He pioneered the dubstep sound and released three albums as one of the most recognised figures in the genre, but now Skream aka Oliver Jones has turned his attention to house, techno, disco and a whole new set. He spoke to TOM KITSON ahead of his show at Villa on Saturday, February 22.
He grew up on the UK’s bass music scene, started producing at age 14 and rose to prominence as a dubstep star, but Skream has always been influenced by many styles of music.
“As a kid I worked in a record shop specialising in underground, bass-heavy music,” he says. “My brother was a jungle DJ as well so I was surrounded by strong bass music influences.”
In the last few years he’s released the dubstep-influenced house track Bang That; worked with world renowned producers in the genres he performs in, and remains at the front and centre of UK bass music across the board.
“I wouldn’t say dubstep has fallen off, more that a certain part of it was so massive, over-saturated and over-rinsed,” he says. “The core fan base changed it into something that it wasn’t originally, with the big artists moving into more EDM and big room styles.”
With the crossover into new genres, Jones has just been following his inspirations and maintaining a love of producing, touring and being involved in music.
“I haven’t adapted so much as found inspiration in different places with the music I’m doing now,” he says. “I’m playing house and techno really now, but that was purely a personal decision I made about two years ago. I wasn’t going to play dubstep sets anymore and having done that for 10 years, I had to figure how to do it.”
Jones says he’s been making house and techno music exclusively for the last couple of years.
“I’ve been in the studio with Mark Jenkins, who’s done a lot of work with Jamie Jones and the Hot Creations crew, and there’s stuff in the pipeline with Jimmy Edgar and hopefully Seth Troxler as well. Seth introduced me to a lot of people and put in some good words, which put me in with a good crowd of Ibiza headliners.”
Some of his first forays into house carried those signature aggressive synths and effects used in his dubstep work, offering a new take on a brand of music that seems to have since passed its heyday.
“I put out Bang That with Boys Noize and that’s been doing the rounds for the last year,” he says. “I originally made it to be played out on New Year’s Eve at 12 o’clock, so it’s meant to be a bit of banger.”
Installing a new home studio means his own production output is limited at the moment, but his creative spark has by no means diminished.
“… There are plenty of tunes on the way this year,” he says. “My creative process used to always start with drums, but as you become more familiar with programs like Ableton there’s other ways to start – I’ve been singing riffs into my laptop and exporting them into MIDI which is really cool, so it can start with anything.”
Despite his BBC Radio 1 show co-host Benga recently moving on from public life as a musician, Jones says he has no plans to slow down in the near future.
“I’ve heard Benga’s stopped DJing and I don’t think he wants to do the radio show anymore, so I’ll be doing that solo from now on,” he says. “The news has been a massive shock really, having worked with him for so long.”
On the topic of his upcoming set at Villa, Jones is clear that it won’t include dubstep and instead a blend of around 118 to 128 BPM tracks.
“I’ll be bringing a similar show on this tour to what I’ve been playing out here in UK clubs, which isn’t dubstep,” he says. “Route 94’s My Love, Floorplan’s Baby Baby and Mark Broom’s Stag have been great tunes to play lately. When I heard Mercy by Boddika & Joy Orbison at the start of 2012, it was really the final push I needed to switch styles.”
Reinvigorated by house, techno and disco and even playing different clubs now compared with the last five years, Jones is like a kid again who’s just been given his first set of decks.
“I’ve been so happy with the shows, clubs and music I’ve been playing for the last year,” he says. “It’s as if I’m starting my career all over again.”
Skream plays Villa on Saturday, February 22.
Get your tickets here.