Since releasing his debut album through Rinse back in April last year, Roska has continued to play a key role in the expansion of UK bass music, pioneering his own unique crossover sound with the help of an ever-growing fanbase. 2011 has already seen a collaboration with Toddla T on the 'Toddska' EP and with big plans in the pipeline, I managed to grab a word with the man himself on everything from Mary Anne Hobbs, the inspiration behind 'Squark' and seeing the Moon and the Stars in Leeds..
"I really enjoyed last year to be honest. I think one of the highlights was releasing the album on Rinse, that was a really big thing for me - I've loved being involved with Rinse and we've kinda mutually helped one another grow. Playing Sonar festival was also another definite highlight - doing a set in front of 10,000 people was just sick. I did an Essential Mix too which was a real privilege - the BBC really did a lot with that, not only pushing my sound but putting me on a par with some of the best DJ's in the world was an honour to be honest. Got to give Mary Anne Hobbs a shout out too, she's helped me a lot, putting me on her show and inviting me along to Sonar - it's all been really cool."
As one of the iconic releases of 2010, Roska's 'Squark' was a track that really caught the imagination of fans and fellow deejays alike. With it's unpredictable flow and combination of unusual sounds, including whistles and what can only be described as a cross between a car alarm and Captain Kirk shooting a Klingon, I wondered where the inspiration behind the track came from:
"Squark was the only tune I've actually sat down with and thought about making - all my stuff tends to be experimental but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that. I basically tried to combine dubstep/electro/funky and garage sounds all in one track if you know what I mean? I messed about with new sounds for a bit, found what I wanted and then it was just a case of putting it all together - it was actually the last track that I recorded for the album."
ROSKA - SQUARK
Before releasing the album with Rinse, Roska used to release tracks via his own label (formed roughly 3 years ago to this day), 'Roska Kicks and Snares', a venture that he feels has held him in good stead in his journey to the top:
"Ah 'Roska Kicks and Snares' all started because I wanted to put my tracks out but no one at the time really cared. I actually started off making grime and garage tracks back in the day, sorta 2005-2006 but one day my laptop crashed and I lost all my files, over two thousand tunes in the end I think so I had to start again. I pressed 500 copies of my first track, 'Feline' but couldn't get any label to support a digital release. I tried to use Juno Downloads but I needed a label to back the release so I formed my own. From there, Beatport got in touch and then it just spiraled. I've got my own distributor now so things are much easier but it's nice to have that story you know - much more satisfying than just signing to a label straight away and having everything done for you!"
The start of 2011 has already seen Roska join forces with Toddla T on the much-acclamined 'Toddska' EP, a 2-track experimental project that puts fun at the heart of the music:
"Ah i just see it as a bit of fun you know! A lot of people make music really seriously these days without enjoying it and they lose sight of the fun element. Toddla's got some mad energy and you just can't be upset around him, it's just not possible - we had a proper laugh putting it together. It's my first release of the year but like with all my music, I'm not too fussed if it does well or not to be honest - I make music for myself first and foremost and if other people feel it then that's wicked and so be it. It all comes from the love and enjoyment of doing it - I make my best stuff when I'm just chilling out on a relaxed vibe, just doing my own thing you know?!"
TODDSKA - GAL FROM ENGLAND
As a producer, some people have found it difficult to place Roska's sound - some refer to it as 'Funky' while others prefer to place it under the 'UK Bass' moniker but Roska insists it's all part of the bigger picture:
"It's just a new breed sound really. Funky's dead and no one can't tell me anything different, RIP Funky! It finished back in 2009 for me - all the business guys left the scene and Footloose left 1xtra and it just fell away from then on in. There are loads of us all doing our thing now - you've got 'Night Slugs' on a more futuristic vibe, 'Hyperdub' throwing out the odd really big release and it's all contributing to help the music get bigger and bigger. The problem with trying to define it as that people aren't really sure - we're making music that people are scared to give a name to. Like, for example, 'Mr Dave' or someone on 'Dubstepforum' will get annoyed because I referred to it as 'Funkstep' in an article with 'XLR8R' back in 2009, do you know what I mean? It's difficult to label things without upsetting people."
As a deejay, Roska has travelled far and wide, playing all over the UK and often further afield too but what makes a good night?
"My deejaying highlights have to be playing Fabric Room One - I played it four times last year, often before or after a dubstep set and I loved it. It's good to see that I can relate to dubstep heads and that my music has a place in that scene too. I played a little in Room Two with Jamie George aswell - I played like half an hour of straight Roska, which is kinda the level I wanna get to eventually, I love playing my own tunes and feeling comfortable! Venue wise it can vary though - one night will be completely off the chain and the next time you play you'll catch yourself thinking 'So what time does my set finish?' - it really is as fickle as that. Festivals are probably my favourite places to play - I always clock crowd reaction and festivals are just full of mad party-going people who wanna do nothing other than rave about and have a good time. In terms of club-night brands to play at, 'Bigger than Barry' in Leeds is the one alongside 'Plastic People' at FWD - you need to get along to one of those."
ROSKA LIVE AT CORSICA STUDIOS 28/01/11 - TODDSKA EP LAUNCH
And as for vinyl..
"I use serato these days - vinyls are heavy to carry around so I find it more of an inconvenience than anything. Time's moving on really, especially with everything going digital plus vinyl pressing is really expensive - I don't put as many of my tracks out on vinyl as I'd like but its not always financially viable. Having said that, you've got to rate guys like Elijah and Skilliam with Butterz pushing grime vinyls and stuff - they're really bringing the music to a whole different audience which is a big look for the grime scene."
With a release under his belt already in 2011, this looks set to be another interesting year for Roska:
"Well obviously the 'Toddska' EP is out now and doing really well. Me and Pinch from 'Techtonic' have just done a nice collaboration which should be heavy - it's all at dubstep 140 tempo and should be due out in about a month and a half. I've also got a release coming out on 'Hot Flush' with two tracks called 'Error Code' and 'Abrupt' which I'm looking forward to. A six-track EP is also due out with Rinse too and from there it's gonna be a build up to the new album which I'm hoping to release in early 2012. I signed a 3-album deal with Rinse but I can see myself releasing with them for a long time - they're a great team and I'm proud to be a part of it. Other than that, I'm kinda happy with how things are going at the moment - I just want to keep pushing the sound, believe in what I'm doing and steer clear of distractions."
Any famous last words?
"Right make sure you put this at the end yeah (laughs)? People, don't take everything I say on twitter as gospel - I know people like to have a moan when people see stuff they don't like on my twitter and it always makes me laugh!"
Oh and the infamous 'Moon and the Stars'?
"(Laughing) I was in Leeds the other night playing at the Union and I was going up some stairs towards the office to collect the rest of my fee and whatever. I looked up and all I could see was a girl in a mini skirt and everything in between - bum cheeks, the lot. I was like 'Praise the Lord!' - it was big."
ROSKA ROSKA ROSKA
ESSENTIAL COP: BUY 'TODDSKA' EP (GIRLS MUSIC) FROM HERE - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cowboy-Gal-From-England/dp/B004JMYH1I/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296431607&sr=301-1
ESSENTIAL COP PART 2: BUY 'ROSKA' (RINSE) FROM HERE: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roska-Rinse-Presents/dp/B003ABZFYW
ROSKA SOUNDCLOUD - http://soundcloud.com/roskakickssnares
RINSE FM - LOCK IN EVERY TUESDAY 5-7 via http://rinse.fm/