It’s been a good month for dubstep, if only because Truth dropped their new album Hollow World via Datsik’s Firepower Records. The album features a heavy sound as you might expect and it gracefully wobbles over the line between retreading old sonic ground and forging a new direction for the oft-malligned and oft-misunderstood genre. At just over an hour, the record is largely made up of solo Truth work with selective collaborations with names like the Teklife-associated Taso, Bristol-based dub stepper Joker, and Flowdan. The entire record largely stays within dubstep area, but at times the duo touches on drum & bass and house to present more interesting ideas as to what exactly the dubstep sound could become. If dubstep is to be considered in terms of it’s sonic palate then strictly it’s technical template, then this album could be a harbinger of things to come for the genre—a return to bass weight emphasis and a tribalistic ethos that pits well against the increasingly commercialized PLUR of big room and shallow house scenes. With that said, we caught up with Truth to get some questions answered and commissioned an exclusive mix for our DAD series.
You guys are a duo and yet you guys actually live apart; one in San Francisco and the other in New Zealand. How exactly did you guys get linked up?
We're both from the same town in the South Island of New Zealand. There was always a huge drum & bass scene there, which we both were involved with as teenagers, hitting the parties. We just kept bumping into each other at the big gigs. We probably met rocking out to Ed Rush and Optical (who are still one of our biggest influences), or Grooverider or Goldie. From there we became friends, and started putting on gigs together, mainly drum & bass. The crew we started really took off and we ended up bringing most of the big names in the dnb scene to NZ (Andy C, Marky, Hype, High Contrast, etc). We ran well over 200 parties together before Mala (Digital Mystikz, DMZ) introduced us to dubstep in about 2007. That moment pretty much flipped a switch, we changed our name, and never made another dnb track (until now, on Hollow World).
Given the distance, how do you work on tracks? Obviously technology means you can digitally connect and share files and what not, but there has to be some additional challenges—what's the biggest?
There are challenges, but there are also benefits to the distance! It's certainly a different way of working for two guys who spent four days a week in the studio together for five years straight! I guess that experience has helped us, as we understand where one another are coming from. The biggest challenge is immediacy, we are used to being able to tell each other what to do, then and there. Now it's a more delayed process. What it also means is that when we get together we start as many tracks as humanly possible, so when we are apart we can be working on and finishing them off. We spent a month straight in the studio in NZ in January this year, out of that came the album and a bunch of other half-finished tracks, some of which we are really into! We also more recently spent a week together in San Francisco in the studio and jammed out some exiting concepts, as well as making “Evil Eye” with Joker and Taso in the same week.
That aside, the Internet is fast now. We have made tracks over Skype, sharing screens and routing the soundcard straight back into itself, so the person on the other end can hear it. Often at the end of a studio session, we will zip up the project and send it to the other guy, even a project that's 400 or 500MB is pretty quick and easy to send now. We always send each other bounces as well, and have got pretty good at interpreting each other's feedback!
Now you've got Hollow World and it of course features lots of dubstep, as that's been what you've become known for, but it's also got some house-type tracks and sees the Truth sound really evolve into something more multifaceted—how did that come about? Was that a more conscious process where you said "we want to make different styles" or was it more of a "let's make an album and see how that comes out?"
We've felt for a long time that the music we want to make should be less about genre and more about aesthetic and sound. Until the evolution of dance music and the framework of DJ culture, BPM was a lot less important than style or sound. For example, Rock music ranges across a huge spectrum of tempos (and subgenres), but it's recognizably rock because of the sonic characteristics it possesses.
We feel the same about our music. We didn't set out to make a “deep house” track at 125BPM, or a drum & bass track at 170. We simply set the tempo and made some Truth music at that speed, without referencing anything apart from our imagination. On the album there are nine tracks at 140BPM, two at 125, two at 170 and one at 100. In the future we're planning on keeping things fluid in this way, while staying true to our sound, which is always evolving as well. If you want to give it a name, we call it “deep, dark & dangerous”... which can be interpreted pretty broadly!
How did Hollow World come together? Would you say there's an over-arching concept to this album? There's definitely a dark side to this as there is in all your productions, but it seems like you guys are really bringing dubstep back to it's dark room roots with this—showing people there's a whole side of dubstep that doesn't include massive pre-sets and lasers?
As far as the album as a whole, we sat down in the studio and came up with a concept and style for the album. We dug out the old vintage synths, hauled ass through a million samples, built a lot of new drum banks etc. We wrote a lot of fresh material specifically for the album when we reunited in NZ over the summer, and also cherry-picked some tracks which worked within the overall vibe (favorites we had been selfishly keeping to ourselves, and playing every gig). It was quite a process, but overall an enjoyable one, we're pretty lucky to be able to make the music that we love!
We're strong advocates of the “foundation sound” in music. Plenty of sub-bass pressure for the dance, while keeping things a little more sinister, paranoid and cinematic.
There is an overarching theme to the album, which shouldn't be too hard for the listener to pick out, you have definitely touched on it. If you just read the track titles, it comes across like the scenes in a post apocalyptic movie. Of course it's all down to listener interpretation, we wouldn't want to tell someone what they should be taking away from our music, that's a personal experience for each individual listener, informed by everything around that person.
Oh, and what are you saying about lasers? Lasers are dope as fuck!
You guys linked up with Firepower for this release; talk to us about how that came together.
Years ago, we brought Datsik to New Zealand for his first NZ tour. Datsik stayed for a few days with us in Christchurch. We made a couple of tracks, and swapped production tips, and just generally chilled. Needless to say, we remained homies. Datsik hit us up last year and asked if we would do a release on Firepower. That wasn't going to work due to our release schedule at the time, so when we started thinking about Hollow World, we talked to him again about the idea of doing an album. Sent him a rough draft version to check out on a long cross-atlantic flight, and that was that.
We're really happy with the decision, Firepower are amazing to work with and so open to any of our ideas (for example, putting out a Vinyl edition, which Firepower is not known for). It's a really good creative relationship, which we hope to build on more.
The album also features a number of collaborations with MCs and producers including Joker, Taso, Flowdan. Are collaborations something you guys are looking to do more of or is that more for the album?
We've always loved collaborating with other producers, not all of it gets released, but it's a good way to learn new stuff and break out of old studio habits. More recently we have got vocalists involved. It was just hard to begin with finding the right people who were similarly inclined musically. With the album, there were a lot of vocal takes which we didn't end up using, stuff we really like! For example, there was a version of “Withered” with a vocal from TaLabun on top, it sounds DOPE! But we decided that we really like the instrumental, and already had them on the album, with a very strong emphasis on his vocals. What that means is, now we have a TaLabun vocal: mixed, edited, chopped, effected and ready for us to make a riddim specifically around it!
So, to answer the question, yes! Lots more collabs in the future.
Your album Hollow World and Firepower have a heavy dubstep association. In your eyes, where is dubstep headed?
The good thing about dubstep is that the genre as a whole, while relatively new, is built on a really solid foundation. Yes, it skyrocketed in the last few years, and now finally that particular trend seems to have slowed. What we have seen happening over the last 12 months is that there are a lot of new producers out there who are really experimenting with rhythm, different ways of using bass, incorporating different types of melody etc. That trend will continue, to a point. Diversification across the board will definitely become the norm.
Another good thing is that a lot of the kids who really got into the mid-range focused dubstep have ended up digging a bit deeper. Because the style is so much more than that most visible outer layer, those kids have ended up finding more and more dope music, and becoming die-hard fans of the genre as a whole.
We think there will be a strong analogy with drum & bass. When dnb blew up and hit its peak, inevitably the bubble burst. It then came crashing down pretty hard. A lot of producers got shaken off, but that left room for a whole new group of amazing and innovative producers to come through. Three or four years later, dnb all of a sudden is bigger than it ever has been, but critically and aesthetically at least on a much better footing. Dubstep is far from dead, and its a really exciting time for the genre in our opinion.
Now according to the last feature we ran on you, you guys said you had never heard of Skrillex before coming to the US. What do you think of his music and the whole 'brostep' sound?
Some of our fans have a problem with “brostep,” with Skrillex as the figurehead. Some of them might be surprised that we have never seen that aspect of the sound as a bad thing. Dubstep has always had that element in it, and when people like Datsik and Excision started dropping bangers like “Swagga,” it was awesome, because they were a small facet of the overall sound. There wasn't the same kind of sub-genre fracturing. We could play something deep and dubby by Mala, with something wobbly from Skream, alongside a track which would now be called “brostep” and it was great (it still is, nothing has changed, apart from people's attitudes).
The thing which lies at the root of a lot of peoples frustration with brostep is the copycat nature of a lot of the production. It is important for any successful genre to maintain its diversity. Nobody wants to hear the same track blasted again and again (well, some do). To us, heavy music sounds so much heavier when juxtaposed with something else, tension/release, all of that kind of stuff is what makes music move people.
After the album, what's next for you guys?
Lots of touring, NZ/Australia, USA and Europe. Musically, we always get a bit crazy after dropping an album, seems!
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Truth – Broken (ft Ill Chill & Lelijveld)
Truth - The Only Ones
Meridian Dan – German Whip (Truth remix)
Kaiju – Creeper
Gantz ft Rider Shafique – Rockstar
Kendrick Lamar – Backseat Freestyle (Truth Remix)
Truth – Come With Me
Caspa ft Riko - Mad Man (J:Kenzo Remix)
Distance – Straight Up
Truth – Evil Eye (ft Joker, Taso & Lelijveld)
Truth ft Datsik – No Chance
Truth – Madman (ft Flowdan)
Wheelton – Function
Kahn – Dread (Gorgon Sound remix)
ID - ID
Perverse – Invasion
Truth – Them (ft TaLabun)
Deafblind – Diswan
Basscatz - Uprising
Bunzero – Badman
Fat Freddies Drop vs Mala – Midnight Eyez (Truth Mashup)
Truth – Love Someone
Truth – Withered
Truth – Babylon London (J:Kenzo Remix)
Truth – The Fact
Joker – B.I.G.
Mako – Tell Me Something (ft Detail)
Dillinja – All Aboard
Truth – Goodbye (ft Taso)
Bukezt Finezt – Under Control
Loefah – Disko Rekah
Truth – Hollow World (ft Bijou)
Truth – Skin Flick
Truth – London
Gorgon Sound – Late Night Blues remix
Gantz – Witch Blues