Manchester, U.K. – Across the pond, there’s the original dubstep sound with its wubs, wobbles and 2-step rhythms – and then there’s riddim, its dirtier, wonkier, more minimal subgenre. Confused?
Well, don’t be. Just give a listen to massive Subfiltronik tracks like “Subminus,” “Demon Master” and the more recent “Vendetta,” and you’ll get properly sorted on what makes riddim. But… prepare for a rather visceral experience.
As one of riddim’s main practitioners, the Manchester-based Subfiltronik (aka Corey Smith) has been flying the flag for dubstep and related bass-bombing genres for more than a decade. We recently caught up with the DJ/producer to talk tech and more.
The first time I heard “Vendetta,” it almost blew out my headphones – just how do you get those insane bass frequencies?
Subfiltronik: Ha-ha! “Vendetta” is a cool track, for sure. It’s not really that hard, to be honest. Most of the time I make tracks that are in the same frequencies as my sub-basses, then I cut the low and mids midway and put the synth on top of the sub-bass. There is more to it, but I’d be here all day explaining music production. You can get the same frequency response with a soft clipper plug-in.
For bass-driven genres like dubstep and its subgenres like riddim, it often seems like each track is trying to out-do the last, in terms of dynamics and visceral experience. What is your aim as a producer? To you, what makes an effective track?
Subfiltronik: It may seem like that, but in this industry every artist out here is trying to compete with themselves, rather than with someone else. But it is good to have healthy competition with your mates to see which synth is cooler or to remix a track in a way that is different to others. I feel that everyone is trying to be a better producer and artist, as a whole. In terms of dynamics, I would say that all producers want to progress and catch the listeners’ ears to show them that they got good, quality music. Back in the day, people didn’t really think about dynamics or anything like that – it was all about the creation.
What’s your main studio gear?
Subfiltronik: In my studio, I have Yamaha HS7 monitors. The DAW I use is [Propellerhead] Reason 12, but I do have Ableton Live 11 and Fruity Loops 20 [aka FL Studio]. I have too many plug-ins to mention – ha-ha – but I tell you what I like using: FabFilter and Kilohearts.
Which producer/remixers do you most admire?
Subfiltronik: The person who I admire is Jakes from H.E.N.C.H. Recordings. He’s why I use Reason 12 for my music production. If you don’t like Jakes, you don’t like me, period! The reason why I admire Jakes is that he carried the old dubstep sound for years, and it’s so different to everyone else that makes the old sound, too. I would say that the old sound is alive and strong and aways evolving into something great. I can’t really explain – you have to experience it for yourself when Jakes plays a set full of his music.
So, he was your first influence? What made you want to actually pursue music seriously?
Subfiltronik: My first influence was Jakes, for sure – ha-ha! I just knew what I wanted to do at a young age of 9, but it was a hobby at first and nothing serious. I was just interested in the creation of sounds and putting them together like jigsaw puzzle. But nowadays, it’s a passion that I want to share with the world.
When dubstep started to migrate across the pond about 10 years ago, what did you make of the American-type version? To your ears, how was it different from what was coming from, say, South London?
Subfiltronik: I was still making dubstep 10 years ago – ha-ha – it was my third year in. But before I even made dubstep, I was making grime, hip hop, and 4×4/Niche/Bassline. I would say the scene from London and America are vastly different in many areas. We had loads of artists who came from America to perform at our events, but didn’t get the same hype as they were at home. Don’t get me wrong – everyone still had a good time. But everyone here is into the old-style of dubstep, like Mala and Coki, the deep dubstep vibe that consist of sub-bass, percussion, drums and dark pads for atmosphere.
In the DJ booth, what gear do you use and how would you describe your style?
Subfiltronik: When I am DJing at clubs, for friends or at a studio, I tend to use Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS or Pioneer XDJ-1000 players. My headphones are Sony MDR-V55 – I don’t have any preference why I use them. I used all sorts of equipment back in the day. It’s not about the equipment – it’s the artist.
What are three tracks that are always in your DJ box?
Subfiltronik: “Rhythm” by Jakes; “UGHH” by Aweminus; and the Subfiltronik remix of “Zip Ya Lipz” by ADP. I choose these tracks because I like how they are put together and go very well with most tracks I usually mix.
On the DJ front, who do you admire?
Subfiltronik: Mala and DJ EZ. Both are so different on how they DJ and what they bring to the dancefloor and both are legends in the music industry. Mala is an old-school, deep dubstep DJ that specializes in mixing on vinyl. DJ EZ specializes in mixing, scratching, pitch-bending and using the cue button to make new, interesting drum patterns. To me, I grew up listening to them and had gotten inspiration from them when I go live or in the studio.
How did you survive the lockdown? How did it impact your creative side?
Subfiltronik: Through lockdown, I had my highs and lows. I just learned to deal with situations at hand and try to work from home. I was looking for outside work as well, as I couldn’t DJ as much and play live events.
What’s next for you?
Subfiltronik: To go hard on music this year and go to America.
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