Last time we spoke to Caspa at length was last March. He was defiant that dubstep was far from the hangman’s noose but honest enough to say it had never had such a low moment and things weren’t looking too pretty.
Almost 18 months later, he’s just as defiant and refreshingly honest. But happier. Vibey even. He’s also delivered an album. Well, 66.6 per cent of one as recently as last week. Caspa – 500 was a series delivered in three EPs before culminating as an album. The final part is out this week.
He describes 500 as his best body of work to date and explains how he’s had the most fun and learnt the most writing it too. Check the raw elastic space age funk of Derek, the loin-burning fire charge of War Drum or the breakbeat flexing 150 roller Tales Of The Unexpected and you can see why he says it.
No top lines. No commercially accessible featured artists. No tailored for radio tracks. Just raw, rugged bass-based drama and filth. It’s effectively the reaction to a decade of riding the crest of a tsunami-level wave and, rather than get off and swim back to shore like many others when it died down, he’s stayed on his board to see what comes next.
Complete with a tour that saw him take a PK Soundsystem into 500 capacity clubs across America, Caspa – 500 is the sound of a man on a mission to take dubstep back to where it belongs… Not crowds of 50,000 but those dark dingy cellars and sweatboxes that many of us first experienced dubstep at in the first place.
Read on for Caspa’s inimitable thoughts and observations on dubstep, the dangers of EDM and the most exciting collaboration news you could imagine him revealing. Seriously.
Get to know…
I started doubting myself. I had low moments and wondered if I was still relevant or whether people cared any more. Then I thought ‘you know what? I fucking really enjoy writing this music!’ I’ve had more fun, I haven’t had to rush it because I’m off on another tour, it’s been an opportunity to develop a new style, a new sound and get ready.
So… The final instalment of the Caspa – 500 series is out this week.
Yes! Part One came out at the end of last year, Part Two at the beginning of the year. Part Three was actually supposed to come out earlier but the timing feels better now.
There does seem to be some really positive chatter among dubstep artists recently…
You know what it’s like. It goes in waves. The scene had a hard time in the last few years but I feel like it we’ve got rid of all the shit and we’re ready to go again in a much better, more managed way. It happens all the time… Garage comes round all the time. Grime comes round all the time. Drum & bass has had ups and downs. Genres are hot one minute and not the next. This was the first time dubstep had fallen out of favour. It needed to go through this. It’s been good to make music with clear mind, and that’s what the music is a product of.
You did that physically with the 500 tour, right? All proper underground venues with your own system…
Yes. It was a proper tour! It was everything I wanted it to be and allowed me to take things back to the UK roots. Just little sweaty clubs with really intense vibes. America never had that stage of dubstep. They just went straight to the massive arenas with big EDM production and gas canisters. I wanted to be the guy who showed the American crowds how it began.
With EDM, they have simply rebranded dance music, but there’s no roots. So when the top of the flower dies it’s hard to grow back. Luckily dubstep and drum & bass have solid roots so they always grow back.
It’s the land of extremes…
Yeah. And the big problem is that there are these huge over the top festival shows and the really really tiny super underground shows. The space between is pretty sparse. I wanted to fill that void and I showed there’s a market but promoters aren’t booking it. I don’t want to exclusively play the really big shows and festivals. As much as I love them, my heart is actually in those medium 500 capacity clubs where you get that really tight vibe.
That real sweaty intense vibe where people stay with you the whole set and don’t have to go and queue for drinks or the toilet for hours.
More affordable too…
That’s another thing. I stressed that the tickets had to be $15 or less for my shows. I’ve seen a lot of artists come over and they’re charging $45/50. It’s like ‘fair play mate’ but it’s not sustainable in the long run. There’s no longevity in it. The whole EDM thing is based on that and it’s going to crash and burn. DJs can’t be paid that much money all the time; crowds will get sick of being squeezed for cash all the time. You used to be able to go out for £50, entry and drinks. Now it’s more like £150 for a good night out. People can’t carry on paying that forever. And the thing is with EDM, it’s a made up genre. It’s been made out of thin air. Isn’t all dance music electronic?
Yeah, acoustic dubstep just never took off, did it?
You know what I mean! With EDM, they have simply rebranded dance music, but there’s no roots. So when the top of the flower dies it’s hard to grow back. Luckily dubstep and drum & bass have solid roots so they always grow back.
Amen to that. Let’s talk about a few of the album tracks. My favourite is War Drum. $pyda’s such a badman.
That’s one of my favourites too. If I could sum up my sound in one track, it would be that. It’s a mish-mash of so many things all working together. I’m really happy with that. I’m really happy with a lot of things, though to be honest. The album’s been a great learning experience…
In what type of way?
I got really inspired by film scores over the last few years. Especially John Murphy’s scores and 28 Days Later. I love the way he pieces together the strings and atmosphere but it’s still got that rugged, raw, stripped back edge. That’s what I wanted for the album; something emotional, cinematic but still got that dirt that isn’t typical or obvious. I spent a lot of time really thinking about the whole production and getting everything sitting right. Months and months. I’ve pushed myself more on this than any other album and had more fun with it as a result.
Let’s talk about the biblical artwork for a second…
It was around one of the first tracks I did for the album – Stand Your Ground. I Googled the phrase and this really stark image was the first thing to come up. A man standing tall over a broken demolished city. It was really cool. I researched the artist and stalked him out on social media. He’s called Jessie and he’s very, very talented. He does backgrounds for games. I approached him and he was up for it. I love the black and red and the 300 reference. I wanted the artwork to be proper artwork and not a picture of me or anything. I wanted it to tell its own story.
Just have some balls and stop thinking about what radio thinks or magazines think or journalists think. Stand your ground.
Stand Your Ground is a potent message in itself…
Exactly. It’s a statement tune; don’t be afraid to say you’re a dubstep producer! I feel so many people have done that. It’s like ‘oh I make bass music’ no you don’t mate. You make dubstep. Your career is based on making dubstep and you make dubstep records. Be honest with yourself and be proud of your past!
But where do you stand on people who’ve simply moved on and are exploring other genres now?
If you’re talented in the studio and you’re making other music and styles then great! What I can’t stand is when you stop talking about where you come from and you repackage yourself. It’s like ‘are you really that ashamed of where you’ve come from?’ It guts me to be honest.
But then you got Skream who is killing it with his house and techno and disco. But not at any point has he ever slagged off dubstep… He’s just moved on. I got a lot of time for him because he’s never gone ‘fuck dubstep’ or changed his name and tried to remove his past. It’s the people – and there are many who I won’t name – who have used dubstep as a spring board for their career and now they won’t give it the time of day. But yet they still make bass music. Just have some balls and stop thinking about what radio thinks or magazines think or journalists think. Stand your ground. It’s stormy weather but it’s like Forest Gump… You’re gonna catch all the shrimp if you’re out there by yourself.
We had the same conversation last year. You said the chips were down back then… They’re on the way up now?
Things actually got worse for a bit. I started doubting myself. I had low moments and wondered if I was still relevant or whether people cared any more. Then I thought ‘you know what? I fucking really enjoy writing this music!’ I’ve had more fun, I haven’t had to rush it because I’m off on another tour, it’s been an opportunity to develop a new style, a new sound and get ready…
I’ve been in this for 13 years, living it 24/7, and I can feel it’s going to have a really positive surge again. Not too commercial like it’s been before, but solidly underground with a really faithful community and creative producers. The only problem is that it’s still a dirty word and people still think about the really heavy stuff. I played at an 18+ event in America and proper young kids came running up to me asking what that crazy deep stuff I was playing was! They’d not heard UK stuff before! I’ve got a half a mind to start describing my stuff as UK dubstep but I won’t…
You’ve physically moved back to the UK now too, haven’t you?
Yeah I’m back in London when I’m not touring. Actually me and Rusko have been doing some bits together again. We’re planning something maybe for the end of the year.
WHAT THE WTF?
Yes mate! First time in the studio for eight years. It’s like we never left. It’s the first time I’ve told anyone.
This is massive. It’s interesting because he told us about where he was at last year and he did a series of EPs in a similar ‘no rules, just having fun’ type of vibe. You’re both in similar places, then?
Yeah, literally… Rusko’s just moved back here too. The vibe I get is that he wants to get back to the original feeling that inspired him. He’s so vibey and exciting to work with. If I could film him in the studio it would be so much fun to watch. There’s a really fresh and exciting feeling to what we’ve done so far.
This is awesome news. You’re sounding pretty vibey yourself as it goes…
I am, yeah. I’m more excited about the music than I ever have been… It feels like it’s 2005 again. The scene and the sounds feel so clean and fresh! We’ve been around for so long now, we’ve gone through many different stages and chapters and it’s back to a good place now.
Caspa – 500 is out now. Buy now. More information.
Image credit: Sarah Ginn