Profiles in Bass IV: Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore (Exclusive Interview)

Author: Karsten Kohout

Journalism focused on EDM is the ugly duckling of the music media world.   That statement is sure to ruffle some feathers (pun completely intended) but give me a chance to explain my reasoning.  Dance music is all about inspiring euphoria, or an otherwise brief instance of concentrated emotions.  A progressive house tune with a soaring vocal proselytizing about how we need to, “forget our normal lives,” can bring listeners to the highest of highs, while an earth-rumbling bass track can make a listener feel like as if they’ve left the planet all together.  Flowery statements like the previous sentence fit with dance music because both are focused on immediate impact, rather than lasting effects.  Short-form content makes sense for dance music coverage.

To be clear, I’m not saying that long-form content around dance music cannot work.  Just like the lesson of the ugly duckling: shallow judgements are not accurate in the long term.

Labels which feature written content such as UKF alongside dedicated websites like edm.com and Dubstep Mag have proven that extended conversation around dance music not only has merit, but an audience as well.  In fact, if you’re reading this now, you yourself are proof of EDM journalism’s worth!

Check out last week’s interview with former edm.com writer Simrat Pal, who now produces under the name SEWS.

Print media still wears the crown in dance music world.  While the rest of the music community seems to be moving to YouTube for the majority of its content, dance music has lagged behind.  Proof of this can be found by looking at the view counts on Nardwuar’s interviews.  While an interview with a hip-hop artist will get millions of clicks, the interviews with Dillon Francis and Diplo sit at 120k and 245k respectively, with the Skrillex interview being the outlier at 1.4 million views.

Yet, there is one reviewer who stands as evidence of the potential dance music journalism has on YouTube.

Enter 25-year-old London resident Connor Whitmore, and his channel Nawtystep.

If Connor was simply rambling on into his phone’s camera about how much he loves a track, my preamble about dance music journalism would have nowhere to go.  Luckily, this is not the case.

Comments are concise, edits are tight, and impressions are made clear in every Nawtystep video.

While most the content on Connor’s channel is meticulously preconceived, this article would be amiss to not mention the listening portions included in each video.  In a genre that’s all about the listener’s initial reaction, it’s endearing to watch someone react to a track the same way you did.  Particularly in a time where in-person enjoyment of music has been put on pause, watching one of Connor’s “Live Review” videos brings back the feelings of being at a concert or enjoying a track with friends.

Check out this Live Review featuring phonon’s “polyriddim” where the interview done with phonon on kxsu.org was referenced.

Connor’s dedication to a high-quality standard and passion for bass music is why he stands as an example of the future of dance music journalism.  He adds to discussions in his comment section, is constantly active on Twitter, and interacts directly with the artists he covers.  Connor’s brand of journalism is personal, and for a genre of music that’s all about bringing people together in the moment, I can’t think of a more fitting match.

Recently, I got the chance to interview Connor:

Karsten Kohout: Hi Connor!  Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.  In a recent video you broke down how you review music and revealed just how methodical you are with the process.  Did you have previous experience in writing and video production prior to starting the Nawtystep channel?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Yo! My pleasure. Yes, my background is very journalistic. My mum has always been a writer, she was undoubtedly my biggest influence on that front. At school I was encouraged to write as much as I could as well. My main ‘thing’ in my teenage years was football (or soccer as you might call it) – I had my own blog called ‘Love Football’. That interest dwindled over time, and simultaneously I really got into electronic music, starting Nawtystep as a blog in 2013, writing every now and then but not enough. Only at university did I realize I could transfer my words to screen when I started watching the likes of Anthony Fantano, ARTV, LandonRemixes etc., and promised myself that I would start the channel post-uni at the end of 2017. On the video production front I had no experience at all before starting the channel, although I did act my whole life until my early 20s, and that’s played a part in how I am on screen for sure.

KK: How long does a typical EP review take to make?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: It completely depends on how much detail there is in the music. I’m about extricating as many sounds and moments as possible – the artist has included them for a reason, how could I ignore them? If there isn’t a lot to comment on, the review isn’t going to take me very long to write, maybe a couple of hours. However, if there are a wealth of second drop changes in the project, or different genres on show, loads of wild transitions – can be anything – then there’s simply more to talk about. A Virtual Riot EP, for example, will take me a fair few hours to plan and execute because there’s so much going on. When I say I have nightmares about writing the review for his potential upcoming new album, would you believe me?

KK: What would your reaction be if someone referred to you as “the Anthony Fantano of Bass Music” and do you ever actively compare your work to his?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Many people have, and it’s nice to hear solely as a recognition of what I do, and am trying to do for the Bass scene. If I ever get to his level of music knowledge for bass music I will die a happy man. In response to the final part of this question, I’d say it’s difficult not to compare my work to his. When you see the audience he’s got, the vastness of his knowledge, the way he communicates what he thinks so clearly and effectively – I want to do what I can to have the equivalent. I have modelled what I do on what he does because he is the example. What he is for music at large, I would love to be for Bass music, no doubt.

KK: Recently, Sound Field put out a video on the history of dubstep which you reacted to.  Do you think dubstep will ever break its close connection to the brostep/zapstep sound in the general public’s eyes?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I just wrote quite a long answer for this, but it’s a little convoluted and I’m struggling to piece what I’ve said together. Short answer: it would take an absolutely seismic stylistic change for that connection to break, given what the genre has become in the last decade – especially as it’s one most people hardly take notice of.

KK: Will the hair be cut post-social distancing?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: It will indeed, once the hairdressers’ open again, and I’m excited for it. The mullet has become a staple of my image over the last half-year or so, but it’s time for it to go now. Keep the top, but short back and sides. GIVE IT TO ME.

KK: Which one is more likely: dubstep migrating en masse to 160 BPM or 110 BPM and why?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: 160 BPM because Dubstep is made solely for the live environment, and live music is better when it’s quicker, right? If you slowed it to 110BPM it would practically be Midtempo or Moombahcore, and those are two genres whose space I will not have any headbangers invading.

KK: The amount of detail you include when breaking down a track has always made me wonder if you have a background in music production.  Have you experimented with music production in the past?  And if not, do you plan to get into music production at all in the future?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I have indeed. I used to be in a trio with my two friends from school, August and Finbarr, called Triptik. We made 3 tracks to my knowledge, and it was a lot of fun (albeit difficult to decide on certain things at points!). Re producing in the future, it’s something I’d like to try my hand at again, but that wouldn’t be for a while yet. Right now, my thing is discussing music, no question.

KK: What would your producer name be if you did jump into music production?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Connor Descending.

‪KK: You consistently come back to the importance of the snare in your reviews. Describe your perfect snare in 10 words or less.

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Well-suited to, and backs up, whatever lays on top.

KK: Have you ever thought about starting a record label or doing formal A&R?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I have, yes. That is all.

KK: Currently polyriddim by phonon is the talk of the town.  Your pinned tweet (as of the time of this interview) talks about how the need to go heavier and heavier in bass music has overtaken the push for creativity. Do you think the trends polyriddim have started will supply the creativity you’re thinking of?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I’d like to think so. If I’m a producer and I hear that track, I’m thinking ‘Oh well if he/she/they’re doing that and it’s getting that much traction, whether they like it or not, I can experiment as well’. A lot of producers feel they can’t take these risks with their creation, because of course if a song doesn’t go off live then what’s the point? So yes, in a perfect world ‘polyriddim’ kickstarts a load of fresh, challenging and ambitious ideas because everyone else feels they can do similar things.

KK: Speaking of heaviness, We’re both big fans of Marauda.  How would you describe his influence on bass music in the past few years?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Verging on gargantuan. To be a teenager with the following he has, the amount of people imitating his style, whilst still being a relatively quiet, to himself individual that hardly pipes up on social media, just shows how much of an impact his sound has made. To think he was 15/16 when he released Twin Turbo – the first track of his I heard and which placed in my Top Remixes of the Decade – is frightening. Year on year from him it’s been not only fantastic ideas, but the sense of story and sharp production/execution to back it up. Excited to see where he takes his sound, brand and imprint going forward.

KK: You recently saw Marauda at Printworks last October and attended Lost Lands in 2018.  Do you think a Lost Lands style festival could be successful in the UK?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I do think so, yes. That is all.

KK: Coming back to polyriddim for a second, you said your stepdad was into the track and called it jazz.  Will we get another family reacts video in the future?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: 100%! My step-dad was an 80s UK pop-star singing in a duo called Hue & Cry, they’re still going strong now. His background is massively steeped in music, he’s very open to everything I review and is keen to be a part of a video. When I’m able to get down to Devon (the very South of England) where my Dad and step-brother are, we will definitely be filming again. My mum will take some convincing but she’s been more open to the idea every time I’ve mentioned it. I hope she does because honestly that could be the funniest one yet!

KK: What’s your immediate reaction to this phrase: “Percussion-less EDM”?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Love it. Inject it into my veins.

KK: Brave by Joyryde brought the conversation about albums in the dance music world back to the forefront.  What is it about dance music that makes the album format so much more difficult to do well as opposed to singles or EPs?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: I wouldn’t say it’s difficult for dance music at large, but I would say it is for Bass music. An album, for me, is at least 9 tracks and half an hour long, with peaks and troughs, amongst other things. For your everyday Dubstep producer, for example, to write an album – someone whose norm is writing emphatic, concise, to the point bangers – is more of a challenge than it would be for a Future Bass producer, for example. A project that size requires more than drops and shock factor. Over the years several predominantly Dubstep producers – Skrillex, Zomboy, Kill The Noise etc. – showed the diversity of their sound through an LP, but many Dubstep producers can’t do that – or, perhaps more importantly, they don’t feel the need to. They keep to singles, EPs and the banger formula. Some have created almost entirely Dubstep albums (look at Nero, Code: Pandorum for example) and they’ve worked, but it’s very rare – you normally need a very strong theme running through it like they had. It’s the same with other Bass genres. Would ‘Brave’ work as well without the Trap, Garage and Classical in between all the Bass House? You have to venture beyond drop culture a bit, which many Bass artists aren’t used to, and which is necessary for an album to be bearable. Hearing 10 heavy AF drop-fuelled, adrenaline-driven songs is gonna be a formulaic and trying listen for the most part. Providing variety and moments of calm/respite/reflection creates flow and displays a willingness to experiment and go outside that comfort zone.

KK: I’ve found it can be difficult to describe why I love the darker side of EDM to someone who is not already into it.  How would you summarize why you love bass music?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Phwoar what a question. I love exercising my will-power as much as possible. I spend a lot of time refraining from eating/drinking certain things, watching tv, going on social media – “treating myself” as it were – if I know it isn’t good for me. That’s a lot of pent up energy when there’s so much temptation around. Bass music is, always has been and always will be, the ultimate release from that. It’s the one constant in my life that really appeals to the primal part of my being and allows me to fully let go. At the end of the day, we’re all animals right, and Bass music is as animalistic as it gets. It’s consistently been the most pure emotion and feeling I’ve experienced over the stretch of my life.

KK: And lastly, the question everyone has been waiting for, the most important question of this entire interview: Can you lie?

Nawtystep / Connor Whitmore: Today, good sir, I really canny lie.

 

If you’re at all a fan of bass music, tune in to the Nawtystep channel for new videos Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday!

Follow Nawtystep Here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnxHwEoQ4VVJFN8rdQO8eXw/featured

https://twitter.com/NawtystepBlog

https://www.instagram.com/nawtystep/

 

 

 

KARSTEN KOHOUT | Keeping you up to date on bass | KXSU Business Director

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