23 Feb Spag Heddy: A Decade of Dubstep
By Matt Cosmai
*This interview is older and was in our Issue 61 magazine.
Europe’s Spag Heddy is truly one of a kind. The dubstep artist has been in the game for almost a decade now and has rocked the stage at festivals all over the world. With hard-hitting bangers and lots of pasta puns, how could you not love Spag Heddy?
I recently had a chance to chat with the Dutch DJ about his influences, Never Say Die, his creative process, and much more.
You have roots in Europe but have played a great deal in the United States. What was your initial transition as a performer into the United States from Europe like for you? What are the main differences you have noticed between the US and European EDM scenes?
The first major difference to me was there was more of a mainstream feeling to the dubstep scene in the US. There were dancers, CO2 cannons, standing on tables, and stuff like that which you would hardly ever see in European dubstep shows. Bass music shows are a lot more lowkey, underground, and simplistic.
Oh, and let’s not forget about how in the states ALL DJs are on the mic during their OWN sets. Even openers. This totally blew my mind. In Europe, it is almost a dance floor killer if you did that. If anyone is on the mic it’s an MC. I gotta say that this has slightly changed over the years but back then this was new to me.
Which artists did you listen to growing up?
I’ve had my phases of punk rock, metal, hip hop, psytrance, d&b. Artists and bands like Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, 50 Cent, Eminem, The Game, Avalon, Noisia, High Contrast, etc.
I grew up in a Christian home so in my youngest years I basically only heard (and performed) gospel music, for which I’m very thankful because it’s some of the best music on earth.
You have performed at festivals such as EDC Las Vegas, Lost Lands, Life Is Beautiful, Electric Forest, and many others. What has been your favorite festival performance to date?
All festivals, whatever their size, have their own personality, so I could tell you amazing things about each one of them. Some standouts for me personally set-wise though were definitely Electric Forest, Lost Lands, Sunset Music Festival, Electric Zoo, and Buku. Just from my DJ perspective, these had the best vibes, crowd responses, and energy during my sets.
Festivals like EDC Vegas, EDC Mexico, Life Is Beautiful, Bass Canyon, Shambhala and so many more will also forever have some of the best memories in my mind for their sheer magnitude and positive atmospheres.
You have been outspoken about how much Skrillex has influenced your sound. What about Skrillex do you like so much and in what ways do you try to emulate him in your own career?
Being a nerd, I have always been obsessed with his monstrous sound design but that’s obviously what caught everybody’s attention at first. What makes him even better is his musical development over the years. The fact is he consistently is ahead of everybody else with his sound design and style in a wide variety of music genres.
I will forever be the early years Skrillex fanboy and you will keep hearing that in my music, but I also try to experiment with other genres as he does. For example, I experiment with adding a bit more hip hop/trappy beats in intros or vocal chops in drops.
“Blood of the Weak” with Dubloadz was one of my favorite tracks of 2019. What was the creative process for putting this track together like?
Thank you! It was originally a project I made called “Chunk.” Dave and I always send each other our works in progress. He heard it and was excited about it so he offered to hop on it. I was stoked. It was, once again, the perfect track to blend our styles.
I believe it was just a single drop at first, with not even an intro, and Dave immediately wrote an intro and an overall theme for it. He added a bunch of his basses, signature cartoony percussions, wonky sounds and it filled up the track perfectly. After that, we sent each other the project over a few more times but mostly to fix some patterns and do the mixdown which took way too long. Haha. But, we ended up with our 3rd crazy banger.
You have released several projects and singles through Never Say Die Records, most recently your Armageddy EP. What do you like about Never Say Die?
They have been the most consistent label since the beginning of the golden days for dubstep with their artist signings and releases. What more do I need to say than Skrillex, Zomboy, Eptic, 501, MUST DIE, and I can keep on going.
There were tons of great other labels and artists out there don’t get me wrong, but Never Say Die was always the steadiest one and more varied with both super heavy as super melodic artists. Never Say Die was always my dream label to release on.
What were your expectations for your Armageddy EP that dropped in February?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. While at the same time it’s fantastic to have
earned a spot at your dream label, it’s also scary because you have a high standard and hype to keep up to. You have so many eyes and ears on you and with so many amazing artists out there.
I’ve teased the tracks through lots of my shows though and watching the crowd responses, I had a pretty good feeling about the EP. The Armageddy theme was a lot of fun to work with for both the EP and the tour as well. How we put it all together really felt like I stepped up in my career by another little step.
Moore Kismet’s official remix of your song “Zoom” is a very unique track. Why did you recruit a young artist like Moore Kismet for this remix? How did this remix come about?
I was blown away by the creativity and quality of this guy at such a young age so yeah, obviously, I wanted to give him some extra spotlight. All remixers were chosen by me for their respective qualities. Moore Kismet’s groove is incredible so that was a no-brainer.
Your spaghetti puns run deep with you going on a Planet Pasta tour and even releasing a Meatball Mafia EP. In an industry where many artists take themselves very seriously, what do you think the benefits and setbacks are of letting your guard down and putting out a fun, lighthearted persona?
I never chose the name for a branding purpose. I literally just thought it was a funny name at the time and nothing more. Later on, it would turn out to be super easy and marketable but that was only a happy accident.
My career took off so fast. Meanwhile, I got sick of the name pretty quickly but also realized it was actually good to stick with because of it’s fun and humoristic nature. I have always thought I would not want a serious, scary, or gangster kinda name which is what you see a lot in the bass music realm.
The benefits of the name are that it’s lighthearted so it’s easily acceptable for a big audience and everybody can relate because it’s about pasta and who doesn’t like pasta? The setback has been that for years and years. I hear people make the same jokes/puns and at the end of the day, that’s only great for my brand!
What is your favorite kind of pasta?
At the moment, rigatoni.
What accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?
There are two levels. On the commercial level, I’m most proud to have played at some of the most iconic venues/festivals in the world such as Red Rocks, EDC Vegas, and Tomorrowland.
On a personal level, I am proud to have made a living out of music because I never considered that an option.
What is your preferred DAW and why?
FL Studio is my preferred DAW because it’s the first DAW I learned. Its non-linear workflow is unique and feels best to me.
What is your favorite tool to use for sound design?
One of my oldest post-processing tricks is using a vocoder on nearly all my basses. Another trick is to have a multi-band compressor on the master from the start of a project. This also has its flaws but it works for me. My favorite plugins are Harmor, Massive, Serum, OTT, and Disperser.
What would you say is the most difficult part of navigating the music industry and how do you work to overcome this difficulty?
I live in Europe which literally puts me a big distance from the music industry and honestly, I think it helps with staying out of people’s dramas. My circle of friends and the people I work with have always been small and I think that really helps if you wanna stay chilling. I could not live in LA. It would be too much of a constant direct stream of people, attitudes, and all sorts of social and commercial pressure. I keep to myself and my family a lot and for me, that works.
What do you think sets you apart from your contemporaries as a dubstep producer?
You’d think that by now I would be able to tell but I actually can’t. From what I collect from what other people say is that my music sounds more personal, or closer to home, than others, in a way, because it’s less polished, and not pretentious. Someone recently compared it to other producers sounding like an electric guitar whereas I’m more of an acoustic.
It’s just an opinion but I can see the point of it. There is no better or worse. They’re just two different personalities. And you can like or dislike as many personalities as you want. Apparently, my musical personality/style speaks to plenty of people so I’m happy with that.
How do you define “success” in the music industry as it relates to your own personal career?
Like I said before, on a personal level you’re successful if you can make it as a musician. To be commercially truly successful, however, is probably when you are in your lane of music. You get to play at the big venues with the ultimate goal for most people to be touring with your own tour bus, crew, and support.
Which three up and coming dubstep artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
The three up and coming dubstep artists I would like to collaborate with in the future are L.U.X, Ravachol, and Trvcy.
What advice do you have for any aspiring artists struggling to develop their own unique sound?
If it’s about sounding unique, there is no one simple answer that works for everyone. I think that everyone has something that keeps returning in whatever song they produce. It’s something they can’t escape from. They just have to do it because they love it and it’s in their system.
This can be a certain flow, or a specific sound, a rhythm, the way of using samples, drum fills, vocals, or anything really. You have to discover that for yourself. It helps if you make basses or other sounds from scratch instead of using sample packs and presets so you’re not influenced.
What are your current plans for the rest of the year?
It seems like shows are still far away so I’ll be comfortable making music at home and occasionally do a live stream. There’s new music on the way and more planned for which you have to check out my socials!