Dubstep, Drums, and Drum Machines: Crossfadr’s Interview With Mr. Spank
The beat is the heart of many EDM tracks. Without that pulse, the track simply doesn’t translate to the dance floor. But, in modern times, there’s more than one way to create that beat, and Mr. Spank started organically, picking up and playing drums. Before making a career out of electronic, however, he took the standard drummer route, playing in bands and across several genres, from pop to blues.
A KORG EM 1, on the other hand, started the transition from drums to drum machines. Since this point, New York DJ and producer Mr. Spank has experimented to breakbeat, dubstep, and electro.
Your biography mentions you have a background in drumming. How did this translate into a DJing and production career?
Mr. Spank: Let’s say I always loved music. I started playing drums when I was 13 in a punk band. From there I moved to play different genres spacing from jazz to hard rock and blues. This shows that I have a strong passion for music in general. When I was a little older, I got into the world of electronic music. It blew my mind completely. It was something I never heard before: “… [I]nstruments obedient to my thought and with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm,” as Edgard Varese described sound synthesis. So from there, I tried to express myself as a musician in different ways; I started producing music and got into the Djing world.
Your biography also mentions a drum machine was one of your first pieces of equipment. How has your equipment setup changed during the years?
Mr. Spank:Back in early 2000, I was not really acquainted to all the technologies available to make music. I started with a Korg EM-1 and, since I had a strong understanding of rhythm, I had so much fun creating crazy patterns with synthesized drum samples. However, The EM 1 was pretty easy to use and after a while I felt that I needed more to really express my creativity. By that time, computers had already taken over analog machines. I started creating my music with reason. Suddenly, I realize that with computer programs I had so much more flexibility and so much more freedom to express my musical identity. From there I upgraded my set up with a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 audio interface and an 88 key M-AUDIO MIDI keyboard. Then, I started to take lesson and learned how to play piano, which is essential for everyone that makes music. I even upgraded to Logic Pro which is a much more professional DAW.
When it comes to putting together a track, does your drumming background have any influence, and if so, how?
Mr. Spank: Drums are the most important element in EDM music. That said, I don’t really think that drumming specifically has influenced my style. In my opinion, when it comes to put together a track, the general rules of how music works are the most important. You have to know how to structure a song. I don’t make music just “following the ear” but I do it with an understanding of its form. I see it as an organized succession of different sounds, which is, also, the definition of music.
What projects are you working on currently?
Mr. Spank: Right now I am working on my new EP. It is a project that will have some electro-breaks pieces and some dubstep interpretations. I decided to vary the genre first because I enjoy making this kinds of music and, second, to show how many similarities there are in what is famous for being “bass music.” Hopefully, it is going to be ready in September. I’ll keep you in the loop.
Who would you like to remix?
Mr. Spank: Lately I have been listening to a lot of breakbeat music or nu-skool breaks. Around the web, I found this couple of artists named Beatman and Ludmilla. I’d love to remix one of their tunes, because I believe that they really understood the genre and the needs of the public as well. They give the people what they want, and it sounds pretty phat!
Dubstep has taken off in the U.S. over the past few years. How has this affected your career?
Mr. Spank: I started composing and DJing drum and bass many years ago and, as many know, what we listen today is a derivative of this genre. As a musician and a music maker, I have to keep up with the trends and find out what is hip and what people listen to these days. The coming ofd ubstep in the US has definitely redirected my views. I just tried to make some dubstep and I had fun doing it. Now I am trying to integrate it with my musical experience, and who knows what will come out !
How has dubstep’s popularity affected the EDM scene in New York?
Mr. Spank: Well, dubstep has become pretty popular, we all know. It started from the underground rave scene and now has taken the leadership. Every club plays dubstep now and every major club has, at least once hosted, Skrillex.
From your perspective, where do you think dubstep will go in the U.S. – is it an EDM genre here to stay, or a passing fad?
Mr. Spank: I definitely think it is going to die sooner or later. Just because it rose so fast it’s gonna fade out at the same speed. However, there is a reason why I think dubstep won’t stay in the scene for long. It is a musical movement without roots, or at least not here in the US. People heard, sounded dope, and that’s it. By the time the next EDM subgenre will be out, dubstep will be forgotten. This is because people are chained to the genre just because it’s hip now. There isn’t any other attachment possible, because it is not a 360 movement like hip-hop, for example.
Do you have any advice for aspiring DJs and producers?
Mr. Spank: Yeah. Don’t listen only to EDM, play classical piano, and get inspired by others!
Do you have any upcoming gigs, and if so, when and where?
Mr. Spank: Not now. I am working 24/7 on my EP because it is going to be a hit!