Rhythm Nation Part 3: Caspa & Rusko

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Deep, dubby, cheeky, metallic. For the next several weeks, XLR8R will profile eight young DJ/producers exploring different facets of dubstep, the low-end sound of the London underground. This week, Jah bagels and Jamaican bass inform this London duo’s party-friendly sound.

Gary McCann’s and Chris Mercer’s favorite movies are The Football Factory and Gangster No. 1, respectively.

The first is a film about British soccer hooligans, the second a British gangster flick starring Malcolm McDowell as a seedy, suited badman who spends his time killing people and burying them under swimming pools. This is not surprising given one listen to their new Fabriclive CD as Caspa & Rusko. The DJ mix is just over one hour of in-your-face low-end, peppered with samples of cockney thugs and MC Hammer, and designed to appeal to fans of jump-up jungle, knock-out fights, and square bass waves that make you do mad squiggly dances.

“Each to their own, but our music is completely dancefloor,” says 22-year-old Mercer, who was making traditional dub and hip-hop in Leeds before Caspa tempted him down to London two years ago. “It’s got to be uptempo,” agrees 25-year-old McCann, who has been making dubstep and dark 4x4 garage since 2001, along with running the Dub Police, Storming Productions, and Sub Soldiers labels. “The main thing for us is humor. Not like in a jolly way, but we like to throw in a few swear words or cheeky samples.”

Tracks like Rusko’s massive, stepping “Jahova” and Caspa’s nasty, electro-and-dancehall-inspired “Big Headed Slags” perfectly meld their influences, going down like just the right combination of weed and alcohol. But lately they’ve been exploring mellower moods, too, as on Caspa’s plaintive “Cockney Violin” and the uplifting, nearly New Age-y “Rock Bottom.”

“We’ve only actually sat down in the studio together seven or eight times, but each time we do we come out with one of my favorite tunes,” says McCann. “I usually hate collaborating with someone in the studio; with [Gary] it’s cool ’cos [he] will just say, ‘Rusk, that is so shit,’ and vice versa,” Mercer chimes in quickly. Though the two are very different–Mercer, a self-professed Squarepusher fan and “proper geek,” is scruffier and more chilled out, while the lager-and-Timbaland-loving McCann is wiry with an aggressive London energy–they obviously get along well, completing each others thoughts so quickly that the net effect is of one unit talking.

While other dubstep producers brood over the music’s subtleties, Caspa & Rusko pull no punches–these two are on some what-you-see-is-what-you-get, out-to-have-a-good-time vibe, one that’s even reflected in their favorite foods. While McCann goes for typical London meals of pie and mash or Caribbean rice ‘n’ peas, Mercer recommends you get down to the Shepherds Bush Bagel Bite for the “Jah Bagel,” which is stacked high with jerk chicken, BBQ sauce, mayo, coleslaw, and melted cheese. Perfect for your next beer ‘n’ bass hangover.

Download "Ohh R Ya?" by Caspa.

Rhythm Nation
Part 1: Skream
Part 2: Benga
Part 4: Pinch & Distance
Part 5: Cluekid & Cotti