For the benefit of those who haven't been paying attention, this is actually Part 3 in an occasional series, where I get to quiz those artist exploring the outer limits of the dubstep continuum. Although probably a long way from what the South London originators envisioned, it was simply inevitable that others would cross-pollinate the sound with other forms, creating new hybrids that will alter the genetic code of electronica yet again. Pockets of mutoid activity are cropping-up all over the place, from here in Bristol, to Northern Ireland, Sweden and remote zones in the Australasias. This time I'm looking across the Atlantic to see how the virus has mutated in the States, specifically in New York City, through the eyes and ears of Luca Venezia (right) , better known in certain circles as Drop The Lime. I met Luka very briefly in person last month at Toxic Dancehall and managed to persuade him to put together a little mix for the blog...actually he didn't need much persuading - he was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was! So my thanks to Luka for taking the time to put the mix together in the cause of furthering The Knowledge, and for his very open and enlightening responses to my questions.
Gutta: You've been making beats since an early age. Can you just give me a flavour of the kind of things that were inspiring you as a kid?
DTL: Growing up in New York City, you're surrounded by mainstream hip hop and rock. I'm talking about commercial hip hop like Ja Rule and bands like Pearl Jam. That's still the case today, it's what the radios play and it's what runs the music industry. Music like Wu Tang Clan and Tribe Called Quest were exceptions - when I was 14 I loved all that stuff. Then I got into going to rave parties and making electronic music in rebellion against all of the pop music.
G: Anything specific to growing up in NYC that's shaped you as an artist?
DTL: Growing up in a city as hectic and packed as New York definitely influences the music I've made. I've always found architecture and design to be a big influence in making music - I grew up in Downtown Manhattan by the World Trade Center, so skyscrapers were a constant comfort to me as a child. Eventually I began to think of music visually in my mind while making it. Sounds traveling like the height of skyscrapers...the endless darkness of subway tunnels...the unity of a busy city... everybody doing their individual thing, yet moving together. So yes, growing up in NYC has had a huge influential impact on my music.
G: Were there any particular styles of music that inspired you to begin working in the electronic medium?
DTL: I definitely started to produce electronic music after hearing my first Jungle and Drum'n' Bass tracks. The basslines and rhythms drove me mad, so I went straight to buying two decks and a drum machine. Before I bought a sampler, I spent half a year trying to emulate the Amen break on a Roland DR-550. Shitloads of compression got me close, but eventually I just called up a local shop in New York, Breakbeat Science, and played them a Hype record and asked them how he made the drums sound like that. They laughed and were like, "nothing, he just sampled it".
G: Any other specific artists/tracks that stick out as important early inspirations for your work?
DTL: 2 Bad Mice, Jungle Sky artists like 1.8.7... Aphex Twin, Squarepusher...DJ Godfather, Assault and other ghetto-tech stuff, DJ Hive and Ed Rush & Optical were all big electronic/dj-related influences on me...still are!
G: You've since established yourself as a breakcore producer, yet recently you've been taking the bpms down and drawing on the latest grime/dubstep sounds from the UK for fresh inspiration. What first attracted you to that sound?
DTL: I heard my first grime tunes from DJ Scud, who released my first record, "Sweet Desire" (AMBUSH 13) a few years back. He gave me some cd-rs of pirate radio recordings, like Deja Vu fm, etc. I had already heard of Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, but that's all America really picked up on. The Deja Vu fm had instrumental grime sessions and it blew my mind, dropping tunes like Wonder's "What". After a bit, I teamed up with my neighborhood boys Shadetek and started New York's first Grime/Dubstep monthly called Bangers & Mash. Since I started out dj'ing drum'n'bass, I was into more of the Subtext, Storming, and Hotflush releases, so I touched that base, while Shadetek focused on the vocal grime.
G: What were the general reactions to these nights from the NYC crowds?
DTL: The parties went off! We had I-Sound, DJ/Rupture, Jammer, D Double E & Ears as some of the guests. We still do them, just not monthly anymore since we're all touring a lot these days.
G: So is there already a strong following for dubstep in NYC?
DTL: New York is starting to pick up on the dubstep movement, but the line between grime and dubstep is still very blurred. New York understood grime because of hip hop - it had that attitude, the urban aggression and they could relate to the MC's. Dubstep seems to scare some people away because of it's techy sounds and hypnotic feel. It's instrumental music that a dance culture like the UK understands, but the US is still stuck in hiphop/rock mode. We're not a dance culture.
G: I'm not sure most of the UK understands dubstep yet, either! Yet, with yourself, Shadetek and others like Mathhead, there seems to be a creative momentum picking up, in NYC at least....?
DTL: There is a good handful of us, but I really only know of the ones I play and chill with - Mathhead and Shadetek are some of those. Philadelphia has got some good cats - Starkey and Dev79 repping the sound, and California has got Kid Kameleon who's is also a good friend from when he lived here - but New York as of now, as far as I know, its slim. I had a weekly last year with Criterion from the Brooklyn Beats label, and attendance was slim. Drum 'n' bass crews are starting to pick up on it in New York, and I'll be dj'ing at a few parties in 2006... wonder how that will cross over though?
G: Hmm, there's a similar experiment going on here in Bristol with the Noir d'n'b night, although I haven't managed to attend that one yet, so not sure how the clientel are reacting to the dubstep t'ing...but let's talk about your music - are you enjoying the freedom of working with beats under 150bpm again? Specifically, does it give you the opportunity to explore spacial/atmospheric elements that wouldn't be possible in the more frantic/edited breakcore styles?
DTL: Breakcore became very limiting to me. I found myself being experimental or fast just to be that, and stopped thinking about the actual production and vibe. With slower 150 and lower bpm tracks, I am able to let the music breathe, allow each and every part have it's moment to shine. Things just get muddled in those 200+ bpm ranges. I always found empty space, the pause, to be key in a track, and that pause is heavier now with 150 and lower - it grabs you instead of passing you by in the hectic storm that breakcore is these days.
G: Listening to your mix, it has sonic references from breakcore & ragga jungle but with the basslines and tempos from grime...a real crossover sound which doesn't fit easily in either camp. What do you call this new music you're making...and does 'Grim' mean anything to you as a generic tag?
DTL: The 'Grim Dubs' releases are heavy, and I love what Atki2 and Boxcutter are doing...so many good releases right now coming out from the heavier side of dubstep, but I don't want to be fast and label something quite yet. That is what attracts me so much to dubstep, fuckstep, breakstep, grimecore beats - whatever you want to call these things - it is brand new, and so many good producers are pumping out something everyday, but each thing is all so different.
G: 'Grimecore'? Kinda obvious, but I like it! Or how about 'Dubcore'? Or 'Subcore'?!
DTL: I think we will find a name in a few years, but I'm not ready to label it...I want to see what happens, because at the rate it is moving right now, it's likely to completely branch off into new sub-genres within itself in a year from now.
G: True 'nuff...Boxcutter said almost exactly the same thing when I interviewed him recently. Are there any other UK producers you're particularly excited about?
DTL: Artists like Skream and Toasty are both making beautifully melodic and atmospheric dubstep, but are both so different at the same time. I first began djing a lot of Search and Destroy, who's earlier releases seemed to be more on the breakier side of things, yet their dj sets are heavy as fuck - half-time canons of 'drowning you down' rhythms and bass. Everyone is dipping in and out of all the possible dubstep executions, and its fucking exciting!
G: You mentioned that you've been touring a lot. What's the reaction been to your dubstep- influenced material at, say, a breakcore party like Toxic?
DTL: It's very mixed, still. I just finished a six week tour around europe with Kid 606 and I'd drop a few things along those lines and it was always a different reaction. The UK was great, always open minded, probably because you all invent the new electronic subgenres! France and Belgium was good, but places like Germany, Holland, and Italy were not feeling it at all. They'd yell "faster!" and "speed it up !", which is kind of rough when it's fans who are yelling these things.
G: While we're on the subject of live work, I gather that you've gained a lot of attention over the fact that you like singing/shouting over your beats. Was this a deliberate ploy to destabalize the accepted notions of how 'serious' electronic artists should perform...or does it come from listening to your older brother's punk records?
DTL: My first experience playing live was by singing and playing guitar in bands influenced by acts like Quicksand, Helmet, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Jawbox, Joy Division, and Suicide. I think when I first began incorporating a laptop for live sets, I felt distanced from the audience, like a wall had been built between us with the computer screen, so I began using vocals as a way to re-engage the audience and artist's relationship during a show. Musicians who use laptops got a bad rap in America, maybe even in Europe - but I think worse in Europe, because of all the clicky-cutty microhouse doffuses. So yes, I wanted to cut that notion of laptop artists being ridiculously serious and boring. Add some life into the electronics. Incorporating my vocals was more of a natural decision - I didn't plan on it. I remember it gradually became more dominant in my sets when a microphone was available. Eventually I began singing and making songs that had lyrics. Now, when I play live, I will shout, hype-up the crowd, but sing over tunes I don't normally sing over as well, and that is really the best part of being a solo electronic act - you dont have to follow the same formula as rock bands, things can change last minute according to the crowd and your ideas. The attitude of punk has always been in me, and I felt that same energy in early breakcore pioneers like dj Scud and Aphasic. I will always need to incorporate that agression in music.
G: Your mix focuses on instrumentals, but I gather you sing on most of the recorded material nowadays?
DTL: On my first CD I sang on 5 out of the 17 songs, but now the majority of my new tracks have vocals on them.
G: Yourself and Mathhead have releases forthcoming on a new imprint called Ruff. Could you explain a bit about what we can expect from this new label, both from yourself and other artists. Is it specifically for grime-influenced electronica?
DTL: Ruff is run by Rotator, the head of French label Peaceoff. It started out as a project inviting breakcore and other electronic artists to produce grime influenced music for Peaceoff, but then he decided to make it something separate after that. It's amazing to me that he started up Ruff, since he does the hardest, fastest, nastiest breakcore I know!
G: Any firm release dates yet?
DTL: The first release of Ruff, the "Urban Collision EP", will drop early in '06 with me and Black Ham (Rotator), and the second will be Mathhead's heavy "Skyjacker" anthem and Starkey doing a remix of one of my tracks, "Glassy Eyes" .
G: With Planet Mu also moving further into dubstep territory, can you see other established idm/electronica/breakcore labels embracing this new hybrid style?
DTL: It seems natural...Planet Mu has moved into grime territory, Rephlex has as well. Dubstep and grime stuff is the freshest thing out there right now. It gives me the same feeling I would get from drum'n'bass & jungle when it first hit. A good dubstep-grime track makes me jealous in a way I can't explain. I hear a tune that is so good, it triggers impatience and drive in me to make something better than it... I hate to love it.
G: So what other material have you got planned for release?
DTL: There's a CD EP called "Shot Shot Hearts" which is dubstep/breakcore kind of stuff with vocals on Tigerbeat6 released March 16th. Also "Shot Gun Wedding 4" coming out January 26 on Violent Turd. That's all dubstep, grime and 4x4 grime. I'm the A-side and the B-side is Syrup Girls from NYC. Nasty, nasty djs! I also have a grimy, dirty new Shockout 12" split with Machine Drum coming out, with "If Yuh Nuh Yu Cockie Bruck Dung" featuring Guess on vocals.
G: There's also a couple of tracks in your mix from a release called "We Never Sleep". What's that all about?
DTL: That's my next full length LP, scheduled for April 2006. It's still not done yet though...
G: What about these tunes from you and Starkey coming out on Minikomi's new Kid Magnet label?
DTL: Ooh. Yes. Shit, I haven't heard from him in a while - don't even know what the EP is called...err...but yes, I'm looking forward to it...
(a quick call to Minikomi reveals that he's still skint, so no sign of the EP getting pressed in the immediate future!)
G: The final track in your mix, called "Bad Girls", is one sick piece of work...but what's 'Trouble & Bass'? Is it an artist you've remixed or a label, or something?
DTL: Trouble & Bass is actually a label I am starting. As of now it's just a sound crew with a bunch of local New York acts like Mathhead. He did a killer dj mix for it - it's on his website. The first release from Trouble & Bass will actually be a white label series, hopefully ready for May. I'm still waiting on whether or not Cargo will do distribution though, so the whole thing is still pretty up in the air. Raah...
G: I gather you're quite in demand as a remixer, aren't you?
DTL: I've got a bunch of remixes out there - one megamix of Mathhead's debut EP, a Kid 606 remix of "Ecstacy Mutherfucker", "Planet of the Fight Club", a Versusbattle EP...I know of a bunch more, but I've had too much scotch...
G: You've remixed an Atki 2 track as well, haven't you? When's that coming out?
DTL: Yes. That's on the "Sweaty Palms" EP, out on Shadetek this month I believe. I remixed "Shocking Out".
G: Your mix features a remix of an artist called Maudcore. Who the hell is that?
DTL: She's this girl in France, 'D-Mo', who got a bunch of people to produce for her - Rotator, Patric Catani, Roy Z. It's not done yet though. "Club Diggerz" is the track I produced for it. Technically it's my tune, but it's coming out as if it's her project...confusing, huh?
G: Er...yeah. Any further live/touring plans?
DTL: I've been touring and doing one-offs for six months in europe, so I'm going to head back home and tour the US in the spring.
G: Okay, let's finish off with the really obvious question: Where does the name Drop The Lime come from, and what does it signify?
DTL: When dirt bikes race in India, there is a ritual where you drop a lime and bless the bike before it takes off. After the bike has been blessed the lime is dropped in front of the front wheel and crushed by the bike as it begins the race. That's one explanation behind the name - it changes all the time. At the moment, this is what it means to me. Mysterious blessings of soulful, passionate desire. Take it to the max yo. Pump pump pow. Haha...
DROP THE LIME - GUTTERBREAKZ SET
Tracklist: (all exclusive DTL dubs unless stated)
0:00 Strong Pony
3:19 Coal Box Black
5:36 Man Deer Hunted
9:15 Brooklyn Skank (forthcoming on Ruff Records, RUFF 001)
11:33 Guts (Dollars Down mix)
13:10 Club Diggerz (Maudcore - DTL remix)
14:05 Scary Love (dub mix, forthcoming on "We Never Sleep", Tigerbeat6 Records)
19:15 Oceans (4x4 mix, forthcoming on "We Never Sleep",Tigerbeat6 Records)
21:06 Life Vest
24:00 Bad Girls (forthcoming on Trouble and Bass)
DTL @ discogs