In Session: Riz La Teef

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How did you first start getting into electronic music?

When I was 18 I went to university in Southampton, and I lived with this older bloke from Norfolk who was big into the free party scene. He used to play a lot of hardcore, but also a lot of reggae, we used to listen to lots of dub reggae and dubstep started to creep through from that. I just fell in love with bass and going to weighty soundsystem [nights]. There weren’t any in Southampton really, but I’d go to them when I was back in London. The End [after reopening as The Den], fabric – I used to go a lot when I was 18.

Was that when you first started buying records and DJing?

Yeah, I’d bought some stuff earlier on but it’s funny looking back – at that point where none of it was too expensive then, so you could get hold of copies of rarer records a bit more easily. And once you’re into one form of bass music you start to look at other stuff – so I got heavily into grime, then UKG and then UK funky. I bought all the UK funky I could get my hands on. I started mucking around on my own Stanton belt-drive decks – if you can mix on belt-drives you can mix on anything.

What sort of things were you collecting? And are you still coming across bits that you haven’t come across before?

Pretty much, I’ve still got records that I bought when I was 18 that I still play today. And there’s always new stuff coming out. And I mean [with older] garage, you think you know it all but you don’t. There’s always so many different white labels and stuff like that.

Read this next: 14 of the best UK garage mixes ever

When did you start playing out?

I played out once in Southampton, it was a shitshow. It was in a student union, and it was loud and it really put [me] off, but I was on at 10:PM so it didn’t really matter – it was just me and the bar guy. It’s a rite of passage though, you can practice in your bedroom but practice in clubs is a different story. Then in 2012, 2013 I moved to Nottingham and started playing in bigger clubs, me and my mate played on a pirate radio station, which I’m not sure is there anymore but used to be above a record shop called Oh My Gosh. It was funny you’d ring the shop and they’d answer: “Oh My Gosh?”

Then Radar Radio came along, and at first when the guy hit me up I thought: “What is this?” I just thought it was someone who had a broadcast thing but then I actually went round the offices, they showed me the entire thing and it was just crazy. Probably should have asked more questions – like how is he financing this etc.? Which we know now. But that’s how it picked up, I was playing a lot of grime back then and there was a sort of resurgence of it.

I remember dubstep felt like it was coming back a bit back then as well, and you were mixing it with grime.

Yeah that was my thing, I was also trying to do like maybe the first hour garage, and the second hour dubstep and grime or whatever.

Do you still cut your own dubplates?

No, it’s been a while. It’s really expensive to get them done now – there’s only two people doing it in the UK and the factory in America where they make the acetate burnt down so it’s hard to get hold of. I was cutting [dubplates] every week so I’d get tunes off people, cut on Thursday, my mate Leon would meet me in a McDonald’s car park and give me the dubs and I would play them at the weekend. But it’s so expensive now that it’s unsustainable.

Read this next: Why the vinyl industry is at breaking point

Would you ever get it done on vinyl?

You could do, it depends — I’m not such a massive fan of the [vinyl] cuts because I just love acetate. I used to go see all the old guys play like Skream and Benga, Mala, N-Type and they all played acetate dubplates. It’s basically a metal disc with acetate on top of it, and it’s cut on a massive lathe as opposed to something you strap onto a Technics. If you’ve got the right setup with good speakers, good turntables that are weighted properly then put an acetate on – because it’s heavy the bass is more resonant, you can’t go wrong. But it’s hard to find a club these days with a good setup, so it’s partly why I stopped [playing records].

As a guess, how often would you say you go to a club with a good setup?

If I’m lucky, I’d say five times out of 10. But now because I’ve played quite a lot of places I know I can take vinyl there. Like I played fabric the other day, so that was fine. I played a dubplate set the other day in Bristol, but I think the promoter was more into it than the crowd. I don’t think the crowd cared that I was playing acetate – not that it wasn’t amazing, like they loved the music but I think the dubplate culture is not where it was five or six years ago.

Do you think that’s a loss?

It depends, music is more accessible now. So you can play a whole set with just stuff you’ve found on Bandcamp, and it would be sick. Whereas back in the day you’d want to go and see a DJ with unreleased stuff because they were the only person that had it, which was a selling point and I don’t think that matters so much anymore. You could see it as gatekeeping, but it was part of the culture.

I mean people are still sending and playing unreleased stuff, but it used to be on Rinse [FM] you’d listen to it, and then the next day someone will have ripped all of the unreleased stuff off the mix you’ve just heard – I think that’s dwindled slightly, to my eyes at least, I might be wrong.

‘Midnight’ by Loefah is probably the biggest example of that

Yeah, it was one of Loefah’s “lost dubs”. The dubstep scene has always had lost dubs, where no one thought it would ever come out and only a few people had it. Youngsta had it for sure, and I think Oneman had it. I think Loefah must have found it again because they pressed it. People went mad, they were queuing outside record shops at seven in the morning.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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