On the verge of releasing their aptly titled 'Bass Moves Space' compilation LP, Kmag checks in with Sam XL of the Los Angeles-based Pure Filth Sound crew for a quick chat on all that goes boom in the night.
From my understanding, there are two paths/stories of what Pure Filth Sound is - one is the underground club and soundsystem and the other is the moniker of your collaborations with Oicho. Talk a bit about how Pure Filth Sound came to be and how it evolved into what it is today?
Pure Filth originally started out in downtown Los Angeles as an underground dub night by me, Pablo Hassan and Breakage, held in the basement of the now demolished speakeasy the Higgins Gallery. At the time I was running a record store on Melrose with my partner Hazen called the Temple of Boom and DJing drum & bass under the XXXL moniker.
While working at the shop my long time mate Jakes (HENCH) sent me some beats he was working on and the sound really caught my ear, although I couldn't quite describe it in words, people were calling it dubstep. As a buyer at the store I started bringing in a lot of the early labels like DMZ, Tectonic, Hyperdub, Tempa, etc. and I had the same feeling as when I first heard d&b in the mid-90s - this was mid-2006.
In early 2007 after hosting the first SMOG one-offs at my other weekly venues "Kicks and Snares" and "Samurai Sundaze," I started the weekly club Pure Filth and to my surprise it ended up being received really well – we started with Kode 9 and never looked back becoming Americas first weekly dubstep club.
Soon the soundsystem itself gained a reputation throughout the city for being extremely bass heavy – so much so we would vibrate bits of the ceiling down. Girls used to comment how they'd leave the night club with "ceiling crumbs" in their bras so we knew we were onto something good and the Pure Filth Sound was born!
How did you and Oicho first link up?
David and I met in 2010 at the Ninja Tunes 20-year anniversary party in L.A. I was on soundboy duties and he was doing visuals for Thavius Beck. We got to chin wagging and come to find out he had been to Low End Theory and was familiar with the Pure Filth soundsystem. After running into each other around town he invited me down to his studio and we started playing around with some beats. The first riddim we wrote went on to become the first track on the LP... Pure Filth Sound featuring Crazy D.
A lot of the vibe/philosophy behind your production seems to be influenced by a UK sensibility. As both you and Oicho are Brits living in Los Angeles, how does that translate into your sound?
David comes from an incredibly rich background of electronic music. Writing and engineering at On-U Sound alongside Adrian Sherwood and countless Jamaican legends. He touring for years with the likes of Dub Syndicate, Dreadzone and Lee Scratch Perry, also producing a grip of his own materials under the James Hardway moniker which we used to sell when I worked at BeatNonStop Record shop on Melrose Ave. Dave is foremost a musician and engineer where as I'm more the DJ and producer. Our main ingredient I think is that he's a Lee Scratch Perry fan and I'm a King Tubby disciple who both likes heavy dub b-lines and some nice echoed out percussion.
Personally, I grew up listening to records like Saxon Sound system, 'Coughing up Fire', DJ mix tapes from my mates in London and the Electro compilations on Streetsounds. These all had a huge impact on me as a youth. I arrived in L.A. at the beginning of the warehouse party scene in the early 90s and jumped in with both feet, DJing, throwing nights, opening up record shops, building a studio, producing, just getting in wherever I could fit in really. At that time David was touring all over the world with Alex Paterson of The Orb, Dreadzone, writing material for On-U – he even played bass for Björk!
Conversely, has your experience living in the States given you a different perspective on the sound that sort of meshes both influences together in a unique way?
If anything living in Cali for so long has mellowed us out. It's amazing what a bit of sunshine and some good herbs can do for you. I love the U.K and I know Dave does too; we both get homesick from time to time and give each other some joke talking about the old days or certain English foods we miss. Dave really loves my 80s English TV references and I love to hear his stories of touring with the Happy Mondays or playing at Glastonbury. Fortunately living in L.A. there always seems to be an abundance of DJ friends passing through who'll bring us up to speed with what's cracking back home.
In so many ways it this project seems designed to appeal to those who can reference a bit of history on the bass side of things as lots of your influences seem to be drawing on the classic rave days of London. How much does this influence the PFS sound and how do you see those old influences making themselves known/felt/heard in the final product?
The prototype old school labels and artists for me as a kid were Shut Up and Dance and the Ragga Twins, the Scientist on Hype's first label Kickin', XL Recordings, 4 Hero's Reinforced, Rob Playford's Moving Shadow alongside U.S House producers like Chez Damier, DJ Pierre, Johnny Dangerous, Cajmere and Todd Terry. Mix that with some Metalheadz and European techno labels like R & S, Harthouse, D-Jax Upbeats, then throw in some Tubby b-line's and a space echo and you get the picture.
David's influences from those days I think come from DJing all-night sets at rave's with Alex Paterson while touring Australia, performing live shows and then living in Berlin for some time. David is held in very high esteem in Germany for his early proto-techno beats with luminary wordsmith Anne Clark.
On the new LP I think that we have both tried to give a nod to the old school and our roots but also stay firmly looking into the Future, making a hybrid sound if you will.
Let's talk a bit about Coachella - this was a huge turning point in your career on a number of levels - how did this opportunity come about and how has that experience changed things for you?
Getting invited to curate a stage at Coachella was and still is a rush for me. It's the penultimate music festival and really helped spread the bass music vibes to a much larger audience. My partner Pablo Hassan introduced me to Paul Tollett (who runs the promotion company Golden Voice) backstage at Coachella. We got to chatting and he invited me in for a meeting. Paul is a real visionary and gave me the trust and respect to bring who I wanted on my stage with artists like Andy C, Hype, High Contrast alongside Flying Lotus, Jakes, Mary Anne Hobbs, Lil B, etc. as well as bringing in people like Pendulum, Skrillex, Chase & Status and Magnetic Man and putting them on the bigger stages.
It was right around this time that you linked up with Amon Tobin for his stateside tour, yeah? Two huge turning points that seemed to carry the PFS project to another level. How did you come to work with Tobin and how has that experience inspired and influenced you?
Coachella kicked off for me in 2009, I hooked up with Amon in 2011 in L.A at the same place I met David, (the Ninja Tune XX Anniversary tour). After DJing on the rig he invited me to join him doing sound with Sharon Levinson for the ISAM North American tour. It was a sold-out tour and absolutely amazing show (I'm on tour again with him as I speak now for the ISAM 2.0). Amon is a top geezer and a sonic genius in my opinion which is very inspiring in itself, he understands the textures of sound like no other and, combined with the awesome visual content, the project is next level. He's also one of the humblest performers I've had the honour to be around, I feel very fortunate that our paths crossed. Pure Filth continues to receive great press for our contribution and it was a way for me to spread that L.A underground Bass sound across the United States.
For your first major project out, Bass Moves Space, you guys are going large - talk a bit about the idea behind this project and what sort of vibe and genres the heads should be looking for?
The initial project started innocently as two friends working on some beats. It then turned into something bigger and more special as we started to invoke people like Jakes, Crazy D, RYAT, Nocando, Mestizo, Busdriver and my long time spar Kemst. For me it was getting to accomplish a lifelong dream of doing an LP and getting to work alongside someone as accomplished as David is still pretty mind blowing. The concept is that we've created an independently released digital dance music album that can be listened to in your car or at home and then we had our friends do some remixes that are more directed towards the dance floor. The vibes are spaced-out dubby footwork with heavy jungle influences, off-kilter rhythms with some serious vocal pressure from an array of global talent all recorded in David's amazing Workhouse studios in Lincoln Heights.
I understand you've got a huge remix project on the way already in the works for the Deluxe version of the LP - fill us in on the details!
The Deluxe remix LP has taken on a life of its own spanning across multiple musical genres and styles. It features people like Technical Itch, Zed Bias, Kumo from the band CAN, Moldy of Deep Medi fame, Alex Paterson of the Orb's HFB project, Lemon D aka K-Aze, Daedelus, 6BLOCC, Free the Robots, CRS?, L-Plus, Monopoly, Darquan, Thavius Beck, Mark Blakkat Bell, Sanderson Dear, Silvers North Base crew, Hive, Total Science as well as youngsters the Last Skeptik, Gunshae, Supreme, Monolithium, DLX, MAST, Mike Gao, Mesck, Dirty Deeds, Homage, Offkilltah, Audiak, Fat Albert, Trial and Error just to name a few! We're releasing about 5-6 digi-singles leading up to the full LP and then the Deluxe album with the whole shebang + some bonuses.
It's worth noting that this is an entirely digital project right? As a former owner of one of the most well-known and respected record shops in Los Angeles - how has that transition been for you?
The transition was tough at first and the vinyl lover in me wanted a full colour box set of 45's with inlay and all that, but at the moment we both look at digital as the future and it causes way less strain environmentally using very little resources to put out our music on an already over-extended planet.
Last but not least, where does Pure Filth Sound go from here?
How people receive the Lp will determine that to a large extent, hopefully another album, more shows but who knows. Maybe it's best not to set expectations and just go where the bass takes us. Watch this Space.
Words: Chris Muniz
The first set of digi-singles from the Bass Moves Space LP are available now on Digital Workhorse: Rhythm Killer / Nails In The Coffin.
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