Exclusive Interview: Plastician talks to RWD backstage after his set at Ibiza Rocks Hotel
We grabbed a few minutes from the DJ, producer and label owner after his set to talk shop...
While out in Ibiza last month, we were fortunate enough to see Boy Better Know’s headline set at Ibiza Rocks Hotel [click here for our chat with Frisco] but they weren’t the only big name there that evening for the weekly ‘W.A.R!’ show. Producer, DJ and Terrorhythm label owner Plastician has been championing underground electronic music for a decade now, be that through club nights or his long-running Rinse FM radio show (9-11pm every Tuesday), and his openness to discuss his experiences with the ever-changing climate of the music industry meant we were delighted to pinch a few minutes with him after his set.
The man fka Plasticman and RWD’s Joe Walker, both from Croydon, indulge in a bit of regional chat as they lament the decline of nightlife in their hometown (a place with a great legacy in terms of modern electronic music), but also touch on Plastician’s popular interview with Elijah as well as a recent bemusing experience with a young producer, before both went off to enjoy BBK’s onstage shellings. The evening later saw Skepta play Plastician a new vocal of the latter’s ‘Still Tippin’ remix, which has since been unveiled to the internet (below).
How many times have you performed in Ibiza?
I feel like this is my third of fourth time I’ve played Ibiza Rocks, and I’ve played Amnesia once before and Ibiza Rocks Bar after one of these parties. Because of the sort of music I play, it doesn’t lend itself naturally to what I’m known to play especially. I can play a more Ibiza-friendly set but that would make no sense for me to come out and do that.
I started off a bit garage-y because it was still warming up. I know the kids that are coming to hear people like JME & Skepta, from experience playing with shows with these boys – not just now but down all the years – especially more recently a lot of these kids don’t know anything from back in the day. So even what I think ‘oh everyone knows this’ they don’t, so speed garage is a little bit more accessible for people going out to house and techno. It’s a bit easier for them to get into.
Sometimes you play old grime that you think is gonna go off, and then it doesn’t. These kids are so young you don’t realise they only know the last three years. From doing shows with Skepta & JME recently, you need to be dropping like ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Bluku Bluku’, ‘Wooo Riddim’, ‘Hard’, ‘Rhythm & Gash’, anything by Stormzy. Beyond that…if you drop Crazy Titch or even Lethal B ‘Pow!’ – the original – people don’t know it! I’m like ‘how do you not know Pow?! You must know Pow!’ They know Lethal Bizzle but they don’t know ‘Pow!’.
You mention JME & Skepta there, you of course have plenty of history with them in terms of shows.
Before Boy Better Know even formed, we used to tour all over the place. We all got on the same agency and [the booking agent] put us together. I already knew JME and Skepta – I used to bump into Skepta at Music House and talk to JME on MSN. Me and Skepta used to play three a shows a week together for what felt like a couple of years, all over the country and the world, so when I get the chance to be somewhere like Ibiza with them I wanna hook up and have some fun. We’re looking on 10 years, so it’s good that we’re still doing things together.
Rewind a little bit further than 10 years, if you can, and describe to me your average Friday night out in Croydon…
Back then, when I was 18, there were so many more places open in Croydon. My regular night would be meeting in The George pub on George Street, which is still there, maybe go across to The Brief – which isn’t there, it’s a Pizza Express now – have a couple of drinks then wander up and maybe go into Heroes, which is boarded up underneath the Nestlé building, and then you go into the Blue Orchid which is boarded up in the Nestlé building. That was regular for me.
There just aren’t as many places to go anymore now. Do you still get bookings in Croydon?
Nah not really, there’s nowhere that I would. I get offers, but the venues are shit. The last time I played in Croydon was at Fairfield Halls and it was alright, they put a real good effort into it to be honest, it just didn’t feel right. I would absolutely love to play in Croydon, but it just has to be the right venue and we don’t have one. We don’t have a nightclub, we don’t have a music venue, we’ve just got bars and wine bars with dancefloors. It’d be alright for me to play an 80s set in something like that for a laugh, but I wouldn’t play forward thinking music.
It’ll all be gone soon. It’s London, ain’t it? They don’t like nightclubs and shut them down so the suburbs are no way going to have nightclubs. They’ll all be in central London where they can contain everyone and that’ll be it. That’ll be the end of it.
They’re opening a Boxpark in East Croydon soon, which is all well and good but the people they hope that brings will want real nightlife.
The people that speak to me at the council, I feel like they’re under the thumb from someone higher up because it has to be Fairfield Halls. Everything that comes in they’re like ‘can you play Fairfield Halls?’ I don’t want to play Fairfield Halls! Just find an empty warehouse that we can put something actually decent on in, there’s loads of them. Or like, let’s reopen an old nightclub and put some money into that rather than…Nobody who plays club music wants to play in a massive auditorium. I don’t want to play in an auditorium, I wanna play in a small dark little club, but they don’t get that because they don’t go clubbing and they’ve never been.
They just see numbers, they don’t know why people go out, they think they just go out to have a drink and listen to music but they don’t realise the settings are actually important, not just to the people going out but very important to me too. I’m not really into the idea of playing theatres. I don’t particularly like being on stages, I’d rather be in clubs. When you’re a little bit away from everyone, the energy doesn’t really travel as quickly, you know? It’s harder to DJ in rooms like that, I feel like you don’t bounce off people as much.
What about more generally, are you still finding the right places to put on more of your own nights?
There’s some stuff going on at the minute. That new Plan B [Brixton] venue, I’m talking to them about doing something when it reopens as whatever it’s called. I’m doing a one-off thing at The Alibi in Dalston, like I’m gonna play all night. I don’t know what I’m gonna play, but I’m gonna play for as long as they let me play. I’m gonna make it free, it’s on Bank Holiday Sunday in August so Carnival weekend and hopefully it’s busy and fun. Playing anything and everything, hopefully it flows alright.
The joy you have of playing out was something you touched on in your podcast interview with Elijah. That episode sounded therapeutic to you as a listener, was that the case?
I speak to people all the time and I feel like I have to say things, because everyone reads everything you say. It’s difficult, everyone thinks it’s easy doing this but it’s not. It’s dangerous saying you’re not having a good time of it because then promoters are like ‘oh I don’t really wanna book him’. Everything you say can affect your career two steps forward. Because I know Elijah, it was quite easy to just sit and vent because I know he feels the same about a lot of it.
What was the aftermath of it like?
I got literally loads of questions about things. I think people think you’ve got loads of money and stuff. It’s a job – you take DJ bookings away from it and it’s actually really boring, for me anyway. I don’t particularly like producing music, I don’t get the enjoyment out of it. I enjoy DJing and that part of my job, but the rest of it I’d give up in a heartbeat. Everything I do is in the hope that I’ll get some gigs at the end of it. If the gigs start to dry up I’ll just walk away from it. The only reason I started making music was to get on the radio, and I only wanted to be on the radio because I wanted to get gigs. You take the gigs out of it and I’d rather just sit in a shit job and do a gig on the weekend for a laugh, and not have the stress of trying so hard to like make ends meet every week.
I say this, things are going fairly well, but there’s less and less money to be made, so even though I’m like ‘wow, things are going great’ the money that comes in from things going great is nowhere near what it was even five years ago. You can’t compare it to what it was 10 years ago; if you were having an amazing time 10 years ago you would be absolutely set.
The misunderstandings from those young artists coming up goes further, though. You tweeted a bizarre story the other day…
Some kid had a go at me the other week for playing his music. He had stuff up for free download and I played something on the radio, and he hit me up and went ‘yo don’t play my songs on your mixes’. I tried to message him back but I couldn’t. I was blocked by him on SoundCloud and Twitter, this kid’s gone all out to block me! So I wrote a tweet like ‘if anyone knows this guy, his name’s [redacted], he’s hit me up saying not to play his songs. Just let him know I’m sorry, but I didn’t know what he wanted people to do with them when they’re up for free download’.
He’s 17 from North London. He got back to me, he’s got a problem with me personally. He was like ‘I don’t like you, you dickride the grime scene and the dubstep scene’. I was playing that shit before it was even called grime or dubstep! He said ‘I don’t want anything to do with you’ so I was like alright, I’ll delete all your shit. I played it on Rinse and we had 15,000 plays on SoundCloud, but I edited his song out of the mix – luckily it was the first track so I just faded it in from the second track – deleted it off SoundCloud and deleted all his music tracks from my computer. It’s really weird.
Does the new mentality affect your label too?
I’ll sign something and be like ‘we need to get the artwork done and blah blah blah, maybe it’ll be out in like two months’ and they’re like ‘two months?!’ That’s the quickest it’s gonna be, I’ve got this release and that release, then yours will be next after those two because they’re ready to go. They don’t understand and go ‘well I’ll just put it up for free download tomorrow then, don’t worry about it’. Well alright!
Shall we go and catch some of this BBK set before it’s too late?
Supply & Demand are offering the chance to win Access All Areas passes to an Ibiza Rocks event for you and a friend this summer. To enter, visit @jdsportsofficial on Instagram and follow the instructions.