Vex'd: Being Cross Sounds So Good
- Words: Vivian Host
Since moving to London from the cheery (if boring) suburbs of Maidenhead, 26-year-olds Jamie and Roly have been pissed off and broke. You might even say Vex'd. Luckily, such conditions are ideal for making sinister grime tunes, the likes of which can be found on their debut album, Degenerate. With horror movie strings and samples, menacing sine wave basslines and chopped breaks that are the equivalent of a baseball bat to the skull, the record makes the ultimate argument for grime as the music of a generation raised on videogames. (Not surprisingly, Roly is a videogame tester and Jamie used to poach samples from Xenon 2 with his Amiga.)
With a hefty amount of echo effects, dancehall samples and old school bleeps and pops, Degenerate also nods bluntly at a youth spent listening to jungle, darkcore and dub. Jamie, who's just ducked inside from a freak rainstorm, recalls two of the moments that would eventually shape the Vex'd sound. "[The drum & bass night] Metalheadz at the Blue Note–that changed everything, especially seeing DJ Kemistry play 'Rings Around Saturn.' And there was a time Roly and I went to see Jah Shaka playing a dub set. At the time I didn't know that you could get that kind of buzz out of music that wasn't at 170bpm. It was so slow but it was so deep. You know when your eyeballs start to wobble because of the bass? It was amazing."
A love of experimental low-end–and an increasing lack of inspiration coming from drum & bass–eventually led the Vex'd boys toward the dubstep scene, which they were introduced to through tunes by Kode 9 and Plasticman. "Around 2000, we had abandoned the idea of writing jungle, but we didn't know how to take the influences that had been given to us and make it into something else," explains Jamie. "Eventually darker garage stuff started to appear on our radar [and it was a sound] that we could relate to. [Dubstep] was just radical, minimal and freeform music."
Last year, the pair–who met through music and skateboarding at the age of 16–debuted with two twelves, "Pop Pop" and "Lion," for Bristol label Subtext (which one suspects is their own imprint). The tunes quickly became favorites with the Forward crowd and caught the attention of Mike Paradinas (u-ziq), who conscripted them to join his grime army at Planet Mu.
After months locked in the studio and the July release of Degenerate, you'd think Vex'd would be keen to get out and party, but there's no rest for these studio soldiers. "I love the variety of [our album]," says Jamie. "I'm pleased with its form. But most of the stuff was written six to eighteen months ago. Dubstep moves so fast and every new record that comes out signals a new possible direction for the music and a new sonic form for people to be influenced by. I just can't wait to put out some new music!"
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