We’ve been rocking the new album ENiGMA Dubz – Awakening here at the EKM headquarters for over a month now and we are thrilled that it is finally out and available everywhere! We had the amazing opportunity to have a chat with James, the UK bass music legend aka ENiGMA Dubz, about his new album, his other aliases, how he got to where he is now and much much more. James has been pushing the boundaries of bass music since his beginnings in music producing, from Dubstep to Trap, Drum & Bass, Garage, Downtempo Electronica, and everything in between. He is truly one of the most versatile bass music producer out there. Without further ado, get to know the man behind so many influential bass music releases for almost two decades now in our ENiGMA Dubz interview right below!
How did it all start for you? Tell us how DJ V and ENiGMA Dubz were born… and Itona, Lam Scape, and Manta? Are you still producing under these aliases too?
Wow, now we’re really going back! DJ V was my very first alias, it was around 2004 when I started producing and releasing music and most of it was speed garage and bassline, with a bit of garage in between. I grew up studying and playing classical music, but it was when I was around 15 that I stumbled upon a pirate radio station on my bathroom FM radio at home. I’d been really into Hard House, Trance and Garage at secondary school, but discovering speed garage and grime was a big change in my musical journey as it ultimately led onto a lot of the work I still do as a co-writer and engineer. I used to spend every night after school in my room, messing around on Reason and learning how to produce music. It was around 2006 that I began writing music under the ‘ENiGMA’ alias and then it became ‘ENiGMA Dubz’ around a year later. I’ll never forget the impact ‘Subdub’ in Leeds had on me in 2007, it was the first time I’d heard Dubstep properly, on a massive system, and it genuinely changed my life.
Lam Scape is an alias for soundtrack, ambient and score music and something I definitely want to do a lot more work under. Manta is a house alias I set up, however, I don’t have the time or energy at the moment to pursue that, so it’s parked for now at least.
Itona, however, is something I’m really focusing on alongside the ENiGMA Dubz project. It began during the first UK COVID-19 lockdown as I had some extra time on my hands, and also a hunger to delve into the world of lofi and other electronic genres. Watch this space for much more Itona music!
Check out ENiGMA Dubz’s Itona alias below!
Talk to us a bit about your beginnings, for example, your “Faithless – We come One” bootleg followed by your Variationz album (that aged pretty well by the way). How did it happen? How/where did you start about music producing?
The Faithless bootleg came about after attending several Dubstep events at the West Indian centre in Leeds. I’d been dabbling in the world of Dubstep for around 6 months when I did that remix, I’d had the acapella for years on my computer and it just fell into place one night in my university halls of residence. To get the support from Kissy Sell Out on Radio 1 was so dope, it really did spur me on.
My fist album, Variationz, was in my head from the moment I chose the alias ‘ENiGMA’. I chose the name because of a famous piece of classical music by Elgar called ‘Enigma Variations’ and I wanted my first album to touch on a variety of styles. It was the plan from the very beginning. I had to change my name for legal reasons by adding ‘Dubz’ at the end, which really bothered me. However, I really wanted to hold onto the ‘ENiGMA’ name so I kept it rolling as ‘ENiGMA Dubz’.
My music production journey began when I was 15 after I did some work experience at a recording studio. The owner gave me a copy of ‘Reason’ and it totally changed the game for me. I’d been composing and recording music for some years before that on a really old school Yamaha keyboard which my grandad helped me buy (it even had a floppy disc drive to save projects), but getting hold of some legit production software really shaped things for me.
I’ve gotta big up my grandad here as he’s been a huge help throughout my life, mainly from taking me too and from classical concerts and rehearsals, but also giving me that opportunity to buy my first proper keyboard and other gear along the way. Also, my parents bought me my first set of decks for my 15th birthday and it was definitely a turning point in my musical direction, taking them to all the house parties and often running from them in the early hours when they got shut down.
Check out ENiGMA Dubz’s first album Variationz below!
How did you go from bass/rave music producer to producing and designing music for TV? Was it something that you planned in your career or did it just organically happen?
Writing and producing music for film, TV and games has been something I’ve wanted to do from very early on. Having such a good understanding of music and musical theory has really set me up for it, so when the project with the BBC for the Paul Merson documentary aligned last year, it was an absolute pleasure to undertake. I hope to do a lot more of this in the near future, too.
What is the first Dubstep/Bass music song you’ve ever heard? Is it the same one who made you fall in love with the genre?
In terms of Dubstep, two tracks come to mind. Firstly, ‘Goblin’ by Coki. This was the track playing when I entered my first Dubstep event and I can’t explain the feeling I had, serious goosebumps. Not only that, it was Digital Mystikz themselves behind the decks up, nuts! Secondly, ‘3kout’ by Jakes was a track which really got under my skin from early on, it was like nothing I’d heard before.
However, it was years before when I heard ‘Speakerbox’ by Beatfreaks which really ignited my passion for dark, underground bass music. One of my all time favourites to this day, the way that b-line moves up in register, up and up until that high range wobble, then right back down. Damn, that track is timeless for me.
Where do you think the Bass music scene is headed? One year from now? Five years from now?
Bass music is ever expanding and evolving, although there are definite cycles too – with sounds coming back into fashion. I love to see how vast the deeper side of Dubstep is growing outside of the UK and Europe, particularly in the US and Canada. For years it was the really hard stuff dominating out there, but today the deeper side to the genre has gone from strength to strength, with a vast array of influences steering it too.
In the UK I feel like it’s never really disappeared as there’s a constant wave of new and exciting sounds emerging, from the Bass House and Garage scene, to Grime and Drill, to Dubstep and to DnB, what an exciting time to be in the bass music scene.
In five years time I know the scene will still be popping but I really don’t know how it will have evolved. That’s what I love about it though, it’s very exciting.
If you could eternally be stuck in one year’s music scene, which year would it be?
Oh wow. To be honest, I’d say right now. I think I’d say that every year too, to be honest. As much as I look back , for example, to the time I discovered Garage music and hold on to it dearly, I just can’t get over the amount of amazing music coming out year after year. The thought of not experiencing it progressing and changing is too much to even consider. That progress and movement is everything.
Do you have a dream collaboration? If you could collaborate with one music producer/musician/singer, who would it be?
Ah man, that’s really tough. If it was a producer/musician, right now as I’m writing this I’d pick Hans Zimmer. That would be on another level bridging his ideas and sounds into a bass music track.
Although, from a bass music perspective I’ve long been a fan of the UK producer, Sorrow, and we’ve discussed doing something together – so watch this space!
If it was a vocalist I’d say right now, CASSisDEAD. I’ve been a fan for years and he’s just on another level. Really tough question though as I have so many to choose from!
We know you traveled and backpacked with your wife and kids a lot, do you have a favorite destination? To perform? Just to enjoy?
I’ve been on some truly amazing and life changing trips with my family. Staying with a legitimate Maasai tribe with my wife and daughter was unreal and something I’ll never forget. Also, traveling through India back in 2010 with my wife was a huge life experience and something I really learned a lot from about myself and how I view the world.
I didn’t perform out there, but I did use my music to get a killer deal on some carpets, the owner’s son was loving it on my MP3 player and we left with some serious goods!
What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear/play it?
I’ll have to pick two here (although there’s way more…)
‘Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead.
‘Skyline’ by 16bit.
What genres of music do you usually listen to? Are you strictly electronic? Give us a few tracks that you’ve been hooked on lately.
I do tend to listen to electronic music, although I listen to a vast array of genres and styles, as well as bands and classical music, too. Lately I’ve been loving ‘Mansur Brown’, an amazing musician. Also, ‘Bonobo’ has been on fire for some time and also ‘James Blake’ too.
Now, let’s talk about the topic of the day, your amazing and long-awaited new album ENiGMA Dubz – Awakening!
We’ve listened to your new album ENiGMA Dubz – Awakening and it is a real treat for bass music fans. A diversified and transporting journey from start to finish, from chill to face-melting and a proper balance of old school and modern vibes, while staying true to the ENiGMA Dubz sound. After so many years of work on the album, how do you feel now that it is finally out?
I’ve never put so much time and effort into a project to be honest, it’s been a massive learning curve and journey so to finally see it out is amazing. I’m so happy with the response so far and it only makes me more hungry to produce new material.
What was the biggest inspiration / influence to your new album?
The biggest influence and inspiration is the meaning behind the title. I’ve had a very productive last two years and I feel like the ENiGMA Dubz project is finally shaping up to where I’ve imagined it going for many years. It’s a moment to step up a gear and let the world see where I’m at right now as a producer – and to be taking this music out on the road in my DJ sets.
Any producers you particularly enjoyed working with and think you create a fresh synergy on ENiGMA Dubz – Awakening?
I’ve actually produced all of the tracks on the album without any co-production, but all of the featured artists have been great to work with so I’d say each and every one has given me a lot of energy and pleasure to work alongside.
For the lead single, Up in the Safe, S.O. gave the track so much energy but with it seeming effortless with his flow and charisma.
Hedara’s really gave such an emotional performance that reflected the dynamics of I’m a Ghost.
Queen of Hearts – actually, what’s cool with this one is the vocals she sent me were literally the first demo recorded really roughly through her phone – but because of the lofi nature of the track, they lent into the vibe really well and her lyrical theme was dope in relation to the audio.
CoMa’s someone I’ve had a long relationship with collaboration wise, and she’s such an amazing artist – her character shines through on everything she does – so working with her again on Afterlife was super cool
Do you have any personal favorites on the album? Any single you are looking to promote heavily to “represent” the album?
It’s a tie between ‘Lost Souls’ and ‘Out of My Mind’ ultimately. Although I genuinely love every track on the album, I’m so happy how it’s come together.
I’ve been sitting on ‘Lost Souls’ for the best part of three years, and I’ve been itching to release it, especially after years of DMs asking for it. The vibe on this one is super cold and haunting, with dark undertones and a lot of bass presence – but it’s still one you can chill with.
For Out of My Mind, I just can’t stop listening to it! Even though it’s my own track. Liquid drum & bass is such an immersive genre – so I really enjoyed producing on that vibe.
We thoroughly enjoy the album and every time we hit Bump in the Night, we just can’t help but imagine the impact of this track live! Any tracks from the album you’ve been playing live before that received amazing reactions and surprised the crowds?
Ah sick yeah, that track is a real beast. I’d say one of my favourites for crowd reactions is ‘The Sunken Place’ as it really takes the listener on a journey before hitting hard on the system when the drop hits. On my recent US tour at the Chicago show, the reaction to that track was absolutely mad!
Any chance we will see you perform in Canada in the near future?
Absolutely, I recently joined the Sub.mission family for North America bookings so there will no doubt be some Canada dates in the near future! Watch this space…
Big thanks for having a chat with us! We truly appreciate you for taking the time to tell us your story and your journey. It was very interesting to get to know the man, the influences and the experiences behind your music!
Thanks so much for having me, this interview has been a real journey. Just to say, the album is out now and out to everyone showing love and support, it always means a lot. Much love!