March 6, 2012

Revival: Whistla interview for - 2008

This is the second interview in a series of articles published on somewhere between 2007-2008. A couple of weeks ago we revived a rather long discussion between Tomasan and Hotflush's A&R at the time - c0p.

This time it's Whistla's turn. Before we (at that time - and Yazee) got him to play over for the first time in October 2008, we had a quick chat with him about Sub FM, Dubstep, the potential revival of 2-Step and UK Garage (which actually happened!) and...just about records leaning on a desk.

A fun and quite relevant read for those who missed out on some things 4-5 years back, way before L2S Recordings was born and well before the term Future Garage was coined.

Interviewing affairs handled by myself - Antonio Nartea.

1. Ez mate and loads of thanks for spending your time on this interview. How’s stuff in the UK?

Yeh not bad bro. I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics the last couple of weeks, haha! Been busy with lot of bookings this summer getting out of London for gigs and stuff so everything’s been going nice.

2. First of all, tell us something about yourself and especially, besides DJ-ing and producing, who’s Whistla as a listener, what are your main influences and maybe your favourite artists?

Well I’m from the “hardcore continuum” as people seem to call it. I first started getting properly into music in the late 80s / early 90s. I used to be a regular hardcore raver for many years before actually building or DJing tunes (my fav producers from that time were Satin Storm, the way their tracks would barely hold together is amazing). Then along came Garage…lol.

I’m a big big fan of Todd Edwards, I listen to his stuff all the time still and would probably say he is the single biggest influence on me. I am also a massive fan of KMA Productions and recently did a mix of all their released tracks. Something people may not know is I was / am a massive fan of Pavement, the way they carried melodies across instruments, so that no one instrument carries the melody alone, and also their whole approach was really inspiring to me musically.

More recent people I am a big fan of include: Dem 2, Sunship, Steve Gurley, Horsepower, The Avalanches, El-B, Mala, Mr. Pud, Burial, M2J, Sully, Martyn, LHF, The Wideboys…there’s honestly so many people I like! People I’m feeling most at any given time are usually in my top friends on my myspace page: I could go on listing names forever! Haha.

Stuff I have laying on the side next to me right now: my record box that has what I played this week on the radio (tracklist on my blog), a CD of Ratty and MC Robbie Dee Live at Dance Planet in ‘92, Pavement - Brighten The Corners, some new Blackmass Plastics tunes, some LHF tunes and some M2J tunes, Todd Edwards - Odyssey, Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works Vol. 1, a Sabrepulse CD, a stack of old mixtapes, a Submerse CD, and a few old Acen and 4 Hero tunes leaning on the desk.

3. Let’s focus a bit on your DJ career. When did the story begin and since when SubFM? What’s the tale of “Warehouse Meditation” after all?

Well I started DJing in about 96/97 and building around the same time. I started playing on Addiction 95.2FM and from that started to get bookings in most of the big raves of the time (Raindance, Dreamscape etc.). After playing the hardcore Breakbeat scene for a few years I decided it was time to go exploring the world and boxed up my tunes and went off travelling over Asia. When I came back I moved up to Sheffield and got involved in a station up there (Rush Radio) and decided that FM and all the OFCOM stuff was getting out of hand and seeing that the net was becoming so prevalent everywhere I thought why not start an online station, no OFCOM to worry about, and be able to make sure the right music was on it. So that I could tune in at anytime and would stay tuned in, rather than keep scanning. And so SubFM was born (May 2004). It was perfect timing really as Dubstep at the time was just getting underway properly and there was no online outlet for it that was reliable and regular. From that the station has grown to what it is now. My path since SubFM is more well known I assume, I moved back to London and have been here 3 years now. Back in my hometown.

Well “Warehouse Meditation” is kind of a an idea of how I go to a night, or how I would want a night to be. People in a “warehouse-type” place, be it a warehouse, cellar, bunker etc. and the “meditation” of just being in a dark room with bass and nothing else, no lasers, no dancers in neon. Like the original raves but with the modern appreciation of sound and quality systems. I guess the whole idea, for me, stems from Garage nights in warehouses were the budgets were tight, and lasers etc. weren’t worth the expenditure, so they would get a system in a place, and let the music fill it out.

4. Your sets are more like a bridge between Dubstep and it’s ancestors. You’re blending in all types of UK Bassline stuff from old Garage tunes, 2-Step to the newest sounds of Dubstep. How did you come up with this style?

I didn’t think “I know I will do this…”. I just sort of got to this point by just building tunes that I like and I’ve kind of evolved to making the stuff I make now. I am one of those people that has to build, it’s my creative outlet and meditation in one. When I’m building I enter into my own space where all i’m thinking about is the music and nothing else. The end result is the tunes, but I don’t set out to make a certain type of tune or anything, it just happens. I get influences from what’s around me and what I hear of course, but I never set out to make something sound a certain way, I just go where the tune starts to take me as I’m building it.

5. Are the “old school sounds” like Garage or 2-Step still catchy for the people out there, in the clubs or on the radio? No one seems to talk that much about these genres nowadays.

I would say that Garage and 2-Step are only as “old school” as House and Techno is. Fair enuff the genre name has been around a while, but the excitement to be found in the sounds and melodies is neverending. It depends where you are I think as well, in my area Garage classics are still played in all the club nights. I think that out of London (in my experience) Garage and 2-Step never really had anywhere near the impact that it had in London. London and Garage, I think, will forever be tied together.

6. As a producer also, you’re actually a bit “old school”, influenced a lot by Garage, Speed Garage and so on. Also you’re running a couple of labels hooked up on this sound too. Tell us more about it.

Yeh, Ox Rider is my vinyl releasing label, we have had 4 releases so far “Heaven / Rollerball” being the latest. I’d been wanting to start a new label for a while and managed to get a deal with ST Holdings to distribute my stuff. I have the ethos of “would I buy this?” and running my own label allows me the freedom to put out what I like without having to tame down my music. A lot of label owners are worried about putting out stuff that doesn’t easily fit into “the mould” whatever that may be for the genre you’re talking about. Running my own labels allows me to just go with my instincts and not have to answer to anyone but myself.

Warehouse Meditation is kind of my little digital project, we have only had one release on that so far (”Sacred As Standard / Weed College”). I have another release lined up for it and will be putting other artists out on that one to give exposure to tracks and artists that people otherwise won’t get the chance to own. In the future there will be a Warehouse Meditation EP on Ox Rider featuring some of the most popular tracks, but that’s once we have put more out on it!

7. Considering the fact that you’re actually a main man at SubFM, and you’re also producing and running two labels almost exactly on this profile, have you ever thought about yourself as one of the DJs that kept / keep the 2-Step sound alive?

Difficult question. I wouldn’t have said I was saving it, at least not on my own! I just play the tunes that I get, and find, that I like. I think there was definitely a point where the popularity of Dubstep and a particular trend in Dubstep had a flash point and you would hear a lot of people building with similar beats and sounds, and that did make me re-evaluate what I want to be making and playing. But as for setting out to “keep 2-Step alive” I don’t think it went anywhere, people just stopped paying attention.

8. Switching to the Dubstep scene, stuff’s been a bit divided lately into techy sounds, dancefloor bits and so on. There are producers out there blending Dubstep with lots and lots of other genres from Minimal Techno to Dancehall. Do you have a favourite sound, from all the styles out in the scene?

I don’t really have a preferred sound as such, I like the fact that the scene has so much freedom for experimentation. It’s a testament to the listeners that they are willing to listen to such different stuff in one night. I will like a diff type of tune for a diff reason at a diff time and I love how Dubstep can cater for all these moments.

9. “Warehouse Meditation” also sounds to me like a great name for an event series. And I’m not talking about 200 people sitting in yoga positions in a warehouse. Haha. I mean, huge Garage, 2-Step, Dubstep raves. Have you ever tried building a promoting brand under this name? It could be the long-awaited revival of Garage.

I would love to put a night on and have been chatting to people about it, so watch this space is all I can say for now.

10. Science fiction: If UK Garage and all the related genres never existed in the first place. Would you have chose not to DJ at all or to start with other genres?

Haha. well do you include Hardcore in that? Cos I played Hardcore many many moons ago (and I’m sure someone who has thought about the “hardcore continuum” more than me would have something to say on it! Haha). I don’t know, I would have been doing something in music that’s for sure!

11. „Heaven” was, is and will be, personally, one of my favourite tunes. A scoop on future releases? Future projects? Will there be any new artists signed at your labels?

Well I have a few tunes signed up at the moment: “Larry” - Clandestine Cultivations, “Riot Squad” - Bankai Recordings, “Rain Hits The Sun” - Ringo Records and “River of Tears / N35″ - Warehouse Meditation Music.

I’ve got a lot of new material I’m working on at the moment and would like to do an album, I’ve still got to find a label that would be interested. Ox Rider will stay as just Whistla productions but yeh Warehouse Meditation will be taking on new artists in the future. Keep checking the sites.

12. A shout out for the Romanian massive?

Yeh I would like to say a massive big up to everyone in Romania, thanks for your support!!! I will hopefully be over to play for you soon!

13. Thanks for your time again bruv, and wishing you the best of luck in whatever’s next to come.

No worries bro, safe. Take it easy.


More about Whistla on Sub FM is still running, just entered its 8th year online and can be found here:

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