Defying the curse of 2020 one grubby, greasy rolling banger at a time, few D&B acts have dented The Shittiest Year Ever™ quite as effectively as Bristol duo Ill Truth.
Releases on Flexout, Overview, Dispatch and Sofa Sounds have all come our way since February. There’s plenty more to come, too. Their long-awaited dub Bait is out later this month on Sofa King Sick 2, there’s a weighty club package on Guidance due soon and another EP on Dispatch.
And if that’s not quite enough of a middle finger to this weird and warped ‘rona era, they’ve just won Rebel Music’s debut Dub Wars contest.
One of the most unique lockdown-busting online events in drum & bass, Dub Wars was a weekly battle running throughout May where a tune would be made each week (using samples supplied by the likes of Total Science, Invaderz, Ulterior Motive and more) and face-off anonymously in a knock-out tournament.
It kicked off with 16 exciting, forward-thinking acts including HLZ, Misledz, Creatures, Mark Dinimal, Wreckless… And last week it came down to two; Kolectiv and Ill Truth. Using a Total Science sample pack, both duos delivered their best tracks of the whole contest but it was Jay (Myth) and Haden (Revan) who clinched the win (and a year’s sponsorship from Native Instruments) by just over 20 votes.
You can listen to all tracks here. It’s highly recommended: 30+ tracks from some crucial future headliner names names, and not one of them sounds like they’ve been cooked up in just five days. A new and exciting way of not just releasing music but willing it into existence in the first place, Dub Wars has been one of lockdown’s best D&B stories. And Ill Truth smashed it one grubby, greasy, rolling banger at a time.
2020: a rubbish year for pretty much everything but you haven’t let it faze you…
Jay: You’ve just got to roll with the punches haven’t you?
Haden: We’ve been in an interesting position because at the start of lockdown we were going to release a Guidance EP full of club tracks. But we held on them because they’re pretty heavy tunes. Because of that we’ve been able to focus on things like Dub Wars and stay active and be open to people who are listening to music.
Dub Wars was big commitment. You’re busy guys, so was this an instant yes or did you have to think about it?
Haden: We nearly didn’t go for it. Absolutely nothing against the competition. We were just so busy.
Jay: I had so much Myth stuff and mixdown stuff.
Haden: I agreed to do it anyway, but Jay worked double time to make sure he was free. We ended up being pretty chilled throughout the process. The nature of the competition – how you’d get the samples on the Sunday night and had five days to turn around the tune – made us a lot more conscious of what a good idea is and what you’re forcing.
Jay: Haden would write it by Weds, send it to me, we’d have some thoughts on it then I’d do the mixdown on Thursday and it’s ready for Friday.
Haden: We stuck to that process every week which made things flow for us. Plus the samples were great to work with, which definitely helped.
They came from some wicked sources, right?
Haden: Yeah Ben, OB1 from Rebel Music gave us the pack on the first one. Darrell from Invaderz sent some amazing ones which we gelled with completely
Jay: The third week was the vocal round which flipped things, then the final was Total Science samples. They’re our homies anyway, so it was a sound we could roll with.
How about the rounds? Which one were you most worried about?
Haden: Probably HLZ. But that first round was intense. Abstrakt Vision came in as a late contender and we didn’t know that much about him. Then he came with an absolute tune. That really shook us up. After I heard his entry I was very worried all weekend. But Emilio HLZ is a good friend of mine. He makes some very sick music so that was intense. Likewise Harvey Creatures. He’s a good mate and a very talented man.
Jay: Kolectiv too. Their tune against us was their best tune of the contest. It was so cool, they just kept upping and upping their game.
Haden: That’s worrying when you’re up against an act who’s keep improving with every track in the contest. We really couldn’t tell where they were going to go with us. You don’t know if they’re gong to go up one level or four levels. To be honest, everyone we were up against really smashed it.
Yeah man, they’re all full tracks. Over 30 of them. That’s got to be an album of some kind…
Haden: We’re in talks with the label about what we can do. But for now they’re dubs and they should be for a bit. It was a dub war. To be honest I don’t think any of us expected the tracks to be so good. Making a tune in five days could end up with WIPs or half-finished ideas.
Jay: But every track felt finished and really well done. So much work has gone into this from everyone.
Must have been quite a relaxing week this week?
Jay: There’s a little less pressure but it’s business as usual.
Haden: But it was nice waking up on Monday morning and not thinking ‘ahhhhhh, gotta get to work!’ I slept 11 hours the other night and I’m sure it’s down to Dub Wars and needing to recover. There were a lot of late nights! Anyone who’s thinking of doing something like this, here’s some advice – believe in the loop. If it sounds good playing for an hour straight then it’s a good tune so finish it. Don’t lose time over the small details. On the flip side, it’s fucking hard man! It was intense and it really made us think about how we do things. A bit of competition helps too; other than Abstrakt Vision, we were against friends and we didn’t want to have to live that down for the rest of our lives.
Friendly rivalry is what dub plate culture was based on to a degree…
Haden: Yeah and the voting was very tight too. People had two days to listen, decide and vote. Over a week, it might have been a different result as people would have digested it over time. And it’s cool they’re all still up there now. You can listen to them whenever. And if they come out, there’ll be different favourites for people. I think that’s really exciting; it’s a different way of delivering music to an audience and actually a different way for the music to even come about and exist. It’s a unique format. That’s really sick.
Jay: And it was about the music, too. The anonymity was key. It’s always about the music for us, it can’t be about anything else. So that was really important.
Speaking of music, what’s next? The Guidance EP?
Haden: Yeah that’ll hopefully be out in the next few months. The clubs might not be open but there’s avenues like streams and mixes. We really want to get them out. It’s all ready to go so hopefully it’ll be out soon. Before that we’ve got track on Sofa King Sick 2, Bait, which people have asked about for ages.
Jay: We’re working on something for Dispatch, a remix of Trex’s Rolling, a remix for Overview…
Haden: And after that we’re looking at our debut artist album. It’s cool. Because everything has taken a back seat with release dates, by the end of this year we’ll have a lot more music out and time to work on more…