Eva Jóhannsdóttir, aka EVA808, is the perfect example of how being an outsider can work to an artist’s advantage. Icelandic-born and raised, and now resident in Stockholm, Sweden, she began releasing her heavily dubstep-infused beats in 2014 – precisely at the time dubstep itself was in a precipitous decline following a vast explosion of popularity at the start of the 2010s. Despite coming from a country not known for its soundsystem culture, despite being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated area of music, and despite the unfavourable timing, she has quietly become one of the most-loved bass music producers in the world.
It’s clear that she has an enduring love for the UK’s bass-heavy club styles –from the ‘90s jungle of Source Direct to the hip-hop sampling of Sheffield’s Commodo and Glasgow’s Hudson Mohawke – but is happy and confident in approaching them from her own perspective. “When my mom was pregnant with me, my dad won a trip to London for two – and I’d like to think their trip had some effect on why I love UK music so much,” she says. “I don’t think it matters where somebody is from as it’s all about the vibe. If it’s genuine, the artist could be from the moon!”
This month, her debut album, Sultry Venom, is being released on respected US label Innamind – one of the few imprints that has continued to fly the flag for deep and immersive dubstep throughout the past decade. It’s a glorious record, retaining the experimental spirit of early UK dubstep and grime, but with a production finesse and an unexpected hip-hop swing that makes it sound altogether modernist and very much of the moment.
Here, Eva breaks down her influences to help map out how the various styles she grew up with have come together to make this unique sound today.
Gorillaz – Gorillaz 
One of the first albums I bought when I was young. I loved the mystery of the artists behind it. It was probably the first UK hip-hop I ever heard – but I didn’t really connect it to any specific country in my head at the time.
Source Direct – Two Masks / Black Domina 12” 
I was four years old when this was released, so I can’t say I heard this at a rave, but “Black Domina” is, in my opinion, one of the best jungle tracks of all time, especially when that bass line kicks in! It doesn’t sound dated at all, and I’d really love to have been a fly on a wall when they made it to see the production process.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon 
An early memory of mine is listening to this album and The Wall with my mom on our home stereo. Considering the time period that it was created in, the sound design is just incredible – I love the sound of the cash register and dropping coins on “Money”, which was a very forward-thinking use of drums back then.
Missy Elliot – Supa Dupa Fly 
Missy at her best, and Timbaland at his best. Need I say more?
Lil Kim – La Bella Mafia 
I first heard her on “Magic Stick” [single with 50 Cent] when I was 11. There hasn’t been a rapper since that I’m aware of with this much attitude and swagger. No rapper today comes close, whatever their gender.
Hudson Mohawke – Satin Panthers EP 
“Thunder Bay” is one of the biggest tracks ever made. You could play all of these tracks in a set today and they wouldn’t sound dated in the slightest. There’s no one that has energy like him in these tracks.
Commodo – Space Cash EP 
This EP was such a breath of fresh air at the time it came out, and it still makes a dance floor go off today. The track “Wish” is amazing and maybe a little overlooked. “Space Cash” itself will never get old – an anthem for the times.
Burial – Untrue
A bit of a cliche on a list of “albums that influenced me”, but I just can’t leave it out since it’s had such an impact on my sound today.
Madlib – Beat Konducta in India 
There are so many insane beats on this beat tape. It’s no secret that I love sampling Bollywood music myself!
Cover Image: EVA808 – Sultry Venom
Writer | Joe Muggs
Joe Muggs is a writer, DJ and curator of many years standing, covering both mainstream and underground. His book 'Bass, Mids, Tops', covering decades of UK bass music, is out now via Strange Attractor / MIT Press, and you can subscribe to his newsletter at tinyletter.com/joemuggs