In the often confused world of electronic music, there are many connotations when you say the world ‘dubstep’. What is dubstep in 2014? It’s a long discussed (and rather boring) topic of conversation we’ve had many a time – and one that generally ends up with everyone agreeing to disagree with everyone else.
The following interviewee, an American who caught our ears with his recent release on Mindstep Music, is on the extreme end of what we’d get away with calling dubstep. Whatever it is called, we’re not even sure it needs a pigeonhole, the music coming out of Drew’s Theory’s studio is next level amazing. Crises kindly hooked us up with the producer a few weeks ago for an in-depth discussion about very nearly everything we could think of…
Yes Drew, what’s happening? All well? Yes, all is well! Thank you for having this chat with me.
No problem! You’re one of a handful of producers pushing a jazzier, smoother ‘lounge’-style of bass music. What inspired this musical direction? I was born and grew up in Philadelphia, about an hour away from New York. It was in my region where hip-hop was born, jazz music was played just about anywhere, and the influence of the city was all around me. It was a culture that’s remained with me even though I moved away from that place.<
I love chilled jazz and hip-hop/trip-hop music. I always will.
How is Marietta for bass music – what’s your local scene like? Non-existent. Where I live, it’s mostly big rims, dirty southern grammar and corn bread.
Any music with bass in it will go down here. However, an actual scene for this specific kind of music doesn’t exist, at least not on a level where I have any knowledge of it.
Would you call your music dubstep? Or do you prefer using the bass music title (given dubstep still has a range of meanings depending on who you talk to)? Does it matter? Some of my music is in the 140bpm range and draws influence from different sounds I have heard in dubstep. However, I would categorise the 140bpm music I make as more of a merge of genres between hip-/trip-hop and reggae with jazz influences.
I love having a trippy, warm acid feel to all my music as well. Perhaps the music I make could have a subgenre knwon as Acid Step…!
In terms of the current roster of producers making a similar sound to you, who do you feel you sit next to on the bass music spectrum? Oceania comes the closest in style similarities in my opinion. I listen to his music a lot and draw influences from it. One of Jafu’s latest songs, Cheap Knockoff hits my style right on the head – I am a big fan of that song. Anex did a tune called Heartbeat on his latest MindStep release, that song is also of close resemblance.
Many artists may make a few tracks that resemble close to my knowledge but other than Oceania, I’m not aware of any artists that create music similar to my 140bpm work as consistently as I.
We’ve heard you described as a ‘producing artist’, would you say that’s an accurate reflection? Your tunes seem to blend really well in the mix – is this something you design into your tunes or is it just a happy byproduct of how they come together? Most, if not all, of the few artists I do communicate with on a regular will describe my production methods as blasphemy!
I don’t use a set mixing down technique, I use the same plugins on just about every sound, I reverb and delay sounds that many say shouldn’t be, I pan everything including my kicks and lower frequencies, I hardly compress or limit… Hell, some sounds I don’t even put on a mixer channel if I like how it sounds as is.
I 100% produce by ear…
Your production style lends itself to a musical background. How did you get into producing electronic music? For years I have practiced creating music of my taste in the hip-/trip-hop category.
I came across the true sounds of dubstep quite late in the game and, as I searched into it, I discovered artists and songs that made me want to make this kind of music part of the various genres I produce. When I started creating dubstep, it didn’t sound too good – luckily I did it under a different alias.
When I found a medium where I could produce dubstep while maintaining my unique styles and have the end result sounding professional, I reverted back to my original/ current alias and continued to produce and perfect my techniques.
What’s your production set up like? Fully digital or have you got a few hardware bits and pieces thrown in? My setup is also blashpemy – compared to what people suggest I should have to create the kind of music I do. It consists of a desktop computer, some Audio Technica headphones, and a FL Studio DAW that I’ve modified and customised.
13 of your 18 SoundCloud uploads feature our much loved and sadly departed brother Cris Fern. How did this collaborative partnership come about? I met Chris at a very early stage in the scene, back when I was still finding out about it. He and I helped each other develop at a rapid pace. I made many stupid choices and mistakes along the way, he stuck with me and helped me through them on when no one else would.
If it wasn’t for his patience and his guidance, my music wouldn’t sound as quality as it does now, not even close. The tracks we did were to be a series of self-released EPs, but after he passed, I put them all on one album and put it up.
Many of the instruments in each of these tunes were live recordings Chris did himself, including all the guitar melodies. I created the beats and main reggae structures, then sent it to him to fill in with live instruments. It was a first for us both, combining live instruments with a digitally made rhythm to create 7 very lovely reggae tunes.
He was incredibly talented and I will always miss him and honour him for the help he gave me – when no one else could be bothered.
Is collaborating on a tune something you enjoy doing? If you could collab with any producer who would you choose? Oceania, BunZer0, B9, Jafu, Sub Basics, Trashbat, Anex, and Congi are all artists that I admire (and listen to their music quite often). There are a few collaborations with some of these artists mentioned already in the works.
I’m generally very picky with the music I listen to, and even pickier with who I work with. My music is my legacy and I believe every track I make – whether it is by myself or working with someone – must fit my standards of the overall style and quality guidelines I have set for myself.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I have a forthcoming collaborative track with another MindStep artist, coming out soon enough… Watch this space!
You’ve given away what you’ve called ‘Free SoundCloud singles’ on your account. How has technology helped you as a producer? Is the ability to communicate directly with people who can organically discover and enjoy your music helping you grow as an artist? Absolutely. I live in a place where the kind of music I create will never be popular. It’s a specific kind of music targeted to a specific kind of listener.
I wouldn’t want anyone listening to my music because it was hyped. I want my music to be discovered, analysed, and appreciated for the work I put into it. If it wasn’t for networks like SoundCloud, it would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to reach the audience I want my music to appeal to.
We’ve had some interesting feedback that suggests free downloads devaluing the music (“it’s being given away therefore it’s not worth anything”) – what are your thoughts? I’ve always given music away for free and it is yet to hinder my growth. I don’t believe creating music that is hard to obtain or music that will never be released is beneficial to an artist.
Yes it may work for some, especially a DJ that goes out and plays his music. But someone like me, someone who is not a DJ and someone who wants his target audience to have his music, keeping tracks away from my audience is something I will never want to do. There are certain compromises I had to make after joining MindStep, especially when it came to how I release my music. So far it hasn’t hurt, so I’ll follow the label’s lead as long as I feel that it has the success of my music in its best interest.
Still, I produce very fast and I have a lot of unreleased tracks stacking up, more than a label will ever be able to release without oversaturating. So rest assured, I still have a lot of music that will be occasionally released by myself, both for sale and for free!
In terms of releases, you’ve just joined the Mindstep Music outfit with your brilliant Side Effects EP. How did the relationship with Crises and the guys come about? I linked up with Trashbat, who has been supporting my music on his radio shows, and as one of MindStep’s A&R heads he suggested my music to Crises for a potential release because he thought I would fit really well with the label.
There was a lot of discussion before both Crises and I were able to find a comfort zone. Now, even though we are still developing an overall plan for me within his label, I trust him and his intentions. I think I’m quite different than the other artists he has worked with in the past as far as not also being a DJ and also having a completely different outlook on music.
Still, it is safe to say that both I and MindStep will be benefitting a lot from my music because they are helping me to grow and I in return am helping it to grow.
As a producer, how important is it to you to have label backing? A lot of producers seem to be starting their own labels these days – is this something you might do in the future? I’ve tried, but it’s not for me. I helped to crank up a little US-based collective called PHASEseven. We are also pushing some deeper dubstep releases, we have a new album up on our Bandcamp and it’s doing well. But beyond this, no, I will not be starting a label.
In my opinion, I see new labels popping up left and right, being started by people that may have an understanding of music production but have little to no understanding of marketing and business.
Contracts, profits, distribution, advertisement, royalty rights, the law… Many of these guys know nothing about these aspects. You can’t go on SoundCloud one day, and create a label and expect it to be recognised and respected as a legally established business.
A producer starting a label because he likes to create music and wants to make his mark is the wrong move for a producer. I had to learn that the hard way. The best thing a producer can do is work on the quality of your music learn as much as you can about networking yourself and have a product that a credible label can see as profitable, whether short or long term.
That is the only way it should be done, by a label run by people that understand marketing and business as well as music, not just music.
What else can we expect from you release-wise? You’ve got a tune on the RealRoots free compilation right? That’s an old tune on a release that was long coming. I would like to release some of the tracks in my rare track mix by the end of this year. I also still produce hip-/trip-hop so my Bandcamp will have a few of those tracks in an EP release some months down the line. I might also drop a free track or two on SoundCloud.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a forthcoming collaborative track we are working on, which will be coming out on MindStep in a few months. I also have a track featured on another MindStep release in 2015 as well as working on a couple of remix projects…
Of the dubs in your collection, what are your go-to tunes at the moment? Who’s making standout music at the minute? Anything by the artists I mentioned earlier; Oceania, B9, Jafu, Sub Basics, Trashbat, Anex, and Congi are amongst the only dubstep producers I listen to, as well as music from my PHASEseven fam (Wasteman, SeaNOte, OldGold, Piecemeal, Yukona, and Mr. el Jeffe).
I mostly still listen to a lot of trip-hop, reggae and hip-hop so dubstep doesn’t really play as my primary genre when it comes to listening and producing.
Have you got any advice for producers looking to get started? Anything you’ve done that you’d recommend doing or avoiding? I recommend learning how to do everything yourself, from production all the way up to mastering. I also recommend purchasing software and not getting a pirate copy. Having a free copy may be good and all but the copy you purchase, along with the technical support, is worth every penny.
Please avoid following the crowd. Don’t waste time trying to create a label and all this other stuff. Focus on your music and reach out to artists that make quality stuff for feedback. If you are one of these artists that is a bit more established and a new comer reaches out to you, at least take 5 minutes and provide some feedback and advice.
That artist may one day surpass you production wise and may be helpful to you in return… So many artists I used to reach out to that now ask me for feedback and help. Many of them wouldn’t give me the time of day, but I still help them now that they ask me for it.
Lastly, if you make enough money to save and if you’re serious about your music, invest in your knowledge before you invest in equipment. I know so many producers that have breathtaking setups yet don’t know the first thing on how to use what they have.
Last but not least, any final words or shoutouts? Thanks for your time and good luck for the future! Shout out to Cris Fern, you will never be forgotten as long as I’m still breathing. Shout out to my PHASEseven fam (Wasteman, SeaNOte, OldGold, Piecemeal, Yukona, and el Jeffe). Shout out Crises, Trashbat, Bunzer0, Anex, and the rest of the MindStep fam. Shouts to Ben (NoMan) for his advice on my production journey. Shouts to Jack Sparrow for his advice as well. Shouts to Oceania, my favorite dubstep producer, hope we can link up soon. Shouts to Fred and Paulo at Substruct for your support. Shouts to Fish Finger and the SUB.FM fam. Shouts to Knowman, Eye Ark, Vudun, Suave and the rest of the Infra Tribez crew. SomeJerk, Arta, Misbah, Jamie Pilegro, Love The Cook, Legend4ry, Nick Guerz, the Rare Print Records fam, Jafu and B9 and the Chord Marauder crew, Chuck King of Rood.FM, and Guarv with the whole Too//Future crew… Much love to you all (as well as anyone I missed).
Drew was kind enough to sort us a FKOF free download to accompany the interview, WAV and 320 download below. You can also grab the download for his Rare Track minimix (as well as the track list) – alongside all the necessary links to keep up to speed with the producer (and, while you’re at it, grab his Mindstep EP here)…
The FKOF review:
“The debut FKOF free from Marietta’s Drew’s Theory really does live up to its title. Organic is a slow and sumptuous journey across the soundscapes in Drew’s Theory’s mind, one that opens with a repeating guitar loop that’s slowly added to. Percussion adds the pace before the drop hits and the guitar fades out and the sub rises. It’s a clear combination of the Drew’s Theory influences, with hints of reggae fluidly mixing with hip-hop and trip-hop vibes.
“There’s a slight switch up during the break, with more elements added and growls coming in as the second drop rolls through. With the guitar hook returning to ripple across the sound field, the only thing that seems to be missing from Organic is a vocal. It’s a worthy addition to our collection of FKOF frees and we hope to have more material from Drew’s Theory in the future!”
Click to DOWNLOAD (93MB)
- Drew’s Theory – Frequencies
- Drew’s Theory – Flavors & Philosophy
- Drew’s Theory – Vocalism
- Drew’s Theory – Sounds of Healing
- Drew’s Theory – 2 Step Hustle
- Drew’s Theory – Fresh Air
- Drew’s Theory – Triponize
- Drew’s Theory – Soundboy Groove
- Drew’s Theory – Organic
- Drew’s Theory – Daily Errands
- Drew’s Theory – Expressions
- Drew’s Theory – Get Down
- Drew’s Theory – Soothing Storm
- Drew’s Theory & el Jeffe – Remembering the 90s