thing for me.”
What sort of thing had you been doing before then?
“The well-worn path I suppose – jungle, which I properly got into around ’97, Hardwave, Dillinja, that sort of thing … I didn’t move to London until around 2002, when I finished uni. I’m originally from North Lincolnshire, quite near Yorkshire. There’s not a lot of… well, there was a lot of happy hardcore, at the time, anyway.”
Yeah, the further North you get the quicker and harder the dance music gets.
“Yeah, there’s some amazing YouTube clips of Doncaster warehouse, which are hilarious. Anyway, it was Fabio and Grooverider on Radio 1 – when they moved to Radio 1, from Kiss, actually – and going to raves like Hardware at the End. That was when the End’s system was really firing. I used to listen to garage too, but mostly on the radio – drum’n’bass was what I went out raving to, even after it became unfashionable. Then I got quite a lot into this clubnight, Technicality, at Herbal. Like Breakage came out of that scene, and a few others. That became my big passion, and was where I first met Ben UFO, actually.
“Eventually I got bored of drum’n’bass, and went to FWD>> which was massively eye-opening. And I was listening to grime on the radio – you couldn’t really go out and see it at clubs too much, in fact, I’m not sure it ever really worked at clubs. The radio sets were just perfect.”
I’ve only been to a few grime nights that have really worked to their potential.
“It’s pirate radio music. Tinny speakers. So I was big into that, trying to get Rinse’s signal, and downloading the sets off the old RWD forum and stuff like that. Then dubstep was a huge thing – the first time I went to DMZ is still probably the best clubbing experience of my life. I started making tunes around 2004, and I did one – a sort of Mala-influenced thing called ‘Medicate’, which LV did a remix for. Martin Clark started playing it, and I put it out myself around 2007, maybe 2008.
“I didn’t really finish anything for about a year, trying to figure out where I was going. I started making stuff a bit slower, and thought ‘why don’t I mess around with some of the sounds from grime’, like Jammer, Wiley-influenced stuff, but in a different, kind of spacey context.”
Was it a case where you deliberately sat down and was like ‘right, I love these sounds and I’m gonna try to recreate them’?
“Well I wanted to do an extended kind of session, like riffing on one particular idea. And ‘Kowloon’ was originally gonna be four studies of that, with different names. It didn’t really end up happening – I mean there’s different versions of it on my hard drive, but this is the one I’m happiest with. But I am trying to do something different with that eski sound palette.”
Well where as Wiley’s stuff’s more tracky, like it’s just a great loop, your riffs get a lot more stretched out and change form.
“Well when you’re not making beats for MCs, with no expectations that Mac 10’s gonna play it on Deja Vu or whatever, you have to think a bit wider.”
Do you make those sounds on Logic’s ES2?
“At the moment most of my sounds are from Pro-53. It’s a virtual recreation of the Prophet 5 which is a big synth that people like Depeche Mode used in the ’80s. I’m probably gonna have to start tweaking my palette soon though – it’s only so long you can run with the whole square wave thing.”
It’s funny though – it sounded like you started doing these tracks a while ago, but this year there’s been quite a few people, in Jam City, Becoming Real, Slackk, revisiting that eski sound. It’s strange how there’s become this little pocket of artists pushing that sound.
“It is, isn’t it? I finished ‘Kowloon’ in October 2010 I think, having played around with it for six months. And then Martin Clark, who’s been a huge supporter, signed it and a couple of other bits for Keysound. It’s taken a long time though, grime, to filter through to this current generation of producers, but now it seems you do have people reinterpreting it in various original ways. I think overall it shows what a massive influence it’s been.”
Yeah, I don’t want to use the term, but people talk about post-dubstep, and I think for a lot of the artists they’re referencing there, be it Jam City or whoever, grime is probably a much bigger influence and a bigger reference point than dubstep was.
“Don’t get me wrong – for about two years all I was doing was trying to see Mala play, and in terms of this scene, the way the networks have formed and labels operate, it’s indebted to dubstep, but sonically I think people are looking back a couple of years earlier now.”
Why do you think that particular production style still resonates so strongly with people?
“Well, I follow Slackk on Twitter, and the other day he said something like ‘why does 8-bar grime still sound like the future?’ And you listen to some of those records now – I mean they’re a bit rough ’round the edges, a lot of them, though when you look deeper they’re not as rough as you think – but they just came out of nowhere. It still sounds like the future. If people were writing a dystopian film set in London in 2025 or whatever, you could just set it to Wiley beats and it would sound authentic.
“What I like so much about writing with those sounds, is that in terms of the arrangements… put it it this way, for the first time since I’ve been making music, I didn’t write an intro for ‘Kowloon’. And it rotates on a 16-bar/8-bar kind of vibe a little bit, and there’s a point half way where it changes, but the freedom it gave me… it was like half-way between functionality, and…”
And extreme artistry, I guess.
Also, there’s not much drums, and the minute you reduce the drums you’ve suddenly got all this blank space to play around with.
“Well you can hear it in juke – the further you get from 4/4, it’s like the possibilities, or the ideas you can get across, or the feelings you can evoke, gets totally expanded. You know, despite Wiley making a lot of those tunes in 2002, 10 years ago, that stuff’s been left relatively untouched until now.”