Does the name Stabby ring a bell? Because if you take bass music seriously, it carries some major cachet around these parts. Besides being one of the first artists featured in our next generation of dubstep series, this talented musician has confidently kicked things into high gear during the course of the past year. You’ve surely taken notice by now.
His rapid ascension through the ranks didn’t happen overnight, but it’s remarkable how he’s managed to strategically close the gap between himself and some of the more recognizable names in the scene. In fact, there was a time not all too long ago when Dean Cawley had convinced himself that no matter how strong his dedication to his craft, all his efforts were fruitless. Luckily for him – and us – he was wrong…
Sometimes it takes time, sometimes it takes persistence, and sometimes it just takes a little bit of luck. In the case of Stabby, all of these elements likely played a role in the success he is currently experiencing. Are there any signs of this guy slowing down anytime soon? Nope, we just don’t see that happening. As the dust still settles from his explosive Bushido EP on Never Say Die we catch up with Stabby for his first full UKF interview. Get acquainted…
It hasn’t been too long since we last spoke, but you’ve had a busy start to 2017. What’s new?
Jeez, so much has happened since then. Following the release of my Ronin EP, I was very driven and motivated to write something. But for the longest time, I’ve struggled with writer’s block, especially after the Ronin EP because I couldn’t really seem to get in touch with what I really wanted to write.
Like a month down the line [from the Ronin EP release], I wrote that trap tune Hagakure, and that kind of just inspired a whole new level of what I wanted to do. This vision of 140bpm and returning to that. Right after that, I was just churning tracks out, track after track, it was crazy. I don’t even know how I did it. Even my manager was like, “Oh yeah, we have an EP ready,” and I was like, already? And that became the Bushido EP, which I’m so freaking stoked about! It’s been my proudest body of work.
How do you work your way out of writer’s block?
There will be moments where you just can’t write anything. In those moments, I’ll try to better my sound design and technicalities. I’m definitely a nerd when it comes down to it, so I beat myself up over compression, EQing, and all that. In terms of writing, sometimes it’s tough. There are times when nothing comes to you and there are other times when you just can’t stop writing. But for me, the way I like to see it, I write in bursts. I’ll write like 6-7 songs worth and then I’ll have a little period for a few months where I can’t write at all.
The biggest tip I have for overcoming it, is getting re-inspired, and that might be through something completely unrelated to music. Like something as simple as watching a YouTube video. For myself, I’m a big history guy. So I like to watch videos of anything from WWII to Japan Feudal stuff. Which is honestly why I started going for this whole samurai and Japanese thing, because I’m really, really interested in Feudal Japan in the 1800s. I’m just a really big history buff. Sometimes I’ll watch documentaries and I just get inspired to write music along to some old footage of some samurai walking through a town.
So where are you from? Tell us a bit about your upbringing.
My dad is from the UK, near Blackpool. I was actually born in the states in Salt Lake City, but right after I was born, we moved to Thailand. Coming up as a half kid, especially as a white kid in an Asian country, my childhood was definitely interesting. I dealt with a lot of racism and the whole shebang of being the singled-out white kid. But for me, I used it to power through what I do at the end of the day. Plus, I wouldn’t give up living here for anything else because the food is the dankest.
Your involvement with Never Say Die is on the rise. Could you please describe your blossoming relationship with the premier label.
Never Say Die was an interesting one for me, because that was one of my biggest dream labels ever since I got into making any form of electronic music. It was mind-shattering to me that SKisM even wanted to fuck with my shit. About a year ago, the manager I have now hit me up on Facebook and was like, “I’m really into your stuff, let’s do an Australian run!” So I sent him a bunch of unreleased tracks that would eventually become the Ronin EP, and he was like, “This is dope! Do you want to be on NSD?” Of course I was down. Within a week, he sent me a screenshot of SKisM telling him how much my tunes killed on the dancefloor. It was so surreal to me.
Involvement wise, they’ve really taken an interest in my music and what I’m trying to do stylistically. I feel like they want to help me push it, which is the coolest part.
The Bushido EP clearly drew on a strong Japanese influence. How did you decide on those specific track names?
Edo was actually the old name of Tokyo during the feudal times, from like 1600-1800s I believe. The other tracks drew more on other philosophies and ideas, like Hagakure is a spiritual guide for warriors. Bushido is the book of honor, so that’s kind of the entire meaning behind the EP in general.
Act One and Act Two were inspired by a lot of post-hardcore bands that I used to listen to, like Fall of Troy. They had this one record called Act One, and I kind of wanted to continue down that path but with more of a dubstep or electronic influence. I’ve always wanted to produce tracks that connect to one another. I definitely plan on doing an Act Three and Act Four in the future.
Electronic music can kind of be empty sometimes. I’m just trying to add that verticality. One of my goals is to start putting out records with prints and in-lines, like where you can open up a booklet with a little info and stuff. I always felt like those little tidbits were the coolest thing you could get from an artist. Even if it was digital.
Do you make it a priority to compose tracks that offer a departure from your usual sound?
Yeah. Most of the tracks that are a departure from my normal sound are tracks that I actually put together really quickly or tracks that I didn’t think would go anywhere. But eventually, they kind of grow on me over the course of weeks or months. Act Two was definitely one of them. I had intended for that tune to just be a DJ tool, because I wanted to remake some classic-sounding, Rusko-inspired, 2009/2010 kind of stuff. I sent that to SKisM and he said it was dope and we had an EP ready.
At first, I wanted to actually scrap both Act One and Act Two because I didn’t think they stood up to the quality of production that I really wanted to offer on the EP. But I started to realize as I was listening through all five tracks as a whole, that they all complement each other as a story. Even though they are all so different from one another, they all have something that tie them together as well.
In terms of the departure, it’s just doing something different really. I’m always trying to write something different that interests me, because if you’re getting bored with what you’re writing, then what’s the point, right? I’ve done so much 145bpm and 150bpm dubstep, that was honestly the main reason I wanted to shift back to 140bpm, because I’m so bored and tired of 150bpm. When I initially got into dubstep, I was listening to tunes at 140bpm, and then everyone rapidly transitioned to 150bpm. At first, it was kind of like a race. I was like, oh shit, I’ve got to do this now too. However, as I started to realize more and more, I was like, I really don’t care. I’m just going to do my own thing.
You’ve worked with Too Vain on a couple occasions in the recent past, what can you tell us about this lad?
He has a lot of potential. He also gets overlooked a lot. It’s hard to come up in this dubstep scene, even when you have awesome production quality, which is one thing Jaye definitely has down. Working with him was really cool. We managed to bang out tracks within days because we had this brief moment where we were skyping on an everyday basis. We would just be working on tracks around the clock. That’s when we wrote Catastrophe and Hellion. All of that music was written in almost a one or two week period.
He has a pretty distinct, yet similar sound. He does his sound design very different from what I do, and his drums. Which is what I really like to hear when I’m working with another producer. How do they do stuff differently? If they’re not adding anything to what you’re already doing, then it seems somewhat pointless. Drums are huge for me. It’s the number one thing I spend time on, right next to sound design. It’s the one thing you’re going to be hearing every other second, so it only makes sense.
While we’re on the topic of collabs, you’re currently working on a massive one with EH!DE for his next release. How is that coming along?
That one was really fun! The track was sent to me through Facebook messenger from my manager, and then EH!DE sent a WIP himself. I was like, “this is really cool, I have a lot of ideas for this.” It took him a few days because I think he was touring or playing shows, so I kind of got annoyed because I wanted to start working on it. When he eventually sent it, I just went ham over the course of a week or two. It took me a few days to start writing something that I actually wanted to send along, but it got to a point where I was like, “holy shit, this is becoming such a dope tune.” I haven’t worked on it since then, I’m basically waiting on EH!DE to wrap it up for his release. But I’m really excited for this one! It captures both of our sounds very well.
I feel like he’s really been trying to push himself with this new content and all this new stuff he’s been sending me. You wouldn’t think it was EH!DE from the sound of some of these tunes, because the production level and sound is almost a departure from what he used to do. It’s much less melodic.
Regarding upcoming tour plans, what do we need to know?
I’m so ready to start playing shows this year! I’ve been locked up in my bedroom for five years now. So this is definitely the year! My tour starts during June/July, although I’m not sure of all of the dates yet. I will be in the states, and I’ll be in a lot of states that even I’m super freaking excited to see.
I know New York City is one of them, with Webster Hall and all. It’s one of the places that I used to watch before I even got into dubstep, all my favorite bands used to play there. It’s such a compounding feeling that I’m like, “holy shit, I’m about to play there!” Playing my own music that I made it my bedroom. It’s such a cool feeling. I can’t stress that enough. So humbled.
Any other words before we part ways?
UKF is a platform I’ve looked up to for such a long time. It’s just such a bizarre feeling that I’m even sitting here doing this interview. It just goes to show you the power of the internet.
There will be times in this industry where you won’t get fucked with, but it can snowball quickly. As long as you have good content to put out there and can relate to people, somebody will embrace your music. Everyone’s on their own journey, so just keep grinding.