In 2010 some areas of electronic music are becoming difficult to classify. While artists like James Blake and Mount Kimbie with their respective intricate and skewed sound are shaping the landscape of so-called post-dubstep, there is also a slew of forward-thinking producers developing mutations that are more dance-floor orientated.
Breeds derived from offshoots of grime and the house drum pattern, among other polyrhythms, are evolving, taking influence from worldwide underground beats, resulting in a cutting-edge amalgamated sound. I caught up with two such hybrid-producing DJs: Bok Bok (aka Alex Sushon) and Dubbel Dutch (aka Marc Glassen).
Bok Bok, along with L-Vis 1990, runs the prolific London label, Night Slugs and Dubbel Dutch is a DJ from Austin, Texas, whose syncopated bass-heavy productions are lauded by key figures in the scene. Together they discuss their backgrounds, influences and why a new generation of producers are not hung up on defining genres of music.
When did you start DJing and producing and what music did you play back then?
Bok Bok: Around 2005, started taking it seriously about 2006 when I got into grime. This is all I played back then, I was into it 100 per cent.
Dubbel Dutch: I started playing around with Reason when I was about 17 or 18 just making beats, no style in particular. I got some decks and started playing mostly dubstep, minimal techno, classic house, but also just about anything I could get my hands on.
What genres of music and artists are you influenced by?
BB: I’m influenced by early grime production 100 per cent. It’s my foundation to this day, I love it. Eastwood, Oddz, Black Ops, Wizzbit/Geeneus [Rinse FM DJ accredited with pioneering the UK funky sound]. Anything DJ Slimzee played ‘03 to ‘05 was 100 per cent my shit. Then much later on, old Chicago house and acid became a massive influence on me as well. These two things remain the biggest influences on me.
DD: For a while there I was on a tech house tip but lately I’ve really just been opening up to music from everywhere. Cumbia, dancehall, kuduro, South African house, dutch bubbling, Bmore club, Chicago juke and footwork, old skool jungle and hardcore, garage, UK Funky and all that mingles with, or shares influences with, these sounds.
Leatherface-Juke – The Eternal Dance
Do you think that rave styles like UK funky, house, 2-step, dubstep etc are merging to the point that it’s getting harder to pigeonhole the fusion?
BB: There are still a lot of producers and tracks that fit more into one of those styles. But there’s definitely a new generation of producers that don’t think about genres at all while making their tunes. I like to keep it simple, for me and for Night Slugs it’s basically all about house x grime. Yes there are a lot of other styles in the mix and each of us has our own unique influences, but doesn’t every interesting producer have these?
A recent Night Slugs release
DD: It definitely seems like a difficult task to attempt to pull everything together under one single heading. House and bass are kind of catch-alls, 2-step and garage seem more rhythmically distinct as the beats are swung and easier to pigeonhole. You could potentially call some tracks UK funky and 2-step but everything’s really starting to get way more complicated than that. From my perspective the sound is getting more varied rather than settling in. I think this uncertainty about what to label things is kind of exciting. It takes the focus off particular scenes and rigid styles and forces us to listen closely for an individual’s influences.
If you can categorise your sound what would you label it as? Some people are calling the music “tropical” can you relate to that, or do you think the music should be left uncategorised?
BB: Categories or genre definitions can be useful. I’m not against the idea of pattern recognition or against criticism or journalism analysis of what’s going on in music. But, when it comes down to my own stuff, I don’t really think of it in those terms. My music definitely is nothing to do with tropical. I’m from London, that’s nowhere near the tropics. My music lives in Tron.
My sound emerged in a similar way to other people in the UK who come from a grime, dubstep background who are currently interested more in house. I guess when things in London started sounding a bit grey some of us started looking elsewhere for inspiration, and there was brilliant gutta music happening in urban hubs all over the world ready for us to take influence from it.
I guess when things in London started sounding a bit grey some of us started looking elsewhere for inspiration…
DD: I’m not sure if I can, or would want to, categorise my sound. I can relate to the utility of calling something tropical. I recently played a party called “Tormenta Tropical”, but I’ve never really been into the term; mostly because I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what that’s supposed to mean. I certainly don’t live in a tropical region so that term just feels kind of broad. I’d rather have people attempt to identify styles in the music than use a blanket term that’s really not saying a lot about the music played.
Bok Bok what’s the idea behind your Night Slugs label and why do you think it’s gained popularity both here and in the US?
The idea behind it is simple and organic. Me and L-Vis  come across a lot of brand new music, we play it, it fits with our sound and we want to support and release it. Our roster came together very organically too; it’s just people who we get on with, see eye to eye on creatively. We all support each other.
I’d like to think the reason it has gained popularity is because the products we’re putting out are of a high standard, are fresh and original, are well presented and we work hard to promote them. I think people get where we’re coming from and can see that we’re genuine about it and feed off our passion – I hope so anyway!
Dubbel Dutch your sound fits really well with Night Slugs’ output, why do you think this is?
While Night Slugs are definitely pushing sounds that could be considered characteristically UK, they’re not exclusively pushing UK sounds. If you go down the roster of artists and remixers [on the label] you’ve got guys from all over with various influences, tastes, and perspectives. Egyptrixx in Toronto, Kingdom in Brooklyn, French Fries in France, yet the one thing they have in common is that they’re all kind of hard to pigeonhole. Night Slugs seems less concerned about genres and more interested in good music.
If you look at the Night Slugs team each has their own very different style. Girl Unit is on some juke and kuduro tip, L-Vis 1990 lies somewhere between tech house and funky, and Bok Bok is on some avant- garde hybrid grime and house thing. So you’ve got guys doing stuff that fits in well enough with everything else going on around them locally, pulling influence from their local scene, but also just displaying a lot of passion for other kinds of music. Overall it seems like they’re doing their own thing.
Girl Unit – IRL
Since acid house and techno of the late ’80s era there has been influences from the States to the UK and vice versa, do you think this tie is still strong now? Do sites like Ustream and YouTube make this bond stronger?
BB: No doubt about it. This back-and-forward cycle of influence is little documented. I think it’s definitely still happening now, definitely all the stronger due to the internet. Night Slugs is a part of that for sure.
DD: I feel like there are UK producers who have been getting lots of inspiration from older US house, the Strictly Rhythm back catalogue; lots of UK guys are really into Karizma. I think the internet, with the help of YouTube, can only help the exchange of ideas and influences and make the ties stronger. It has enabled people on both sides to be aware of lots of sounds they normally wouldn’t have access to. Not just between UK and US, but also for example DJ Cleo tracks from South Africa, dutch house, minimal techno from Berlin or cumbia from México.
Bok Bok’s pick of US DJs and labels
Kingdom ,Egyptrixx, Drop The Limes’ Trouble & Bass crew, Dre Skull, Jubilee, Prince William, Dubbel Dutch, Bersa Discos crew.
Dubbel Dutch’s favourite UK DJs and labels
Sticky, Blunted Robots, Hyperdub, The Heatwave, Night Slugs, Hemlock, Hessle Audio, Deep Tecknologi, Terror Danjah, Ramp, Ikonika, D1, DVA, Doc Daneeka, Julio Bashmore.