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With a fresh album recently released a summer of hectic touring ahead of him, Rusko’s reputation as one of the godfathers of dubstep doesn’t seem set to fade anytime soon.
The UK dubstep don that’s taken American by storm breaks down his new record, working with Cypress Hill and his post-retirement dog breeding ambitions.
SQ: You’re fresh off the back of a US tour, how has touring the States been for you this time around?
Rusko: This was a college tour this time so I didn’t hit New York or any of the big cities. We went to a lot of the smaller colleges, which was mad interesting, mainly a load of places that I’d never been to before but everything was crazy. The colleges had cheerleaders and all the stereotypical American stuff, so it was awesome overall.
It’s not too often that an artist like yourself enjoys acclaim Stateside as well as in the UK, why do you think your sound crosses over so well?
I think because it’s so in your face. There’s nothing that’s too subtle or serious about my music, it’s just BANG! All that translates well over here. My songs are the type of songs that you’ll hear once, love it for a month and then get bored of it. They’re not the type of songs that you hear and grow on you after weeks – my tunes are just simple bangers. That’s all it is. Simple rave music. Americans are into that, they like it bang in the face – POW!
Your new album ‘Songs’ has just dropped – what can people expect from that if they haven’t yet heard it?
Something completely different. It’s a reaction to the state that dubstep finds itself in right now. The whole album is borderline dubstep, with a lot of Reggae thrown in. I’m on the same street, but I’ve turned away from from dubstep and began exploring other genres really.
I’m even further apart from that scene really because I don’t release a single every two months, I don’t do the same circuits and I don’t hang out with other DJs…
Saying that, one of the tracks from the new album sat on the BBC Radio 1 playlist a month or so back. Is this album more commercially acceptable?
Yeah. ‘Somebody to Love’ is the most simple, dancefloor-filling track on the album. But every track on the album has full-blown vocals. The album is called ‘Songs’ because quite simply, every track has a chorus. By following that structure, you’re naturally more commercial I think.
We saw a previous interview where you discuss just how important melodies are to your work – do you think this is what sets you apart from everyone else doing dubstep?
Sort of, yeah. Also, these days I’m even further apart from that scene really because I don’t release a single every two months, I don’t do the same circuits and I don’t hang out with other DJs or collaborate with them all. Nowadays everyone else is always doing that and I barely even speak to them. They all seem to be doing their thing, but I really don’t feel a part of that whole ‘UKF’, ‘everyone helping eachother out’ thing anymore. It’s weird.
Now some people that you are working with, and some may be surprised to find this out, is Hip-Hop legends Cypress Hill. Explain.
Apparently they’ve always been into my stuff and for a while now, have wanted to make a dubstep record. So they approached me and asked if I’d wanted to produce a track for their dubstep record. As it turned out, I was the first person they’d asked to work with them. I told them simply; I’ll do the whole record and they ask no-one else or no deal. It was all or nothing. They were stoked on it, so cool – bang!
I think Cypress tried to do something similar to what Korn did and get a load of dubstep producers to come together and collaborate on a record. But that Korn album is an absolute mess and atrocity. It’s a million miles away from anything that could remotely be called dubstep. I had to come in with Cypress and show them how it’s done because I didn’t want people in middle America to think that abysmal Korn record is anything like, what dubstep really is.
As discussed, you spend a lot of time in the US now. How much do you look forward to coming back to the UK when you can?
Of course I love it. I go and see my mum, catch up with my friends in London and sometimes go and spend a few days down in Brighton actually. I just like to chill, eat curry and grab sausage rolls!
I didn’t get a student loan and I never borrowed money from my parents when I was at university…
What can expect from a Rusko live gig?
Pure energy. I’ll probably be looking at you, maybe even jumping on to your shoulders! The truth is that with no crowd, there is no DJ – so I keep it live! Currently, the set is about 70% original material, which is nice because it’s stuff that no other DJ in the entire world has. If you come to a Rusko show, don’t expect to hear stuff you know!
What genres and artists influenced you growing up, because dubstep is a pretty new sound really…
A mixture. I used to play in a lot of reggae bands and a whole lot of my musical outlet before dubstep was playing in reggae and ska bands. All I used to listen to though was Drum & Bass. Friday night was a Drum & Bass rave, Saturday night was a Drum & Bass rave…it was crazy. I used to try and make Drum & Bass but never really could!
It seems music has always been a part of your life but if it wasn’t there, what would you be doing otherwise?
I think I would probably be…breeding dogs. That’s what I want to do when I retire! I want to take my little purebred show dog, find a girl for him and see what happens. I’d be one of these weird people that turns up to Crufts each year with ten dogs. Think of a weird cat lady, but with dogs. That’s me.
Music does move in cycles. Do you think dubstep has shown enough solidity to be more than just a passing trend?
I think it has, yeah. It’s diversified a lot quicker than Drum & Bass did. It took about ten years for all the different variations of D&B to come around and make that genre truly segregated. From the start, dubstep has had so many different sounds and the separation within that happened in about a year. That helps because people feel they can latch on to certain sounds and take that as their own.
You’ve been a student at university yourself; that lifestyle must have played a huge role in shaping your sound to a younger audience?
That’s definitely true. What taught me more than anything though was my experience. I didn’t get a student loan and I never borrowed money from my parents when I was at university, and instead worked as a sound engineer for three years. And in fairness, that taught me all I needed to know about speaker systems in clubs and from that, I always knew how to make something sound good in that environment.
Finally, 2012 still has a fair bit left in it – any other goals that you’re chasing?
Well actually, what’s crazy is that ‘Songs’ and the Cypress Hill record were both finished in winter last year. It’s mad to think it, but I’ve not actually made any music yet this year. I’ve not even fired my computer up and I’m enjoying having a blank canvas. I’m actually no longer signed to any label or any management contract so right now, I can do whatever I want. That’s it!
Follow Rusko’s movements on Twitter; @RuskoOfficial.