Dir. Suridh Hussan. Produced by Ryo Sanad
UK: SRK, 2008.

Phil Kirby

University of Liverpool (UK)

Bassweight is a DVD documentary on the electronic dance music genre dubstep. The documentary is produced by SRK, who describe themselves as “a creative studio that flows between the epicentres of London and Jakarta”. Their website reveals a diverse array of global media projects, some corporate and some art driven. The studio’s high production values are evident in the documentary and the global overview of dubstep’s impact. The footage is slick, highly stylised, and utilises an array of post-production tricks. The audio content is also of a high quality in keeping with the often-pristine production values evident in many dubstep tracks. Dubstep is a fairly recent manifestation of what author and journalist Simon Reynolds (2009) refers to as the hardcore continuum. Although this concept has been critiqued, it provides a useful insight into the evolution and mutation of a key strand of UK electronic dance music.

The documentary commences with time-lapse footage of crowds at dubstep raves and shots of the urban environment over the initial credits. The narrative thread begins with a tour of Croydon, with DJ and producer Plastician (Chris Reed) as the tour guide and former Big Apple record shop (now home of the shop, Mixing Records) as the destination. In dubstep mythology, Croydon has become the equivalent of Clarksdale in the history of the blues, whilst Big Apple assumes the role of the mythical crossroads. Reed takes the camera crew around the area pointing out small unassuming local venues that hosted early dubstep club nights. He comments on the negative police attitude to an early dubstep night which had a predominantly male audience; the scene was apparently heavily gendered at its inception. In fact, the only female included in the documentary (apart from shots of a few girls dancing at club nights) is BBC Radio One’s Mary Anne Hobbs. Reed infers the genre started in Croydon but struggles to note many sites of historical interest. The documentary then includes various producers and MCs noting the centrality of Big Apple to the early dubstep scene. The shop and its clientele are referred to as a community. Producers Skream and Benga are then interviewed (in black and white for some reason) after a sound bite from Mary Anne Hobbs explaining the genre’s focus on sub bass. This leads neatly into Skream discussing the genre’s focus on low frequencies, ascribing this in part to the bass-heavy sound system in Big Apple and the sub bass capabilities of sound systems in influential dubstep venues. Benga and Skream explore the development of a strand of UK garage into dubstep and acknowledge that although they initially tried to make garage tunes, their lack of ability to reproduce the style precisely led them to focus on the exploration of sonic avenues opened up by their production mistakes. The narrative then progresses to pirate radio station Sub FM. The focus is on the Boomnoise and Sgt Pokes show which features interviews with producers and guest mixes, unlike the standard pirate radio show format.

Mary Anne Hobbs discusses her initial discovery of the genre and her subsequent exploration of the style’s origins. She notes that the style emerged slowly out of the “dark garage” made by producers Zed Bias, LB, Oris Jay and Steve Gurley in 2001. This variant was championed by the club night FWD at the Velvet Rooms in London. Dubstep gradually developed from this stylistic template. Skream comments on Horsepower Productions as a key influence on his music; they are noted as playing an important role in the genre’s inception. Benny Ill from Horsepower Productions is then interviewed and mentions their sound system roots. DJ and producer N-Type is the next interviewee. He recounts his DJ career from bedroom DJ at the age of 14 to pirate radio station stalwart on Delight FM and Rinse FM, from where he has established himself as an international dubstep DJ.

Deopah—who ran the now defunct dubstep website Barefiles and label Baredubs—discusses dubplates, arguing that a mastered track on vinyl is preferable to an unmastered CD for DJ purposes. There is then a brief discussion of analogue versus digital, which is fairly pointless given that dubstep is resolutely digital in its production. Why not a mastered CD? Vinyl is often valorised and fetishised and this debate is worth a thesis in itself. The next segment takes us to Transition Mastering where the proprietor Jason explains what mastering entails. Transition is a key mastering facility in the dubstep genre having traded since 1998. It occupies a role that the (also London-based) mastering facility Music House played for drum ‘n’ bass, acting as a key facility for cutting dub plates. Jason demonstrates the cutting lathe and explains that Transition has a dialogue with its customers in terms of trying to assist their clients to produce professional sounding productions. He explores the exclusivity a dubplate offers, noting how dubplates were initially prevalent in reggae sound system culture and highlighting how this aesthetic has made its way into UK electronic dance music culture. After this tour of London’s dubstep landscape, Bassweight’s footage shifts to Amsterdam for a Deep Medi (Digital Mystikz) showcase at the Melkweg, with an appearance from Goth-Trad (Takeaki Maruyama), a Japanese DJ and producer. This segment begins to explore the genre’s dissemination internationally. In common with jungle/drum ‘n’ bass and unlike UK garage and grime, dubstep has been embraced by global audiences.

From this point onwards Bassweight jumps around somewhat hyperactively in terms of geographical location. We return to the flat in Croydon for more pirate radio footage. Goth Trad features again, followed by a brief interview with The Bug (Kevin Martin) who explains how Steve Goodman sparked his interest in the genre. The film cuts to shots of Denmark, from where Kraken Recordings DJ and producer 2000f demonstrates his detailed knowledge of the UK music scene. He delivers a concise Reynoldsesque chronological synopsis of UK urban music: “1988 acid house, hardcore, early breakbeat, jungle, speed garage, 2-step, grime, dubstep, sub-low etc”. 2000f also notes how various UK bass music styles have spread internationally, with producers in other countries creating their own music using UK genres as production templates. This is one of the interesting points about dubstep. Its production aesthetics have filtered through to other genres in a similar way to jungle production techniques some years earlier. Bassweight’s focus then shifts to Finland and DJ Tes La Rock, and from here briefly visits Russia where Kode 9 is being interviewed. The film revisits Kode 9’s studio again, where Steve Goodman provides a more thoughtful and coherent interviewee than many of the other protagonists, commenting on how dubstep is becoming “generic” and centred on the wobble bass trope.

This documentary adds to what could loosely be termed an emerging canon of films that explore dubstep. Dubfiles was released in 2008 and in common with Bassweight focuses on dubstep and its international dissemination. Soul Jazz released Bruno Natal’s Dub Echoes in 2009 and whilst this film does not solely focus on dubstep, it includes the genre in its discussion of cultural and production practices linked to dub reggae. Herein lays one of Bassweight’s weaknesses. Whilst well produced and fairly informative to the uninitiated, apart from 2000f’s comments it makes no links to any styles earlier than garage, omitting any exploration of the genre’s influences from Jamaican musical practices and aesthetics. It is this lack of contextual focus that reduces the usefulness of the film as an educational resource, although my students certainly enjoyed watching it.


Reynolds, Simon. 2009. Simon Reynolds on the Hardcore Continuum, Available at: <> (accessed 8th April 2012).

SRK. n.d. “About Us”. Available at: <> (accessed 8th April 2012).


Jugdeese, Gary and Troy Miller. 2008. Dub Files. UK. Static Media/Media Gang.

Natal, Bruno. 2009. Dub Echoes. UK. Soul Jazz Films.