With part 2 of the Mantra x Footpatrol party fast approaching, we sat down with South London DJ and Rinse FM regular, Steve better known as Oneman.
Seen as one of the most exciting DJs to watch over the last decade, Oneman brings more than just the norms to his sets. After joining Rinse FM in 2006, Oneman has gone to become one of the most game shifting DJs within the UK with achievements like the first DJ to feature on Mary Anne Hobbs Radio 1 show without having released a single record in 2010.
We sat down with Steve ahead of the Mantra event to discuss music, his early days and of course, footwear.
In celebration of our next event, we’ve teamed up with Mantra to produce a limited edition t-shirt, available on a first come first serve basis, whilst stocks last.
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Footpatrol: Oneman firstly thank you for being here with us today, for people who aren’t aware of you and your music tell us a bit of your back story?
Oneman: I’m 33 years old, from Streatham in South West London. I actually started DJing when I was 14 buying Garage Records. I then started going to FWD and DMZ around 2004 that was the first time I was exposed to Dubstep Music. My approach to DJing from that point onwards was to mix the past with the new. My old Garage collection mix it with the Dubstep collection, that’s kind of the basis on what I do now.
FP: Now looking at you as a DJ and your technical abilities. You don’t see that many DJs mixing it up between both analogue and digital dependent to their sets, most people stick with digital nowadays. Do you have a preference and is there any reason for your choice, I know you grew up DJing with vinyl but has that changed much since?
Oneman: Yeah, I will always prefer DJing on Technics 1210s with vinyl, for reasons like the plates bigger the pitch shift is bigger and it’s more comfortable. The only reason I play digital is because of an increasing amount of new music that I was exposed to online, you know it costs £50 to cut a dubplate for 1 track on each side, it’s quite expensive. These days I don’t really have a strict preference, I just wish more night clubs looked after their equipment. I’ve kind of stopped taking vinyl unless I know that the set up is going to be good. I never do vinyl at festivals for example because of all the purpose built stages. I kind of had to make the change to digital though, otherwise I would have been left behind.
FP: You are seen as one of the most exciting DJs to watch in the last decade, with a variety of music and mixing skills like no other, do you have a favourite genre you like to play?
Oneman: I think it will always be 2 step Garage just cos of the groove. I love 4:4 and I love House and Techno, but there’s something about the brokenness of a 2 step groove that’s just exciting to mix. You can always tell when the next track is going in and it’s a bit more lively, I do like those seamless House mixes but its not really my style.
FP: You like it to be a little bit more raw in a sense.
Oneman: Yeah exactly, I like to take risks which I don’t think you hear enough. Don’t get me wrong there are DJs that do! I hear it’s a lot in the younger generations, like Tommy Gold who’s playing on Saturday at the rave. For me he’s one of the most exciting new DJs because he approaches it in that way.
FP: I know you aren’t a man that sticks to one genre, but you’re one of the early REAL dubstep enthusiasts in the UK which is sad to say isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Being from Streatham, and only round the corner from what is known as Dubsteps birthing ground in Croydon, do you think that help shape you as a DJ or did you have other influences around you?
Oneman: It was yeah, but growing up in Streatham at like the age of 13, you’d leave the school gates and there’d be a Vauxhall Nova driving past playing Delight FM or some Pirate Station. You’d sit there and be like, ‘Yo what’s this’. In terms of influence though, within my environment, it would be Garage music. Dubstep I caught on to it around 2004, but I didn’t really hear it in the area, I was sort of introduced to it through a website called Dubplate.net. This was before MySpace and social media but was still online. Then going to FWD at Plastic People and hearing it, was a totally new experience. It’s so different from listening to Dubstep through your speaker in your bedroom, compared to a Function 1 sound system in a tiny tiny square box. It’s 2 completely different things, I wasn’t really sold on it until I went to Plastic People and heard it there.
FP: There were some serious acts then, Skream, Loefah, Digital Mystikz, the list goes on. At one point the genre took over the world. There is one venue that I feel can’t go without mention when it comes to dubstep and that’s the Black Sheep Bar.
Oneman: Yeah for sure, I think Plastician even had an event in there called Filthy Dub when he was Plastic Man. CroyDub was there which was SGT Pokes night from like 2005. It’s a shame it’s not there anymore it’s got a lot of history. Some of my mates from secondary school that were into breakdancing used to go there, there was some Break nights there. There was some kind of cross pollinated community spot. They even used to do metal nights there! That was their main thing.
FP: We haven’t brought you hear for dubstep though, tell us about your Hip Hop influences were there any MCs that you get excited listening to, what was it about that genre that made you want to bring it into your mixes?
Oneman: One of my mates from secondary school was obsessed with No Limit Records, which was Master P, Silkk the Shocker and then Snoop joined around when I was in year 8. I remember buying a lot of those records because it was so different. It was aggressive, south and the lyrics were about living on welfare and police kicking your door down. The first album I bought with my own money was actually DMX, ‘It’s Dark and Hell is Hot’ and he is a real schizophrenic, he’s actually got a track on his album called ‘Damien’ which is all about the voice in his head. It was real dark stuff that I got into first. In terms of my favourite MCs, I really like Steele from Smif-n-Wessun, that whole Bootcamp click from New York was more my sort of vibe that bit of Jamaican influence which being from South London made sense to me.
The reason I started playing it in my sets was because of the invention of Serato. So when Serato came around you could have all of your music on your laptop but you could analyse all the files and see the Bpms. They used to have these things called Magic Crates where you could put the highest Bpm number and lowest Bpm number and just put everything into one folder for you. So say something was around 110Bpm or 120Bpm I would just use those crates and play with all of it. I think the first time I started playing Hip-Hop in my sets would be in the Boiler Room sessions .
FP: Hip Hop’s origins when it comes to DJing stems back to Grandmaster Flash and his idea of marking the vinyl. When it comes to mixing have you ever tried scratching?
Oneman: Na, I’ve never tried scratching, but one thing that’s always been important to me with things like Hip-Hop, even Reggae and Dub is that it’s all about the timing. I like all my mixes and transitions to be in time with the whole track. So if its got a 3 bar intro, I got to do some math in my head real quick and figure out when there’s going to be 3 bars at the end of a 16, to then mix with the last track to make sure the first 3 bars drop in time. Stuff like that is not mixing straight like with Dance music, it’s a whole different technical aspect of DJing.
FP: UK and US MCs who’d you like?
Oneman: I’ve said the US ones. UK I gotta say Jhest man, word play king. I’ve not heard anyone else use vocabulary and reference points like he has in the UK. Roots Manuva, he’s probably the best in my opinion.
FP: Even when he doesn’t rap, and he does spoken word its mental.
Oneman: Yeah and he’s from Stockwell. The video for Witness the Fitness was filmed in a primary school opposite to my primary school in Streatham. I connect with his music a lot, there’s that tune called ‘Strange Behaviour’ where he walks into PJ Patels in Stockwell and grabs a Dragon Stout out the fridge and he puts a bunch of pennies on the table. The guy in the shops then there like ‘what you doing with all these pennies, I aint taking this.’. The Roots comes in with ‘He’s far from happy with my method of pay, I shrug my shoulders, I’m like what can you say? It’s money, ain’t it? I ain’t begging you jack. And in the mood I’m in, I might just give you a slap’. You see that kind of stuff, I love it!
Roots and Jhest for me are the classic UK MCs. In terms of the New School, I really like Active from Harlem Spartans, DigDat but with a lot of this new kind of drill stuff, I feel a kind of responsibility not to play too much of the really violent stuff. It’s about basically killing people on other estates, I get it music should never be censored but I’m also very aware when I am playing it.
FP: On the topic of Drill in terms of flow and lyrics. The RZA said with his methodology in producing the tracks for Wu-Tang, was if you want to produce the music that we produce and you speed it up everyone is excited and feeding off the energy. But, when you start to slow the lyrics down with the same lyrical content, that’s when people begin to listen and think about what is being said, then it sticks.
Oneman: That’s a good point man!
FP: Yeah if you think about it, Drill is quite slow in terms of the bars and have quite short cadences.
Oneman: Yeah and the beats are like 140Bpm, you’re right, it’s true.
FP: Moving away from music, tell us about your sneaker game what’s the one shoe Oneman must wear at all times or do you have a rotation you work around?
Oneman: I like quite plain shoes if im honest, all white leather Airmax 90s, Reebok workouts both that off white coloured one and plain white. I love the 30th Anniversary Airmax 90s! At the moment I have a pair of Ghost Racer I wear quite a bit, basically I wear only Nike and Workout lows.
Nikes one of them brands that in the culture I grew up in and London in general is embedded in the culture.
FP: Have you got a favourite pair?
Oneman: I do, I have them but I’ve never worn them. The Nike Airmax 95 Lux with the Italian leather but the original ones like the ones Supreme recently did. I’ve got the OG and I’ve never worn them I’m too scared to. They’ve even still got the nipples on the soles that haven’t even touched the road. I’ve always called them my Funeral shoe, when I die they’ll be box fresh on my feet in my grave.
FP: Quickly back to music! Top 3 DJs of the year go!?
Oneman: Eclair Fifi, Jonny Rock and Black Loops.
FP: Oneman, again thank you for coming down to speak to us before you go, whats 2020 looking like for Oneman?
Oneman: Other than my holiday to India, You’re gonna have to wait and see!