Like with many dubstep producers, it’s hard to put Joker in a box.
If anything, Liam McLean has come to influence the dubstep sound with a lineup of records that suggest the Bristolian will leave as big a mark as some of the other legends of the genre. Next to his discography, the successful DJ and producer runs his own label Kapsize – which flies under the wings of Multiverse, the parent label responsible for many imprints (including Vex’d‘s Subtext and Pinch’s Tectonic and Earwax.
The Bristol-bred musician stands out from the crowd with his funky, hip-hop-esque 8-bit signature sounds. In one of the few interviews he’s given he points out how his productions were different from others around the time he found the Joker sound:
“At that time — not even really now — no one in dubstep used hardware”.
McLean explained how the use of hardware shaped the anthemic Purple City, a collaboration with James ‘Ginz’ Ginzburg. You can hear the broad range of influences Joker draws from – genres like pop and R&B – in his 2011 debut LP The Vision which came out after solo releases on Earwax, Tectonic and Kapsize.
But, as is always the way, Joker’s pop and R&B influence didn’t please everyone. Many critics suggested that The Vision could have been improved (a fairly subjective suggestion if there ever was one) if Joker had focussed more on his beats and synths, and less on the vocals. However, whatever the critics said – one of McLean’s best productions, Tron, appeared on the album – a track that’s remained one of the genre’s defining tunes since…
Shortly after the album dropped, an EP with some instrumentals appeared – seemingly silencing the critics with a smile and a middle finger. Noisey distorted bass with a funky acid twist, the true signature Joker sound…
In more recent years, Joker has been working with Swindle, together forming an outfit called 040. Their 2014 release Let It Be Known/ Minors shows a perfect fusion between the two producers’ styles; both bass-heavy but on a slightly more commercial lean than perhaps other producers. That said, a compilation of Joker material – remixed by dubstep and grime heroes like Kromestar, Swindle, Badklaat and Asa & Sorrow – appeared on Kapsize and highlighted the producer’s continuing love for the scene (and its champions). Re-Imagined Pt.1 also signalled the beginning for the release of non-Joker material on his imprint. Asa & Sorrow’s Legedary EP lived up to its title when it appeared a few weeks later…
Following from the work started back in 2011 with The Vision, we’ll be seeing the release of a new Joker album in the next few weeks. The Mainframe has been circulating within the bass/ dubstep/ etc scenes over the last few months and has got everyone excited. Listeners have been teased with Midnight – sampled from Jennifer Lopez’ Waiting for the Night, Joker has managed to create a dancefloor banger that has enthused a very broad audience.
It’s still a mystery what the rest of the album will sound sound, but we can can assure you it will follow all of the Joker material that’s preceded the release. It will be hard hitting, warm and inventive. And it’ll have that signature Joker vibe, the one we’ve all grown to love…
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- Joker – Gully Brook Lane [Terrorhythm Recordings, 2008]
- Joker – Tron [Kapsize, 2010]
- Joker ft. Ginz – Purple City [Kapsize, 2009]
- Joker – City Hopper [Tectonic, 2009]
- Joker – My Trance Girl [4AD, 2011]
- Joker – The Vision [4AD, 2011]
- Joker – Milky Way [4AD, 2011]
- 040 – Minors [Butterz, 2014]
- Joker – I Think You Should Know (extended instrumental mix)[Kapsize, 2012]
- Joker – Snake Eater [Soul Motive, 2008]
- Joker – Old [Kapsize, 2012]
- Joker – Zim Zimma [Kapsize, 2013]
- Joker & Rustie – Play Doe [Kapsize, 2008]
- Joker & TC – It Ain’t Got A Name [Joker free, 2010]
- Joker – Stuck In The System [Earwax, 2007]