Born and raised in Hammersmith, Silkie‘s foray into music production began like so many others.
Aged 15 he created his first tune, ‘Darksquare’, with school friend and fellow member of dubstep’s Anti-Social Entertainment collective Harry Craze. “‘Darksquare’ came out through my mate Heny’s label; he used to have a record store in around West, so it was a pressing especially for the store. I didn’t really have any expectations of where it would take me or who would hear it.” But expectations grew, and soon after ‘Darksquare’ was released, seminal dubstep DJ Youngsta managed to get a hold of Silkie’s remix for the B side, making it a regular part of his sets at FWD>>, the seminal London clubnight that started at Velvet Rooms and graduated to Plastic People. “At that time I was making all kinds of music: R&B, hip-hop and grime. I became a producer and DJ for an MC called NK, made a track for my brother who’s an MC in the Unorthodox crew [also featuring female MC No Lay] and it went on Channel U, so people knew me as DJ Silkie.”
After what he refers to as his grime phase, Silkie took some time out before making his way back to the studio. “Although I was happy to take a step back from grime, it meant I didn’t have any money or a job, so I couldn’t go out and buy records to DJ. So I’d say from about the age of 16 until now I’ve just been making music. I’ve been lucky enough to have support from my family and I’ve now learnt how to live on £1 a day!” During this downtime, he created music that was part of a growing underground sound that he (and pretty much ever other person at that time that was up on it) used to call FWD>> music . “I guess you could say I started making ‘dubstep’ when I started going to FWD>>. But back then before it wasn’t called dubstep, we all use to call it FWD>> music, it was like going to some next future sounding rave. People would go round to each other saying ‘have you heard that FWD>> music?'”
Silkie began to make a name for himself as a DJ in that scene playing nothing but his own beats when taking to the decks. “When you’re making music and you go to a rave it’s like an observation: its hard to stand there and enjoy the music, you end up studying it. The rave always turns into a studio.” But it was two years ago when Silkie was invited to play at Loefah’s seminal dubstep rave DMZ that his thoughts changed. “That’s when I thought ‘oh shit, this is big, this important now, I gotta get serious and think about a label’. I knew from buying records that I didn’t want to have one release with one label and then another release with another label. Someone once told me that it’s important people know where you are, so if they check one label they know to find you there.”
Now aged 23, he’s signed to Digital Mystikz’ Mala’s Deep Medi Musik label. “When Mala approached me about joining the label the first thing we spoke about was doing an album. It’s such a relaxed working relationship. A conversation with him always starts with ‘bruv’.” Sticking to his guns re: sticking to one label, Silkie’s previous releases on Anti Social Entertainment, P Records and Soul Jazz are now incredibly hard to find. Last year he released a handful of sought after 12″ singles through Deep Medi including ‘Sky’s The Limit’, ‘Hooby’ and most recently a one sided purple vinyl single, ‘Purple Love’ – taking in the syrupy synths of Joker and Dam Funk, it’s one of the Anti-Social man’s best releases to date, and maybe the most vibrant song on Silkie’s debut album for Deep Medi, City Limits Vol. 1 (released this week).
Woven like a measured storytale, City Limits is a musical journey through dubstep’s melodic side with hidden depths. “I don’t really think about the names I give my songs” he laughs, “I think tracks like, ‘Horizon’ and ‘Head Butt Da Deck’ are literal ’cause when I was playing back ‘Head Butt Da Deck’ I was head knocking so hard and it just made me wanna smash the deck with my head. But some of the others, I guess it was just a feeling or an impulse after a daydream or something.”
“You can never get used to people going “oh I love your tune, it’s big” or “oh I really like that beat you made” he later states, humbly, “I mean what do you say? Safe? Big up? When I think about it, that’s what you usually end up saying” he laughs. By incorporating elements of Detroit techno, garage, UK Funky, grime and soul into his dubstep productions – and in the case of City Limits, sequencing them into an effective long-player – Silkie has carved his own signature sound, borne of these influences and his signature kicks, synths, snare and keys (he’s a trained pianist), not to mention his favoured choice of Fruity Loops 8 (“allow Mac, PC all the way”). If Joker’s music is purple, then Silkie’s is a burnt orange; darkened and crisp with the occasional glow.