Artwork has, forgive the term, been around a bit. The original member of the now infamous Croydon scene that produced Skream, Benga, DMZ, Hatcha and countless others, Artwork has been producing music under various alias’s for nearly 20 years. His validity in the music world will forever be cemented as it was in his studio that dubstep was literally invented, and he’s the man that produced the first UK Garage tune to top the charts.
He’s now the driving force behind dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man, who have enjoyed mainstream success with a more masses friendly approach to dubstep. I caught up with Artwork prior to Magnetic Man’s appearance at the Red Bull Culture Clash next month to talk history, stage setups and that Daniel Bedingfield tune.
So, who is Artwork?
I am Artwork, I am part of Magnetic Man, the bloke in the middle no one knows, and I’ve been making music for a long time. Was at Apple records, had a studio above the record shop.just been making music I guess.
How long have you been making music for, as your sole income, before Magnetic Man started. Just, a lot of people don’t realise you’ve been doing it a lot longer that Skream and Benga were.
A lot longer – I’ve been making money from music since I was about, 20 years old?
So how many years is that?
Fuck off you rude cunt! (Laughs) No it’s 18 years now since I been doing it
So, so, your infamous for having a few aliases and stuff, are there any big tunes that you produced that we might not have known you were behind?
Yeah, the one that always surprises people, the one that always freaks them out. I did that Daniel Beddingfield ‘Gotta get through this’.
I heard this rumour, I was trying to confirm-
– No, no yeah I did do it yeah.
How did that come about working with Daniel?
He came into the record shop, no well a friend of his did actually with a demo version of the song. Then we were just like phwoar that’s mental. Just like the vocal and a stripped back baseline kind of sound. I said We’ll sign it’ so we signed it and I produced the one that went out, went out every-fucking-where.
Does it still trip you out that people still play it in sets now?
No, I mean I just played it, it’s great. It was a real ground breaking record you know. One of the first garage records to make it to no.1.
Do you still see Daniel now?
What was he like to work with, was he alright?
Oh, oh alright we’ll leave that one.
So back to Big Apple in it’s hey day. Who was in that scene, in that crew, producing music at that time & experimenting with that sound that is still about today?
That’s the thing that shop was very strange kind of place. Croydon was a dead zone, the was nothing to do at all and musically it was dead. No clubs playing good music, complete crap everywhere you looked, you know. Croydon’s dreadful. So there was, when a record shop did open, it became like a, a meccca for anybody interested in music at all. This was before mp3’s and be able to download stuff off of iTunes and check on blogs what- That didn’t happen. So if you wanted to know what was going on in music you’d go out to a club somewhere up in London somewhere or in Bristol. Then you’d go to the record shop to find out what [the tunes] were.
You had to go to the record shop and make friends with the owner, and hang around there and be that face that was in there 7 days a week and because of that you had people that were really interested in music that would hang there and from that you’d get links between the people. He’ll make a tune with him and someone’ll make a tune with him thats how it gets started and we had, DMX, Coci, Loefah, Kode9 and Plastician in our shop, the list goes on and on. Benga and Skream were in our shop, Horsepower productions, LB, it’s wild. It was this great place where people met and could exchange ideas. That’s gone now and you don’t get that anymore.
Did you physically work the store then?
No I had the recording studio. Top floor of the building. So, John had the record shop, and I had the recording studio. I would make records, and we started to realise that I would make the records and put them on the shelf and at one point I had so many aliases I had a whole wall. At one time there was one week, it was probably 5 records down. There was 15 or 25 aliases that I filled the whole wall with records I’d made in the shop. So it was a great time.
What sort of aliases did you go under?
I did the DnD stuff, I did Menta, Countless different names for bootlegs, which I don’t remember. Take like vocals, like big RnB vocals and make a garage beat underneath it. Made loads of them really.
Was there a lot of time between finding success with the Bedingfield record and obviously Magnetic Man come back, 2, 3 years ago. With that infamous show at FWD. How much time was between that, and what were you up to between those points?
Well I was still making those kind of records, and we were a lot longer that that. Making the first magnetic man tracks is more like 5/6 years ago, so we toured that 3 years before we got signed by Sony.
No, so we were putting those his on 6 years ago! Then we got an arts council grand and toured for three years before the record deal.
With that live set up, was it always there then, it just got bigger as you got the money?
Yeah, the first time we put it together, the first time we did a Magnetic man show was behind a screen at FWD>> and that was some CDJ’s, it was a complete mess and very weird but very funny. Then we put together tracks, put together live show and split it up over three computers. First one we did was at Cable, we decided we had this massive idea that it would be a frame work that would be all blacked out with a slot in the front with projections on the back of our thing. We thought this was amazing, the best thing ever on a stage. But looking back it was just a black ‘Punch and Judy’ box with three little heads in it. It was shit.
Then it moved on, made a bigger ‘Punch and Judy’ box, decided to turn up to places, black out an entire wall and have a long slot which was one step up and it just evolved. Until we had the cube, which was a £750,000 light box. It was great, still looking back at some of this videos it was the weirdest fucking things you’ve seen but yeah it just keeps moving and evolves. now we’ve done huge video walls that sync up with the music and everything. What we’re realising now is we’re focusing more on light now and the mood you can get from clever lighting. We’re just going for a different kind of thing.
So your working on new material now?
Yeah we’ll be putting together a tour around the same time as this Red Bull thing. If you buy tickets to see a band, I don’t care who it is, if you had an album that people love, people go to hear the hits. Theres so many people you go see and they’ll play a whole bunch of new stuff and no one can dance because none knows what the fucks going on.
It’s weird you’ll slot some of those [new songs] in, mix them with some of the old stuff so it’s a transitional thing you know.
Keeping that in mind, because you always split things up with laptops. The majority are going to be reactive to what is going on..
No we’re going to play off CD’s, it’s all about selection so we’re just DJ’s.
Oh ok, do you think you’ve got an advantage in your court as obviously Pokes has done it before
Pokes is the master of The Clash yeah, he’s so quick witted. He’s brilliant yeah. It’s not just about us you know, you’ve got Annie Mac, Rudamental, Disclosure and Redlight, it’s not a bad lot.
You fancy your chances then?
Absolutely. Walk it. (Laughs)