Compa has been cutting plates with Dub Studio for the last five years. As a latecomer to the scene he rose to prominence in 2011/2012 with a bold remix of the classic DMZ cut Antiwar Dub and a reworking of Mavado's Dem a Talk. Where many other producers were leaving the roots of the genre behind and chasing new horizons, Compa stuck to a more purist dubstep sound and it still seems to be paying off. 2013 saw a Deep Medi release, followed by releases on Tuba and Boka Records, and in the wake of his latest self-released vinyl, we saw Compa passing through Bristol for a Teachings in Dub / Deep Medi showcase, and we thought what better time for an interview?
It was great to see you here at Teachings. How does it feel to be playing alongside such heavyweights?
Amazing, as always! It's an honour to be asked to share my music with so many receptive, appreciative people. It was such an incredible show. I'll never forget it.
You have made quite a name for yourself in the US recently. What’s it like playing there? What are the crowds like compared to here? Do you adapt your set for the US crowd?
America is an incredible place to play. They don't get the same line ups as here in England and in Europe where we have five, six, seven headliners at one show. So when one UK artist tours over there they're very grateful to have us, to share our music at their clubs and on their sound systems. The love for the music over there is obvious as the energy at the shows is incredible. I love America and can't wait to return.
What other gigs are you looking forward to this year?
I'm playing scattered UK and Europe shows all year, touring Canada in May, touring Asia in September and America in October. I love DJing and travelling.
Do you have specific gigs in mind when you create tracks for cutting to dub?
I try to write music almost every day when I'm not touring and when I can afford to I’ll try to cut my favourites in time for the next show. Although, with a show like Deep Medi vs Teachings In Dub, normally I'm asked to play a couple of months in advance, and if I feel like it's going to be a really special evening (Deep Medi shows always are) then that inspires me to write music with the show and sound system in mind. So I guess to answer your question; From time to time yes, but mostly no.
What criteria do you have for cutting dubs?
My main criteria is that I have to be 100% sure I'll play the track I'm cutting every set. I have to be really happy with the music and that I'll want to share it at every show I play for a while. I also have to make sure I'm not going to get bored of the track. So normally I wait at least two/three weeks before I cut something, whether it's my music or music I've been sent. Dub plates are too expensive to cut if I’m not going to play them for at least six months or longer.
What’s the hottest dub in your box right now?
This is a tough question. Really tough. It's between 'Rockers' by V.I.V.E.K, 'Sinker' by Goth-Trad or 'Bass Drum Version' by me. I play all of those every set. They always, always get a positive reaction in clubs. I can't choose between them.
What is your favourite format of dub? Why?
10" vinyl dub plates are my favourite format. 10" because of the price and I find they sound just as good as 12"s, and vinyl because I can't stand skips. Acetates are way too bumpy for me, especially with cueing. Not to mention the weight difference which helps when it comes to certain airlines (*cough* Ryanair).
Whose dubs are you cutting mostly?
To be honest, mostly my own as I'm trying to play 75% my own music in my sets. But I have recently cut music by District, V.I.V.E.K, Goth-Trad, Brunks, DJ Madd and Kloudmen.
What new producers are you into at the moment?
Kloudmen, definitely. They're from Belgium. I just cut something new by them called 'Abduction'. It's really dark, minimal. I love it.
Who is the most groundbreaking producer at the moment?
I can't name one producer as there are too many people making incredible music. Too many. Watch these labels; Deep Medi Musik, Lion Charge, ZamZam Sounds.
What releases have you got coming out next?
I've got a Lion Charge 12", a Deep Medi 12", a ZamZam Sounds 7" and a new Killa Sound 10" on the way. Hopefully they'll all make it out this year.
What about your own label? How is it running a vinyl label in 2015?
I love it. It's great. The last record I released was really well received. It sold out quickly. Vinyl is really healthy at the moment. People are starting to move back to records, they're appreciating having a physical product that time and effort has gone into producing, mastering, manufacturing and distributing. You don't get that with a digital product. Like V.I.V.E.K said "Vinyl's like life, it's hard work, but it's real".
You seem to be aiming for a purist dubstep sound, but at the same time, you have remixed some pretty unlikely tracks. What is your thinking behind that?
I make a lot of different types of music as I'm sure all producers do. Mainly what people hear me play is Dubstep and mainly the tracks I release are Dubstep, but as you say I've ventured out and experimented here and there. For example I did what I'd call an almost Techno-style mix of Insomnia by Faithless and I did a ‘Dub’ version of Exodus by Bob Marley. Originally I made them both just as exclusive intro tunes for my sets but they got a really good response so I decided to release them.
Coming from a small town was it hard to break into the scene?
Well, I moved to Manchester four years ago and everything began to happen at that point when I was meeting new people, meeting promoters and beginning to share my music. Before I moved nothing was happening there in my hometown and even though I ran a club night that drew in decent numbers, only half of the people really got deep into the music and cared about what was being played. Whilst the others where either just supporting me as a friend or just wanted to party. It's all about cities if you want to break through as an artist. You need to be where things are happening to meet like-minded people and share your art and grow from there.
How is the scene locally? What’s it like pushing your particular sound in Manchester?
Dubstep has slowed down in Manchester, as it has everywhere, now that the commercial hype has been and gone. One of the main nights that was pushing Dubstep doesn't anymore. They're booking more Drum & Bass, Hiphop and Bass/House now. We still have one strong regular Dubstep-only night called Just Skank who I'm a resident for. They had a Chestplate label takeover last month with Tunnidge, Distance and Cyrus and they have J:Kenzo, Youngsta and myself this month too. Those nights nearly always sell out too so the hunger for the music is definitely still present.