In my opinion, FatKidOnFire Presents is shaping up to be a pretty good series – setting the standard for quality producers we’re rating in and around 140pm here on FKOF.
The latest addition to the series is a fairly established producer based in the 21st biggest city in the US; one who grew up as a junglist and will soon become synonymous with dubstep throughout the scene (thanks to an upcoming release on one of the genre’s most respected labels). I’d been talking to AxH for a while before the news of his recent signing leaked – but managed to pin him down for a chat, a FKOF free download and the all important FatKidOnFire Presents mix.
This is: FatKidOnFire Presents #4 – AxH…
AxH, it’s been a while man. How are you? Yeah man. I’m good, thanks!
You seem to be a bit of a regular on the Minimal Mondays show, along with J:Kenzo’s Rinse slot – but can you introduce yourself for those that don’t know you? Yeah Minimal Mondays are the weekly refresher! It was almost overwhelming, the first time I heard one of my beats on Rinse – especially as an American. I love the UK dubstep sound. It’s as underground and minimal as you can get, and my beats right in the middle of it. Yunx and J:Kenzo have been spoiling me! It’s definitely humbling and I’m honoured. Love those guys. Big up N-Type as well for the support. I love Rinse FM man!
But yeah, I’m AxH from Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I have been a DJ and music producer since 1999, and have been banging out dubstep tunes since 2007. I started making beats on a friend’s PlayStation in ’99. I was hooked.
I made hip-hop beats for a lot of underground hip-hop artists before finding ragga jungle and diving into it. I was even a hip-hop MC for a little while! In 2004, I had my first vinyl release as Prodigal Son. After a few years of dubstep obsession, alias changes, and a revamp of style, I’m happy where I am musically and enjoy the music I’m making as AxH.
For a long while, the word ‘dubstep’ didn’t quite have the same meaning in the US as it does over here. That slowly seems to be changing though. Why do you think that is? Exposure, for one. Dubstep is a dominant force. Americans are very media-driven, and dubstep is everywhere. The internet is a valuable resource, as well. The younger guys now have the option of buying digital, and more and more of the vinyl labels I love are selling their music on iTunes, Beatport, etc. Big up yourself if you’re still buying vinyl, by the way!
It seems, to me, at least, that a lot of the American fans were getting into dubstep in 2010-2011, roughly, so they missed the beginning, and growth of the sound. Americans took dubstep and ran with it, creating a new interpretation of the sound. I hate the word ‘brostep’. It’s still dubstep, but it’s not the all-encompassing definition of the sound, and that’s where I think the confusion lies in America. Now that it’s hit the mainstream, however, my hope is that some fans have taken a step back, and done a little homework. I saw an ad for Mad Men the other day with a chainsaw ripper dubstep tune playing in the background.
The word ‘dubstep’ is still thrown around pretty loosely, stateside, but being involved in the scene as a producer, DJ, and promoter, I’ve definitely seen a change over the years. A change for the better, though. 21-year-olds schooling me on next month’s vinyl releases on the ill underground labels brings a tear to my eye. A tear of joy though!
You’re based in Boston, what’s the dubstep scene like in your city? Diverse! Boston is actually a small city, but it’s also a college city, so there’s always a constant flow of younger dubsteppers and new faces. We also have a strong group of regulars and locals, as well. There are the arena dubstep events that play to sold-out crowds, and there are the dark, basement parties, like ours, for the adventurous, and the underground heads.
I’m fortunate to be one of the residents of BASSIC Boston, one of the longest-running stateside dubstep nights, and Boston’s premiere dubstep night. The night started in 2007, and we’re a strong crew, consisting of: Damian Silva, C Dubs, Scotch1, Moldy, and myself. We’re all old-school DnB/Jungle or ragga jungle heads, and have a passion for the original dubstep sound. That being said, I’m lucky to be involved in bringing some of the best acts in the business to Boston! Nearly all of my favorite dubstep DJ’s have played in our booth, and even ridden in my car, for that matter – I’m the wheelman haha! Every flavour of dubstep has been made available in Boston, at one time or another.
You started out as a ragga jungle producer – and got quite a lot of recognition for your work as Prodigal Son. Why the switch to 140? For me, music is very mood-focused and emotion-driven. The 5 strongest years of my Prodigal Son days were spent while I was in the military. There was a lot of tension in my music; a lot of aggression. Music is life. For me, it’s art and expression, and even a means to vent emotions. I made most of my best ragga jungle tunes on a laptop from an aircraft carrier, out at sea for months at a time! Vinyl releases for ragga jungle started slowing down, and I got worked over by a couple labels, so I developed a bad taste for it. I was also tired of the same routine with ragga. For me, it just felt like: Amen break. Illegal acapella samples or soundclash samples. Stolen hip-hop loops. I was over it.
I wanted to do something else, and finding dubstep, when I did, couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. A breath of fresh air. Dubstep was everything I always wanted ragga jungle to be. I can use any sounds I want. There are few rules in dubstep and you can go as far outside the box as you want. I was making ragga jungle beats at 180BPM. I got out of the military, and the tension subsided. I still have folders full of great breaks, and I layer them into all of my tunes. Sneaky sneaky style. I’m still a junglist; that will never go away haha!
You had an album out on TUBA NYC last October – do you prefer bigger production projects or single releases? I love them both, for different reasons. The album was a lot of fun, and it was always something I wanted to do for myself. I love albums. I feel like it’s the place where you really get to flex and shine as a producer. You make an album, and you know you have to give it everything you’ve got. I got to work with a lot of great artists and I had a lot of fun doing it. That being said, singles are fun as hell. You get to approach each project with a fresh, new idea. I’m a vinyl junkie, and I’m highly motivated by vinyl releases. I enjoy negotiating contracts, discussing artwork, etc. They keep the productive wheel turning. It’s been a few years since my last vinyl release, and I’m itching! I’m proud of all my digital releases, but then there’s vinyl. The tangible trophy. Your hard work sitting in front of you to listen to whenever you like, or to hang proudly on the wall. You made this. High five.
What’s your set up like? What’s your preference; live or sampled? I’m on an Apple Mac Pro tower running Logic. Mackie HR-824 monitors. I have a new iso booth for vocals and percussion, and a Neumann U-87 microphone (my baby). I also have a Korg R3 synth/vocoder, Akai MPK 61, and a solid collection of rack gear, (2 compressors, 3 multi-effects processors, 3 reverbs, and a mic pre). I have my Technics 1200 MK2s running through my interface to sample from vinyl, which I still do, when I can. I’m a huge fan of live percussion. I have a bin full of children’s instruments and random percussive instruments. It’s fun banging on bongos. I recently got a sick melodica and I’m learning how to play that. As a junglist, I can’t help but love sampled breaks. I incorporate them at every opportunity. I use vocal samples when they fit the tune, and I record MCs and vocalists as well.
Your ‘FatKidOnFire Presents’ mix is only the second showcase mix we’ve had (as far as I can remember). Of your current dubs, which epitomises your ‘sound’ the best? Yeah thank you for the opportunity. It was fun to put together. I think, coincidentally enough, the first tune that caught Youngsta’s ear called ‘Destroy’ best represents the sound I want to push as a producer. Dark, snappy, bouncy. Stinkface underground beats with ethereal ambience.
What can you tell us about ‘The Other Side’, the FKOF free download you’re giving away with this feature? ‘The Other Side’ is actually one of my favorites so far this year! I made it exclusively for FKOF, and I tried to showcase the sounds that represent me (as mentioned previously). I was watching one of my favourite TV shows, and when I heard that vocal sample, I pretty much jumped off the couch in excitement! Wicked sample. The entire tune was built off of the sample. I played it live for the first time when J:Kenzo was in town, and he was feeling it, so I snuck it to him early (forgive me FKOF). He played it on his Rinse show, and I got a lot of positive feedback on it, so I’m very happy about that. I hope everyone enjoys playing it and listening to it!
Are you a vinyl or digital DJ? Do you think one should be given precedence over the other? I’m a vinyl head. I’ve been given vinyl as gifts since I was a little guy. Huge vinyl collection. I switched over to Serato for shows, since I play 100%-original sets. I can’t afford to cut dubs like I used to. The wife and the house and all that! I keep it as vinyl-familiar as possible with Serato, though. As a collector, I prefer vinyl. As a DJ, as long as you are beat-matching, playing tunes that I enjoy hearing, and keeping the vibe going, I really don’t judge what format it’s being played on.
I noticed Youngsta recently let slip something on Facebook – something I’ve not seen him do before. What, if anything, can you tell us about this fairly impressive news – that’s quite a family you’re joining?! I can’t give too many details currently, but I can confirm that I will be releasing music with Tempa Records in the near future!
Given the support from the likes of Yunx, N-Type and J:Kenzo etc, it seems like your future is quite a promising one! What have you got in terms of playing out? Any chance we’ll see you on these shores? Thanks very much, I appreciate that! I am reclusive when it comes to gigs.
I don’t mean to be, I just spend all my time working on beats. I love spinning, and take all the bookings I can, but I mostly play close to home. I’m hoping that changes in the upcoming months, because I love to travel. I haven’t been to the UK since I was 4 years old so I’m long overdue. I’ve made so many friends overseas now, it will be like a reunion when I finally get to go over.
Other than SoundCloud and occasionally Mixcloud, where else can people follow your music – I seem to remember a recording of you being on SUB FM or something? I tend to focus on Soundcloud, as I rarely do mixes. Any mix I do ends up on Mixcloud eventually. Also, there’s BASSIC Boston Radio on Sub.FM. I have a good amount of shows in the archives, as both AxH and Grizzly (the name I used before AxH). I’m also the idiot on the mic for a lot of them. I stepped back from the radio show to focus on production, and now the rudebwoys Scotch1 and Moldy hold it down. Saturday nights! Check it.
Any final words? Thanks for your time and good luck for the future – not that you’ll need it. Boston stand up! Very kind of you. Again, thanks for reaching out to me! I appreciate the support and good words. Big up my Boston crew and dubsteppers worldwide.
“Resonating pads are supported by glitchy percussion, while a deadly melody and a malicious sample prepares the listener for a devastating drop. An overwhelming number of different low end patterns continuously reign through the sub layer of the mix, while furious mid-ranges aggressively invade the listener’s headspace.
“Every element’s place is neatly performed, all containing a significant amount of weight to enhance the smooth character of this production. Merciless stabs intervene to head off track towards the other side. AxH bombs the listener with a huge amount of percussive energy that’s not easily forgotten.”
Click to DOWNLOAD
1. AxH – Untitled (dub version) [dub]
2. AxH – Blazing Eyes [dub]
3. AxH – Hope Is Lost [dub]
4. AxH – Last Train [dub]
5. AxH – Tunnel Through [TUBA NYC dub]
6. AxH – Sentimental [dub]
7. AxH – Giant Footprints [dub]
8. AxH – Tribalistix [dub]
9. AxH – Perfect Cure [dub]
10. AxH – 1.8.7. [dub]
11. AxH – Everdine [dub]
12. AxH – The Other Side [FKOF free download]
13. Cavverns (AxH and Scotch1) – Cursed [dub]
14. AxH – Destroy [??? dub]
15. AxH – The Answer [dub]
16. AxH – Human Is The Machine [dub]
17. AxH – Opiate [TUBA NYC dub]