How many contemporary artists can you name who can play the arena-headlining, Prince Harry-meeting pop star one moment, then release ice-cold underground music on labels like NonPlus+ and Deep Medi the next?
Then take Skream out of the equation. How many can you name now?
Oliver Jones has been the face of dubstep since his late teens. Now, in his mid-20s, he’s one of the most recognisable faces in dance music, with three albums under his belt (two solo, one with Magnetic Man) and several chart hits to his name. He’s producing for some of pop music’s biggest names in Kelis and Miles Kane, his remix of La Roux’s ‘In for the Kill’ soundtracks the trailer to the new Judge Dredd movie, and he plays sold-out shows three or four times a week. However, as FACT found out when speaking to Skream this week, what he craves most is a dark room and some close friends, which is why he’s started a new club night, Skreamizm, which aims to take things back to basics.
So what prompted you to start the Skreamizm club night?
“Seeing too many fucking lights, over the Summer. [laughs] I was saying a minute ago to someone, I haven’t felt like I’ve been in a rave for so long, because everything’s a visual show now, or a light show. That’s where the concept of the dark room comes in, in terms of the set, the three-hour set, that’s more showing people where I’m from. A lot of people don’t know where they know me from at the moment – it’s a whole younger crowd.”
Well as your profile gets bigger, and dubstep’s profile gets bigger, it must become increasingly like that. I mean when did you last play a show that you felt was ‘for the heads’, or whatever?
“I played at The Nest last week – it was really full. I was playing disco, then I got to play techno – that was really cool. And the second Skreamizm show, that was at Dublin, at the Twisted Pepper, only about 300 people and not one light on. It was great, apart from the fact that I had tonsillitis, so I was out of my mind on antibiotics.”
Did you drink on the antibiotics? That’ll fuck you up.
“I couldn’t swallow! I couldn’t drink a thing – to be honest, I’m relieved it was pitch-black in there because I’d have been pulling some right funny faces. Generally, when I’ve had tonsillitis before I’ve just burnt it out with vodka, but this was something else – I couldn’t swallow, I didn’t eat a thing for about three days.”
It’s an obvious thing to say, but I guess the dark room thing harks back to Plastic People.
“Yeah, of course.”
How much do you get a chance to go to clubs like Plastic these days, as a punter?
“You know what, I don’t. Though that’s less to do with the schedule, and more to do with home life, because I had a little boy about a year ago. So say I’m working [DJing] Thursday to Sunday, then I usually pre-record the radio show on a Wednesday, then I’ve got to fit in studio time around that. I do enjoy it when I get to pop out, I went into Croydon last night – there was a free party at the Black Sheep bar, it was just DJs I’ve known for years playing about 20 minutes each, that was really cool, just to go hang out, and catch up with people that I haven’t seen in ages.”
It struck me while prepping this interview that you haven’t released much this year, whereas last year your schedule was really full – you had ‘Anticipate’, the new Skreamizm pack, the double-12″ on Disfigured, and more. That makes me think you must have something up your sleeve…
“[laughs] Nah nah, I haven’t. It’s been hard writing music this last year, between DJing and the homelife, then the radio show takes up a lot of my time. This week I’ve been on it, I’ve been working hard for five solid days, and I think I’ve got a hit – I think I’ve got a decent hit. Plus I’ve got a 125bpm acid banger that I’m gonna debut tonight.”
Is the hit with a vocalist?
“I’ve gotta get a vocalist on it, it’s definitely a song. It’s extremely emotional, which is good for the winter. I’ve been all over the place, making house, techno, rave, 150bpm amen jungle stuff. I’ve been bouncing off of my [recent] sets, which have been all over the place.”
You did a track with Kelis recently, ‘Distance’. How did that come about, and is there more in the pipeline?
“I’ve actually done another tune with her, which I’m hoping we can get on Skreamizm 7 – which should come out once this tour’s finished. It came about because I was friends with her old manager… I’d been working with a songwriter from the States, who then started working with Kelis’s camp, they played her the track and were like ‘she really likes it, is it cool to give it to her?’. I was like ‘of course’, you know? [laughs] But the other tune we’ve done, it’s called ‘Copycat’ and I think it’s 10 times better than ‘Distance’.”
What else have you been working on lately?
“I’ve made this disco record, and I think it’s fucking amazing [laughs] it’s a proper disco tune, like disco structure and stuff. I’ve done that with Sam [Frank], and then I’ve been doing stuff with Miles Kane [from Last Shadow Puppets]. I’m planning on doing a single with him.
“I’m not in the mood to write an album at the moment. I’m just getting back into the habit of writing again, and getting back in the studio. When I feel like I’m on top form again, then I’ll start thinking about writing another album. Thing is, I’ve released so much music, every year since I was 17, that this year off has been a real year of growing up – having a child and all that. But now I’m back on it, I’m fully back on writing tunes and we’ll see where it goes.”
Snowbombing and Cable present Skreamizm at ADE on October 18, with sets from Jacques Greene, Artwork, Disclosure, Gomes and Skream himself, performing with Sgt. Pokes. For more details, click here.