Chalk and Cheeseby Phumlani Pikoli / 07.09.2010
In the year two double zero nine dubstep hit the South African music scene in a big way. The dark, heavy bass, electronic, garage rooted genre has slithered through the underground and is now beginning to percolate up into more commercial success. Pioneered down inna Cape Town by a few individuals (namely Fletcher Beadon, Funafuji, Ish and Binary), Step Up night once a month at Fiction has become a dubstep institution.
Last year saw some of the most forward thinking and innovative uses of space. Co. Lab. It was a studio where people could come together to network, exchange ideas and meet the like-minded. An attempt to break down Cape Town’s shitty rep for being insular. From DJs and musicians to graffiti writers, sneaker fiends and photographers. The place was a hub of creative thought.
The kicks hold back and you sway, the melody continues and you bounce, you jump onto one foot and as you land the bass bounces back and smiles to the step you perform in its honour. You wonder what that smile would like if bass only had a face. Only you don’t have to wonder what it would look like anymore cause it does. Binary.
Question: Shall we start at the beginning? How’d you get into DJing?
Binary: Truthfully I got into it through an old high school friend who moved down from Jo’burg. I used to just be into metal and trip hop, but he introduced me to house and we both ended up going to this club called Unity religiously. It was owned by Nicky Lowder, Toby Allen and Roger-used-to-be-Goode before the 5FM fame hit. It was obviously drug infested but we were just there for the music. One night some dude just came up to me and asked me why I wasn’t dancing, I didn’t even realise that I wasn’t dancing. I was just so into the music and that’s when I realised that I really didn’t want to dance I wanted to be the DJ. I watched this movie called Scratch in about 2001/02 and started off DJing hip hop with a residency at Marvel. I worked my way from the Monday to the Thursday prime slot. Then Marvel went from the premiere underground hip hop club to the commercial club that it is now.
Question: So why dubstep?
Binary: Well in 2000/01 I was looking to create a new genre of music with trip hop drums and a drum ‘n bass bass line. Being a lazy stoner at the time I didn’t do anything about it. So when I heard dubstep it was perfect. It was the perfect bass kinda vibe that The Real Estate Agents were pushing at the time. The triplet drums worked together different to the kicks of hip hop beats. It was a chance to do something new you know? I was excited it was a new found passion that seemed so 2020 at the time. I was actually introduced to dubstep by Saafiya (Funafuji), Isha (Ish) and Josiah. It was around 2007/08. I took R400 and a bag of records and went to London. Found the Black Market DJ store bought as many records as I could. Two weeks later I got back and started practicing.
Question: What’s the difference in dubstep scenes between here and London?
Binary: It’s chalk and cheese there is no comparison. I mean it was started in Croydon which is in South London the lower income area. It grew out the dark garage scene it started there it’s the epicenter. There it’s still very underground, here it’s just a trend. Again, chalk and cheese.
Question: Talking about it being a trend, it really does seem that the genre is about to become mainstream down here. So what do you make of the dubstep explosion?
Binary: I wouldn’t have gotten involved if I didn’t think it would blow. It was inevitable. In 2008 when Fletcher, Saafiya (Funafuji) Isha (Ish) and I threw the High on Dub parties at Roots people used to ask us how they were supposed to dance to it. Like anything, popularity breeds the loss of authenticity, it’s all about getting fucked and clowning on the floor. Where as in London there was no self awareness on the dark dance floors. It was simply about the music and not the party. But it’s good in ways, its reinvigorated the scene giving rise for DJs and producers to come up. It’s a matter of taking the bad with the good.
Question: So what do you make of those people who listen to it cause it’s the hot shit right now? I mean these are the people that you find yourself playing to, doesn’t it get frustrating?
Binary: I just don’t pay them too much mind. People are always going to be around and they’ll always find something new for themselves. The wheat will be separated from the chaff. We couldn’t expect to put it to people and not anticipate that happening. Plus it just depends on where the person is at the time. I try to reserve judgment. Sometimes something is right for you at that time, so yeah…
Question: I’m going to jump a bit here. What do you make of the art scene in Cape Town right now?
Binary: I can’t really speak of the art scene, I’m not really clued up on it. I’m a bit more into street art. It honestly almost feels non-existent. Same goes for the music scene getting 500 people to a party is considered exceptional which leaves no space for growth really. Making the scene either really small or intimate. It would be nice if three different parties could happen in one night without anybody losing out or being fucked you know? For instance if Arcade, Kool out Live and Step Up were to happen on the same night they’d all be screwed.
Question: I probably should have asked you this in beginning but from your answers this should be clear. Why Binary?
Binary: I just wanted a name with a meaning and also to escape being DJ some or other. The world works on a system of polar opposites. So I thought Binary made sense. DJ vs Crowd. Dub percussion vs Heavy bass.
Question: How’d Co. Lab come about?
Binary: Originally I had the idea of Co. Lab as a store, my circle of friends’ passions all in one space. But that was unreasonable due to certain practical matters. So Dom and I had the money to do it: a space to have music and visuals that people into the same shit would care about. A different space to the clubs they enjoyed, that seemed to be losing their original ideals. It was also the greatest chance to break down barriers. Whenever new people came in we’d make a point of meeting them, to share ideas. Jake then got involved cause his passions were along the same lines. Amongst the three of us, we were sure that it was enough to bring in different people and faces. I wish it could’ve lasted.
Question: Cool my final question and maybe the hardest, who are your favourite musical acts on the scene right now?
Binary: Sedgewarbler I’m a big fan of Dank and Disco’s work. Um… Hyphen plays good quality music whether glitch, dub or D&B. Richard the Third. He’s the only South African dub producer whose shit I’d expect to regularly hear on UK dancefloors.