DLR & Xtrah Talk Dubplate Culture

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] few weeks back (10.11.14) DISDUB001 was released on Dispatch Recordings. Marking the first in a series that harks back to the days of the dubplate, the Dispatch Dubplate concept sees new material released alongside remixes of some of the labels most prestigious and beloved tunes – although available both physically and digitally, the physical release includes an exclusive dubplate version.

DISDUB001 features a Break remix of a personal favourite on the labels catalogue, 2013’s mighty ‘The Formula’ by Hydro, Mako, DLR & Villem. On the flip side is a long-awaited collab between Xtrah & DLR; ‘Direct Approach’ is a dark, crisp roller with subtle hints of both ‘The Nine’ and ‘Messiah’ – two classic tunes referenced by two exceptionally talented artists, the result is as you would expect.. a phenomenal piece of drum & bass!

As a genre in which the dubplate was not only a method for delivering music but also a format fundamental to evolving and influencing the culture around it, we had a chat with Xtrah & DLR about all things acetate…

Hey guys, hope you’re good. Dispatch Recordings have launched their ‘Dubplate’ arm of the label and ‘The Formula (Break Remix) / Direct Approach’ is release 001. How do you feel about the label embracing this concept and what does it mean to you to be a part of it?

DLR: “It’s a great concept, all about placing importance and value back onto a limited physical product, creating something people can be a part of and get close to, at a time when the value of music has reached a point of non-existence. We love Ant for really pushing through with interesting concepts, keeping a focus on keeping the music as true as it can be whilst also offering something more – instead of going the opposite way and stripping back anything considered surplus and literally only offering the bare essentials of a bit artwork and a piece of music both delivered in a digital format. Of course you still get the digital files, and they are readily available after the vinyl lovers get their fix via exclusive mixes only provided in the analogue domain.”

“We’ve reached a dangerous point in music, whilst slowly there has been a return to appreciating the actual value of a piece of music, this is something that seems common in the art world but is still almost totally devoid in music. So to have a label in Drum & Bass – one of the areas of music that has seen a total 180-degree approach, moving from purely vinyl to now almost purely digital – pushing the concept of limited physical music products, well this is a rare and special thing and to be a part of that movement is a real honour for both of us. I am lucky enough to be heavily involved with the 3rd part of the series, a release that I’m incredibly proud of, featuring some VIP’s of my best work along with another sneaky homage to what used to be.”

The Dubplate is a fundamental part of drum and bass history  – how would you define Dubplate culture? And what have been your own experiences with acetate records and the Dubplate legacy?

Xtrah: “Not going to lie, I don’t really have that much experience in the whole dub plate culture; although I started DJ’ing at a young age I didn’t go to cutting house to cut dubs and I certainly wasn’t playing in clubs so to me the dub plate culture was waiting for the white labels to reach the record stores in Kingston but that was exciting enough!”

DLR: “Its non-existent really these days in dnb, there is very little exclusive culture in our scene now, things say ‘exclusive’ on them, but it’s not really how it used to be, which is obviously to be expected with the ease of access to products these days. It’s a shame, but hard to fight, my experiences of dub plate culture are from when I was about 15, in the early noughties watching DJ’s like Andy C, Groove, Friction etc etc mixing in clubs mostly in Bristol, and just being in awe of what they were doing, not even really noticing what I was seeing was them mixing with a lot of exclusive dub plates, some of which only they had a copy of.”

“Apart from that I’ve spent many years in many dances, especially Sub Dub in Leeds, and the dub plate culture in amongst the Dub and Dancehall scene is still relatively strong. It’s now heavily influenced by digital culture, however the difference being that Aba Shanti, Jah Shaka, Mark Iration, etc etc all poses exclusive cuts, mixes and versions of specific tracks, sometimes these can be on vinyl, often these days on CD’s or USB, but they still place an emphasis on the exclusivity of custom version which has an arrangement or vocal tailored to them and their sound. Really it’s a shame that this whole VIP type idea dropped out of the dnb/jungle scene, a VIP is now just another reason to sell more, which is understandable, but it’s a shame there is very little exclusivity left which I feel brings a sense of awe, and respect and means that DJ’s have their unique style and selling points, something that you don’t get every week.”

Xtrah: “I think due to the dub plate culture dying out a lot of the music has become disposable. I remember going raving and hearing tunes for years before I knew what they were. Due to the internet age, the public normally know more about the new tunes floating around than the producers as they have all the information on forums and discuss what new tunes they are hearing etc… It’s kind of taken all the excitement out of finding the tune(s) in a record store.”

How did ‘Direct Approach’ originally come about? And how do you feel you have embodied the ethos of the Dispatch Dubplate series in the tune (both versions)?

Xtrah: “Me and Jay made this over the Internet, we’d been making a few things around this time and this was one we actually finished. Jay sent a load of samples, I did some arranging and made some other sounds and then we finished it together in my studio. I love the concept of the dub plate series it kind of holds on to, or teaches, the buyer about how it was.”

DLR: “Yasin summed it up well, I’ll add that we weren’t keen to release the track as a big ‘song and dance’ release with full blown artwork, YouTube adverts, UKF videos, sponsored Facebook posts, and all the rest. This was due to the obvious fact that the track somehow, over a natural progression became a homage to some classic tracks from back in the day that pretty much everyone in the dnb scene loves. It was very important for us not to be in everyone’s faces with the release, to be honest at first we weren’t keen on a release at all, it was literally going to be a special track that only we had, and if you wanted to hear it you’d have to come hear us play it… It’s a minor shame that we couldn’t be stronger with this opinion and keep the track selfishly for ourselves, but Ant heard it and after a bit of discussion which probably involved him shouting at us like naughty dogs, and beating us into submission using his supremely superior fighting ability, we discussed the whole ‘dubplate’ series, and Ant being the pro-active person he is, he really followed through with the whole concept. Which I have to say is something very special about the little guy! He rarely backs down on his word and when he has a strong concept he will roll with it. As yet he has never let me down… apart from as a mate of course, which is all the time and he never says ‘thank you’… unbelievable in this day and age huh?? Haha.”

Haha, well we’re certainly happy Ant succeeded and we’ve got our hands on a copy of the release!

So, all this talk of dubplates leaves me wondering… if you were in a sound clash whose dub would you most like to pull out of the bag?  

Xtrah: “Depends who I’m clashing as it’s all about making your own twist on their time and burying them with their own tune. (I hope it isn’t rebel sound)”

DLR: “Im a big Dub lover, but especially I have a huge soft spot for Rhythm & Sound, especially when they are partnered by one of the most underrated vocalists of all time, Paul St.Hilaire aka Tikiman.. I’d die to get some custom mixes and vocals of classic tracks by these guys, it would complete my life and make my death a much more pleasurable experience if I could just have the custom plates of the custom mixes of these tracks dotted around my frail dying body.”

What should we be looking out for in the coming months and what are your future goals?

Xtrah: “I’m releasing some music on Noisia’s label which I’m really happy about and there’s a few more really exciting things happening that will be revealed in due course 🙂 “

DLR: “I am Oakm, check me out when you can.”

“I recently completed the 2nd album of my own, entitled ‘Seeing Sounds’, another project Dispatch have supported me with, and I am very very happy with the produc, and can not wait to see the final product! Already clips of the first samplers are being aired by Friction on Radio 1, 2 tracks, one with Break and the other with Total Science. Hope everyone likes them as much as I do! The album, I see as my best work as DLR so far!!

Also the Dispatch Dubplate 003 is on the horizon, i think if people know, then they know what is coming with that one! So keep yourself peeled in every way!”

DISDUB001 ‘The Formula (Break remix) / ‘Direct Approach’ – DLR, Hydro, Mako, Villem, Break / DLR & Xtrah although no longer available on vinyl is available digitally over at the Dispatch Recordings Store. 

To keep up to date on all things Dispatch Recordings head over to the labels Facebook and Soundcloud pages.