We like to think discovering (and subsequently supporting) new producers has always been a key part of the role FKOF plays in bass music. But it’s only in the last few years that that role has extended to working with new or upcoming record labels – be that through our FKOF Promos, Release Highlightsor FKOF Reviews.
So when we discovered the head of one of our favourite imprints, one that’s quickly becoming a renowned name for homing quality music, was also a talented DJ and producer we knew we were onto something special…
“Other than my tracks, only three of these tracks are available to the public, one of them on white label vinyl. The mix kind of has three movements: soundsystem reggae, deep dubstep and 170 half time…”
Yo Bakir! What’s happening in Brooklyn today? Yo! Brooklyn is amazing this morning, the sun is shining and I played with Afrika Bambaataa this weekend! Life is pretty good.
To start with, given you’ve got quite an interesting background musically, can you tell us how it all started for you? You trained as a jazz musician right? How did you discover electronic music? Music is a serious thing in my family. My two sisters and I all took piano lessons from the age of 5 onwards. My first passion was classical music, but as I got a bit older I became really interested in contemporary styles. I started playing electric guitar in bands and trumpet in jazz ensembles. In high school, jazz was all I listened to (as I look back, this was rather alienating, but I didn’t mind). I took it very seriously, the lifestyle, everything. I went to Berklee to study jazz composition and while I was there I got turned on to a lot of different music. A friend played me an Amon Tobin album, Permutations I think. It heavily sampled jazz records and I could see a link between the two…
So yeah, that and some Metalheadz records!
How long have you been producing dubstep? What first brought you to the genre? I’ve been producing dubstep since 2007, initially with Dubsworth as the Spit Brothers. We were a live San Francisco-based duo who were influenced by reggae and dub. Live as in we played guitar, bass, trumpet, and keyboards – just wanted to clarify, some people don’t seem to understand the definition of that word. The first time I heard dubstep was when Dubsworth played me Moldy’s Konkrete Jungle mix; life-changing shit.
What’s your production set up like? Fully digital or some analog thrown in? I’m entirely inside the box. I have a Virus synth, but that’s a digital synth I control via a plug-in in my DAW. I just got a tape machine to bounce stems to, but I haven’t started using it yet.
How would you describe your signature sound – if you have one? Deep, mature, intentional, meditative.
Your recent FKOFd release traversed dub, dubstep and DnB. Would you say these three genres are your favourite to produce? Yes, I like to write sound system music. To me, those genres embody what sound system music is.
After a pretty uncomfortable (for the ‘purists’ if you can call them that) start with dubstep, America seems to have ditched the brostep and come round to the deep stuff. Why do you think that is? Deep dubstep has always had a faithful following here in America. When the commercial viability of brostep ran its course, a lot of the people involved in that side of things went a different direction, towards EDM, trap, and other styles they saw as having more potential to make money. The true heads remain.
Of its initial introduction your side of the pond; why do you think the tearout become so massive? It was this sound you could just bash people over the head with, it lacks subtlety and depth so it was perfect to make money from. There is a real deficiency in the number of proper sound systems in America, so a lot of people straight up don’t understand true bass music. Brostep’s staggering dependance on mid-frequency sounds was a better fit for the younger American audience.
Soundsystem culture, at least in the crews I met during my recent time in NY, seems to be pretty serious with you guys. Why do you think that is? I won’t do an event without proper sound, listening to deep dubstep on a poor system is like looking at a painting in a dark room. It makes no sense. There are a couple other crews in NYC that get it, but some that don’t, at all. We had the new TGS Sound System for our most recent event with Kaiju and EshOne that our friends from Dub-Stuy linked us up with. It was incredibly proper.
Which crews/ systems have you worked with and of them, which should we know about? Dub-Stuy is absolutely killing it right now as they proliferate Sound System Culture, they are a big inspiration for us. I’ve gotten to play on their Tower of Sound twice, it was an incredible experience.
Stateside, similarly over here, you’re known for your record labels – TUBA NYC and the newer Grand Ancestor (while not forgetting your affiliation with Dubs Alive). How did the own-your-own imprint thing come about? The music industry rarely knocks on your door and invites you to be a part of it. Dubsworth and I started Dubs Alive in order to put out our own music, which quickly expanded to putting out music our friends were making. I initially started TUBA as a white label vinyl project, which then became a proper label. I started getting access to producers and tracks that I never thought that I would get, so I decided to go full on with it.
What’s different about your labels; what kind of music gets released on what? TUBA is focused on the deep dubstep sound, but you’ll start to hear some different stuff from us soon as we will be turning the tempo up for some of our releases, particularly the music I’ll be personally releasing on the label. Grand Ancestor is Yola and my white label reggae dubstep imprint. I don’t handle any of the day-to-day business over at Dubs Alive any more, as Dubsworth and Tapa run that company now but I occasionally do some A&R for them.
Over the last four years I’ve been working on FKOF, there’s been an influx of labels that come and go. What are you doing to build your imprint’s heritage – future proofing the work you’re currently putting in? I think TUBA has had the longevity and success that it’s had because of our intractable integrity and dedication to the sound that we have curated. We’ll be expanding the scope of our releases to use the record label platform as a way to tell stories about this music, its history, and the people that have shaped it, but I don’t want to say too much about that now.
The lifecycle of a dubstep label is something we’re pretty aware of – but what do you think of the current crop of labels releasing music? Any you’re particularly keen on/ not so much? I think there are a lot of labels that are grasping at straws as far as their concept, content, and approach. It’s a tough time to be a newcomer to the marketplace. With that said, Innamind, Artikal, and Lion Charge are releasing absolutely phenomenal music. Big up to Kursk and J:Kenzo.
You release both digital and vinyl on TUBA. What’s the process for deciding what gets released on what format? The ‘bigger’ tunes get pressed on vinyl. That is to say the tracks that hit the system the hardest, we cut. The digital catalogue is more about exploring a producer’s sound and seeing the different sides of it.
In your opinion, are live shows an integral part of the dubstep experience? What are your key ingredients for a good dubstep dance? Absolutely, the dance is where it all comes together. You aren’t going to really experience true dubstep if it’s not on a proper system. It’s about sound system and the selector and the authenticity of the crew. I don’t drink much so I also prefer a ganja friendly environment.
We’ve seen the closure of many venues and the reluctance of those that remain to work with smaller promoters/ labels etc. How have you found running events – ever had any difficulties or horror stories? Running events in NYC is getting increasingly difficult. I really prefer to do underground events, but this has become cost prohibitive and too risky as the cops have cracked down. And yes, we’ve had difficulties…….
You’ve put together one of the longest FKOF Presents mixes we’ve had in the series. What can you tell us about the mix? When the mix was uploaded, only three of those tracks were available publicly, and one only via white label vinyl. I wanted to present a mix that would showcase a lot of unreleased and exclusive music, feature my own productions, and tease out some of the forthcoming TUBA and Grand Ancestor tracks.
Of the new producers you work with, through your labels and as a producer, who should we be looking out for? Sub Basics and Cuttle. You are going to hear a lot of their music coming out of the TUBA/Grand Ancestor camp.
Have you got any advice for producers looking to get started or get signed? Anything you’ve done that you’d recommend doing – or avoiding? Yeah, tell a story with your music and make it personal. And don’t send unsolicited WIPs to label heads. EVER.
Last but not least, any final words or shoutouts? Thanks for your time and hopefully see you soon! Massive shout outs to Q, 187 Sound, and Double Tiger from the Dub Stuy crew, out to Dubsworth and Tapa at Dubs Alive, and most importantly, out to MY crew: our label manager Corina Hernandez, marketing and strategy guru Damian Ashton and Charlie Kinniburgh. I have an amazing team that are working at spreading the TUBA sound all the time.
Click to DOWNLOAD (209MB)
- Bakir – Elefante [FKOFd008]
- Alpha Steppa – Fire Key [forthcoming Trigram]
- J.Robinson – Yoshi Dub [dub]
- Shabba Ranks – Give Dem (Sub Basics remix) [dub]
- Bakir – Red Hook [FKOFd008]
- L-Wiz – Girl From Codeine City (The Illuminated remix) [dub]
- Cuttle – Back Jah (Alpha Steppa remix) [forthcoming Grand Ancestor]
- Matty G – War [WAR001]
- Karma – Crampton Beat [dub]
- Leroy Mafia – Peace Man Time (The Illuminated Version) [dub]
- The Illuminated – Luck Dub [FKOF Free]
- Madplate Sound & Dan I – Cool Down Me Nervs [dub]
- J.Robinson – Creator Dub [forthcoming TUBA]
- Sub Basics – No Link [forthcoming TUBA]
- Geode – Kestrel [dub]
- Matty G – London Region (Bakir and Dubsworth remix) [dub]
- Mentha & Ziaflow – Blue Deep (RDG Remix) [forthcoming TUBA]
- Bakir & Cuttle – Star Gaze [FKOF Free]
- Subtle Mind – Shokunin (Karnage & Mark IV remix) [dub]
- Deco – Absent Minder [dub]
- Subtle Mind – Ingenuity [dub]
- Dubsworth & Tapa – Clave Maria [dub]
- BunZer0 – Can You Feel My Flavor [dub]
- Rozi – No Peeking [dub]
- Karnage & Mark IV – Volatile [dub]
- Clearlight – No Rules [dub]
- Sub Basics – Vapour [dub]
- Truth ft. Bijou – How Strange [forthcoming Tempa]
- Quantum Soul – Evocation [forthcoming TUBA]
- Daega Sound – Under Pressure [forthcoming TUBA]
- D-Operation Drop – Antithesis [dub]
- Piezo – Comma (VIP) [forthcoming SubAltern]
- Bakir – Keys To The City [dub]
- J.Robinson ft. Sun Of Selah – Lion Music [T12SNGL007]
- Bakir – Three Sided [FKOFd008]
- Sasha Simone – Repeat Until Death (Bakir’s Version) [dub]
- Djunya – Wicked Vibration [dub]
Bakir was kind enough to put together a FKOF free to celebrate the FKOF Presents feature – and his collaboration with Cuttle is one of the better FKOF frees we’ve hosted recently. Enjoy…
The FKOF review:
“A mythical movement teases the ears, as soothing atmospherics add flavour to a perfect layer of sub that suddenly emerges near the drop. The sub and atmospheres juices up this sublime production to the point where it lulls you into a deep meditative session, helping you to reach the stars from within your mind.
“Bakir & Cuttle guide you through this enthralling journey reflecting not only beauty but also their ability to grab your attention by the horns. This might just be one of the tracks you should be spinning all summer. TUBA’s bossman shows he’s aiming for the top, one production at a time…”