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Too soon?: In defence of brostep

Everybody has to start somewhere

  • Words: Oliver Payne | Illustration: Tiago Majuelos
  • 7 January 2020

The Doors collaborated with Skrillex. Did I dream that, or did it actually happen? No, they did. Skrilldawg. The Bangarang Badman. That Face Melting Dubstep Dancefloor Destroyer. Those Doors were riding that ‘brostep’ wave, bruh. We were all there: slamming out classic Nero in the car, that crunchy 240p UKF circle burning itself into our screens and our brains.

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For me, it was a time of teenage rebellion; a time for finding myself, even if I was a brostep-moshing embarrassment I can only now look back on with a (blemished) face of extreme regret. I was in awe of this American emo taking a niche, underground electronic genre out of the UK and, to the dismay of many, cartoonifying the hell out of it. He inflated the energy levels, pushed the dubstep formula to its limits and, for innocent, poorly-informed younger audiences, this was the perfect soundtrack to let loose to. We weren’t aware of Deep Medi. We didn’t know about ‘tearout’ dubstep. We didn’t care.

Looking back now, we should rejoice in the gaudy memory of Nyan Cat exploding onto a huge LED screen to the sounds of ridiculous screeching over a stupidly exaggerated dubstep crunch while kids moshed below, myself included. We lost our minds to a pinnacle sound we’d never heard before, and the atmosphere in that O2 Academy was electric. Although we didn’t know it, my friends and I had found ourselves at the unique intersection of a popular rise of one of the most boisterous sounds in popular music and our own maturations to adulthood. It was our own little gateway, allowing us to dig deeper into the murky depths of electronic music, later moving as far from the surface as we could – once we’d learned ‘what was cool’ and ‘what was not’. (It turned out ‘Bangarang’ was ‘not cool’.)

In 2011, Rusko, who initially started pushing the sound to a more abrasive place, began his back-pedalling, admitting that he took it a little further but saying that once he “took it there, everyone else took it too far”. US fans asked him on tour: ‘“I want you to play the hardest you’ve got. I want you to melt my face off.” Blimey. Ten years on, though, where are those who once requested their face be melted? Maybe they’re calmly asking TNGHT to only ever so slightly inflame their cheeks, or they’re shaking hips, facing away from the DJ, telling kids to stop using flash on their phones in the club.

This is not a new concept, of course. Generation after generation of young ravers want to jump around to noisy electronic music on dancefloors, before moving on to something considered a little more worthy or intellectually nourishing.

And if you’re reading this thinking ‘Not me, I was into the cool stuff from the start. I was born in the strobe-lit basement with a warm can of Red Stripe in one hand, singlehandedly rolling a liquorice Rizla fag with the other,’ that’s fine. But if, like Year Nine me, you clawed at opportunities to fit in anywhere, you will have known that brostep was the saviour. People my age especially are most likely taking tote bags to the club, chin-stroking the fuck out a vinyl-only set only because five years prior they had their own moment of riding the brostep bandwagon. Brostep was our bridge to the cool side of town. For that, we should be thankful.

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If we’re really honest with ourselves, we all had a phase of ‘hovering’ above the underground for a while. Though we may now don our coolest tees and dance thoughtfully to Hunee’s rare Italo selections, there was once a day where we were blissfully unaware of the fascinating underbelly of this music and worshipped the ground Borgore [or similar] walked on. Let’s celebrate that, rather than shunning our recent past. These trends formed stepping stones, helping us discover the scene’s hidden and beautiful ecosystem, and over the course of the past decade it’s become clear they’re integral to keeping things afloat. They make the scene exciting: blowing up, fading away, reappearing: ebbing, flowing. Think about that before ridiculing the lesser-informed clubber. It wasn’t so long ago you moshed in their shoes.

Oliver Payne is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter

Tiago Majuelos is an illustrator and animator, follow him on Instagram

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