Even though he has only a handful of releases to his name, the underground seems to be murmuring approval in the direction of UK bass merchant Wen. Ahead of his appearance at Deadweight’s third birthday ANDREW NELSON chats with the grime producer to find out about his career to date, his aspirations for the future and his conversion to the dark side.
Though more and more producers seem to be distancing themselves from dubstep as we know it and the whole bass music scene has fragmented into a million ridiculous sub-genres: brostep, gorestep, drillstep, emostep, post-dubstep, post-post dubstep, and personal favourite clownstep, to name but a few, there is one young producer who has seemingly created his own distinct style which, three releases in, is making enough waves to get the critics scratching their heads searching for the correct appellation. Wen (aka Owen Darby), the producer in question, is content for his music to be free from the shackles of nomenclature for the time being.
“It’s still hard to put a finger on what it’s called,” Darby explains over the phone, having touched down in Perth for the first time a few hours previously. “We’re happy not to give it a name at the moment, it borrows from each of these genres but I like to think that it holds its own as something different but you can definitely hear influences of grime and dubstep the strongest. There is influence from lots of different styles, funky and techno as well, that’s why it’s hard to pinpoint what you call it exactly. When you put a name to it it’s easy for that sub-genre to get lost within everything else, it’s a continuous thing that’s always changing. Once you give a name to something it’s expected that it sticks at that one moment but that’s the opposite of what I want to happen.”
Darby first got into the scene via a familiar route. Drawn to the music on the UK’s biggest pirate radio station RINSE FM. The station, which has now received a community licence, has been home to the likes of Skream, Kode9, Zinc and Plastician and it prompted the youngster to start dabbling with Fruity Loops and trying to get his music out there.
“Dusk and Blackdown were the first people I sent a solid batch of tunes to,” he says “I listened to their show for a while and I just sent them stuff and a few months later they played one or two tunes and then it became a regular thing.” Things moved rapidly after that and following the release of Hydraulic in 2012, the artist hooked up with Keysound Recordings and earlier this year he was featured on their significant compilation This Is How We Roll shortly followed by the release of the Commotion EP. The response has been very positive, FACT listed his tune Road as one of the best tracks of 2013 so far. Since then things haven’t really stopped with Darby showcasing his talents in club nights from London to Berlin.
The producer has taken to the acclaim like a duck to water and is stoic when asked if the early success is a burden. “It’s been crazy, from the end of last year it’s all happened pretty quick,” he begins. “It’s not like I feel pressure to make music like that again, I feel like I want to do the opposite and make some different stuff so I don’t get narrowed down and boxed in to a sound, the Swingin release [his third – a double A side with Walk Tha Walk], afterwards was a bit different. It was bright and colourful.”
Swingin aside, the one prominent theme in is his music and DJ sets is that of darkness, something which sits comfortably with Darby. “Dark music just sounds cool to me,” he clarifies “Whenever I listen to it, if it’s got a dark edge to it, it really appeals to me. On the dancefloor when you hear a darker tune it sounds totally different and takes you somewhere else It sounds a bit colder it’s nice to take things down a bit, you get a lot more space. Darkness and space go hand in hand and that is something I try to work with on my tunes. I like it to be dark and almost empty at times, there needs to be space between each element and that becomes dark. Silence is darkness.”
We’ll soon get a chance to listen to Wen’s murky-edged unique take on bass music at Deadweight’s third birthday extravaganza at Gilkison Dance Studio this weekend. It’s the furthest he’s travelled during his short career and the first time on these shores “I’ve been looking forward to this,” he says eagerly. “I’m in good hands with the Deadweight guys at the moment and really looking forward to playing their party. They seem to have a really good ethos behind them. I always try to play 50 per cent of my set as my own music as people want me out here to play my own stuff. Maybe I’ll be able to experiment a little bit more over here. I’ll just play it by ear and go with what I’m vibing to. I’m really looking forward to how people may react. So first time but hopefully not the last.”