As one of Grime's original pioneers, J-Sweet has remained a loyal advocate of the sound for over ten years, firmly establishing himself as one of the scene's most respected producers in the process. With a back catalogue spanning almost a decade and a whole host of remix and instrumental work for a number of different labels to his name, he's remained pivotal to the inner-workings of the scene. Now focusing on pushing a host of new material to an ever-emerging audience, a series of releases towards the back end of 2010 and the recent release of J-Sweet and Alias' remix of Spooky's iconic 'Spartan' suggest that the future looks bright for one of Grime's true big-hitters. I managed to catch up with him over a beer on everything from 'Bump 'N Grind' to bringing the studio to the stage:
"Ah where to start, I can't even remember! I had a single out called 'Bass Abuse' on 'Wheel and Deal Records' last summer and obviously I've just had the release of the Spartan Remix alongside Alias put out on Logan Sama's 'Earth 616' label which seems to be doing quite well. I've also just done a big feature on Cameo's 1Xtra show where I was able to showcase a whole load of new music, including me and Alias' new tune 'Clash', which is actually due for release on a well-known label in the not too distant future. Production-wise, I produced the instrumentals for 'Pick Up The Mic and Spray' and title-track 'Blam!' on JME's album too. Outside of that, I've just launched my new website www.jsweet.co.uk and also www.grimeproducer.com, which I'm hoping will shed more light on the work of the producer because we're often forgotten about. Ah, I did some promoting too - I ran 4 'FresHype' nights in Epsom and each of those had a Grime artist top the bill."
First taking to production back in 1999, it was his spending time at a record shop in Soho that first opened J-Sweet's eyes to the potential of making music:
"I've actually been releasing since about '99 I think but back then it was more 2-Step Garage that I was making. I was extremely young, didn't really know what I was doing and spent a lot of time working at 'Uptown Records' in Soho which got me into the whole scene. The Grime sound seemed to develop soon after that really - us younger guys at the time started to mess around with bass lines and ended up making a new, darker sound. We basically made 'darker Garage' if you could term it that!
I actually started off as a deejay and got really into the Garage scene because it was such an exciting new strand of music at the time - I remember I used to love guys like 'Bump 'N Flex' and 'Sunship' . There was actually a dub on the B-side of a Bump 'N Flex tune that sounded so dark at the time but looking back on it, it was so tame (laughs). That tune was the equivalent of something that Rusko or Datsik would put out nowadays honestly!"
As far as influences go, it was Hip-Hop that always caught J's ear:
"I'm still a big, big Hip-Hop fan, more the proper underground stuff though and I love scratching so I guess that's been my main influence. I've been using loads of strange samples recently aswell - been digging around for the weirdest stuff I can find and you can hear some of it when you listen to 'Can't Stop Grime' and then 'Streethawk' is like some 80's throwback! Can't forget Garage either, that's been a big influence on me too."
After watching the scene grow, develop and evolve over the last ten years, it's interesting to get J-Sweet's take on where he thinks the scene is headed:
"The emcees and artists are doing really well with Grime at the moment which is good to see, but I still see there being a big divide between producers/deejays and emcees. I feel like some emcees see Grime as a stepping-stone to chart success where as instrumental guys like myself, Terror Danjah, Swindle etc are far more concerned with pushing that Grime sound. We're doing our stuff at the moment and the sound seems to be really growing - we're opening it up to new audiences who actually appreciate Grime for what it is. I can see club nights being dedicated to solely Grime deejays / producers in the not too distant future to be honest. I think the main problem was the whole 'crew' element - people associate the word 'crew' with gang and I think that really dented the scene in a way but luckily that's died down a bit over the last few years.
More than anything, I love the fact there are people out there who appreciate the energy that Grime brings - we go mad putting it all together! I love how everything's growing at the moment too and it's great to see guys like Terror Danjah traveling the world and getting love for going out there and playing Grime. Producers and deejays kinda lost their way a bit for a while and without a vocal, nothing was getting played but that's all changing now. Having said that, producers still don't get the credit they deserve for big instrumentals - the emcee will always take the acclaim!"
Taking this into account, J-Sweet was also quick to point out that he feels Grime will one day become a worthy part of the wider, electronic music bracket:
"The levels have definitely been raised recently and I think that recognition will come one day. The best thing about Grime is it brings a different energy to a rave than any other type of electronic music - it's got that rhythm and vibe that you can't escape and I think people are starting to embrace it. It's so much more professional now too, that's been a huge difference - we didn't used to have a clue what we were doing. When Grime was first making waves, none of us knew how to market it or how to try and sell it and it showed. Producers have started deejaying now too which only helps the scene - everything's changing! The way I deejay's totally changed too, it's not just a case of turning up with a few CDs anymore. There's so much skill involved now and I think once people start seeing us out and appreciate what we can do as deejays, the more the sound will continue to be appreciated."
The recent cross-genre, vinyl resurgence is also something that J-Sweet feels has helped improve levels of professionalism whilst subsequently pushing the sound to an entirely different audience:
"I used to own a record shop in Croydon so I'm all for vinyl and people wanting to release a physical music product. I'm gonna be bringing 'Marxmen Dubs' back in the summer and one of the first things I'm going to do is make sure that I'm pressing vinyls. I tend to use a lot of outboard equipment when I'm deejaying and kinda bring the studio to the stage so to speak but I still love throwing in some vinyl and I think the spate of recent Grime vinyl releases are helping put the sound on the map."
Forthcoming releases with Alias, the re-launch of Marxmen Dubs and a renewed passion for deejaying all suggest that J-Sweet is intent on pushing the sound to a whole new level over the coming weeks and months:
"You can expect a lot more stuff from me and Alias and there's gonna be releases for 'Can't Stop Grime', a track called 'Okay' and 'Clash'. Oh and 'Streethawk' is due for a release too and it's hopefully gonna get vocalled - not 100 percent confirmed as to who it'll be yet though. The major focus is gonna be on revamping the 'Marxmen Dubs' label - I'm hoping to have it up and running by the summer and you can expect a good amount of vinyl releases. I used to do stuff like 1-sided vinyls and limited-presses so I'll probably re-introduce some of those ideas. I like the concept of doing a limited press because it encourages people to invest in the music - you either get one now or they're gone you know? I'm fully focused on my deejaying too - I want to push that this year and basically throw together some fully live performances!"
'Grime Producer': http://www.grimeproducer.com/
Everything else J-Sweet: http://www.jsweet.co.uk/