LWE Interviews Appleblim

Photo by Shaun Bloodworth

Laurie Osborne doesn’t really need much of an introduction, but we’ll give him one anyway. As Appleblim, he and Sam Shackleton ran one of the past decade’s most influential and loved labels, Skull Disco, which defined its own strain of bass music too incongruous to be repeated and too exceptional to be equaled. He went on to start Apple Pips, a label which continually captures the zeitgeist of the bass music world while it swings wildly through genres and styles. As a producer he’s collaborated with some of the best in the business, and as a DJ he stands head and shoulders above the rest (delivering two of our favorite sets of the year. LWE caught up with Osborne recently to chat about the continued influence of DMZ and FWD>>, UK dubplate culture, and more in advance of his appearance this Saturday in New York for the Sub:stance New York residency launch.

Instead of asking you first about how you got into dance music — I feel like it’s pretty well documented — I wanted to ask about the influence of nights like DMZ and FWD>>. These parties were incredibly influential to you and Shackleton at the time, and also most of your peers who were around. So I wanted to know, I guess, what the continued influence of these nights is, now that the music you guys are making is quite different from what was pioneered at those nights.

Laurie Osborne: Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of — it’s hard to say really — as a sort of “jobbing” DJ for want of a better word, I don’t actually get to kind of go to and check out all the other nights now unless I’m kind of playing at them. Because I’m sort of busy most weekends and stuff like that. And something FWD>> I’ve actually not been to in a very long time, you know? So I really — I’m not in touch, and even the London club scene, in general. I’m sort of not even in touch with the Bristol club scene, really, because you’re away a lot. So it’s only when you kind of get a chance to play at things at home that you get to see them. So in terms of, like, DMZ, I haven’t played there for a long time.

So it’s more the influences of probably the people who play at them and stuff like that, rather than the nights themselves because I haven’t actually had a chance to go to those for a long time. I think the last time I went to a DMZ was last time I played at one, which was years ago now — at least a couple of years. And probably the same with FWD>>. I’m influenced by the people they book. Being down in Bristol, it’s kind of like I’m doing more bass there. I feel less of a need to be in touch with the kind of London music. It’s always been a sort of influence. But as I’ve got more and more involved in things down here, you just get more and more sort of taken up in your own thing, really. Just in terms of the people you make music with or promote in the clubs down here. I think that influence lives on in terms of, I still love the music a lot of those people make, but the actual opportunity to go and see them play sort of doesn’t come up as often, unfortunately, anymore. It’s kind of a different dynamic, really, from when you’re a punter, you know? It’s a different role in the music. I was an enthusiast and then someone who kind of started helping to spread it, and then I’ve ended up being involved in more of the music-making and the A&R end. It’s a strange journey. It’s definitely changed quite a lot.

Do you think you guys sort of still look to capture the vibes or the environment that was around back in that period?

Yeah, yeah. I’d like to. In terms of, like, my own experience in sort of clubs, it’s like they were amongst the most kind of intense that I’ve had. And I still have the old night where I’ll go and it will come together in that way. That happened quite a lot back then, where you’re of regularly going to certain clubs. Not every night would be an absolutely electric night, but a lot of them were. It just comes from all over the place now — that particular sound. I think that the refraction of the music, there’s much more of a wide range of stuff getting played. I still love to see someone like Pinch, or Distance, or someone, you know? And it’s still got a vibe — a dope vibe as those days, where it’s like, 140 [BPMs], it’s dubby. There’s so much that’s different now in terms of where everyone’s gone. If you look at someone like Loefah you know, what he was doing then blew my mind, and so I can do something completely different now. Because, in a way, you shouldn’t try to do that stuff. I mean it’s cool that people make music in whatever style, but I sort of massively respect someone like Loefah who sort of do their thing, and then kind of stop it and wait and think, ‘Well, what do I want to do?’ You know? He’s obviously sort of found inspiration in different areas, and helped burst this kind of new scene again. That’s the legacy of it. If people didn’t really care about fashion or trends — just did their own thing then — and can continue to do their own thing. Mala’s still making stuff he could have played that definitely he could’ve played back then, in terms of it fits a certain vibe that as still getting moved on. Do you know what I mean?

Right, right. I guess from my perspective, Sub:stance seems like it’s on track to be maybe almost as influential as a party as those nights were.

That’s interesting.

You’ve played there a bunch, so what does Sub:stance mean to you?

Wow, I mean, it’s a whole bunch of experiences at mashed together for me. It’s Berlin in itself. I’ve not been there for a while and I’ve not played at Sub:stance for a while, but I was lucky enough to come and play the first probably four or five parties. Those were really interesting because I’m watching it go from a little kind of experiment that could have gone either way. It’s obviously good mates of mine and my agent. I’m really lucky to have been involved from the start. Just in terms of someone who turned up and played, you know? So really it’s just a testament to Scuba and Paul Fowler. Just in terms of programming and promotion and having the kind of balls to do it, really. The experience of going to Berlin and having the opportunity to play a really amazing club. It blew me away when I first went there. I’ve always seen it from the perspective of someone who’s playing there, so I’ve never had the kind of, “you might get turned away at the door” kind of vibe, which is a bit of a shame. But I really do respect the kind of — as much as it can seem arbitrary, I do respect the fact that it’s a gay club. It’s gay, but it’s straight-friendly. It’s not the other way around. For me, that’s what gives it its unique vibe.

We’re doing this interview in advance of the Sub:stance launch in New York. What are you looking forward to about that?

I’ve heard really good things about them and just got on with them really well. You can just tell when it’s nice people putting on a nice party and they care about the music actually. So like I’ve got a feeling that it’s gonna be the same in terms of the sort of like program. The people hopefully will sort of be something a bit different. I’m excited to sort of be involved. It’s always interesting meeting different crowds and different places.

When I saw you at Unsound in April, I noticed that — I guess the tempos have been coming down a little bit, more of a 4-4 vibe — but your set, to me at least, was very house. I think if anyone came in, didn’t know you, didn’t know your background, no one would have really known that…

No one would necessarily associate that with dubstep, you know, but you could say that about a lot of things.


Something like Badawi I think was probably the closest to kind of like something that was “dubstep” influence. But in terms of what Kode9 is playing, it basically is sort of like upfront music. There is obviously more of a kind of a London based thing because he still lives there and he still works with those people and is finding new stuff. So if you know what’s exciting, it’s gonna be stuff that is funky. It’s not dubstep, you know? Funky things from different places. But it’s not necessarily a dubstep thing. Hopefully it’s a meeting ground between those things. But it’s like sometimes I could play a set where it’s mainly stuff people think of as either spacey house or swung techno. But I like to try and mix it up, normally towards the end, and put in stuff that is either what I think of as dubstep or stuff that’s kind of slowed down a bit to mix in. But yeah, I’m definitely not someone who– I’m not tired of that sound, but you got something interesting to yourself. I’ll still be releasing things which people would definitely call dubstep. But yea, I’m always trying to do something a little bit different, just for the heck of it, really. To just keep things interesting.

Have you always been like a bit of a house and techno head or is that more of like a recent development?

Yeah massively. That’s amongst many other things, that’s kind of like the roots of what got me into dance music. I think as with a lot of people, in England or whatever, you’ve got the whole rave thing which sort of like came out of house and warehouse parties and that music was even in the charts. Like when you’re 12, 13-years-old you know you’re hearing this weird music which, it’s just so alien sounding but kind of so familiar. I love it. There’s definitely a period where I think people used to come out and expect a certain thing and get something else and you don’t want to kind of upset people. But at the same time I’m not gonna kind of just play things because I think that’s what people want to hear. You’ve got to be confident in your own tunes, otherwise I think no one’s really gonna get into it. You just stick to you guns and hopefully people come listen to you.

I wanted to ask next about Apple Pips. I don’t think there’s never been a repeat artist on Apple Pips.

Yeah, yeah.

Is that a conscious decision?

Not really; but when looking at it, I think it’s just wanting to sort of like keep things moving on and also give people little opportunities of a release. I quite like the idea of just being like all this different random stuff — which is all stuff that I love, but it’s all quite different. I definitely wouldn’t rule out putting stuff out by the same one again, but I’m not the kind of person who’s entering into long term business deals with people. It’s more just like that’s a tune, I like it, let’s get it out kind of thing. And like in terms of artist development and stuff, that’s not really where I’m at at the moment. There’s other labels that can do that. But it’s been a lot of stuff from people that around me in Bristol. There’s all these people who are influencing me and I want to give them a platform to add onto in a sort of — not condescending, but you know, a helping hand. I love their music, I play it and I want to give them an opportunity to be heard more. Hopefully people will go out and buy something again and they buy it ’cause it’s Apple Pips, rather than a certain person, but just like, ‘Let’s check this out.’ Maybe it’s deep house or maybe it’s some other techno or it’s garage or something.

It seems like you’re always on the lookout for new talent. What makes something stand out to you lately?

It’s just a vibe. It’s a vibe and then it’s kind of a certain kind of hook and if it works. Someone played it and I’ve seen people react to it, with certain tunes it’s just like that’s got to come out because it’s one of those ones that every time you play it people are jumping up and down and shouting and come asking what it is. That’s just the proof of a good tune. You can still like good tunes and still release things without that reaction, but that’s often been the deciding factor. Other times I enjoy either hearing this type of music or working with them or being involved. I get to hear these things as they get made, which and sometimes it’s sort of like, ‘Let’s do something.’ So yeah, it’s generally a reaction of people, or maybe it’s a little personal thing.

Bristol seems to have like a very storied scene. At the same time it seems like the Internet has tempered the influence of really localized scenes. But Bristol seems to still have a very strong local scene. What do you think makes Bristol so special?

I think a combination of place, size, and people. It’s always hard to tell. People used to kind of like ask me in interviews about why,I thought dubstep comes from the UK and I remember thinking, I haven’t got a clue. I’ve asked other people and they’re like, ‘Well, it’s not so much the place. It’s more the people that were there at any one time,’ you know? Bristol sort of feels like it’s got quite a unique feel as a city anyway. Just kind of the natural shape of it and the kind of like the ups and the downs. I’ve never experienced that anywhere else. It’s got very unique topography and layout. And even just where it is in England has an influence because it’s not too far from London but it’s far enough to be completely separate. It’s kind of in the country, but it’s kind of not. You’re not far from the country. I think has an influence on the people there and it’s the people that have sort of been there for X time. So it’s kind of like a melting pot of variously different cultures, which obviously resulted in some really nice kind of like collaborations and friendships, over the years from punk up till now.

I think there’s a certain vibe to the local people here that is sort of quite — I just found it really friendly and especially the music scene. People were never like, ‘Who are you guys?’ You know, ‘You’re from out of town. What are you doing in the city?’ They were very like, ‘Yea, wicked. Get involved. Let’s make tunes and come and play on the radio,’ and from then on it was just friendship. Like no hostility ever. Get involved and have fun and you find that nice. I’m sure you get it obviously in other cities, but there’s a certain thing about Bristol where you go out and have a dance and it’s like no one’s sort of like looking at what you’re wearing or hanging around to be cool. Everyone’s just getting down. People would come and play there often say that. They’re like, ‘Wow!’ The crowds down here are just always very sort of open and friendly and honest. They’re not so trend oriented. It’s just like, ‘Let’s have a party,’ kind of thing. I think that has an influence as well.

Do you think there’s some element of people in Bristol being able to sort of remove themselves a bit from what’s going on in London?

Yeah. In London you’re sort of constantly like checking yourself and sort of like, ‘Wow. Is this the cutting edge?’ or like, ‘Is this cool?’ Maybe that was just me, but that’s definitely what I felt even though I loved it. People in Bristol are less bothered about that kind of thing and actually end up getting on and doing quite a lot more. It’s just a combination for me when, since I’ve lived there. Lots of people from Bristol and lots of people from out of town are just getting together and getting on some really good stuff. There’s some really good magazines, there’s some really good promoters, there are some really good clothes people.

I wanted to next ask about your productions since I think they’ve all been collaborations for the past couple of years. Why is that?

Well, I kind of lost my mojo for quite a while. I was still making music, but I sort of lost the ability to finish things. I was only very good at things when I had a deadline anyway. I mean I’m not really a finisher. I’m more of a tinkerer, you know? So I find that I’ve always made music as a kind of collective with a band. I missed that. After I was asked to do a remix, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t think I’m actually sort of capable of doing this on my own. I don’t think I’ll even enjoy it.’ So I just asked a mate, ‘Would you fancy doing it together?’ and that’s so much fun. It was so much of a buzz. It was like, wow! This is what’s been missing from my music life. Having someone else to kind of buzz off of. I found I’ve just kind of tried out various people and always have really good results. It’s a social experience making music, you know? That’s how I first started playing music was sitting around and jamming with friends, and that for me is where the fun is. The bouncing ideas and random things happening. I totally respect people who can sit on their own and are perfectionists, and a lot of people I know are like that. I do sit on my own and make music; but for me, the buzz is when you get someone else in and play it for them and go, ‘Wow! Maybe you should try this.’ I’ve just found I’ve been lucky to meet nice people and given it a try and it’s always turned out I think pretty well.

Do you approach each collaboration with sort of a specific sound or vibe in mind?

Maybe it will just be like, right, let’s take a bunch of stuff to sample, or just mess around on this synth, you know? Or really not much more than that. Maybe just as you’re starting it’s like, well what kind of mood are you in? Are you in a sort of like housey mood or this mood or that mood? Not really too many preconceived plans. I recently did a thing with Komonazmuk which is yet to come out, but it’s a slow, weird, sort of cosmic sort of house thing. That started just based around some vocal samples that we were working with, basically messing them up and trying to make something different and weird and it just sort of grew out of that. That’s what I love about it. You can’t control it. It just kind of goes where it wants to go. That’s the joy of making music. You get taken in a direction that you never could have predicted

What is your personal relationship with vinyl, both as a DJ and as a label head these days

Well, unfortunately, these days I actually don’t play regular vinyl because a lot of the music I play is unreleased. I play a lot of CDs and I’m not a fan of CDs. I’m always a little bit behind the times. I’m like, maybe I should think about just taking a USB pad and put things into Serato, but in terms of what I find myself musically is just going out and record shopping. I’ll go out and see people DJ, vinyl only DJs and they play amazing sets and it makes you think like, wow. I could do things very differently. But I happen to feel that my role in the moment is to push kind of new music. There’s plenty of people that can play old stuff out there. At the moment I’m buzzing off these particular tunes and these particular tunes are either tunes that my friends have made that aren’t out or they’re from people that send me things that aren’t out. I guess it comes from the old dubstep kind of exclusivity days. Your tunes were your ammo, basically. If you had a tune no one else had, that’s how you got bookings and that’s how you got people listening to you. It’s like you’ve got things that are special.

I’m not taking away from anyone that plays old music or anything like that. That’s the kind of mentality I grew up into DJing with, in terms of jungle. It’s all about exclusive and it was all about the newest, freshest sounds from people who have just made it, and I still sort of feel that. In terms of vinyl, I’ll always still make it and I’ll always still buy it, but a lot of stuff I buy these days I just dig in old shops. That’s a lot of my music collecting experience. I don’t download music and I’ve only very rarely bought stuff digitally as well because I bought all that stuff and then I never feel like I can find it again on my computer, you know? It’s not how I listen to music or look at music. I’m not against it in any way. I’m all for music getting spread in whatever way and, but equally I love records.

You were talking about the sort of exclusivity of some of the tunes you have. Dubplate culture seems like it’s a very crucial part of the UK scene, at least to an American like myself. What about that kind of culture is important?

It goes in different ways. It’s road testing tunes from either yourself or people that you work with or people that you know. There’s that aspect of it in terms of demoing and testing and seeing what it’s like and seeing what the reaction is. There’s also providing a kind of unique experience for people. A lot of people can turn around and say a DJ is there to entertain, but if people didn’t take risks and play fresh stuff then nothing would ever move on and people would just be playing classics. You don’t ever make new classics doing that, do you?I think there’s a happy line between where it’s someone like Jackmaster or someone like that can play some underground electro and can also just drop some big anthem next and it’s like, there you go. It’s providing both. I might not play the big anthems, but hopefully the creative things that maybe one of those tunes will become a big anthem because people like that. They exist, you know? I’ve definitely seen things I’ve played that got a reaction and people have been coming up and asking for them at the next gig. There’s nothing taken away from people that can recontextualize old stuff as well. I mean, I’d definitely like to do that more I think. DJs that can do that are really quite amazing. If you can blend the now into the past… You’ve got to put a lot more thought and time into everything. If I thought I could do that well then I’d definitely start doing it, but at the moment I just feel like there’s so much music that could be played. Otherwise people just wouldn’t hear it and I think that it’s my job to do that.

Do you think a tune like “Sicko Cell,” do you think the popularity of a track like that is at least in some part based around the fact that it was sort of exclusive?

Yeah. Especially these days, you can go onto Discogs and find any record in the world and download a mix by someone and have the tracklist and the tunes on your computer within half an hour. There’s no mystery of the old days. I’m not saying they were any better. I have some mixtapes where I still don’t know what the tunes are. That’s what I loved. It used to frustrate you, but going out and seeing stuff and people would be like, ‘What the hell was that?’ And it might take you three more times of seeing that DJ to hear it again, you know, and you still don’t know what it is. Maybe six months later you finally find out or then maybe it comes out or maybe it never does and you just don’t know. People can come out and listen to me and hear this music. I don’t really want them to go home listening to it on their laptop. I want them to come out and see me play the music the way that it’s meant to be heard.

What’s up next for you and Apple Pips?

Next on the label is two tunes by October and a chap called Borai, and they are two Bristol producers who are just making tons of really nice stuff. I go down to their studio a lot and I got hooked up with October through a little label called Smorgasbord, which is a new Bristol label run by a really nice chap. People were like, ‘Oh, you guys would really get on,’ couldn’t believe that we hadn’t met before. I went round there and it’s just a really interesting studio and it’s a couple of people who just can’t stop making music. They’re deeply into their kind of house music. Current house music in terms of like Chicago stuff and you know, for me it’s just like been a real eye opener. There is some really interesting stuff going in house music. It’s just house music, but to me it just sounder fresher than anything ever has done. Really weird, just deep, trippy, strange music. October and I have just been making a lot of stuff that’s influenced by that, but it’s also doing something a little different and you know, there’s some subs in there. They’re basically just churning out tons of really good stuff and I’d like everyone to hear all of that. It’s inspiring me just to sit there and say, I’d like to push it out there as well. So, hopefully over the next six months, or year or more people will have heard it.

That’s the next thing, and then after that something by Gatekeeper, who again, hasn’t really had anything out for a while and, um, he’s still making really brilliant, interesting music, and these are all people that I’ve known and lived with and stuff for years. So it’s kind of like they’re doing stuff, there’s all kinds of different projects going on, kind of vocalists and grime projects and hip-hop projects and female vocal things. It’s all sort of just experimenting and playing. You know, in my own slow way I’ll hopefully get some of it out there so that other people can hear it.

And then what about you yourself? I know you mentioned earlier you had something in the works with Komonazmuk.

There’s been a lot of remixes just about to happen. There’s a thing by Axel Boman which we’ve done which is for a label called Glass Table, which is again another nice person I’ve met around and about who is doing interesting stuff. They’re from a house background, but they’re kind of like spreading out from their label called Hypercolour, and they do all these different labels now, which is kind of anything goes. From electro to weird bands and stuff. That Axel Bomen EP is pretty much ready to go, which now me and Al Tourettes have done a remix of, and we’re working on a remix for Raudive (Oliver Ho), which is gonna come on a label called Halo Cyan, which is from over your way, actually. There’s works in progress from quite a few different collaborations, which I kind of like, almost want to sort of just let them kind of come out in their own way and not give them too much fanfare. Just sort of just slip them out there and see what happens. There’s all different stuff getting made, you know?

Rob Harrell  on August 10, 2011 at 10:40 AM

this dude is awesome! he sneaked me into bass mutations @ the bunker when I told him I was underage and the bouncers wouldn’t let me in! much love

ML  on August 10, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Ramadanman put out Humber on Apple Pips and then collaborated w/Appleblim on Justify. Your point about repeat artists is still valid, just felt like mentioning two of my favourite records.

pelham123  on August 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM

fantastic tunes last night at sub:stance ny. applelbim went straight for it during his early set, pulling no punches. scuba and AG killed too. wicked.

Michalis  on August 16, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Even if he did say “sort of” so much in rl you could have edited a few of them out… It doesn’t have to be verbatim, it makes for a very stilted read…

Very interesting interview nonetheless.

littlewhiteearbuds  on August 16, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Michalis, the interview is already heavily edited to remove verbal pauses like “sort of.” We left in a few when they added flavor to the statement. Trust me, what you’re reading here is 1000% more readable than if published verbatim.


Scuba's famous Sub:stance party kicks off its New York residency this weekend Aug 13  on August 11, 2011 at 8:56 AM

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