With a new events series just launched and a busy Ibiza season ahead, we talk to the Simma Black boss about his rapid rise to fame
Low Steppa is possibly the most inaccurately named artist working in dance music today. Giant Steppa would be much more apt, given how far he's come in such a short space of time.
Based in Birmingham, the man also known variously as Will Bailey and Rudi Stakker - we'll leave you to guess which of the three monikers is his real name - arrived on the scene in 2013 when his bootleg of Route 94 ft Jess Glynne's My Love propelled him unexpectedly into the spotlight. That was just in time, of course, to surf the UKG-inspired 'bass house' wave, which he did in style, his Simma Black label becoming one of the must-check labels pushing that sound.
But times change, and both Low Steppa and Simma Black have expanded their horizons considerably. Now pursuing a wider (and housier) musical remit, Simma Black hit the 100-release mark last year, and the label discography these days boasts such luminaries as Todd Terry, Scott Diaz, Franky Rizardo and Full Intention, as well as techier producers such as Dantiez Saunderson and Lupe Fuentes.
The label boss's own DJ and production career, meanwhile, has gone from strength to strength, with a Rinse FM show, releases on Cr2 and Armada Deep and a residency for Sankeys under his belt, as well as high-profile appearances at the likes of the Radio 1 Big Weekender, and even EDC Las Vegas.
Somewhere along the way he caught the ears of Defected, too, his 2016 Static System EP (with Dennis Quin) representing the birth of an ongoing relationship with the UK house behemoth that's seen him become a regular on the decks at their Defected In The House parties at Eden, Ibiza - sometimes going back-to-back with Sonny Fodera, another producer with a knack for funk-fuelled, bottom-heavy house productions.
With his latest single on Armada Music, No Love feat Ayak, having stormed the download charts, and his new event series Boiling Point having just launched in his home town, we figured we'd best grab him for a chat now, before he gets too busy to talk to us...
The first Low Steppa track I reviewed was a remix of Feft on Deep 8. Given how your career's progressed since, it's incredible to think that was just 4.5 years ago! Does it feel the same from where you're sitting?
"Wow, it doesn't even seem that long! That’s crazy! Yeah, we've come a long way - it’s been a great journey so far. When I made that remix, I really didn't know what the future had in store for me."
You did the Route 94 bootleg at around the same time, which was the catalyst for much that has followed. What do you remember, now, about making that particular bootleg - and were you surprised by how big it ended up getting?
"I was very surprised, because it was never even meant to get released! Some people make bootlegs to capitalise on someone else's great record, but I just made that to play in my sets, because the original was a little mellow and slow but I really liked it. Obviously I'm glad though it did so well for me!"
Simma Black hit the 100-release milestone in 2017, but what's going on with Simma Red - there doesn't seem to have been anything new for a while?
"Simma Red was always a little confusing. It was really for releasing music from newer artists, but many people questioned it so basically for now it’s no more."
You recently launched a new events series called Boiling Point in Birmingham… but that's about all I know, so fill me in!
"Yeah, Boiling Point had its first party at Lab11 recently, which was a huge success: sold out, rammed and an insane vibe! We aren't sure yet where the next one will be but I would love to take it to London or Manchester next. It;s nice to be able to pick your DJs and make sure the music is just how you want it.
I know you had Tom Shorterz at the first Boiling Point, who I remember as a young lad at Moon Lounge, Hidden etc back in the Brummie bassline glory days 15 years ago. It seems to me that the whole 'bass house' thing really could only have come from Birmingham, because of the city's prior musical history with Silk City FM etc - would you agree?
"Yeah I agree, Birmingham is the home for it, we've been doing it for years! Mud Club, Rocknrolla, 231 etc... that dirtier sound has always just felt right in Birmingham. It fits the city, in a good way!
"That said, Boiling Point was a house night, definitely not bass. But the crowd were amazing so they were just up for good music."
You've got a bunch more Ibiza shows coming up with Defected. How did you come to be working with them - and was it an eye-opener, going from running your own small-ish label to being just a part of one of the biggest?
"I've never compared the two. Defected is a machine: they do it all, parties, festivals, merchandise, albums. It's amazing to be working with them: it's the dream for many a house artist, so it's definitely special. I've been buying Defected music since I began in 1999 so I feel truly blessed."
Your Rinse FM show is still going strong, isn't it? How long has that been now, and what do you like about working with Rinse?
"For me the best thing is when I travel, for instance in the USA, and the fans come up to me and tell me they love my Rinse show. That’s why I do it: it's a great feeling. I think I've been on Rinse for about four years now, but time flies so I could be wrong! It’s a great platform to show people the music I love, which is why I always wanted to be a DJ in the first place."
We haven't had an album from you since Troubles in 2015. Any plans?
"Troubles - I listened to that recently. I was actually talking about this today - it’s definitely on my list for later this year or next year."
All these questions and we haven't even talked about EDC Las Vegas, or Sankeys, or Radio 1 Big Weekender, or being Beatport artist of the month. So many achievements - but what have been the biggest, most exciting moments so far, for you personally?
"Off the top of my head, selling out my Boiling Point show in Birmingham - not just the sales but the fact the atmosphere was absolutely crazy. There's so much going on in Birmingham that pulling that off feels like a massive achievement, and to have my pals Marc Spence, Tom and Jackard playing too that night was just the best feeling."
Finally, what else is going on in Low Steppa's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"There are a couple of singles coming that I'm super excited about - I can't really say any more right now but I'm buzzin! Other than that I’m just gearing up for a crazy summer in the USA, Ibiza and at festivals."
Words: Russell Deeks
No Love feat Ayak is out now on Armada Music. Buy it here.