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Listen: RS4 - Pack London Exclusive Mix & Interview

If you’ve taken any sort of interest in this country’s underground music scene in the last 15 years, you’ll almost certainly have listened and/or raved to a tune by the DJ behind this week’s guest mix, the legendary Oris Jay, aka. Darqwan, aka. DQ1, and now - aka. RS4. Hailing from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, Oris has put his hand to - and mastered - not one, not two, but THREE of the most important underground movements in British dance music, all of which originated in London. (In fact, as the interview makes clear, he’s tried his hand at a couple of others too!) “Biggin’ Up The Massive” caused Moet spillages at UK Garage raves, “Gud Money” had Dubsteppers throwing their Red Stripes in the air and accidentally poking people in the eyes with their spliff-ends and in 2015, shuffle-mad yoots are pulling off Ronaldo-esque footwork to RS4 tunes such as the remix of ‘’Little Man’’ by Sia at deep tech house raves.

Ask anyone in the garage, dubstep and deep-tech scenes and chances are they’ll know who Oris Jay is. But who is Oris Jay, really? We got the chance to ask the man himself in a rare interview, looking back over his long and uniquely varied career as a producer; accompanying this is an hour long mix under his RS4 alias which shows off Oris’s honed prowess as a sculptor of dark, gritty club bangers. Talking to Oris about his musical history offers an opportunity to delve into the recent history of British club culture, but there is nothing antiquated about the music in his mix for Pack London: his beats are state of the art, shiny and sharp as a razor.

1. First of all, many readers will be familiar with your beats, though perhaps not under your current name. Why the switch from Oris Jay/Darqwan/DQ1 to RS4?

I released an album in 2012 called "To The Fly" which had a mix of genres on it. Spanning about 10 years of musical styles that have influenced me from Hip Hop, Dancehall, Drum & Bass to Dubstep. What it missed was the music that originally got me in to electronic music, which was the Bleeps & Bass sound that Sheffield was known for in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I knew one day I would try and produce a few tracks based around that old style of music (basically stripped-down House music, bass driven, 808 & 909 drums with some synth sounds). In 2006 I gave it a go with a track called "Rudeboy DJ" which I did with DJ Veteran. That was the first time I used the alias RS4. A few months after the album release an old friend of mine called DJ Lombardo introduced me to the Deep Tech House sound. I remember him saying to me, “It sounds like your Darqwan stuff but House music, you should try it using another alias”. So I did, and RS4 was back. R.S is short for Oris and 4 is short for the 4x4 time signature (four to the floor). It’s nothing to do with Audis!

2. Its interesting to see a producer from Sheffield - a city long associated with industrialism and industrial music - fastening onto this style, which I think has a quite mechanical feel to it. Could you explain the role growing up and living in Sheffield has taken in shaping (or NOT shaping) your musical direction?

Growing up in Sheffield in the 80’s/90’s was an exciting time for me musically as my local record shop was Warp Records. I could only just see over the counter at the guy playing these mad Bleeps & Bass sounds which I found fascinating. I was too young to get into most clubs in Sheffield at that time however, walking on my tip-toes and not making any eye contact with the doormen I managed to get into a club called The Limit. This club was pitch black, one way in and one way out, low roof and massive speakers. 5 minutes after I got in the track “LFO” by LFO came on and when the bass dropped I knew music was the life for me.

Sheffield was also known for its Steel industry. Where I lived you could hear the echoes of the machines banging repeatedly like a slow faint kick drum. I guess even the sound of the factories in the background have influenced me.

3. It seemed like a particularly strong statement to me, releasing the LFO remix. Do you see deep-tech as a sort of resurgence of the stripped down structures of acid house and bleep n bass?

Thats kind of how I look at it, yes. However, most of the people going out and dancing all night to Deep Tech wouldn’t have heard a Bleeps & Bass track from the early 90’s.

Most genres take their influences from another genre whether they realise or not. 808 & 909 drums are very popular in the production of Deep Tech House, just like they was in the Bleeps & Bass scene back in the day.

4. I want to go back to your beginnings as a producer. You began releasing music in 2000 with Biggin' Up The Massive. This was garage, but from the beginning there was something particular about your sound - the distortion of the basslines, the clatter of the beats. I wondered about what influenced you at this stage in your career. Were you make stuff before this - jungle, perhaps, or broken beat?

I was a Jungle DJ just before I discovered UK Garage, so I guess my early productions would have been heavily influenced by this. The first ever track I made was a jungle track and was also the first and last time I used an engineer. The next track I did after that was Biggin Up the Massive. If I’m honest, I had no idea how to make tracks when I made it and even now when I hear it I can hear every mistake. The reason it’s stripped down and minimal is because I didn’t know how to make it sound full. Strangely that is also the track I am most known for even to this date.

5. Obviously your tunes were played by garage DJs. I wondered if you felt connected to the garage scene, and, if so, did the Velvet Rooms/FWD crowd play a significant part in that connection?

The mainstream Garage scene wasn’t really interested in my sound at first because it didn’t have any vocals that you could sing along to. It wasn’t until artist like Pay As U Go, Heartless Crew and So Solid made instrumental music popular, the mainstream Garage scene took notice. I will give a shout out to DJ EZ as he played all my early productions even in the mainstream clubs. To be fair at the same time FWD was born which was all about showcasing brand new and forward sounding music. For me this was where I wanted to be. Small dark club, massive speakers, good people, good vibe and every DJ playing a completely different set of music most of which you would never hear anywhere else than at FWD. This is where I felt connected and yes played a very significant part in my career.

6. One of your most celebrated tunes from that early noughties era was "Said The Spider" - which I would describe as breakbeat garage, with a bleepy/ardkore loop on top of it. All of your tunes from this era seem to be concerned with drums, but what sticks out to me, especially in the VIP of 'Said The Spider', is the oscillating bassline. This sort of thing preceded and anticipated dubstep's wobble. Were you consciously experimenting with bass at this point?

A wise man once said to me, "if you get your drum pattern right the rest of the track will follow” (L Double). This is why the drums are pretty dominant in my productions. As for the bass, I realised that if I made it wobble I could keep the track interesting and keep it minimal. The bleeps are just a little bit of old school Sheffield coming out. I would say I was consciously trying to get the best out of the studio equipment and myself as I could, not just trying to experiment with bass. Skream said in an interview once that the track I did called “Confused” influenced him to make his basslines wobble in his early productions and in terms of Dubstep he was later known as one of the biggest artists.

7. One interesting thing I came across researching your discography was "Underground", which to me is effectively a Grime track. You also collaborated with Mark One a few times, and I've got a recording of "Taiwan Ink" being played by Slimzee - was grime something you were into and wanted to make more of? And if so, why didn't you make more of it?

Even now I could listen to an old Pay As U Go mix tape as I love the vibe of Grime. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever set out to make Grime, I just set a tempo and make a track. 80% of my tracks are instrumentals so I guess MCs like them. Slimzee is one of my favourite DJs so when he asked me for a VIP version of Taiwan Ink I was like: “Yeah, it will be done by tonight.”

8. You seem to have entered the world of dubstep "proper" with "Last of Nine", and "Wear The Crown" which came out on Pinch's Tectonic imprint. This was a half-step tune, but it retained many of your stylistic features - the ’Think’ breakbeat, e.g. I wonder how you ended up making dubstep, who were your influences at the time, and if you thought that it was something that you had in fact helped give birth to?

I’ve been none stop in the music industry since i was 16 so decided to take I year break from production and DJing. When I came back everyone I knew was making tracks with a half time snare and calling it Dubstep. I loved the vibe and the deepness of this sound and could hear influences of my early tracks in these new productions. The only thing that I felt was different was the drums had become secondary to the sub bass." “Last of Nine" and "Wear the Crown” I struggled with a bit as a kept wanting to put more drums in them. Pitch pretty much said to me “keep it simple bruv”. Once a heard them among other Dubstep tracks on a club system I understood what he meant.

I think the vibe of the scene at the time was my biggest influence however, tunes would I would always have in my sets would be by Caspa, Skream, Benga, Distance, Loefah and Mala.

9. The same year (2006) you unveiled the RS4 pseudonym for the first time with something at the opposite end of the scale- a Bassline House tune! (With the ''Rudeboy DJ EP"). Given the darkness of your other productions, I think this would surprise some people to hear. Did you attend Nice nights or have connections with the Bassline scene?

If you live north of Watford and like Bassline at some point you would have been to Niche. DJ Veteran who I made "Rudeboy DJ" with was part of the Niche scene so he was my connections really.

10. Like many of the producers from what I would consider dubstep's golden age, you stopped making dubstep around the beginning of this decade (or releasing it, at least!). Now you've resurfaced as part of the deep tech house movement. I wondered how this transition came about - how did you come to discover this sound (which is, again, a London centric sound so far as I know?), and did it have something in common with dub step as it was before a certain commercialisation crept in?

I never really stopped making music, I just decided to make an album that took longer than I expected. A few months after its release I got a bit of writer’s block as the sound of Dubstep had changed in a way that I didn't want really want to follow. My friend Lombardo rang me and asked me if I have heard of deep tech house, I said no. He said it sounds like the tunes you used to make back in the day as it has bass and bleeps with influences of house from the 80's and early 90's. I decided to try make one which was a track called "All Around" and it ended up being signed to Audio Rehab. After that I just kept going.

11. I guess its impossible for a producer who's been so able to experiment with and excel in so many styles to predict what the future holds for their music, but what about the immediate future? What can we expect from you in 2015 and beyond?

I have an EP out on Audio Rehab in May (‘Out of the Darkness’), another EP on my label Paper Plates in July and got a few remixes coming out on various labels too. I guess you will also find me in various clubs up and down the country.

12. Finally, tell us about the mix you've done for Pack London. Is there any tracks on there in particular that we should look out for?

The mix is 100% homegrown tracks, the track called “Deny It” will be on my Paper Plates Ep in July.

Listen to the mix here:

(Intro and Interview by Jack Law)

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