While 2016 started the process, 2017 seems like the year grime will explode into countless new forms, expanding past its 140BPM pirate radio signature to touch on everything from Afrobeat-inflected trap to full on Stormzy-backed chart pop. Further underground, in more DJ-friendly climes, the tempo has been accelerating to find a new, high-energy take on the genre’s trademark roughneck energy. Hyperdub signee Proc Fiskal’s The Highland Mob EP is a key release in this wave, connecting South London’s Rough Sound tempos to classic sound patches harkening back to early Wiley and Dizzee Rascal productions. It’s among the most exciting grime releases I’ve heard in a minute, so I had to reach out and find out about the guy, and we chatted up about tempos, sound patches and the Earthbound soundtrack. —Son Raw
First up—why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from? How’d you get involved in producing/making music?
Proc Fiskal:I make music as Proc Fiskal, my name’s Joe Powers. I was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve been making music since I was really young but got into making electronic music when I was 12. There wasn’t a grime culture where I live and no one I knew was into it, so my being into it comes from the internet. Just finding certain tunes got my really inspired, tunes like Dom Perignon’s “Got Myself Together,”“Skeng,” and those Dizzee and Slimzee sets sounded really new to me. About three years ago the grime thing in Scotland started to be really healthy and I linked up with Rapture 4d and Polonis at LVLZ Radio where I met everyone involved in the scene here through radio.
The press release for the EP mentions Novelist’s Ruff Sound movement as a point of comparison, which makes sense. When you were developing the EP, was that something you had in mind or did you come to that faster tempo separately?
Proc Fiskal:Yeah, me and Polonis loved the Ruff Sound sets they were all doing, and I really rate them guys. I had made grime at 160 before hearing those sets though, but it was always too fast. I reckon they got the rhythmic balance right for MCs and that’s what got me back into [it]. I see it as a continuation of the sound, like grime was to garage, and the Scottish sound is as much of a splinter as Ruff Sound is. A lot of people are turned off by him naming it [giving it a separate genre name], but I don’t think that it’s that bad. Grime is a shit name for a genre anyway. If I were him though, i’d have let the Daily Mail or The Sun name it in a campaign to blame it for crime or something.
In terms of those classic sounds, how’d you settle on them? It’s interesting to me because most grime producers stick to the tempo and try to reinvent the palette, whereas you’ve done the opposite here. There’s a classic feel to the sounds but they’re twisted into new shapes.
Proc Fiskal:Yeah I suppose. I love a lot of what people were doing early on in grime. People like Dizzee Rascal, Danny Weed, and Wiley were all just making music rather than making a genre of music. So it all sounds a bit more free. Also I only really use samples to make music and I have pretty much all the same samples they were using: the mo phatt sampler, jungle sample packs and ps1 games. I’m trying to move away from that a bit more recently, ’cause the grime nostalgia thing is a bit dangerous, I reckon. It risks being like those guitar bands who just repeat what happened in a particular decade for memory’s sake. I was like five in 2002 anyway. I’m just trying to make music I enjoy first off, and that sound and those old tunes do still sound good to me.
Are there any particular producers (past or present) inspiring you these days?
Proc Fiskal:Yeah, at the moment I just listen to what people around me are making, people like Polonis, Rapture 4D, Creep Woland, Gallus One, Shanko, and Haggi. I find it hard to get time to listen to what anyone else is doing, ’cause I’m always listening to my own music. I like the soundtracks to games a lot, they were definitely what taught me about music growing up. Earthbound had a really good OST which I sample all the time.
Earthbound might be one of my favorite games ever made. What’s your favorite track on that one?
Proc Fiskal:The whole thing is unreal, was definitely a heavy vibe to take in when I was young. “Dr. Andonuts’ Lab” theme or “The Unforgiving Desert” tune are probably my favorites. I used to sit and watch my brother play it when I was wee, then played it myself when I was about ten. It’s totally embedded in my mind. It’s influenced me more than any album or anything has, most likely.
It also sounds like there’s stuff popping off in Edinburgh, producer wise. How’s the club scene?
Proc Fiskal:I’ve never actually played out in Edinburgh, only Glasgow and London so far, though I have my first headline show on the 19th of May, at the Bongo Club, with Elektrikal Soundsystems’ Wall of Bass show. Edinburgh itself has a pretty small grime scene, few producers, DJs, and MCs, but Glasgow is where most people connect it seems. There’s only really one strip of clubs in Edinburgh, it’s all confined to a little area right in the middle of town. The Bongo Club probably puts on the best nights, so I’m honored to play there, after looking up to it.
How’d you come to release The Highland Mob on Hyperdub?
Proc Fiskal:I just sent them an email. Hyperdub is a sick label. Ever since finding about them when I was young, I wanted to be on them, I think I just liked their logo at first. Burial’s 1st EP was on my phone in 4th year and then I loved all the footwork stuff they put out around 2013. I sent them an EP of 140BPM and 160BPM stuff and they liked the 160 a lot. I didn’t even think about the 160BPM stuff being that good at the time, it was just a small thing me and Polo were doing. I finished all those tunes around September last year. Being on such a historic label is kinda odd, I thought I would be more nervous about it, like living up to the pressure, but it just feels normal now, ’cause it’s what my life has been pointed at since I was 13.
Having grown up away from London, how’d that play into the way you hear grime? Typically the imagery surrounding the genre is tower blocks and emcees…
Proc Fiskal:I reckon my isolation from London is good, and I want to embrace my own background rather than just adopt that whole London vibe. The internet probably has a homogenizing effect because we’re all absorbing the same hype, though. I grew up around Pilton in Edinburgh, which is quite a deprived area, though my own family is alright. But Edinburgh has a lot of poor places right beside silly rich areas with mansion like houses next to council blocks, so I’d say Scotland has all the same problems as London does. I dunno if my surroundings really influence me that much though, I’m just in my own head.
Finally, where’d that name come from?
Proc Fiskal:I kept hearing procurator fiscal in the news and on radio, and they’d say, “And a report has been sent to the procurator fiscal,” and I just thought it sounded nice and that I could sample it. It has taken on a few accidental meanings as well, like a proc is a programmed random occurrence in coding, so Proc Fiskal is like money randomly occurring? I dunno, I just thought it sounded good at first, and it looked nice written down. The fact it’s a Scottish thing also made it feel right for a name.