So this is absolutely one of the most exciting articles I have ever gotten to write. I think we all have had that one friend who thinks they are a DJ. They one day show up into your life and inform you that they are learning some production program or learning how to mix. As editor in chief of a larger music blog, these people literally come out of the woodwork on an almost daily basis. Well a few years ago I had a roommate who, you guessed it, was a producer/DJ. The catch is he was actually pretty damn good. Jesse and I lived inches from each other for a year, and I was able to see him hone his craft and become the artist known as Subtronics. He has now toured internationally, dropped countless EPs, and destroyed B2B sets with the likes of 12th Planet. So yeah, it is pretty incredible to be able to interview one of my best friends when they actually deserve a feature on the site.
As I stated before Jesse and I are really close. A bond that was formed through a lot. Him becoming one of my dog’s best friends, him finding me dead of a heroin overdose and eventually calling the cops, and us hearing each other having sex here and there between the cheap walls of our apartment. The first thing I wanted to know is what it has been like going from a bedroom producer to an internationally touring artist?
It’s extremely hard to describe because it is basically two polar opposite [feelings] happening at once. I still spend 90% of my free time in a room making music with barely any close IRL [in real life] friends or sitting on Skype with the same kids for long hours into the night. Sometimes it feels literally the only difference are the numbers I get on Soundcloud. The other 10% of the time (and rapidly growing in percentage) is spent doing what I generally label as “dubstep shenanigans”. For example like when an internet friend gets booked to play in town. Meeting up with friends from the online scene has rapidly become a huge part of my life and the experiences and adventures I get to have are frankly beyond my wildest dreams. I constantly have moments on stage where I have flashbacks to the years of no one giving a shit about anything I was doing. Now I am constantly meeting super enthusiastic and excited fans, and they have no idea I’m just as amazed and blown away by the fact that they could be so excited to just see me.
I mean all I can really say is that I am really grateful for my fans and my close friends who continually put up with me and support me. I never thought in a million years that any of this would be possible. Between realizing in Chicago that a group of friends talking around a kitchen table was the exact same group as a Skype call 4 years prior to running into Samplifire in Paris. He was someone who I really thought was so far away that I’d never actually meet; then to hang out with him and play a show was just beyond what I ever thought would be possible. I still have a lot to prove, which I work extremely hard to try and do. I am relatively new to seriously traveling and being arguably relevant, but I am still very much a small fry in a sea of both extremely talented, equally hardworking kids.
As you can see Subtronics has a decent amount of varying feelings and emotions around starting to arrive in a legendarily fickle industry. Throughout his answer you can notice an amount of humility flowing through it. This is one of the coolest things about knowing Jesse on a personal level. I could say a lot of things about him, honestly none of them entirely nice, but I know for a fact when it comes to music he is his own harshest critic. This might be damaging in some ways but overall it has produced a sense of real humility around his production and a sense of awe in his success. With that being said since Jesse and I lived together with a roommate who was so southern he had a portrait of Robert E Lee hanging over his bed, dubstep has changed a great deal. So I wanted to pick his brain on how what has been the status quo in dubstep has changed over the years, as well as see how that has changed what big name artists are influencing his style.
I have probably been so engulfed and obsessed with Soundcloud dubstep culture that I have no idea what the general population likes anymore. I just really like forward thinking sound design bass music, you know…stuff that makes me think “how the fuck did he make that”. It comes down to what one quantifies as “popular” too. The people who I am fans of are the ones who are a rebellion against the mainstream attitude at the same time they are becoming the people that hold up the entire genre on their backs. I guess in terms of the super commercialized bro-step stuff, I can still totally get down with most of it. I think the main thing I’ve been trying to do is not pay attention to what is hot at the moment and just explore my own weird ideas.
My first influences were Rusko, Skism, Bare Noize, Tomba, Caspa, Skream, and all the Canadian guys like Downlink and Excision. The first thing I ever tried to make was a replication of a super old Rusko song. Then I had a phase where I was trying to be Knife Party, then someone showed me ‘Baptism of Fire’. From then on it’s pretty much been machine guns and robot noise. Then the whole wonky dubstep/riddim/swamp/whateverthefuck/trench shit happened and I started to try to incorporate a bouncier flow into my arrangements.
It is clear that working in a changing scene has it’s challenges but Subtronics seems to have found the secret to success: an open mind, and a laser focus on developing a sound unique to yourself. Looking at his influences over the years was also really interesting, but now that he has found success, who were the artists that he would love to collaborate with at the moment?
The absolutely fucking gorgeous thing about underground dubstep is that all of my favorite artists are the new up and comers I find or the homies I’ve had for years. So I’ve made music with most of my favorite producers. That being said, there are 3 people in particular I have been dying to make music with, and I am not saying names specifically because there have been a few instances of stems being passed back and forth, but nothing written in stone yet so these lips are sealed ❤. What I will say is that if and when they become a reality, people will likely be running in terror. Outside of that, I think its safe to say that like a Funtcase, Phiso or Skism collab would force me to purchase a new pair of underwear.
Jesse has a new EP ready to be launched in the coming weeks. I was curious to see where inspiration came from for this small collection of songs in particular. It has been over a year now since me and Subtronics lived under one roof and I have not had a pleasure of sampling his unreleased tunes with as much frequency. I needed to know what the challenges were, where his head was at during the production of what is slated to be his biggest release yet.
I have picked my best songs over the past year of making music to send to my favorite label, Prime Audio. They are my favorite because they consistently stay true to the sound of the culture. While I always present the best work I am capable of, the inspiration primarily came from my friends who are making similar music. Though inspiration always comes from my past music and more so trying to make it better. The people whose music currently inspires me includes (but is not limited to): Uber, Kadaver, Sudden Death, Digitist, Seriph, Oolacile, Samplifire, Subject 31, Midnight T (Tyrannosaurus) , Squnto, Phiso, Chibs, Ivory, Trollphace, Deemed, Dack (Janiels), Ecraze, Codd Dubs, and Emilian Wonk. You may notice a trend of those who inspire me the most are generally the artists I mentioned with wanting to collab with. Long story short, I have been sitting on these songs for quite awhile because they are my absolute favorite productions I have made. I wanted to make sure they see an official release on a label they deserve. Overall I am extremely excited to present this music with the world.
One word comes to mind when you read that last paragraph and that is shout-outs. No, but for real, it is ‘passion’. Jesse has always, without shame held the production of music above all else in his life. He loves what he does, and takes pride in being able to share his gift of producing with those he looks up to as well as those he inspires. Still, even with all of this relative success, Jesse is still just your average college student, attending Temple University in North (the bad part of) Philadelphia. I was wondering what it has been like trying to balance his ever increasing success with the schedule of the average college student.
Unmanageability with a hint of relative insanity. I cycle back and forth between the brink of utter failure, and then to being motivated enough to pass all my classes. My life currently is basically school full time during the week, and as soon as I get out of class Thursday, I jump on a plane and do those aforementioned dubstep shenanigans until Sunday. Then I return home and try to get all the homework I have due finished on time. It is tricky because regardless of musical success, I have a dad who is in the [music] industry himself, therefore I feel the need to eventually walk home with a college degree. As I said before the work ethic honest production requires is making that goal look more and more impossible. While I had a horrendous last semester, this semester I have been killing it out of straight fear of having to drop out. If I’m honest with myself, dubstep takes priority over everything else in my life, but the adult in me realizes that i will eventually need a college degree. I guess the short answer is that I am literally leading a double life and I am a stressed out puddle of anxiety 90% of the time.
That is a pretty accurate picture of what early success looks like folks. Starting to hit it big in the dance music industry is very different from actually hitting it big in the dance music industry. Subtronics is at a crossroads where he is choosing his passion but still doubt will always find it’s way it. It absolutely has to if you aren’t a sociopath. Jesse is far from one, though I am still sure some type of personality disorder is present…you can’t fit into this industry if you are ‘normal’. So to wrap up an awesome talk with an old friend I had to ask him a fun question. As I have said countless times before, Subtronics and I go way back and I didn’t even need to ask if he had been watching Black Mirror on Netflix…so I just asked, what would the DJ episode be about if they made it? His response is exactly why I love this guy. Congratulations on the success Jesse and here is to so much more.
Well I mean the episode where they follow that girl around with all the cell phones, just filming and not actually helping is fairly reminiscent of a bunch of crowds I’ve seen in the past (not saying that’s a bad thing…I am actually pretty flattered that people think I’m cool enough to wanna film). I’m not exactly sure but maybe something about Markus Schulz talking the main character into playing a 20 hour long marathon set on a space ship or else the earth president’s nudes will be leaked.
Cover Photo and more by: C2H2