Exclusive interview with EL-B of Ghost Recordings [UK]

If it weren’t for El-B, it’s difficult to say that dubstep would have emerged as it has. His early dark garage productions, both as Groove Chronicles alongside production partner Noodles (“1999,” “Black Puppet“) , and his early solo productions (“Buck & Bury,” & “Digital“) surely paved the way for a bassier, more menacing vibe at that 135-140bpm tempo, aka dubstep.

After breaking away from Groove Chronicles, El-B started Ghost Studios – where he has worked with artists from all over South London (J Da Flex, Roxy, & MC Rolla, to name a few of his early co-conspirators) with an impressive track number of vinyl releases on his Ghost Recordings label, experimenting with darker & heavier sounds within the UK Garage format. Around 2003, Ghost Recordings withdrew from the limelight to focus on studio bookings – only to re-emerge in 2007 with an updated sound, the early sounds of dubstep having been manifested a year previous throughout the UK, with releases like “Endorse & Set It” seeing vinyl release.  2 years later in 2009, dubstep super-label Tempa saw the need to recognize his early groundbreaking works with a retrospective compliation LP, collecting together his solo singles from the early 2000’s, including his paramount remix of “Neighbourhood” by Zed Bias.

2010 saw the release of the Nu Levels compliation LP, released in collaboration with J Da Flex, featuring tracks from themselves, as well a host of others including
Burial, MRK1, Zed Bias & Chimpo. The 12-inch sampler release included El-B’s single “Think Ur Greezy,” which singlehandedly established El-B as a dubstep producer on the forefront of the subgenre that he helped form..

El-B is on his first-ever Canadian tour this month, with stops still to come in Nelson BC (Friday July 8th at the Royal), Whistler (Tues July 12th at Maxx Fish), Vancouver (Wednesday July 13th at Celebrities), & Calgary on Friday July 22nd. A man of few words, we were able to catch up with him for a quick chat, as he’s laying low in Nelson this week working on beats with area producers and taking the local colour & culture in..

Daily Dread: First of all, how has the “Ghost Chaser” LP tour started out? Montreal was the first date where you played for Kris Guilty, how did it go? I know people in Nelson as well as Vancouver, Whistler & Calgary are anticipating the Ghost sound coming through their town – have you ever played in Canada before?

El-B: I’ve never played in or been to Canada before, and the 1st gig was a smash (so they tell me).

Now give us the scoop on your forthcoming LP – “Ghost Chaser,” who are you collaborating with on this album? What kind of vibe can the heads expect?

It’s a full on, energy packed album of many diferent styles. All collabs are introductions of new talent connected to the label, including forthcoming producer “CASKI.

While we’re on the topic, what’s up with the release date getting pushed back? It was initially expected in May, any particular reason for the delay? What else can we expect to see from Ghost Recordings in 2011 and beyond?

Relentless gigging has put the release date back to August. After the LP, we will see the CASKI EP vol. 1 & 2..

Going back a bit, could you give me a quick rundown of how it is that you initially got involved with DJing & production?  What were some of the early garage tunes that were essential in helping you to form your sound & motivated you to want to bring some more of that dark & heavy bass vibe to the table?

I kinda came from the Drum & Bass scene in 1996, so it was simply me customizing it to how I felt comfortable. I found it very hard to adjust to the sweet vocal sound..

It seems like the Ghost crew has gone through a lot of personnel changes & evolution of the sound since it was formed 10+ years ago.. First of all, who is currently representing Ghost? Aside from the who, what would you say has changed since the old days, and what has remained the same?

All original ghost members have gone (apart from Rolla & Juice Man), and right now we’re concentrating on CASKI. Up & coming Ghost artists, include Opus & Filth Arris.

Getting a little more technical, how has your music-making process changed from back then? Are you using both hardware & software in the Ghost studio these days? What do you see as the advantages & disadvantages of the original hardware based platform, versus today’s modern GUI workstations & softsynths? Which pieces of hardware could you not live without?

I’ve used CV & gate, I’ve used Atari ST, I’ve used PC, I’ve used no midi at all.  Formats change.  Now I use Logic on Mac – I’d use anything as long as I can sequence.

To finish things up, where do you see bass music heading? Seems like there is a lot of convoluted dubstep becoming really popular, while the Funky stuff is splintering off in a million different interesting directions.. Where do you see the Ghost sound heading in the future?

[Our main focus] will be to bring back & mantain the original 2000 Ghost (foundation of Dubstep) sound..

And maintain it he will! In my opinion, the new LP is tops all around, with lots of diversity but still always holding true to that original Ghost sound that has been bubblin’ underneath for 10+ years now.. I’ll leave you off with another red-hot unreleased dubplate from the man himself, as well as posters & links to the upcoming shows on the rest of the tour..

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