Chatting with dubstep stalwart Addison Groove ahead of his first Middle East gig

A leading light of the sprawling British bass-music scene, producer and DJ Tony Williams – known by the alias Addison Groove – performs at Velocity at the J W Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.

Fans of forward-thinking dance music have a splendid month ahead, thanks to the tastemakers behind the regular Dubai club night Karak Beats. On Thursday, March 3, a leading light of the sprawling British bass-­music scene, producer and DJ Tony Williams – known by the alias Addison Groove – performs at Velocity at the J W Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai. Then on March 24, London dubstep pioneer Mala, of Digital Mystikz and DMZ fame, brings his resonating bass and deep beats to the same venue.

First gaining prominence under the sobriquet Headhunter, Williams spearheaded his home city of Bristol’s influential contribution to dubstep’s evolution in the mid-2000s. In the same way that dubstep emerged from the dust of grime and garage in the early 2000s, Williams conti­nued its shape-shifting journey in 2010 when he added the alias Addison Groove to his CV.

He announced his new direction with the breakout club hit Footcrab. His work as Addison Groove features echoes of juke and footwork (mutations of house music developed in Chicago), hip-hop and acid-­house drum machines, alongside his low-end dubstep influences.

You haven’t played in the Middle East before – what are you expecting?

I’m expecting vibes. New place, new crowd. I’m genuinely intrigued by the whole thing.

As somebody who’s been making music for many years, is it nice to play in new places and have a large section of a crowd hear you for the first time?

Yeah, keeps it fresh for me. I also get to dig into some tracks that might be old for me but brand new for you, which is always nice as a DJ. It’s important to not play every brand-new track if you have the ability to teach the crowd a bit of history.

Are you aware of any kindred sprits making music in the UAE/Middle East? And have you taken any musical influence from the region?

I have not been looking at who’s doing stuff there, I’m afraid. I’m always looking externally for influences. I’ll have to ask if there is any record shops out that way I can visit when I’m there.

Will this be a DJ set? Or will you be rolling out your 808 drum-machine live set-up?

Just DJ. I play it all, from African house to drum ‘n’ bass. Usually, I can discover what the crowd is into and roll with that style. The 808 is retired. It’s 33 years old now. Still a beast, though.

What’s the most unusual reaction you have experienced to an Addison Groove set?

Getting handed money while DJing is pretty good – that’s happened many times. Good sign you’re on to something good, right?

You recently played in Goa in India – how did that go?

Awesome. I came on before Mala, which is always a treat. I had a really good time, and it appeared the crowd did, too.

Reviewers seem to have a hard time pinning down your music in terms of genre – how would you describe it?

Good. I sit somewhere like “experimental party music” – my beats are always a little bastardised.

Footcrab seems to have taken on a life of its own, with other artists still remixing/editing it six years after its release. Do you still play it in your sets or does it bore you now?

I didn’t play it for years, and now I have some new remixes that I have been playing in the last few weeks that have really been going off, so I will be sure to play that [in Dubai].

Are you in a different mindset or mood when you record as Addison Groove as opposed to Headhunter?

Yeah, totally different, really. Headhunter is very dubstep-orientated. My Addison Groove stuff is really anything that I’m into that week/month. I plan on doing more Headhunter stuff this year. I will probably even play my new Headhunter tunes in my Addison Groove set – it seems to transfer well. All very confusing, isn’t it?

From very humble beginnings in England, dubstep has become a commercial monster that few of its pioneers would have anticipated. Do you still feel aligned to the genre?

It fell off a massive cliff and needed a few years in the grave. I’m thinking right now is a really good time for it to come back from the ashes.

Bristol has been a hugely musical city over the past few decades, having been at the forefront of movements such as dubstep, drum ‘n’ bass/jungle and trip-hop. How has living there influenced you?

In every way, from growing up with the jungle to what is going on now. It’s evolving always, and that’s what makes this place so special. It will take a lot for me to leave Bristol.

• Addison Groove plays on Thursday, March 3, at Karak Beats at Velocity, J W Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai. 9pm to 3am, Dh100, free before 11pm

aworkman@thenational.ae