Martin Clark, aka Blackdown, was once better known for his role as a music journalist, most notably with his grime and dubstep column at Pitchfork, which ran sporadically from 2005 until 2011. As producers, Dusk + Blackdown have released three full-lengths and a handful of 12-inches, but their role today is perhaps a curatorial one first and foremost, showcasing new talents on blogs, their radio show on Rinse FM, and, of course, through their Keysound Recordings imprint.
Blackdown: “We met way back when. Dusk was DJing and dropped a Stevie Wonder tune; I thought he must be alright. We became friends, we’re still friends, and we’ll be friends after this music. Stevie Wonder’s still a don.
“Surrounded by the emerging dubstep and grime scenes in the early part of last decade, Keysound Recordings started like most labels do: from the realization that either we did it ourselves or no one would do it for us. I think that’s a crucial personal threshold within underground scenes: the moment when you stop accepting how things are, or hoping someone will do it for you, and get on and do it yourself. Once you grasp that realization, you have to hold on to it and just keep going.
“Dusk and I were there at the beginning of dubstep. Like, the very beginning, i.e. 2000: El-B & Ghost Camp, Horsepower, Artwork, Zed Bias, Steve Gurley. The beginning. We were at the first FWD>> night and saw dubstep evolve, from being the most creative, diverse, experimental, tightknit but underappreciated community, to becoming this international but unlistenable moronic “success.” We also watched grime expand, then plateau. In the aftermath of dubstep, as we knew it, people went different ways: brostep, house, techno. UK funky had shown great potential, but all too quickly it too went house. The focus from London’s MCs shifted to road rap—grime, but without the club energy or inclination. Dusk and I started to feel really isolated. But the tools of creation, distribution, and presentation were in our hands now. Instead of seeing our situation as a disaster, we chose to see it as an opportunity. The more our path diverged with others, the more it made us distinct.
“Becoming more distinct brought a sense of purpose. We very deliberately sought out sounds that we connected with, and it just so happened that many of them came from a small new wave of under heard producers. And as we found some producers, played them on Rinse, wrote about them on blogs, made under-the-radar online spaces to help incubate ideas, offered them 12-inch and album deals, distribution and press exposure, more came forward. Things began to grow. There’s been quite an organic relationship between people who’ve released on Keysound in the past, like LHF, Sully, and LV, and the newer heads.
“And this is our role, really: to help people we see eye-to-eye with musically fulfil their potential, individually and as a collective. I do want to do everything that I can to provide space and platforms for this sound to flourish. Whether what binds us in this community is music, or something deeper, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a sense of purpose about what’s possible.”