Chris Reed comes from Thornton Heath in Croydon; an area that’s been intrinsically linked with the early days of sonic sculpture that helped breed dubstep. We’ve written here before about how the Croydon based Big Apple record shop gave rise to producers like Skream and Benga, but Reed’s story is a little different. Focused around the same axis of dark garage and grime, Reed was appearing on South London pirate station Desire FM under the Plasticman moniker and making tunes that were getting picked up by influential grime DJ Slimzee - who actually inaugurated his Slimzos label with a 12” from Reed in 2002 releasing a brittle duo of productions in ‘Venom’ and ‘Shockwave’ – and later, Rephlex Records who feature four of his tracks on their slightly misleadingly titled Grime compilation.
With hindsight, considering Slimzee’s close ties to Geeneus and Rinse FM, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Reed was welcomed into the FWD>> fraternity soon after where he became one of four residents back in 2004 alongside Youngsta, Hatcha and Geeneus. A show on Rinse FM followed which led to an 18 month stint on BBC Radio 1 on their re-branded In New DJs We Trust slots. The increased profile Reed saw from the show meant he would be forced to change his alias from Plasticman to Plastician to avoid any legal disputes with Richie Hawtin.
In 2008 Plastician released Beg To Differ, his debut album on his own Terrorhythm label which drew the line even closer between the skeletal dubstep scene and the emcee led grime movement in which Reed keeps a foot in to this day. It received deserved praise at the time and tracks like ‘Badboy Sound’, ‘Intensive Snare’ and ‘Real Tings’ still sound relevant in today’s impossibly fast moving environment and since then Reed’s travelled the world DJing, released music from people like Om Unit, Stinkahbell and Joker on his label and continued to make the kind of music that’s influenced by that early bassweight and grime’s hyper manic energy.
With a headline slot in Room One a week on Friday and an EP slated on Drop The Lime’s Trouble&Bass label, we invited Plastician into the club during the day last Thursday to record a promotional mix, that we actually streamed live, as he was doing it. This is the archive of that mix, something he described as “all new music” and to better introduce his appearance we managed to catch up with him and discuss his label, his music and his relationship with Rinse FM…
I noticed you (or someone else) uploading a bunch of old photos from Rinse FM and Delight FM to facebook recently. Makes you realise just how far it’s all come innit... What are your earliest memories of Rinse? Did you always want to be on the radio? How did the relationship come about?
I still remember doing my first Rinse show. I went on with Oris Jay and Virus Syndicate on a Saturday night at 11pm. In those days it was at the 3 Flats buildings in Bow, and the room was inside a flat quite high up the building. They were proper run down and often we had to walk up the stairs as the lifts were rarely in working order. The room was built out of MDF, plasterboard and if I remember rightly, quite a bit of asbestos! We had to crawl into the room as it didn't have a proper door; it was more like a loft hatch at knee height.
The whole rinse relationship began when Slimzee started playing my music around 2002. I got to know him and Uncle Dugs particularly at first, and often asked about doing some shows on the station as I was a regular listener of shows like Slimzee’s, Pay As u Go, Boyz N Da Hood etc. I'd had a few years experience on pirate radio stations based in South London so wanted to make the step up to Rinse as that’s where a lot of artists I respected were already playing. Eventually I managed to guest on the show with Oris Jay and Virus Syndicate in 2003, and one week when they couldn't make it down; I covered the show on my own and hosted the show myself. Geeneus was locked in and called me after to offer me my own slot, as at the time all of the shows playing any grime or dubstep were done by crews so there was a lot of MCing and not a lot of information about the music being played - so Gee offered me a 7-9pm slot on a Saturday night to host and inform the listeners. I've not looked back since!
Since then you’ve come a long way, releasing your own album, touring the world and making a living from DJing; do you think that Rinse was a big part of that, in terms of giving you the platform to jump off of?
It was a huge part definitely. I still think today it's a massive part of my continued success. If you're DJing more than you are producing, you need a platform to prove your worth as an artist nowadays and Rinse is the perfect place for me to do that.
Speaking of your that, you’ve not really released that much since your album back in 2008. Have you been working on stuff the whole time or more concentrating on DJing? Can we expect anything from you in the near future?
I've released a couple this year actually! I had the tenth Terrorhythm release; the Straight Outta Croydon EP which was basically me taking new production techniques to the old grime sound of 200 /2004. I also gave away a track as part of Skrillex's OWSLA label's Free Treats Volume 2. It's a pretty deep progressive dubstep track called ‘Alone Time’. We've also recorded a vocal mix of the track with a singer called Shvona Lavette which is being sorted now for release soon.
Another freebie I gave away recently was a grime track called ‘Growlin’ which is available for download via my soundcloud page. Other than that I have a 6 track E.P. forthcoming on Trouble and Bass - it's been ready a long time and features the vocal mix by Doctor of my track ‘Retro’, as well as another collab with him and 4 instrumentals which are somewhere in between grime and dubstep. I'm keeping busy but I guess people don't know so much as I just like to put the tracks out without all the fuss and press push that seems to be common place now in the industry. I figure if the music is good enough, people who want to find it will find it. The Straight Outta Croydon EP was turned around in a couple of weeks and really did well so it kind of installed some faith into me that the industry isn't all about flashing lights and big hype if you want success.
What about your label Terror Rhythm, is there anything coming up we can look forward to?
I've been working closely with Stinkahbell on their last two releases which sold really well for us and also helped them establish themselves in the scene. They've just put together a 5 track EP which I'm really excited about as it explores all corners of dubstep from really chilled to really hard, and all the bits in between. I think they're going to have a great year ahead of them. I'm also talking to a couple more artists to get releases together at the moment which I'm looking forward to. I just want to continue to support music I enjoy - be it grime, dubstep, pretty much anything which fits. We obviously did the first Om Unit release as well which was at 85bpm/110 bpm but it just felt right to me. Jim Om Unit has gone on to have great success lately as well which I'm really pleased about for him as he's a very talented producer!
I'm also in the process of re-mastering and remixing a couple of the early Terrorhythm releases to tie in with our 10 year celebrations later this year. I've had Zomby remix ‘Cha’, and have also had interest from some really big producers who want to remix some of my old bits - potentially could be a massive release for us so probably be looking at that around December time, along with another Stinkahbell grime collaboration to follow up the success of their release with OG'z earlier this year.
It's all kicking off.
You recorded this mix live in Room Two, can you tell us a bit about the tracks you spun together?
I really enjoyed playing to an empty room funnily enough! You really have complete free reign and no outside influences like crowd feedback. Things like that often send you in the direction you think you should be going, like if people seem to be going off for the harder stuff, you're more likely to work more of that into the set's peak. For this mix I wanted to play all new music, from lots of new producers as well. I've played a nice blend of grime and dubstep, keeping it warm and bassy but with varying energy levels throughout. It was all on-the-fly so I'm hoping the tracks worked well together and didn't sound like I just threw them together! I'm looking forward to listening back to it myself actually as I'm really enjoying the music I'm playing right now and want to see how it all works together in the mix.
Catch Plastician in Room One on Friday 17th August.