At the turn of the millennium, Oliver Jones AKA Skream worked in the Croyden area of South London at the Big Apple Records store. The record shop was a place that harboured Skream’s musical career, fating many encounters that would propel him to such great heights at an extremely young age.
“I was working in the record shop and I remember the day clear like it was yesterday, Benga’s brother came in and was like “Oh my brother’s making music” and I was really into making music. We [Benga and I] used to ring each other up on the phone, I guess it was the equivalent of instant messenger. We hadn’t even met face-to-face. It was weird. It was so much fun. Like we would play music to each other on the phone for 2-3 hours… it seems insane now but it made so much sense. That was how we became friends, literally through music.”
All taking place in the ripest age of teenhood when Skream was 13 and Benga 12, the two quickly made judgment to start releasing records together. Their dubstep sound is considered as some of the genre’s first to emerge, and was a production style for Skream which naturally progressed out of the predominant UK garage sound of the time. The Big Apple Records shop also paved way for Skream and Benga to meet Artwork. The three producers then formed the Magnetic Man group and would become the first dubstep producers to get signed to a major label and experience chart-topping success, releasing tracks with vocalists as various as John Legend, Katy B, Ms.Dynamite and P Money.
For ten years Skream continued to play a massive role in the evolution of dubstep up until three years ago when he ditched the movement altogether, a result of being “purely uninspired”. Now his DJ sets and productions consist only of music that fall within the house and techno spectrum.
“It was like watching my child turn into a brat, it was something I was a part of for years and it just changed. Money was great but I didn’t feel satisfied anymore and I felt very lost. I wasn’t playing any of my own music I wasn’t making any of my own music. Ultimately I am a producer so if I’m not inspired to make music there’s no point me doing it anymore.”
We wanted to know the most disturbing experience Skream has had when DJing a set outside the dubstep realm in recent years:
“It was my first show in Ibiza at the start of last summer, I had a residency at Sankeys and Duke Dumont had just played. The previous night I had been somewhere and I had two USB keys and had lost one because I was fucked. As I was playing my first record and started mixing in the second, my key corrupted which means everything is fucked on the key. The CDJ went into emergency mode which means it just loops and I had absolutely no other music so I’m literally standing there. Luckily someone who was playing before me was nice enough, which is fucking rare, and gave me all his music. I freaked out but luckily nobody noticed.”
Earlier this year the London producer launched his own label Of Unsound Mind.“It’s an alternative way of saying something is bi-polar. It means someone is slightly not right.” We were curious to know which condiment or spice Skream would consider most representative of the deep and melodic music that Of Unsound Mind releases:
“What condiment doesn’t make sense? Nutmeg I guess. Yeah, well nutmeg gets you high as well, doesn’t it? Apparently if you eat enough nutmeg it becomes like an LSD type… so that’s one thing that could be another.”
Whether nutmeg is used as a cooking spice or on desperate occasions as a hallucinogen, one thing that remains the same is its name. In contrast, many producers release different styles of music under different monikers to avoid the resentful fan based backlash that genre expectation creates. Whether it’s dubstep Skream, disco Skream, garage Skream or house and techno Skream, the name is Skream and will remain as such for the rest of his career.
“The reason I kept the name was because I was Skream even before I did music I used to do graffiti. I am Skream an artist and if I were to change my name I would have changed it for a reason. I believe in every single thing I do, so this is still Skream. Yeah, I’ve gone through more shit not changing my name than if I did. I’ve built up the name and couldn’t change it if I wanted to because everyone continuously calls me Skream.”
Oliver Jones has definitely built up a name for himself as Skream, to the point where much of what he says is manipulated by the media through misleading headlines. “Even people I know they always use me out of context because if they put my name next to a headline it will pick up. That sounds egotistical but people like to attack me from either side, it just causes debate.”
The ‘Dubstep is DEAD’ incident with the UK National Post who published a deer-in-headlights picture of Skreams’ face with a headline that, “Quoted me saying “Dubstep is DEAD”. Which I didn’t. I said, “The movement is over”. It was fucking ridiculous.”
When we mentioned to Skream that we didn’t want to bring up the current overly exhausted EDM debate being played out between DJs and the media, he interjected and brought up last week’s interview with FACT Magazine and the misrepresentative title that read, ‘I can’t F**king stand EDM Anymore: Skream bites back.’
“I need to point this out… I have a lot of friends in fucking EDM. FACT Magazine pissed me off. That headline and the way it’s stated is like I’m fucking another generic someone playing underground music whose attacking EDM. I’m not. Calvin Harris is a really good friend of mine, so it makes it really awkward when headlines like that come out, it makes me look like an asshole.
The whole context of what I was saying is that EDM is leading kids who are becoming bored with it into better music. That’s why I’ve named people like Kaytranada. There’s a real good scene that’s come out the back of EDM because people are bored and realize it’s very fucking generic. It’s basic chords, it’s basic sounds. Also, it’s such an obvious debate at the moment, the easy thing to attack is EDM and I’m not that guy. Even when it comes to Skrillex, they’re all really, really good friends of mine.”
Skream has now landed a weekly Saturday residency at XOYO London, with Eats Everything, DJ EZ, Robert Hood and Route 94 as some of the supporting artists so far revealed. It is only now, three years after ditching the dubstep movement, that Skream feels comfortable enough playing beside any other DJ to a house and techno crowd.
“When I first started playing house stuff I was still mixing fairly quick and that’s kind of not appreciated and I understand why. It took me a minute to breathe. Playing, I would get very agitated like I would want everything at once, almost like A.D.D. But you just learn to make it hype in a natural way, while building dynamics.”