One step beyond
David Pollock talks dubstep with the folk behind Fortified Sessions as they reach their second birthday
‘It’s great how fast dubstep has grown in the last couple of years,’ says Arthur ‘Artwork’ Smith, ‘but people don’t realise that it’s been going since 2001, and that lots of people have been making this music for that long. Every so often someone will come up to me and say “have you heard this new thing, dubstep?” And I’ll say,’ at which point Smith lets out an exasperated sigh, ‘“yeah”’.
For Smith, dubstep is simultaneously old news and the musical love of his life. One of the men behind Croydon’s Big Apple Records, he was there when it all began, working with DJ Hatcha, for whose set at the Forward> night in Soho an array of young producers would supply a steady flow of music. Where Smith produces both dubstep and poppier material under a variety of aliases, his live laptop set as Magnetic Man alongside Benga and Skream – sometime regulars in Big Apple, two of the scene’s biggest names and, in the former’s case, a Mercury Prize nominee this year – should thrust him towards the limelight.
It’s also a coup for Glasgow’s Fortified Sessions to get Magnetic Man for their second birthday party, to add to other guests they’ve brought north like big names in dubstep Shackleton, Appleblim, Kode9, Pinch and Peverlist, as well as Benga and Skream playing out in their solo guises.
‘I first started becoming aware of dubstep in 2002,’ says Gost Wan of Fortified’s DJ and promotion trio, the Electric Eliminators. ‘I knew someone at the Art School way back then, who asked my friends and I to put a night on during the quiet summer months, which was the first time I played it out. It wasn’t ‘dubstep’ at that point, though, I just saw it as less cheesy garage music.’
Gost Wan emphasises the fact that Fortified isn’t specifically a dubstep night either, taking in elements of hip hop, skweee and dub reggae itself. ‘Anything with a really good bassline,’ he emphasises, bearing in mind that every edition of Fortified makes use of the Mungo’s Hi-Fi sound system, with this party adding fellow Glasgow night Bass Warriors as a one-off. The club actually lost Blackfriars, their first home (their first legitimate one, not including the underground nights they held), when the owner apparently became scared that the bass would break the windows.
‘You can become jaded with music,’ says Gost Wan, ‘but when we discovered dubstep, we knew we had found something that no-one else in Glasgow was playing, aside from maybe the odd record at somewhere like Numbers. So we wanted to bring this to a club with a really powerful soundsystem.’
This birthday party will be held upstairs in the GSA union, mostly in order to accommodate the Magnetic Man live show, complete with minimalist visual projections. ‘Yeah, people have said we’re kind of like the dubstep Kraftwerk,’ says Smith of his Arts Council funded project, which incorporates new material alongside live versions of Benga and Skream tracks. ‘I know it’s going to look like we’re just staring at screens up there, but we are busy.’
Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Fri 17 Oct. Benga and Skream will also be DJing at the Courtyard, Glasgow, Thu 16 Oct.