Martin Clark (Blackdown) Appreciation

Martin Clark is one of this country’s most underrated music journalists. He has written for The Guardian, Jockey Slut and Pitchfork Media, and has almost single-handedly intellectualised the Dubstep scene by writing in depth about its rhythms, production techniques and style patterns.

As half of Dubstep production outfit Dusk & Blackdown and resident DJ on underground staple Rinse FM, Clark has a unique and participatory insight into his subject matter. His blog, Blackdown Soundboy is packed with quality articles, interviews and insights from the Dubstep, Grime and Funky scenes – a ‘must favourite’ for any self-respecting fan of the aforementioned genres. Recent highlights include an extensive interview with the bastion of Funky, Marcus Nasty and an interesting piece on Funky re-fixes of garage classics.

Here though, is an abridged version of a candid interview he conducted with Wiley way back in 2003, which can be found in full here. It’s an absolute favourite of mine; frank, charming and to the point…Which is Clark all over.

Enjoy.

Wiley is the biggest MC in East London. In any bit of London for that matter. He’s the man who brought Dizzee Rascal and his Roll Deep Entourage through, who re-invented garage with a hip hop twist via his “Eskimo” and the “Ice Rink” riddims. The man who added the Orient and took away the beats with “devil mixes.” The man of many lyrical beefs. The man with the string-lead, glacial, riddim-not-track musical vision. On the release of “Ground Zero,” one of his very strongest riddims to date, Hyperdub caught up with Wiley …

Martin Clark: How did Eski Dance come about?

Wiley: One day I just wanted to do a rave innit? I thought of the name and went to Mix It Up promotions and did it with them. We had the first, the second, the third and it’s going well. We’re on our fifth one now. We just tried to get all the people in the scene under one roof.

M: And what is that scene?

W: Some people call it grime, grimey or whatever it’s called. But I call my sound “eski beat.” That’s what I call it and everyone else can call their sound whatever they want. So people who make similar music to me, it will go under that anyway.

M: So who else is on your wavelength?

W: Very few. Dizzee. Jammer, Kano from NASTY. TNT. There’s a couple of people who see the vision. There’s many more but they’re the ones I see on a regular basis. Danny Weed, Target, Louie White and Bigga too.

M: So is it a new UK form of hip hop?

W: Yeah it is but it hasn’t been called that yet. But it is very similar because everyone writes their beats, everyone writes their songs, it’s rapping but English. That’s the only difference. People are just talking about their lives.

The other side of it is the MCs. Some MCs are big but they can’t write songs. They haven’t made the conversion from MC to artist. That’s why some of them are still just MCs. Once you make the conversion and start writing about your feelings and all things like that you make it real for yourself. You gotta make the conversion.

M: Tell me about the sounds that you use…

W: Yeah I’ve got a few more plug-ins now. But I use whatever my ear catches innit. I flick through and then play whatever I want to play with it. I’ll play melodies. A lot of people don’t think I make my tunes but I’ve made everything. I have done tunes where I didn’t engineer but whatever happens I always play what I want in. That’s why I call myself a producer. I mix it all down and do it all myself right now. I’m just trying to press on and get further and further in my career.

M: Why do you use sounds that no one else would use?

W: Exactly, exactly: sounds people would think that’re weak, or that’s anything. But I just hear things. I play it and it just forms together innit. It’s like a gift you know that? When I sit down I don’t copy nothing, as such. I don’t try and base my music around anything. Ideas just come in my head and I play them.

M: There’s a big Oriental feeling to them…

W: I used to watch a lot of Kung Fu films. I just like the idea of the Oriental thing. I started that idea, then I stopped it and then went back to it. It just something I like. I like Chinese music. I like Greek music. I’ve been buying loads of kinds of music: Greek, Chinese, African. I just went to some place called Sterns? It sells world music and I bought loads of stuff there. I’ll take it back and sometimes I’ll sample it, sometimes loop it, or take parts and put them in different places. I do all different bits to try and get the finished thing.

M: That’s strange to hear you’re sampling because a lot of your tunes have sounded distinctive and related because the strings seem to come from a similar source or module…

W: I like orchestras innit. I listen to a lot of that. If I flick through a module and hear anything orchestral I might go in that direction. Though on another day I might go in another Oriental direction. I go in different directions every time I start.

M: So how did the idea for the two Ice Rink vocal 12″s come about?

W: What it was that I made that thing quickly and vocalled it myself. It’s going to be on my album – I’ve got a song on it. One day I decided to let other people do versions to get their names big. There’s loads of different ones – I only put out those two vinyl – but I’ve got all the best MCs on it. If it becomes a single for my album I’ll put them out. There’s a version by Flirta D, he’s done a good one. He’s been around for ages but he’s here now, noticed now.

I like him, he’s one of my favourites. Kano, he’s one of my favourites. Crazy Titch, his one didn’t come out. There will probably be two more parts before I bring out the CD. Plus I’ve got the “War.” I’ve got loads of mix CDs. Once called “Creeper Vol 1” coming out soon. Tinchy Stryder, he’s got one called “The Takeover”. Roll Deep Regular CD we’re doing. All three of them will be done very soon. On Creeper it’s little snippets of some tunes from my album and other stuff, freestyles. Tinchy’s is the same. Roll Deep’s is the whole Roll Deep Crew, everyone, working together to get the Roll Deep vibe going again.

M: That’s the funniest thing, because your 12″s are the biggest on road, but no one’s got them on dub…

W: They’re about. I’ve even got a back catalogue of stuff that never came out. or it came out and it wasn’t mixed down properly. But it’s gonna carry on, it’s not gonna stop.

M: How did the idea for the beatless “devil mixes” come about?

W: Nah it’s not “devil mix” you know? I called it that because it sounded evil to me innit. But I don’t call it “devil mix” anymore because when I started calling it that I started to get lots of bad luck, if you understand. I called it that because it sounded evil but really, why didn’t I call it “god mix” then? Because I don’t believe in the devil. The more and the more you say his name, believe it or not, he’ll come closer to you. And that is the truth, I swear I am not joking. “Bass mix” I call them now, cos it’s just bass. The devil mix brought me too much luck. I was selling the devil mix of Eskimo and they were selling so fast. I bought stuff with the money, bought a car and crashed it. So it just turned me off.

M: It’s an obvious thing to do – take the beats out of the tune – but in practice no one dares to do it. Why did you just go “fuck it?”

W: Cos I just did. I like bass innit. Obviously my dad used to be on a soundsystem, it used to be all about bass. You used to get parts of the tune that were all dubbed out. Just bass running and then the beat coming back in. So the ideas were all there but I decided to just take the beats out and just leave it and MC on it and it worked.

M: Who’s on the Eskimo vocal mix?

W: It’s being done now, but we did have one already but I’ve re-done it because it had some different people on it. I just wanted to keep it straight cos it had a bit here, and then another bit there.

M: Is like that the amazing “Eskimo (Chubby Dread vocal special)” with you, Dizzee and more?

W: Exactly. That was a special but people started to like that. I was going to do it like that but then I changed my mind, because it’s so old I didn’t want to do it. My single is going to be “What Do You Call It” which is on the “Igloo” rhythm. I done it ages ago, before “War.” It goes “what do you call it?/garage?/what do you call it?/urban? 2step?”

It’s explaining about how we started doing garage and then they started turning their back to us. Pushing us away, trying to say we’re ruining the scene and all that.

M: Who’s “they?”

W: A few people, they know who they are.

M: Media people or garage industry people?

W: A few people in the industry, the big people in garage, they were blaming the sound because they think it makes people fight or get shot. Whatever they thought, they tried to associate it with that. But we’ve had four Eskimo Dances and no one’s died or nothing. That proves it weren’t nothing to do with me. We’ve moved on and they can’t say it’s anything to do with me because all I do I MC and do the music. If someone’s got a feud with someone and they want to shoot them then that is going to happen with or without us.

M: So when you’re MCing, whatever lyrics you say, it makes no difference?

W: Erm not really. What I say – I can’t talk for everyone else, I say what I say – I don’t actually go out there and say “Oh yeah, hello, I’m going to shoot you with a gun… I’m this… I’m that.” That’s not really me. I just go up there and say lyrics. My lyrics aren’t really like that, so they can’t associate me with it.

M: What was Dizzee like when you first me him?

W: He was like just a little boy from the area. He was like energy, raring to go. He put something back into me that I never had in me at the time. I wasn’t converted to an artist, that’s one thing. And I was just an MC. Listening to him made me convert to an artist, it made me open up my mind that it’s not just about garage. It’s music, just make music. Before that I didn’t have it in me, but I got energy from him. When he was growing up listening to me it was vice versa.

Interview by Martin Clark on 23/10/03
This is the transcript of an interview for Jockey Slut magazine.

Kristian

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One Response to “Martin Clark (Blackdown) Appreciation”

  1. Wiley in jockey slut 2003 « Caked with dirt Says:

    […] https://welcometothefold.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/martin-clark-blackdown-appreciation/ […]

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