One of London’s true bass heads talks about his sound, his system and his label.
While dubstep was mutating from its London club origins into some weird global pop phenomenon and started getting called EDM by Americans, winning Grammy awards, etc, there was always an undercurrent of artists who chose to focus hard on the bass. For people like Mala and Coki of lynchpin London collective DMZ, the call to bass was practically spiritual. Their music was about roots, community and the physical experience. V.I.V.E.K has followed a similar path, one that has crossed with Mala’s through releases on the latter’s Deep Medi label, and concentrated on a purist, almost ritualistic approach to classic dubstep sounds.
V.I.V.E.K has spent the last few years readying a personal sound system in the style of dub originators, building a system capable of transferring the sounds he wants and needs to hear. Whenever he rolls out his epic collection of home-built speakers, the night is known as SYSTEM, which tells you all you really need to know about the priorities. The night is about the sound. System is also the name of the Londoner’s record label, an extension of the night’s dedicated DIY ethos, shunning big names and hype in favour of deep, contemplative, bass-driven music.
V.I.V.E.K plays the Twisted Pepper on Friday, May 31st for bass collective Subrewind’s first birthday party.
For people who aren’t already familiar with SYSTEM, could you give an overview of the night and what kind of ideas have gone into it so far? SYSTEM is a night whose focus is primarily the deeper and darker side of dubstep. We don’t announce any line ups and the night is strictly based around a custom sound-system I built with my best friend over a number of years.
You’ve mentioned in interviews that the sound system itself is the headliner, that it’s what draws people. On one hand brands like Funktion One have been very successful in making their idea of good sound a selling point for clubs but how important do you think the system’s role actually is for clubs today? Good sound is fundamental to any music, however it is imperative for bass heavy music as without a good sound system the fundamentals of the music would not translate. I’ve found recently, while touring, that promoters have more of an understanding that the systems have to be of a certain quality which is a good thing. Another role in this, however, is the source material. Without a doubt vinyl sounds the best for bass music so you also get a different sound depending on the format you use.
The label seems like a natural extension from the night, a way to spread the word of what is happening there and how you’re developing your own sound. Has it been an enjoyable process so far? What are your aims for the label in the long term? Running the label has been great. Its been a whole new experience for me so in some ways, very exciting. My aims are really to put out good quality music, quality over quantity. If I really like something I will put it out, although I’m not really looking to put out loads of other peoples music.
What kind of situation do you like to be in when you’re actually making music? Is there a certain mood, certain place, certain gear that you look for? Not really. Making music is a very natural process so its more about having the vibe. It can come from anything really.
It seems like tradition and roots are very important to you, and things like Youtube and Discogs open up the past to new producers in a way that has never happened before. Do you see young people are taking advantage of that and learning about the past? Or maybe there’s so much that it can be overwhelming? Its always important to learn about the past and understand where you have come from as that, in someways, has an effect on who you are now. The younger generation have a lot more opportunities in researching about where and how things started. Whether they take this opportunity is up to them.
It was really interesting and surprising to see a Ben Frost track on one of your mixes recently, even though it makes perfect sense. That is sound-system music too, but coming from a very different world. Is it important for you to reach out and draw those links? A new track of yours from that mix felt like it was drawing on something more abstract as well, about space and weight rather than a beat. Its always important to try something different and be able to cross pollinate your sound with others. I was sent the Ben Frost tune from Old Apparatus and I was blown away. I love the raw emotion in the track. Its definitely something I’ve been working on.