Rusko Puts Dub Back in Dubstep on 'Squeeze (Burnin),' Talks New EP: Exclusive

Jennica Abrams


Fee fi fo fum, who's ready for some womps from an Englishman? You best get yourself prepped, because dubstep dynamo Rusko is about to start 2019 with a massive boom. He just signed a new EP over to Zeds Dead's label Deadbeats, a crew he's been tight with for some years who brought him as a co-headliner for its big showcase at Red Rocks in 2018.

The five-track, yet-untitled collection, due out in full in early spring, plays like an audible tour of the seasoned selector's wild, overactive brain. It's a project of love, experimentation and self-exploration that returns dubstep to its root sounds while breathing new life into its modern palette. It's much more than dubstep, though, as Rusko incorporates all manner of influences. There's a lot more where it came from, too, as Rusko finds himself in the midst of a vibrant creative flow.

In truth, most of the tracks were about 90 percent finished before Rusko left on his 2018 summer tour. He tested a bunch of tunes at Lost Lands and other festival stages, and the ones that popped off best with audiences are the ones that made the final cut.

“It was my usual trial and error really,” he tells Billboard Dance. “I never work when I'm on the road. I don't take a laptop or anything. I'm away for two months, and I take my USBs, my headphones and that's it … It's good to have to have that break, because when I do get back, I'm stacked with ideas. I can't get the ideas on the page fast enough.”

The EP leads with single “Squeeze (Burnin),” a lively song that reeks of reggae in its bounce and vocal samples.

“I've been trying to put more of the 'dub' back into dubstep,” Rusko says. “That's the stuff that people always ask me to play, the tracks the people always talk to me about. It's a nice return, and in 2019, there's no one really doing that. There's a lot of influence, there's still the hardcore riddim bass and all the rest of it, maybe like a reggae vocal, but there's no one doing the straight, kind of bouncy, up tempo stuff like it used to be.

“It's a deliberate attempt to to rekindle those fires of the old vibe,” he continues, “in direct opposition to everything else that's going on.”

Similar vibes are heard on a rowdy stomper called “Squirrel Beta” and on “Spatula,” a tune that takes Rusko back to the funkadelic wonk of his “Woo Boost” days. The EP is a bright, candy-colored sun spot that aims get feet moving and bring smiles to the dance floor.

“The one thing that is missing I think in dubstep a lot these days is melody,” he says. “It's just a lot more about cool sounds rather than cool melodies and nice tunes. It doesn't have to be a pretty, happy tune but melody seems to have taken a bit of a backseat. I try and push that as much as possible. People don't dance to sound design. You can't sing along to sound design. It's cool, it's great, it's fun, but that's not what people go home remembering.”

The most melodic of all is the EP's one melancholic moment, a beautiful, string and bass tune called “Open the Feeling” that Rusko calls his “homage to the old school garage vibes.”

“It was literally my attempt to try to make a track like Burial, and it came out so good,” he says. “Initially, it was all just for myself. It's pretty chill, definitely not a dance floor track. It's not something I've ever played in my DJ sets, but it just stuck with me … I kept listening to it, and when other people heard it and other tracks, that seemed to be the one that they really liked. It just grew its own little life, but really, it's a Burial rip off.

Rounding out the EP is a hyper rhythmic track called “Hardcore Raven.”

“it's not as much taking old school hardcore influences and putting it in dubstep as just making straight old school hardcore,” Rusko says. “I wanted to put a track of that flavor on the EP, and I had the biggest list to choose from … I could have even done a whole separate EP of just that vibe. (I) laid the groundwork for maybe doing that at some point.”

Rusko's got a bunch planned in the coming weeks. He's got a remix of PLS&TY's “Rebel Love” coming next Friday, Feb. 1, as well as an official music video for “Squeeze (Burnin).” There are a few collaborations in the works; one with Bassnectar he says “has been a long time coming,” as well as a series of new happy hardcore tunes with Ducky.

“We're going to do a bunch more and make a whole project out of it, if we can,” he says. “They just seem to be coming out really quick. She's really cool to work with, and she's an amazing singer and vocal writer. We sit down, make the track and then she just plugs the mic in and rolls out an amazing vocal. That's always the bit that takes forever afterwards; finding someone, getting it right. For her, it's like an afterthought, just "oh yeah, here's the words. I'll just sing this, put it in and boom.' It's like 'whoa, let's do some more songs.'”

In the meantime, fans can get acquainted with “Squeeze (Burnin),” the first track off the forthcoming Deadbeats EP. The full release comes in early Spring, but eager fans can also look out for a fresh mix including all the songs on this EP plus more unreleased stuff in his current arsenal coming to Deadbeats Radio Thursday, Feb. 7

“It's gonna be nice after the mix is out to for the tracks to get recognized when I play 'em,” Rusko says. “Then everybody will be as stoked as I am on the new shit.”

Listen to “Squeeze (Burnin)” a day before it's official Friday, Jan. 25, release below, exclusively on Billboard Dance.