Despite spending the majority of their time in different cities and over 400 miles apart, hotly-tipped production duo Blackwax, otherwise known as Luke Dubuis and Ross Addy, are making all the right waves so far following their debut release on Dutch imprint Tube10 early last year. Splitting their time between Edinburgh and London when they can, the pair have recently found themselves at the forefront of a new school of grime-centric thinking that has birthed talents such as Wen, Visionist and Samename, amongst others, over the last 12 months. Ignoring traditional 140bpm blueprints, it is a sound that captures grime’s raw authenticity at varying tempos and in varying guises; in Blackwax’s case, a mutual love of jungle is noted as one of their biggest influences.
Having recently remixed Youngstar’s seminal grime anthem ‘Pulse X’ as part of Liminal Sounds debut release in January, Tomas Fraser was lucky enough to catch up with both Luke and Ross on the challenges of working together, dealing with criticism and ‘not making happy music’ giving them ample opportunity to better frame the latest mix in the grime focused Sonic Router x Uncle Albert Mix series.
Sonic Router: For those who might not know be familiar, could you introduce yourself for us?
Blackwax: We’re Blackwax- a duo based both in Edinburgh and London. We released our debut EP entitled ‘Offkey’ about a year ago on Dutch imprint Tube10 (home to people likeDistal, TRG, DJ Madd, DJG) and have since released a free track with Liminal sounds entitled ‘Trapped’. Apart from that we’ve been pretty quiet due to the fact we no longer live in the same city – but that’s going to change.
As a production-duo, how do you manage to harmonize your ideas creatively?
It’s a very long process – especially since we no longer live close to each other. That being said, the best of our ideas come when we’re both in the same room, as it’s much simpler to communicate ideas.
We both come from different musical backgrounds and have different tastes to a certain degree, so our sound definitely comes out when we both can have an effect on the music in real time. When sharing projects online it can be very easy for one of us to take the track in a direction the other person disagrees with. We’re by no means that fastest producers out there, we like to take our time and refine our ideas so that we’re both happy with what we put out.
You’re often mentioned in the same breath as producers like Visionist and Wen, who, as I’ve mentioned, are both seemingly spearheading a new brand of grime at varying tempos and arrangements. How would you describe the sound you try to push?
It’s hard to say really as we have so many different genres and feelings that influence the music we make. Trying to describe the sound we want to push with a genre label would just sound clumsy and stupid.
We both have a love for jungle and I think that’s somewhat noticeable in our productions. Coming from club backgrounds, making music for us has always been geared towards the dancefloor and big sound systems, and subsequently the low end is where we tend to focus our efforts. We don’t make happy music if that means anything…
You’ve recently remixed Youngstar’s definitive ‘Pulse X’ alongside Visionist, Slackk, Pedro 123 and Elsewhere for Liminal Sounds. How did you approach going about it? How did it feel to be given the opportunity?
Approaching the remix was difficult – it’s a classic, so we didn’t want to do something absolutely out there that nobody could appreciate or recognise. We have something like 8 different projects for the remix, all of which were on different tips. The version that came to be stood out to us because it was simple yet injected the energy and attitude of the original in a different way (we hope).
‘Pulse X’ is an incredibly raw tune – and to make it more complex would only detract from it. It was pretty daunting to have to remix such a renowned track, especially with the knowledge that Visionist was also working on a remix – being a friend, there was a bit of an (un)spoken competition that happened! All we could do was try to do our best and hope that Youngstar was happy with it.
Your mix features everyone from Hackman & Tessela to Skepta and Wiley – how did you go about the selection process?
It wasn’t really particularly thought out in any way – some of them are mixes of old and new tracks that we love that work nicely together, others are productions we just had to include – Wen, Brunks, Beneath, Breen, Bloom, Facta and Mssingno in particular.
There is a definite sound that we are feeling at the moment, and if I’m being honest – a lot of it is coming from people experimenting in the 120-130bpm range – think Keysound affiliated artists such as – Wen, Visionist and Beneath. Visionist in particular – his sound is really unique and it just keeps on getting better. His digital label Lost Codes is also putting out some seriously interesting music – check out Bloom’s ‘Zing Panther’ for a taste of what’s to come. The irony is we didn’t even include one of his tracks!
We have a ton of great tracks we didn’t manage to put in there just because we couldn’t think where to fit them in. Producers such as Dark0, Last Japan, Riffs, Samename come to mind…So shouts to them!
Looking ahead, what can we expect from Blackwax over the course of 2013?
We’re taking 12 days at the start of February to meet up and work solidly on music – this will be the first opportunity in a very long time. The aim is to get enough music finished to work with for the next few months. We’ve been so busy with work (Luke) and University (Ross) that it’s been difficult to really even think about making tracks – especially as a duo.
We’ve also got a few really interesting collaborations and remixes lined up that we shouldn’t probably speak about just yet. We’re really slow at getting things done and don’t want to make announcements this early on.
We both also have our own things going that we do under the Blackwax name – Ross runs a weekly night in Edinburgh called Witness that has been putting on shows for almost 2 years.
Ross: With a 100 capacity venue I have had the chance to put on some big names (everyone from Ras G to Lunice) in an intimate venue. We’ve also used Witness to begin to promote Scottish talent: last month we released a free EP that featured the likes of DFRNT, Atlus, Fault Lines and more. We also intend to release music from Taz (Numbers/Rwina) under his BF Hoodrich alias as well as more local talent in the future.
Luke: I have also just recently announced a bi monthly radio show called Circadian Rhythms with Last Japan on NTS. I’ve always wanted to be involved in radio and being able to do it with a good friend is a great feeling. We’ve got a lot of plans for it and really hope to build on it. The aim is not just to mix solidly for 2 hours – we want to showcase artists we think people need to hear about, as well as play music that we’re listening to outside of bass music culture.
Wen – Commotion [Keysound]
Brunks – Tools [Unreleased]
Untold – Stop What You’re Doing (Kowton remix) [Hemlock Recordings]
Ballistiq Beats – Concrete jungle (Beneath’s 350 remix) [Keysound]
Youngstar – Pulse X (Blackwax remix) [Liminal Sounds]
Hackman and Tesella – Now I’ve Lost My Number 4 [Audio Culture]
Sticky Feat Ms Dynamite ?– Booo! [Public Demand]
Wiley – Ice Rink (Moleskin remix) [Goon Club Allstars]
Skepta – UFO [Boy Better Know]
Dark Sky – Gaddagive [50 Weapons]
Jean Nipon – Black Things On Desk [ClekClekBoom]
LAS – Lowout (Teeth remix) [Signal Life]
Bambounou – Off The Motion[50 Weapons]
Jay Weed – Tunnels 
Facta – Kobra [Unreleased]
Randomer – Nar [Hemlock Recordings]
Breen – Hoods Up [Unreleased]
Bloom – Zing Panther [Lost Codes]
Logos – Devils (Palace remix) [Unknown to the Unknown]
Wiley – Morgue [White]
MssingNo – Skeezer [Unreleased]