Certified underground legend DJ Youngsta has been at the forefront of dark, bass-driven club music since the nascent days of dubstep and FWD>> at the turn of the millennium.
To this day, Youngsta is involved intensively in the sound he’s dedicated much of his life to; somehow juggling time between Rinse FM sets, working as A&R for Tempa Records, his Contact club night and a worldwide DJ schedule.
Well known for his absolutely impeccable skills and selections behind the decks, we at Trap were particularly hyped to secure an exclusive mix from Youngsta, set to drop in January, so took the opportunity to catch up with him for a proper chat while we could…
We’re really enjoying the mix of tempos in your sets at the moment – you’re representing dubstep, drum & bass and the dark, bass-driven 130bpm sound. What’s catalysed this?
I’ve always been interested in a lot of different music, but the landscape of music and the scenes I’m involved in have changed dramatically over time.
Ten years ago raves were different and music scenes were more aligned with certain sounds, spaces and tempos, which meant that there was more of a determination to build a singular space within a certain area or genre.
When I’m playing at clubs these days the crowds are more accepting of DJs playing different styles of music, so I’ve taken the opportunity to expand my sound palette and show people that I’ve got other interests, which can work alongside the normal sets of sounds that I’ve always worked hard to push.
It’s also great to see artists such as Wen, Parris and Batu releasing on Tempa alongside the more dubstep focused artists. How would you describe the label’s direction nowadays?
I feel like the label’s sound is still the same as it was before, but now we’re taking the focus away from one tempo and expanding the range of the label.
The Wen and Parris release was a suitable introduction to showcasing this, as I felt as though it had the same aesthetic as some of the very early releases on the label in regards to experimentation with different sound palettes.
The beats are still dark and bass heavy, but with different people taking outside influences and arranging them in a way which works for them.
It’s not my place to really decide whether the scene is better off with or without a sound.
Is dubstep better off now the hyper-aggressive sound that blew up worldwide has largely quietened down?
I couldn’t really give you a direct answer on that; everything has a positive and a negative. People may have felt that sound had a negative impact on the scene, but it doesn’t mean that if you start off in a certain place, you’ll always continue to be there.
Some people may have started off listening to some of those acts, but then may have dug deeper until they reached a point that they may have discovered artists such as myself or Digital Mystikz.
We all make music for one reason or another and it’s not my place to really decide whether the scene is better off with or without a sound. While these spikes happened, many of us still carried on pushing what was true to us, so without these acts we may have never had the opportunity to play to some of the crowds we have done over the years.
Dubstep in America seems particularly healthy at the moment, how have your experiences been over there?
The experiences I’ve had in America have always been amazing. The shows are always full and the crowds are always going for it. Sometimes, I find that the crowds stateside are more in tune to the music. Even when DJing, they can hear the first four bars of a tune and instantly recognise it.
Parties like Reconstrvct, as one example: people who are just trying to push good music in great environments with amazing crowds. I’m actually about to go back out there again this December and I will be taking the Contact brand with me. This will be an opportunity for me to bring the vibe and aesthetic we push with the brand Stateside, and introduce people to the music. Keep an eye out for more info!
Speaking of Contact, the night is going from strength to strength. How have you found running the event?
Contact has been an amazing experience. To have the opportunity to run my own club night has enabled more people to hear my sound in a different environment; one that’s comfortable to me and the artists around me, so that we can showcase the music we love. The crowds are always great and very responsive to the music.
An essential part of the experience is the sound-system, so we always make sure that we choose clubs that have a heavy rig which is able to produce strong low end frequencies. The next contact we have is at fabric on Boxing Day in Room 3 with myself, Pinch, Proxima, Alex Coulton, Wen, Batu, and Parris; a very diverse line-up, which, for me, is amazing.
You’ve been DJing since such a young age. Has your approach changed since the early days?
I don’t feel like my approach to music has changed at all, really. Even from the early days, I’ve always trusted my gut instinct and played music I’ve believed in. I always enjoyed the darker side of music, which is why I was so direct with my approach to the music and artists I played.
Over the years a lot more artists have started to make music that I feel more comfortable playing, which is why my sets and sounds have expanded.
You dig out your dubplates and play classic sets from time to time. Do you prefer revisiting legendary material when you play out, or to keep your focus looking forward?
I like to keep those sets for the special occasions. As much as I was a pioneer for that sound and that space, it was part of a specific time in my life.
I need to keep on playing fresh music in order to keep myself motivated as there is only a certain amount of times you can hear a tune before you get bored of it; sometimes you need a break before you can appreciate them as much as the first time you heard them.
Also, I come from a musical landscape that values the dubplate culture. Although we may not cut actual acetate dubplates anymore, the idea and culture is still heavily ingrained into me. Therefore, fresh music is always the best way to keep on top of my game and keep pushing the genre forward.
Production wise, are you working with anyone in particular at the moment?
I’m always trying to get in the studio as much as possible to work with people and get some really strong music out there. Its better that I don’t say too much about the people I’ve been working with at the moment, because I don’t want to jinx it; but they are all very strong artists who I respect loads.
Rather than speak about the music and collaborations, I’d prefer people to hear it, so as long as you keep up to date with all my Rinse shows and keep your ears open, you’ll definitely hear them floating about!
And finally, you’ve mentioned before that you’d love to make an album one day. Any news on that front?
At the moment, I can’t really say anything about that. My focus at the moment is to just get music completed. If an album happens then it will happen naturally. I’m trying to create and compile a lot more of my own music, and hopefully an album can happen in the near future.
Music has to feel natural for me so I don’t want to force anything; I’d rather take my time and let the music flow when it’s ready.
Catch Youngsta on Rinse 9-11 every Monday night, and at Contact in fabric’s Room 3 on 26 December.