In recent times, "dubstep" has become a dirty word. Disappropriated by the mainstream and shunned by it's founding fathers. There are however those who give the genre meaningful name sake. Enter V.I.V.E.K.
The mantra of dub and sound system culture is one often preached, but not so frequently truly played out. Vivek Sharda or as you may know him V.I.V.E.K. has been a mainstay of any discerning bass music enthusiast's playlist since the mid noughties, now he lauches his own imprint, System Music...
A term that means everything and nothing, dubstep remains the most likely term to hear your music described as. At it's core, your music remains true to the fundamental sound, does the genre's name sake still have any meaning to you?
Yes and no. I mean the term has no meaning to me personally but at the same time if someone asks what sort of music I make I generally say dubstep. It’s really just a blanket term I guess as there are so many different strains of the music. I guess what’s important to me is the fundamental sound of 'dubstep' which in many ways has been lost via its significant rise to mainstream; the minimalism, the space and my favourite, the bass!
Your sound could be described as the coming together of root influences. Be it through traditional Indian percussion sounds, deep bass echoing your early exposure to the sound systems in Southall or your pre dubstep passion for drum & bass. How far does heritage, both musical and cultural manifest itself in your work?
My culture plays a big role in me as an individual but when it comes to my music it does and doesn't. I’m from Indian heritage but I'm also British, and proud to be. My music is more an amalgamation of many cultures, be it Indian, Jamaican etc. Just because I'm Indian, it doesn't mean I'm going to put a flute or a tabla in every tune I make. Doing that doesn't reflect me or my upbringing. Especially being from London, you are around so many different cultures it’s difficult not to be influenced by a foreign concept.
"Expect a good vibe in the dance, roots and culture, and a sound system built to fully appreciate the sound we call dubstep."
System Music is your new imprint for your own work. An often clichéd question although always relevant, what led you to launch the label? Especially having had so much success on other labels lie Deep Medi? What advantages to you see in both greater control but ultimately a greater personal work load?
Starting the label was the next logical step for me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to achieve along with building a sound system. As you've said the main advantage is greater control. But it’s not just that, it’s something you can call your own, something you've built through music. I can wake up tomorrow and decide to put a pink 7 inch with a furry cover out if I wanted to, it’s all up to me, and that’s something that I really like. I also have a specific sound that I want to push. I’m calling it 'future dub’. That’s just the sound I see in my head, old elements in a new style.
Will you solely be releasing on System Music for the foreseeable future?
No I have plans to release on other labels.
"Asteroids" is the first outing for System Music, fundamental dubstep, with the slow building sensibilities of the deepest of techno slices. The first single for any label is often a statement of intent. Is this the case here?
You'll have to wait and see. Only time will tell.
While "Over My Head" sees "Asteroids" getting the vocal treatment, Om Unit's remix shifts things up a gear while staying true to the original's character. What opportunities does doing your own A&R for your label create and what is the story behind getting Om Unit involved?
Doing my own A&R means I'm only going to put music out that I’m really feeling so I am the quality control. I've also started going out a lot more to hear music, which I stopped doing a few years back. I guess record labels generally reflect the taste of the people that run them. OM, I met him at System when Amit played, I think. He hit me up about "Asteroids" and I asked him if he'd be up for doing a remix, which he was. A couple weeks later he sent his version. What I love about his remix is it’s not what you expect. It’s so different but he's managed to keep all the main elements of the track.
"I can wake up tomorrow and decide to put a pink 7 inch with a furry cover out if I wanted to, it’s all up to me, and that’s something that I really like. "
As time goes on and barriers between genres fragment and blur, do you ever look towards 170 BPM music? With artists like Indigo, Om Unit and Synkro all writing at higher tempos than the area around 140 BPM is there ever the temptation to combine the pace of the past with the dynamics of the present?
Not really. I have started a few 170 bits but I’m happy with the 140 sound. I still find it interesting and that’s the main thing. Producers generally start building different tempos when they lose that spark for the sound. It happens to everyone. It’s natural. Then, one track will come along that will re-ignite the passion for the sound. I always experiment but kind of feel like I’m cheating on 140, so I revert back!
Your much acclaimed club night "System" has it’s first birthday event fast approaching, can you tell us what we can expect?
Expect a good vibe in the dance, roots and culture, and a sound system built to fully appreciate the sound we call dubstep.