Since 2016, Ploy’s leftfield cuts have barely left club soundsystems and headsy festival sets — and as clubbing further intertwines with his productions, the two have only become more in sync. On his next EP, ‘Unit 18’, due for release in July, Ploy explores the range of sounds and emotions that illustrate a night losing yourself in the dance, paying reverence to his favourite night-time venue - the kind that leads to dancefloor-commanding stylings or low-end forward tunes that pack a real punch through a big system.
Ploy - real name Sam Smith - has released a steady stream of music since he first moved onto the scene. He started out putting out records under the name Samuel on Brstl and Not So Much across 2014 to 2015, before debuting the Ploy alias the following year. His discography now sounds like an effortless array of biting, Baile-influenced rollers, each released through lauded labels including Hessle Audio, Timedance, and Hemlock. These influences from UK-focused bass music and techno heavyweights have helped Ploy to cherry-pick the best in soundsystem-inspired dance music and run with his own sound “Dance music is most effective when there’s less going on,” Ploy tells Mixmag when we chat to him while on tour in the States. “Anything that has a slightly humanistic feel to it is what I engage with the most.”
Now, Ploy’s most recent project, Deaf Test, comes in the shape of both a club night at, you guessed it, South London’s Venue MOT Unit 18, and his own record label and platform. The two give himself and artists of his choosing a chance to shine as he curates the look and sound of these projects to his own vision. We caught up with the DJ and producer ahead of the release of his next record, 'Unit 18', landing on Deaf Test on July 1.
Get stuck into Ploy's fiery In Session mix, and read his Q&A below.
Last summer you started up a project called Deaf Test, what was the motivation behind launching the label?
It was a combination of things, I've always wanted to start a label and I've been releasing records on other people's labels for long enough. I kind of built up an idea of what I wanted to do, whereas maybe five years ago, I wouldn't have been too sure on how I wanted it to sound or look. Having complete control over everything was also something that I wanted.
Was there a connection to your loss of hearing on the project? And does that effect the way you produce or made you readjust your creative process?
People often ask this, but no, not really. When it happened I was a kid, so I’ve kind of lived with it the whole time so you just get used to it really. The only time it is irritating is when DJing, you notice it a lot more then. Everything has to be kind of set up perfectly, you know, the booth and everything, it just takes a lot more energy to do that.
You’ve worked in the past with the guys at Hessle Audio and Batu’s Timedance, how has it differed taking to your own imprint now and releasing music on your own accord?
It feels a bit quicker to be honest, the turnaround is faster. I only did the one record for Hessle, but I did a remix for them as well which is a longer process - you’ve got three people that you've gotta liaise with about the tracks, and they like to test them out in clubs first for a while too. Once you’ve got the tracks and you think they're ready it’s a bit more straightforward, but you do lose that kind of A&R side that you get with another label. Luckily I still send my music to the same people I always have, so you still get that feedback. I think there's danger that you can just put stuff out on your own accord and don't scrutinise it as hard, but I still try to do that.
Read this next: Timedance: A new UK techno sound
You’ve spoken about meaningful collaboration a lot recently, if you could pick one artist to collaborate with at the moment, who would it be?
That's a bit further down the road, I think, I'm just trying to make stuff that would fit with other people. But I’d like to work with variety of people - instrumentalists, vocalists, stuff like that. Just to develop the tracks a bit more and give them another dimension basically - some tunes can sound quite processed and formulaic. When you start working with human or live elements, it opens the tracks up a bit more. In terms of people, I don't actually know a hundred percent at the moment, but that's something that I'm looking to get onto.
You’ve got a new EP coming out in July, ‘Unit 18’. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The tunes sort of use similar reference points that run throughout specifically UK dance music. It’s a bit more… what’s the word? Aggy club tunes, I suppose! A bit rougher, a bit more intense. They’re inspired by the club that I do parties at, Venue MOT, which I’m also at quite often. So it's the kind of stuff that would fit in that context. There's three tracks and they're each different speeds, but they've all got a similar aesthetic. They're made for different points of the night, really.
Is this something that you can play out at your Venue MOT parties, and does it pay homage to the club itself?
A little bit - especially with the label, I wanna put a bit more personality into the records and have them based on themes or something that reflects my life a little bit. So this one is based around the club really, it made sense. It’s a great spot to go to at the best of times anyway.
Why did you choose that club for your parties?
There are not many venues in London that I particularly like or go out to very often, but this is one that I do. It’s conveniently close to my house as well which is always quite handy! I’m not a massive fan of the London kind of clubbing, but you have a bit more freedom there, it’s looser. They have a good operation and the diversity in the parties is always really good, it's an interesting venue.
You said that Deaf Test was also a personal project which would “connect the dots” across your favourite styles. Do you feel that the night has successfully done that so far?
I've done four parties so far, but I try to book DJs who play a range of music. I kind of connect the dots between a few different things, I think that the bookings always reflect that - everyone who performs has a wider interest in dance music and music generally, and that's reflected in how they play.
Which has been your favourite night so far?
The last one was really good. We had Jon K and Jossy Mitsu and Felix Hall, so that's quite a nice range and worked really well together. When we did one in December, there was a bit more of a techno focus. It was with a couple of Dutch DJs, Tammo Hesselink and Mad Miran. They’re really great electronic music artists, but their interest is reflected in loads of different stuff. They love UK stuff, and that always comes out in how they DJ. I think that's the type of artist I like and want to book, not necessarily people that are too hyper-specific on one thing and don’t branch out much.
Read this next: “More risk-taking”: Jossy Mitsu is spreading her wings
Coming back to ‘Unit 18’, what sets this record apart from ‘Rayhana’? Will we be hearing a lot of different styles?
I've not really worked much faster than 140 BPM before, but these two new tracks are more 155 BPM half-time stuff, I really like that. I like playing that kind of speed out at the moment, I think the rhythm is really nice. I guess it’s a bit more electro-influenced which isn’t something that I've done before, but electro that still feels UK-ish. Hopefully, there’s a little bit of nuance in it.
What's next for you past the release of ‘Unit 18’?
I’m working on tunes all the time. I’m going to try and make more headway with the collaborative project - I need to start thinking about that a bit more. I'm working on some other records, and trying to make more edits as well.
Can you tell us a bit about your In Session mix?
This mix is filled with lots of very current club music that I’ve been rinsing lately, incorporating the themes and styles that are behind the latest record: rude rollers, speedy swingers, SoundCloud Baile bangers plus some of the raucous fast stuff and electro that inspired the last two tracks on the 'Unit 18' EP.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter
Batu - Built On Sand
Sister Zo - Afraid 2 Make A Move
Betas - One That’s
Pangaea - Fuzzy Logic
Groove Chronicles - Myron VIP VIP
Player - Player 001
Leibniz - Player
Plinth Records - Overtime
DJ Overdose - Show 'M What you Got
Svzz - Ghetto Superstar
Regal86 - Make A Slang
Leibniz - Bomba
Carpainter - YATAI
Tano - Step Into Vesuvio
Jurango - Flourine Mink
Madre Guia - Solar Plexus Defense
SXHCXCHCXSH - Nges
Tony Price - Prism
DJ plead - RT04
dj Phidias & Sano - Latino Body - Rebota Mix
Iyer + Hesk - Pushin P
Pharakami Sanders - Keep Roll
Mc Jessi - AQFE (LAZA EDIT)
KF + GW - Pedra Do Sal Hitmado
Krolik - Sparring
(who sent me this?) - Tobacco Overdose
Ploy - Unit 18
Parco Palaz - Born in a Tree
Grig - Summoning Aku Aku
Kala BTZ - Jesus Had Hoes
OAKK - Hello 404
SVZZ - Azz Out
Kodiak Kid - Poisonous