February 18th, 2010 by Joel Hietanen

This would be our new videographic project (which we started scetching out late 2009), and I got to say, I am quite happy to push the paintball-related video clips off my editing table for now. Seeing the same material over and over again, from the conferences to my doing-the-Edward-Scissorhands on the editing table – well, its stating to finally become just a bit stale… So, on to new and better things it is, then, and what will such things entail?

For us, an exploration of the consumer community partaking into the growing ‘dubstep’ electronic scene is the answer. We needed an interesting and a highly audiovisual cultural phenomenon, and a great deal of access. Dubstep gave us all of the above.

Coming this far, we have come to understand the role of access and autoethnographic accounts when going after an in-depth understanding of a phenomenon and rich material for its representation. This time we did not have to search far and wide. Our initial impulse came from the ‘Illicit Pleasure’ JCR article (Goulding, Shankar, Elliott & Canniford 2009), even though what we consequently set out to go after is quite different, except for taking an interest in consumption cultures revolving around electronic music. As it happened, I used share a student flat with Risto Roman (going by the alias Desto), and at the time we got together to experiment with music production. I might even post up some of our work dating back to the days of yore, but I’ll need to summon some more courage before you’ll see that happening. With all the other things on my plate, my musical ambitions (or dabblings) had become comprehensively afterburnered. Meanwhile, Desto had gone on to establish himself as an internationally known dubstep producer and DJ.

In this project, he would thus be the autoethnographic member, Joonas would look at the phenomenon from a somewhat less acculturated perspective and I would initially be the fence-sitter with some experience in producing (and obviously partying out to) electronic music, albeit not so much specifically related to the dubstep genre.

Before we entered into the contexts where dubstep happens, we held (quite) thorough conversations about the curiosities of dubstep culture with Risto. Additionally, he provided us with a wealth of internet resources in the form of forums (e.g. Step Ahead), blogs (e.g. Blackdown) and insider documentaries (e.g. Dubfiles) all revolving around dubstep. At that point Risto had already set up interview sessions with renowned DJ/producers as they came over to Finland to strut their stuff at dubstep parties. At present, we have already conducted some interesting filming with a couple of DJ/producers of international fame in interesting backstage settings and the like.

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Bristol based Jakes in the back room of SLAM IT at Kuudes Linja, Helsinki.

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Desto on decks at Kuudes Linja.

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Some screengrabs of Pinch from our video material. The low light capabilities of our JVC videocam leave a lot to be desired - which is why we decided to go shopping for new gear.

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Pinch again.

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Pinch in the backroom of Kuudes Linja, displaying his dubplates. He keeps them unlabeled so as to not let onlookers easily learn his selection.

This time, in order to not spend as long pondering on what the hell we are actually doing, we decided to focus on uncovering the perspectives of cultural agents, specifically the DJ/producers, who, through their actions, shape and reproduce the culture. At this early stage we are primarily interested in (still hanging on to the practice theory as a foundation),

  • The practices that drive the evolution of the dubstep culture
  • Agency and authentication in dubstep culture
  • The marginal/mainstream tension regarding this genre of electronic music

Next we are looking forward to visiting some of the most interesting international settings where dubstep has a central role. This would, at the very least, entail two trips to UK (Croydon and Bristol) and a hop over the pond to the states (New York). We will keep you all updated about our progress (and all unplanned slapstick-like outcomes during the process) on this same bat channel, so please keep reading this blog in the future as well.

While this project is still at quite an early stage (we are going after a rich ethnographic immersion, not a few quick & dirty interviews), we have already submitted some early scribblings to the CCT 2010 conference. Hopefully we get accepted, and I hope to see all you guys there.

References:

Dubfiles – Dubstep Documentary. Directed by G. McCann and G. Jugdeese. Dubfiles 2008.

Goulding, C., Shankar, A., Elliott, R., Canniford, R. 2009. The Marketplace Management of Illicit Pleasure. Journal of Consumer Research. 35, 5, 759-771.