Loefah is a name that carries with it a certain level of respect.
A producer who was there when dubstep emerged from the primordial bass lake, Loefah then went rogue. Shifting away from the scene's increasing restraints, his Swamp81 imprint has helped fuel the current re-invigoration of the house sound while his own DJ sets carry with them stunning levels of bass.
Numbers and Dedbeat are set to team up to host the Pleasure Principle this year – a brand new weekender based in Cornwall – and to celebrate some of the artists involved have been chatting freely in a series of specially commissioned interviews. Loefah recently spoke to Gabriel Szatan (part of the team behind Pleasure Principle), opening up about Swamp81, his involvement with new label School and what the future holds for the bass world.
It's a truly fascinating conversation, one we're proud to host first. Check out the transcription below…
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Gabriel Szatan: "I'm here with Loefah, how you doing?"
Loefah: "Hello mate, I'm doing very well"
GS: "First up: "I'm not gonna do digital, I''m not gonna do all that shit. So it's like, it's over here. If you wanna be a part of it you can be, but you've got to make an effort". (quoting Loefah's FACT interview 20/04/12). What's changed with [your new label] School?"
L: "Um, it's not my label. I co-run it with two other people. I wanted to start a new label but if I started it on my own running it with my ideas then I'd just make Swamp again. So I opened it up with two other people that I completely trust, and they said "we've got to do digital". I said fair enough."
GS: "I know youre an avid vinyl fan from back when you used to collect hardcore records back when you were younger. Was it a compromise that you found difficult changing to digital? Or is it like you said, something that was different to Swamp so you were happy to compromise on it?"
L: "Essentially yeah i was happy to compromise on it. It's a different time to 2007. We have a couple of albums coming up on Swamp that I will do digital but the twelves will always stay vinyl. I buy loads of tunes digitally and always have but it wasn't really about that. It was about the fact I wanted people to go through what I went through to buy records back in the day. With School I suppose I want it to be a bit more new. A bit more about the music and the people that are coming through. The kinda newer producers. It's a bit more gritty. I want it to be more accessible. I want the kids to be able to get it more. Do you know what I mean?"
GS: "You mentioned the Swamp albums. how are they All getting along? I saw last year you said they were in the works. You have a few coming up in the next few months?"
L: "Yep. We're mastering Zed Bias' album in the next couple of weeks. So That should be out before summer. And we've got Boddika. We have about two more tracks to compile for that [it will be released] probably after summer. That's where we're at."
GS: "I've got two questions about people who have been very instrumental over the last few years. Firstly, Ashes57. How did you come about her and how integral has she been over the last few years in your music journey?"
L: "Super integral. I met her years ago at Cielo in New York and we got on. She was moving to London. We hung out and I really loved her design so when I was starting the new label it just seemed like she was the girl to go to. And I wasn't wrong. She's amazing. Great artist, but on top of that… super fast turnaround. Two days at the most, sometimes half an hour. Flyer half hour and a record sleeve in a day. It's awesome."
GS: "Chunky is obviously one of the most recognised voices in the scene right now. How did you come across him, and what made you convinced to get him on board as a full time MC?"
L: "He used to MC for me in Manchester, back when I still playing dubstep. When playing dubstep, it was mostly Sgt Pokes who would MC, but the only other guy I really enjoyed working with was Chunky. When I swapped over to doing Swamp stuff and I stopped playing dubstep, Pokes was not in it as an MC. He was cool with us playing the music, but it wasn’t for him. I think it’s important to have a mic man, it’s the aesthetic we go for; it is important, it’s part of the sound, and Chunky was the only person I could even think of. He took to it like a duck to water, and it was on. All of us – me, Boddika, Zed, Mickey – say it’s not really a Swamp party unless he’s there. Sometimes we’ll get booked together and he doesn’t get booked, and without him it’s 95–it’s not even that, it’s 80 or 70%. There’s a big chunk missing when we’re without Chunky…oh Jesus [laughs]."
GS: "If something completely alien came into your inbox, like [Addison Groove’s] ‘Footcrab’ did three years ago, and you were blown away by it, do you think you’re in a comfortable position now where you wouldn’t be able to take a punt on something completely new? Or would you still, if you really believed in it, have the balls to go ahead and release it on Swamp?"
L: "Yeah, I think I would. It would have to be pretty special though. School more so – there are a lot of new artists coming through, and already they’re defining their own little sound together: slightly slower around 124bpm, 4/4, a bit darker, more paranoid, more bassiness is coming in. As for Swamp, it’s a bit more defined than that. So yeah, it’s almost like what we do with Chunky in a way. He’s a new producer, his skills aren’t as honed as everyone else on the label, but he’s completely sick. His double-pack was one of the best selling things we did last year. At the end of the day, if you check my first ever twelve on Big Apple Records the mixdowns are appalling. By the time I was 23 I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was just writing music. Artwork from Magnetic Man was the one who ran that label, he took a punt on me; I think it’s very important to continue that tradition going, bringing the new through. You can’t just stick with yourself, you know? And already Chunky’s next EP is in the pipeline -"
GS: "- Oh, he’s got another one?"
L: "Yeah yeah, he’s prolific. He writes all the time. Already he’s learnt so much from the last time, it’s so much better, the grooves are better; I mean, the grooves are phenomenal. It’s nice to watch the scene grow, turn into something."
GS: "So accusations of you guys deliberately sitting on records for a while have calmed down. When it was at its peak 18 months ago did you get pissed off or did you think it was the thing to do, to protect your back and keep yourself above everyone?"
L: "Ah mate, I learnt this back in dubstep: you can’t please all the people all the time. I remember back in the day on Dubstep Forum, people would push things out and you’d be so enraged you’d go on there and blurt it all out, make a big problem for yourself. We’ve all done it. Now, look – if someone doesn’t like it, another person will like it, you know? I think a lot of the accusations were a little over the top but…it wasn’t intentional, at all. It just happened at its own pace. In actual fact, we had a massive backlog of tunes to bring out, and we had a hold-up with one of the records, which made us wait six months, which made the backlog even worse. People don’t know that, do they? They sit at home, they want a tune, an mp3, blah blah blah. If I was a record buyer back then, I would probably be one of the ones leading the charge going “bring it out!” Labels like Prototype Records, back in the day, I waited two years I swear for one tune. We were going mad, hearing all the DJs play it every week; that’s the thing, I get where they’re coming from. It’s how it is. The tunes will come out, it’s good music – I don’t think any tunes on Swamp are really that specific to the time. Well, to a certain extent they are, but they’re good tunes regardless, they’re good tunes a year later."
GS: "Obviously there’s been an extended period of absence since you’ve released music yourself – do you feel the group you’ve got now act as a conduit, or do you ever think you’re going to have the impetus to put music out yourself again?"
L: "I played two of my dubplates tonight!"
GS: "Oh really okay, are they going to remain dubplates?"
L: "Dunno mate, see how we go about it. But there’s more to do – this is just my first two. I’m not thinking about releasing until I’ve got at least four or five dubs out and they’re playing in clubs. They seem to be going down quite well. I’m loving it again, yeah, and without my team – my boys – I wouldn’t be back in the studio the way I am. But yeah, I’m loving it!"
GS: "Has the musical landscape shifted enough that you feel that your legacy personally has been detached from the narrative of dubstep, or do you think it will continually come up?"
L: "I think people have just got there. I’m always to be linked with it, but I don’t get people coming up to me when I’m DJing anymore -"
GS: "- like that guy in Holland who tried to get on stage and said “play some fucking dubstep!”
L: "Haha yeah, exactly. No, people know what’s going on now. You know what, I played a set a little while ago where I had a bit of extra time at the end; I thought “I’ll play some classics” and it didn’t actually go down that well. People were after something else. Pretty much if I’m with Zed Bias I’ll play 140 – other than that, probably not, unless I’ve had a great set."
GS: "You’re playing the Pleasure Principle festival both as yourself (Loefah) and Norwood Soul Patrol. Can you tell us a bit more about the alias, how that came about, and what you’re aiming to do with it?"
L: "We’ve got a load of vinyl between me, Chunky and my mate Seamus and we just love playing the records. Me and Chunky started it a little while ago as a 15m section at the end of the Swamp 81 show on Rinse, then we got an extra show in the middle of the night, then we wanted to bring our pals in so we stopped it, started it as again as Norwood Soul Patrol. Did our first show the other night actually in Leeds, last Tuesday."
GS: "Go well?" L: "Really well." GS: "Didn’t you have the whole night to yourselves?"
L: "Pretty much, a four hour set, sorted out an afterparty. Yeah it was sick man, completely sick…brilliant."
GS: "One thing I’ve always seen throughout your entire career is that, just when things get stale, you rejuvenate yourself with another avenue. You can’t really sit down in the same place."
L: "As far as I’m concerned, I’m doing the same thing I’ve always been doing but I can understand from the outside, for people who don’t know me personally and don’t know what I was listening to as a kid and don’t know this that and the other… [indecipherable] But I know certainly by the end of my dubstep days, I felt really pushed into a corner. People thought I’d just do this when musically I’d liked a whole lot more. I will keep moving ahead – I don’t like being part of a scene, I like being part of what’s new and underground; I love the underground. That’s what I love, the cutting edge…‘flashpoints’, Mary Anne Hobbs used to call it. That’s what I like. Over the years that’s what I’ve found out: that’s my place."
GS: "Alright, final question: How do you maintain the infamous Loefro?"
L: "You know what, it’s all natural. Just got curly hair by design."
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Pleasure Principle is a brand new weekender, brought to you by Numbers x Dedbeat. Based in Cornwall, it runs between April 26th – 28th and features performances from the likes of TNGHT, Joy Orbison, Oneman, Redinho, Deadboy, John Talabot and more.
Tickets are still available, click here for details.