OK so first and foremost, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Compa. I’m from Manchester, UK. I make Dubstep music, Sound system music.
How did you originally get into Dubstep? Where did your name ‘Compa‘ come from?
I got into Dubstep music after finding out about the Hyperdub label about ’08. I started listening to Kode 9, Burial, Kromestar and Mala music early on. I was drawn to the deep, heavy 140 sound instantly. I was hooked.
How my name came about is a story, I got one of my first gigs and I was asked what name I wanted on the artwork. At the time I had just started building tunes, on a ‘Compaq‘ laptop computer. I was looking around my front room trying to think of a moniker for myself, and saw the back of the laptop, I just removed the last letter from the ‘Compaq‘ logo, Came up with ‘Compa‘ and stuck with it.
What were you first, A DJ or Producer? what kind of music inspired and influenced you?
I was primarily a DJ, but now I consider myself a producer before a DJ because the music I make represents me as an artist. I’ve been DJing for coming up to 9 years now. I started at youth club aged 13, back in ’03 buying House music records at first, then Drum N Bass records, before Dubstep records (Most importantly – I started DJing when no-one played CD’s, There where no CD’s in sight!).
When did you get into production? What were you using in the beginning to make music and what are you using now?
I ended up doing an extra year at college because I didn’t want to go to university at that point, and as luck would have it, they put ‘Reason‘ music software on the computer, and I found out my media tutor was a Hiphop producer, It was so lucky. Everything happens for a reason I say. He taught me loads about sampling (Maybe that’s where my taste for building refix’s comes from) and using Reason, I was 100% hooked, I never stopped since. That was late ’09. Since then I dropped media and photography and now I’m at university studying music, and doing all things music full-time.
Right now I use Logic. That’s what we use at University so I have no other choice, But I love it now I’ve got my head around it a bit.
I have to say your sounds are dark and bass pummeling! How did you begin to forge your own sound? How do you start off a new track?
I don’t know how I built my own sound, I just do my thing. I just make the music that’s inside me. I make my sounds and put them together. I keep things simple, Stripped down as possible. Sub-bass, drums, subtle pads, atmospheres, mid-frequencies occasionally. Done. My music has always been dark, dark is me. I’m a quiet, quite reserved person. I’ve tried to build slightly more energetic tunes but generally I just sit down and see what comes out of me naturally.
The ‘Compa refix’ is nearly infamous at this point. You’ve tackled the likes Anti war Dub and Root and have certainly done them justice. Why did you decide to remix some of the Dubstep genres’ most influential tunes, Did you feel they needed a more modern touch to make them more in sync with today’s sets?
Thanks for the kind words. I certainly do not rebuild tunes because I think they need ‘Updating’. They are classics, they inspired me in the beginning and still do now. When I do a remix I do it for such simple reasons.
For example my ‘Anti-War Dub‘ mix, I did not set out to build it for any reason, One night I was listening through records and after hearing it I just had my own version in my head. In fact I built that tune in a couple of hours on one night about a year ago now. I sampled the original 12″ and I built my mix. The reason I did so was because, Like any refix I build, I want a kind of exclusive un-heard V.I.P for my sets.
I always play classics in my set because I think it’s nice to catch people’s attention, draw them in and take them back before taking them forward.
Any chance of a Ruffage refix?
I am leaving that one well alone.
Now you grew up in Manchester. The likes of Bristol and London seem to have their own unique style and sounds. Do you feel Manchester has carved its own sound and scene that unique to the city?
I grew up in a small part of Lancashire, a rural town called Clitheroe, Close to Manchester. Manchester has its own sound for
sure. Right now, everyone is pushing the sound I love and everyone has their own individual take. Everyone works so well together too – Compa, Biome, Indigo, Synkro, Versa … We all work. I’m really proud to be living and representing Manchester as a music producer.
Do you feel Vinyl Still has its place in the genre? It sadly seems to be a dying art form. Do you cut your own Dubs, and if so, Where?
Certainly. 100%. It is not a dying art form at all. The thing is, Any person who might start DJing in this day and age will normally see so many people playing CD or digitally that they will think that is the way and they will just follow suit and copy. Back in ’03 when I started DJing, everyone bought and played vinyl, there where no CD decks in sight so I got into records then and learned to dedicate my money to buying records.
I think anyone who got into vinyl back in the day of vinyl appreciates and respects the medium. It’s a passion for certain people, seriously. Certain people still know. Peverlist, Lurka, Mala, Joe Nice, Pinch, Coki and a few select others. I don’t think we’ll ever stop or change. The physicality means the most to me. I need to hold each individual record. I love having a bag of physical music. It’s just my thing.
Yes I still cut dubplates, I cut with Henry at Dub Studio in Bristol. He’s a don. He knows how I want my music to sound and he sorts me discount these days because I cut so bloody regularly now I get sent so much music and make so many tunes myself.
Has Manchester got a thriving record shop culture? is it easy to go out and find a good selection of plates or do you find you have to order online?
Manchester is still strong for record shops. You’ve got Piccadilly Records, Record Exchange and Eastern Bloc which are the ones for me. You can get anything across those three shops. I don’t buy too many records anymore though because I’m lucky enough to get unreleased dubs off people whose music I like to play to cut on dubplate, which I really appreciate, but there are still releases that I’ll buy to support the artists whose music I want to play and support. Normally a typical set is 80% unreleased or forthcoming music on acetate, and 20% releases – ish.
So you played on Rinse Fm a while, Which was a very big deal. What was the experience like, How did the opportunity come about?
It was an honour. I’ve always wanted to visit the studio. It was a dream for me. My manager and good friend Ben knows some of the heads behind some shows and the station, One phone call and I had a set. Out to Ben, he’s a don. It was a great experience. Wasn’t feeling the 10 hours driving there and back though.
Would you like to collaborate with any other artists or MC’s, if so who makes up your wish-list?
It would be brilliant to build music with some of my inspirations. Loefah, Mala, Coki, Jack Sparrow, Commodo, Skream, Cyrus, Distance, Tunnidge, Vivek…Too many names to mention.
Five tracks that you feel define Dubstep?
Again I could mention 100 tunes but off the top of my head, Personal Favourites –
1. Skream – Backwards (Deep Medi)
2. Loefah – Truly Dread (Tempa)
3. Mala – Chainba (DMZ)
4. Goth-Trad – Sunbeam (Deep Medi)
5. Distance – Beyond (Chestplate)
(And I still play those in my sets today).
Where people hear more of COMPA –
Or secondly, If you want to hear brand new music from Compa and friends, Sub Fm on a Wednesday at 2pm GMT
Thanks for the interview. It’s been a pleasure mate. Compa.