Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Youngsta Interview: Venue Meets Dubstep Royalty

Here's a little feature on dubstep don Youngsta, adapted from a Clubs preview I wrote for Venue mag last month.

Few, if any, have a better claim on dubstep’s throne than Youngsta. He championed the genre long before it had a name, and remains at the heart of the movement a decade later.

As his adopted name suggests, Youngsta started early. “I was 13”, he says, “playing garage on a pirate station called Freek FM'. Growing up in Essex, he was introduced to dubplate culture by his sister (Sarah Lockhart) and soon built a reputation for technical mastery he's enjoyed ever since.

Sarah went on to be a key behind-the-scenes figure in the evolution of the new sound, as head of Ammunition Promotions and Tempa Records. When she launched her club night – the legendary FWD>> - in 2001, Youngsta was an obvious choice to man the decks, and pairing him with Hatcha proved historic.

While other FWD>> regulars pioneered grime (and more recently UK funky), Hatcha and Youngsta gravitated towards minimal, bass-heavy instrumentals, tweaking the EQs for maximum low-end impact.

Before long, FWD>> and Big Apple – the Croydon record shop where Hatcha worked – became the focal point for a cavernous, dread-filled sound that rapidly outgrew its garage roots. “Dubstep was a bit darker”, explains Youngsta, with characteristic understatement. “I've known Hatcha and the Big Apple lot since day one. We've all been there from the beginning, watching the sound and the scene grow”.

Now 25, Youngsta remains one of dubstep’s most wanted. He is still the only person to have contributed two mixes to the Dubstep Allstars series, both of which were key releases in the genre's development. His forays into production include a darkside collaboration with dubstep producers-of-the-moment Kryptic Minds, which has already yielded the excellent 'Cold Blooded' / 'Surge', with more to come in the new year. A 12" with SP:MC (working title: 'Unidentified') is out now, while the buzz surrounding his next release – a mix CD for Rinse due “early next year” - is proof he's survived a decade in which dubstep has grown from an eccentric splinter of garage to the international phenomenon it is today.

If peers like Kode 9 have distanced themselves from the dubstep juggernaut, Youngsta remains passionate and optimistic. The genre's success “has not surprised” him, and he's as comfortable with “good jump up” as he is with “minimal and deep”. It’s this inclusive, discerning approach that makes Youngsta’s Thursday night Rinse FM sessions essential listening at a time when the scene sometimes looks to have fragmented beyond repair. Club sets see bedroom DJs crowd around his booth to learn from the master: “it’s nice that people show an interest”, he says modestly.

Despite expressing a growing interest in house and techno - "who knows what I will play in five or ten years?" - Youngsta says his priority is “the latest unreleased tracks of the dubstep scene”, adding “I don't play anything I don't like, and I don't play tunes for the crowd just because they're big at the time”. Listen, and learn.

Rinse (13?) mixed by Youngsta out early 2011.
Listen to Youngsta's show on Rinse FM, thursdays 9pm - 11pm.

Youngsta pic copyright Shaun Bloodworthy.

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