Josh Steele, better known as the U.K.dubstep songwriter and producer Flux Pavilion who has been championed by
Dubstep has been around for more than a decade, an offshoot of electronic music that began in the South of London with deep, sinister bass lines, skittering drums and a distinctly underground vibe. It has since morphed into heavier, harder territory, especially in North America, where it has made deep commercial impact, mostly as heard on tracks by pop stars such as
Steele heard dubstep as not just club music, but a songwriting vehicle. "I heard it during my first week at university, and everything changed," he says. "There were a whole bunch of ideas in one genre, like nothing I've ever heard before."
He cofounded his own label, Circus Records, and his song-oriented approach to dubstep attracted the attention of West and Jay-Z, who sampled the Flux Pavilion track “I Can’t Stop” on their 2011 “Watch the Throne” album.
"How did it feel? Pretty damn good," Steele says with a laugh. "I've always respected the music Kanye samples, and I also liked the way they used the sample. They didn't just rap over the original track, they sampled my composition, my ideas, and then treated them in a new way, putting new beats to my notes. They were a lot more creative than most people when they borrow from someone else."
For dubstep to thrive, Steele believes, it will need to keep growing as a songwriting outlet. In wedding melodies with cutting-edge textures and beats, Steele says he strives to create "emotional dance epics – I want to make people dance and cry at the same time."
"It's not easy to pin down. It's like trying to define what is emotion, or explain to me what love is in an easy sentence. It's a feeling. You can get it from a cowbell – a particularly emotional cowbell."
His next move is a full-length album, a dubstep project that he'll record with a band.
“I want to take a different view of what dubstep can be,” he says. “Even though I work within electronic music, I also write songs on a guitar. I’m not doing it much with Flux Pavilion, but I’m trying to make an album like that, with all those ideas. It’s not just about dancefloor bangers. People like
So what exactly is dubstep? The dirty little secret is that there is no longer one way to describe it. It depends on whom you ask. For Steele "it's more of a platform, an opportunity for creative people to do whatever they want. It was a genre that turned into movement. It's electronic music that has become a culture. Anyone, anywhere in the world can make a tune in their bedroom and get it to thousands of people right away."
Steele's description sounds a lot like the opportunities thrown open by punk and hip-hop when those art forms first emerged from the streets: a type of post-modern, urban folk music that is low-budget, accessible and extremely democratic.
"I wasn't alive back when those movements started, but, yeah, I can see the connection," he says. "Punk and hip-hop are massive movements, historical musical things. Dubstep is something I'm a part of, and it's hard for me to imagine myself as part of a big historical movement just yet. I still have to wash my socks every day."
Flux Pavilion at the Spring Awakening Festival, noon Saturday-Sunday at