John Robb ponders…

Is dubstep is the new punk – the most groundbreaking music of the day?

Check this brilliant new dubstep producer from Manchester

A couple of years ago I was in a dubstep club and was invited onto the stage were the DJ was hammering some great heavy tunes.

The MC was rocking it on the mic and I was instantly struck by the familiarity of it all. The packed crowd were bunched up stage front like a mosh pit, the MC was barking and shouting with the pure mania of adrenalised performance and the beats were fast and heavy- fuck me I thought- it was like being on stage at a punk/hardcore gig- the same dynamic, the same sense of community, the same all consuming avalanche of thrilling sound. What’s important here though is that it’s not the sound we are talking about but the spirit and the sense of too hell with everything creativity. This is the cutting edge- the edge of the universe and no-one knows what is next…

Dubstep and punk/hardcore have many parallels, they have many of the same fans for a start, and they also have the same sense of underground, the same sense of fierce dedication to the music.

They are popular and influential outsider musics- unplaced on so called ”Ëœalternative’ radio stations- radio stations where alternative is permanently jammed into the world of jangly indie pop released on pretend indie labels set up by major labels.

Dubstep and punk/hardcore rely on speed and ideas and dubstep, like punk, is in love with the heavy bottom end of dub reggae. Many dubsteppers I have met have their roots in hardcore punk and are in love with both scenes but they enjoy the freedom of dubstep and its no barriers no frontiers attitude and that is maybe where both forms differ.

Like the opening chords of ‘Anarchy’ caught the mood of decaying UK in 1976, or Jimi Hendrix’s guitar rush sounds like late sixties napalm, dusbtep’s signature big wobbly bass line and dark atmospherics really capture the mood of these uncertain times.

Is dubstep is the new punk – the most groundbreaking music of the day?

Punk has become hidebound to rules and dubstep is wide open. Anything goes. And when anything goes music is perfect. This is a sonic wild west. With no gatekeepers and it’s beginning to breal onto the fringes of the mainstream.

And this could be where dubstep, the only modern music could be in trouble. It’s success has seen it impinge on the real world with every clueless popstar looking for some underground cred has got a dubstep mix going on.

This is great news for the producers and mixers. Afterall everyone deserves a pay day. But it could spell the end of the musical form as it becomes some handy beats for Britney Spear’s disembowelled, sampled and autotuned voice to warble over.

Of course it could even escape this by being so fluid a form that it has already moved somewhere else.

Dubstep can do this because it’s the only true modern music. It doesn’t have any discernible tradition and its not bogged down in retro yet. It is a shape shifting, elastic musical force with its own rules and its own arguments and it exists beyond the media and the business in its own world.

Perhaps the only modern music.

Previous articleGeneration X- the most underrated of the punk bands
Next articleNew Artic Monkeys single – listen to it here now
Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Thanks for an interesting piece of writing John. I have to say that this is my first experience of Dubstep and I am inclined to agree with your observation. Great music and the longer it can stay underground the better.

    There have always been close ties between the punk and underground dance scenes. There was many a mohican among the dancers in the underground raves being ran in the UK and Ireland in the early/mid nineties and I could be counted as being among them.

    The DIY ability and attitude also brings the two scenes together. These guys can create and produce their music on a laptop with the required software. They are the modern garage musicians.

  2. True true, Dubstep has been moving on for quite some time, you just have to dig deeper then the specific sound which is being saturated so rapidly by every pop star out there.

    I’ve been into the genre since the Garage and Grime days, It’s was essentially what I grew up to, but strangely never liked, I was a Rock N Roll fan in an Urban setting, growing older I headed back to electronica since the early RinseFM days where there was just one online forum and a few mixes from club nights here and there.
    While the genre could get milked by the mass music machine pretty quickly, I like to think that since It was a genre born in the digital age, it also has the adaptibility of the digital age, and I think it really has. SOme artists are wishing for the £/$ sign and make generic sounding beats, a niche amount are hunting for that new sound that Electronic music offers, and in specific, the bass heavy kind. Dig deeper, you’ll find a far more enriching experience then you’ll imagine.

  3. I agree completely with what you’re saying, but I think class has a lot to do with it too. Punk was had its ethics rooted in the working class whereas dubstep appeals to a more middle class audience. I think this ‘underground’ affiliation both genres have says a lot about what’s relevant nowadays, and whats seen to be ‘cool’ and influential, perhaps middle-class is the new working class? Not just in terms of music, but modern culture as a whole.

  4. Loads of northern working class kids are into Dubstep. I see a parallel with not only Punk but Acid House in that bands were formed that embraced the particular culture and eventually went overground. This has yet to happen with Dubstep.That’s the exciting thing it’s still yet to happen.

  5. I’m not at all saying that northern working class people aren’t into dubstep, I’m saying that dubstep is more often than not produced by middle class people on laptops.

    • you talk absolute shite – dont embarrass yourself in public anymore darling – go back to the flower-arranging and chick lit

  6. wrong.

    if anything, dubstep is the new heavy metal. so many wanna-be aggressive types being sucked into its ridiculous. you want the next punk? watch out for the next wave of music that stands up and tells dubstep to go fuck itself

  7. […] Is dubstep is the new punk – the most groundbreaking music of the day? […]

  8. I don’t think i’ve ever seen so many ill-informed comments in one place in my whole life. Punk was (with the exception of oi/street punk) middle class kids pretending to be working class and getting it all wrong. the British working class have always been into dance not cock – mod/skinhead/soulboys/jazz-funk/hiphop/rave. Dubstep is as with most dance music offshots largely working-class. Rave “had loads of connections with punk” what utter bollocks – most ravers couldnt give a toss about rock music – maybe you were on that posh crusty rave scene with all the other Tarquins. And finally loads of “working class northerners” what’s that got to do with anything don’t they have working class kids anywhere else in england?!
    Think you should all piss off back to your indie (and punk if you like) with all the other middle class student tossers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here