Stewart Procter has had a ubiquitous presence at fabric for a decade now, though the man rarely gets to play a record. As SP:MC, Procter has toasted and hosted an uncountable number of sets across all three rooms of the club and he’s probably one of the best at it too. Predominantly performing alongside drum & bass artists on the Metalheadz, Exit and Shogun Audio labels, you’ll also hear SP steering sets from dubstep DJs like Youngsta without ever eclipsing them. He’s got this perfectly recognisable ‘club’ voice and he always manages to frame the music properly without spoiling it. He knows how to work crowds of different sizes in different situations, he doesn’t wade into pre-written bars at the wrong time, he won’t shout profanities after his DJ reloads big tunes, though you might just hear him calling out Chelsea fans lurking at the back of FWD>>... He’s pretty much an unsung hero, a guy we’ve been meaning to tip our caps to for a while now and thankfully his warm up set and hosting duties for dBridge’s 5 hour set in Room Three next Friday (3rd August) gives us the perfect excuse.
A D&B Arena crowned ‘Best Emcee’, he’s also a pretty sharp engined dubstep producer releasing tunes under the SP:MC moniker on founding imprint Tempa, so we caught up with Procter to discuss how he got started, the art of emceeing and his production work...
Can you introduce yourself and your craft for those who may be unfamiliar with what you do?
Hello my name is Stewart Procter also known as SP:MC. I’m best known as a drum & bass MC, but also host the occasional dubstep set. I also produce drum & bass and dubstep music. I’ve been a resident MC at fabric for 10 years!
Were you always into drum & bass? I mean I grew up with friends that were purely into drum & bass and it was such a big part of their life and times? Was that you? What made you want to start MCing in the first place?
I first really got into music when I started secondary school. This was around 1991/1992 so before drum & bass had emerged from jungle music. The first stuff I got hold of was from the hardcore/rave scene – DJs like Ratpack, Carl Cox, Ellis Dee, Easygroove - Fantasia and Obsession tapes. These were all borrowed from my friends elder brothers. Soon the A.W.O.L and Dreamscape tapes started doing the rounds – this was 1993/1994 times, and I started going to the local record shops to buy the tape packs myself. I guess you could say I had ‘tunnel vision’ music-wise back then! The sound was so fresh I didn’t take much notice of anything else.
MC’s like GQ and Conrad made me want to start MCing. Hearing them on those early A.W.O.L & Dreamscape sets was my initial inspiration. I also really rated MC Dynamite when he started appearing on the Hysteria tapes hosting for Roni Size in 1995.
How did you get put on first? In your biog it mentions you making and hosting mixtapes with Jubei... was that your main outlet back when?
Yeah - my first break came in 2001 when GQ heard a mixtape I’d hosted for Jubei. He subsequently made us residents at his monthly Emcee Sessions event at Digwalls in Camden. Around the same time, Trex [who had started booking me for ‘Legends of the Dark Black’ events] introduced me to DJ Friction. Soon after I was MCing for him at Renegade Hardware @ The End. Those were the two breaks that really gave me my early momentum.
What do you think makes a good emcee? I mean you’ve hosted for d&b and dubstep raves and you have a rep for doing both incredibly well. Do you think the situations are different or require a different approach from the emcee?
You have to be able to read the crowd in front of you; different situations require different approaches definitely. Obviously if I’m playing to thousands of people at a festival I need to be more energetic than when I’m hosting an intimate set with dBridge or Youngsta for example. One thing always stays the same though, I never consider myself to be the main attraction. I try to build a link between the crowd and the DJ and I’ve always seen myself as the middleman.
How important was it for you to take the Best MC award at the D&B Arena awards? Like, was it a goal you’d always looked to achieve?
To be honest, it wasn’t a goal because I didn’t see it as achievable. I’d just got used to it being either Eksman or Skibadee winning it every year – and deservedly so. It was very flattering to win seeing as it’s a public vote, and I hadn’t asked anyone to vote for me on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. I’m honestly very grateful to everyone who voted for me.
What made you want to start making tracks yourself? I mean a lot of Drum & Bass MCs might turn to hip hop as a different arc of the art form, but you yourself chose to make beats, and Dubstep in particular... what drove you to those ends? Was it something that always fascinated you? Is it something you’ve always done?
I’d always been fascinated by music production. My first experiences in the studio were actually producing drum & bass tracks working alongside Breakage and Verse as engineers. ‘Trust Nobody’ on Tempa was the first track I made by myself. It was actually a natural progression for me, something I’d always planned on doing, I just couldn’t afford all the equipment when I was younger! I enjoy making dubstep because there’s a bit more space because it’s slower – and also more chance or making something original. It’s hard to make a drum & bass track these days without it reminding you of something that already exists…
Do you think you have an advantage when it comes to production considering that you’ve spent so much time in a club environment watching the crowd react to certain types of tunes?
I guess it can’t do any harm. What definitely helps is hearing my own productions in a club environment when they’re nearing completion. I can reference them against whatever’s played before/after, then go back in and make final adjustments.
Obviously you have close ties to labels like Shogun and Exit, but what did it mean to start having some of your tunes released on Tempa, probably the most pioneering ‘dubstep’ label?
It’s a real honour; the label has real heritage so to be a part of that discography is pretty cool. My next 12”, which is nearly finished, will be my fifth release for them.
What’s next for you? More releases? More vocal work?
As I just mentioned above there’s another Tempa 12” in the works, a collaboration with Youngsta & Kryptic Minds, plus another track with Youngsta nearly finished. There’s a Code 3 vs. Ulterior Motive track entitled ‘Yeti’ forthcoming on a Symmetry LP later in the year. I’ve got vocals on a Jubei track forthcoming on Metalheadz and there’s also something on Breakage’s next album on Digital Soundboy.
Catch SP:MC DJing before and hosting throughout dBridge’s five hour set a week on Friday in Room Three.