As trap continues to dig roots into every genre it touches, and R&B makes its comeback within the electronic scene, one might ask where the hard-hitting sounds of bass music hold a spot for 2014. While some musicians alter their craft to cater to the latest trends, others strive to keep it real by sticking to their guns, no matter what the status of the genre may be. SKisM, a kingpin in the dubstep scene and owner of both Never Say Die Records and No Tomorrow Recordings, understands the importance of staying true to your sound. Working with acts like Zomboy and Dodge & Fuski, it's to no surprise that the London-based producer/ DJ has his hands full. In the midst of the Rage By The Pound Tour, we were fortunate enough to sit down with him and ask a few questions:
EARMILK: With running the labels, touring and making music, when do you sleep?
SKisM: You picked the right time to ask me since I haven’t had a good sleep in a few days! One thing that’s taken its toll on juggling it all is the music. I don’t have much time to dedicate hours in the studio anymore. With managing all the artists, working with my business partner Nick (Sadler), we now run the two labels. With DJing on the side – which is still a blessing – the music has shifted to the background for me.
It’s truly a balancing act in the fullest sense. A lot hard work goes into it, but it’s just as rewarding at the same time. I guess the short answer is sleep happens rarely for short periods of time.
EM: What’s the biggest thing people underestimate about running a label?
SK: The amount of time and energy it takes out of you, by far. To run a label properly, it needs to be a reflection of you as an artist, but also it’s a method of expressing myself through the acts. I’m directly working with them and developing their music, while A&Ring them, coming up with cool ideas to promote the EP’s, new ways to release music…
Anyone can bash out a track on Beatport, but what separates the bad labels from the good ones is that push for the heads and higher ups to help their fellow artists with the development of their ideas.
(Photo Credit – Desmond Chong of CYK Media)
EM: You've exposed your comedic side with the "Down With the Kids" video and it came across as very Spinal Tap-esque. Do you think artists and labels should be more engaging with their fans besides the standard Q&A's?
SK: That particular video came at a time when I was having fun with my dubstep alias. Truth be told, I didn’t want to reveal myself, because I was making music with another act at the time. I threw on the wig because I didn’t want to mix the two. But I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously in the age of the “EDM Superstar” and the rise of social media. It’s cool and all, but if you can’t make fun of yourself, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
EM: Speaking of the Down With the Kids EP, "Rave Review" was the first time many people heard your work. Now a lot of people have used that Henry Rollins sample before, but I feel like your use of it stands out from the rest. Explain the history behind that one.
SK: At the time in the UK, we were churning through genres really fast; obviously it was when the big wave of dubstep thing came about. Then this future jungle type music reared its head when the radio was jumping all over it, but I was saying that the sounds were stale. Coming from a background of producing breaks and drum and bass records, I was hearing these recycled samples and ideas coming through and hated it.
The fact that everyone was treating it like it was this hot new thing was pissing me off quite a lot; that’s where things were getting “Rave Reviews.” I looked for the most obvious, old-school sounding samples and found one that talked about raves. After that, the rest just came through.
EM: So I take it you’re not a Black Flag fan?
SK: No, I wouldn’t call myself one. People think I was trolling Rollins, but that’s not the case. He’s very opinionated about his music, but I think his work is bad.
EM: While we're on the subject of trolls, let's talk about "Experts" and the motivation behind that track.
SK: Again, I make music when I’ve got something to say – that’s probably why I haven’t made anything in a while; I’ve got no social commentary to act on. It was during the peak of the dubstep popularity with UKF and so many fans and the negative comments they were putting on those YouTube videos. This was making me mad, because in this day and age, you can’t put a track out without getting slammed for the work if it doesn’t fit into a particular mold of a genre. I found the sample from an old Pantera tune and the stupidity of the comments from those people hiding behind their keyboards helped me create the concept.
I had a few ideas for the video, but it took me a year from start to finish with that track because I left it for a while and then kept coming back to it. When the song was finally done, I found the right team for the video and everything came together beautifully. I don’t think I could ever top a concept like that.
EM:Where did the money suit from the Never Say Die: Dodge and Fuski video come from?
SK: I won an award under my breakbeat alias and I wanted to accept it dressed as ridiculous as possible. I was gonna wear a giant penis costume, but it didn’t arrive in the mail in time, so I managed to find a place that would ship the money suit as fast as possible. I also picked up some money toilet paper rolls with that. (laughs) With the Dodge and Fuski video, it was ironic, since were making the claim that we’re not all about the money. It’s just me being a dick really; it doesn’t really come from anything other that that.
EM: Are there any upcoming releases you can name for this year?
SK: It’s a big year for us. We’re cutting back the number of releases, but the stuff we’ve got coming out is important for the artists. We’ve got a new guy named LAXX, who’s basically the UK’s answer to trap, but with a dubstep feel so we’re excited to promote him this year. We’ve got Zomboy’s album–which is one of the biggest projects we’re undertaking—with his whole bus tour of America. We’ve got another UKF Never Say Die album that I’m personally mixing again with a load of people who aren’t exactly on the label. Also, we’ve got a new project called Black Label Series, which is us taking things back to the early days of dubstep before a ton of people were jumping ship.
EM: Where do you think dubstep is going in 2014?
SK: There’s less people doing it now, but I think that’s a good thing since those people that are still in the game are doing a fantastic job. Guys like MUST DIE are the last samurai for me, because in terms of the tear out of the genre, he’s doing it better than anyone. Also, there’s this new wave of the rolling, one groove type music rather than the womp womp Skrillex and Zomboy type sound. But when Skrillex’s album drops, I think he’s gonna inject that bit of inspiration that everyone had a couple of years ago when he started changing the game. I’m excited to hear his new project; once he drops that, we’ll all have something to copy from (laughs)
EM: What’s your favourite kind of milk?
SK: Semi-skim, that’s what we call it in the U.K.
EM: Any last words?
SK: I don’t really have anything meaningful things to say to my fans right now, but I’m beyond grateful to still be here and doing this.
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