Hi! I used today as an opportunity to release two tracks I’ve been sitting on for awhile.
Both juke inspired 160bpm adventures full of tuned sounds and percussion. Illegal Ghost Bikes takes a more neuro-inspired lead, albiet approach from a backwards angle, while Yo explores the dichotomy between trap and juke. Haha but seriously both of these tracks are dance floor monsters which have helped me get rooms going over the last year, and now I give you the option to shuffle your feet to them within the comfort of your own home. Play them to any animals you know. Ideally ones that can speak and appreciate, like humans or friendly aliens or those really clever chimps they keep in research laboratories.
The album only costs you £2! £1 per track! You can also buy them individually if that’s your game.
First person to listen to this while on the moon wins.
Here is an interview with wAgAwAgA conducted by Angus Second Line (now known as Minor Science) in May 2010. Since this interview he’s become a core member of the Mothers Against Noise crew and you can here him play regularly at gigs and on Mothers Against Noise Radio every other Thursday. Make sure you follow us on facebook and we’ll keep you in the loop. We had a request recently to re-upload as it got lost in a website update (thanks to Tilsonic for bring it to our attention), so here it is!
It was back in May of 2008 that we first became acquainted with wAgAwAgA’s music. At a Planet Mu night at our favourite haunt – Corsica Studios of course – Boxcutter dropped a slice of rolling, Jungle-Dubstep badness the likes of which we’d never heard before. The dancefloor went off, prompting a full rewind and some serious collective skanking. It took us something like 6 months to identify the track’s producer and hunt down the rest of his music, but we’ve not let go of him since.
Since that fateful night, wAgA’s career has taken a meandering path. After an EP release on Subeena’s now-defunct Imminent (formerly Immigrant) imprint in late 2008 people began to take note, stumbling across the excellent Mrepsican LP on Acroplane Recordings. Since then, wAgA’s been all over the UK and abroad – having recently returned from a long sojourn in India – and has continued to add to his digital catalogue, with a further two LPs on Acroplane and a number of free zip files distributed through his myspace.
Favourable comparisons but him up there with Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares in the ‘maverick genius’ stakes; his impeccable productions run the gamut from tongue-in-cheek Breakcore to deep, World Music-inspired ambience – taking in a healthy dose of juddering 2-step on the way – but never cease to bear his inimitable sonic watermark. If it’s virtuosic breaks-processing and earth-quaking bass you’re after, wAgA’s your man.
In conjunction with his mix for the first Mothers Against Noise podcast – a pulsating digi-dub affair which we strongly recommend you check out HERE – Angus Second Line met up with the man himself in London, shortly before a flight out to L.A. for his debut U.S. performance. Read on for enlightenment, wAgA style…
ASL: How did you start making music?
W: I met some people when I went to college, a group of musicians. And we started going to a mate’s house every evening after college, everyone packed into a room smoking bongs, and he had a crappy computer with Fruityloops on it. The first time I used it I stayed up all night doing this little tune, and woke my friend up in the morning! That was with the really old Fruityloops, the 14 meg download, version 3.5.6…back in the day!
So it was love at first sight?
Yeah, sure. The same group of people did loads of stuff on Music 2000 as well. I remember going to a party – and usually these parties were really shit – but this one was low-key, not much going on, and in one of the rooms everyone was crowded round Music 2000 writing a little tune. And I was just really impressed that people would do that! I was like, ‘I want to be able to do this’. Armoured Core, that’s the original crew!
wAgAwAgA – Sleepwalker
Yeah it was Will White, Agent Mancuso [laughs], [incomprehensible name]. Who else….Witto Darshi, Expairofmentalists…everyone had names of Star Trek characters and stuff like that, and they made this little compilation where they burnt all these Music 2000 tunes onto a CD. And they were from deepest darkest Hertfordshire, when a UFO had landed and teleported in a crew of musicians called the Armoured Core…
A rural-futurist back-story!
[laughs] Yeah, it’s still kicking along, we’re going to kick it off again eventually; it’s one of those little jokey dreams where nobody’s put any effort into sorting it out.
Are those guys still making music now?
Yeah, Pete’s still doing tunes; he’s had tonnes of names – Littledoll, Agent Mancuso, loads of others. And Dave is still writing as Techdiff.
You’ve been making tunes for a while, but at what point did it become what it is now? Was there a moment when you suddenly thought ‘ah, this is what I want to do’?
No. Well…[thinks]. Nah, I just kept doing it [laughs]. I was so surprised that I could do it, and enjoyed listening to the tunes so much – and because all of us were writing tunes, you’d come to town with a new tune, play them to each other, then go home again and smoke more bongs and write more tunes, and we just kept doing that; definitely with the intention for it to get to a good level, but i didn’t realise it’d take so long to even get to where I am now. But it’s definitely getting there slowly.
I wanted to ask you about your influences…
[laughs] It should be obvious I would’ve thought!
Well, maybe! But when you sit down at the computer to make a tune, what are your reference points – are there any particular producers, sounds or genres?
I won’t say any specific names, but all the Warp crew, for sure; it was their tunes that got me back into listening to dance music after thinking it was all shit. Because you know when you first come across dance music, and you don’t really hear anything except club Trance compilations, and they’re not very good…
And jump-up Drum’n’Bass?
Well no, not even that, just like – I remember really getting into a Happy Hardcore thing [laughs] – or trying to convince myself that I was because I thought it was cool or something. And I bought this Happy Hardcore compilation, and I thought it was all shit – except there was one track at the end that I really liked, which had an Amen break on it. And it was only ages afterwards that I realised it was an Amen, and that was obviously why I liked it!
So Warp was a big influence?
Yeah, definitely. And for other styles of music: I was well into Radiohead and that kind of thing for a time, just for the quality of the tunes; I tried learning guitar but couldn’t. And then obviously as soon as you get into electronic music your tastes change, you move away from guitars and kind of go through phases. Also, I had a really good jazz compilation when I was a kid; Duke Ellington, Louis armstrong and things like that.
You can definitely hear that music as a sample source in your tunes.
Yeah, I just really like it! There was a time – when I ran out of ideas and didn’t have any creative burst to make melodies or anything – when I just downloaded big band music and took little bits and pieces and put breaks to it.
Ah, like Sleepwalker, from Jinjanoon Bus?
Yeah, exactly. There’s another track like that as well which i didn’t put on there, which I kinda wish I had but it’s too long; it’s like 10 minutes of big band jungle chop-up! And I don’t really know what to do with it now, because it fits with all the other tunes [on Jinjanoon], but I wanted to keep that album short, and if I’d put that tune on there it would almost have been too comedy…
Dubstep definitely has its mark on your music. Would you say you are, or were, a big Dubstep head?
No, not at all. I remember Dave Techdiff talking about it, and other friends mentioning it, and all I knew of it was triplets; ‘boom boom boom bap’ [taps out a DMZ-esque kick-snare rhythm]. And my friend asked me to make a CD with some tunes that were good for driving at night. So I put that together, and just before I was burning the CD I thought I’d make a stupid intro for it. So I loaded up the voice thingy on fruity loops and said ‘this is a CD especially for Steve, blah blah,’ and made a quick little track. And that was the first Dubstep tune I wrote, which turned out to be Huautla [from the Goodbye Greens EP]. That’s easily the most heavy, dancefloor-ey, solid one I’ve done – I haven’t really matched it after that, and that was completely by accident anyway!
After that it was just a case of trying to write good bass. I was playing gigs for a while where the tunes didn’t seem to grab people at all; there was something missing. I only realised after 3 or 4 years that it was because I didn’t write any proper basslines; I’ve got loads of these old tunes which are densely melodic in the top end and sound really nice, but they don’t work as dancefloor tunes because they haven’t got any bass at all, apart from maybe a weak kick drum. So after fluking it with Huautla, I decided to concentrate on doing this, and work out what the fuck was going on with bass.
wAgAwAgA – Huautla
So that led you into Dubstep?
Well, because Huautla came out so well, and I’d heard Dubstep kind of kicking around, I decided to keep doing what I’d been doing before, keeping the Warp flag flying with the trippiness and stuff, and with breakbeats – Jungle breaks – but with lots of bass as well.
I wanted to ask you about your breaks: they’re often highly intricate and detailed, but at sub-Jungle tempos – 120-140bpm. Personally I don’t know of any precedents for that. So where does that approach come from; did it seem natural to you?
Yeah, I don’t know why that is. I did 120bpm stuff for ages; loads of twee, cheeky Acid with square beats. That was to get warmed up again after a long time away from writing tunes. And then – well, shopping through drum samples is a pain in the arse, so if you use breaks everything’s kind of unified by that. And they’re also public access, so they come with all of the history of their use; they give a tune a certain tone and sound. I tried writing that 120 stuff and decided it was too slow, so went to 180 and 160, and nothing really seemed to come of it; i thought that doing some good solid Jungle would get me some gigs and spark things up, but because I didn’t do any self-promotion, it just obviously went nowhere, and stayed in my headphones.
So you dropped tempo?
[laughs] yeah! Also, you can’t swing when it’s going too fast. You can’t shuffle or put in that kind of syncopation, so it has to be a little bit slow, otherwise there are certain kind of beats you can’t do. Although I’ve been getting even slower lately, going down and down all the way to 80bpm; and then you can double it back up again to 160.
I think also, if you keep trying to write in the same genre for too long, you end up almost censoring your creativity because you’re making sure you’re sticking to something; or you just become so mechanical about the process that there’s no soul to your tunes.
You don’t seem to have a base of operations – certainly in the last couple of years, you’ve been all over the UK and abroad. Do you think that rootlessness – not having a scene or a home town – has an effect on your music?
Not having time is more the problem; and not having speakers and a place to write. That’s what I’m really struggling with. And that’s been a problem for a while; I moved to Brighton a couple of years ago with the express intent of getting shit done, but just got so down to work, being busy and whatever else; and playing bass music in a terraced street just pissed people off. I didn’t really write anything for that whole time, definitely not as much as I could or should have done.
Particularly compared to the time before that; because all the stuff on Mrepsican was taken from a year’s worth of writing, from, I don’t know, maybe 2006-2007 – I can’t really remember! But it was all from more or less 1 year. It was supposed to be an EP to begin with, but then…
It just grew?
Well yeah, I put Pitjantatjara and maybe Nagoya – some of the more World music-ey stuff – into my myspace player for a few days, and someone gave me a shout and asked if I was going to put them on the LP. And then I thought – oh actually that’s quite a good idea, just because it means people will hear a broader mix of stuff. Otherwise it would have all been a Breakbeat-ey, Jungle-Dubstep sort of thing. I quite like the idea of doing that, sneaking in tracks people definitely wouldn’t hear otherwise.
When you’re in an urban place – Brighton, London, wherever – what kind of nights do you tend to go to?
I don’t really go out much actually! I can’t remember the last one I went to. [thinks] Nah, I’ve never really been a going out much type of person. I have a blowout every now and then…I suppose it’s nice to go to a Breakcore night once in a while and scream and shout and stomp around! [Laughs]. I went to some funny ones at the Volks. And I went to a Super Dub Pressure night down in Brighton, that was really good, just so fucking loud!
But you’re not a regular club-goer?
No, not regular. I remember going to one Dubstep night and I was really into it for the first hour or two, and then as the night progressed, it gradually went away from danceable spaciousness, into more sort of driving bass, bassline-bassline-bassline; and there wasn’t really any gap in the beats to dance around nicely. I just got bored by about 4 o’ clock. I think that seems to happen a lot – but it’s kind of natural, as everyone gets more and more fucked, all they want to hear by the end of the night is blasting bass.
You mentioned earlier how you’re concerned with getting the bass right for the club. Are your tunes predominantly focussed on the dancefloor?
They’re all intended to be played as loudly as possible, that’s for sure. And I like to dance around in my chair while I’m making them if I’ve got the space! So they’re definitely to be danced to, but it’s a fine line between that and making it too tuneful, not having enough beat and dance in there.
wAgAwAgA – Maytime Daytime Sun
So what are you listening to at the moment? Any artists you’re particularly feeling?
[thinks] Terrence Mckenna, Rupert Sheldrake, and Ralph Abraham!
I don’t know any of those names…
[laughs] look ‘em up! And Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I downloaded a torrent of his tunes. He’s a Pakistani singer, really really cool, righteous music. Howlin’ Wolf. Also, I met a guy in India who gave me a load of really great Reggae vinyl recordings – big up Albert! That was really nice, kind of tuneful dub and cheesy electro-dub, with tin-pot sounds, but it still has that goodness because it’s Reggae, they can pull it off.
Not much UK club music then?
No, not at all. I usually listen to a lot of my own tunes; that’s one of the main reasons to write them, is to have something to listen to. But I haven’t even been doing that much recently either.
Do you find your inspiration is generally external to dance music?
Yeah I think so. For a while I got really strict about it, not listening to what anyone else was doing, so I wouldn’t get influence from it – but that’s kind of a bit ridiculous! But I don’t really listen to that much music actually – just little bits and pieces when I’m on the move or whatever. But when I’m at home, and I’ve got access to my computer and some speakers, if I start listening to electronic music I just think ‘I should be writing some tunes!’ so I just end up doing that instead.
I wanted to ask a more specific question, about how you structure your tunes; often they’re quite long, and they go through changes; the beginning may be very different to the end, and you don’t seem to feel the need to reference back or repeat sections…
Well I never really learned any verse-chorus style structuring. Generally speaking, the first part of the tune is the first few minutes of sitting down and writing, and the reason it doesn’t drop until quite a way in is because it takes me a while to get the idea warmed up. And then once I’m settled into the idea, I just want to keep that going, because it’s a fairly infrequent thing to actually write a tune. And smoking as well – you need a fairly decent length track to smoke to! You know – back to the beginning, smoke and review what’s been done.
Over time I’ve kind of cared less and less about the structure, and just let things happen naturally and flow through; when it needs to change it needs to change. But I still forget basic things, like where to bring the bass in.
But do you think of those things as rules you have to follow?
I don’t think it really matters actually; you’ll know when you hear the tune if it’s right or not. But yeah, a lot of my tunes could be broken into lots of chunks and mixed together – because they just go from one thing to another. I think that definitely comes from ages of writing really long tunes where nothing much happened. That was the criticism people gave me for a long long time; ‘I like it, but as soon as I’ve heard the intro I know what’s gonna happen for the rest of the tune’. And I struggled with that for a very long time.
In the music you write now, it seems to be almost the opposite – so much happens, so much detail is crammed into each bar.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that they don’t feel that long, even if you look at the clock and it’s like 11 minutes long or something like that; they’re all just one smoke!
That’s a unit of time in production language…
Well Chops’n’Wobbles is basically a few of the Dubstep/Dub tunes I’ve had that I’ve been sat on for ages. I did the Wolf tune, and straight afterwards did 382.Moodpreset, but didn’t know what to do with them, and they sat on my harddrive for a year. Then while I was away it seemed really silly to be holding stuff back when I’ve still got tonnes of old tunes. There are some nice old ones that need to get out there, but the easiest and only way to do it seems to be to put them up online for free, so people can just get at them; you don’t have release dates, and you don’t have to ask anyone about it, you can just whack a zip file up online and there you go!
This clearing of the back catalogue – is it because there are other releases coming up?
No, it’s more so I can move on myself, or something like that. I’ve got loads of these tunes that I’ve been listening to for the last few years, and I want them all to be out and about so other people can listen to them too. But I don’t really think they should be shrewdly assessed or paid for or anything like that; they just need to be there for people to listen to. And then I can get on with doing something decent and new!
At the moment I’m gathering together a load of stuff I’ve been thinking about doing. Me and Paul Acroplane have been talking about a 5-track Acid release. There’s this nice time-shift thing I’ve been doing – I can’t describe it, but it’s a way of changing the tempo without changing the tempo, through using quantise…it sort of scrabbles the beat around. There’s 2 or 3 tunes that do that, that are all big acid synths and bass; I need to get 5 or so of them together to put up. And then Paul wants to do Mrepsican as a paid re-release with Wav and Flac downloads, and have another tune on there so it’s not just the same thing again; it doesn’t feel quite right to just put out the same thing from 2 years ago. I also don’t really like the idea that it’s no longer going to be available for free – which is something you can’t really get around!
Finally, could you talk about the mix you’re going to put together for us. What’s the thinking behind it?
I’ve got a drum machine that I’ve been writing some 130bpm dub tunes on, up into blasting bass kicks and some other stuff. I played a gig up in Manchester using that and a sampler and that came off really nice, so that’s what I’m trying to do for live stuff now. For the podcast I’m going to record some of that – rather than just doing a digital laptop mix of tunes people have already heard – but I don’t want to solidify the form of it too much, so people don’t have too many expectations of what to hear when they see me play.
wAgAwAgA has released too much music since this interview to list it all here, so keep an eye on his bandcamp pages:
Also make sure you follow him on Soundcloud
…and they are as follows:
Duskky & Kursa – Robotto Rankou – Formyl 001 – Formyl Recordings [Vinyl & Digital]
Duskky – Chompa – ‘You’re Contagious’ – Wonk#ay Records – [DIGITAL]
Duskky & Kursa – Hageshi – Humanworkshop [DIGITAL]
Duskky – Wun – ‘Formyl & Friends’ – Formyl Recordings [DIGITAL]
There’s a few other bits too so keep your eyes peeled!
I’m playing a couple of things this month
Sunday 11th August – Boomtown Fair – Duskky @ ALAN’s Happy Ending Cinema – Wonk#ay Records Takeover 8pm – 11pm
Saturday 31st August – Right Wronguns @ Brixton Jamm – Duskky, Hurtdeer & the Wonk#ay Records Crew
We’ve got a fair few gigs coming up for the Mothers, so have a peruse through and see if you can make it down to one (or two or a few or ALL of them…we’ll give you a special prize if you make it to all of them). The links are all Facebook links…so, if you’re not on facebook…well you must be used to missing things by now.
23rd March – Tesla Project – London (secret location) – Duskky, Hurtdeer and Myr repping for Wonkay Records
20th April – Wonk#ay Records 5th Birthday – London (JUNO, BASEMENT, 134-135 Shoreditch High St, London) – Duskky & Hurtdeer
26th May – Wonk#ay Records Freeparty – Brighton (The Volks) – Duskky b2b Hurtdeer
8th June – Hibiki Records Launch Party – Bristol (Blue Mountain, Stokes Croft) – Duskky b2b Hurtdeer
That just about does it, sure there’ll be more up soon!