Kahn has been a loyal customer of Dubstudio since first cutting with us a few years ago. Over that time we have seen him rise from humble beginnings in the Bristol scene to one of the most in-demand DJ/producer/remixers on a worldwide circuit. His releases sell out within a matter of hours, whether they be on his own Bandulu imprint or the scene's hottest labels like Hotline and Deep Medi. It has been great watching his career go from strength to strength and seeing how vinyl and dubplates have played an integral role in that process. We spoke to him about why he still loves cutting dubs, and to pick his brains about the state of the scene and his future within it! - Interview by Lurka
Photo: Chris Colouryum
What initially drew you to dubstudio/dubplates? How did you find the studio?
Neek first introduced me to Dubstudio when he got some of the Sureskank Convention crew's early tunes cut to dubplate which must have been at least 5 or 6 years ago. It was something I knew I wanted to invest in once the time was right. I remember my first batch of dubs I got made after my first single on Punch Drunk came out and I started getting more gigs, I got 30 of my tunes cut in one go and never looked back...
What is your format of choice?
When I first started cutting with Dubstudio I was getting 10" vinyl dub plates but now I always cut 12" vinyl dubs as I prefer the sound and feel. I tried acetate before but I've always felt the vinyl dubplates are more durable, especially when I'm playing a lot of Grime and wheeling up tunes!
Photo: Chris Colouryum
What are you mainly cutting at the moment/biggest dub in the bag?
I seem to be cutting a mixture of things; choice selections from various genres that I come across, unreleased material from my close circle of likeminded producer friends and family and of course a lot of our own productions. Most recently I cut a batch of 'war dubs' for the recent sound clash we had in Bristol. In terms of the biggest tune in my bag at the moment (although it's not a dub anymore as it's come out now), it'd probably be Under Control by Bukez Finest.
Since starting out on Punch Drunk to your forthcoming releases on the exemplary Deep Medi label, your career has been continually on the up. What is the vision for the future of your career? What goals have you set for yourself?
I'm in a strange place at the moment because I've achieved a lot of the goals I set myself when I was younger and first getting involved in this music, so I don't have that much of a set plan or clear idea as to where I'm headed next. One of the only things I'm sure about is that I'm definitely going to be exploring different areas of music that I'm interested in, whether within the current projects I'm involved in or otherwise.
You are on of the few people that cuts Grime vocal specials with us. While this is common in the Reggae and Dancehall scenes, it's less prevalent in Grime. How did the links with Flirta D, Flowdan and Riko Dan come about?
I first got in touch with Flowdan through us working on the track 'Badman City'. Off the back of that we started doing shows together and now we perform together quite frequently which is wicked. Flirta D and Riko Dan I got in touch with online and have both done some great dubs for us. For me, Grime and Dancehall are really closely related in a lot of ways and it makes sense to have specials and dubplate versions of things just as you would if you were a serious Dancehall selector. There's still nothing quite as exciting to play in the dance as your own version of something, and the audience definitely reciprocate that excitement.
Photo: Chris Colouryum
In regards to your production, what are you using at the moment? Have you had any formal training for an instrument or software? How have you got your sound to where it is today? Hardware/software?
I use Logic and Ableton in my studio. My setup has hardly changed from when I first started producing nearly 10 years ago, I've never really been one for mountains of hardware (or software for that matter) though I do use real instruments occasionally and I love working with vocals. I did go to college in Bristol to learn music technology but dropped out pretty quickly for various reasons. I picked a few tricks up but I'd say I'm pretty much self taught. I've played instruments since I was a child, first starting as a drummer and then teaching myself guitar, bass guitar and keys. In terms of my sound, it's hard to say really but as I mentioned my setup has never really changed so I guess that's something to do with it.
What has cutting dubplates taught you about production? Would you say it has improved your mix down skills?
I think it has helped improve my mixing down. I never master my own music so I've found it really useful over the years having Henry master my tunes specifically for cutting a dubplate. Just becoming aware over time of how certain things are likely to sound on a dubplate has influenced my mixing too I think.
What is your philosophy on music production or art in general?
It's a big question to come up with a simple answer for! With modern music production I think the biggest challenge and what should be one of your main aims as an artist is to get your own unique personality across through your music, regardless of what software or hardware you're using. It's easier now than ever for anyone to buy a computer and a few music programs and call themselves a producer, which is both exciting as it enables a lot of people to create that otherwise wouldn't have access to high-end studio equipment but also can lead to a seemingly never ending stream of 'producers' that have a glossy, digital sound that is indiscernible from the next person's sound. For me personally, an 'artist' is someone who endeavours to create artistic work and express themselves through art regardless of a career or any financial gains but simply because they know in themselves that they have to create. It's what they're here on this planet to do, it's what keeps them moving ever forward.
Photo: Chris Colouryum / hand courtesy of Neek
How does the value of music differ to the value of other works of art? Do you think your work is valued in the same way as visual artists?
There's a lot of interesting discussion about this at the moment as we're in such an age that it's become increasingly even more difficult for people to make real professional careers out of art and music due in part to the shifting attitudes of people in regards to the value of both those things. The internet has affected so much of how we consume artistic work that the process of putting a value or price on someone's art seems even more open to interpretation than before. Nowadays it's as if part of your art has to be in finding a way to market yourself and your work and come up with creative ways to actually make money from it. It's difficult to compare music to visual art in terms of being valued in the same way, I would say one thing we all have in common is that some people will always take advantage of both groups and even fewer people will want to pay anyone for their work.
How do you make sure you stay working and keep creating when inspiration is nowhere to be found? Do you have any techniques to deal with this?
It's a problem that affects all artists I think and it never really gets easier, if anything it gets harder the further down the road you go. Most of the struggles you come up against are mental ones and I often find you need to talk yourself out of getting too lost in the spiral of despair that is 'writer's block', as it were. Just reminding yourself that everyone has periods where the confidence in their work is compromised in some way, and that your only main concern as an artist should be to keep your channel open and to create as freely and unaware as you can. Sometimes success can be the most detrimental experience for a creative person, but often it's the inner conflict that occurs when you're working through a period of writer's block that tends to conjure up new ideas and reignite the fire. For me, this is essential, as music is one of the only things that gives me purpose.
If you could tell your younger self one thing about pursuing a career in music, what would it be?
Don't concern yourself too much with or compare yourself to the endeavours of others. Strive to be the best 'you' that you can be as an artist and do things with the right heart.
In time honoured tradition, do you have an exclusive photo we can use?
Photo: Chris Colouryum
Interview by Lurka
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