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Markee Ledge

The Kosheen man goes it alone

2015 Dec 30     
2 Bit Thugs

Read on to find out why he's ditching his many different aliases and stepping out under his own name

Aliases and electronic music go together like decks and a mixer. They have done since day one: Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman, Masters At Work’s Nuyorican Soul. Much more recently, Eric Prydz’s Cirez D, Spor’s Feed Me, Oliver Heldens’ Hi-Lo - well, you get the idea! These seemingly schizophrenic side projects reflect electronic music’s exciting array of subgenres and creative opportunities. The studio offers producers every ingredient in the kitchen, so why cook the same meal every day?

Aliases also help artists refresh their palate and audience expectations. Some artists feel they have to: if you’re known for making balls-out gabba and suddenly make a beautiful gospel house tune, releasing it under the same name could alienate your original fanbase while putting gospel house fans off. Other artists who've enjoyed success in a genre that’s fallen out of favour – say, trance or hard house - want to delete their history and start in a new sound. Good luck with that on the internet.

Then there’s Markee Ledge. A man who’s made such a wealth of music for over 20 years, under such a sprawling variety of aliases, that he’s decided it’s time to simplify his life and consolidate everything under the one name his mates have called him throughout his days as Substance, Kosheen, Dubspeeka and Vision Z.

He’s also a serial collaborator - so much so, even Discogs is confused by Markee’s multifarious missions! Substance was originally Markee and Dazee, so now Discogs seems to think they’re the same person, even though Dazee is a woman. Similarly, Dubspeeka was originally Markee and Darren Beale (AKA Decoder and another third of Kosheen) before Darren took the techno mantel and ran with it.

Dizzying? Yes. But amid the names, genres and collaborations, one thing is consistent: Markee makes interesting, forward-thinking electronic music, whether he’s topping the charts or making deep, sub-rumbling dubstep.

Fittingly, then, his new album Elevate comprises almost every sound he’s ever explored, from the smoky trip-hop opener Talk Is Cheap to the dubby broken beats of Trust In Me, by way of the heads-down tribal tech of Voodoo. All tailored and laced with a strong sense of space, Elevateis the most honest and personal work he’s ever done.

It seems that after years of aliases and side projects, the real Markee Ledge is shining through. Get acquainted...

So, your first solo album…

"I find it hard to call it that. There are a lot of collaborations on there, so I cringe when people call it solo. But it’s the first album I’ve put my own name on. I’ve never been one to hog the limelight; with Kosheen I was hiding behind the machines with the sunglasses on. But with this album I’ve had to step forward to and be the face or name of it. I’ve used so many aliases and names over the years and at one point I thought, ‘Why don’t I just put out everything under one name regardless of genre?’ Something more personal.

"Markee Ledge, as a name, has always been there… everything has been a Ledge Production since the early days. Everything on Ruffneck Ting, on Breakbeat Culture, as Kosheen, they’re all Ledge Productions. But because I had the Substance name, the press started calling me Markee Substance. I didn’t help matters making up new aliases myself."

Vision Z was the final alias straw then?

"I guess so. The last few years I’ve been getting deeper and deeper, gravitating towards stations like Rinse, DJs like Youngsta, labels like Swamp81 and all that stuff around 125bpm. Vision Z was my deepest stuff. I was really enjoying going undercover and letting the music do the talking. Which was fun and cool but I needed some simplicity in my life."

Simplicity achieved. But, listening to a lot of the music you’ve made over the years, the lines between everything are blurred at best...

"That’s naturally going to happen. I make the music so there’s always going to be a Markee Ledge feel to every variation I’ve ever been involved in."

The variations on Elevate are more subtle, though…

"I hope so. The album feels like two parts: the first part is a bit more vocal-led and poppy, like Kosheen, but Nightmares Part 2marks the start of the more underground, clubby tracks that you can mix together."

I can hear the Dubspeeka influences on that second part…

"Yeah. Darren collaborated with me on Tom Toms Of Time and Baliem Valley. Dubspeeka actually came out of the confusion of Kosheen DJs: we were playing electro and techno but we’d turn up and people were like ‘Can you play Hide U?’ I did a couple of the early Dubspeeka tracks but Darren got really into the techno side of things and I veered more towards the 808 stuff. "But Darren likes that, too, so he’s still had an input on tracks on this album. It’s cool to work together, but looser now. When we knew we weren’t going to write with Sian again, we could have stopped working together full stop."

You met the dubstep guys when Kosheen stopped, didn’t you?

"Yeah, I went back to my roots and started getting deeper and met guys like Leon Switch and Seven. I got really inspired by their production style - I was amazed by how they made these sounds just off laptops! I’ve accumulated so much kit over the year, so I assumed these guys had too. Then I went to Seven’s house to make some music, thinking he'd have a load of cool modular stuff, and it was just a laptop and a set of speakers! It inspired me to get deep into sound design. It changed my perspective."

Dubstep leads from the front with sound design. But sadly it’s become a bit of a dirty word...

"Yeah. We just call it bass music, or deep dub. To many people, dubstep just means screeches - but the real dubstep guys hate those screeches as much as anyone else!"

You’ve seen these cycles several times over during 20 years, though...

"Totally. I’ve been saying this to the guys - it comes in waves. You could see it having a dip a few years ago. Scenes shrink, but then grow with the next generation. People have to continue making music and being as creative as possible because it will enjoy its time in the spotlight again and its influence on other genres is clear."

Especially in the halftime drum & bass that’s been really big lately...

"Definitely. It’s is the bridge between everything. DJs are a lot more exciting now and can mix things up more. It’s the link between slower, 125bpm bass music and techno and drum & bass."

Speaking of drum & bass, what are your defining memories of those early days?

"Getting phone calls from DJs like Storm saying they were playing our tunes and having to deal with vinyl distributors! It was a different world - now you can make a tune and blast it up on Soundcloud, but back then you had to press it and send it to the distributor and even then you didn’t know if they would work it or not. There were more filters back then."

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

"Enjoy the moment! Everything was a stress and struggle back then, but that stress was a driver - nothing ever comes to you, you need to make it happen. You need some get up and go, but at the same time I wish I'd just relaxed and enjoyed the moment a little more.

"It’s a cliché but they really were the days. We were on such a mission with drum & bass back then. It’s accepted now, it’s part of the scene, but it certainly wasn’t back then! That’s what I was saying to the deep dubstep guys: rise to the challenge, spread the word. When I work these guys, I’m reminded of the mission we had with drum & bass 20 years ago. But this time I’m enjoying the moment a lot more!"

Follow Markee: Twitter Facebook

Elevate is out now on Kosheen Records





Tags: Kosheen, Markee Ledge, drum & bass, D&B, dubstep, techno, Kosheen DJs, Dubspeeka, Vision Z, Rinse, Youngsta, Substance