Magnetic Man prepare to take dubstep to the masses
Artwork, Benga and Skream take 'dubstep supergroup' on tour
It thrived in the dark, and in underground dancehalls acolytes beat out their devotion with their feet. Now dubstep is going somewhere no one ever expected: the charts. Magnetic Man (aka Artwork, Benga and Skream) took ‘I Need Air’ into the top ten and their eponymous debut is set to become the clubbers’ album of choice for 2010.
‘At the start it was all about a club with 200 people in it, max,’ explains Artwork (aka Arthur Smith). ‘When we first started the Big Apple label we were selling 500 to 1000 copies and we thought that was good. It just moves on in little steps.’
Artwork should know – he was at the epicentre of the fledgling scene making proto-dubstep tracks before the genre even had a name (just check out ‘Red’), while running the Big Apple store in Croyden, which counted Benga, Skream, DMZ, Hatcha, Kode9 and Plastician among its customers, many of which went on to release tracks on the affiliated record label. ‘People just went there to hang out, I had a recording studio above it,’ adds Artwork. ‘Everyone who’s big in the dubstep world came in, it was like a family. It was a great place for music to grow because everyone was in there every day, just bringing their tunes down, hooking up with other people. It was a very fast way of learning to make music.’
All three are respected producers and remixers in their own right but together they invented the Magnetic Man moniker as a front so they could release their music and gauge reactions anonymously. (‘That lasted about a week,’ laughs Artwork.) Their album is instantly accessible – they take dubstep in new directions, taking the bass-heavy format and twisting it into fresh forms, creating new anthems featuring guest vocalists such as Katy B, Ms Dynamite and even John Legend. ‘We could have made an album of straight-up club bangers, which is probably what most people expected. But that music moves very fast – we wanted to make an album you could put on, listen to it to death then come back next year and listen to it again.’
Much like punk or drum & bass before it, purists have been quick to accuse Magnetic Man of compromise for signing to a major label – something Artwork is quick to refute. ‘We were lucky we got an A&R team who said, “Look, you’ve been touring for three years and making that music, just carry on doing it, do what you want to do, but make an album.” So we were left to do what we wanted, we wanted to make songs, the songs still go off in really underground clubs, it’s not like we changed anything.’
Their live show is spectacular, the trio performing from inside ‘The Cage’, a metal and LED construction, the lights pulsating and reacting to the music. Ramping up the bass, extending breakdowns and looping drum patterns while Katy B will provide the live vocals. ‘You can just hold the crowd with a breakdown until you know they are going to go mental and then let it go, then add another loop on top,’ laughs Artwork with obvious delight at the dancefloor destruction they can unleash.
Mixed Bizness present Magnetic Man (live) at the Sub Club, Glasgow, Sat 30 Oct.