Locked On: Oneman

"...the tools you’ve got have to be good enough"
Oneman pic.jpg
The major label system takes a lot of flack.

In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a serious music fan who would support it. However, it does have one redeeming feature – this is where a youthful Oneman was introduced to the crushing weight of dubstep. Working in the mail room at Warners, Streatham boy Steve Bishop opened up to the shifting, continually in flux dynamics of bass culture. Building a reputation purely through his selections, his taste, the DJ is responsible for the latest – typically fantastic – mix in the FabricLive series.

“I think for me, my favourite is Diplo – just because of the range of styles on it. At that time I was really into him, as well” he muses. “He’s really responsible for a lot of stuff, a lot of music being exposed.”

Funny that Oneman should pick Diplo’s selection as his favourite in the series. Diversity to a tee, the Florida producer in some ways matches his own identity, his own aesthetic; an anything goes policy, each Oneman set is completely different to the next – arguably making the job of constructing a Fabric mix even more difficult. “Rather than just doing what I do on the Boiler Room or on Rinse I kind of wanted to showcase what I would do at Fabric on a Friday night” he reveals. “It’s definitely more clubby, more dancey but it still has that breadth of time. So there are tracks from ‘97 and there are tracks from 2007 and tracks from this year. I’m really happy with how I approached it and how it came out”.

Opening with a flurry of dark Funky cuts, Oneman admits a deep longing for a much misrepresented sound. “The sound of 2010?” he wonders. “That sort of real dark, Funky sound. I was really into that. I think it was a fast paced scene, which came and went in about six months so the music was shorter than a lot of the other stuff, which means you have to mix a lot quicker”. Continuing, Bishop points out the direct lineage between those early Grime raves and the more up market Funky sound. “It was a real local scene. It was a real localised scene. It was East and South London, ghetto kids who used to go to Grime raves putting on smart clothes and going to Fabric. Meeting girls rather than trying to jack someone’s stuff!” he laughs. “That actually really changed the mindset of a lot of people, their outlook on going out to a rave. It just shows you how powerful music can be”.

Once lauded for his vinyl only dedication to dark garage and the nether regions of dubstep, Oneman’s sets have completely shifted. Dropping the wax fetish and opening up Serato, the DJ exposed himself to the countless possibilities offered by new technology. “I think when Serato came along that really changed a lot, it kind of flipped everything on its head because it gave you the opportunity to move past having a box full of 60 records – maximum” he states. “It gave you the scope of 12,000 tunes on a hard drive, just sitting there. So that was the main reason for broadening my step from kind of like playing vinyl garage to playing... pretty much everything now. I play old soul records or disco records. Mixing it up, that’s what I like to do – it keeps it more entertaining”.

Asked where he searches for new tunes, Oneman points to an obvious but unexpected source. “You just have to go on YouTube.YouTube – in terms of finding tunes – it’s the best thing out there. I think that the amount of stuff on YouTube is unrivalled. I read somewhere the other day that 75% of people get their new music off YouTube anyway. Or even old stuff. Things like Spotify are great but they’ll never rival free sites like YouTube where you can just upload a track with a picture.” The reason? “Related videos!” he exclaims. “You can go from related video to related video. You can listen to a whole album and then watch a whole documentary about an artist. People don’t realise how much of an essential marketing tool YouTube is”.

A definite believer in the central role of the DJ, Oneman continues to fly the flag via his prominent Rinse slot. Asked his thoughts about the shifting role of the tastemaker, Bishop flips the question on its head. “I see it as everything it was when it started out. I don’t think the DJ is as needed, or is as important as when it started out purely based on the fact that people now accept that to make money they have to perform. All money is now performance. Everything is geared towards playing to a concert now. Whereas before you’d go and see a DJ play dance music, now I think the big thing in dance music is to go and see Benga live or SBTRKT live. To go and see live versions of dance music is great, it’s a great thing – it’s not a bad thing at all. All I’m trying to say is the role of the DJ has become less important, and music sales have determined that producers are bigger than DJs now. So the producer’s have to also be a DJ, in other words. Which is a shame, it shouldn’t really be like that but that’s how it goes”.

One of the few DJs to make his reputation without relying on exclusive dubs, Oneman is completely up front about the sources and content of his sets. “I’ve always been known to make use of tracks people know and create exciting blends between them” he explains. “Even when I was playing off vinyl. So I was never felt the need to have this sort of urge to have these unreleased tunes. I’m never hassling anyone for music – if I get sent stuff I’m blessed but I’m never ringing up Joy Orbison and being like “send me some new tunes!” At the end of the day, the tools you’ve got have to be good enough”.

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'FabricLive 64 - Oneman' is out now.

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