The Others: Dubstep Renaissance Man Tests the Boundaries

"When you're creating bass lines, you can disappear up your own ass sometimes. You can get so carried away with it. But for me, it's still the most important part."

The Others / Photo by Sarah Ginn
The Others / Photo by Sarah Ginn
Philip Sherburne WRITTEN BY
Philip Sherburne

Who: Originally a duo, the Others is now the solo nom de plume of London dubstep producer Alex Crawford, who crafts exquisitely twisted bass-line fantasias for Caspa's rugged Dub Police label. He's no young wubber-snapper, though: Crawford boasts a deep catalog of spare, seismic anthems going all the way back to 2007. His film-music studies near Croydon, the birthplace of dubstep, left him well-positioned to get involved with the scene when it was just starting. "I've been DJing and producing for going on ten years or so," he says. "It's a natural thing. I didn't really have a career in drum and bass or garage, but when dubstep came along, I wanted to get involved. If you've been to [seminal London club] FWD before, you know it's a tiny little place. Everyone in the scene was under one roof. It felt accessible. If I wanted to put my music in the hands of someone who I liked, a producer I was feeling, they were there. I could go up to them and talk to them and have a conversation, and they'd be willing to listen to the music and give me a shout back, tell me what they think. I went along to FWD, gave Caspa a CD, and that was that, really. Next day he phoned me and said, 'Do you want to do an EP?'"

Gotta Get Back to the Bass: The Others' early singles were stark, sub-rumbling affairs inspired by tracks like Digital Mystikz' "Anti-War Dub," but Crawford’s forthcoming debut album, Red Planet, plays fast and loose with genre conventions without losing its rootedness in bass. Album opener "Go" slams acid trance into Dead Can Dance, and its expertly placed sci-fi samples lend a sense of John Carpenter horror ambience throughout the album. The ethereal "One Man Show," featuring Lonette Charles, splices R&B with deconstructed drum and bass, while "Spaceman," a collaboration with "purple wow sound" wizard Joker, beams Daft Punk through a kaleidoscope of 22nd-century G-funk. But where Crawford really shines is as a Michaelangelo of impeccably sculpted low end. "When you're creating bass lines, you can disappear up your own ass sometimes," he admits. "You can get so carried away with it. But for me, it's still the most important part. It doesn't matter if you've got a killer topline or amazing melodies or the tightest drums ever, the bass line is the backbone of this music."

Mars Attacks: With the Mars Rover prompting a new wave of speculation about little green men (or at least ice crystals), Red Planet is nothing if not a timely title. But Crawford says he's more influenced by the silver screen. "When I was studying at university, I wasn't studying production, I was writing music for film. So cinematography has been a huge part of what I do. I sample a lot from films. There's a few tracks, like ‘Showdown/Polaris,’ where I've gone to extremes, hit up some old, really terribly-made, like, Hammer horror films from the '70s. They're really low-budget, but they always seem to have these killer soundtracks. One thing I try and do when I'm writing is I'll come up with the title of the track first. I'll be like, 'This would be a wicked name for a film,' and I try to write the music for that."

Solitary Refinement: While collaborating with Joker, Crawford first visited the Bristol producer in his studio. "But it sounded more like him than it did me, and I wasn't comfortable with that," Crawford says. "I wanted to have an equal share of our sounds in there. So we scrapped that one. But I had another idea I was working on in my own studio, which I sent to him over AIM." Twenty or so trips later, it was finished. "You just work much better in your own environment," he says. "I'm never really comfortable outside of my zone." Despite the several collaborations on the LP — Breakage, Emalkay, Stamina — Crawford sees making music as an essentially solitary activity. "I enjoy working with other people, but it is nice just to do your own thing and disappear into the studio by yourself. It can be a lonely thing, but I think that's important. It can bring out the best in you. You go deeper. I haven't got any plans to include anyone else in the Others for the minute, I don't think. Perhaps I should do an X-Factor: I'll give Simon Cowell a call, we'll scour the country for the next member of the Others, what do you reckon?"

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