A man dedicated to the culture from his free party roots to his current onslaught of XXL releases
With deep roots in the East Anglia free party movement that date back to the late 90s/early 2000s, and an extensive CV that includes a whole slew of big club events and multiple aliases (including N-Defiance and Noshad D), Rob Spires has been entrenched, active and grafting in UK bass culture for over 20 years in a whole variety of guises and capacities.
His Trauma DBC project, however, is the most serious he’s ever been about his craft.
First emerging under this new alias in 2017, and properly ramping it up in the last few years with his own label Mutant Species and consistent dispatches on the likes of Hustlin Beats, Train Recordings, 36 Hertz, Sub Heavy Audio and Audio Danger (to name but a few labels), Trauma DBC captures the energy, essence and passion of everything Rob has done in drum & bass in the past and amplifies it on a whole new level.
After an intense health scare in 2014, he’s put full focus and energy into his production and sound and it’s now paying off. EPs like his recent Rise Of The Megalodon on UP4IT? Recordings and the forthcoming Cold Bass EP on Big & Heavy reflect his widescreen style and his raw underground energy and showcase a production level that’s rising with every new release.
Want to hear more? He’s playing for the 1 More Thing anniversary takeover on Sunday June 18 at Rough Tempo’s Attic bar. Recruited alongside the likes of Stonx, Shayper, Zoner, Guzi, Anna Key, E-Lisa, R3IDY and DJ Zent, Trauma DBC is bringing along the one and only Juiceman for MC duties and promises plenty of dubs. Get to know:
Take us back to the early days of Trauma DBC!
Well not far from where I’m sitting talking to you now, in Grantchester Meadows, me and my mates used to run illegal raves. The first one was like 50 odd people but it went up to a couple of hundred people eventually. They used to properly kick off. I remember one time TC Izlam, Randall and Chef turned up and played.
TC Izlam?! Sick!
Yeah man! It was so funny. He was a real legend. I remember him telling us about his life over in America. It was really interesting to have him on board. They were great days. Most of the time anyway. The last party we did had some pretty dodgy characters so we knocked it on the head.
When was this and did you have any trouble with the law?
We started around 1999 and the last one was about 2005. We did about 20 raves and only one got stopped by the police. But in terms of DJing I was collecting records and playing a few years before that. I actually started with happy hardcore. Going raving in Stevenage with my fake ID at the age of 15. That’s where it started, then we started going to the Sanctuary.
It was a vast, epic place. Messy as hell too man. And the toilets! Horrific. But the vibes in there were unreal. I’d been listening to tape packs for a few years before I got to go so it was all a big eye-opener. I didn’t know it was about records at first, I thought it was people on stage playing live from computers. When I realized what the hell the DJs were doing, and how it was quite achievable for me to do it, I started to really do my homework. I was listening to loads of Andy C tapes, trying to get the records he was mixing and then trying to emulate his mixes. That’s how I learnt to mix and it all spiraled from there with productions and stuff.
Can you recall your first ever studio session?
It would have been at college. I started producing when I was 19/20. I studied for two years but unfortunately left the course a year early. I was working as a chef and running parties and just didn’t think it was important. It’s a shame because had I done that final year I’d have had a HND qualification and could have taught music.
Was this back when you were called N-Defiance?
Oh it was before that. I was also known as Noshad D. I was on a lot of Sticky line-ups, which was Shabba’s event. I was on a lot of Random Concept line-ups and all of the Hysterias. I also played Warning a few times and me and my mates ran an event called Double Trouble as well. At one point that became a pretty big rave organization. We’d do parties in Southend, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Peterborough, Cambridge. One year we ran 15 raves around the country.
This was after the free party era?
Oh yeah. Around 2009 to 2013 or so. We had a tight little crew for a bit but we fell apart over the years and it ended up just being me. I’d become a dad at the time and didn’t have the time carry it all myself. It was another good time though bro. When I was organizing raves I was getting booked everywhere. Set swapping with people because they wanted to play at my rave.
Create your own lane!
Yeah you’ve got something to offer people then haven’t you? It’s a lot easier when there’s a team of you though.
Sounds like life got in the way for other mates but it remained a priority to you?
I guess. Everyone’s got their own reasons for getting involved in this haven’t they? Some people want the attention or maybe it’s money or women they’re hoping to get out of it but for me it has always been about the music. I played piano and cello in the school orchestra so music was always there for me since I was kid. Even when I was running raves, I was doing it so I could create opportunities where I could make more music and be creative. Making something creative over the business side, all day long.
Is that the connection between you and Juice? He’s a massively talented musician and involved in a lot of things.
Totally. We talk music all the time. He’s a true musician, he’s made hip-hop and soul stuff going back to the 80s. He’s made loads of garage and a lot music under aliases that a lot of people won’t even know about. He’s on it so much. It’s inspiring. Wherever we go anywhere it’s like a mini soundclash in the car.
Haha go on. What’s the story behind your name?
Okay so I was making tunes before but they weren’t very good if I’m honest. I just wasn’t progressing. This was around the time I was running the raves. Then I got really, really ill. I had a perforation in my bowel and had to go to hospital and have emergency surgery. They didn’t even need my consent it was that much of a life/death situation. I woke up with tubes coming out of me and all kinds of shit. I recovered for around six months and had a colostomy bag for nine months. Then I had a second operation where they connected my stomach back together but my bowel is shorter than it should be and it’s stapled.
Oh wow. So sorry to hear. Glad you’re okay now!
Yeah it’s life isn’t it? It’s why I am so big on the gym and exercise and wellness in general. My body doesn’t digest food properly so I’ve done loads of research on health and nutrition and continue to study that. If I don’t then I’ll just continually get ill.
Fair play man. You’ve put the work in. Looking after your health is a full time job, then?
It controls every aspect of my life bro. My employers are aware of it. If I’m on road then I have to plan days in advance and limit my exposure to things so I’m not ill for it. If I start getting a serious attack while I’m in the rave then it’s going to be a problem. So yeah it’s a thing but I never let it get the better of me.
Respect. Is it hereditary?
I’ll be honest I drank way too much when I was younger. Alcohol abuse definitely contributed towards it but it is something that was underlying anyway. Booze mashes your guts up. So when I was in the hospital I was having to rethink and re-evaluate everything. I got no qualifications or any type of trade so I really put a lot of thought into what I wanted to do. I did a personal trainer course which was interesting and I got to help loads of mates out but it wasn’t consistent enough and I wasn’t comfortable making money off friends.
So I got my security badge and became a security guard. That’s important for me; it’s consistent with my health, my work and my daughters and setting a benchmark or example for them. That’s how I measure success now, it’s not about money it’s about what you can achieve and appreciate. My kids are healthy and well, you know? That’s a huge success. I am already blessed, you know? I haven’t got any qualifications so anything I achieve right now, I’m smashing it. Music and gym are hobbies on top that I’m lucky to have them. Some people can’t get a job or even be able to put a CV together. I really enjoy my job. People look down on security guards and I get that, we all like to break rules don’t we? But I’m proud of what I do and the consistency it brings in my life.
Yeah totally! When did the productions come back into things?
In 2014 I knocked it all on the head. I’d been in hospital and I just didn’t feel I was getting any better. Me and a mate made this grime, hip-hop and jungle album and the production just wasn’t good. The ideas and the songs had something about them but technically I wasn’t progressing so I quit it all.
But then my mate Sublow asked me if I was up getting on the tunes. I wasn’t sure but he said he’d learnt how to make things sound fat and that he felt I was good with coming up with ideas so we’d work well together. He’d been learning things off Dominator so I decided to give it another go and that’s when it all fell into place…
I had Scott Sublow passing on gems he’d learnt from Dominator. Also guys like Coda and DJ Vapour gave me some pearls of wisdom and I started to really practice and focus on the sounds I was picking. Juiceman was a huge inspiration too. He levelled me up tenfold. So they’re the key people who really helped me and brought me up to the sound I have today. They were so generous with their skills. It’s nice when people do that, I wasn’t getting that before and of course now if I can ever help anyone or pass on what I’ve learnt then I will.
That’s how it lives on. What’s new from you?
I’ve just dropped Rise Of The Megalodon EP which came on Tempa’s label with Boogieman, Reeality and Neil Badboy. Then coming next is my Cold Bass EP on Big & Heavy Recordings which has a feature from Boogieman. I feel these are two of my best EPs to date production-wise. I’m proud of them. Then on my label we’ve got Ill Dynamics with a couple of neurofunk tracks. Then I’ve got a remix EP. Me and Boogieman made a tune called Greazy and we’ve had remixes from the likes of Filthy Habits, Beat Merchants, Conrad Subs, Ill Dynamic, Jaxx, Damageman and Tomyoshi.
Sick! What are you going to bring to the party on June 18?
Well I’m bringing Juiceman. Mainly Beat Merchants tunes, my tunes. Forthcoming stuff, back catalogue stuff. I’ve got a massive list of tunes I want to play but whether we’ll get through them all is another thing. All different types and styles – rollers, jump-up, jungle, neruo. A good tune is a good tune, right?
Definitely. Variety is the spice!
Massively. I wouldn’t ever want to restrict myself to one style or subgenre. The same with listening to music. I don’t listen to that much drum & bass day to day, in the car it’s hip-hop, RnB, metal, 80s shit, whatever mood I’m in. I actually want to listen to more of it so I’m up to speed on what people are playing now but whenever I DJ I’ve got so many of my tunes I want to play, or dubs from friends, that I’ve always got too many things I want to play.
You have been really prolific with your output so yeah there must be abundance of Trauma DBC music!
I do release a lot but I see it like this… Some people think it’s that one big tune that will blow them up but you never know how these things are going to go so it’s better to have a regular flow of music out as you’ve got more chance of things being picked up.
Yeah and, from what I’ve learnt from years of interviews, is that the tunes that do blow up are the tunes you least expect!
Totally. It’s luck of the draw in terms of getting things listened to by labels or what they pick. I’ll send over a little batch of different styles and they’ll always pick the tunes I least expect them to pick. People’s opinions and tastes are so different aren’t they? But I think the best labels are the ones who are looking for originality and not a copy of something that someone else has made. It’s cool when you’re practicing and learning the fundamentals to emulate your heroes but when you’re releasing music it should as original and true to you as you can make it.
Like you did on the decks years ago, emulating Andy C!
Exactly. Practice it all home and behind the scenes. You have to think outside the box. When I make drum & bass I’m not thinking about a specific genre, I’m thinking about making music. You know? Like the best example of that for me was years ago with the track Detroit by Rockwell. That blew me away. I still play it now and get mad reactions.
Ahead of its time. The four beat thing is big right now!
Yeah you’re right. I’ve seen some people cussing it online but I love the extra element it brings. It’s back to the variety isn’t it? It’s something else to bring into the mix and if the ravers are happy then you can’t argue with that can you?
You definitely can’t! We’ll see you on June 18. Any shouts to sign-out?
Just a few mate! I want to shout out Juiceman and Jubbz AKA Beat Merchants, Harry Shotta, Logan D and the Low Down Deep Crew, Boogieman, Filthy Habits, Vince and The Drum & Bass Bible Team, Flux, Johnny Kash, Linden D, Missrepresent, Tempa, Jaxx, Elsta, Jimmy Danger, Mr Melta, Scoundrel & Rough Tempo, Affirmation, Jaydee & Damageman, Conrad Subs, Ill Dynamics, Tomoyoshi, Sublow, MC N1, Robz, Guzi, Cazza, Huski, K20, Neil Badboy, Reeality, 0121 Records, NR1 Crew, Coda, Vapour, Heist, AJB, Systm Hackerz, Big & Heavy Records, all Mutant Species artists and of course yourself Dave and 1 More Thing. Plus of course all of the D&B scene and, most importantly, the ravers, the artists and promoters and all the grafters behind the scenes.
Join Trauma DBC & Juiceman at the 1 More Thing birthday bash @ Rough Tempo on June 18: Details
Trauma DBC – Cold Bass is out June 26 on Big & Heavy: Pre-order