Skream, real name Oliver Jones, is an iconic music producer and DJ from London. He had a pioneering role in the emergence of Dubstep and his music helped bring awareness to the scene. While Skream is well known for this, his talent extends much further than a single genre and his more recent success in House, Disco and Techno prove that he’s still at the top of his game. But how did Skream get to where he did?
Skream was obsessed with music from a young age. He broke into his brother DJ Hijak’s room to play with his turntables, before ditching school to experiment on music production software or hang out at Big Apple Records in Croydon. Inspired by the likes of El B and Horsepower Productions, Skream developed an obsession for the darker, bass-filled side of UK Garage. His early productions focused on this dark sound and he’d work on Fruity Loops (now FL Studio), hoping to make something that caught the ear of DJ Hatcha, one of the most influential players in the emerging scene.
As he developed his sound, DJs began asking for exclusive tracks to use within their sets. He had some success getting tunes like ‘Cape Fear’ played by DJ Hatcha on pirate radio and at FWD>>, a pioneering club night run by Ammunition Promotions (where Skream would later perform). Skream’s first EP was ‘The Judgement’ in 2003, which he co-produced alongside longtime collaborator and friend Benga. The duo released their second EP ‘Hydro’ a year later.
One of his biggest releases, ‘Midnight Request Line' in 2005, saw success across multiple scenes, especially with Grime legends Wiley, Skepta and Jammer. The track later featured on his seminal debut album and this, combined with his dark reworks of popular tracks, like La Roux’s ‘In for the Kill’ and the Klaxons’ ‘Not Over Yet’ in the following years, helped catapult Dubstep into the spotlight.
Skream hosted a weekly Rinse FM show, The Stella Sessions, from 2006. This became the Skream & Benga show when longtime collaborator Benga joined in 2010 (the pair would later host a regular slot on BBC Radio 1). Along with iconic producer, DJ and Big Apple native, Artwork, the trio formed Dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man the same year. Their mainstream-leaning self titled 2010 debut album was released to critical acclaim and reached number five in the UK Album Chart and the preceding singles ‘I Need Air’ and ‘Perfect Stranger’ featured on the singles chart. The fusion of their signature sounds combined with Pop-style vocal features further brought underground Dubstep to the masses.
Whilst primarily associated with Dubstep, Skream’s tastes have always been eclectic. He started feeling uninspired with the music he was playing and started incorporating House, Techno and Disco in his DJ sets. His second album ‘Outside the Box’ came out in 2010 and explores genres from Drum and bass to House and Hip hop and features tracks with La Roux, Murs, dBridge, and Instra:mental. Later releases such as ‘Rollercoaster’ with Sam Frank and his double mix CD with Pete Tong further indicated his changing style.
Since Skream has departed from Dubstep, he's worked alongside some of the biggest names in House and Techno, much to the disappointment of some of his early fans. However, never one to compromise, he recently launched his own label, IFEEL, allowing him the creative freedom to explore any style he wants alongside some artists he really admires. The label debuted in 2021 with hard-hitting Techno EP, ‘Chesters Groove’, featuring two remixes from Berghain resident Norman Nodge, and has had a handful of releases since.
Back to his roots
However, purist Dubstep lovers needn't worry – last year, Skream released an eight-track album of tunes from his early days, titled ‘Unreleased Classics Vol.1 2003 - 2003’. He also recorded an hour-long mix earlier this year for London Unlocked, featuring brand new Dubstep, celebrating the sound he pioneered.
Skream secured his place in Dubstep history at a young age, but his passion for music has always kept him pushing for more. His eclectic tastes have led him to develop an incredibly varied catalogue. In the following years since his debut album, he’s produced countless tracks in many styles and sold out shows around the globe, proving that he can hold his own regardless of genre. Skream is still at the top of his game; he’s a UK icon that will go down in the history books. To hear his story in his own words and get invaluable advice from the man himself, check out his new video course all about his experience breaking into the music industry, ‘Always original’.
Special thanks to Big Apple Records, Lee Taylor (Get Darker) and Andrew Jennings (Dubstep – A Beginners Guide) for the images provided.