One Way Up: In Conversation With Subb-an

The 27-year-old was crowned by DJ Mag as their ‘Best Breakthrough DJ’ back in 2011, and has since become a regular at the likes of fabric, Watergate and Warehouse Project. With releases on reputable imprints such as Crosstown Rebels, Visionquest, Saved and his own label One Records, Subb-an is also the mind behind that remix of Noir & Haze ‘Around’ – making him undeniably one of today’s hottest young producers to emerge from Britain’s electronic music scene.

Hot off the heels of a USA tour and a summer boasting numerous festival and Ibiza appearances, we caught up with Subb-an ahead of his highly anticipated live performance at fabric this Saturday.

You have said before that you began learning to DJ at 14, and enrolled in a digital music production course at the age of 16. Therefore your desire to become an electronic music artist has unquestionably existed for the majority of your life, why do you think that is? What are your earliest memories of the genre?
Yeah that's correct, I first owned a pair of turntables around that age and it was merely an interest that grew into my life. As a teenager you try out all sorts of hobbies but soon as I had those turntables there was no looking back, it was what I lived for. I don't know the exact pivotal point that it clicked, it was just an organic happening that I’m very lucky to have had. I was listening to Essential Mixes and started to collect vinyl, I had no idea I could be a professional DJ but it was all very exciting, it was like a different world and very different to what was happening around me, which was either hanging out in the park doing nothing every night or playing football and going into town on a Saturday. No one had turntables at school and everyone thought I was nuts buying dance records, everyone else was either listening to Eminem, Linkin Park or UK garage, typical teenage stuff! I guess I just loved it, it's such a great memory..

You also went to university in Birmingham, where you met Adam Shelton and founded Below in the back room of Rainbow Pub. Can you tell us more about those events?
I actually met Adam two years into Below, we were introduced by a friend and Adam asked me to send some music, which he liked and off the back of it booked me to play. It's kinda funny, I had always heard of below but had never been, I thought ‘line ups like that in Birmingham, surely that party won’t be busy as people in Birmingham wouldn't really have a clue about that stuff’ and how wrong I was.

After sending Adam some music he invited me down to check it out, he played two of the tracks and booked me for the following event. the party was insane, a small courtyard filled to the maximum in the back of a Victorian boozer, it was raw as you could get and fully bad boy. As I was a lot younger I hadn't really been to party like this before, I was more used to bigger venues with bigger production, like code in Birmingham, so this was really a new experience for me and I loved it.

Adam asked me if I could play live and I had never tried, so I put together a show and my first booking for Below was live and that kinda of stuck, I became more involved in the night as a resident and helping out Adam and lee so was part of the family, everything from there grew.

Having come so far since throwing those parties years ago, is there any advice you would give your younger self?
Sure, I think you really have to stick to what you believe in. Too many people get caught up in the trends and the trends move very fast these days, faster than they did ten years ago when I was sending out demo CDs in the post. I think it's very hard these days, it was pretty difficult when I was trying to become more established, but now it seems like everyone wants to be a DJ and it seems everyone is on some basic level with the advances of technology. But I say that in the broadest sense as you really have to put that time in, simply having Traktor and the latest hot tunes does not cut it, it takes years of practise, refining your style, building your collection and not producing music, it seems like you have to have the whole package these days.

Following those events the two of you created One Records, which has been going strong for five years now, hosting the likes of Francesca Lombardo, Guti, Matthew Styles, DJ W!ld, Hector, Dan Ghenacia, and Jordan Peak to name just a few. What would you say is the general ethos behind the imprint?
Generally we’ve always wanted to build a small crew based around what were into, so the majority of our releases are based around people we know and people we buzz off. We always want to release exciting club tracks.

"Playing for fabric is a huge deal to me, I used to be in the club every Saturday religiously from a very young age getting schooled by Craig and Terry..."

You first started performing as a live act during your university days, and have since become a reputable live performer. What made you decide to become a live act back then instead of just a conventional DJ?
Well as mentioned earlier that stemmed from the early below days and when Adam suggested a possible live show. It seemed at the that time promoters were interested in booking me to play live, I always started as a DJ so after a few years I had to work to not get to known as solely a live act.

You will also be performing live at your upcoming gig at Fabric. Can you tell us more about your set up? What equipment do you use, and what is the general vibe of the performance in comparison to your typical DJ set?
The live show is pretty tracky club music with some interesting stuff sprinkled over the top, it's not a huge set up, I'm currently using: Ableton live, Elektron Analog Rythm, Ableton Push
Eventide Time Factor, 2 x Allen & Heath K2 controller, RME Fireface UC sound card. its not too far off what I DJ, but just all my own material.

Not long ago you concluded your US and Canada tour. How did that go? Can you make a comparison between that experience and what it’s like playing in Europe?
Yea was great, I feel since I started touring stateside four years ago I enjoy it the more and more I go. For me I still love Europe though, can’t quite put my finger on it but for some reason I do. maybe its a culture thing.

You have also recently curated an Essential Mix for Radio 1, a series that you have been a fan of since the age of 13. What was it like to finally have the privilege of mixing your own? And how did you approach the task differently to any normal set or guest mix?
The Essential Mix was literally achieving a lifetime goal for me. It was a huge catalyst back in the early days in educating me on music I couldn't find anywhere else and its such a huge platform that it was an honour to be asked to do one. I’ve had an essential mix playlist on my laptop for around two/three years that has been regularly topped up all the time just waiting for the moment if it was to come around and it did, so I just went through that list adding and deleting, it took some time but I feel it came out well and represents the journey over the last ten years. I wanted someone to listen to it and buzz off it the same way I did, I wanted it to appeal to people who know music but people who are maybe new to it all. (You can download the mix via the website here.)

Besides the Essential Mix, are there any other highlights from your career that particularly make you proud?
I really enjoyed playing on the London Eye for Red Bull Revolutions in Sound, that was pretty special.

Playing for fabric is a huge deal to me, I used to be in the club every Saturday religiously from a very young age getting schooled by Craig and Terry, so its great to be a part of the club.

Before we conclude, is there anything you would like to mention? What might fans of Subb-an, or One Records, have to look forward to throughout the coming months?
Sure, got some new exciting material coming out on One Records and Crosstown so look out for that.. plus next year I will be releasing a lot of the unsigned material I've been putting together in the live show.




i-D Mix