oneman, two decks.
An exception to the rule, Oneman has been one of the UK’s finest tastemaker DJs for years without ever releasing a single record. Are things about to change?
Oneman by Stephanie Sian Smith
There are very few DJs that can push the boundaries of mixing music without putting out a single release. Oneman has done just that. The decks are his bread and butter and being the fine certified selector that he is, he has won the respect of the music game worldwide. Taking influence from his dubstep and garage days, Oneman mixes with an old school vibe, throwing in unexpected tracks that result in gunfingers and wall slapping a-plenty. With nearly as many Boiler Room sets under his belt as he's had hot dinners, the World Combat League-lovin', juice-makin' Oneman aka Steve Bishop is coming to the end of his first world tour, rounding off the final leg in Asia with a string of dates in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. With a quick pit stop in London, we managed to catch a cappuccino with the dubstep-turned-house, techno, garage and hip hop don.
Where did you work before you were DJing?
My first, first, first job was when I was in college and I was working at Levi's, just on the shop floor. I learnt how to fold jeans properly. I still fold my jeans properly. When I left college, I worked at Warner Brothers Records. For four years I was in the post-room. It was a good job because you get to know every department in the building; you get to talk to everyone. My mum used to work at London Records and I used to go as a kid. That's also when I actually realised how everything operated and how a major label was more like a call centre, and that that's not somewhere I wanna be. So I started DJing a bit more seriously. I started buying a lot more records when dubstep started getting bigger and I left my job in 2008.
Your music style is more eclectic now…
Yeah, I play everything now. I think just having Serato and the digital way of DJing has helped me have a wider selection than just UK underground music. That's how it used to be, and I was always happy with that... but with the more modern hip hop that's come out in the past 3 or 4 years, a lot of it is at the same sort of tempo or half tempo as some of the dubstep stuff or even the house stuff. There are some new hip-hop tracks out there that are 120bpm, which is the standard for house music. To make myself more into it I incorporate a lot of other sounds; it keeps me interested.
As a DJ first and foremost, how has it been moving into production?
The DJ always knows what's missing. The DJ's always the one listening to everything, trying to figure out what's there and what's not there; you spend hours in record shops listening to this one or that one on the wall, you don't know what any of them are but you wanna listen to them anyway. When you hear so much music in a record shop or you've been online all day, you start to hear what's missing and what you want to be there. Yeah, so I think the approach to making music from a DJ background is good, it can really help you out. It can help you find your direction, because you already have so much knowledge of what music is about, what's there currently and what could be there next. I think that's a DJ thing.
So were your edits a way to ease you into production?
Kind of yeah, the edits thing, they were like DJ tools. So I'd put an acapella over a TNGHT track and that tonight track would become my own version of that track. And that's what the whole point was, to draw attention to my sets, to how individual they are, and how they can stand alone from any other DJs. The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it and the more I realised I could use it as a platform for helping me on the production level which I'm slowly getting into now.
Can we expect to see a Oneman release?
Oh yeah, possibly. I'd like to have a vinyl release... that'd be crazy.
If you could release on any label, who would you like it to be?
Any label? I could go with someone like Nervous Records from New York, who did the early house and garage stuff. I look up to them as legendary, I mean, rappers like Smif-n-Wessun released on there! Armand Van Helden, Classic Man, Wayne Gardner, there are so many people that have released with them! If I could release on any label, it would definitely be Nervous.
What's the most prized record in your collection?
Well the one I look after most is the White Label release of the Grey Album by Jay-Z and Danger Mouse, which is the Beatle's White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album and they released 500 on White Label and I managed to get a copy of that. It's definitely the most looked after. My most prized record is properly D.E.A. 001, by D.E.A Project. They're an old South London garage outfit that were really bluesy, they were really depressing; depressing sounds with suspended chords and bluesy bass notes and wailing vocals. But the D.E.A 001 is a remix of Love Me by Fonda Rae & the Wish, which is an old '80s soul classic with a whole new melody and beat. The original is one of my favourite records anyway, but this remix, it's just me. It's just totally me.
What makes an exceptional DJ?
Someone that really distances the art of DJing from anything else. If I was to start producing more and doing more remixes and then made my DJ set like my production, for me, that wouldn't be a good thing. Once you've done that, you need to really, really learn how to use the mixer, because that's the most important thing in terms of creativity. Just distance yourself from everything else you do and don't let anything else influence your DJing, because everything can. And I know it sounds really cliché, but just be yourself.
Who have you drawn inspiration from technically as a DJ?
DJ EZ. I don't even need to talk about that one. He is not human; he's a fucking robot. I want to know what's under his hat as well? Medusa?
What's your recovery routine?
Right now I'm in to juicing! I'm buying kale and radishes and shit, and it's like 'what's going on?! Why aren't you into eating burgers like you used to?!' I've started watching this thing called World Combat League, on Extreme Sports; it's Chuck Norris' fighting league. It's just one 3 minute round - there are no consecutive rounds. It's so intense! I watch that more that football now. Big up Chuck Norris! Other than that, just juicing boy! Smoking weed and juicing.
Text James Hutchins
Photography Stephanie Sian Smith