The Month In: Grime / Dubstep
The Month In by Martin Clark | Digg this article | Add to del.icio.us
It's a kind of an unwritten rule but by and large to become a big DJ in dubstep you need either two things: An incredible arsenal of new dubplates, or a talent for production such that you have, well, an incredible arsenal of new dubplates. But recently a DJ has managed a steep climb up the scene's ranks without either. He is DJ Oneman.
By and large, Oneman is a dubstep DJ who plays records that are neither dubplates nor even new. He shouldn't be turning heads. But he is. Oneman plays a lot of old tunes, an exception in a scene (rightly) obsessed with the perpetual "moving forward never backwards" motion of dubplate culture. Again, as such a DJ, he should be confined to the ranks of the many DJs out there. But in 2007 and into 2008, Oneman most definitely moved ahead of the pack.
"I've never been one to make beats or chase down producers for dubs or just play tunes because they're new or unreleased or whatever, so many DJs are on that flex anyway," explains Oneman. "It's great because we need them DJs to push the scene forward and progress, but that's not my mission in this. I think it's just as important to have DJs that play old, shelved tunes as well alongside new stuff. I'm just on a party vibe, straight up." And you just can't argue with a good party.
"I just wanna make people dance and people dance to good beats," he continues "and most of the best beats in my opinion are 2step beats, they got that groove. I go for the rhythmic energy and a good, solid bassline. I think the whole thing of mixing up dubstep/2step/house whatever really interests people as well, I guess I was the first DJ in dubstep to really experiment deeply with that. Like the whole mixing garage with dubstep thing is what people really know me for, not many DJs mix 97 tunes with 07 tunes on a weekly basis."
Turning points for Oneman were most definitely were in 2007 getting booked for London's two flagship clubs, Forward>> (in the warm up slot) and DMZ (in the closing slot), but in truth, he'd already built a considerable following with his show and sets at illegal raves like House Party.
"I'm not on Rinse, I don't have a tune out on Tempa and I don't do any work with Ammunition, so to play at FWD>> is a big achievement for me and of course an honour," insists Oneman. "I got to play records there I've dreamed of hearing on that system since I first went in 2004."
Those records are most definitely one part of what makes Oneman such an enjoyable and electrifying DJ to watch. "I basically play 98-02 UKG 2step B-sides and 2005 dubstep," he explains. "I think I play a lot of 2step because I can't really let go of it if I'm honest. I love it so much, I don't want to see all those records boxed up and stored away. So much 2step was made in that time, so much. It's quite unreal how big garage was especially in London. So many tunes still sound fresh today, and do still get huge reactions in dances. Tunes like "'Love Me" by D.E.A which I've been playing recently which is 10 years old, and Groove Chronicle's "Stone Cold" or Wookie's mix of S.I.A.'s "Little Man". They're classics that still go off, and I think at dubstep raves it brings a different and much needed vibe, a less intense party vibe."
There's something very timely about Oneman's selection. Between the rise of funky, Mala's continuing "broken dub house" direction, and the return of the 2step influence to dubstep, be it through Burial's beats, Geiom's "Reminisin'", most of TRG's productions, Martyn's selection or Kode9's sets, the vital link from dubstep to "house and garage" seems to be rejuvenating (in an interesting parallel to the Berlin/Bristol dubstep/techno axis). Oneman is most definitely at the forefront of this, going so far back in the dubstep continuum that old becomes new, classic sounds fresh, when placed in relation to the dominant styles that fill the bulk of dubstep in 2008. Plus, to much of his audience, pre-2005 or even pre-2006 dubstep is new ground, and that's not even touching the vast number of current fans who wrote off UK garage in its entirety.