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The Infamous Fabriclive.37 Mix

Updated: Feb 14

Today, we're diving back into the annals of electronic music history to revisit a legendary DJ mix from 2007 that played a pivotal role in propelling dubstep from the underground into the global spotlight.

Back in 2007, the dynamic Parisian duo Justice delivered a scintillating 44-minute sonic journey for Fabric's revered FABRICLIVE DJ series. Known for their signature blend of nouveau disco and sultry synth-rock, Justice's contribution added a fresh perspective to the mixtape landscape. Fabric's FABRICLIVE series, which made its debut in 2001, drew inspiration from the eclectic Friday club nights at the renowned London venue, encompassing a diverse range of genres including drum'n'bass, breaks, and hip-hop. Alternating monthly with its house and techno counterpart, fabric, these mix CDs curated by the club's in-house label quickly became emblematic of contemporary UK club culture, shaping the musical tastes of listeners from high-street record stores to car stereos and beyond.

With its finger firmly on the pulse of the electronic music scene, Fabric's FABRICLIVE and fabric mix CDs provided a snapshot of the vibrant club culture emanating from the heart of Farringdon. These releases served as more than just compilations; they were sonic artifacts, capturing the essence of the clubbing experience and immortalizing it for listeners worldwide. Through meticulous curation and commissioning, Fabric's mix series established itself as a beacon of musical excellence, reflecting the diverse and ever-evolving sounds of the UK underground scene.

Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the impact of this iconic DJ mix and its role in shaping the trajectory of dubstep's meteoric rise to prominence.

Before Justice took the decks for their FABRICLIVE mix, the lineup had seen a diverse array of talent, from the likes of James Lavelle to John Peel, J Majik, James Murphy, and a slew of other DJs whose names either started with "J" or didn't. However, when the French duo submitted their offering, it seemed the folks at Fabric weren't exactly thrilled. In fact, their mix got the cold shoulder. Speculation ran rampant in the forum-sphere, with anonymous commenters throwing out theories left and right: Was it too short? Did it miss the mark? Or was it simply not up to snuff?

But for the brains behind the FABRICLIVE series, time was of the essence. With December looming and the pressure to deliver a fresh release mounting, the call went out to two rising stars from the dubstep circuit: 25-year-old West Londoner Gary McCann, known as Caspa, and Rusko, the 22-year-old Yorkshire native, Christopher Mercer. Already familiar faces in both the club and label office, having inked a publishing deal earlier that year, they were seen as reliable choices.

Given a mere three days to work their magic, Caspa and Rusko embarked on a whirlwind journey. Fresh off a Halloween gig in Sheffield, they hastily pieced together a rough tracklist during the drive back to London. By Monday, they found themselves in Fabric Room 3, a snug space tucked away on the club's mezzanine level, surrounded by Victorian brickwork. Despite the empty club and the early hour (4 p.m.), they got to work, laying down their mix live from dubplates and vinyl. It was a scene not unlike any other gig they'd played, albeit with a twist—the sound engineer was eyeing the clock, eager to wrap up by six for his evening tea. With lightning speed, the final recording was mastered by Tuesday morning, CDs were burned by Wednesday, and promo copies were swiftly dispatched by Friday.

The time crunch forced Caspa and Rusko to work with what they had at their fingertips. With no luxury of indulging in the meticulous crafting of peaks, troughs, and transitions—elements DJs often mythologize—they had to act swiftly. Moreover, there wasn't a moment to spare for arranging licensing deals; they had to stick to tracks they knew they could clear. Consequently, out of the 29 tracks featured, a significant portion—15 to be exact—were original productions by Caspa and Rusko themselves, while an additional 17 were sourced from Caspa's Dub Police and Sub Soldiers labels.

The weight of responsibility hung heavily over FABRICLIVE.37, poised to be Fabric's inaugural pure dubstep-focused mix. The implicit duty was clear: to offer a comprehensive snapshot of the scene in its entirety. No easy feat, considering the complex evolution of dubstep by 2007. Originating from the dark corridors of garage and jungle, it had morphed into a distinct genre, with tendrils spreading far beyond its London birthplace. From the ethereal "purple" sound emanating from Bristol to the thunderous stacks of dub reggae systems echoing in Leeds, dubstep was undergoing a metamorphosis. Specialist DJs like Youngsta and Hatcha carved out their niches, while traces of jump-up drum'n'bass seeped into its more aggressive strains, earning the derisive moniker "clownstep" from purists, later mutated into the infamous "brostep." Factions emerged, each with its fervent supporters and vocal detractors.

Caspa and Rusko proudly waved the banner of their distinctive dubstep variant: bold, brash, and downright rowdy, with a subtle nod to dub's roots (Rusko even drew inspiration for his debut EP cover from photos of Haile Selassie). Yet, even without the constraints of time, FABRICLIVE.37 was destined to offer only a glimpse into the vast landscape of dubstep. It stood as a testament to Caspa and Rusko's sonic identity, a virtual clone of the electrifying show they'd recently delivered in Sheffield. More than just a mix, it served as a harbinger of a seismic cultural shift, one where attention became the ultimate currency. It mirrored the endless scroll of social media, inundating listeners with a relentless barrage of content engineered not just to captivate, but to ensnare, keeping them perpetually engaged. Silicon Valley luminary Aza Raskin had introduced the concept of the "infinite scroll" a year prior, later dubbed a "dopamine-seeking reward loop" by behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk—and for Raskin, a source of profound regret. Today, chart-topping hits are minted on platforms like TikTok, and scenes no longer crystallize on mix CDs alone.

Around the same time, two other notable events unfolded.

On July 1st, 2007, a landmark shift occurred in the UK as smoking in pubs, restaurants, and nightclubs became prohibited by law. DJs suddenly found themselves grappling with a novel phenomenon: the smokers' exodus. The prospect of playing more audacious tunes now carried the risk of half the dancefloor flocking outside for a quick cigarette break. For dubstep, a genre initially associated with a distinctly red-eyed crowd, this transition marked a particularly significant change.

A decade later, drum 'n' bass maestro Andy C, renowned for his adeptness at double drops and multi-deck mixing, reminisced about his strategy of "pulling out some bangers" to retain the crowd's attention and deter them from heading to the smoking area. Caspa and Rusko's relentless assault in the mid-section of FABRICLIVE.37 perfectly complemented this rapidly evolving attention economy approach: More, bigger, louder, faster, newer. But was it truly better? The verdict, it seemed, was being deliberated in the smoking area.

Simultaneously, in Cambodia, authorities initiated raids and crackdowns on the production of safrole oil, a crucial ingredient in the synthesis of MDMA. These operations resulted in severe shortages of MDMA, leading to a prolonged drought that persisted for several years. Opportunistic individuals, however, seized upon this scarcity, resorting to ingenious methods to meet the demand for uppers. They employed a variety of substitute chemical compounds, often clandestinely pressing them into pills and hoping consumers wouldn't discern the absence of genuine MDMA in their tablets. Shockingly, European Union seizure data from 2009 unveiled that a significant portion of the pills consumed at the time contained no MDMA whatsoever. Some entrepreneurs even marketed these concoctions as entirely new substances, capitalizing on the void left by the MDMA drought.

The standout success story of this particular wave of hedonistic innovation was mephedrone, affectionately dubbed "drone." Also recognized under a slew of sensationalized monikers concocted by tabloids, such as M-CAT, White Magic, and Meow Meow—although its name hints at its chemical composition rather than its less-than-pleasant aroma—the drug skyrocketed in popularity across the UK. By 2010, it had secured its place as the fourth most sought-after substance among clubgoers nationwide. Its powdery white appearance, insatiable allure, and enticing affordability (at a mere tenner per gram, it stood at least four times cheaper than the going rate for MDMA at the time) all fueled its meteoric rise. Moreover, its legal status and widespread availability rendered it irresistible to those venturing into their initial forays of adult freedom—many of whom found themselves drawn to the pulsating beats of club music, courtesy of artists like Caspa and Rusko. Dubstep, originally birthed amidst a haze of cannabis smoke, took on a distinct flavor with the addition of synthetic amphetamines.

In many regards, these circumstances aligned perfectly with Caspa and Rusko's brash, humorous, and adrenaline-fueled style. Their raucous, youthful charm finds its quintessence in Rusko's "Cockney Thug," with its infectious soccer-chant horns and Alan Ford's unrestrained expletive in the thickest of East End accents (originally titled "FAK"). It was unabashedly good, mindless fun, even if its lasting impact has leaned more towards the mindless than the fun.

Enjoy Part A of Caspa & Rusko's FabricLive.37 Mix!

The hurried pace of compiling the mix partly accounts for its truncated nature. Tracks crash from drop to drop, with minimal crossover, fade, or inventive blends. Across the 20-track mid-section, tunes are hurled in and swiftly whisked away after just a minute or so, each paving the way for something similar yet refreshingly different. It's an aural rollercoaster that pulls you from one moment to the next; from the seismic rumble of Cotti & ClueKid's "Legacy" to Caspa's distorted, subaquatic horns on "Big Headed Slags," or Rusko's eclectic array of squealing synth experiments. It's a testament to the unrestrained creativity and expansive nature that made dubstep such an enticing prospect in its early days, yet it consistently lands on the same note time and time again.

Caspa and Rusko's mix boasted a record-breaking number of tracks compared to any previous FABRICLIVE release. This fact was proudly highlighted by the duo in interviews, seemingly subscribing to the notion that more could equate to better and, perhaps, greater representation. However, the densely packed, attention-demanding middle section ultimately overshadowed the more musically captivating (and enduring) moments of the mix. These gems are discovered in its bookends: from the ethereal saxophone of L-Wiz's "Girl From Codeine City," to Caspa's Lin Wenzheng-sampled "Cockney Violin," and ConQuest's dub-infused, seven-minute closing opus, "Forever."

Their selection to craft Fabric's inaugural dubstep mix wasn't without its controversies—few things in dubstep ever are, given the protective fervor many of its fans inherited from the sometimes rigid drum'n'bass and garage scenes. Loefah, a prominent figure in south London's DMZ crew, renowned for their weighty, almost spiritual approach to dubstep and its soundsystem origins, asserted in 2015 that several individuals in the scene had turned down the opportunity before Caspa and Rusko were enlisted. Similar sentiments were echoed by DMZ's resident host, Sgt Pokes, writing under the pseudonym "poax" on Martin Clark, who operated as Blackdown while blogging, producing, and contributing a monthly grime and dubstep column for Pitchfork, revealed his longstanding efforts to advocate for a dubstep inclusion in Fabric's mix series since the early 2000s, albeit to no avail.

The notorious buccaneers at Rinse FM had set sail with their own mix CD series that same year, boasting Skream's expansive Rinse:02 offering just days before the arrival of FABRICLIVE.37. Meanwhile, Tempa's Dubstep Allstars series had been steadily chugging along since 2004, with N-Type's Volume 5, also unleashed in 2007, standing as one of the finest snapshots of the genre's diverse spectrum. Yet, these endeavors remained largely underground pursuits. It was Fabric's bold venture into the mainstream that arguably propelled the sound from a fledgling contender to a formidable force, solidifying a more confined interpretation of it in the collective consciousness, for better or worse.

The label pulled out all the stops, orchestrating a full day of international press for Caspa and Rusko. By the time the dynamic duo settled in for their final interview—a late-night chat with Rinse FM's seasoned DJ Darkside on his GetDarker platform—Caspa revealed they had tackled a staggering 31 interviews throughout the day. Bursting with anticipation, the pair eagerly awaited the moment when their creation would hit the airwaves. A mere week later, the 8,000 subscribers to the club's monthly FabricFirst service would be among the first to sample the sonic marvel. FABRICLIVE.37 acted as a catalyst, propelling a distinct strain of dubstep into the limelight, imprinting an authoritative, globally recognized mark on the genre's ever-expanding spectrum. Caspa and Rusko's concoction proved to be the ignition switch for EDM's explosive ascent under the strobe lights.

In just a few short years, dubstep became the most talked-about, gritty force in the global dance music scene. Picture this: DJs perched atop desks, commanding attention amidst dazzling pyrotechnic displays, while throngs of fans sway to the infectious beats. Dubstep even infiltrated unexpected corners like Internet Explorer ads—though the Weetabix spot left much to be desired. Amidst the chaos, some producers capitalized on the trend, churning out formulaic remixes for major labels, while others retreated to their underground sanctuaries, grappling with feelings of bitterness and embarrassment as commercial interests swiftly swallowed their subculture whole.

Yet, dubstep's surge into the zeitgeist proved a blessing for many in the community. UK-based events like SubDub blossomed into massive, international showcases of Soundsystem culture. Visionaries such as Mala and Kode9 seized the moment, carving out successful careers and nurturing their own labels. Meanwhile, the movement spurred others like Loefah, Peverelist, and Pinch to embark on thrilling new musical journeys.

Embossed CD tins, cherished relics of Fabric's releases, exchanged hands among curious young music enthusiasts. Among them was Sherelle Thomas, the latest addition to the Fabric Presents Mix series, who credits Caspa and Rusko's mix as a pivotal introduction to the vibrant world of club culture.

Since its much-debated release, FABRICLIVE.37 has traced a familiar trajectory seen in many such pivotal moments: Initially sparking excitement in some quarters while stirring trepidation in others, only to quickly age and fade from the limelight. Yet, upon revisitation years later, its true allure comes to light. It's a reminder of the things that captivate us, defying the relentless march of time and the distractions of modern life, even in the face of the ceaseless scroll.

Perhaps this was what drove Justice's Gaspard and Xavier as they curated their own rendition of FABRICLIVE.37. Delving into '70s disco anthems and the flamboyance of spandex-clad rock, they sought those elusive moments that compel us to pause, take a breath, and softly murmur to no one in particular, "FAK."

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