It's hard sometimes to grasp how quickly Josh Steele – Flux Pavilion – has risen to the position he's now in. Only three years ago, in the autumn of 2008, he heard dubstep played for the very first time at a freshers' party (Caspa and Rusko's legendary 'Fabric 37' album, to be precise), and was blown away by it. Just a couple of days later, he had the first fruits of his attempt to do something in that style, and after just a couple of emails to dance music journalists and postings on message boards, he realised he was on to something. The buzz around his clever, attention-grabbing but witty sound built instantly, and before he knew it he was beset by reports of his tunes causing mayhem wherever they were played.
Since then, with every track he's made, his success has snowballed, with first the hardcore of UK dubstep DJs embracing his sound, then the currently-exploding US scene taking him to its bosom. This is the kind of thing that very few young dance producers ever experience, and usually takes years to accomplish, but it didn't even stop there. By the time Josh had finished his third and final year at university, he'd been on the Radio 1 A-list and been championed by not only specialist DJs but the one and only Chris Moyles (who used Flux Pavilion's “Bass Cannon” to help stay awake during his 24-hour Comic Relief broadcast), remixed a number one single (DJ Fresh's “Louder”), been played by some of the biggest club DJs in the world even outside of the dubstep scene, toured the US, Europe and Australia. Josh and Doctor P’s Circus label is now collaborating with a major label, and had one of his tunes sampled wholesale to form a backing track for no less than Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch the Throne album.
It's the sort of thing that could turn a young man's head – an ascent this dizzyingly fast would be too much for many. But perhaps one of the most startling things in a generally startling tale is that, rather than developing a superstar DJ ego, Josh has kept his genial, laid-back self-effacing manner and silly sense of humour every step of the way. Along with his old school friend Shaun “Dr P” Brockhurst, with whom he formed the Circus label, he has done the only thing that's really feasible to do in an unprecedented situation like this and laugh at the sheer unlikeliness of it all – while going all-out to make sure that each new track they come up with matches or excels the rave-demolishing, eye-popping intensity of what they've achieved so far.
It helps that Josh was already an accomplished musician, and as a teenager had tried his hand at everything from hip hop and jazz funk to modern composition – indeed, he had gone to university to study composition with the idea of maybe becoming a jobbing soundtrack composer. But dubstep changed everything. “It completely removed the rulebook,” he says; “there's no right way to do it – what matters is making a noise that gets people going completely mental, so the opportunities to do exactly what you like as long as it gets people going.” And in keeping with this attitude, he's not allowing himself to get trapped by any purist notions of what is or isn't dubstep. “I know I'm not part of the original scene,” he laughs, “I'm just some guy from Northampton who made some tracks, and was lucky enough that they got picked up by big DJs.”
All of which means that he's going to make sure he doesn't take his position for granted, stand still or get trapped in having to replicate the formula of tracks like “Bass Cannon”. He has been inspired by his and Dr P's US tour when they realised that audiences were all facing the stage, treating them like a rock act rather than rave DJs, and is already working on material that can be toured and performed with a full band on stage. Tracks that he's putting together for his debut artist album feature Josh's distinctive rock vocals, and lyrics inspired by comics and science fiction with a cast of strange characters that recur in different forms: yes, that's right, it's possibly the first dubstep-rock concept album. Having already proved that he can rock stadium-sized crowds simply as a solo act, the thought of what he can achieve with a full band boggles the brain even more than what he's managed to do so far. It's not surprising one of his biggest tracks so far is called “I Can't Stop”, because it seems that he genuinely can't.
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