As a man that aptly personifies eclectic, British DJ/producer Adam Fenton, commonly known as Adam F, has tasted the wide spectrum of what the music industry has to offer. In the late ‘90s, he released Colours, which really showcased his talent in the world of electronic dance music, particularly drum and bass. Released in 2001, Kaos: The Anti-Acoustic Warfare, an album of hip-hop tracks produced by Fenton and collaborations with Redman, De La Soul, Beenie Man and others highlighted the versatility in his production skills. Additionally, his broad range of expertise and love for electronica and hip-hop has lead him to collaborate with artists ranging from electronic pioneers, Pet Shop Boys, to hip-hop legend, LL Cool J. Fenton’s record label, Breakbeat Kaos, released Hold Your Colour, Pendulum’s platinum selling record. With the invaluable years of acquired experience in both the fields of hip-hop and EDM, Adam F serves as the ideal candidate to speak to us about the American EDM culture’s latest love affair with dubstep and trap. Should trap have its place in electronic dance music?
Life + Times: You released “When The Rain Is Gone” this year. What projects are you currently working on?
Adam F: A few different things. I think one I’m really excited about is a track I’ve done with Doctor P and Method Man. I was in New York recently recording that with Method Man. It’s really exciting; it’s a crazy club track. I’ve done a lot of work with Method in the past, so it’s actually quite natural to get back in the studio and do something really current and different for Method which I know he was really excited about jumping on. That will probably be rearing its head in the New Year. I’m going to DJ shows between now until about Christmas. Yeah, that’s just a crazy track with full-on energy. It’s something different. It’s not dubstep, it’s not trap, it’s kind of its own thing which I’ve always liked to do; something new whenever I incorporate any kind of rap influence or elements. I’ve been doing a mix of stuff, sort of Knife Party kind of influence, kind of clubby, electro dance kind of music stuff. I’ve been working on a bunch of production and new Adam F records. I will incorporate a lot of what I call “bass music.” It’s 100 beats per minute up to 175 BPM. [I’m] adding some trapstep, the new raucous dance music that is fusing together.
L+T: Yeah, it’s a really interesting time for music in general, especially EDM and its many subgenres. Dubstep has been around for years in Europe and is not considered new. Based off of your hip-hop and electronic dance music background, what is your opinion of this sudden interest of dubstep and trap music within the American music culture?
AF: I run a label called Breakbeat Kaos and the whole point of what I try to involve myself is with music that is always pushing forward and challenging the envelope, the production and club wise. To keep underground music as a whole moving forward, it’s good to keep new angles and every now and then something branches off and really explodes like dubstep has. Dubstep has been in the UK for quite some time. So, it’s time to incorporate some new flavors into it to keep it energized and fresh. The trap kind of influence has been around and it’s just being messed with in different tempos now. Ultimately, what always happens with underground music is it starts to get bastardized in a way and put into a pop format which then exposes it more which is good and bad.
L+T: Recently, I had a conversation regarding trapstep with another artist as well. He said he didn’t want to get into defining trapstep as a subgenre. However, from listening to trapstep, it definitely has a distinct sound that sets it apart from its other EDM cohorts. From your own vantage point, how would you define it from its BPM to its structure?
AF: The BPM is kind of flexible. It really varies from sort of 150 BPM, but it can go right down to sort of 110 to 126 to 175. It’s really open now. It’s kind of like putting some of that 808 [Roland TR-808 drum machine] sub-by bounce within whatever tempo you want and that’s actually what’s good about it. It’s free to experiment and because the worldwide DJs are incorporating all kinds of different styles in their sets when they play, I think that’s why it’s being produced at a cross section of tempos because people will incorporate it into their sets. I think the best way to describe it is it’s got a flavor of trap; it’s about bounce, that 808 traditional sound and bass sound. It’s also got an electronic edge to it which may incorporate some moombahton-y sounds or some dubstep kind of sounds, but it’s up to the producer. Some go more organic like Flosstradamus and some of the Diplo sounds have a more sort of tribal vibe. Then, there’s of course, the more electronic digital sound where people put in more lethal sounding twisted bass sounds or have a little kind of Dutch house riffs. It’s open to put anything into it. When a genre is normally quite specific, then some people don’t like it when trance elements are put into it or some different things. I think it’s free at the moment because it’s so early, young and developing. Personally, I’d like it to keep an element of the hip-hop world in it, but to push it to excite people that are open to it as well.
L+T: I understand. I’m from the Southern part of the United States, so I’ve been familiar with the hip-hop element of trap for years through Swishahouse. So, to hear dubstep and other electronic dance music elements get blended in with trap is unique.
AF: Yeah, definitely! There’s some elements of it where it’s not going to appeal to people who lean to the traditional trap stuff, but then, the raw elements of it are really exciting and kicks it up a level and makes it fresh.
L+T: When you were a teenager you became a fan of the hip-hop scene in the U.S. and British electronica. Was there a particular album that served as Pandora’s Box for you in regards to the jump start of your interest in both those genres?
AF: It wasn’t a specific album. It was more like a feeling. When you’re a producer or artist, you always have idols and people you look up to, from Quincy Jones to Dre [Dr. Dre] and people that are trying to do things a bit different overall and not have any boundaries. It was more like me looking for people who didn’t put boundaries up or didn’t follow the rule of thumb. They tried to push things forward.
L+T: Since you run a record label, can you tell me about any specific artists you are really into or about to sign?
AF: The last group of artists we were working with was Pendulum who has become Knife Party, Chase & Status, Nero…I like artist that have a vision to go live as well as just produce. I think it long term shows what a real artist is when they’re still on the road and actually perform. That’s something we’re always looking for. Not that we wouldn’t just take a straight up club banger track that’s massive. Ultimately, long term, we’re looking for people that have got longevity and want to take their music out on the road.
L+T: Lastly, the question I end all of my conversations with when I speak to a DJ or producer is the following: Do you think a DJ is a musician?
AF: Traditionally, DJing was about performance, wasn’t it? When you go back to performing on turntables, there were two types of DJs. There was one with skills and it was all about how they cut up records and performs visually, excite the crowd. Then, there was the selector which was more about the tunes that they played and the order that they played them in and the journey you took someone on. So, you had the hip hop skills world and then you got the flow where the DJ was taking you on a journey throughout a couple of hours with music. They both are a talent. Then, of course, you’ve got the new school bunch of DJs nowadays. When I first started DJing, if there were twenty DJs on the set and I was playing, nineteen of them were actual DJs that didn’t make music. Nowadays, there’s a lot of DJs, especially in the electronic world, that are artist first and foremost, and they DJ as well. I think it’s influenced how they make music. I think the way they make music is more conscious because they are aware with what happens when someone deejays with a tune, which has both good and bad sides. When I first started making music, I didn’t think that if a track had a two minute string intro that it would be a problem for a DJ to format into his set. It was freer in the way the music was made. I think there’s a certain amount of creative skill that’s musically involved in deejaying.