Christopher Mercer, better known to his fans as dubstep legend Rusko whose gritty yet groovy beats have been instrumental in defining bass music, released his Sauce EP today via Liquid Stranger’s esteemed label, Wakaan. The four-track EP boasts collaborations with Dirt Monkey and Boogie T, also known as Patrick Megeath and Brock Thornton, respectively.
The EP kicks off with wobbly and high-pitched beats on “Carrot Cake” before going into “Ecstasy Dreamland,” which is aptly named for its euphoric and fun drops. “Quarantinis,” created with Megeath, brings reggae dub vibes that build up into a wonky drop. The EP finishes off with Mercer and Thornton’s collaboration, “Wha Gwan,” which is funky and boppy.
According to Mercer, he picked the title for the EP after he sent the finished four tracks to a member of his team who described them as “the sauce,” a slang term to describe them as being very well done. Indeed, Sauce proves to be a dance floor heater. The heavyweight producer adds that he even created the EP’s artwork himself: Mercer purchased a canvas and five condiment bottles, and created the image in his backyard.
Sauce follows Mercer’s four-track Genghis Danger EP that was released in November 2019, as well as his 11-track ambient and melodic techno SoundCloud-based album playlist1 that he released in April 2020 under his Stonehange alias. Mercer, Megeath and Thornton took the time to share with Forbes how the tracks on Sauce were created, their favorite memories from playing at Wakaan Festival, the highlights of their careers and more.
Lisa Kocay: Can you describe your sound in three words?
Christopher Mercer: “Bright, groovy and joyous are three things I always try to put in as kind of an antidote to the aggressive, less groovy dubstep which is around.”
Brock Thornton: “Mine is kind of similar, but I’m going to go bouncy, fun and emotional.”
Patrick Megeath: “I guess wonky. Punchy…and then sometimes kind of slithery. Liquid.”
Kocay: So Chris and Patrick, I was hoping you two could tell me the inspiration behind your song together “Quarantinis,” and if you could also tell me how you picked the name for that song?
Mercer: “It’s actually our second attempt at a [collaboration]. We had a go at one a little while ago, like starting one off. I rarely ever do [collaborations], and I wanted to [collaborate] with my favorite guys and my favorite people, musically, as well as personally. I wanted to do an EP with [collaborations], because I can’t remember the last time I really did that with another producer, except from Caspa. So that was the whole idea with this.
“Dirt Monkey and Boogie [T] are the two people that I get messaged with and requested to work with the absolute most. So really, it was that. I wasn’t going to try any different genre tracks on this EP. I just wanted straight up, in your face, dance floor business. No experiments—just straight what we’re known for and what the people want. Doing a [collaboration] with Dirty Monkey is very much what the people want and we nailed it. Right?”
Megeath: “Oh yeah. I feel like it’s the perfect balance of us. He started by sending me this really cool like…it’s not even an intro. It was like almost a whole song, like a dub song. Like dub, reggae song, which sounded sick already.”
Mercer: “Which you can hear kind of in the intro. There are elements of that, and that’s kind of what it started with.”
Megeath: “Yeah. And I made some drop stuff, with like big, gnarly, slithery synths.”
Mercer: “Initially, I really wanted to get it put together. And I was like, ‘I have this dub reggae track, can you make it into a dance floor track and we’ll see what comes of it?’ But then it did end up going back and forth a few times. ‘Quarantinis’ was just the name of the original dub loop I made.
“In fact, I named it ‘Quarantinis’ because my housemates at the time ripped piss out of me for the crazy cocktails I would make. I was buying like peach juice, sweet and sour, and all the mixes in the cocktail aisle. I genuinely was at the start of lockdown just creating quarantinis. Then I got really into drinking Southern Comfort with peach syrup, which is just horribly sweet, like I live in Texas or something.”
Kocay: Can you also tell me the backstory of how you and Brock made the song “Wha Gwan”?
Mercer: “It was kind of the same thing, but the opposite way around. This time I got the kind of reggae style track to turn into more of a banger. It had that little vocally, noodly bit that I think Brock said he recorded on your phone. You said it was recorded really roughly on your phone, or something like that.”
Thornton: “Yeah, I recorded it at half time, so it was like ‘bah dah bah bah bah bah’ and then I just sped it to ‘be bo be bo be bo be bo beat.’”
Mercer: “Oh, I never knew that. But that was originally just you singing it like a melody guide to take out potentially, right?”
Thornton: “Yeah, I was just going to play it on the keyboard or something.”
Mercer: “Or sing it with proper words or something?”
Thornton: “I think all I did was say ‘wha gwan’ and then you made it all wobbly like ‘whhaaa gwaaan.’ It makes me giggle every time.”
Mercer: “So yeah, that was really nice and organic in that way, too, for me. I just loved it sounding all freaky. That makes so much sense it was recorded halftime and sped up double. That makes total sense now. But I just liked it freaky how it was.”
Thornton: “I was surprised you kept it. When you sent it back I was like, ‘oh he liked that.’”
Kocay: Do you have a favorite memory from performing at Wakaan Festival?
Megeath: “I have one. It was super embarrassing, that’s why I remember it so much. It was at the beginning of my set. I had it in my head to say this funny thing to the crowd, right at the beginning. I was like they’re going to love this. I meant to say, ‘Wakaan Fest? More like Wha Gwan Fest.’ I totally botched it. I was like ‘Wakaan Fest? Wha…wait…hold on.’ And I had to stop and do it over in front of like 8,000 people or whatever.”
Mercer: “Oh wow. That is so amazing.”
Megeath: “Painful, but it was fun after that.”
Thornton: “Mine, it was like raining. It was kind of drizzling, but there was lighting in the back. There were a bunch of cool videos right before I was done with crazy lightning strikes. That was right before I was done playing—right before they had to shut it down. It happens to me a lot, though. A lot of festivals I’m like, ‘why is there weather coming? Why is this always happening?’”
Megeath: “You live in hurricane land. You bring it with you.”
Mercer: “There’s a thing that I believe Americans do with a bag of wine where you have to slap the bag where someone drinks it. That’s a thing, right? So I didn’t know that was a thing until I was out in the crowd watching your set at Wakaan, Brock. I’m still learning a lot about American culture. There’s a video of me having my first slap the bag experience with [Thornton] on the stage. That was the one set where I went out into the middle of the crowd to try to be inconspicuous, and it didn’t work.”
Kocay: If you could go back in time to when you first started making music and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mercer: “You don’t need to make music every day. Stop. Have two weeks off. That’s what I would say, maybe. Have two weeks off. I guarantee when you come back you’ll have a better idea than you’re having now. That’s a new thing I’ve done in the last few years. Purposefully have up to a month sometimes without even turning off the computer. But when I come back to it, it’s like the best work ever. [I’m] creating false excitement for myself by taking it away for a while.”
Thornton: “I would say don’t worry about what anybody ever says. If there is a certain genre that is popular, whatever, just know that you’re doing the right thing by pushing forward and trying every avenue of music that you can.”
Megeath: “When things become not fun, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t force any direction of creativity or do anything because of what other people want or expect out of you. Always have fun with it.”
Kocay: Do you remember the first bass song you heard that made you fall in love with the genre?
Thornton: “Low key, it was probably ‘Bass Head’ by Bassnectar. I remember because I was at a club, I was like probably 18-years-old at this bar, and they had this one DJ. We’d go like every Friday. But he’d mix that with a rap song. I was like what is this beat? It was playing with I think ‘Teach Me How To Dougie.’ I was like that is the funkiest thing I’ve ever heard. And I was like, ‘I already make beats, I can make this kind of stuff.’ I started traveling deeper and deeper, so I started getting into Liquid Stranger, Excision and obviously Rusko. I was listening to all of that.”
Mercer: “Oh gosh, it’s hard. It’s probably ‘Original Nuttah’ by Shy Fx, which is probably one of the most well-known drum and bass tunes of the ‘90s, probably the most well-known I would say. But that was on like Top of the Pops when I was a kid. They were on Top of the Pops on BBC One on a Friday night with all of the rest of the songs that were in the Top 40.”
Megeath: “That’d be Ed Solo – ‘Age Of Dub.’ I heard it back in like 2009, I want to say. That’s the first time the wobble really got to me, and to this day I love that tune.”
Kocay: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Thornton: “I’m just happy to be comfortable. It’s nice. I’m just glad I can make music that people appreciate. I guess there is no real highlight, it just keeps getting better and better.”
Megeath: “Honestly, it was probably yesterday when I was leaving the skate park and this girl was in her car rocking out in the parking lot. I kind of recognized the song, got a little closer and realized it was one of my songs. Then I yelled into her window, ‘hey, I know this song.’ And she was stoked, but didn’t know it was me. Very fulfilling.”
Mercer: “The coolest thing I’ve gotten to do is work with awesome people. The coolest was actually spending like three or four days in the studio with Cypress Hill, like throwing around ideas, picking guitars off the wall to play and the little riff over one of the songs. That out of everything was the single coolest thing, because they were actually there. Damian Marley actually came through.
“But the coolest moment of my career was the first show back, obviously. My first show back after a year and a half off when I was ill. At the start of it, they said I had six months, so I didn’t think there would be another show. And that first show I did back in Phoenix, Ariz., I could barely even get to the end. I was crying my eyes out. I played my last song, and the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering. My legs buckled, I actually gave way. It was so intense. I was just a mess. Just an absolute, couldn’t even stand up mess of emotions. Not to be too deep, but that’s obviously the greatest moment of my career. But the coolest was Cypress Hill.”