In March this year three veterans of dubstep’s original guard, joined forces to release an 8 Track EP- Flashpoint on Canadian label Deadbeats. Long time friends and industry colleagues Emalkay, The Others and Subscape collaborate for the first time to mighty effect. The EP see’s the trio draw from their past works and more modern sounds, creating an intoxicating mix of nostalgia and fresh excitement.
We chat to the guys about why the time was right for a collaboration, where we can find the best parties and the evolution of dubstep.
How everyone’s doing? What have you been up to?
Subscape: Watching the EP drop and come out, getting excited about that.
How did the EP come about then?
The Others: It’s an idea we initially talked about five years ago.
Subscape: The idea was to get together and make some tunes, it’s always been on the cards.
The Others: It probably stemmed from the UKF 10-Year Anniversary release. We did a track and then some of the ideas that we put together off the back of that became some of the first ideas for this project. And then Emalkay joined in a bit later when we had some stuff growing.
Emalkay: It all worked nicely and all gelled together. We tend to get on well together, not just musically. Even when we disagree about things it’ll be worked out. We’re really easygoing with each other and we know our strengths and our weaknesses, which really helped the process along. It was produced in a gradual way, we didn’t sit down and bang the whole thing, it happened over time and naturally grew.
The Others: That’s an important part. A lot of times when people collaborate with someone, it’s quite a new relationship generally, but we’ve all known each other for over 15 years, we know each other inside out. We know each other’s sound inside out and we all have that point of reference over big catalogues.
Subscape: We all live quite far away from each other, but even then it’s easy to collaborate with each other and send each other tracks. We would get in the studio maybe once every few months, and over a span of a few years, we actually got the studio together quite a lot. Everything in between was easy and we’ve enjoyed the whole journey. I’ve never worked on a project like this with anybody before and it was a long time coming for us to collaborate.
Emalkay: I was about to say that, it seemed like it was way overdue for the three of us to make something together. Even though we’d not been collaborating, there’s always been an association musically. We’ve DJ’d a lot of shows together and it gets to the point where you have to do something before it never happens. I think every track and the inputs we’ve made individually complement each other.
It was the right time and everything came together…
The Others: The reason it came out now is that we probably would have continued making it for another five years. But we had gotten to a point where we probably had to draw a line under it. It can take quite a long time to write changes to tracks when you’re working with people and it can be quite a difficult decision-making process to decide if a track is finished or not. We had to collectively just draw a line under it. This is what it is, and it’s done now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8u-RzbWlE08
And what’s the reception been like so far?
Emalkay: It’s been really positive. It’s the best feeling knowing we’ve done something that works and then we get to release it. We’re very happy with it and everything is a bonus after that.
Subscape: The reception has been immense. We’ve had a massive response from the older scene, but it’s hitting a lot of new people as well. A lot of people are saying that it has a nostalgic type of feel to it. I agree with that, but also, a lot of tunes are new and fresh. What people are looking back to are the old synths and more than melodic stuff. The release has the nostalgic thing that they’re looking for, but a lot of the other tracks like ‘Heartstrings’ have more of a new, futuristic style. A big part of the reaction has been people saying the tracks take them back to a certain point in their lives, which is beautiful.
The Others: That’s the funny thing because actually, we’ve been around so long that we’ve almost come full circle, and people are hearing us for the first time which is cool. It feels good to me that it can put new people in touch with our catalogue. It’s been a nice response. But as Emalkay says, I think, first and foremost, we’re just really happy with it. I think anything on top of that, it’s just a bonus.
Like you were saying, some of the tracks actually did make me feel like 17 again, but others, I felt were a completely new sound, and I agree with what you’ve just said. Did you intentionally write like that, or was it just because you’ve been around so long, you’ve got those old influences, and you’ve got these new influences?
Subscape: It’s just a combination of our styles, and it comes out in the music. Whenever we sit down to write music you just end up writing in that style.
Emalkay: Had we sat down and said, ‘all right, let’s make an eight-track album and let’s have it sound a certain way’, I don’t think it would have happened. I think we would have struggled to work like that, and so we have to be just us. There was no political statement, we’re not trying to start a movement or stand for a cause.
The Others: It’s not like we’ve aimed for nostalgia. We just kept our sound, and the sound that we make comes from a time people would define as the dubstep golden age. Naturally, it feels nostalgic to people because it comes from that time, but also, I’d like to think there are some modern twists in there, the production values are higher than previous stuff. It’s a nice balance.
How did the creative process work between the three of you?
The Others: A lot of it came from projects that we each started and got to a dead end with, which happens all the time. Maybe I would have an intro, and if I got stuck with it, then these guys will know exactly what to do with it. That’s been the theme of the project. We’ve all had an idea and got to a place where we couldn’t do anything with it. So then the other two would take it on, and then all of a sudden, it would gain momentum, and before you know it, it’s a tune.
It sounds like you’ve really enjoyed this. Will you be doing more together?
Emalkay: I haven’t got over this one yet.
Subscape: Another four years’ time. Maybe we can start again,…
The Others: Yeah, maybe 15 years! I don’t know. We started a bunch of projects, so we’ve got loads of leftover stuff that we could recycle and probably do another EP. But we all have individual stuff that we write. It was quite hard to all be around at the same time. We wanted to make an effort to try and get in the studio as much as possible. Logistically, it was quite difficult to get together in person. Who knows what the future holds? We’re even more spread out now because we’ve all moved around again. So we might release some singles. It might be easier to crack out a single every now and then rather than a big project building up over quite a few years.
Subscape: Possibly a smaller EP. I’d love to write some more music with these guys, and we’re always going to be in contact with each other, so it’s never off the cards.
Obviously, you guys have known each other for a long time. How did you first meet?
The Others: I’m the common denominator. I met Subscape originally; we were at uni together. When I was at uni, I put my stuff first out on Boka. Emalkay, I think I met you when…
Emalkay: Sorry, I’m still getting over the fact that you just referred to yourself as the common denominator, like an artist alias, “Common Denominator.”
The Others: We all ended up on the same label and touring together. We spent a lot of time playing out together.
Subscape: Which is crazy, isn’t it? It’s only now that we’re actually putting out a proper project together.
The Others: We’ve known each other a long time, and we’ve always liked each other’s sounds and supported each other. Back in the day, we were all new artists. We came through the ranks together.
Talking about back in the day, can you take us back to the beginning of your careers and how you found the scene and how you got involved?
Emalkay: For a lot of people like me, because I wasn’t from London, the internet was how I got it done. Dubstep Forum, Aim, AOL Messenger, MSN, MySpace. I don’t think it would have happened without the internet. It was the early days of social media and sharing tunes online. And I think that was a big part for me, especially being outside London. I only went to places like Plastic People a couple of times, really.
The Others: It’s a bit cliche, but for me, it was when I first started going to FWD>> at Plastic People. Probably like 2006, 2007. The bulk of the scene was there. There were 200 people in a little club and that was the whole ‘scene’. Literally, in one corner would be Skream and Benga, then Kode 9 or whoever in another. Everyone was under one little roof, and it was quite a community. But my first experience of it was actually when I was making grime. I went to FWD>> because DJ Wonder was playing my stuff at the time. I didn’t even really know what the dubstep thing was, and then it just naturally happened.
Subscape: Plastic People was the iconic club that everybody gravitated to. I went to uni with The Others, and I was making drum and bass, but when I was at his place, we’d listen to dubstep, so I was thrown into it quite suddenly. I loved it and started making it instantly off the back of that, going to all the Dubstep parties.
It was such new music back then, people swapping CD demos with each other. It was so quick, I didn’t really listen to it for a long time before I started making it, and then I was speaking to other big people in the scene – Skream, Benga, Hatcha. We were swapping tunes with each other.
The Others: It really was like that then. I remember the first or second track that you [Subscape] played to me, and then I played it to Caspa, and he said, “Yeah, I’ll sign it,” because there was such a demand for new music and new artists, the scene was so open. It was a very natural progression.
Do you think the older sound of dubstep is coming back into vogue?
Subscape: Yeah, I think so and it’s not just that one sound either. A lot of these new producers are coming into it, growing up around that sound and now they’ve evolved it, it’s like their own thing so you can hear the influence.
The Others: It’s not as simple as aiming for nostalgia. I think there’s a hunger now for remembering why dubstep was loved in the first place. It lost its way a bit over the years, but at the same time, it has evolved. It’s taken up on new influences from different scenes and it’s been to America and it’s picked up influences and artists from there too, so it’s constantly evolving. Perhaps things tend to go in circles, it feels like there’s maybe a demand for some of the more classic sound but more updated.
Talking about the evolution, I’ve always thought that dubstep evolved into very different branches, you have the older UK sound and the more energetic American sound, which some people were really. against, why do you think people are so opinionated about the evolution of Dubstep?
Emalkay: I just don’t worry about honestly. It’s just it’s a waste of energy.
The Others: I think it’s all part of music, unfortunately. It comes from that tribal thing in dance music where you feel like you belong to a certain tribe. So when things start changing and evolving some people are quite positive about it but some people look at it and think ‘oh no, you’re f****** up the thing that I really cherish’. But you can’t do that, you can’t be a gatekeeper for any type of music. It just doesn’t work. You have to do what you want to do, and not worry about what everyone else is up to, because these things can’t be controlled.
If you look at drum and bass, you can’t control it, it’s like a snowball and picking up influences, artists and gathering momentum all the time. As a concept, it’s been fundamentally the same idea for the past 30 years, but it’s still going strong because there are new people coming in all the time giving their interpretation and taking it in different directions.
Subscape: You can’t get away from it, especially the way that came in so quickly. People take it as this precious thing. It’s almost coming back to the nostalgic thing, the time in their lives when they were first going out with their mates listening to this type of music.
But it all comes in waves and cycles, like with the garage and deep house stuff that’s coming back around. It’s the same with dubstep’s stripped back sounds coming around again- it’s always the young people that drive it. They’re the people who are going out to the clubs and paying for tickets to see music. It’s whatever they’re finding interesting and a lot of the time these genres are new to them.
The Others: That’s probably the thing that changes more. It’s not necessarily the music that changes at such a crazy rate. It’s the clubbers who are going out listening to music who drive the trends, but then they move on to other things so the sound changes.
Where are the best dubstep parties to go to?
Emalkay: There are two places. The first one is Belgium – if you talk about the giants of the scene, they’re the big dogs of Europe. And then there’s America. The market is massive in America, all the young people are into it. There are loads of events coming up in America and Canada. We should mention Deadbeats, which is a Canadian label.
I’m trying to make things happen in my home town in Birmingham. I’m promoting an event called Coldtank, I’m trying to do my bit to keep it going. Some of our best memories were at Fabric and the best shows in the past were in the UK, but I wouldn’t say that’s the case anymore, which is a shame.
Subscape: I would say that Dubstep is building up again in the UK. I just played for “Good Dubstep Only” who are running a string of nights in London with Caspa and J:Kenzo, and it went off. People are hungry for Dubstep in London. There are a lot of smaller nights, and it almost brings it back to Plastic People.
The Others: It’s a shame that London has fallen off in recent years, and I think again it’s probably because the venue landscape has changed so much in the past 10 years. And since Covid, it has been devastated. I think the heartbeat is in America. Thankfully, there are people like UKF or Fabric who do things now and again, and actually, when it runs, it’s always really good. I find it a bit frustrating that some people don’t take the gamble because I think the demand is there. I think it’s just harder these days as you have to get it right the first time round, there’s no time for a sound, scene or night to really grow.
Emalkay: Especially at the moment, it’s harder to get people into clubs because it’s just harder to live at the moment and afford to go out. So it’s understandable but at the same time, I don’t think it’s very good because as The Others said, there’s definitely a hunger. If you want to make something more special than just a profit, then you’ve got to take the risks. That’s what we do, not just in events but with our music, that’s what we live by, and we always encourage promoters to do the same. Although that’s easier said than done when it’s not your own money!
What’s next for you guys?
Emalkay: Me and Coki are going around venues in America playing parties together. That comes to an end in April, and then I’m playing two shows in Europe. We’ve got remixes coming out, and also the vinyl.
Subscape: Yeah, we have remixes for ‘Flashpoint’. We’re picking out a few people, and we’re thinking of some really cool artists for it.
The Others: I’m actually going to take a step back from making music for a little while. I’ve got a few other collaboration things being wrapped up, but actually, this project’s been so intense. It has taken up so much brain power that I’m going to take a step back from production for a minute.
Subscape: I’ve got so much more music to release and also some shows in London. It’s going to be a string of nights at the same place in Dalston and some shows in the UK. There are a few things floating about, but for now, we are just enjoying this Flashpoint EP. The response has been so great so far.
Is there anything that the bass music industry should be talking about, but we’re not talking about?
The Others: Naturally, all three of us don’t get involved in the politics of music or anything. We’ve always just stuck to our sound and we don’t really pay attention to what else is going on around us. But as mentioned earlier there is definitely a lack of good middle-sized clubs in the UK at the moment. I think there’s still generally a diversity problem in dance music also, but I feel like that’s getting better in recent years.
Emalkay: I don’t really get involved. I just make music.
Subscape: Just if anything, stop talking about s*** and listen to good music.
Emalkay: Don’t pay attention to all the gatekeeping and the drama. Don’t take it too seriously, enjoy life and enjoy the music. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day.
Subscape: And big up Deadbeats for giving us the platform to release this project, and also to Callum for doing the visuals and the artwork for us.
Emalkay: And thank you to everybody who supported and listened and believed in the project and stuck around with us.
Follow: Emalkay / The Others / Subscape