Bleary eyed from New Years Eve festivities the previous evening, it seemed like a bad dream when the news came through last week that Plastic People was finally to close. Unfortunately though for music lovers in London and around the world, the news was all to real – and after a weekend of instantly legendary parties, the club promptly shut its doors for good. Whilst there’s no shortage of reasons being put forth for the club’s closure, without any official clarification we feel it would be churlish to speculate at this moment in time. Instead we’ve collated the remembrances of a number of individuals closely associated with this dance music institution, with the hope that the good times it gave us will endure long after the bitterness at its abrupt ending.
Charlie Dark – DJ/Poet/Teacher (Blacktronica/Attica Blues/Run Dem Crew)
Despite Plastic People being synonymous with quality sound it’s never really been credited for the way it embraced technology. The system at Plastic saw many tweaks and changes over the years, not only in the amp room, but also in the equipment available in the DJ booth. It was the first place I ever saw a DJ dropping exclusives off an iPod and my first encounter with the legendary EMT turntables – but the introduction of CDJ’s into the DJ booth had perhaps the biggest sonic impact on the community who populated the dance floor. CDJ’s arrived at a time when DJ’s were taking sides, those that embraced the new technology available, and those who were set on keeping it turntable driven. Plastic catered to both camps and in many ways was one of the first places to encourage DJs to be comfortable on all formats.
But my biggest memory of Plastic is not the system, the DJs or the exclusives. If anything it’s the theory of incubation and the idea that Ade recognised the importance of communities at a time when the community around East London, and in clubland in general, was changing. Plastic is remembered for the big nights but credit is due to Ade for allowing fledgling promoters the luxury of testing out ideas in smaller settings. Under populated, long forgotten, but where some really incredible music was played. Plastic allowed, even encouraged and dared producers to take risks with a system that was relentless and pushed you to the maximum on the mix – demanded that you be different and to always bring your best.
So in conclusion, my most memorable musical moment is this: Dego dropping Cousin Cockroach – ‘This Ain’t Tom & Jerry’ for the first time at a mid week session, leaving the dance floor baffled but smiling. Proto Grime Bruk that just worked and the tune that made all of the heads leaning on the DJ booth get up and move and a system shake a building to its foundations.
© Shaun Bloodworth
dBridge – Producer/DJ/Label Boss (Exit Records/Autonomic)
I had so many great nights down there but for me this was one of the best. It was the last night before the smoking ban, so everyone was stoned, whether you partook or not. We put together a night called Istickz Studio which was myself, Steve Spacek, Morgan Zarate (We Are Shining), Edmund Cavill (Early Man) and Mpho Skeef. We had Charlie Dark, Abby (SoulJazz) & Hudson Mohawke playing, Big ups to Hudmo, he paid for his own flight down from Scotland to come and play. This was also the first time I’d heard of Fatima, we had an open mic and she blew the place up.
Steph Medi – Label Manager (Deep Medi/DMZ/Bash)
I have a strong disdain for the pretentiousness of nightclubs. Whoever coined the phrase “dance like no-one’s watching” was clearly the sharpest tool in the box, because when you turn the lights down/out and the music up – no gimmicks are needed.”Strictly party, no arty farty, big bottom tunes and heavyweight grooves” (Bash c/o Loefah & The Bug). Plastic People still thrived at a time that social media tried to convince us gloss and bluster was the only way. I’m genuinely saddened that it won’t be around anymore as a much needed alternative. Of course it was much more than just a dark room, it was one of the few places to go for actual underground music, on a real sound system, many nights of the week. As well as working the DMZ till I sometimes had the pleasure of being part of the team working at Bash at Plastic People, with Loefah and The Bug back in 2006 (I think).
As the final heavy bass proof curtain falls I will forever remember the fire exit lights being my only visual reference – the bass, the anticipation of what’s next, the ridiculous cosiness behind the DJ stand – and most of all the simplicity. Pivotal venues may be closing their doors but the tone was set, and many a career was shaped as a result.
Plastic People. I thank you.
© Shaun Bloodworth
Georgie Cook – Photographer
The first time I went there was with Mala, sometime in 2004, on a Thursday night for Forward>> – I was trembling with adrenaline as I walked down the stairs and into the basement. There were lots of blokes, some of whom I recognised from Croydon. After some hellos and introductions (probably to Sarah Souljah, among others) and a drink at the bar, I went through the black curtains into the dark chasm of bass and space and became immersed in sound in a way that I’d never been before.
The next few years following that, Forward>> became a regular weekly pilgrimage. I’d come home from work, have some food, get my camera together, get in my Mum’s car, put Rinse on the radio and feel excited from the moment I left the house to the moment I was back in the basement, where a sense of seriousness would then kick in.
Sam Shepherd & Kieran Hebden – Floating Points & Four Tet
Over the past 8 years or so we have had, along with Theo Parrish, the honour of playing the monthly residencies at a small basement club in Shoreditch, London with an impeccable sound system. After 20 years of operation, it was time to move on and close the doors on a place that has a lot to answer for in shaping modern club culture. To say this space along with the owner Ade’s singular vision was fundamental in our personal musical formation would be a complete understatement.
On the day of their closing, manager Charlotte asked us if we’d put the system through its paces for the last time that the club would be open to the public. We set about packing the anthems from our respective residencies and on the night once the people were through the doors played 2 records in turn for the rest of the dance. We included tracks of our own and of friends that were made with that place in mind. Records like Daphni – Ye Ye and Four Tet – Pinnacles were made to first be played at Kieran’s nights there, and the Floating Points – Vacuum EP was born out of the CD-R night at the club, and its launch party was the trigger for Sam’s monthly residency.
(via Eglo Records)
© Shaun Bloodworth
Ade Fakile – DJ (Plastic People owner)
Sometimes you listen to a song at home and think it sounds amazing. You go out, someone plays it, but it doesn’t quite sound the way you know it. That was my main aim with Plastic People: I wanted to give DJs around the world an incredible, clean sound system, and somewhere they could truly play whatever they wanted.
From 1994 to 1999, I don’t think I spent one night away from Plastic People. When I started at Shoreditch, from 2000 to 2005, I missed just four nights per year. Then I was lucky enough to find a new club manager, Charlotte. She ran it the way she wanted to run it, and it was brilliant. It’s closing because she’s leaving – rather than anything to do with licensing, or rent. I don’t think it would be easy to find someone to run it like she did. She was an industrial designer at university – she does the ugly things that make a club run perfectly.
Eric Lau – DJ/Producer/Promoter
Plastic People was the only music school I ever attended. Every time I went there I learnt something from a Master. The first presentation of my work was held there. I had the opportunity to practice side by side with my direct elders there. Most importantly I made connections there that only music of a certain vibration can manifest, for that I am eternally grateful. I will forever carry the Plastic People spirit with me when I play music as that is the doctrine that I was blessed with.
(via Boiler Room)
© Shaun Bloodworth
Mr.Beatnick – Producer/DJ/Journalist
Very special night at Plastic People last night… Farewell to the club that defined my taste in music, and where I met so many lifelong friends for the first time.
Some of the tracks played last night, many of them records which I first heard played in that space.
Spacek – Eve
Pevenn Everett – Testin’ Me
Take 6 – Spread Love
Herbert – The Audience
Fertile ground – Spiritual War (Kaidi Tatham remix)
Recloose – Ain’t Changing
Mos Def – Universal Magnetic
D train – You’re The One For Me
Kaidi & Dego – Got Me Puzzled
Dynasty – Adventures In The Land Of Music
Weather Report – River People
Pepe Bradock – Deep Burnt
Moodymann – Black Mahogoni
Moodymann – Tribute
Soho – Hot Music
Afronaught – Transcend Me
Marvin Gaye – I Want You
Theo Parrish – The Rink
Pavel Kustiak & The Musicals – Oklahoma
Vangelis – Let It Happen
Donovan – Get Thy Bearings
Prince – If I Was Your Girlfriend
Metro Area – Piña
Herbie Hancock – Succotash
Manzel – Space funk
Son of Scientist – Solution (Dutty Church remix)
William Devaughn – Be Thankful
Gil Scott Heron- Home Is Where The Hatred Is (live)
Moonstarr – Detriot
Archie Whitewater – Cross Country
Marta Acuna – Dance Dance Dance
Jonny Hammond – Tell Me What To Do
Oneness of Juju – Follow Me
P’taah – The Crossing (opaque mix)
Common – Come Close
Ann Sexton – It’s All Over But The Shouting
Nina Simone – Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter
Sister Sledge – pretty baby
King Sunny Ade – Synchro System
Maze – Twilight
CDR Audio Show (Plastic People Special) on NTS