Named after a girlie mag called Plumpers, it’s no surprise that the Plump DJs have a reputation for dirty, good times. Widely regarded as some of the earliest pioneers in breakbeat, the Plumps have managed to endure in a way that many of their peers in the scene were unable to – formed in the ‘90s, the London-based production and DJing duo are a force to be reckoned with, a filthy mixup of everything from broken beats to wailing electro synths and fearsome basslines that have featured on four full-length albums to date, a countless number of singles and remixes for the likes of Stanton Warriors, Deadmau5, Orbital and more.
No strangers to the Australian dance music scene, it’s been just over a year since we last saw them – and they’ve been up to all sorts since. “We were in Australia last year – we had a blast and some cracking gigs,” mentions Lee Rous, one half of the duo. “Perth’s Breakfest, Field Day in Sydney and many more, too many to mention. Since last year, we have been working primarily on developing and creating some dope club music for our label, and performing on the world circuit. We recently remixed Mark Ronson’s Record Collection and Stanton Warriors’ New York plus a load of new top secret numbers. The chance to add your style to a tune you love is tough to refuse. A great way top get your ideas to new audiences too.”
The two met through a rather well-known mutual friend in West London in the late ‘90s, working at a breakbeat label Freskanova as Gardner made music and Rous' DJing career was beginning to kick off. “We met each other through our best buddy – Freestylers’ Mat Cantor,” he explains. “Mat and I were studying together at university, he introduced me to Andy. Back then they were making music together under the name Strike, of You Sure Do fame. Andy, Mat and I used to go out raving together with our mates, and we started putting on parties in London in 1996 together. The rest is happy history!”
After years of working with Finger Lickin’ Records for their own releases, one of their more recent ventures was into the business of owning their own record label. In a day and age such as ours, it seems that almost every artist you speak to is in the business – but at less than a year old and with some impressive releases to it already, the future looks bright for Grand Hotel. “Grand Hotel and the building of this record label has been an education,” says Rous, on its inception. “It’s a challenge we took on to give us more freedom and a platform for our new musical experiments, and those of inspirational artists that we discover on the world stage. We are happy with the reactions worldwide on our label with plays and support in abundance, nothing is taken for granted.” I ask about the biggest changes to the way they approach their work within the industry since beginning Grand Hotel, and the answer is an amusingly honest one. “We are more organised with our approach to DJing and production since creating our own label. We have to be as we are looking after us now!”
Light Fantastic, one of Grand Hotel’s first releases as well as the most recent of Plump DJs’ venture into production, serves as both an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with the work of the Plumps, as well as a welcome return to form for the more long-term fans of the duo – representative of the trajectory their career has taken over the years, as well as the kind of tune that wouldn’t go astray on massive soundsystems on Friday nights at 2am. Met with much approval from local and international press, the two are pleased with the response to it. “Light Fantastic is a big tune, innovative, emotive and a bit of a beast. I think our new record Gobbstopper illustrates where our heads are at right now, too. I like your idea about Light Fantastic – in a way, it is a journey record. It starts off crisp and modern, and then after an Orbital-inspired synth riff it grabs you by the ear and takes you out of the classroom for being naughty!”
In an attempt to formulate some kind of context for the music they’re releasing under their name, as well as through Grand Hotel at the moment, I ask them for a list of artists they’re jamming to at the moment, and receive a wonderfully diverse mix of names in response. “We are currently being very inspired by the musical works of Bart B More, Bonsai Kat, Urchins, Nom De Strip, Blatta and Inesha, Myles Dyson, Mistamen, Waffa, SUBMO, Loops of Fury, Peo De Pitte, the Stanton Warriors, NAPT, Reset!, Budaken, Birdy, Justice and many more.”
To those familiar with the extensive back catalogue of Plumps DJs, this answer may not come as much of a surprise, considering the way their musical output has consistently managed to evolve and retain its relevance and appeal. “Our taste in music generally is still the same as it’s always been – we have developed as artists throughout our career and continue to do so. If you listen to our first album A Plump Night Out, this spanned nearly two years of production. In that time alone we enjoyed, developed and created over 20 records. Even within this body of music you can hear the transition from, say, our remix of Galaxy by War, to Scram, for instance. 12 years on and nothing has changed – we are still just trying to find new ways to make people dance!”
There seems nobody else better qualified to talk about the manner in which the sounds of breakbeat have managed to endure in a colourful variety of different forms. Rous’ take on it is typically laidback. “Nowadays, people have a broader appreciation of music – there is so much more of it out there! We love our breaks, as we do our house, techno, electro, soul, funk, disco and boogie. These seem to bee the main glue to our musical brains. The specialised breaks events are in decline at present, but the genre still exists and its walls have melted somewhat for the better – long live breakbeat and all who enjoy the breaks. We are happy with change, we embrace it, we respect and are inspired by the old and the new. You only live once, eh?”
A Plump DJs show is no ordinary mixing session – no surprise given their jam-packed tour schedule which hasn’t relented since their formation in the early ‘90s. The demand is easy to understand once you get a feel for the shape their live show follows – a hectic, electric session of lightning-fast mixing and all manner of tricks from the boys ensures that the duo never fail to get bodies moving on the dance floor. Funnily enough, things weren’t always that way.
“Good friends of ours, Pete and Jan Seal, saw us on stage at the Sydney Festival four or so years ago in front of over 7,000 people. They commented on the two of us playing back to back and getting pissed on stage – and when we looked back at the images, we were ashamed with our performance.
“We have a lot to give and were not doing the best that we could do. Basically, we realised how fortunate we were to be in the game, and decided to pull up our socks. On experimenting in the studio in Soho on the four-deck show, we immediately knew we were onto a good thing. Twelve years of DJing together has given us a unique understanding of each other, it’s uncanny. Like Plump yin and yang, tricks and mad mixes – it’s a real show.”
Not sold yet? I find that difficult to believe. Rous is keen for the string of upcoming club dates, referring to Australian tours as the “high point of any year”. Good to know, huh? “Such a special relationship we have with your country and many of its people, who have embraced us and our music with authority and love,” he explains further. “Some now we consider family. That being said, we also have a huge year planned with our new mix album Dirty Weekend coming out in April, US and Canada tours – Miami, Ibiza, the list is expanding. Plus our Grand Hotel Labels parties at XOYO in London to look forward to. It’s going to be big all round in 2012 – shall we say rotund? Plus an exciting announcement in March. Stay tuned!” Sounds big to us. Plump, even.
BY MIKI MCLAY
Plump DJs [UK] play Brown Alley on Friday January 27.