Ten Years Of FWD>>

A retrospective...

If you’re into your Dubstep and Bass Music, then you should be aware of FWD>> and if you’re not, where have you been?

FWD>> – pronounced forward – is a weekly night held at Plastic People in Shoreditch, East London, every Thursday. It has the best line up of DJs on the scene and usually has 4 sets from different people every week. This month the night is celebrating its 10th birthday at a secret location in East London with a stellar line-up of 11 DJs, each representing one year of FWD’s life time. The DJs will be playing a selection of tracks from their designated year, so they have chosen the guys to rep the year when they were at the top of their game, and play the sound that first comes to your head when you think of them.

What you get is effectively a lecture in the history of London’s underground bass scene. You will be able to witness the transformation of the music over the years, from the Breakstep/2step Garage of the early 2000s, through the formation of Dubstep in the middle of the decade, and then the off-shoots from that which leads us to today’s mash up of genres.

The sound starts off with Breakstep and early Dark Garage which is essentially where Dubstep emerged at the start of the decade when producers began to distance themselves from the poppy, watered down scene which had swallowed Garage music. Zinc came from a D’n’B background, but had slowed his tempo down with Breakstep to appeal to the fans of 2step and Oris Jay was renowned for sculpting the early sound of Dubstep with his dark and moody 2step beats. These dark 2step tracks started off appearing as dub versions of more popular garage tracks on the flip of the release, so as well as the dub influence in the music you can see where the ‘dub’ comes from.

When most people think of Dubstep though they don’t associate it with this skippy, swung rhythm; they normally think of that very sparse half-step beat coupled with the distant atmospherics, plus the chest rattling sub and sharp heavy hitting snare. Although in reality it’s probably more like the filthiest bassline that makes you gurn the most, but we will stay away from that for now.

Hatcha is one of the DJs who pioneered this sound by playing tracks by two young guys known as Skream and Benga, and also the masters of the dub influenced sound, Digital Mystikz. This style then took over and even though it has never been stated as the formula for a Dubstep track, it certainly became the signature sound. At this time there was also a parallel to Dubstep in the form of Grime. Both Grime and Dubstep are offspring of UK Garage, with Grime stemming from the more MC led Garage. As time went on both sides of the underground scene developed. Dubstep became obsessed with the bassline, as they became the most prominent and memorable part of tracks. They used a lot of modulation to create rhythmic patterns in the mid-range frequencies of the bassline, and over time they got more crazy and experimental with it. This eventually led to the heavier side of Dubstep that a lot of the people into the original sound like to distance themselves from. Several Grime producers also went on to help spark up the UK Funky scene, like Marcus Nasty. You can definitely get the same feel of production in both of these genres, but with UK Funky slowing the tempo down and taking back the house influences that Grime had at the start, probably to try and get some ladies back on the dancefloor, that had gone away due to the hard sound of the male dominated Grime genre.

The rapid change of these genres over the short decade is probably why the scene is now such a melting pot of genres, with producers taking influence from every kind of music, and DJ sets covering the whole spectrum, instead of just sticking to one part. It’s fitting then that Oneman and man-of-the-moment Ben UFO are recruited to play sets for 2010 and 2011 since they both play pretty much anything they want in their sets. Oneman in particular is renowned for pulling in some classic, early 2000s R’n’B or ‘Junior Spesh’ – a jokey grime track about a relatively cheap child portion of chicken – in the middle of a set.

A lot of people are moving back towards the house and techno sound that influenced Dubstep in the first place too, with labels like Hessle Audio, Swamp 81 and Night Slugs all pushing that sound and associated DJs playing House classics in their sets. Obviously though the producers creating more House style tracks, also have the influence of Dubstep to put back into them. Tracks like ‘What You Do With What You Have’ by Blawan and ‘Source Delight” by Joy O – very much House tracks with the 4/4 house groove, but both also have a kind of dark atmosphere from Dubstep and that low sub bass.

So this night is all about the last 10 years of FWD>> and London’s underground electronic music scene, and if you want to get educated on the last ten years and how it went down, or if you just want to relive all of the amazing music that has come from it, then you need to get yourself down there.

The 10th anniversary of FWD>> takes place on August 20th at a secret location in East London.

Words by Jake Goode

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.