feeder insider w/ Subb-an [en]
Born and bred in Birmingham, Subb-an is a refreshing sound in today’s dance music scene. With an atypical background of sound design, Subb-an impressed promoters when he was first booked as a live performance at Rainbow Courtyard. His live set impressed and he became a resident DJ at the time. Subsequently, he joined Rainbow founder and launched the long-running One Records focusing on house/techno. We had a chance to chat with Subb-an, after Sunwaves, and pick his brain regarding today’s dance music culture, One Records, playfulness in the music industry and the power and influence Fabric has had on the general public.
organic / free / energy
My favourite relaxation technique… the sauna
I read… music magazines
An app I open daily… Pinterest
Kids nowadays… are smarter than ever
Usually, for breakfast… chai pudding with fruit
A secret spot in Berlin… Treptower park
When I travel… I make lists and plans
Three essential tunes… (non-electronic) Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter, Chilly Gonzales – White Keys, David Bowie – Blackstar
Vlad Hatze: Hello, Ashique, it’s great to talk to you. This past May was the first time you attended Sunwaves, a pioneering festival in terms of musical freedom and the artists’ liberty to play as they please. What were some remarkable differences you noticed at Sunwaves compared to other festivals?
Subb-an: Yes, for me it was my first experience at the festival and it was unbelievable. I loved every second of it! I guess the main thing to notice was the calibre of artists and the attention to sound combined with an open minded crowd. This combination enhances the experience for both the artists and the audience. DJs can play as they wish with the comfort of knowing the sounds in on-point and the crowd are open to whatever vibe they want to experiment with. That, from a punter perspective, is what you want from a festival, great sound and watching artists do as they wish with no constraints. I actually booked the whole weekend off and headed out there with a huge crew from back home and experienced it from both sides of the booth. Both were just as good as each other!!!
V.H.: Regarding musical expression while behind the DJ desk, how have you experienced the shift in the DJ’s role from early 2000’s till now?
Subb-an: Over the last fifteen years there has been a huge advance in technology with numerous options of formats of how a DJ can play; vinyl, CD, USB, laptops, controllers and live. In some ways, this has changed the face of DJing and how DJ’s perform. It’s really hard to generalise a DJs role per say, as there are so many different environments and styles of artists. For me personally it has stayed the same, I enjoy what I do and feel grateful that people are booking and paying to see me play, and with that, I try to give people a good time and good energy. It’s not always as simple as that as the variables change, but my role is to stay true to what inspires me and what I enjoy playing and then putting that together in a way for people to have a wicked time!
V.H.: Your first booking for Below, in Birmingham, where you became a resident and a part of the family, was also your initial live performance. What insights do you have for young DJs extending their abilities to perform live?
Subb-an: My show was very basic back then, I had a laptop, controller and a table synth but was mainly using audio loops and stems I had created. It worked at the time, but for sure if I was ever to create a new live show it would be mainly hardware based. I had been collecting records for years, and after a while I wanted to be playing records and having more options and freedom, not to say you can’t with a live show but it was way more time-consuming. A time that I can spend in the studio making more music to put out.
Advice wise, I would say it’s about finding a simple workflow, nothing overcomplicated. If you’re thinking of playing live then you must already be a fairly adequate producer, so think about the tools you enjoy using and tools you know well. It could be a reverb, drum machine, table synth whatever… then try a few different work flows. Think about the type of live show you want to put together, you might want to have a set up in which you can jam for hours, or you might have set playlist of ten of your favourite tracks in a set order, you might want to jam with two or three people, so think and experiment. Like production, there are many options!
V.H.: Adam Shelton and you run One Records, a record label branching of Below, for over 7 years now. How do you manage to cope with fast changes, while staying genuine to your vision for the label?
Subb-an: That’s simple, we put out music we love and that inspires us, we don’t follow the hype. For sure in that time our tastes have changed and most certainly matured but we stick to what we love.
V.H.: One Records’ releases range from unknown to well-established artists. How thin is the line of putting everything in the right balance when planning a release schedule?
Subb-an: We like that balance of unknown and established artists. We want things to be organic and to work with people we know and like. It’s funny as it’s kind of hard planning release schedules these days due to pressing plants being so overwhelmed with orders. I’m happy that more people are pressing records, however, it can be frustrating when releases are delayed, and we all know that happens a lot! However we’re a small label and we don’t tend to release a lot a year, so this makes planning easier. Generally, it’s pretty straight forward and helps that there is two of us. 🙂
V.H.: Why do you think playfulness should be something to be considered in today’s serious dance culture?
Subb-an: Well, call me old fashioned but life is too short. Go out, have a good time, enjoy that with people you love, smile and have some banter!
V.H.: As early influences, you mention listening to your mother’s records, Ska and Reggae. How or where do these genres mingle with the sounds you produce now?
Subb-an: Yea that’s correct, I loved being exposed to that music when I was young. I listen to a lot of dub at home or when I’m travelling, and those earlier influences I guess in some ways must work into my music, but without me knowing. Maybe the low end, it’s got to have some soul!
V.H.: You have a long-lasting relationship with Fabric, as club-goer in the past and as a live performer and DJ. What are the fundamental qualities of venues that can house a dance music community?
Subb-an: It’s huge.
A regular night in any city is paramount to educating people in music and offering a place for people to release themselves from whatever it is they need to have a release from.
The love and hard work that goes into a club/brand/night to give people a place to be free and to listen to great music are so important, giving young people a sense of purpose. The scene has developed massively because of institutions like Fabric and naturally, this is good for people, it’s positive. I also think clubs such as Concrete Paris, Sub Club Glasgow and much more serve a great purpose in supporting new and young artists. Not only educating, but supporting them and allowing them to play in environments in which they can express their artistical talents freely.
V.H.: You now live in Berlin, a city renowned for fostering creativity. What do you love best about this place?
Subb-an: As we touched on in the last question, as an artist I find it a positive creative place to be based. So many other artists in the city to connect with, so many record shops and galleries, all which enhance the creative mind. Not to mention how free and open the club scene is here and the foot flow of like-minded people that pass through the city to play and to party is huge.
V.H.: feeder.ro is, for 13 years now, the alternative nation’s news agency as we try to connect the public with the artists they love. What do you think is the role of media in today’s super-connected society?
Subb-an: The role should be to educate people in a positive way, to teach, to develop and to make the dance music industry a better and safer place for all.