As far as dubstep veterans go, Quest is up there as one of the most respected and favoured producers from the “foundation sound” days. And, unlike many of his peers from the era, the producer is still actually making the same level of quality tunes that first brought him to our attention all those years ago.
After one of the longest stints on Mala’s Deep Medi imprint (with one of the longest run of releases any Medi artist has put out with the label), Quest recently announced a new partnership with one of our favourite labels. The announcement was, quite coincidentally, timed with Darren kindly putting together one of the best mixes we’ve ever, ever hosted (as part of our mix series with bass music upstarts Albion Collective).
I got in touch with Quest to catch up, find out what’s going on and what we can expect from the producer and DJ in the coming months…
Mr. Quest. How are you sir? I’m all good brother! CHILLIN’!
It’s been a while since I read an interview with you, so let’s start with the basics. Who are you, how did it all start and why dubstep (or bass music or whatever title you feel comfortable using)? I’m Quest AKA Conquest. I’m a producer – some would say dubstep – but I would like to think I just make music. I got into making music through my dad first and foremost; I have always looked up to him thanks to the fact that he is both a DJ and a musician. Through him, music has always been in my blood. He got me my first pair of 1210s back in 2000 as well as my first music-making computer! He has always seen a talent in me and pushed me to do what I love along with my mother.
I got into jungle, garage and then grime from an early age, but before that I started off playing the bass guitar and piano in church. It was as I got older that I got into dance music – garage was the main thing though and I kind of followed it through to grime and to what it is now.
Back in the Conquest days, what was it like being one of the original producers? Taking a range of influences and making tunes like you all did? It’s hard to say…
At the time in the early days, I never thought I would be regarded as the producer I am now in the scene – it’s all been a blur so to speak! I was just having fun making music and being around producers and DJs I had a high regard for.
I don’t think a lot of the people who are here now would really understand the level of excitement and creativity that was going on in the early days… You simply had to be there in the parties like DMZ, FWD, Filthy Dub, Subdub, Drums of the South etc. to know. It’s still mad when people refer to me as a veteran or legend though, I don’t really see myself like that. I’m just like everyone else struggling to make the perfect beat (which is unattainable)!
For those that don’t know, what caused the Conquest to Quest change? I was originally called Quest, I mainly changed my name out of respect for the other Quest who came from the breakbeat garage era. I didn’t want to clash so I called myself Conquest – but I met him years later and he was like “it’s cool I’m not doing music anyways”, so I reverted back to Quest.
You’ve had a pretty illustrious career in terms of releases, with tunes coming out since 2006. One tune I want to touch on is Forever. That one’s a special tune for me and (I’m pretty sure) quite a few other people. How did that one come about in studio? I dedicated that one to my girlfriend at the time, she wasn’t really into dubstep and I wanted to prove to her I could make a dubstep beat she could feel. I remember coming across a YouTube clip of audio from a Barrington Levy concert, it was a live performance of Here I Come, as soon as I heard the forever part I knew I was going to make a tune out of it. I sampled it but didn’t make it straight away; that’s what I do with most songs – I make that have a concept or a sample in it, I let it marinate in my mind for a few days (sometimes even months) and have a plan of attack. That’s how I make music in general, sometimes I’m just randomly twisting knobs and spontaneously trying riffs. I mostly hear every riff or concept before I lay it down, I always know what kind of tune I want make before I start and I follow through with it… Sometimes I’ll be on the phone to Silkie saying “I’m gonna make a dark tune today, or a downtempo tune”. That’s just what is comfortable for me – and what seems to work.
You’ve released on some of the best labels in our sound – Bare Dubs, Antisocial Entertainment, obviously Medi, and you and Silkie have done an Allstars on Tempa. Of your tunes, released or dub, which one would you want to be remembered for? Any that stand out in your mind? I would say all of them have a place in my heart. The one thing I am proud of about my music is that I have never had a formula in terms of the sound I do at the time, I mean from Hardfood (which has a dub influence) to Eden (which has a jazz influence), to Stand (which is like deep then turns in to ambient), to Wind Tunnel (which is like a deep roller). I never stick to one sound and one thing you can rely on is the fact I don’t have gimmicks.
I feel like a lot of popular producers do… You never know what your going to get from me!
What’s your production set up like these days? I’m telling you now, the average bedroom producer probably has a better setup than me! I just have monitors, a computer, a MIDI keyboard and a mic. Oh and my bass guitar. Everything is in boxes on my DAWs. If I’m honest, I only started using monitors around the times of Smooth Skin, I was building in headphones in my front room before that!
You’ve had five releases on Mala’s Deep Medi Musik on and off since 2008. When did the two of you start working together? We’ve not had a Quest Medi release since 2013’s MEDi073; anything in the pipeline you can tell us about? Watch this space!
Although we’ve had the five Medi 12”s, we’ve not yet had the long prophesied album. What can you tell us about it – will it see the light of day? Yeah my album (sigh)… I made the tunes, but I’m not happy with them. I’m the kind of person who won’t release just anything, it has to be right in my mind. Everybody around me who has heard bits and pieces has been hyped but I’m not… That’s the problem with me, I’m never fully happy with my music, but I can usually get it to a point where I can let go! With this album I feel like I can’t, I want to change it. People tell me you have to do an album because that’s the done thing now. I’ve never been the kind of person that felt like I needed to do anything because everyone is. To me, the times and sounds have changed now and I myself am in a different place than I was musically and mentally when I started making the album.
I do intend to do something with the tunes I recorded with an orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music, because those tunes are timeless. Let’s just say my album is on hold until I rebuild it, but I will say now I am building more than ever and have a string of releases coming to keep people satisfied. Sorry to disappoint anyone waiting but I am stubborn till the end!
You’ve just announced you’ve joined the Innamind Recordings family; an amazing match if there ever was one. What made you want to join the IMR crew? What can we expect from the partnership? I respect Innamind a lot. I love Gantz and LAS, I love their music, I really like Jeremy as a person and I think what they are doing is levels. Vivek hit me up and was like “would you be up for working with Jeremy?” and I was like “yeah”! Jeremy hit me up and was like “hell yeah”! That was that haha!
Other than IMR, which of the newer labels are you a fan of? Will we see you working with other imprints as well as IMR? Yep, I am looking to start working with all my friends who have labels I respect. I am more open now to working with labels outside of Deep Medi, I am planning something with System, I would also work with Wheel and Deal, Tectonic, Sin City and Sub Freq as all the label runners are my long time friends. It’s time to share the love!
What are your thoughts on the upcoming producers, the new guys coming up, at the moment? Anyone in particular you think is making music like you guys were back in the day? Yeah man it’s healthy! I’m feeling Dark Tantrums, Swindle, LAS, Commodo, Compa, Gantz, Lurka, EshOne, B.P.D.R, Kahn, Ishan Sound, Karma, Sleeper, Bisweed, Sepia (big up Theo!), eva808 etc… I mean I really could be here forever!
What are your thoughts on producers trying to evoke the early “foundation sound”? Is it really necessary – or should we move on and take the dubstep sound in new directions? I think it’s good! I mean I would say to anyone do what you want, make what you want, as long as your reasons are true to the art of music why not? I respect that new producers coming in are honing in on the original sound. You have to know your roots, you need to know where you come from to know where you are going! It will never fully be exactly like how it was back when it first started because socially and mentally we’re a in a different place, the world is also a different place. We’re drawing from a different type of energy than say in 2007… Like I said, the creativity levels were different back then, but as long as we keep the same principles everything will be alright.
You’re off to America with Innamind’s Kursk and LAS in September/ October. Where else can we catch you live in the mix in the coming months? I have a few in the UK throughout the year. Off the top of my head over the next few months, I have Rude at Plan B in Brixton, Fabric, GiveItDub in Holland, Paris, Belgium, Medi skank at Corsica, America, Mexico, Denmark and a few others.
You’ve put together what can only be described as a truly mammoth mix for our friends at Albion Collective and us here at FKOF. What can you tell us about the mix? I just wanted to showcase as much of the different sounds as I could – but in a way that could translate easily to people listening without it being too much of a drastic change. I believe sets should be journeys; I don’t believe in doing a whole set of the same vibe throughout. It gets stale very quickly! Everything I do I try to make last, I could do a set of energetic bangers throughout, but I’m aware that people are listening on their travels or at home studying – and also the fact that some people that like say Silkie’s or Swindle’s sound but they might not like the Sleeper or Gantz sound and vice versa.
I wanted to mix something for everyone and also do it in a way that keeps you interested. There has to be a climax and a come down – I try and do that with all my sets. I am really lucky in the sense that I get sent fresh tunes from everyone no matter the sound which I really appreciate. I could have done 2 hours of dubs and still not have ran out!
Judging by the FKOFAC003 mix, you’re sat on a few dubs. Which are you really feeling at the moment? Are they a mix of new and old? Ah mate there are too many! Silkie’s Limits, Magic, Bird in the Sky, M300 and Swank. EshOne‘s Flight VIP, Ups and Downs VIP, Petroglyphs VIP. Gantz’ Pseudooo, Superior A, Buck Wild remix and Baby Face. Sepia’s Yesterday and Conflict,. Swindle’s Smash and Grab, Summertime and Walters Call. Sleeper’s Lander, Coxone Dub and Asphyxia. Vivek’s Raaaaah test, Rockers and Sad Smile. Eva808’s Balmy, Childhood and Voodoo. Von D’s WHOLE ALBUM! Mala’s Ama, Torn at the Roots, Expected and Bun the System. Commodo’s Free Focus remix and Good Grief. Kromestar’s The Bees, Imposter, Cyber Dread and Jedeye. B.P.D.R’s Badlands and their whole album…
I need to stop bro; seriously this isn’t even like a quarter!
Have you got any advice for producers looking to get started? Anything you’ve done that you’d recommend doing – or avoiding? Just do what you love, don’t feel you have to have the best mixdown or whatever.
Just make sure your ideas are solid because you can be taught things like how to get a good mixdown – but you can’t be taught how to have good ideas! Also always ask “why can’t I?” instead of “ I can’t”. I believe rules in music should be broken, don’t just think about the DJs, if you don’t want to quantise your snare go ahead! If you want your percussion with a mean swing go ahead! Real DJs find ways to play music they like no matter how difficult it is to mix; there is always a way. And besides, that’s our jobs! Just make MUSIC!
Last but not least, any final words or shoutouts? Thanks for your time and all the best with the new label venture! Shouts to the “mandem and the gyaldem” – you know who you are! Thank you as well to everyone at FKOF and Albion, I thoroughly enjoyed the mix. I will be back soon!
Click to DOWNLOAD (151MB)
- Gantz – Free Focus (Commodo remix) [dub]
- Kromestar – Jedeye [dub]
- >>> Mala – Eyez VIP [Deep Medi]
- EshOne – Flight VIP [dub]
- Ishan Sound – Namkha (Kahn remix) [Tectonic]
- Las – Aspect [dub]
- Vivek – Raaaaaah [dub]
- Kromestar- Mere Shere VIP [dub]
- Vivek – Asteroids (Kromestar’s Vesta mix) [dub]
- Quest – Lost Without You [Nebula Music Group dub]
- Mala – Bodyclock Delay [dub]
- Commodo – Buckwild (Gantz remix) [dub]
- Sleeper – Lander [dub]
- EshOne – Petroglyphs VIP [dub]
- Bisweed – Airship [dub]
- Gantz – Pseudooo [dub]
- Silkie – Limits [dub]
- B.D.P.R and Swindle – Untitled [dub]
- Silkie – Magic [dub]
- Swindle – Smash and Grab [dub]
- 040 – Let It Be Known [Butterz x Kapsize]
- Mala – Miracles (Commodo remix) [Deep Medi]
- Skream – Filth (Silkie remix) [Tempa]
- Kromestar – R2D6 [dub]
- Quest – Belly of the Beast [dub]
- Quest – Vampires [dub]
- Gantz – The Supreme A [dub]
- Harry Craze – Untitled [Deep Medi]
- Eva808 – Balmy [dub]
- Mizz Beats & Von D – Dot Compulsion [dub]
Medi head artwork by Tunnidge; IMR logo by Thelem
Massive shouts to Spencer and the AC gang for their efforts in putting this together!