Locked To The Dancefloor: Artwork On The Rebirth Of Grain
An idea that has been at the forefront of the recently rebooted FABRICLIVE platform is that club music is in a constant shift. It’s an evolution that's always moving and we like to keep ourselves abreast of that. There aren't many producers worth their salt that are happy to rest on their laurels and keep repeating the same beat for the entirety of their careers either, mind you. With so much going on inspiring a constant splintering and forward motion there’s a wealth of artists of note who’ve covered an immense amount of ground in the vibes they’ve expressed as they've walked their paths.
It doesn’t always get connected though. If we were to put the name Grain out there, it doesn't initially evoke much of an idea as to who or what that project is. A cursory glance at Discogs reveals a slew of techno focused 12”s at the tail end of the 90s, so why then is this name so high up on the bill in Room Two this Friday night?
Well, that’s simply because of the connection we already have with the main behind Grain: Arthur Smith (aka Artwork, one third of Magnetic Man alongside Skream and Benga). His admiration for Midland’s recent output on Aus Music got his techno muscle memory twitching and the results presented on his bewitching remix of Midland’s ‘Trace’ sparked a chain of events that made Smith reportedly start itching to play techno once again and well, Dusky Presents here at FABRICLIVE this Friday, provides the perfect setting for him to play this first Grain set in 15 or so years.
Seeing as there's already a hell of a lot of surface area to cover with a story that spans such a length of time already, we caught some conversation time with the cross genre producer and long-time techno fan to discuss his motivations, both old and new. He also put together a Grain focused mixtape to demonstrate the type of selections we can look forward to in Room Two on Friday.
Download: Grain FABRICLIVE X Dusky Presents Promo Mix
So let’s talk about Grain seeing as you’ll be doing a DJ set under that project’s alias here on Friday, it’s the first one in how many years?
About 15 years.
Long time. So why did you decide for this Dusky show to revisit the project?
Basically, I liked one of Midland’s records so I phoned him up to tell him what a great record I thought it was. We got talking and he realised I did the Grain stuff years ago so asked said “do you want to do a Grain mix of this track”. I’d not done anything like that in ears but I loved the record so much I just did a remix for him. It got so much interest I thought well, I’ve got all these records I can do this kind of stuff then Dusky were doing their Dusky Presents party and asked me to come and play. So It just worked out like that really.
You're best known to us as Artwork especially to the FABRICLIVE goers - so did it start in techno production for you and move onto the garage and dub you're more known for?
I was making techno for a long time, playing and DJing out for about 5 years. It was just because I was working in Apple Records we started making garage just because we [Skream & Benga] were really into the sound and it just took over, all of a sudden it was all that I was doing. We were doing a bit more of the electronic sound of garage, getting a bit harder that was then how we got to do all this stuff with FWD. I just always moved and have done what excites me at the time.
Back before this when you were doing Grain you did enjoy quite a lot of success didn't you with releasing on Fat Cat and Hawtin's seminal dex efx mix, do you think it's funny people who know you as Artwork don't make that link?
No because you've got to remember with the Grain thing it was pre-internet so I remember when I was doing the Grain records going round to Dave from Fat Cat's house and he was showing me the internet for the first time! So when I was doing the Grain stuff it was just from word of mouth and people buying the records so it wasn't like now how all of a sudden I've done one remix and everybody knows about it. I did all that work and very few people even knew about it.
Even for people now it seems that if they move from one genre to another it’s made into a really big deal, you can get a bit of stick for it like with Skream for example and the road he’s progressed down towards making techno – do you think it should be such a big thing?
Not at all, for me I've made all types of different things it's just whatever is exciting at the time. I mean we've started some other sounds in other ways it's always what you're influenced by and if you really like the record you think oh man I can take that element and I can do this. When I was doing the techno stuff I was putting garage elements into the techno and vice versa I was putting techno into the garage stuff.
It actually does genres good to have that blend into it, so it's not just straight up and not going anywhere. I mean how much does this reflect what you listen to when you're at home? What kind of stuff do you enjoy listening to?
I listen to everything at home. There is this really old saying, I think it was Duke Ellington who said, "there's only 2 types of music: good and bad" so in any genre of music there is good stuff and there is rubbish. I like to listen to the good stuff of all types of music really because you get ideas from everywhere. I think that if you listen to one type ofmusic you get very tunnel visio, it doesn't move on very far from where you're at.
And what about your techno influences? In the mix you get that tension that I think binds and defines it. Is getting locked on the dancefloor in a techno groove something you still enjoy and do?
Yeah I always have, I've been going to LOST since it started and any opportunity I get to stand on the dancefloor for 10 hours I'll do it. It's genuinely if I go to a club to hear someone I won't go and stand back stage I will be on the dancefloor. I do like going on that little journey.
It's interesting you're a LOST head because it really is a huge party of London's story with techno it was really the first techno party in London. And it's great you still get to do that sometimes it seems like DJ's just end up working at the weekend and don't get to step out and enjoy it…
I’ve had some of my best nights of my life at LOST I was lucky enough to get to the Jeff Mills and Basic Channel nights and the Axis nights there, seeing people like some of the best producers in the world being allowed to do what they want for two or three hours. For me it’s still the best club there ever was in the world for the sound for the choice of programming it's where I grew up so it does hold a special kind of place for me.
You can hear that LOST heritage in the mix you've done for us, how close is it to the sets you were playing in the older days as Grain?
There's current stuff in there as well because I've been buying records for 25 years and I've got a big collection for that kind of stuff I think it's good to play them because there's people now who are getting into the sound that haven't heard a lot of those records and a lot of the time they're better than a lot of some of the stuff that’s around now so I like to mix them up.
And this Friday you're playing with Joey Beltram in - is he someone you've looked up to and play out?
I've got a lot of Beltram records you know it's great to be honest if I wasn’t playing here I'd be there anyway to go and see him and I think I'm on a bit later so I'll be able to see all them and have a good party. But it is great to see that people like that are still smashing it you know.
Yeah definitely one good thing now is that mix of the old guard and new on club and festival line ups. To wrap things up can you fill us in on what you have planned now for Grain, have you been producing some fresh material?
Fat Cat are putting out an album of all of the old stuff and I'll be doing some new stuff for them as well so there's an album of the old all re-mastered and the new stuff as well. So I'm just working on that at the moment.