101 Views

Interview: The Levels Are Very High

Recently, Arts editor Tom Powell had a chat with Sussex Art History MA-cum-Grime blog- ger Stephen Weller (aka The Levels Are Very High), they covered the online music under- ground on social media, what it’s like to make friends on Twitter and just how frustrating Windows Movie Maker can be. 

Sitting in a grimy kitchen surrounded by the accretions of a post-work even- ing The Levels Are Very High, in his traditional attire of five-panel and sweat- shirt, begins to open up about how he initially got into blogging and how over the year since his first posts and You- tube rips he’s carved out something of a name for himself.

Before the serious business however, I ask where his long and referential name comes from. ‘Well it was just a phrase that was around when I was younger, if some- thing was ‘levels’, it was really good.’ Then, apparently, when he heard a 2006 Rinse FM show on Youtube a while back and heard Wiley getting rushed off the mic by the (no longer existent) Mucky Wolf Pack and to the shout ‘the levels are very high!’, his childhood slang became the perfect moniker for his online music persona. With Grime going ‘weird ways’ since 2006’s pirate radio days and becoming a more of a form of club music in the last few years, the blog work of Stephen and others has become an important part of the music’s dissemination in the UK scene, both locally and nationally. The shifts undergone since the dawn of social and musical media have seen Grime catapulted to higher renown, and with this modest success comes one for Levels. ‘I had no idea how much to ask for’, he says, describing his first paid job, a video he’s making for an artist that’ll be released later this month; opting instead for streaming royalties, possibly meagre change, Levels concedes that while the last twelve months have been a great success, he’s still a little way from quitting his day job. MA student by day, call centre worker by evening, blogger by night, his schedule is pretty hectic week on week. He copes, pulling late nights making videos for up and coming Grime artists, organising guest mixes for his Sound- cloud and even recording the odd mix of his own for other channels too.

Since he started, he tells me his out- put has changed significantly. To begin with it was just a way of feeding his voracious appetite for club music, but it soon evolved when he realised that there were enough Grime mixes coming out every week for him to scavenge for rare, new and exclusive tunes. What he did was to painstakingly rip dubs that he liked from mixes with Audacity and upload them to Youtube so he and others could easily listen to them (sometimes to the malcontent of the producer trying to keep them exclusive). However, all this began to change through a little networking. He tells me that although it ‘sounds stupid’, he’s making his name thanks to social media. His initial presence on Youtube and Twitter got him noticed in the online scene and an invite to the not-so-secret group for electronic music artists, label heads and journalists named Classical Trax. With around 600 members, the Facebook group is apparently ‘a proving ground for young producers’, and in Levels’ case, this seems to hold true. While the main focus is to get feed- back on artists’ unreleased dubs and promote radio mixes, the group also release compilations with semi-regularity, for which Levels will be making the videos from now on.

The leap from the wide world of Twitter and Soundcloud to Classical Trax’s more focussed Facebook mode means that conversations between artists and journalists actually occur, colleagues are made and careers begin to bud. All this, Levels says, without ever having face to face contact. In fact, he tells me that he can approach certain DJs or promoters in clubs and they already know who he is. Spooky. These include Brighton’s own Mute events team or Mumdance for example, who he interviewed after Mute’s last event at the Loft last month. This just goes to show you what you can do in a year on Twitter without trolling and with a little hard graft. This elevated status has moved Stephen from being a relative rogue to a relative hero in the industry. Gone are the days when he used to nab tunes painstakingly on Audacity, now he spends his weekday evenings weaving together clips from old movies and stock footage on Windows Movie Maker (and they’re pretty good, follow the links at the end of the article for more).

Okay, so the levels are higher now, he’s getting a strong supply of exclusive tracks and mixes that makes his connoisseur’s mouth water, but Weller continues to bemoan the fact that the software he’s using is clunky, inefficient, and crashes; ‘the bane of his life’. To be fair to him though, he’s not complaining, and why would you be when you’ve gone from avid fan to well reputed industry insider in a matter of months?

Maybe industry insider is a bit of a jump, but when asked if the industry can get in on underground music’s fun he replies that he doesn’t think so. While Soundcloud is falling to a raft of pro-users to rake in plays and publicity, Facebook forums like Classical Trax perpetuate the underground conversation, and most importantly sharing those dubs that aren’t getting played out in the clubs or on internet radio. Levels demonstrates that ultimately, the music industry doesn’t have to be a closed loop, and that one’s ascendancy to renown is less about business and more about community.

So where next? He’s gonna be re- leasing about two mixes a month from now on, but with no concrete dates set because, well, ‘it’s pretty hard to chase people up on the internet’. He seems pretty content with his releases on this casual basis. He’s also got an interview upcoming on his Tumblr with Kimi Mute after he DJs with L-Vis 1990 and Jam City in Audio this Friday, an event that you probably shouldn’t miss if you’re into club music and based in Brighton. Otherwise he’s just looking to pop up and keeping working in the local Brighton scene, which he’s been enjoying over the last four years. On top of this, he’s just glad to be doing what he’s doing, because his ripping days had made listening to music weird:

‘I was listening to music specifically for rips’ he tells me.

So I suppose for a while his hobby became an all consuming task of keep- ing up with the newest and best tunes, a frustrating task sitting somewhere be- tween business and pleasure. A task that luckily he’s now traversed through voracity, renown and enjoyment.

If you like what you’ve read, have a look at Levels’ work via the links below:

Youtube.com/user/thelevelsareveryhigh

Twitter: @lvlsrvryhi

Soundcloud: /thelevelsareveryhigh

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
507 views1
Campus News
507 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
48 views
Arts
48 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
91 views
Arts
91 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
91 views
Arts
91 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
114 views
Arts
114 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
135 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
148 views
Arts
148 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
139 views
Arts
139 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
225 views
Campus News
225 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
105 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
209 views
Arts
209 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
137 views
Arts
137 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
212 views
Artist Focus
212 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
146 views
Interview
146 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
214 views
Arts
214 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
238 views
Arts
238 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
276 views
Arts
276 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
190 views
Artist Focus
190 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
200 views
Books
200 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
253 views
Science
253 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
262 views
News
262 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…