At a time when dubstep has mostly become music for shadow-lurking beard strokers longing for trip-hop’s golden days, and grime has diminished into near total irrelevance, 19-year-old DJ/producer Joker wisely dodges both. Instead, he mines their depths, carving the pieces he needs from each to slowly but surely reshape the dance underground. From the confines of his Bristol bedroom he dabbles in bombastic elephant stomp bass, dizzying drum patterns, epic synth squalls, clipped grunts and, when the mood strikes, low rider G-funk vocoder.
“When I heard tunes when I was young [I’d be] like, ‘Why couldn’t this happen?’” he says. “I started producing because I wanted to make what I wanted to hear.” The result lies somewhere between dubstep’s absolute dedication to rainsoaked melancholy and grime’s laser-sharp treble clatter, while also pulling from dusty musical corners still untapped by his peers. It’s this experimental freedom that makes Joker the anomaly that he is—and the influential figure he’s sure to become once he expands his discography beyond a series of amazing yet disparate singles. Currently, he’s working on a mixtape that will lead into an instrumental album, but he’s being secretive about specifics in case his ideas are too far-reaching to be achieved. For now, he’s keeping things moving by releasing music from producers like Rustie and Ginz on his own Kapsize label and forging his music into some sort of hulking bass monster stomping out watered down versions of the genres he so skillfully appropriates.
One of his recent singles, “Purple City,” a collaboration with Ginz, would be right at home coming from a pair of sunburned Impala speakers usually reserved for The Chronic 2001, while “Stuck in the System”’s blend of layered, dissonant strings and triumphantly heavy low end sounds like getting your ass kicked on purpose just for the catharsis of it. The moods evoked by each of his songs are united only by the fact that they come from his surprisingly calculating teenage brain. “I don’t want to just work fast and bang out something,” he says. “It’s got to be the best when I do it. If it takes me three years then it takes me three years.” And while Joker is still deciding if he wants to bring Cali to Bristol or vice versa, he might just end up creating something entirely new.
Stream: Joker, The Vision