Gary McCann has always had a license for dubplates.
The producer grew up in a family of music enthusiasts; his father and two brothers were record collector. You’d imagine this would inspire the young Gary into record collecting as well – but his childhood ambitions were wildly different. Gary dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player, and wasn’t actually far off achieving that goal.
His life took a different turn, as Caspa explained to Dummy Mag in a 2009 interview:
“I played every day from the age of eight. I was pretty good. I got picked for England. I had a scholarship to go and play at a high school in America. But then, when I was 18, I dislocated my shoulder whilst I was playing. The doctor was like, Look, I don’t think you’ll be able to play again unless you have some major surgery and take two years off to recover. But at that age you can’t afford to take two years off. And I’ve always been someone who likes to be at the forefront of it all. So I had to give it up.”
Disappointment and depression followed as his dream fell to pieces. Thankfully, music was there to fill the injury-inspired void. As a young kid, he used to listen to jungle tape decks – and around the time he started to get more involved with music, DJ EZ and the nation’s love for garage were really starting to heat up.
Gary bought decks even before he could DJ. Prime influences were artists that pushed a darker garage sound: DJ Zinc, Oris Jay, Zed Bias and Lombardo (who was an early FWD>> resident). Like many others, Caspa started by attending the FWD>> nights on a regular basis from 2001 onwards. And, more importantly, Caspa started producing. Early on, one of his early tunes, Bassbins, was signed to Lombardo’s Fragile Beats label. The tune got picked up by many DJs (including BBC 1Xtra’s J Da Flex) relevant to the scene, eventually resulting in a slot on the then pirate Rinse FM.
“That was 2003. They gave me a set, 9-11pm on Tuesday in-between Hatcha and Slimzee from Pay As U Go Crew, which was a prime time slot. I was called Quiet Storm back then. In the end, Bassbins never came out for one reason and another.”
The Quiet Storm moniker created a firm base for what would become Caspa’s sound. In 2004, he started the first of many labels – Storming Productions – which would go on to home Search & Destroy, Dubchild, Toasty Boy, DJ Narrows and Oris Jay; pushing the underground sound. But it was after Swedish duo L-Wiz sent him a demo that Caspa started Dub Police, an imprint designed to give both dubstep artists and the wider movement a soapbox.
Things really took off when Caspa signed an EP with a producer tipped for legendary status – Rusko. The Snes Dub EP appeared on Dub Police in 2006 and lead to the creation of one of dubstep’s most successful duos. Around the time of the release, Caspa and Rusko started producing together, with their sound developing with the longer they spent together. A new label under the wing of the earlier Storming Productions was started to give Caspa & Rusko productions a proper place: Sub Soldiers.
Around 2007, London’s Fabric decided that it was time to champion the young underground dubstep sound. It had been a niche genre for a few years, primarily played in the second room. In an interview with Cyclic Defrost in 2007, Caspa explained why dubstep in the second room was never a bad thing:
“I think it helps it grow. Obviously anything that is perceived as new is not going to get put in the main room. It’s gonna get put at the back of the queue and introduced to people. If you go to a drum n bass night and then you go to get a drink in room 2 or something and you hear this stuff. They’re like, “What the hell is this music?” I know people that have gone to a big rave, walked through our room and then stayed in our room all night. Those rooms have converted people from their things to our things.”
This all changed with Caspa & Rusko joining the FabricLive series to create the now anthemic FabricLive.37 – the first dubstep mix to feature in the world-famous series. The compilation was mixed on the go, as pure as witnessing the duo play live together around that time. This is part of the mix’s appeal – it takes you on a sonic journey across the whole breadth and depth of dubstep. Within the mix, Caspa brought the harder stuff and Rusko brought the melodies. A perfect harmony.
Caspa’s solo productions evolved in a similar way as most early dubstep artists’ did: the sound was leaning on dub at first, took samples from old reggae tracks (or even jungle tracks) with a huge sub bass presence, but grew rawer with the rising influence of broader electro music.
In just two years, Caspa’s signature sound had changed from the beautiful violin wobbler Cockney Violin into 2008’s My Pet Monster. His first album Everybody’s Talking, Nobody’s Listening came out in 2009, a release that featured many of the Dub Police artists. The title itself was a reaction to the building hype around dubstep. But, even as Caspa’s sound grew to be on the harder, ‘filthier’ side of the spectrum, it remained loyal to the fundaments of dubstep.
The success of FabricLive.37 catapulted dubstep from the second room onto the main stage – often at festivals or stadiums. And it wasn’t noticed in just in the UK or Europe either, America started to take note. This was the beginnings of the ‘EDM’ period – where a lot of bass-led music was characterised as ‘Dubstep’. The hype started to take over and what the influx of new fans perceived as dubstep didn’t reflect the early (or considered by some to be the fundamental) sounds of the genre. In a recent interview with GetDarker, Caspa said:
“It was never intended for pop culture in the first place, I thought it was maybe a good thing at first, but in hindsight it was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to the genre. The reason why I say this, is because there was no control over the quality of the music that was labelled Dubstep during that period and the people that were making ‘chart Dubstep’ had no real connection to the scene. For them it was just a ‘payday’ and now they’ve jumped onto the next bandwagon and left all the true artists and labels to pick up the pieces. Don’t get me wrong I like to play festivals and big shows, but Dubstep is at its best in small clubs and basements with big sound systems.”
In recent years, both the sound that original dubstep imprint Dub Police has started supporting – as well as Caspa’s solo material – have appeared to make a conscious decision to return to Room Two. 500 – the producer’s latest LP – brings back the moody, cinematic rawness so characteristic of original Caspa material.
A music megastar – for all intents and purposes, who’s remixed for pop legends like Depeche Mode, Swedish House Mafia, Ludacris and Deadmau5 – has returned to the passion that saved him all those years ago. The true foundations of the dubstep sound.
The 30 Minutes of Bass Education series has always highlighted artists and their impact on dubstep. Our contributing DJs personally select their artist and pay homage by creating their own 30 Minutes of mix. Their motivation to do so is worth sharing.
“I took on the task of highlighting the mighty Caspa’s career in just 30 minutes. To do this, I looked through his entire discography and tried to represent his sound as best I could so all eras are featured. As one of the figureheads of the global dubstep scene, Caspa and his imprints Dub Police and Sub Soldiers are responsible for some of the most recognizable tunes in the world, including Cockney Thug and Born To Do It, the latter the intro tune of the game-changing Fabriclive.37 mix with Rusko. For me, Caspa has always been one of my favorite DJs to watch – I remember fondly seeing him at Smart Bar and watching him mix all dubplates including the, at the time unheard, Where’s My Money remix. While he is known primarily for his wobbly club bangers (like Rubber Chicken and My Pet Monster) he can also produce tunes with a melodic, musical edge (the I Remember remix and Back For The First Time) which are also featured here.
“On a personal level, I respect Caspa for being unabashedly pro-dubstep in a time when so many of those he came up with have turned to other sounds. While there is no problem [with the other producers] doing that, Caspa continues to fly the flag for a scene in which he has always been somewhat of a black sheep and caught a lot of flak he has never deserved. For the mix itself, I played on 3 decks and mixed quickly – just like the man himself.”
Steve Adler – DJ The Tornado, Chicago
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- Caspa – Rubber Chicken [Tempa]
- Caspa – Louder VIP [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – Floor Dem [Digital Sound Boy]
- Caspa – Terminator [Sub Soldiers]
- TC – Where’s My Money (Caspa remix) [DStyle]
- Caspa – Sir Rock A Lot [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – Submission [Dub Police]
- Rusko – Cockney Thug (Caspa’s Sub Soldiers remix) [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – Hot Shoe Shuffle [Sub Soldiers]
- Buraka Som Sistema – Hangover (Caspa remix) [Enchufada]
- Caspa & Dismantle – Techno Terry [Dub Police]
- Caspa – Fulham 2 Waterloo (Emalkay remix) [Dub Police]
- Caspa – Born To Do It [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa & Sub Scape – Geordie Racer [Sub Soldiers]
- N-Type – Way Of The Dub (Caspa remix) [Dub Police]
- Caspa & The Others – Well Ard [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – My Pet Monster [Digital Sound Boy]
- Caspa – It Is What It Is [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – Power Shower [Sub Soldiers]
- Caspa – Dub Warz [Dub Police]
- Caspa – For The Kids [Dub Police]
- Deadmau5 & Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa remix) [Mau5trap]
- Caspa – Back For The First Time (Instrumental) [Sub Soldiers]
- The Art Of Noise – Moments In Love (Caspa remix) [White]
- Breakage ft. Newham General – Hard (Caspa & The Others Dub Police remix) [Digital Sound Boy]