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INTERVIEW: Plex Talk Basement Sessions
The Quietus , May 3rd, 2013 07:38

As London techno promoters Plex gear up for the second of their Basement Sessions tonight - with some secret special guests in tow - they tell us a bit about the ethos behind the night, and choose a selection of hard-nosed techno favourites to give your Friday a little extra OOOF

Tonight, Friday May 3rd, London techno promoters Plex are set to host the second of their newly christened Basement Sessions parties - intimate affairs taking place in Stoke Newington's Waiting Room venue, some distance from the more cavernous spaces they've been known for hosting nights in the past. (One of the Quietus' favourite nights out in recent history was Plex's team-up with Colony and Machine at Corsica Studios last November, for a night of bodyshock techno and chest-rattling sub-bass treats - we wrote a suitably effusive and addled review of that particular evening here).

The Basement Sessions feature an unannounced line-up. Hessle Audio compatriot and purveyor of beautifully sculpted, brittle techno/electro/bass tracks Objekt was the core guest at the first edition back in March, which we discovered when we descended the stairs into the darkened surrounds of the Waiting Room. Tonight's is equally unannounced, though we're promised something special (read on for some hints). The night's advance tickets have been sold out for ages but there will be some tickets on the door. Arriving early is, one would assume, recommended. Full details - sketchy and enigmatic as they are - are available here.

Since Plex have been responsible for some of our favourite recent parties in London, and Friday is generally the day in Quietus HQ that techno gets cranked up to neighbour-bothering volume, we dropped the duo in charge - James Tec and Luke Handsfree - a line to find out a bit more about the history of the night, the ethos behind these new parties and - crucially - a playlist of five suitably powerful tracks to put a rocket up the backside of your Friday. Read on...

First for the un-initiated among our readers, can you tell us a bit about Plex? When did you start, what was the impetus, what were you trying to do that wasn't around at the time?

Plex: We had both been going out for many years and found that there wasn't a night that quite delivered what we wanted to hear all night. Obviously London has had a pretty healthy club scene for a long time, but still we were finding evenings out where neither of us were totally enraptured by the music, so the obvious thing was to start our own night. Along with Jimmy Bolus of the Delta-9 crew we started Plex in November 2006, putting on Luke Vibert, Mike Dred, Scanone and a host of others at our first night. Since then we've always tilted towards the ravier/Techno end of electronic music but we also experiment a fair bit too. It's important to us that all angles of different electronic music we love get a look in at Plex, and I think we've managed to represent that well over the years.

What's changed the most since you started?

P: Obviously since 2006 electronic music has had a massive revival. When we first started out it was very much rock music's little brother in London's clubland; now it's the other way around. The rise of dubstep really revitalised things, and though neither of us were massively into it initially, our much missed comrade and fellow resident Ben Bracket was very much pushing that sound and insistently brought it to our attention. Over the last few years we've both been very happy to hear dubstep's many offshoots and our style of rave bass techno converging together, and for us it's made the electronic scene a much better and fresher place. As the electronic music scene has become bigger and more promoters spring up across town, we've seen situations where people will arrive at a club just to hear a particular artist and then leave once they've played. When we first started going clubbing you got there early and left late! Things have changed somewhat since those early Plex years.

Did that have any impact on you starting the Basement Sessions?

P: We've hosted the UK debut performances of artists such as Ancient Methods, Dopplereffekt, Morphosis and Matt Whitehead, amongst many others, and now we've put on over 200 artists over the past six and a half years. Repeating the same bookings over and over again at each party just wasn't an option for us; there is simply too much quality music to host and expose to listeners old and new. Accordingly we've always rammed our lineups, but for 2013 we decided that we should refocus our night on the party atmosphere and not necessarily on who is playing. The Plex Basement Sessions are about the vibe of the night, and not trying to be a who's who of electronic music.  hat's not to say that we are coasting on the bookings - for tonight's session we have a London debut live A/V show that we're flying over from North America and a duo who played Fabric a few weeks back, alongside one of our long-time favourite techno DJs, and that's ahead of some other major artist bookings later in the year...

What's the thinking behind Plex Basement Sessions, and why have you decided to keep the DJs anonymous?

P: Keeping the artists anonymous until the night in question was just a way to create a different hype around what we do, and hopefully give people into Plex and what we're about a chance to second guess who we may or may not have on, based on past line-ups. We've sold out the last two Basement Sessions' advance allocation in a mere three days since adopting this stance, so it seems to us that people are prepared to take a chance on our new night without even knowing who is playing - which is amazing.

I guess it's a trust thing really, between us the promoters and the punters who are coming out to hear high quality music. The element of surprise is often overlooked in this scene, so all being well we've brought a little bit of that magic back by not announcing who is playing for us, and the only way you'll find out is by turning up on the night or reading about it the next day online somewhere. 

There was an article in the Guardian recently discussing a perceived lack of small clubs in London. Obviously you're doing this in the Waiting Room, but do you think on a bigger scale this is true?

P: We both thought that article was pretty badly researched to be honest. Right now there are loads of great smaller parties going on, and clubs like The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington and Canavans down in Peckham are showing that you don't need a megawatt lighting rig and a sound system the size of a 1980s heavy metal gig to feel a real connection to both the music and the people around you. We fill our space with high-quality, plenty-loud sound, and the buzz of the crowd and the excitement of our artists do the rest.

What plans do Plex have for the rest of the year?

P: We've got five Plex Basement Sessions parties planned this year running every couple of months, and we've got our monstrous 7th birthday party on November 1st with our good friends Colony and another yet-to-be-announced promoter. The artists that we have lined up for our Basement Sessions are pretty damn amazing, and we're so happy and humbled that such incredible artists are into what we're doing. It's important to us that we maintain a fresh approach mixing past guests with people we've never had on before, and the unannounced angle just adds to the surprise when crowd arrive on the night to party with us.

We reckon our November birthday party will be as epic as the last two Plex/Colony/Machine sessions were; those were some seriously ridiculous nights, and very special to us.

Could you choose five tracks that you think sum up the spirit of Plex, and tell us why?

Chaos A.D. (Squarepusher) - 'Mind War Electro' (Rephlex) - We would often play the last set of the night, and this beast is one for the end of the night crew.  Such an absolute mind melter!

Surgeon - 'Magneze' (Downwards) - One of the best, most pure techno tracks of all time, and a certified belter. Surgeon, probably more than any other DJ, embodies what we're trying to do, a mix of musical intrigue, emotional intensity and cut-loose dancefloor mayhem.

Akkord - 'Renewal' (Akkord) - Heavy, dark and economical, but with enough going on to keep focus and drive. Such a great bass track, and just listen to that white-noise snare!  

Ancient Methods - 'Else (Ugandan Methods remix)' (Ancient Methods) - These guys are something else. We hosted their UK debut a couple of years ago and they absolutely tore the place to pieces. This remix by Regis and Ancient Methods is unique, reminiscent of older 1980s industrial stuff, though still having that groove that is missing from so much modern techno.

AFX - 'VBS.Redlof.B' (Rephlex) - There are so many tunes from Aphex's catalogue we could have picked, and this one is a guaranteed floor-filler. Probably the most important musical force in bringing Plex into being, and one of the most important musicians of the 20th/21st century.