For the first ‘vs’ of the year, we bring you a conversation between two members of one of Dubstep’s most enduringly popular labels: Deep Medi.
First coming to attention through his appearance on GetDarker back in 2011, Mancunian producer Compa rose to prominence through his infamous self-released bootleg of dancehall don Mavado’s ‘Dem A Talk’. Now signed to Mala’s scene leading Deep Medi imprint, he’s standing tall as one of the few names continuing to push quality Dubstep. With his minimalist, sub-heavy sound, Compa has travelled the world as an ambassador for the genre that he loves.
Starting out on Garage station Lush.fm, Quest began his production career as Conquest back in 2006, on a split release with Ramadanman. Eventually shedding the Conquest moniker in favour of his simplified current incarnation, Quest has since gone on to become an integral part of the Deep Medi family, with his brand of musically leaning Dubstep fitting in perfectly with the label’s aesthetic. Submitting the 9th edition of the Dubstep Allstars mix series alongside frequent collaborator Silkie back in 2012, Quest has been unwavering in his commitment to the sound.
Quest interviews Compa
Quest: What inspired you to get into producing?
Compa: I was collecting and mixing Drum n’ Bass at home since age ’13. In 2009, I was at a friend’s house buying some of his old records. I was looking through his collection and found some DMZ and Tempa records. In particular I remember ‘Midnight Request Line’ and ‘Blue Notez’. I asked my friend why this Drum n’ Bass was so slow? He explained it was Dubstep music. I was hooked. As it goes, at that point I was half way through college and they’d literally just put Reason music production software on the computers as I was starting my final year. The timing was perfect.
I was studying Media, nothing to do with music. At break times and lunch times I’d go and sit in class on my own and try to write tunes. I downloaded Reason on my home computer and that’s where it all started. If it would have happened slightly earlier, or it wasn’t for me finding those records, I’d have been writing Drum n’ Bass.
Q: So this might seem pretty random I’m ordering take away, Chinese or Indian?
Also as we are talking about food, do u have any snacks or drinks with you when you are building in the studio? If so what? And if no, what other things help you build?
C: Mate you’ve made me hungry now. All about Indian. Chinese is dope. I’m not a fussy eater at all. But between the two, Indian. When I’m in the studio I’m always drinking. Always. At the moment in the fridge I’ve got gin and tonic water, and Courvoisier Cognac and coke. In fact I was making a tune last night and I ran out of the tonic water. I tried gin and coke, it’s dope. I recommend it. It’s my latest alcoholic discovery.
Q: All about the brandy, I’m more of a rum man myself! So the media has been saying that Dubstep is dead, what do you think of that statement? And how have you been finding the feedback since you have signed to Deep Medi?
C: ‘Dubstep Is Dead’ says the media now that there’s a new trend for the fashion-followers. Here we are again. For me, I love this music. I always have. Like I said earlier when I first heard the sound when I found those Tempa records and DMZ records and Deep Medi records, something just clicked. I’m passionate about this music, it’s in me. So I couldn’t care less whether it’s popular or unpopular.
Sure, like you were saying at the MEDi party on Friday when we where chatting before I played, it’s a good thing when it’s popular because we get to share the music more often. Connect with more people. But I don’t mind, I agree, it’s dead to the fashion-followers. That’s good. It means only the real people remain. People who love the music remain. Promoters who love the music are still booking it. Real fans are still buying the records. etc. You know what I mean?
The feedback since I released the Medi record has been overwhelming. I’m really happy. Proves a lot of people still love the music and the sound. I’m thankful to have so many solid, appreciative people (I don’t like the word fans) behind me.
Q: Yeah man, I hear ya! So where do you see yourself in 5-10 years and what would you like to be doing?
C: I don’t like to think too intently about the future, I try to live in the moment as much as possible. But one thing I know for certain is that I will be living and breathing music, just as I am right now. Music is deep in me man. Music is who I am. I’ve never been good at anything else apart from music. It all clicked back in 2009 and I’ve never looked back. I’ve never been happier.
There’s a lot I want to do in music. I want to dedicate myself and my sound and parts of my life to writing album projects. I want to tour the world and share the music, share my sound. I want to release solid records that people can connect with, records that stand the test of time. I feel like MEDi075 is one of those records. I feel like it’s solid. Both sides are really parts of me translated into music and now shared for people to appreciate and own and take in. I always said since day one, Deep Medi is the most honest home for my music.
I want to develop my sound. The possibilities are endless and I’m hungry! This MEDi signing only makes me hungrier! I’m not complacent, I’m thankful. It’s fuelled me to work even harder now and achieve more goals, achieve more dreams. Release more great music and work harder towards timeless music. That’s the goal. Real, honest, timeless music.
Q: I hear that, you definitely are a welcome addition the label! So before you go is there anyone you wanna big up?
C: Means a lot coming from you man. Thanks. Too many people man. Big up Mala first for making me part of the MEDi family and for supporting me and my music and inspiring me in the early days. And of course big up you man for being quiz-master in this interview.
Big up all the people who are supporting and more importantly enjoying my music. Big up all the people who’ve bought or will buy my debut MEDi 12″. Big up the promoters booking me to DJ and big up Hyponik for asking us to do this interview. And massive big up to Steph at Deep Medi for putting up with me! She’s like an Aunty to me now. Big up the other labels who are representing my sound and helping me release my music – look out for my second 12″ on Boka, my first 12″ on Tuba and another release on Deep Medi next year, and maybe more.
Oh and finally big up Joe Nice and Brunks. Both g’s. And of course my family for having my back through the thick and the thins (plus everyone I forgot, sorry).
Here’s to another productive and busy year in 2014.
Compa interviews Quest
Compa: How long have you been interested in music/DJing/writing music? How did it all start for you?
Quest: I have been interested in music basically for most of my life; I come from a musical family of singers, players and DJ’s. My dad is the biggest musical influence for me, he used to play keys in church and went on to play in Funk and Reggae bands. He was in the Guinness Book of Records for being the first band to have a cover of a Diana Ross tune in the charts at the same time as the original.
Then he had his own sound and started DJ’ing, which is basically near enough the same journey I took into music. I started off playing in church on the bass guitar, then in bands, then I got into DJ’ing and producing. I have always had a natural ear for music hence never being taught any theory; everything I do is by ear. The same goes for me learning how to DJ. When I was 15 I taught myself how to mix within 2 days, things just seem to make sense to me in my mind when it comes to learning new things in music. I find its all common sense; I first started DJ’ing Garage, and then Grime, which evolved into Dubstep. As far as production goes, I have always produced most tempos, it’s just that I am more known for my 140 stuff, but I make RnB, Hip-Jop, House and so on.
C: When you build music, what are you thinking? Are you aiming to write a certain kind of tune, say, something with the dance floor in mind, or something beatless, experimental, or something for a vocalist etc.? Or are you just experimenting and enjoying the journey, just happy to end up with whatever comes out at the end of a session?
Q: Erm, it varies when I build but most of my releases have been thought out before they were made. I build what I hear in my head most of the time, I’m the kind of guy that will hear the whole tune before its made, structure and everything.
I mean there is some trial and error, but I mostly get ideas. There are tunes I have made that have been an idea in my head from up to 4 years before they were layed down. Also because I might use a vocal sample from a film or program I will kind of plan the tune around what it’s saying or the message I want to get across. Most of my songs have a message or a theme that I feel at the time.
C: You just arrived in a city on tour, and the promoter asks you what kind of food do you want at dinner before the show, or what type of restaurant… what’s your answer?
Q: I’m pretty flexible really, as long as the food is of a good standard then I’m OK. I mean if I had to choose it would be somewhere that does a good steak, especially if I am going to be drinking during my show, got to have a full stomach for that!
C: What’s been one of your standout shows of your career? Also, most memorable moment of your career?
Q: Ooh that’s a hard one! I will have to say a few! Playing at Deep Space in New York was an honour. Also Dub Wars in New York when Silkie and me went to America for the first time years ago was a cherished memory. Every DMZ I played at especially the birthdays! Playing New Zealand was a great experience.
I’d say the top one for me was Outlook festival 3 years ago when DMZ had the Dockside stage, and Silkie and me literally went from the airport straight to the decks, no time for anything else. I just remember walking into the arena and seeing a crowd of people! Like it was bigger than we expected, and from the moment we played the first tune we just went in! That was like the most memorable 2-hour set we did together.
Most memorable moment of my career, its a tough one between doing Generation Bass for Mary Anne Hobbs for BBC Radio 1, and the first time I went to Mala’s studio to play him my tunes before he signed me. I would go with me playing my tunes to Mala because without that day, I wouldn’t be here right now doing this interview!
I was so nervous because Mala was a big inspiration to me and it was bad enough playing tunes to him, but Skream was there too so it was double the pressure!
Definitely a night I will never forget…
C: I own a Bare Dubs record you released alongside Ramadanman with your old name ‘Conquest’ and for a long time I never even knew it was by you, because I’ve always known you as Quest, until I was browsing Discogs and saw that it’s your old name. What’s the story behind the name change from Conquest to Quest?
Q: My peers and cousins always called me Quest from young; I then changed my name to Conquest for a time because I knew the Breakbeat producer called Quest who ran Rat Records.
For a period of time, original Dubstep heads would get me mixed up with him so I changed my name to Conquest, but then I saw him one day for the first time in years and he was like “its cool, use Quest ” as he was no longer making music so I reverted back to that.
I just didn’t want to tread on his toes as I respected him because I used to buy his records.
C: Originally I wanted to ask how signing to Deep Medi came about but you already mentioned being at Mala’s studio playing him demos. How did it all come together? Where you sending him dubs with an aim to release on the label or was it more natural, did you meet Mala first and connect like that?
Q: I met Mala at one of the early DMZ’s, Heny G introduced me to him. He bigged me up on making ‘Hardfood’, sometime later I made ‘Forever’… then at one of the DMZ’s he said he was really feeling what I was doing and we exchanged numbers. Later in the week, he phoned me and told me he was starting his own label called DEEP MEDi and he would be up for releasing tunes of mine. So he invited me to his studio and I rolled up with Jay5ive with 6 tunes from me and 6 tunes from Silkie, as I felt he needed to hear his stuff as well.
When I got there Mala and Skream were making a beat, I just sat there amazed. Then Mala turned to me and was like “lets have a listen”. I was so nervous, to have to play my little tunes to two of the biggest Dubstep producers of all time… it was a lot for me! But I did it, and I just remember this big grin on Mala and Skream’s faces after the CD finished and then he turned to me and was like “I want all of them”. The rest is history!
C: What was your favourite musical aspect of 2013?
Q: My favourite musical aspect of 2013 was all the new producers that have come out of the scene. I think each one brings something fresh to the table. Where a lot of seasoned producers in the scene have become comfortable in their sound or have gone on to do other things I think a new injection of producers is healthy, definitely inspired me to think outside of what I usually do!
C: Any particularly important musical aims and aspirations for 2014? Places you want to play?
Quest: Simple really, more releases; also to get a finished project out by the end of the year! The places I would like to play that I haven’t played already would be Japan and parts of Asia, and South America, but all in good time I guess!
Compa: Any shouts?
Quest: Big shouts out to my Antisocial family (Silkie, Swindle, Jay5ive, Chefal, G Double, Razor, Mizz Beats, Harry Craze, J Tijn, Kromestar, Dark Tantrums & Sned).
Mum and Dad.
Mala, Steph and all the DEEPMEDi family.
Vivek and all the System fam and all my friends, near and far around the world, who keep me from going mad and quitting this ting.