There’s very few people in our scene who can ignore the importance and influence that Rusko has had on dubstep.
And we don’t say that lightly. Chris Mercer is a phenomenon who’s personally responsible for shaping many of the scattered subgenres in electronic music throughout his musical career.
Chris was in Leeds, where he’d receive a degree in Music Performance from the Leeds College of Music, when he discovered Sub Dub – one of the UK’s oldest and most respected bass-focused event promoters (and an outfit for championing the dubstep sound outside of London in the early days).
The beginning of Rusko’s dubstep catalogue shows a clear dubwise focus. His early tunes – picked up by Dub Police founder Caspa – represent the laidback but bass heavy take on the 140 sound. His Dub Police debut, 2006’s SNES Dub, highlights this mix of 8 bit-influenced dub in the release’s lead: SNES Dub. Later Rusko productions would draw influence from grime, trip-hop and hip-hop. And, to some listeners’ chagrin, the spectrum of Rusko sound started to grow from producing laidback dub vibes to more energetic and aggressive beats.
With his friend and fellow Leeds-based producer Reso, Rusko was hooked – eventually moving to London to work with Caspa on their Sub Soldiers imprint (which continues to this day, although Caspa is no longer involved).
We’ve hinted at this in previous 30BE features, but there’s no harm in repeating the following. Both Rusko and Caspa (as the two are intrinsically linked for much of their respective careers) are responsible for perhaps one of the most influential releases in the genre.
For many, FabricLive.#37 was the gateway drug into the dubstep world – there’s no denying the release played a significant part in putting the 140 sound in front of a global audience. The variety of sounds and styles included in the mix represented (and, to some extent, still do) the broad range of styles and sounds available in a genre now known for its ‘dirtier’, more aggressive side.
From Cockney Thug to ConQuest’s Forever, Rusko and Caspa’s addition to the FabricLive series is an excellent guide for new entrants into dubstep; clearly demonstrating the potential the genre has.
For all his dubwise beginnings, Rusko’s exploration into more mainstream avenues has always stayed true to one characteristic – the bass sounds he’s able to create. And looking back on a long and adventurous career, it appears it’s the explorations that got Rusko to where he is today. Releases with large labels, combined with extensive work with vocalists, made his work very popular in what many would say were the formative ‘brostep’ years.
Dubstep’s building hype, while it took him away from what brought him into the sound back at Sub Dub, inspired the philosophy of creating things that would have a good reception on the dancefloor (in venues with increasingly larger dancefloors). In a 2010 interview he explained:
“I’m trying to make some super musical stuff. When I play a track and it drops, and it drops really heavy but it has not got a heavy distorted bass, it drops because it’s musical, and that people like the chord progressions and the crescendos, to be intense with music and vocals and stuff and not just with a noise that goes mad. For me, when I get a reaction as good as that from a melodic tune, that’s really satisfying.”
Today, Rusko’s sound is much broader than it was in the early days. Like many producers – similar to Skream’s response to when asked why he ‘moved on’ from dubstep – Rusko says:
“I’ve gotta keep challenging myself otherwise I get bored, that’s just how I am, I just have a short attention span.”
His collaborations with Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint gave Rusko the chance to experiment. His style started to evolve, taking a harder approach to the more house-esque dubstep alternative Mad Decent were pushing at the time.
Was the producer’s focus on the harder style one of the catalysts for the hype and development of the brostep genre? Was it just time (with dubstep reaching its peak mainstream commercialisation), was it Rusko’s personality or the producer’s desire to please larger and larger crowds with agressive yet melodic drops?
Rusko’s unabashed love for playing out live – as well as creating music that the more EDM-focused crowds started calling dubstep – appeared to have played a significant part in the genre breaking out of the Sub Dub-type clubs and moving into the stadiums of the world. He was a pioneer that helped take a sound that started in south London global. Even if it change a bit in the process.
Rusko is by far one of the most colourful and passionate producers to have passed through the dubstep landscape. Whether you consider his melodic brilliance (and the influences he’s brought to the sound) have shaped or deformed the genre, there’s no denying 140 would be a very different beast without Chris’ creative input. If that’s not a suitable criterion for a 30BE homage we don’t know what is!
Click to DOWNLOAD (70MB)
- Rusko – Biggest Chopper [Not On Label, 2008]
- Rusko – Soundguy Is My Target [Sub Soldiers, 2009]
- Rusko – Acton Dread [Dub Police, 2007]
- Caspa – Cockney Flute (Rusko remix) [Dub Police, 2007]
- Rusko – SNES Dub [Dub Police, 2006]
- Rusko – Cockney Thug [Sub Soldiers, 2009]
- Rusko – Go Go Gadget [Sub Soldiers, 2009]
- Rusko – Moaners [Sub Soldiers, 2009]
- Rusko – Jahova [Sub Soldiers, 2007]
- Rusko – Mr. Muscle [Sub Soldiers, 2009]
- Rusko – Woo Boost [Mad Decent, 2010]
- Kid Sister – Pro Nails (Rusko remix) [Not On Label, 2011]
- Rusko ft. Rod Azlan – Skanker [Mad Decent, 2012]
- Rusko – Original Cut [Dub Police, 2007]
- Rusko – My Mouth [Mad Decent, 2010]
- Rusko – Kumon Kumon [Mad Decent, 2010]
- Lenny Da Ice – We Are I.E. (Caspa & Rusko remix) [Y4K Recordings, 2008]