Gilles Peterson: Dubspot Interview ‘Dubstep, Cuba, BBC, Career + Advice’

Earlier this year, internationally renowned DJ, broadcaster, label owner, and record producer Gilles Peterson (BBC Radio 1, Acid Jazz, Talkin’ Loud, and Brownswood) stopped by Dubspot for an interview in which he talked about, from his early days; from an ambitious sixteen year old pirate radio DJ with love and appreciation for jazz and funk, and drive and motivation to discover and share music, to founding and running crucial record labels such as Acid Jazz and Talkin’ Loud and more recently forming Brownswood Recordings which released the double-CD album Havana Cultura: New Cuba Sound. He also discussed the massive shift in sound system culture and dance music in London. The UK capital seems to be going through a permanent “renaissance,” with a series of transitory points (drum and bass, jungle, 2-step, garage, grime, dubstep, funky, bassline, etc.) Peterson explains how in a city with “a whole million types of hybrids and versions of house music… dubstep is the most important movement since drum and bass,” and furthermore lists batch of incredible musicians and producers, including Skream, Benga, Mala, and Kode9, who are all making exciting and innovative sounds and pushing the music forward.

Last month BBE Records released Gilles Peterson presents: Worldwide A Celebration of His Syndicated Radio Show to mark the 12th anniversary of his weekly BBC Radio 1 program which is currently syndicated in fifteen countries! This compilation includes tracks from the late great J Dilla (credited here as Jay Dee, the name is produced under circa late 1990s and early 2000s – Welcome 2 Detroit out also on BBE Music) psychedelic hip hop and R&B warriors SA-RA, poet and songstress Jill Scott, dubstep luminary Benga and fast-evolving dubstep/electronic music outfit Dark Star.


ON CUBA, HAVANA CULTURA, & WORK ETHIC – “…it was a great challenge. It was out of my comfort zone.  I went to Cuba for a sort of research like six months before I actually made the record. I was over there for 4 or 5 days. Luckily, I was with some really interesting people who knew everybody on the hip hop scene, and on the reggaeton scene, and on the jazz scene! The thing about Cuba is people know Cuba now for Buena Vista Social Club musically, and it’s almost like people who go to Brazil, and expect to hear “The Girl from Ipanema” everywhere. There’s a real good underground scene there and that’s really what I was going to go and do… sort of wake up and try and expose. I went over there and I just discovered all these amazing people making music, really different than what we’re used to, because there’s very little internet, mixes are gold-dust. Music is the force there and I came with gifts. I had music, and I was in some back street with some hip hop producer and he was just the number one Dilla fan from Havana. He’s never left Havana, but he gets these beats, he knew everything!

You’re used to going to studios in England, and it doesn’t get going until 4 hours after people arrive and there [in Cuba] it was really sharp. You had this old lady who was tuning the piano, she just sat outside the room and she’d sit there all day and every four hours she’d go in and just retune the piano, and then it was all good to go again, and it was just amazing. It was very disciplined, which I think is one thing that is a key thing to music and I think sometimes, because of the whole rock-n-roll lifestyle, and what people imagine to be this more decadent side ofmusic people think, “Oh yeah, I’m quite into that. I’m going to make music ’cause it seems like an easy gig,” you know? And it can be if you want it to be that way, but that doesn’t last very long, and I think that if you want to have a career in music and you want to really make a life out of it then you’ve really got to treat it like any other job and treat it really seriously. If you are good at what you do and youwant to grow and develop and really take it seriously then you’ve just gotta have that serious approach. You can have fun, and you can be mad, and whacky, and crazy, it’s full of creative people, it has to be, but equally I learned a lot just going to Cuba. I’m always learning.

ON DUBSTEP, LONDON, & PIRATE/RADIO - “The reason I love London the most in the world is because… the movement, the shift… there’s always something new going on – especially in terms of soundsystem culture, and dance music culture. That’s why you get drum and bass; that’s why you get a whole million types of hybrids, and versions of house music. That’s why you get dubstep, which is the most important movement since drum and bass, which is like 15 years ago now. Already dubstep doesn’t want to be called dubstep. Of course, it came from grime, it came from garage, or whatever, speed-garage back in the day. But at the moment, as a radio broadcaster, it’s a renaissance. There’s a whole heap of fantastic musicians, producers, young, new energy, well-organized, good leaders like Mala. ‘Cause what was good about drum and bass was you had people like Roni Size, Goldie, Bukem. You had people who could stand in front of a camera and they could actually motivate, excite, create. People like Fabio and Grooverider, those guys. And dubstep’s got that! It’s got Benga, Skream,… Mala, Kode9, who really are good at making sure it’s going in the right direction. The music is developing, growing, and it’s very very interesting; it’s a magical time, and I love all that stuff from a fundamental, deep, club culture point of view. It’s massive.

“…by 16 or 17 I was already on pirate radio, because I had a little transmitter. In my garden shed I used to run a pirate station, and one of my favorite stations got taken off the air. They had heard there was this young boy in South London that had a transmitter so they contacted me through the engineer who had built the transmitter for me and they said “look, we need your transmitter” and I said “well give me a shot on your station”. So that’s how I got onto Radio Invicta. I ended up working with a lot of the big pirates in London, and because I was quite small and I had a little car, I had a mini, and I could drive, they used to really like me ’cause I would be the one who put all the aerials up on the high buildings in London. So I’d be the one every Sunday morning at 6 o’clock sneaking out, and I’d have some aerials, and I’d have the keys to all the big, tall projects in London. So I got to know London very quickly that way. And you’d do the pirate station and you’d also be DJing just to make ends meet, and for me I’ve just been very lucky to have had a drive, to have had a kind of goal really. I think for me, as crazy as it may sound to people anywhere else, I heard the music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, I heard the music of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye in a club setting, really. So for me, I needed to be the carrier of the torch to a degree, one of the carriers, to introduce to a new generation all this great music.”

  • 11/9/2010

So glad Dubspot connects the dots, you got to know your history to make the future dope!
Gilles is great at breaking it down, everybody take notes!