Son Raw has 200 different words for Squarewave
By now, whenever Gobstopper Records announces a single by a new artist, it’s enough to ensure an automatic and careful listen. Boxed stalwart Mr. Mitch’s label took grime by storm in 2014 by focusing on the genre’s emotional range rather than its roughneck club tunes, and the resulting catalog has grown into one of the more exciting new movements in electronic music. Their newest signee Iglew comes with an outstanding pedigree including dubs in mixes by some of the scene’s finest both in radio and in clubs, but also continues this path beyond the club. Mixing high intensity leads to a substantial amount of sub bass and empty space, his debut EP (and Gobstopper’s first on vinyl) is yet another step forward for a label at the bleeding edge of the sound. I spoke to Iglew to find out just what makes him tick.
First up – why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from, how’d you get involved in producing/making music?
Iglew: Hi I’m Lewis. I was born in Leamington in the midlands, currently living in Leeds. My dad is a professional musician so music has always been around. I learned classical instruments and played in bands until podcasts and MySpace happened. From there I got into more electronic music.
Which leads into the idea of clubbing and experiencing sub bass – when did you first encounter that? “Urban Myth” is particularly weighty, I get a lot of grime with strong melodies these days but the whole EP packs a MAJOR punch on the low end.
Iglew: The first time I really noticed the effect it can have was seeing MIA. After that I just went to loads of nights with big sound systems in quick succession. I think bass is one of the most effective tools available to artists across all disciplines because it has an element of objectivity due to the physical effect it has on people.
Sub bass aside, one of the really interesting elements to a track like “Sleep Lighter” is the use of a squarewave synth as a lead. A few years ago people were complaining about Eski knock offs, but on tracks like “Sleep Lighter,” you really subvert it to a different end–it’s less about building hype than emotion. How do you make a sound that’s so closely identified as a genre signature your own?
Iglew: Thanks! Well when I made “Sleep Lighter” I wasn’t really aware of the extent of the relationship between squares and grime. I’d just heard a few tunes that I really liked utilising them and thought I’d have a go. That sort of ignorance was really refreshing when I was making this EP because I didn’t know enough about certain perceived genre tropes to be constrained by them.
If there was one tune that got me into the whole boxed thing it would be “Atlanta 96 (Limitless Mix).” I obsessed over that square lead sound, but the essence of that piece is in the contrast between the massive bass hits and the wistful lead sounds. It’s beautiful. That sort of raw juxtaposition is definitely something I try and achieve in my own work.
It’s also notable in the context of Gobstopper–Loom’s EP from late last year really makes sense next to yours, but it goes in a vastly different direction. How’d you link up with Mr. Mitch and Gobstopper? And who (within the label or out) are you rating and consider to be your peers?
Iglew: Yeah definitely. I met Loom for the first time recently and we were wearing very similar attire. I think we might’ve been separated at birth… Seriously though, I think he comes from quite a similar place to me in terms of being geographically removed from any sort of sound system culture. If you look at how we both structure tunes, they tend to be more like songs than dance tunes. A lot of grime tunes are solely focussed on the first drop which obviously makes sense in terms of how they’d traditionally be mixed, but if you look at “Grade“ or “Sleep Lighter” even though they are built with a lot of sounds that are synonymous with grime, they just don’t function in the same way. I guess that relates to the previous question as well.
In terms of linking with Gobstopper, Dark0 was the catalyst. Firstly his music provided a clear bridge for me into the scene as a listener. I was listening to a lot of synth heavy pop with lots of bare bones analog synth sounds in, and when I first heard “Chaos,” or “Evisu,” any of his tunes really, I wanted to find more. So for the first time in my life I actually sent some tunes out to people, one of whom was Dark0. He said if he had a label he’d put them out, but as he didn’t he’d send them to some people who might be interested. A couple of days later I got an email from Mr. Mitch. Way too many people to mention who are making great music in and around this movement, but special shouts to Sharp Veins, V1984, all the Silk Road Assassins crew, Strict Face… I could go on forever, it’s silly.
What’s your favourite oldschool grime instrumental?
Iglew: Ask me tomorrow and I’ll give you a different answer but Ruff Sqwad’s “R U Double F”–The original is lost and this is the best version of the instrumental which is quite romantic really. Out to Midnight for stitching it together.
Finally, anyone you want to shout out?
Iglew: Mr. Mitch and the Gobstopper team, thanks for everything. Also Dark0, Riz La Teef and Sagepay, the Wisdom Teeth crew, Airhead, Murlo, and everyone I mentioned or didn’t mention earlier. Anyone who’s supported my music at all in any way. Oh and my friends and family for being a never ending well of positive energy and encouragement.
Iglew’s ‘Urban Myth EP’ is released April 27 on Vinyl (Full Colour Sleeve) & Digital on Gobstopper.