Scenes often move as one, driven by a core of determined, likeminded enthusiasts. Wherever the core headz are is where the movement is at. Sometimes, however, the most creative individuals sit on the edges, orbiting in their own sphere…
South London’s Plastician began DJing as a hobby, listening to late 90′s UK garage and 2step tapes he’d recorded off the radio but it was the twin forces of production and pirate radio that were to put him on the map. “I’d done a few small slots on lesser known stations in South London but I was aiming for a slot on Rinse for some time,” he explains. “I realised that becoming a producer would be a much easier way of gaining the recognition I needed to take my DJing career forward. I picked up production pretty quickly, taught myself most of it through trial and error. Eventually after getting to know Benga and Skream they also taught me a few techniques as we were all producing on Fruity Loops.”
At the time – circa 2002/03 – both dubstep and grime were pretty nascent scenes, with the former still in a period of gestation and the latter about to generate a huge amount of critical hype. Plastician was about to get his first big break. “Slimzee picked up on a track I mailed him called ‘Venom.’ He decided to sign and release the track on his label Slimzos Recordings which in turn had the desired effect of production for me as it linked me up with the guys who were running Rinse. It led to me getting a few guest shows… the rest is history!”
That history includes tracks on Rephlex’s Grime compilation and his own debut album “Beg to Differ,” but he’s the first person to dedicate his progress to the airwaves. “I owe 100% of my success as a radio DJ to Rinse,” he continues. “In the early days it was all about being given the platform to showcase my mixing talents to the London audience, but as the station grew in stature and professionalism, this spurred me on to better myself in presenting an entertaining and informative radio show. Now it’s very much the same – the roster of DJ’s on the station is so respectable that it keeps me well and truly on my toes, and ever-eager to find the next big producer to unleash to the world on my show! There’s a lot of competition out there and it’s very healthy.”
While he might have competition now, for a long time there was no-one quite like Plastician. Taking instrumental grime as his core source, he used his rapid fire DJing style and detailed, mutating production arrangements to create a unique space between dubstep and grime. Some dubbed it “Croydon techno,” as its cold, mechanised sound recalled the Motor City.
Yet no sound stays still. Grime, devoid of regular clubs where dancing was a focus, became increasingly MC-focused, with hip hop-influenced riddims written not for DJs but for vocal artist mixtapes: the genre’s core objective. “[New school grime’s] a bit too stripped down for the clubs and a bit too repetitive to interest me as a DJ to mix in my sets. It’s also taken a much more hip hop sound to it. Dubstep, however, went the other way. Basslines started to consist of more mid range (similar to my own productions in the Rephlex Grime compilation era) and this was for me exactly how grime instrumentals should have evolved.”
There was a time when if you called Plastician a dubstep producer, he might have hit you. But when the tectonic genre plates shifted, he found himself converging on common ground with his old friends Benga and Skream. “When the majority of grime started to sound like hip hop at 140 bpm, and dubstep started to sound like grime for the dancefloor – dubstep was always going to feature a great deal more in my sets.”