Interview: Compa @ Outlook 2012

The last of the interviews conducted at Outlook this year

Posted on Oct 5th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Interview: Compa @ Outlook 2012 In a short space of time Compa has become a popular name amongst many in dubstep circles. As well as releases on the likes of Boka and Area Recordings he also co-runs We Are Wax, on which his vinyl only 'Dem A Talk' remix sold out at ridiculous speed.

Bearded: You were out on the Hit & Run boat party with us yesterday, that's kind of like a Northern thing isn't it?

Compa: Yeah it's a night in Manchester, they've be running it about six years or something

B: When you start assembling a track is it a case of experimenting and just seeing where it takes you or do you tend to have a more solid idea?

C: Nah I only sit down when I've got an idea. I can never really sit down and just start making a tune. Sometimes I'll proper want to build new tunes, like I'll want to do some new pieces for my sets and I'll struggle. Normally I'm just listening to tunes or having a mix, and I'll get an idea in my head and it's just straight downstairs, on the computer and start building stuff. I always start with atmospheres and synths, start with the feel. I tend not to start with drums, I might put maybe a shaker in, just so I can hear the tempo and build the pads on top of that, then do the sub and then the drums last. That way the rhythm works around the atmosphere.

B: Through your label We Are Wax (aka WX/WL) you've released a couple of quite sought after remixes in the past twelve months. How do you select a track when you approach it for a remix?

C: Well, 'Dem A Talk' for example, a friend of mine from Manchester found the a cappella for Mavado's original and played it to me and I was just like "fuck me, that is a sick vocal!" so I asked if I can have a copy to mess around with. Next morning I went back round there with the whole remix finished. I did the whole thing in about four hours, it just had me buzzing man. I just went straight home and made it.

B: Are you currently signed to a specific label? That seems to be something that's becoming more and more common in dubstep. Or is it just a case of you sending out tracks and seeing what comes back?

C: It's a funny one that, I was asked about this by someone yesterday. I'm not signed exclusively... ‘Boka’ was the first proper signing, but they never said it was exclusive, they didn't mind me releasing with other labels. They did want to do a second release, which I turned down because I just had so much else going on. I've released six bloody records this year... I need to slow down. But nothing is exclusive, I always send stuff to my friends like Mala and Distance and then to all the labels.

B: Do you ever make stuff with a particular DJ or label in mind?

C: Nah, I just make whatever I'm feeling right there and then. I never have a label in mind. The only thing I have in mind is the soundsystem it'll be played on. I listen to the tune and just think how it's gonna sound on a big system. When I listen back to a tune I'll imagine it in a dance with a load of people, and sometimes I think it needs to be a bit faster, or it should have another kick here or maybe the sub should be louder. Bit of strange way to work I suppose.

B: How long have you been making dubstep? Is that where you came in?

C: I started off playing house when I was about thirteen, I got a desk and that, started collecting all the Ibiza club mixes and that sort of stuff because that's what everyone was playing at the youth club when I was a kid learning to DJ. Then I got into drum & bass... Don't know how the fuck that happened, house to drum & bass. Then it was just kind of a progression from there to dubstep. I think it was, yeah, one of my mates bought me 'Midnight Request Line' and I was like "this drum & bass sounds slow" haha! He said "nah this is dubstep", and I went and bought that and loads of other random tunes that I thought sounded good at the time and it went from there really. That was about three or four years ago? So not too long really. I think I was pretty late coming into it.

B: I think I came into it about the same time, maybe late 2006 or early 2007. I listen to a lot of folk and psychedelic rock, and I came across the Kode9 remix of 'Woozy With Cider' and it just went from there. I didn't care in the slightest for drum & bass and house. Just folk and hip-hop my end.

C: It's weird you should say that actually because although I was DJ'ing I was also in a band as well playing punk and ska, so I've been playing drums about the same amount of time I've been DJ'ing, about ten years. I was muddled up man, musically. I used to skate to hip-hop, play in a punk band and mix drum & bass! That would have been a mad set. It's weird but I always end up at dubstep. I tried making drum & bass, did about ten tunes and then went back to 140bpm. I tried making hip-hop, did a few tunes, back to 140. I tried a bit of that 90bpm Om Unit style stuff... Always end up back at 140.

B: Your first official release of this year was the limited 'Artillery' series entry for Boka. How did that one come about? Were you aiming for them directly with those particular tunes?

C: I guess in a way I did with the Boka release, because the thing was one of the first labels I heard was Boka, because I own all the old Distance releases, the Tunnidge releases, the 16Bit releases, so that stuff was always in mind I suppose. The first track I sent them was 'Sentence', and two weeks after I sent that they emailed me and asked if I wanted to do a release. They wanted to sign 'Sentence' but they wanted a tune for the other side, so I sent them 'Beginning'. I literally made them one after the other, I made 'Sentence' then I made 'Beginning' about a week later. Sent them over and John was like "sound, let's do it". It was pretty simple really. If I hadn't have sent 'Sentence' then maybe it wouldn't have happened, so I guess with that one it was important to pick the right tunes to send to the label.

B: That whole series of 'Artillery' seems to have gotten a really good response so far. Same with your WX/WL 12". The 'Dem A Talk' remix sold ridiculously fast if memory serves?

C: Yeah we put 150 of those on the Surus store for pre-order at midnight, and my housemate Brunks rung me about quarter past one and they'd already sold out in pre-release, and the next morning I got an email from the manufacturer apologising for not putting more on Surus!

B: See I don't really pay as much attention as I probably should to all the chat on the internet about what's hot and such. I ordered one because I'm a Mavado fan, went on Discogs for whatever reason a couple of days later and saw they were changing hands for about £35 - £40, I just thought "what the fuck have I missed here?"

C: I had no idea it would sell like that. I think it's just the vocal really. It's such a sick vocal... Honestly I think all it needed was a sub. I should have just put a sub on it, nothing else haha job done.

B: The newest release, the remix of 'Fear' by Reamz, how did that come about?

C: That one was commissioned. Reamz got in touch and said about a remix, I said yeah and he sent over the parts. That was another I did in about five hours as well. It seems all the tracks I just bang out really quick in a night or whatever get really well received. 'Sentence' was fast, 'Dem A Talk' was fast, the 'Fear' remix was fast. 'Alpha' the track Mala is playing, that was fast. The 'Anti War' remix I did was fucking fast, that took about three hours. That was probably only the third tune I'd ever done on logic... That's how shit I was back then haha.

B: Do you tend to look back on old stuff and just think "oh Jesus, what have I done?!"

C: All the time man. Every new tune I make I'm just looking back like "that one's shit, this one's wicked." Then I make another and I'm like "that one's shit, this one's sick". I'm just aiming for constant progression. It's like when you go out skating, you learn a trick, you learn another trick, it's all about progression.