Caspa & Rusko interview by Simon Hampson


Fabric Live 37, mixed by Caspa & Rusko, is out this month. It is a milestone in dubstep mixes – the first really commercial release for a dubstep mix (on a celebrated electronic/dance mix series too). Simon Hampson got on the phone to Fabric HQ in London.

Caspa, 25 year old Gary McCann, is the founder of the Dub Police, Sub Soldiers and Storming Productions labels, having also released on Tempa and Argon imprints. He created the heavily rinsed “Rubber Chicken’, loved as much by drum’n’bass royalty like Roni Size, Andy C and broadcasting dons at the BBC, as his own scene. Always a fan, he fell somewhat head first into music after his professional basketball career was thwarted by a 15-times dislocated shoulder. He tours Australia for the first time this December (see the end of this article for the dates).

Rusko, 22-year-old Chris Mercer, is classically trained with a degree in musical production. With hip-hop and original dub productions under his belt as Rusk, he has similar anthemic status for 2007 with the constantly dropped “Cockney Thug’ having found fans from the 50,000 Arctic Monkeys punters cleverly plied by Ross Allen, to Diplo, Swith & Sinden, Clipz, Chase & Status and the Scratch Perverts to within the walls of a recent drum’n’bass heavy night one Fabric Live when it was the only non-jungle track dropped by three separate headline DJs, all within a few hours of each other. Also a fan, it was his love of original dub reggae that pushed him into production.

Rusko: Fabric have put their neck on the line a little bit and taken a bit of a gamble to do a dubstep CD on this scale. But we’re both absolutely thrilled to have been asked to do it man.

CD: I mean, it’s a massive commercial label to put out a dubstep mix. We’ve had the Dubstep Allstars mixes but they haven’t hit on a commercial level.

R: They’ve gone to the scene yeah. They’ve been marketed to the scene and bought by the scene. In that instance, it really is the first, major dubstep CD to go out there. For a lot of people I think it’s going to be the first time they hear dubstep.

CD: So tell us a bit about how you hooked up the release and your collaboration.

C: Well they asked us to it together.

R: We work together anyway – we produce together, DJ together, run labels together and stuff like that. So we’ve always been working together and not so long ago we signed a deal with Fabric to do publishing. We’ve worked with a lot of other artists like Scratch Perverts, Claude Von Stroke and people that they represent doing really big swaps and stuff like that. So we’ve been working with Fabric for maybe six months.

C: Plus we’ve been doing our own stuff. Working hard, pushing the sound and the labels, and our own music. We seem to be doing really well in the scene right now with sales and publicity.

R: Yeah.. without the Fabric thing.

C: Without the Fabric thing yeah. So with that, what’s going on with Fabric and them wanting to do something that’s new and fresh we sort of hooked up and we put forward what we wanted to do. They said cool and we did the mix, which was basically stuff we had in our bags that we play out on a regular basis.

R: Straight off our plates

C: Mixed it, put it on CD, marketed it on Tuesday and done!

R: There was no planning or computer programming. It was straight off dubplates, straight out of our record bags you know. As if you were seeing Rusko & Caspa for an hour in any club really.

CD: Yeah I had a listen to it for the first time today.

R: Still all the crackle and the vinyl switching off. It’s a proper real mix.

CD: Mate.. when that ‘Uncle Sam’ track dropped I was just loosin’ it. It was great.

R: We’ve just received parts for that today to do a Rusko & Caspa remix!

CD: Oh nice.

R: We literally got the bits today.

CD: So Caspa – you’ve been running a few labels for a little while, so I guess dealing with the Fabric guys is no new thing.

C: No not at all man. I’ve been doing the label since 2004, so I’ve got a few years now. I might start another one next year! That’s really going well and I’ve learnt a lot whilst doing it business-wise.

CD: And of course you’re going to show the love and bring us some dubplates when you come to Australia aren’t you…

C: Oh of course. (laughs)

CD: I’ve given him loads of fresh stuff to bring with him.

C: Yeah I’ve got loads of fresh stuff to bring. Expect a big one!

R: That’s the good thing about the scene. There’s a high turnaround in new tunes. I think that’s half the reason why the crowds turn out because half the tunes in the night they are guaranteed not to have heard before. I think that’s what has really helped it and made it more exciting for people.

CD: Yeah I went to see Pinch play a few weeks ago and I don’t think he played one record with a label on it.

C: Yeah he probably played a lot of whites and dubplates and that. How did you find Pinch’s sound because it’s more minimal.

R: It’s a lot more minimal than what we do.

CD: Yeah I love both the sounds. Pinch has a similar background to me – coming from that Chain Reaction thing. I got his new record last week and the synth sounds and some of the minimal tech stuff he’s building in I really like.

C: Yeah it’s cool – I really appreciate what he’s doing.

CD: But you guys are more on a jumping level.. you’re more of a jumping dancefloor sound I reckon.

R: Yeah our sound’s more full on. I mean we’ve got some really nice minimal stuff on our CDs. But a lot of stuff that we do is edgy and dancefloor.

C: But there’s a lot of minimal techno and dubstep crossing over. You see it a lot more like with lineups at raves. You know, I played here with Mala, with Monolake and Villalobos in Room 1, me and Mala in Room 2. There’s lots of cross-over.

CD: Do you think that’s a good thing?

C: I think it helps it grow. Obviously anything that is perceived as new is not going to get put in the main room. It’s gonna get put at the back of the queue and introduced to people. If you go to a drum n bass night and then you go to get a drink in room 2 or something and you hear this stuff. They’re like, “What the hell is this music?” I know people that have gone to a big rave, walked through our room and then stayed in our room all night. Those rooms have converted people from their things to our things.

R: It’s the right type of ear too. The drum n bass crowd have the right type of ear to appreciate it. It’s the same with minimal techno too – it’s the same type of people who can enjoy that bass. They have the same elements.

C: It’s a way to evolve the sound and the strength of the scene.

R: If everyone works together it’s all good. I’ve just done a remix for Claude Von Stroke who’s a big minimal techno guy and he’s working on one for me. So things like that you know.. I really love all that sound.

C: It’s a big thing and it does great things for the scene. I’ve got the confidence to say that in a couple of years we’ll be the ones in Room 1 and that other stuff will be in Room 2.

CD: Yeah.. I mean dubstep has feeling..

C: It has soul man. It’s got passion – everyone that is doing it has passion about it. Well from what I know – I’m talking from my own experience. I love the music, I’m passionate about it, I love what I do and to get played around the world and to show people what I love doing is great man.

R: A couple of years ago when it all kicked off I thought the excitement for the music was amazing but it had to finish at some point. And two years later it’s just even more exciting. The initial excitement of it is like when you start a new relationship with a girl. That sort of new excitement I thought would go, but it’s just got more intense. It’s still here and that’s brilliant.

CD: I think it has inherited that concern for the sound system and the mix from reggae you know.

R: Yeah for sure. People want to spend the money and the time to cut their tune on the dubplate so it will sound warm and fat, and the bass will be kickin. There’s a lot more time and effort that goes into it so the end product is much better.

CD: Hey Gary.. you just played in Israel right?

C: Yeah I played in Israel two weeks ago.

CD: How was that?

C: I didn’t know what to expect. It was amazing. I turned up and actually couldn’t get into the venue – they moved it to an underground car park. So I got there and there were 200 to 300 people trying to get in. I walked down and there were like 1300 people in the event. It was going off and people were going crazy – jumping on the stage and going mad. People were coming up to me asking for tunes they heard on Myspace.

CD: I bet they didn’t ask about ‘Only Fools And Horses’ though!

C: I don’t think they’re ready for that yet. No one asked me about that, even though I’ve had heaps of stuff about it in my albums. Is it quite popular in Australia?

CD: No.. well I’m a Mancunian boy myself so.. that’s why I know about it.

C: Do they show it on TV over there?

CD: They have done.. we get quite a bit of BBC stuff here.

C: It’s very English humor really. It’s purist really – London’s humour too.

CD: Yeah but we get a bit of that stuff – like ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em’ and ‘Are You Being Served’..

C: That’s a classic. ‘Only Fools And Horses’ and ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em’ – that’s my favourites man.

CD: I want to see some samples poppin’ up man… So the CD comes out on December… what’s the plan between now and then?

C: Yep – that’s the day before I go to Australia. Rusko is playing in Sweden and Denmark soon. I’m pretty much chillin’ until I go to Australia – I’ve had a pretty hectic schedule recently. When I get back I’m straight into Fabric, then Portugal, Austria and Dublin in the New Year. It’s pretty full-on but it’s all promotion for the new CD.

CD: You guys are playing Fabric on December 28, between Christmas and New Years.

C: Yeah – I’m also doing one on the fourth at Fabric. Pretty much now it’s just a matter of promoting the CD even more and doing what we can. Like I say, we’re working hard promoting it. I’ve been here since 8 am this morning – Rusko was here at 9 – and we’re here until 8 or 9 tonight doing back-to-back interviews.

CD: I want to read you something from dubstep forum

I’m sitting here at work and I am listening to the Caspa & Rusko CD and there are a few tunes on here that stand out the most, Rusko – Too Far (Sub Soldiers), Rusko – Hammer Time (Sub Soldiers), Rusko – Mr Chips (Dubplate) and Rusko – 2 NAQ (Sub Soldiers). These don’t sound like your ordinary dubstep, rather than classic vintage samples these tunes are filled with an explosive amount of energy that feels like you are somewhat teleported to the near future a thousand years from now.

Listening to these tracks I am expecting Tron to burst through the walls and start skanking out any time soon. Compared to tracks on the album such as L-Wiz’s ‘Girl from Codeine City’ and Caspa’s own ‘Cockney Violin’, the mixture of these tracks throws your mind around like a small child being hit by a car.

I’m not knocking Rusko – I love these tracks especially ‘Mr Chips’ and the CD is heavy but just wanting people to air their opinions and start a discussion, on what you believe Rusko is creating? I am not sure if it’s going to be a sub-genre of dubstep or whether it sounds a lot like minimal techno or some influenced jump-up dnb.

R: That’s good that people see my tracks as forward-thinking. I’ve got a really short attention span. It’s like a bit of a problem and a blessing in disguise really. I get bored with standard dubstep and try to do something different just to keep myself interested more than anything. So I’ve been trying to do something a little bit different, a little bit wonky, a little bit kind-of electro. That’s cool that people are thinking that. “Tron bursting through the walls” is 2012 business or something.

CD: It’s interesting that we started to talk about Pinch’s combination of sounds before. You have kind of a classical training don’t you.

R: Yeah.. I’ve always played music. I’ve only really been DJing for a couple of years – since I’ve been making dubstep. Up until then I’ve just been a musician and producer. I’ve played in loads of bands playing sax and bass so that’s really where I come from. I’ve always been locked in the studio rather than DJing. I do love DJing – it kind of creeps up on you really. You slowly love it but takes a little while.

CD: It’s pretty addictive being the selector.

R: Yeah it does get a little bit addictive but I get really bad – I end up trying to finish tunes before gigs in like two hours and things so I can play ’em. I end up running out of time and having craziness going on. But it’s good – it’s nice to be able to do that. Be there burning that last tune onto CD and then running straight onto the tube, to the gig to try it out. It’s wicked to be able to do it.

CD: See what the reaction is like..

R: Yeah, give it a try a couple of times on CD and if it cuts the mustard I’ll cut it on dub.

CD: Well send some tunes over with Gary man – we’ll try them on some Aussie sound systems! So having had that background, are you working on dubstep tunes via computer production or are you trying to sample?

R: I do my mixdowns through a mixer, recording live and doing things on the fly. Rather than automating everything and having it all produced. I sort of ‘play the arrangement’s and do the edits on the fly. It comes from that old dub ideology which , again, is looking at it from a different angle. But with my short attention span I will tend to work for a full day and then it’s done. Rather than coming back to it, I’ll do it all in one session. It’s kind of a blessing and a cursing at the same time.

CD: How about you Gary – are you the same?

C: I’m more of a dipper. In and out, try it here and there. I usually have five tunes on the go at once. I have one idea and lay it down then bounce between then until they’re done. Like I’ve got five new ones on the go this week and I’ve finished two.

CD: So where does a tune start for you?

C: Normally I’ll build my tunes around samples – like a vocal sample. I like to sample movies or something, then get an idea behind the sample. Like a real dirty bassline or a nice mellow pad or something like that. Or sometimes I’ll build a bassline, build a feeling then build an intro and it all comes together.

R: Yeah I make a lot of bits of electro house and jump-up drum and bass. And wonky hip hop. Half of my Rusko tunes start off as other tunes if you know what I mean. Half of them are hip hop beats or electro house tunes. A lot of those tunes I do for my own amusement get half interesting and get bits taken for dubstep things. It’s good – it keeps a lot of variation in the music.

CD: Like “this isn’t working at this tempo, I’m gonna bump it up”?

R: That’s the one. Like our collaboration ‘Rock Bottom’ was originally an epic house tune that I made a year ago that we both remixed together and made into a dubstep tune.

CD: So how does the collaboration side of things work for you guys?

R: The CD was exactly like we do in a club. We’d both been gigging out independently in the lead-up so we both came in knowing which tunes mixed well in the bag and who was better at mixing which tune into which tune. So it really was off-the-cuff and raw. I’m more proud of it because it’s truthful in a way.

C: Yeah we collab’ really well.

R: Yeah I come from the musical side and Gary from the hard side. We live round the corner, we do our stuff together and we’re truthful with each other. We work nicely together.

Caspa & Ruso – FabricLive37 is out through Inertia.


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