He might only be in his early twenties, but there’s a strong stench of old school about Manchester’s Compa. Here’s a few reasons why…
1 – He cuts dub plates
2 – He writes hundreds of tunes but releases only a very small handful per year
3 – He began as a DJ
All hallmarks of the original OG’s but without any of the wet-eyed or foggy-memoried nostalgia: Sonically and energetically, Compa is very much in the present.
Fresh off his latest North American tour, next month sees him dropping Take Control with one of the most respected MC’s in the game: Fox. It goes like this…
He also recently began playing six hour all-night-long sets, with his first taking place earlier this month at Mantra Warehouse in Manchester, and is about to launch his own club brand – Compa Presents – with the first show taking place at Boiler Room TV in London next month, which taps deep into his well-rooted musical approach.
Get to know…
How was your North American tour?
Best tour I’ve done so far, hands down. All the shows went really well, the reaction to the music was great – all the new tracks, all the classics. Great hospitality. Smooth travel. It was perfect.
This Rumpshakers mix sums it up then?
It does. The city was amazing, the people were really friendly, the sound system was incredible. Everything about that night was on-point. Full club front to back. It was perfect.
You did an all night long set recently too, right?
Yeah but it started as a weird one. I’m passed being nervous about shows now typically, but on the way there I was ready to turn around and call it off. I was so terrified about playing for six hours. I was over-thinking the length of it. Having to keep the crowd entertained, not rushing the set, whether I had enough records, whether I could find the right record to play among the 600 or so I took with me. But as soon as I got there the nerves were gone and I was flying… It felt like 90 minutes. When I finished I was like ‘man, I’m actually made for this, I was born to DJ I swear!’
You’re a DJ first and foremost, right?
Absolutely. Back when I was around 14 years old my school started an after school club. You could either learn to DJ or play Play Station. So I picked the decks and never looked back. I started on house music because all the after school club had was about 60 House records. Then, the first music I started buying and collecting when I began to really get into DJing was drum & bass. I got into production through a college tutor and started making dubstep around 2009. At the time the music was really new and exciting to me and I’ve always tried to keep hold of that feeling.
You can feel it in Take Control. Been a long wait on this… It’s been on Soundcloud since late last year!
Yeah I initially uploaded it to get fan feedback. I started playing it, passed it to a few of my peers, one being J:Kenzo. I said to him ‘I think Artikal is the perfect fit for the track’. He signed it shortly after.
Don’t ask, don’t get. Every time. Fox is a don isn’t he? I remember My Nu Leng saying how much of a pro he was when they wrote Masterplan.
It was Masterplan that inspired me to approach Fox. He and I know each other through both living and partying in Manchester anyway so we set it up. I sent him quite a few instrumentals initially and we finished one track, but we weren’t quite happy with it. A while later I rediscovered the acapella and made a new track entirely to fit it. That became the version you hear now. Before I’d been sending him music for him to fit, this way was a much more natural approach. I was happy, he was happy. That was it.
We were never gonna release anything that we weren’t 100% happy with. That’s how I work. I write all day long… But I only ever put out maybe two or three records a year.
Less is more. I’m interested in the new hybrid you’re cooking – the trappy, grimey influences. You can hear it on Verdant feat. Ill Chill, too.
My sound is evolving as it always has been. The dubstep roots are still there – I’ll always consider my music dubstep – but it’s important to look beyond the genre so you don’t get boxed in or restrict yourself or your music. I’ve been listening to trap and grime music a lot recently and it has certainly had an influence on my productions. Dubstep’s space, bass and atmosphere will always be the main theme, I’m just creating with new samples. It’s about finding a balance and for me Take Control is absolutely spot on. I’d definitely say it’s some of my best work to date.
Strong words! The Deep Medi four-track earlier this year was very strong, too. Been a while since we last saw you on the label…
Yeah man. Well, with heightened quality control when it comes to choosing what music to release, along with an ever-increasing tour schedule which has really restricted studio time, that’s how it goes… Touring is really counter-productive production-wise too, it really takes away the studio energy for me I find. I tend to work in bursts. I’ll write write write for two weeks or three weeks, then nothing for a week or two, and so on.
Got a day job, too?
No thankfully. I left my job in marketing at the start of last year. I needed to give music my all so I dropped work, got wise with my money and invested every piece of me into this. If I worked a day job as well as producing and touring then I’d work myself into an early grave. I’d be fucked! I’m a massive believer that if you really want to succeed in something you have to give it 100%. No half measures whatsoever. All or nothing.
Back to the Deep Medi record…
It’s less of a body of work and more of a collection of my best tracks to join the dots between the two year period between my debut Deep Medi record back in December 2013 and the second record. I’d made a good 200 or 300 or more tracks in that time so Mala, the label manager Steph and myself sifted through them, picked what we each liked and settled on the track-list. I’m really happy with the record.
What a huge amount of music!
Trust me man, bloody loads!
Have you chucked all them?
Chucked. Here’s how I work; I might make five tunes a week. Then at the end of every month I’ll choose the best six or eight tracks, cut them on dub plate and send a few out to my peers and try things out in my sets and let them try them out in their sets. I’ll check in with mates and see what’s working for them and I’ll put things up on Soundcloud and see what fans think of them etc and when it comes to putting a release together that way we already have a good idea of what’s working and what people want.
Dubplate cutters; a dying breed…
Only a few of us left. I only cut four or five every couple of months. I don’t cut a huge amount, I’m really choosey about which tunes I want to play.
Do you try all the other tracks out digitally then?
Nope, strictly dubplates, records and test presses. I commit to the music. I pick my music carefully. It can be restrictive when touring but that’s a small price to pay .
The fact you’re cutting dubs and touring so much is a reflection of where you’re at and where our music is at right now!
Absolutely, dubstep is in a really interesting place right now. The music has splintered and gone off in loads of different directions which is what original dubstep artists were doing back when this music began, before it all kind of came together and mutated into what is now known as brostep which I feel really split the genre in two; You were either on the deep, dark side or the big electronic crazy festival side, but now the bubble has burst we’ve come back to where we began and we’re all doing our own thing again, going in our own directions, bringing in our own influences. For example my music at the moment is bringing in trap and grime influences as seems to be the case with Distance on his new album or Youngsta and Cimm or District (check out his track Alpha House and you’ll get what I mean)
Kaiju are obviously heavily influenced by reggae and dub foundation sounds, Commodo seems to be on a beats/hip-hop influenced tip, Gantz similarly too, and in some of their recent work alongside Kahn on their collaborative album on Deep Medi you can hear influences from all of the above; trap through dub through hip-hop and so on. Check out their track Crystal Collect and you’ll know what I’m getting at…. I’ve been playing that track in my sets for a long time now.
I could go on and on. Everyone is bringing in new outside elements but we’re all under a kind of Dubstep umbrella in my mind. It’s a really exciting time for this music. It’s a great time for music in general…
So what’s next?
Man so much is happening right now, I’m playing more and more shows, I did ten last month which was my busiest ever month, I’m heading to Germany, Belgium, United Arab Emirates and touring India next along with loads of shows up and down England. Next month I’m launching my own club brand – Compa Presents which will debut on Boiler Room TV in London on September 20. Keep an eye on my social media for news! Thanks for the interview man!