What is the music theory behind dubstep

Dub, grime, dubstep
A search for traces in Berlin


A ghost is haunting Europe: dub, grime, dubstep.
Since the early 90s with techno, breakbeat and trip-hop, I dare to say, there has not been a sound like this in pop music.

What is dub? What is grime? What is dubstep?

You may now, dear readers, have leaned back and say to yourself: “Foolish droning! Do I have to do this to myself? Music by underclass kids with inadequate education and a migration background, from big city ghettos, with the potential for violence ... there's not even a real tune to it. ”And you may be right about that. But the fact is: this stuff rocks like hell. I will try to portray the phenomenon of dub, grime and dubstep based on the following three disciplines of musicology: music history, music theory, music ethnology. What are the historical roots of dub? Can a theory of grime be formulated? How do you imagine a dubstep ethnic group, i.e. a tribe that produces and consumes dubstep?

I'm looking for a conversation and take the tram to Berlin-Friedrichshain. My way leads me to the Tricky Tunes record store on Mainzer Straße. You will already have guessed it, dear readers, this is probably the coolest record store in town. “Bassline Provider” is written on the shop sign, and the man I meet here can rightly be called “luminary”. Dean Bagar aka Tricky D, a DJ, owner of Tricky Tunes and owner of the label of the same name. He's been running his shop for seven years. He has lived in Berlin since the early 90s. Before that he was in London for a couple of years. He was born and raised in what is now Croatia, and has just come back from a number of events in European countries where Dean played Tricky D with his sound system.


What is dub?

Tricky D: “Dub is developing. It's really a very, very broad musical direction when it comes to dub. The roots are definitely in reggae. "

At the beginning of the golden 70s a music production technique was developed in Jamaica, which in the following decades was to have an undreamt-of effect on the overall aesthetics of pop music. It was a gentle revolution that started here in the recording studios of the Caribbean. It consisted of simply leaving out most of the soundtracks from a reggae song until only the rhythm and bass line remained. From this rhythmic-harmonic condensation, new sound spaces could be developed in the second step. By fading in and out, switching the vocal and instrumental tracks on and off with plenty of reverb and echo. The act of upheaval took place on the media level: the mixing desk in the recording studio became a musical instrument. It was only one step from dub technology to “musician with pocket calculator in hand”. The influence of dub, which has meanwhile become its own musical direction, is cross-style and international. It was undoubtedly reflected in the new electronic music of the Kraftwerk group, whose “Trans Europe Express” in turn shaped early American hip-hop, which in turn is rooted in the funk of James Brown. So a sound developed for the future: dub aesthetics, man-machines, funky and the power of the declassed.

Suddenly we're talking about grime.

Tricky D: “Grime is actually kind of UK hip-hop. He's very MC based. Very experimental, very minimal. In the beginning, many kids simply produced their tunes on Playstation. The grime scene is really very, very young, they're all 18, 19. "

The musical influences that Grime combines are very diverse. As the brother of Dubstep, his closest relatives are House, HipHop, R’n’B on the one hand, Reggae, Dub, Raggamuffin on the other. This dynamic mixture comes from East London. The children and grandchildren of Caribbean and African immigrants from the Commonwealth live here. Under the umbrella of the UK, world culture is literally being created here.

Tricky D: “What the guys talk about in the songs - that's pretty tough stuff. This whole gang and ghetto thing ... The scene is also, you have to say, relatively violent. I know guys from London who said they couldn't play something like that in England because no promoter dares to promote it. There are always shootings and stabbing. But musically it's very relaxed. "

Grime - articulation of a part of the youth who are aware that they will never be fully accepted by the country of birth while the path to the old home of the fathers is cut off.

Dubstep - a strange hybrid of dub and 2step. 2step is, if you will, a further development of the house from the late 90s. What is essential about the 2step is its strongly syncopated rhythm, influenced by the breakbeat, which causes a kind of pulling and almost inevitably leads to the listener coordinating his dance movements in a two-step, the 2step. Something like this: left-right, right-left, left-right, right-left ... A kind of disco fox, which is not surprising when you consider that house music is rooted in the disco of the 70s. So the following line can be drawn: Disco, House, 2step. And the happy dance and party music hits completely unexpectedly - dub. 2step becomes dubstep. Melancholy from the south of London.

Tricky D: “Dubstep is more serious, I would say. You notice that right away with the music, dubstep is more monotonous, more deep. Grime is more like ... kids who want to prove themselves one way or another. Dubstep is very broken, very minimalist. I want to differentiate it like this: Grime is more black music, and Dubstep is already going in the white direction, where you have producers who tinker for hours and make monster basses. "

How do you get one Ethnicity Introducing Dubstep?

Tricky D: "These are people who do drum'n'bass or breakbeats, or hip-hop or techno. They're all trying to make those broken, minimal beats now. I think that because dubstep and grime are fusions of different styles of music, people come from all corners of the world. And that's nice about it. "

The grime from Germany is moving towards dubstep with its finely programmed electronics. I'm mainly talking about DJ Maxximus and his Berlin label MG77.

Tricky D: "There are quite a few people here who do cool things. The Freak Camp Posse, for example, is a group in Berlin, dubstep DJs. One series of parties at WMF was called Grime Time. In Maria am Ostbahnhof there are now and then things - Bass the World takes place in Josef, Maria's little club. And of course since last year there has been a dubstep party every three months in the Techno Club Berghain. "

Tricky D tells me about his plans to release a CD or even a double album with other Berlin artists. He already had enough material for the compilation. All that remains is to find a distributor who is brave enough to bring this new music to the people.

Can a theory of grime be formulated?

Tricky D: "Fortunately, there is still no formula for how to build a song, which we have seen very often in electronic music. Because if there is this formula, then you know: first there's the intro, then the break, then it starts, then again the intro, and then it goes full pot ... and that is still not the case with this music, it is still very keen to experiment, still very fresh. "

Speaking of fresh: what is the meaning of the word "grime"?

Tricky D: “Grime is when your washing machine leaks, and after seven years you move your washing machine out of the corner. What you can find in the corner is grime (laughs). "

We hear Phokus from Hamburg with his classic "Dem all shot" - in German: "We shot all of them".

Tricky D: "Of course they play with this provocation technique again, which was what punk rock did back then, so shocking, that's why they use rather aggressive lyrics."

DJane Spoke joins us to listen to new records. She reports on her current project with a colleague named Hydrogen. They are working on a sound they call TechDub, a slow form of classic techno mixed with dub and 2step influences: "At the RAW party, people were screaming with pleasure!"

I make my way home and hear the evening bells ring. Funk, Dub, Disco, Electro, HipHop, House, Techno, Breakbeat, 2step, R’n’B, Grime, Dubstep ... These terms from 40 years of music history circle my head like little chirping birds.

Will Dean find a distributor for his German grime compilation?

Will the dubstep parties in Berghain continue to be well attended?

Does dub jazz already exist? Don't I have a Balkan dub CD at home?

And what did Dean say when he said goodbye?

"I'm sure it will be more and more now, because, I notice that here in Germany there are more and more people who produce it."