For fans in the US, the place dubstep producer Run DMT calls home, the question isn’t “who the hell is Run DMT?” but perhaps “where the hell has Run DMT been?”
Producer, label head and well-known purveyor of the all-important wobble seems to have been dipped out of the US bass music scene in recent years. But now, with an upcoming album called Revolutionaire, an events company and the re-launch of his Kill Your Ego label, it apparently won’t be long until both of those questions are answered.
Revolutionaire is the latest in a long chain of diligent operations for Run DMT that date back to his early days promoting bass events in Dallas around the turn of the century. Over the years he’s performed high profile shows at the world’s most renowned festivals such as EDC and Coachella and released on the likes of Evol Intent and Teenage Riot. Revolutionaire, however, is his largest body of work to date. And his most personal.
Released today, it runs the whole spectrum of tempos and textures he’s known for and even includes collaborations with dancehall professor Barrington Levy and fast-rising UK basssmith Vorso. We called him to find out more…
You’ve been involved with the American rave scene for a lot longer than many of your fans probably realise, correct?
Yeah, it’s funny, growing up in Dallas you might think there’s not much of a scene, but I started putting on club nights there pretty young, like around 2002. I put on a house and breaks night in Dallas back then, but then we had a couple of drum and bass DJs come through and I just always really liked that sound. As I’ve been doing dubstep I’ve still been following jungle and drum and bass this whole time.
Would you say it’s influenced your work as you’ve been building your dubstep career?
Definitely. I mean, if you love bass music in any form that’s rave or EDM, you have to look back at jungle and drum and bass. The progression of it, for me to watch since the 90s, has just been insane. The sound design that’s done by guys like Noisia or Black Sun Empire is really something that any producer should aspire to, no matter what the genre. Also the really funky beats and the dub rhythms of ragga and early jungle. It’s definitely influenced me and that’s what this album is really about. It’s really a love letter to everyone who’s come before me and I tried to really bring all my influences to the forefront rather than just give people one style.
In the US it seems you became known for really heavy-hitting dubstep that was popular in the late 00s and early 10s, but you’re right; this album is full of a lot of styles. You even actually have a drum and bass track.
I’m really excited about I Saw A Light, and putting out there finally that I’m a D&B head. The collaboration with SOBO helped me make up my mind there and that’s a really emotional song. Writing that got me through a really dark time for me and I think that’s what music is supposed to do. I can’t imagine it being any other genre, really
Speaking of collabs, how was working with Barrington Levy on “Rhythm Runners?
Kind of terrifying! That track took two years to finish. I’ve been a huge dub and reggae fan from way back and, I mean, you can imagine how daunting it would be when people are trying to connect you with that level of talent, and of course trying to find a style that worked with his vocals. I tried to do something with another artist where it was a lot of crazy stuff around the vocal, but it ended up not working at all (laughs). I was excited to work with Dirt Monkey because he helped me kind of strip it down, add a good amount of dub to it and get the two styles of like, more techy wobble-style dubstep and reggae to work together. It was a journey for sure.
Your other collab on Revolutionaire is with Vorso, who’s from the UK, on Gamma Ray. That seems more like your wheelhouse, style wise.
I think the people who have a certain conception of what my style is will probably recognize that track that way, but Vorso, coming from halftime as he does, definitely helped me push it in a different direction and I think there’s still a lot of surprises there. I’m looking forward to working with him more. He’s pretty new, but he already has a crazy style and a really diverse way of working.
Are there any other tracks on Revolutionaire you’re particularly proud of?
Everything on it is just so personal for me, so it’s hard to pick. I really like the last track, Jellyfish (Aiden’s song), because it’s about my girlfriend’s nephew. I love that kid.
So the album’s really been a personal journey for you this time around?
Like I said, this album was really a labor of love. When I took time off from dubstep I was doing a lot of things: I was bringing new artists onto the Kill Your Ego label, and now we’re also doing events – we had our first really big event locally in Dallas in the middle of June – I’ve been doing a lot of business stuff. But I had to take a break on my own music because I was really burnt out with just, you know, being pigeonholed and dubstep all started to sound the same. I know I’m seen a certain way on the festival rave circuit and I think promoters and fans expected a certain style and I had to keep playing to that. By around 2012-2013 I really didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to find a way to make it exciting to me and I didn’t want to just do one style just to get gigs.
So you tried to blow all that apart with this album?
Right! And like I said I wanted to bring together all these styles that I love from the history of rave and the history of bass music. I really think that’s the way forward – at least for me – to not separate or define out all these subgenres but to celebrate all of them and show what they have in common. If you put all these styles, dubstep, drum and bass, jungle, halftime, even riddim, into a blender, you can come out with something completely new and special. I hope I did a little of that with Revolutionaire.
Well at the very least you’ve definitely paid homage to all these styles and talents that came before in rave and bass music, so Revolutionaire will be relatable to UK and US audiences. What’s next for you?
I’m really trying to push my artists on the label, like Vorso has a track coming out with us. He’s been turning heads in the UK halftime scene for a minute, and then I have another US producer named Calvin Hobbes who’s really impressing me. I want to keep doing shows, and Kill Your Ego used to have a podcast so we’re coordinating getting that started up again shortly, and I’m also working on a remix album. Can’t say too much about that yet. The most immediate thing for me is I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to Revolutionaire and I hope they can feel some of what I wanted to convey. It’s been quite a ride.