Dubstep is a unique genre. It possesses none of the smooth, mass appeal of big room house, and it doesn’t inspire the “close-your-eyes-and-smile” vibes that trance specializes in. Rather, it’s the kind of music that exists entirely for the purpose of jumping, dancing, and getting completely wild out of your mind. At the center of this world exists SKisM, the British mastermind who for all intents of purposes can rightfully be considered one of the godfathers of the industry.
SKisM (or Tommy Dash if we’re being formal) comes from a UK scene, that despite its incredibly bevy of talent, has found itself turning its back on bass music. It’s the simple process that seems pervasive in all movements of new music: “We jump on something, we promote the fuck out of it, and as soon as it’s not cool anymore we turn our backs on it.” That being so, he admits that the resulting trend was an “export (of) our talent.” British superstars like Flux Pavilion, Doctor P, and many more have found fame here in the United States, where a much larger market dove headfirst into the genre that largely existed as a sub-culture in its infancy.
From this scene, two types of artists evolved throughout the years: The ones who devote their time to creating music, and the ones who put their effort into DJing. In a lot of ways, SKisM falls in the latter category. Known for his ability to control four decks during his shows, he’s a true master of the live performance. His style makes sure he’s controlling the myriad of moving parts in his mixing and transitions, while at the same time providing him with more speed and less clutter.
It’s not about how many tunes you play at once, it’s about using them to allow you to do what you do quicker.
Despite his considerable talent behind the decks, SKisM’s free time has become next to non-existent. Possessing talents that extend far outside the reaches of being a DJ, to say the man behind the renowned Never Say Die record label has a “busy” schedule wouldn’t begin to do it justice.
“Making music is something that’s always come second,” Dash admits, as his priorities have shifted towards finding similarly-talented DJs to populate Never Say Die. He’s created a label responsible for such talent as Zomboy, Eptic, and Dodge & Fuski, with the result being a meticulously constructed a roster of artists that have shot to the forefront of the dubstep world. Since its inception in 2009, he’s found himself settled comfortably into the role of musical kingmaker.
I develop acts, I help them come through, I get much more of a buzz out of nurturing talent and making them successful.
When pressed about what he sees himself as within the realm of bass music, he coyly cracks a grin, mischievously proclaiming his answer in one simple word: “Puppetmaster.” He’s been around dubstep since it first started its rise to prominence, and in the process become one of the founding fathers of a genre that’s found itself constantly in flux. As the one pulling the strings, Dash now finds himself in the middle of a genre that’s begun to see its first struggles in sameness.
Dubstep started to sound the same last year. Post Nero/Skrillex blowing up everything sounded like them, and now Skrillex doesn’t even sound like that anymore. I wish he’d put out more dubstep bangers because then we’d have something to copy again (laughing).
Other genres of EDM have found themselves in a similar rut, but dubstep is quickly resolving theirs. With the right people pushing the right talent, it’s a problem that’s actively being solved by the waves of young talent running straight through SKisM’s label, as well as the unique closeness the dubstep community shares. Describing his experience playing at Shambhala, Dash paints a vivid picture of being on stage with fellow bass giants Excision, Datsik, Dirtyphonics, and Foreign Beggars. In front of an electric crowd that he dubs “the best festival I’ve ever been to,” it was an experience for him akin to “mixing in my bedroom 13 years ago with my mates.”
After our interview, SKisM came out to a crowd at Foundation Nightclub that wanted nothing but the dirtiest, darkest bass they could find. With the dubstep virtuoso controlling his signature four decks, it was an audience that had come to the right place. Any given show at Foundation will usually have the night’s talent with a microphone in one hand spending half their night pumping up the crowd. Dash was a notable exception, as he rarely looked up from the table, choosing to spend his time more as an orchestral director would. The music spoke for itself, without a single solitary soul in the crowd not regularly leaving their feet for every drop. For the self-described puppetmaster, it only made sense.
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