Interview: Killawatt

Matthew Bayfield chats to Killawatt about mice infestations and life in Norfolk, amongst other things.

Posted on Nov 27th, 2013 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Interview: Killawatt Over the past few years Osiris Music artist Killawatt has made something of a name for himself, primarily in dubstep, through both his constantly mutating sound and a work rate matched only by Mick Hucknall’s paternity laywers.

Bearded caught up with the busy young gent to talk about the next stage in the evolution of his sound, his thoughts of the much documented stagnation of the dubstep genre and illegal raves in shithole seaside towns (named & shamed: Great Yarmouth)

Bearded: Hello mate how have you been?

Killawatt: Yeah good thanks. Just been on the phone to the label all morning… Chatting shit mainly, had the pest control people round as well.

Has there been an infestation?

We did have some mice, but this guy put down some super, super intense poison and I’ve not seen many about since. He put down enough to kill about 1500 mice or something… They’ve gone now.

The new EP is excellent by the way. Really surprised by it.

Thanks man. Yeah there’s a little bit of everything in there.

The new is EP is also the length of an album, which I found impressive.

To be honest all those tunes were going to be part of an album, but then it stopped really feeling like an album so I decided to scrap the idea and just put out this selection as a single 12”. It’s not really a dance floor single and it’s not really an album, it’s a bit random and in-between. Which I like.

I really like those three pieces in the middle of the record where it drops out into those strange… I don’t even know what they are. Cinematic things?

Yep and then picks up into those techno tunes at the end. I think there’ll be a few surprised for people to be honest.

It’s great that it’s still coming through on Osiris too.

Yeah I think that’s the direction we want to go in with Osiris really. I mean, we’re all pretty much done with dubstep, like most other people to be honest. But we don’t want it to be… I know a lot of people might think we’re just jumping on the techno bandwagon, but we don’t want Osiris to be a “techno label” either. We just want it to be an electronic music label really.

Personally I think the EP works alright. Will be nice to see how it goes down.

It flows wonderfully. Each track feels part of a bigger whole if you get what I mean?

Yeah I know what you mean. It’s nice to do something a little bit more substantial than just a standard release. I think it’s nice to show people you can do something a bit more than just writing a 12”.

How much of it was made on analogue kit compared to digital?
Erm, some of it was. I’ve got some analogue gear. I think the last track, ‘Square Trip (Round Trip)’ was all analogue. That was literally all just me fucking about on a piece of kit I’ve got called the ‘Weird Sound Generator’ which just makes… Noise, really. Then I stuck a kick under it, got a sequence going with my Doepfer stuff and just stuck it all together.
Overall the EP is sort of half and half. It’d be kinda hard to do it all on outboard gear for me, having been in the box for so long. It limits you a bit too when you’re just using outboard gear. Computers give you a lot more options and you can be more creative.

So your preference lies in digital production then?

Production wise yes, but I much prefer the sound of outboard gear. It just sounds nicer. Bigger, fatter, noisier, just generally better. But there’s so much you can do in a computer with software that you can’t do outboard unless you spend four or five grand or more on equipment. It’s good to use both really. I think if you are just writing straight techno it’s easier to use all analogue gear, because you basically need a good drum machine and a couple of synths. If you want to make something a bit noisier, maybe more creative or weirder, then you have to take it into a computer unless you have a shed load of gear.

I actually had my first ever (dismal) punt on Ableton this week. I had no idea the depth of what you can do to an individual sound on that program. Most of it was just me dicking around and pressing the wrong button but I must have lost about two hours in there.

No I think that’s good. A lot of the stuff I do isn’t pre-empted. Half the time the sound I come up with is just me messing about with stuff and it ends up sounding alright. I used to use Logic, but then I switched and found that Ableton really got me going creatively. The tools they provide you with are just based so much more around creativity and getting your ideas down quickly, but I think it’s because the people who make the program are all producers, extremely good producers, so that’s probably why it feels like that.

The way it lays out effects that you’ve applied to a sound is so helpful. Really neat. I had a look at Fruity Loops but that was just too messy for me. Just seems to be little panels you can break off floating all over the place… Then again I struggled to even learn banjo.

Haha. Yeah I’ve played banjo a bit, well once. I used to play jazz guitar and bluesy stuff as well. I never really worked the banjo out… I was never that great on guitar either though so that’s probably why.

I went for banjo over guitar as it only has five strings: figured I could aid my learning by removing that extra string.

I would guess banjo is easier to play than guitar… Mainly due to the fact it’s largely played by rednecks and hillbillies.

Yeah I would imagine your stereotypical banjo enthusiast doesn’t have a background in musical theatre or anything. What sort of music do you listen to then? Like you were saying about being more or less done with dubstep; was that ever something you listened to as a consumer?

I’ve never really listened to dubstep in that way. I joined the party a bit late really. The first stuff I listened to was people like Bar9 and Dubpolice and that horrible sort of jump-up stuff. I was at uni with Ipman, and he was really into all the earlier stuff. I didn’t know fuck all about it. I used to make breakcore and jungle and stuff… When I lived in Norfolk.

I forgot you’re also a Norfolk native.

I lived in Norfolk up until I went to uni in Guildford, and they used to put on a lot of jungle and hardcore parties.

Yeah there’s a strange sort of jungle contingency here. It’s still really popular. The nights I’ve been at always have a really good turnout.

Norfolk’s just weird all round. Haha. I don’t understand it really, I think it’s just because the people that run them. Not so much now because there are some slightly trendier nights in Norwich; house and the swampy kinda stuff. But I think the people that run the hardcore nights also used to run all the free parties, and those were all old school, jungle and trance. Stuff like that. So they never really needed to get involved with music of the moment that may have been getting more popular such as dubstep… I’m not sure there’s ever really been a proper dubstep night in Norwich.

No the last one I went to a few years ago, playing the “deeper” or whatever you want to call it stuff, there must have literally been about 14 people in there… And this was at what you might call the peak in its popularity.

I’m not really sure why that is. The only thing I can think, to be honest, is a lot of people who are really involved in the music scene in Norfolk just want very energetic, hard music. There are a lot of people into jump –up drum & bass and that, nights like Rumble and all the ones down at the waterfront… But when it comes to more progressive sounds, Norfolk has never really understood that. Whether it’s dubstep, techno, house; they just never really seem to take off properly.

Yeah “progressive” is a word we don’t want bandied about round here thanks.

Haha yeah, it’s a bit sad, because I’d really like to be able to go play a gig in Norwich. I love the place. I like the people there… And I’ve completely forgotten what we were talking about before Norfolk.

Everyone forgets here… Erm, production before dubstep.

Oh yeah so I was just making jungle and breakcore and everything and then I went to uni, met Ipman, got into dubstep, not so much listening to it, but DJ’ing it, making it… It’s pretty boring to listen to really. I don’t listen to loads of electronic music anymore. I listen to a lot more bands than I used to now; a lot of music that I listened to when I used to play guitar. Rage Against The Machine, Radiohead, people like that.
In terms of electronic music I tend to listen to the slightly more experimental stuff like Mika Vainio, I like classical... I seem to be into renaissance vocal music for some reason. I think that’s my Dad’s fault.
So I don’t listen to a lot of techno, dubstep, drum & bass or any of that really.

I find that interesting, Commodo said a very similar thing when I spoke with him. I came from folk music originally.

I used to play a lot of folk music. I used to play in a folk band in Norwich. When I was about fourteen or fifteen I used to play guitar and trombone in a folk band.

What were they called?

I… cannot remember haha. Something… Something “Cloak”? Can’t remember what the first word was. Then I started listening to electronic music and pretty much stopped listening to anything else for a long time. Which was a bit of a shame I think.

I’m sure we must have crossed paths at a party or gig in Norwich at one time. It’s not that big.

You live in Great Yarmouth don’t you?

Yes. Yes I do. For better or for worse.

Yeah. That’s a place… That’s a place you can’t really take seriously isn’t it. Haha.

Haha! Absolutely not, and far too many people do. It’s quite enjoyable if you learn to… Accept it.

Yeah I’ve been to quite a lot of parties there.

Yeah there’s still a few about. Pam’s House is an old veteran. There’s a lot of happy hardcore here. That’s always about.

I played at the… What’s the really big club? The Arena?

Yeah Atlantis Arena it would have been then.

Yeah I’ve played there a couple of times. They had rave soundsystems in there with a bit of techno in the main room and jungle/breaks in that second little bit. So yeah I’ve played Yarmouth a couple of times and been to quite a few parties there. There was that really big one that all got out of hand. Think it made the news.

Oh yeah that was when Thermaglow got trashed a few summers ago. Then a bunch of people went and raided the police station. All got a bit John Carpenter.

Yeah that’s was it. My sister and I went to that, but pretty much left as soon as it started to get a bit tense. There were a lot of dickheads there.

There’s a lot of dickheads in general in Yarmouth. Yeah that was big news for a while; a real milestone for my hometown… Right enough about tourism, there was a point to this interview when we started.

What’s next then after the EP. You mentioned scrapping the album, is there another in the pipeline?

Yeah I’m working on one for Osiris at the moment.

Do you release with anyone else anymore? Obviously you had those first ones like ‘Shakuhachi’ on Wheel & Deal and the New Moon releases.

Oh yeah, well it was N-Type who first picked me up, when I was writing straight dubstep and stuff… I didn’t really know what I was doing back then to be honest. I was just writing music, I knew of N-Type so I sent him my music. I got this impression that most of the people in the scene were either from Bristol, London or Leeds or whatever and it was all very cliquey and they knew what they were doing, with the dubplate culture and everything. I didn’t have a clue what dubplate culture was or about only sending a select few DJ’s your stuff so I was just releasing on labels all over the place. I probably shouldn’t have done, it doesn’t really do you much good. Then Kryptic Minds picked me up on Osiris and that was the first time anyone really taught me how you should go about doing stuff in terms of sending out tunes and releasing on labels. I’ve cut down on labels I was releasing on; since then I’ve only ever really released properly on Osiris, apart from a few remix bits and these reggae white label things on Lion Charge and Ruffcut.

There’s a load of the white label ones going about at the moment actually.
Yeah I know DJ Madd has got one…

Yeah I think that’s Killa Sound.
That’s the one. But Lion Charge… I think there was an old series called the War series, all bootleg white labels, they all got very collectible and then that stopped, and Lion Charge was meant to be a follow on to that and it just did massively well really quickly. That took everyone by surprise. I think all of them so far have sold out on pre-order.

‘Warehouse Dub’ was the first of that series wasn’t it?

Yep. Haha, that was just a tune… Ipman came down to mine, this was when he was living in London, and we were probably going to try and make some really serious tune but we just ended up making this stupid dub track… Which tends to be what happens most of the time. Then that did really well.
Ruffcut, the Osiris thing, I did the first white label on that which was also dub and I’ve got another thing coming out under an alias with Ipman on there sometime next year that’s going to be a bit different; that’s like 125bpm and a bit wonky. We’re going to try and make Ruffcut not just dubby stuff. There’s just too much dub stuff going about at the moment and a lot of it is quite samey and a bit serious. People thinking they are Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry or whatever. I’d like to keep stuff interesting and a bit different. I like it when people can tell you don’t take yourself too seriously and you don’t take your music too seriously.

Personally I think it’s much more appealing when you can tell an artist is having a laugh. I think at the moment, particularly with dubstep, that’s why producers seem to be leaving the genre like rats fleeing a sinking ship; it’s just so po-faced and serious. I enjoy listening to it when I’m sat in working, but it’s not really something I enjoy going out to at parties. You can’t dance to it.

Yeah exactly. That’s why I got a bit fed up with it really.

It just feels like an endless ocean of gently bobbing stoners. Haha.

Hah. There’s a lot of great dubstep out there and I’ve always been a massive fan of people like Vex’d and Shackelton; that stuff just has so much more character than a lot of the stuff getting made at the moment.

Shackelton was one of the first people I really got into actually. I don’t really do too much with the internet, possibly because I’m from Norfolk, so at that point I didn’t really know what I was listening to. I just liked it. I think that’s why I’ve never really understood all this genre stuff anyway.

That’s a good way to be I think; not giving a shit about genres. That’s something that has always really pissed me off. The beard strokers all getting arsey about which genres are best and trying to tell you which genres you’re supposed to be listening to. If you enjoying listening to music just listen to it, doesn’t matter if it’s a credible genre or not. Haha I really like psytrance.

I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to any.

It’s not really music to listen to, to be honest. It’s a genre that takes itself seriously, but you don’t have to take it seriously. You can go to some weird psytrance festivals and just have a really awesome time because it’s hysterical. Generally the people who go to those festivals are just really cool, laid back, interesting people… I’ve never actually met anyone within the whole DJ/production fraternity that actually likes psytrance... Or trance anything. People always seem shocked that I like it but it’s something I sort of grew up with and heard at parties and you can let yourself go to it. People don’t do that enough nowadays, they just don’t let themselves go. It’s all very self-conscious now and that’s a bit sad. You go to London and everyone’s just so conscious about what they look like, who’s hot on the scene etc but with genres like psytrance none of that matters, it just doesn’t exist in those places and that’s really refreshing.

Have you ever heard of Whirlygig in London?

Whirlygig? I think I have you know.

It’s once a month… I think it’s at London Bridge, I can’t remember I’m always shitfaced when I go, but they play just the weirdest strands of dance music, maybe even some psytrance, all sorts of hippy shit. Last time I was there, there were a couple who must have been about sixty just having a lovely time. Then they do things like drape parachutes at waist height on the dancefloor so you have to have a little communal sit down on the dancefloor. Absolutely bonkers. There should be more of that.

Recently I’ve really stopped enjoying DJ’ing purely because of that fact. People come to these events expecting to hear one specific style or genre and behave in a certain specific way and it’s just sad how it’s so unadventurous. I don’t really see the point in it. I’ve played a good few gigs in the last year where there’s just been no vibes or anything. I play a lot of the more techno stuff now and I’ve played at dubstep nights where I’ve started with a lot of techno and just cleared the dance floor, so then it’s like “right I’m going to have to play a load of the old dubstep tunes which I’ve been playing for the last year or so just to get people back on the dancefloor.” It frustrates me a lot, but that just seems to be how it is at the moment. I suppose you always get it but it’s just something I’ve noticed a lot recently.

It must be a really frustrating balance as a DJ, I suppose you get somewhat railroaded into playing things.

The thing with me is I haven’t made a dubstep tune in over a year. The last dubstep release was on Tempa but Ipman and I made those tunes so long ago, like getting on for two years ago. All the last releases on Osiris have been this more techno influenced stuff… Just electronic music basically but people refer to me as a dubstep producer and I do find it frustrating. It is moving away from that a bit now though and people are realising I do just make this sort of random stuff. I’m hoping this EP will be the point where people finally say “okay this guy doesn’t make dubstep.” It’s soundscapey, techno; it’s all sorts. Which is half the point of putting it out really.

Is that the point in calling it Bring Down The Walls? Or is that just me getting pretentious?

No I don’t think so. I don’t actually know how I arrived at that title. I think I got it from Pink Floyd.
When it comes to names I don’t really think too hard about it. I just find random phrases that are loosely related to the sound…
But yeah, we’ll say it is the point for now.

I wanted to ask you about this actually, because I always enjoy the names of your tracks.

Yeah a lot of people say that. Again I think that’s a case of not taking it too seriously.

The words always fit your tracks in a strange way, but they usually make bugger all sense.

Haha yeah well I just find a lot of people try and come up with these really “deep” names or infer this really serious meaning and it’s all so pretentious and bait. It’s like they’ve gone onto Wikipedia or wherever and tried to find the most complicated word they can. It’s a bit boring, there’s not much character to it and it leaves you feeling like they’ve not put much of themselves into their work.

I get jealous because there are these people who clearly have a great talent for production, something I clearly don’t, and they just churn out more of the same old thing. I wonder how they don’t get bored.

I get bored extremely quickly. I tend to make one or two tunes on a similar kind of vibe and then move on to a different thing. That’s the reason I had problems the first time I started an album because I like albums to have a consistent aesthetic or theme running through them, it has to flow really nicely. It needs to have a concept, be it aesthetic or musical. I move onto different production techniques and styles so rapidly a lot of the time my tunes don’t have that consistent feel or style, which is something I’m trying to consciously address right now with this album. But yeah, I do get bored very easily. I think it’s good in a way, as it makes you try all different sorts of stuff and like you said; once you get locked into doing the same thing over and over it’s just pointless. I don’t know maybe they don’t get bored of it, but as a producer I don’t want to go that way.

Yes it is odd. Film directors get criticised if they keep making the same style of films, seems odd music is so far in the opposite direction.

I think lack of ambition is a massive problem all over in the musical realm to be honest, especially in dubstep. There doesn’t seem to be any ambition to go anywhere musically. A lot of people seem to have come into dubstep with the aim of becoming a DJ, not producers or artists. There’s no ambition for them to push their own boundaries or push anyone else’s boundaries and I think that’s one of the main reasons dubstep has become so stale of late. A lot of people at the moment are really, really defensive about it because there’s a lot of criticism from outside the genre in the music press and even from people within the genre. A lot of the time I think it does deserve that criticism, but some of it is just people jumping on the “dubstep’s dead” bandwagon and they don’t know what they’re talking about. A lot of people in the deeper end of dubstep don’t seem to realise that so much of the music being made right now is just bad, unoriginal, stale music. They are so defensive about it whenever anyone puts forward any kind of criticism and it’s blinded them. You go to these gigs and there are people just playing 8 hours of straight dubstep and punters are just bored, but they keep on playing it. I wish people could take a step back from it and say “this is getting a bit stale, let’s do something about it.”
The only two producers who really do anything for me at the moment are Commodo and Gantz.

Yep pretty much the same names for me.

Commodo is just a really cool guy, making this really cool music. He’s obviously a big fan of hip-hop with all the sampling that he does and it just makes for an interesting style. Gantz, again, is just this really cool guy from Turkey who doesn’t give a shit about anything and makes this interesting, wonky, textural music. I think the fact he has very little outside influence, because he lives in Istanbul and there’s nobody else there who does this kind of stuff, has done him a favour.

Less pollutants in the water as it were?

Yeah exactly. His character as a person as well; He just doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks. Well I’m sure he does, as producers we’re all incredibly self-conscious about what other people think, but he doesn’t seem to let it affect his sound too much.

I get the feeling it’ll never pick up in Norfolk.

Haha yeah. It’s very easy to believe there’s not a world beyond the borders when you reach Norfolk isn’t it? You used to get the odd big names down playing every so often, but more the jump-up style stuff.

Yeah around 2009/2010 time I remember people like Trolley Snatcha, Kutz and Benga playing.

I got booked actually, way back, at a club on… Prince Of Wales road I think. Caspa was playing, and Subscape, I was booked for it as well, I was due to play last and my set got cancelled because there was no one there haha, so I don’t think dubstep will ever really pick up in Norwich… Maybe in ten years or so.

That’s more likely. We’re pretty late to most things. The whole house thing has sort of picked up just recently, Hideout run a few nights that do good numbers…

I think that’s down to all the arty, hipster types though.

Oh yeah everyone there is a student from the university or the arts college. You barely see any native Norfolk folk at the raves, but the club reaches capacity most of the time. I think Paul Woolford is playing this Saturday.

Yeah I do see they get some big artists in.

Yeah there’s been a fair few of the Swamp81 roster, New York Transit, some of the big house names… I think the problem is as a scene it can’t ever really grow much bigger purely on the size of the clubs and city itself; so as soon as they do reach that glass ceiling they just decamp to London.
Get Low started in Norwich but they operate in Brixton now. I think the sad truth is if you have any actual ambition it’s incredibly difficult for staying in Norfolk to be worthwhile.

Absolutely; that’s half the reason I moved away really. There’s been quite a few great producers to come out of Norfolk like Tim Exile, James Holden…

I’m a big fan of Sully, he used to be a chef in a Norwich restaurant.

Yeah Sully is excellent, Photek lived in Norwich for a fairly long time, but they’ve all moved away. You do get to a point in Norwich where you can’t get any further and its difficult being geographically so far away from London, Bristol… I mean Portsmouth is just as far away from London as Norwich but for some reason it feels a bit more hopeful here.

It’s probably because you don’t have to stand around in Peterborough for two and a half hours every time you go anywhere. Just cutting that one place out of your life massively improves everything.

Haha. Well… Yeah Peterborough’s not a great place. Moving away from Norfolk was definitely a good thing for me. It just opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I moved back to Norfolk after uni briefly, and then my girlfriend got a job in Portsmouth so I moved down with her. Then Ipman moved down here… It’s just nice and chilled out and by the sea.

Sounds like Great Yarmouth… Except the nice and chilled out bit. We’re closer to catatonic.

Is the collab stuff, like your bits with Ipman, usually done as a team in the same room or is it via the internet?

Generally with Jack we’re in the same room doing it, just because we seem to work quite well together. From bouncing ideas around we end up doing stuff we wouldn’t normally do. I think with Jack (Ipman) we tend to just get a bit silly and let our guard down a bit, anything goes.
The bits with Kryptic Minds were done over the internet purely because of geography, but overall I think I like writing music on my own. It’s nice to work with other people now and again just to do something a bit different though.

It’s just nice to get out the house really isn’t it?

Haha yeah, I do that a bit more now. I did have a phase where I just used to not go out the house at all, for quite a long time. But I try to get out to the gym, play squash… It’s healthy to get out of the house isn’t it?

Round here probably not.


In Yarmouth it’s probably best just to crawl into a cupboard and wait ‘til it all blows over. I do love a gym trip though.

Yeah you’ve got to love the gym: go and get hench.

Anyway I’ll leave it there as I’m sure you’ve got much better things to do with the rest of your day than talk about Norfolk. Many thanks for your time sir.

Yeah I’ve got to go play squash with Ipman actually. Cheers man!

Killawatt’s new EP; ‘Bring Down The Walls’ is available on both vinyl and digital download from December 2nd on all your favourite music stores, and is shipping now via the official Osiris Music page on Surus