“It’s about the vibe”: Why Dubplate Style is the most important project in S.P.Y’s career so far…

To say S.P.Y is ‘on a bit of a vibe right now’ is like saying Sun And Bass this year was ‘okay mate’; Carlos Lima is genuinely fizzing with excitement for his craft right now.

What began as an idea to ‘make a jungle album’ led to two years of deep research, talking to many of the OG artists from the early to mid 90s, revising his studio set up and even changing his mixing style. It’s resulted in more new music than he can possibly play in a standard one hour set, a series of his own Dubplate Style parties where he picks his dream line ups and, interestingly, a completely different dynamic on the dancefloor.

Since launching the project at Hospitality In The Dock this spring he’s delivered two singles comprising some of his grizzliest shakedowns to date such as Frequency and Shadows Of The Mind. A little darker and rougher than his previous material, Dubplate Style taps into the foundation spirit with total legitimacy.

This is not a nostalgia trip for Carlos; he wasn’t even on UK soil during the first jungle phenomenon. No, this is the latest chapter in what’s been a whirlwind 15 years since he left his career as a graphic designer in Sao Paulo and moved to the UK without knowing a word of English just to pursue his passion for drum & bass. Now in respected enough position, and more than technically astute in the studio, he is able to take the original jungle DNA and build with it himself with total authenticity while ensuring it remains relevant and resonant in 2018. With his parties he’s able to translate that DNA in spirit and vibe… And it’s a vibe that comes across in interviews, too. Get to know:

Last time I saw you was at Sun And Bass….

Yes! I saw some amazing sets there man. Nookie, Remarc, Paradox, Seba with Robert Manos and Conrad. It was beautiful.

Ah Paradox. Don.

Watching him do his live show was great. I loved geeking out over all his old school analogue gear and seeing how some of the sounds were created.

Totally in tune with the Dubplate Style project

It’s all part of the same vibe. Nookie and Remark were on the same tip too, they absolutely smashed Ambra Night with a bunch of special dubplates that I’d never heard before. Every track brought me right back to the time in my life when I’d just started buying jungle records.

You must have spoken to a lot of the original guys for advice or insight as youve been developing Dubplate Style?

I’ve had some really interesting conversations. I’ll never forget the long chat I had with Fabio at Hospitality On The Beach about how jungle music started. He’s an absolute legend and it was surreal to be hearing the stories direct from the man himself. The guys from Total Science gave me some good insights and I spent a bit of time with Dom & Roland in the studio. I also found Bizzy B on YouTube, showing how he produced some of his old school tracks. It’s really inspiring and even though I don’t have all the old school equipment I’ve managed to put together a similar setup in my studio to recreate that vibe.

Yeah its replicating the vibe more than the sound, right? That rawness

Oh man some of those old tracks had such rawness. Some mixes were a bit muddy or bits were a little out of key but that was the charm, it just added to the vibe. And that was the main challenge; how do I make something that’s got that raw, vibey feeling but is still sonically relevant to the sound I’m producing now.

How did you find that balance?

Trial and error man. I must have written 100s of sketches and ideas and tested them out and realised they were terrible. I wanted them to play against the mixdowns to the best tunes from back in the day. That took a lot of trying and crying and banging my head against the wall.

What records or artists did you find best to A&B?

Oh so many. Dillinja, Nookie, LTJ Bukem, Dom & Roland, Photek, Hidden Agenda, Johnny L. And that’s just to name a few, there’s so much good music out there. I just want to mash it all together and combine the styles. Like the beautiful feelings of an old Good Looking track and the hard beats of a Moving Shadow or Metalheadz record and the big basslines of a Suburban Base record. It’s like capturing all the best elements from tracks I liked the most.

Youve changed your DJ style a little too, right?

Yeah, I wanted to go back to a more organic style I guess. It’s more enjoyable for me to play a set where I can really take the time to read the crowd and freestyle a bit more. I wanted to really feel the groove of the music and play the tracks for a little longer. Talking about DJ sets, did you see Zinc at Sun And Bass?

Yessir! One of my highlights!

That was one of the sickest jungle sets I’ve heard in my life. I was like, wow.

I’ve got goosebumps! Those cheeky double drops, then hed rewind the mix and double drop with something else!

Absolutely. He was just incredible and he had that flow that I’m talking about but also with all the tricks. He was another one of my highlights of Sun & Bass.

Let’s talk about your events

The first Dubplate Style party we did was at the garden stage of the Critical Summer BBQ. I had the opportunity to book some of my heroes and the whole day was incredible. Now we’re doing another party at Studio 338, but this time we’ve taken over the whole venue, which is such an amazing opportunity. I have to thank Undivide Events and Hospital for supporting my work and believing in the things I do.

Youre picking your dream line ups here, right?

I feel really spoilt. Doing the Dubplate Style parties I’ve been able to book some of my idols, friend and heroes. For me to move to the UK and not even speak the language to now get to the point in my career to do this, I don’t take it for granted. To be able to share with the crowd my dream line ups and my favourite records is such a blessing.

Its that vibes thing again

Absolutely. The Dubplate Style parties are really aiming to celebrate good, underground music, whether that’s new, old, classics or unreleased tracks, it’s all about mixing things up.

This has to be building up to an album?

The whole Dubplate Style concept actually started with an album idea and the parties were a natural evolution from that. I’ve released two singles so far; Frequency / Midnight Blue and Grey Days / Shadows of the Mind. I’m working on the final touches to the album now.

Details please!

The album will be released early next year, that’s all I can say at the moment. It’s been a really natural process writing this album, I’ve been feeling really inspired and have been spending a lot of time in the studio.

You seem particularly buzzy right now!

Yeah for sure. I’ve been doing a lot of research and crate digging, tracking down original jungle records and new samples to add to my collection. There’s something so special about hearing the tracks on vinyl. To be honest, it’s been really difficult deciding which tracks to include on my album because I’m constantly writing and creating new music. I’ve written so many new tracks lately and to see the reaction from the crowd when I play them out is really inspiring. I’ve noticed that when I play a more jungly Dubplate Style set the crowd dances more with each other, rather than watching the stage. I feel like there’s this great vibe where the crowd and the DJ are on the same level, vibing and appreciating the music together.

Thats the original jungle spirit too

Exactly, it’s such a beautiful vibe. I played my first Dubplate Style set at Hospitality In The Dock and I was on after Danny Byrd who was playing quite an uplifting set. I didn’t expect to get such a great reaction as our styles are quite different, but it really worked. I played mostly new and unreleased jungle tracks that I’d written in the past few months and the crowd seemed to really like it.

In at the deep end!

Exactly. To jump on a stage in front of 3000 people and be like ‘listen, everything I’m going to play now you’ve never heard before’ is quite mad, it’s very nerve-racking. But I’m not doing it to prove a point to anyone; only to myself. To be able to write music that I love and to see other people appreciate it too is such a blessing. I can’t seem to stop writing new tracks at the moment!

So youre writing beyond the next album?

Beyond everything! I’m just so inspired. I don’t feel I’m forcing myself. Sometimes I’m getting four or five ideas down in a day and that feeling when you’ve written new music and you’re really excited to play it on the weekend is just priceless…

Join S.P.Y with High Contrast, Nu:Tone, Critical Impact, Uncle Dugs, Shadow Child, DJ Die, Bou, Kyrist, Lenzman, Fracture and more on October 26 @ Studio 338, London

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