Skream - Biography
Over the last six or so years dubstep has risen to global attention as one of electronic music’s most engaging genres. A dark, bass heavy strain of British dance music, dubstep’s roots lie in house, UK garage, drum and bass, and grime. Characterized by stark, off-kilter drum programming, dubwise echo, and deep bass lines, dubstep’s early sound was defined by a handful of young British producers. Skream, along with Digital Mystikz, Kode 9, Benga, and a few others, is regarded as one of the genre’s key early producers and continues to push the sounds of dubstep forward.
Oliver Dene Jones was born on June 1, 1986 in West Wickham, Bromley, London. As a teenager Jones worked at Big Apple Records, a store in Croydon at the center of the early dubstep scene. At age fifteen Jones began producing his own music as Skream, releasing dubplates for pioneering dubstep DJs like Hatcha and working on collaborative tracks with Benga. These earliest tracks helped shape the dark, minimal sound of the genre with menacing bass, haunted echoes, and half time rhythms resulting in an unsteady yet still danceable music. Notable 12”s from this time include The Judgment and Hydro on Big Apple Records, 28g / Fearless on Tectonic, and Angry / Traitor on Ital.
In 2005, Skream released what would instantly become an anthem for the genre. “Midnight Request Line,” from the Midnight Request Line / I 12”, is still hailed as dubstep’s first true crossover success. Featuring a melodic hook and epic key change, the song moved away from Skream’s dark early music. The track brought attention to the insular genre from DJs, producers, and club goers outside its niche scene. Dance music heavyweights like superstar DJ Ricardo Villalobos began talking about dubstep and from there the floodgates opened.
Throughout 2005 and 2006 Skream continued to release a steady stream of 12”s and EPs, pushing his music forward to incorporate greater melodic elements and influences from house to jazz to IDM. Notable releases from this period include Bahl Fwd / Temptation on Tectonic, Skreamizm Vol. 1 and Tapped / Dutch Flowerz on Tempa.
Skream’s debut full-length landed in 2006 as well. Skream! features thirteen tracks of forward thinking dubstep grooves with hints of grime and ambient influence. While the melodic developments that gained him attention are present, the focus is still on massive bass pressure and bare bones beats. Tracks like “Rutten” and “Stagger” proved Jones was able to expand on the success of “Midnight Request Line.”
The stream of singles continued into ’07 and ‘08, as did a performance schedule that included the UK, Europe, the States, Australia, and Japan. Skream hosted a radio show on Rinse FM and appeared frequently on BBC Radio 1. Notable releases from this time include Political Warfare / Radical on Chestplate, Skreamizm Vol. 4 on Tempa, Sub Island / Pass The Red Stripe on Soul Jazz Records, and Hedd Banger on Tectonic.
2009 saw Skream rise to greater prominence with remixes for pop singer La Roux and indie group Bat For Lashes. His remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill” became a hit after being featured in commercials for the video game Bayonetta as well as an episode of HBO’s Entourage. ’09 also brought two of his strongest 12” releases with No Future (Skreamix) / Minimalistix on Nonplus and Trapped In A Dark Bubble / Technocal on Tectonic.
The second Skream full-length arrived in 2010. Outside The Box captures Skream’s dubstep roots and his ever-growing pop leanings in perfect combination. Huge sub bass and snaky beats merge with thick synth hooks and brilliantly integrated vocal spots from guest singers like Sam Frank, Freckles, and La Roux to create a sort of R&B / old school drum and bass hybrid that works amazingly well. The production throughout the record is absolutely stellar, with rich details and strong drum programming making almost every track a success.