Right then, the following is quite a bit overdue, so I guess its better to jump right in. After our little escapade to meet the New York dubstep scene, we all quickly washed the most important articles of clothing, rezipped our bags, and headed back out there, this time to London to do what we set out to do across the pond in a dandy British setting.
Don’t get me wrong, this videography hustle does come with a wealth of new experiences and amounts of a kind of hard-pressed fun (with all the hurry and the gear-related hassle), but having been out on our videographic odyssey for close to a month does lend itself to certain abuses. Yes, we were beginning to become somewhat fatigued by being crammed together in our (certainly too) modest hotel rooms. One must say I have to be traveling with the greatest team of all time, as we eventually seemed to endure our hasty run in London without any major hitches.
Again, our agenda was filled with interesting places to be and people to meet. We would be attending the legendary DMZ dubstep party night in Brixton, meet up with Oneman during his Rinse FM show, talk to Benny Ill at the place of the pioneers – the Horsepower Productions studio, catch up with Blackdown, Cyrus, Distance, Boomnoise, and finally cut some dubplates at the renowned Transiton Mastering Studios.
At the DMZ night we got to hear the influential sounds of dubstep pioneers the likes of Loefah and Coki, and in addition, we had the privilege of shattering our eardrums to the refreshingly minimalist sound of the up-and-coming James Blake. Whilst we were unable to get any in situ interviews during the night, we were (surprisingly enough) able to get ourselves into the party mood to an extensive degree. This was not a shortcoming however, as our planners were heavily booked through the coming week.
The following night we got to sneak into the legendary Rinse FM show, and Risto under his producer alias, Desto, ended up spinning his plates too. Quite the world premier for him in such a context. After the show (in the very late night) we got chat with Oneman and Asbo in the somewhat rough (somebody actually tried to do some business-a-bit-on-the-shady-side with us while we were shooting) streets of Brixton. Yet, it was especially interesting to get Oneman’s and Asbo’s knowledgeable take on the present state and future of the culture in an ever-digitalizing world. Thanks for the ride guys!
The next notable (and very much so) setting for us was the Horsepower Productions studio of Benny Ill in Southern London. This was another great highlight for us, as Benny and his Horsepower Productions studio is touted as a true place of origin for many dubstep sounds. During the course of the interview, Benny invited Lev Jnr to join us. We had a great time discussing primarily about the history of the scene in their old-school surroundings complete with heaps of gear topped off with the worthy addition of an old Atari ST. Big thanks to Benny and Lev for letting us into your home!
Also, we were able to quickly meet up with Blackdown and Boomnoise to get some truly analytic accounts of the fast-paced developments in the scene, along with a visit to the studio of Distance and Cyrus, for more historical accounts spiced up with an analysis of the economic rationale of being a contemporary dubstep producer, as the sound is undergoing increasing pressures of commercialization.
Finally, we took the tube to South East London Forest Hill to Transition Mastering Studios, where we were able to get both LD and Jason into the view of our lenses along with an interesting experience of truly professional mastering work as LD cut two dubplates for Risto including tunes from Late, Kfka, and Tes La Rok. At Transition the topics mostly hovered around the role of the dubplate culture in dubstep and the implications of ever-increasing digitalization and the effect of digital DJ technologies such as Serato.
Again, thank you all! Now back in Finland, I have to say I’ve had my fill of running around the world touting various recording equipment with my arm constantly reminding me of a developing camera-elbow. Fortunately, one can now feel some preliminary accomplishment, as the bulk of our material is done. With now just a couple of places to visit in Finland, it seems the editing table is the next embedded cultural context for us.
While we continue to have our sights set to the ACR submission in February 2011, we have, being the busy little bees that we are, started to think about a much wider array of uses for our material than the ACR alone. Stay tuned!
In our previous project ‘Brothers-In-Paint’ we found it paramount to visit many contexts where the social practices of paintball culture take place. This allowed us to not take the site as the location of the culture, but rather the practices as the culture itself, not defined, but co-existing with the spatiotemporal ‘places’ of activity and agency. Thus we visited 6 countries in attempts to gain more insight and a translocal appreciation of the social practices.
Risto had made smoothly scheduled arrangements for us to meet the central figures of the New York scene, and for him to simultaneously play a set or two in various locales. Firstly, we met up with DaveQ and headed out to Brooklyn to be a part of a SubFM radio show. Risto (Desto) ended up hitting the decks also alongside such pioneers as DaveQ – thanks Dave for taking such great care of us!
Later Risto was scheduled to play a set at a record store right under the Brooklyn Bridge. The place, Halcyon, was a vinyl enthusiasts playground and had a great soundsystem (especially considering it is a record store and not a club venue). Later Risto played at a venue called the White Rabbit. Too bad not so many people made it over. Fortunately, the interesting experience in Halcyon more than made up for this.
The main event for us, the Dub War 5 year anniversary, was truly a night to remember. We began by navigating through the masses of dubstep lovers making their pilgrimage. The place was packed like sardines in a crushed tin box already at ten when the party was only picking up. In terms of filming, we got amounts of intense contextual footage, and Risto did an admirable bit of legwork in order to grab such pioneers as Joe Nice and Alex Incyde, and the dubstep Internet forum creator Seckle for little back-and-forth with us in interesting back rooms and corridors while the party was booming. Even Skream popped into one of our interview sessions right behind the DJ booth – where we actually got quite a bit of action also. Thanks again to the New York scene for giving us such a warm welcome!
During our walkabouts through Broadway we had additional time to think about our up-and-coming editing process. As Risto has become an increasingly central figure in our work, we went further in our preliminary ideas about the arc of drama in what is to become the final product. Our first project, Brothers-in-Paint, was very much a conservative article-like showcase of how to, for the lack of better terms, create a videography that resembled an article in video format. How it exactly came out so, we do not know, but I do still remember our original ethos of really exemplifying how a theoretical perspective could be depicted on video. In retrospect, we might have overdid it a tad bit. Now, while we wish to still make a theoretical case, we will attempt to incorporate a much more entertaining approach, with Risto’s autoethnographic commentary hopefully bringing about a more interesting, theatrical, and continuous story line.
But to match Risto’s insighful autoethnographic story, we need contextually founded footage in situ. And certainly, as experimentality goes, we have found one of the most demanding contexts equipment-wise. Dubstep is certainly loud and noisy, taking an evident toll in terms of video and audio quality. Fortunately, again, we have Risto to work his producer magic on the audio, and we do expect decent outcomes. Moreover, the lack of video footage quality is more than compensated for by the graininess of the context presenting itself right in-your-face with all its loudness. As Rob Kozinets has pointed out before, social practices are bright, noisy and messy. Without completely slipping into the rabbit hole at this point, it can be noted that it is this loudness and messiness we are aiming to represent. An interesting comment by Lisa Marks seems to bubble up here too, as she was known to have said that what the film represents is often dull, but nevertheless the impurities and the scratches on the film material itself are perpetually fascinating. I would agree, and that is why we are not afraid of grainy material, when such outcomes go on to represent the murkiness of the many contexts we were introduced to in our underground travels. Because we dare to profess love for the loudness and embrace the grittyness of some of the video material as our equipment are maxed out, we gain more confidence in our perspective – the contextual representation of social practices in close proximity.
In order to accomplish this, I believe strongly that the video ethnographer must do as little of obstruction as possible, and therefore all we shoot is uncompromisingly in situ. This means, that even with the implications for video quality, we will not use additional lights and we will not be sticking lapel microphones around peoples’ necks. In our adventures in the dubstep scene this has not been purely an question of preference either, as the promoters of many club venues will not permit lighting for video works. An important concern arises from this preferred modus operendi, however. Equipment truly matters. Indeed, there must be something seriously wrong with our heads, as we are conducting video work in probably one of the most hostile environments. It is dark (often and often very much so) and it is loud (have you felt the subbass causing tremors in your spine and jiggling the clothes on you). To pull this silly feat off, we are no longer going in with equipment more at home in capturing the kids making sandcastles on a sunny Mediterranean beach, where the food was delicious and the wine was just right. While still nowhere near a professional outfit, we are now donning a decent videocam and a back-up video DSLR with lenses specifically chosen to lure in all possible trickles of light in the illlit places we happen to enter. See the post before this one for a more technical perspective (and gripe) into the contents our gear bag.
Yet again, what would we be, if we were hauling lighting and microphones into sweat drenched rooms packed to the rim with euphoric music followers being blazed by the club lights and battered with subbass that you can feel in your spine? That’s right, a distraction, an obstruction. Worse than that, we could become what I as an ethnographer fear the most, a odd academic peculiarities flailing about a context that will never again give us a pass. No, to get close to that sweat, that pounding, that energy, we must and will continue to go in light. What you see is what you get. And what you get is noisy and bright.
We’ll leave you with a couple more memories. Soon to come, our continued adventures in London.