Few Dubstep acts are as revered as those who have graced the wax pressed to the legendary Deep Medi Musik's coveted imprint. Of those select few, it could be said that there's a core group of seven producers who have helped shape the sound of the label from it's first release in 2006. Mala, Coki, Loefah, Kromestar, Quest, Silkie, and Goth-Trad. The big seven as it were. There are too many legends to name in the archives of Deep Medi releases, all movers and shakers, all irreplaceable in the scene, but these seven artists' releases seemingly encapsulate all that is Deep Medi and the vision of Dubstep/ Bass Music's future that is synonymous with their sound. In November of last year (2015), I had the immense pleasure (honor) of sitting down with one of these veterans after his show in San Francisco, the man like Quest himself. Quest (real name Darren Henry), once known as Conquest, is a large man who greets you with an equally large handshake, and an even larger smile. An artist known for his often moody, opus-like tunes, in conversations Quest comes across as the human embodiment of his music. His somewhat soft-spoken nature only interrupted by bouts of vigorous enthusiasm, Henry (Quest) articulates his thoughts passionately with wisdom acquired from many years in the Dubstep community as well as countless hours of hard work at his craft. Discussing everything from his social media presence, to his production process, to the state of the scene across the world, Quest had some truly inspiring words for young producers and up-and-comers looking to break into the limelight (or at least get their tunes rinsed).
You are somewhat enigmatic as an artist, in the social media sense, that is. I see very few posts from your public social media accounts as of late whereas, privately, you’re much more outspoken. Do you do this intentionally?
I would rather people judge me on my music than the things I say– even though in the past year I’ve been more prominent on [my personal] Facebook– but yeah I feel like there’s a lot of artists out there that have more of a social media presence than they actually have music.
So, to me, initially we’re all here to make music. Like me as a producer, I’m here to be judged on my tunes, not the things that I say. I think that’s what causes politics a lot of the time…Like everyone’s entitled to say what they want to say on social media, but then if you have more things said than what you actually produce, they’re just going to be judging you on what you say and not what you’re actually here for. You see what I’m saying? So yeah, that’s why I try and keep it kind of laid back.
Since you don’t post a lot to your public accounts, would you mind telling us something that you think your fans wouldn’t know about you? Production wise or personal.
Hmm, well I’m probably the most unconfident producer you’re ever going to come across. Like, I make tunes, but I’m not confident in my music. I kind of see everything that’s happened to me in my career as a bonus, like I make the tunes, and I didn’t really expect anyone to like it *laughs*. So the fact that I’ve got releases on Deep Medi and I’ve had a good response [to my work] in my career, it’s all a bonus to me. You know, I shy away from playing my own tunes man.
I noticed. [Tonight] there weren’t a ton.
Yeah, it’s because, I dunno, I feel uncomfortable playing my tunes because, although to you, it might be a good finished product, to me it was nowhere near what I wanted to do at the time when I made it. You see what I’m saying?
I feel like every producer’s got the same struggle. You know, like we all are struggling to make the music that we hear in our heads. Some people are satisfied with what they produce and they can let go. I let go. That’s why the tunes come out. But ultimately, in my head, I cant get over the fact that it didn’t come out exactly how I wanted it to come out. I kind of feel like I’m a perfectionist in terms of what I expect from myself.
So then, being a perfectionist, what does the production process look like for you?
For me it varies, but a lot of the times I kind of have an idea of the tune before I make it. So a lot of times I’ll hear all the riffs and the melodies and everything before I make the tune and I’ll just build on that. Sometimes it’s random. I‘ll start with a bassline. I’m not one of these producers who can just sit down and start a drum beat and then just come out with a tune. I have to be inspired with an idea for a tune and then I kind of just lay it down. That’s my process. It’s usually been like pre-inspired before I even touch the computer. There’s tunes that I’ve made that I’ve had in my head for like half a year before I’ve made it.
It’s funny you say that, because when I listen to your tunes I can hear this methodical aspect. It really sounds like you put thought into it, not like just shot it out.
I mean, for me it’s like if I’ve had an idea for a tune and it’s still in my head half a year later, and I’m still just as excited about it as I was when I first thought of it, to me it’s a good tune. That’s when I know it’s gonna last. Cause a lot of people make music, and they make it in the moment, but it doesn’t really last that long because there’s a difference, you know? There’s tunes that are for now, and there are tunes for the future. I just try to make tunes for the future, so you can listen back in ten years time and still be able to relate to what was going on at the time.
Speaking of ten years time, I was recently looking back through old Dub Police releases and heard your tune “Forever” and just immediately fell in love with that track all over as if it was the first time I’d heard it. They really do stand the test of time like that.
For me, you know, like some producers want these major achievements in their career– they want like money or fame– but for me, I just want to be able to listen back to my tunes, listen back to my catalogue, and feel like my music has lasted the test of time. For me that’s a big achievement in itself, because not too many people nowadays are able to do that. I feel like that’s the real legacy. You can make all the money you want in your lifespan, but you can’t take that with you. You’re just gonna leave that behind, you know? The masses can’t feed off the money you earn, but they can feed off the music you left behind. To me that’s like a real legacy.
So going back to inspiration briefly, I actually posted on Reddit about the fact that I might be chatting with you and asked for a few questions from the r/realdubstep crew. One of the users requested that I ask you: Where did you get the sample in “Vampires” from?
Vampires was an old movie, and the thing is I can’t actually remember what the movie was called because I cut the sample years ago… *laughs*. It was a black and white movie, an old black and white movie– like I can see it, but I can’t see the name of it, you know what I’m saying? Over the years, I’ve stacked so many samples, but it was an old movie. I’m sure there’s someone out there that knows the exact movie, but I just can’t remember.
Oh I’m sure, yeah. There’s probably a forum somewhere that could tell you *laughs*…
As someone who’s been in the scene making tunes as long as you have, what’re some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed both with yourself and the community around you?
I feel like the scene’s gone full circle, you know. We’ve had humble beginnings, where not a lot of people were at first really feeling the sound– they doubted the sound, and then we’ve gone to big successes. I mean like me and Chef always joke, like 2008-2009 that was the peak of Dubstep. Everyone was flying out. Everyone was doing big shows, and that’s when money got involved. I think we’ve gone from the highest heights and it’s kind of died down a bit and gone back to square one… The good thing about what’s happening now is that it’s like a rebirth. These new and young producers are kind of starting from scratch and building it up again. Especially in America. You know, it kind of died down in America, but now– obviously, I’m here now playing– it’s coming back. I think it’s up to people like me to support the young producers and help them to come forward. You know, I stopped making music for a few years, and it’s only because I started hearing new producers doing new things that I was inspired to come back. I feel like this is what’s needed. Sometimes you get– in any genre– when you have established producers, like veterans, that have been there for ages, they’re very territorial, you know? They don’t always want to let young people through. But I think for any scene to stay fresh, you have to let new sounds come through. It’s all about inspiration. You can get inspiration from anywhere. So I’m never gonna be the one who’s gonna stand and be like ‘I’m Quest. Who are you?’. I get inspired from anybody, so I think it’s up to us to kind of nurture the new people coming through and help them. I find sometimes that I hear from some of the new producers that some of the more established producers are too comfortable in telling them the negative stuff about their music, rather than giving them positives. I feel like you need to hear those positives. Like I’ll always tell you what you need to change, but I’ll always give you something positive to feed off in the end. That’s what you need. That’s the fuel that’s gonna make you become what you need to become to make classic tunes. So for me that’s kind of the role that I see myself getting into right now. Just supporting new producers and helping them. When I first joined [Deep] Medi– when me and Silkie first joined [Deep] Medi– we was new to the scene. And if it wasn’t for people like Mala that kind of showed us how to do things, like the rules and what not to do, we wouldn’t have done the things that we’ve done so far. I feel like it’s our responsibility, everyone’s responsibility, to do that. I mean, you’ve got guys like Joe Nice who are doing that. We need more people like Joe Nice. He really is championing the new producers.
Absolutely. Actually, I think he [Saule] may have been here tonight, but even locally in the Bay Area, he’s just signed a release from Saule.
Quest chimes in at the same time.
Exactly! For Gourmet Beats, yeah? Saule! Yeah, see what I’m saying?
That’s quality. I think that’s good. We need more people like that. I feel like if you’re a producer that’s already established, and you’re territorial, you’re insecure. Like, I’m secure in who I am so it doesn’t bother me that a new producer might be getting more hype than me or whatever– doesn’t matter, because I’m comfortable with who I am. I feel like there’s a lot of producers out there who are too insecure, and I think they need to just know that nothing’s going to change what they’ve done [for the scene].
Respect. Well said. I don’t want to keep you too much longer, so last few questions.
What’s your favorite release? I know earlier you said that you’re self-conscious about your music, but what would you say would be your favorite that you’ve put out?
Hmm…It’s tied man. It’s between “Forever”, “Stand”, and “Smooth Skin”. Those three tunes to me– although in my head I could have done more to the tunes– those three tunes, they’re special because I personally can listen to them and still feel what I felt when I made them.
As a fan that’s awesome to hear because “Forever” is one of my all time favorite tunes. It would have been so sad to find out that you yourself didn’t actually like it that much *laughs*.
*laughs* No, I love that tune.
For your listening pleasure, we've compiled a youtube playlist of Quest's top three picks of the best tunes he's ever made. All three are melodic pieces of art.
What’s your favorite venue that you’ve played so far on this stint in North America?
I like Denver, but you know what, I gotta say, the venue that I’m playing tomorrow, with the guys that I’m playing with [Joe Nice]– for B-Side, you know in LA– it’s got a special place in my heart because I was the first headliner they booked at the beginning of the year. They haven’t even been going for a full year. It was like humble beginnings. It was still a good night, but to see what they’ve done and how they’ve grown, I mean, I’m impressed. I’m good friends with a lot of the guys, the crew that runs it, and they’re good people man, and whatever I can do, I will do to support them. But yeah, the way that they’ve come up– I mean the lineup that they’ve got for tomorrow [Oxossi, Prism, Karma, Quest, Joe Nice B2B Kursk], for you to be able to do that when you’ve only been doing parties for less than a year is crazy. They’re risk takers, you know? That’s the key to success. You’ve got to have an element in you that’s willing to take risks. If you don’t take risks, you won’t be able to get anywhere. Sometimes you have to just grab the bull by the horns, you know? I’m not saying be careless with what you do, but sometimes it’s our inhibitions that hold us back. There has to be a point where you’re like alright, I’ve got everything I need, let’s do this.
I couldn’t agree more. You have to make it for yourself. Always a pleasure to hear that people like those at B-Side are doing so well so quickly.
Yeah, I mean I just feel like if they can do it, anyone else can do it, and we just need more people that think like them. I mean, it’s not to say that they’re better than anyone, but for me it’s inspiring to see, because they’re all young as well, like compared to– you know, I was thirty this year– these guys are like mid- to early twenties.
Speaking of up-and-comers and those getting established, any new producers that you’ve been feeling lately?
Ah, there’s loads. I like Malleus, I like Oxossi, from LA… Sepia, he’s been putting out big tunes. That’s like my little brother, man. There’s so many, man. Bisweed, he’s been grinding for ages now. Eva808, she’s coming through. There’s loads, man. Thing is, I don’t want to keep naming them because I feel bad if I leave any of the people out, but they know who they are. I support when I can.
Favorite tune to drop right now in your sets?
It’s between Mystry - “Graveyard Shift”, or Commodo - “F_ck Mountain VIP”. Those are the two.
Anything on the horizon from you to look for?
Well, me and Silkie started a label, Antisocial Records, so look out for that for sure. First one’s Silkie’s EP. Then, next year , man, I’ve got a lot of big releases planned. I’m doing more work than I’ve ever done before in my life so like look out for it man *laughs*.
Awesome. That’s great to hear. Thanks again for sitting down with me. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Few in the dance music have achieved what Quest has, yet even fewer have his humility and positive energy. Quest is a consummate professional who lets his music do the talking. With a bag full of the darkest cuts in Dubstep, Quest is of a breed of passionate artists who will rattle the floor for you, then still make time to chat after. A humble man who wants nothing more than to spread his music and good vibes, he stands for all that most young Dubstep producers aspire to. While listening to him speak I couldn't help but mentally make the comparison between him to that of the Bernie Sanders of Dubstep. His biggest message being to established producers in a plea to help develop the youth and assist the up-and-comers. It is rare that you meet anyone so focussed on the success of others, let alone someone in the position of Quest. That said, Dubstep is built on positivity, the idea of the communal vibes we share while gathered around the sound-system, and Quest is one of the true emissaries of that original vibe that continues on today.
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