Far removed from the joyless showboating and beef many in the Grime scene have been indulging in over the past few years, Elijah & Skilliam, a DJ duo with a penchant for earth-shattering instrumentals, have been working away consistently bringing the best in new Grime to the fore via their Rinse FM show. After gathering new material from the likes of Terror Danjah, Swindle, D.O.K. and Royal T to name but a few and exposing new artists through their blog, they’ve smashed raves across Europe and all over the UK in a fashion unheard of for Grime DJs. This year they launch their label – the first release on which sees new riddims from Terror Danjah, SRC, Silencer and Royal T. 2010 will undoubtedly be a huge year for Butterz.
Am I right in thinking you guys haven’t been DJing all that long? What made you want to start?
Elijah: I have been DJing since 2008. Been a silent listener to pirate radio most of my life, and Grime was the soundtrack to my teenage years. I felt that I could do something that nobody else in the scene was doing as a DJ and I had a small profile because of the blog, so it was worth a try.
Skilliam: I’ve been DJing on and off since around 2003/04 and it’s only recently where it’s picked up and really taken off. I began when I was at school with a group of MCs as they needed a DJ and it all started from there. It’s one of those things where once you start, it’s hard to stop through the sheer enjoyment of it.
How did you guys get hooked up with Rinse show then? And how has it developed you as DJs?
E: At the time they were looking for Grime DJs, we got recommended and done a demo show and we are still there today. Having a radio show is a distinct advantage over other DJs. It keeps you on your toes, every week you need to be listening to new music, new producers and new mc’s and playing around with new ideas to keep the show fresh. Since we started people have developed along with us, so we started playing Royal Ts early stuff, and now he is one release in, and has improved a huge amount. On the other hand you have Swindle, who was already a name in the scene when we started, but his style didn’t fit alongside what was getting played by the top DJs. We accommodated smooth styles as well as the rough.
To me, what you guys have done with pushing that instrumental grime thing, shaking off the need for MCs is kind of reminiscent to what Dilla and Madlib did for instrumental hip hop. Do you think grime could ever reach that level of success?
E: Possibly, I think as long as Grime gets taken seriously as an electronic music genre in the future my job will be complete.
S: I don’t think it’s about trying to imitate or emulate other scenes. I think its best that the Grime scene finds it’s own way of progressing and developing.
E: Creatively it is in a better place then it was last year. Producers collaborating, MCs working with each other more, Dubstep producers starting to work with MCs again, all of that is great, I’m not too fussed about the beef or politics in the scene, I just play the music. I don’t really pay attention to YouTube MCs.
S: Things such as those help to keep a buzz in the scene. I noticed that people, who were disconnected from Grime saying it was dead, did start to take an interest in Grime again.
The Butterz label seems like a pretty natural progression. What are your plans with that? Is it all the fun and games you thought it would be?
E: Again it’s just an outlet for the people we play. This time last year, nobody wanted to release this music, now as soon as I play a tune, I get an email asking what label its coming out on! Total turn around. I feel like I can bring something different creatively, sometimes I feel like the formats are to regimented. Like you can only do one tune a remix and a B. Fuck that, I want 15 remixes I’ll get 15 remixes. Quality Street [the first Butterz 12″] as well, 4 big producers on one vinyl. Value for money and for the producers they are getting more stuff out there that wouldn’t have come out if we didn’t ask.
Tell us a bit about releasing on vinyl, why did you choose to go down this route? I can only think of a few Grime labels who are on this right now, perhaps most prominently No Hats No Hoods.
E: Vinyl/Digital combination is the industry standard way to release electronic music. So just stick to the script, play by the rules, so we can get compared to what else is going on out there in vinyl/digital world regardless of genre. I service the music to DJs that I rate that play similar styles, whereas Grime labels previously would have just given it to Grime DJs. So you will hear ‘butterz’ tunes in Oneman, Alex Nut, Brackles, Bok Bok, Starkey, Joker, Toddla T, Ben UFO sets etc. People before us haven’t really done that, that’s why Grime isn’t as big as it should be.
Any tips you can give us on future label releases, stuff in the pipeline etc?
S: It is quite a fluid process, things can change, we have a rough idea, but expect an Air Bubble Remix 12″ and a Swindle EP. Even if it doesn’t come out on Butterz, there will be stuff popping up elsewhere that we have had a hand in via Rwina, Planet Mu, Numbers, No Hats No Hoods Etc. All about what’s doing best for the producers.
It seems like to an extent you’ve taken Grime back to raves, almost sneaked in through the backdoor by just being a couple of guys djing without an MC, playing predominantly instrumentals and therefore overcoming the negative connotations that Grime carries. Right now it seems like if you want Grime DJs for a night, you’d go to you guys. How’s playing out been and as radio DJs/label heads/bloggers how important is the club arena to you?
E: The club is why I do it. Hearing the stuff on big systems, making people dance, go crazy to this music is the motivation. Building up a tune like Air Miles on the radio, then seeing the reactions to it in a club when your dropping it for the first time is the one. What you hear on the radio is pretty much what you get in a club, and that is not us trying to conform so we can get bookings, it is the side of Grime we have both liked and has been underexposed from the start. End of the day it is club music, so if we didn’t play in raves my motivation would slow down very quickly.
S: The most fun and exhilarating thing is the club arena. That’s where you really feel the power of the music. It is also useful for producers, we might play their music and give them feedback on how it sounds and reactions it received to help them develop further. Also there hasn’t been any grief at raves both inside and outside of London and UK that we have played at which is definitely a plus point.
You’ve taken your sound far from London, where ironically it must be one of the hardest places right now to get bookings as a result of police pressure on Grime/the 696 form. How does it go down in the places you’ve played all over Europe? Any stories?
E: We play at Dubstep raves most of the time, so the ears are tuned to hearing 140bpm beats already so it isn’t that difficult, only that most of the time they dont know the tunes. You just an honest reaction, you can tell when they aren’t feeling certain bits, but then when you bring in something they like they are receptive. Watch the Prague video and the ‘Bare Places’ video to see what I mean!
S: It is actually quite well received abroad. We say it a lot; and think it’s partly down to core instrumental sets. You don’t have to speak English or understand the slang to relate to the music we play. Each time we have gone away, it has been a good experience and the crowds tend to be very receptive to what we play.
To me Terror Danjah kind of seems like the godfather of the sound you’re pushing and producers like Rude Kid, Swindle, SRC, D.O.K., Royal T etc. are making. How much of a part do you think he’s played in the development of instrumental Grime?
E: Without him it wouldn’t have been possible. I’m glad you feel that way because he is instrumental (no pun) in making a lot of stuff happen for us, and other producers coming through. When we first met I had just started on Rinse, and I was finding it difficult to get music, and he was one our first guests on our show and he let us break a lot of his tunes. Creatively he really got me involved in what he was doing: playing stuff to me as he was making it, seeing what I thought and going back in.
S: He has embraced all those producers, helped them with label stuff, appeared on their releases, given them remix work and played them in his sets and if all of those producers and other guys like Silencer, Joker, Starkey etc do the same we have a little movement there. There are other producers coming through as well, and now that Terror is DJing again he has his finger on the pulse when it comes to new beats.
What a lot of things you’re involved in, such as what you play out, on the radio, release through the label etc have in common is what I’d describe as this kind of technicolour sound, quite playful and fun, which arguably is what Grime has been missing. Is this playfulness something you’re interested in?
E: I know what you mean by that, I just don’t think everything has to be rowdy or angry to be grimy. ‘Air Bubble’ is exactly that, a lot of my favourite Grime tunes are not even dark. They’re the ones with the cool melodies like Geeneus ‘Jamhot’ and DJ Oddz ‘Champion‘. Another element I felt was missing over the last few years was really ‘danceable’ grime tunes, but now we have Rude Kid ‘Jack Daniels’ , Swindle ‘Air Miles’ and watch out for Royal-Ts Whistle Song.
What influences you outside Grime?
E: I listen to a lot of DJ mixes and a lot of Rinse FM so a lot of House, Dubstep, Funky and alternative hip hop. I might hear something and try and apply it to what we do, or certain techniques I see DJs using to promote themselves I will give a try. I like to check out other DJs at random nights to see what the hype is about as well, quite often I’m impressed more than let down which is good, the levels are very high right now.
S: I take aspects from everywhere and apply it to Grime. I like the DJing styles of House when it comes to radio. It’s about enjoying the tunes, the combinations and the mix.
Which producers, MCs and DJs are you feeling right now?
E: I only DJ Grime, so there are loads of producers I rate that I don’t play, so outside of the people I play week in week out on Rinse I currently rate Zomby, D1, Geeneus, DVA, Silkie, Skream loads of heads. MCs P Money and D Double E are leading for me right now.
S: Producer-wise, you would probably hear the ones which we like and are accessible on our shows. I’ve also always been a fan of Footsie. MCs would be the Newham Generals and P-Money. DJs I’m not to sure at the moment. I’ve always been a fan of EZ so I’ll say him for now.
Photo by: Shaun BloodworthElijah & SkilliamButterzDubstepFunkyGrime