SBTRKT: All the way live

Let’s get one thing out of the way. SBTRKT is Aaron Jerome, a London knob twiddler who was probably less popular than he should have been after a solid 2007 debut, Time to Rearrange.

At that time, his sound hewed closer to expansive nu-jazz and ambient soul rather than the UK bass-music-dubstep lane he’s exploring now. Actually, it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and unfair) to try to describe his sound in hyphenated terms.

As Matt Diehl writes for the Daily Swarm, SBTRKT has carved out a distinctive musical identity largely via “bottom-end productions and remixes that flirt with genres spanning dubstep, U.K. Garage, funky, soul and other styles without getting caught up in any of their clichés.”

Though his self-titled album dropped at the end of June, it (and compatriot James Blake‘s CD) have been in our heavy rotation ever since. Much like our other faves who’ve masked their identity (MF Doom) or have tried to dodge the spotlight (Shabazz Palaces) so that listeners could just focus on the music, SBTRKT chooses to rock a striking tribal mask to sidestep associations with anything but what comes through the speakers. (Cynics among us may still find it gimmicky, we admit.)

Still, I found revealing interview to be a good read as he explains some of his music-related firsts: his first pseudonym, his first time he heard his tracks on the radio and the first time Drake jumped on one of his songs. The latter is a “Wildfire” remix that the Toronto MC rhymed on and performed live recently. Listen here:

We’ve listed short excerpts of five of the firsts below:

First mask: “My first mask is the one that’s on the cover of my first EP: I call it the “soundboy shift rundown” mask. It was wet with glue when we took the picture!”

First computer: “My first one was a PC that, from what I remember, had 3 gigabytes and 128 mb of RAM. I never sampled on that, but I had a MIDI sequencer with early Cubase.”

First time you learned to beat match: “The first time I learned to mix was when I started DJing around the age of 12 or 13. I used house records, but I didn’t have a Technics, so I’d just put my finger on the turntable!”

First female vocalist you loved: “Female vocalists have always been big for me. I can’t remember exact the exact first one, but I’m guessing it was Rozalla, who had this big track “Everybody’s Free.” It was a pop rave track – based on the hardcore sound, but completely watered down.”

First record bought with your own money: “When I was 11, I got “Nighttrain” by Public Enemy on twelve-inch, then De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising: I’d held off buying vinyl, but when I started I went in on the classics.”

It gets much deeper than this. Read more here.

And if you want to catch him live, his North American tour (with AraabMUZIK) kicks off in October in Vancouver then heads to the States for 11 more dates. See here.

WATCH: “Wildfire” feat. Yukimi Nagan of Little Dragon


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