Listen to a mix by Riz La Teef - Music - Mixmag

In Session: Riz La Teef

The South London bass music head drops an hour packed with unreleased heat and speaks about playing with MCs, record digging and why there is still space for dubplate culture in a digital world

  • Words: Isaac Muk | Photos: Fergus Riley
  • 11 January 2023

Throughout the 1990s, when a single-digit-aged Riz La Teef (real name Alex Patrick) was growing up in South London suburbia, his father would pull him aside and play his son some of his favourite records. He was into rock ‘n’ roll and loved to play it “loud”. While blasting the full length albums, he’d show Riz the 12-inch covers – Led Zeppelin’s ‘IV’, Black Sabbath, Carlos Santana and many more.

“He had loads of records like I do,” Riz says. “I used to sit in his office and look at all the crazy covers – The Queen one [‘News Of The World’] with the robot and the drop of blood, I would sit there and just stare at the drop of blood for hours.”

Although his taste nowadays has deviated from electric guitars to TR-909s, it formed an appreciation for all things vinyl that still persists today. Lining the interior of his spare room from floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, are Ikea Kallax cabinets packed to the brim with records, with stray vinyl overspilling out onto the floor. It’s a collection packed with digs from hours-upon-hours spent trawling through bins in record stores, but also unreleased bits one would struggle to find anywhere else.

Read this next: How to press your own record

Only a few years ago he was spending much of his time (and hard-earned cash) relentlessly getting acetates cut with dubplates of tracks sent to him by producers and friends. Dropping exclusive dubplates pressed onto the rarer acetate material is a lesser phenomenon than two decades ago, but has provided underground UK bass music – and Riz personally – with some of dance music’s greatest moments. A second VIP of Kahn’s ‘Abattoir’, or ‘Abattoir VIP VIP’ as some called it, tore up many a dancefloor – including providing a big Boiler Room moment with East London MC Flowdan, although the full set is sadly no longer available to watch.

Blending an hour of garage, dubstep, grime and everything in between, his In Session mix, chocked full of forthcoming bits and unreleased dubs, is a banger. We sat down to chat with him about dubplate culture, the evolution of UK bass music and an old wheel up controversy. Take a listen to the mix and read the interview below.

How did you first start getting into electronic music?

When I was 18 I went to university in Southampton, and I lived with this older bloke from Norfolk who was big into the free party scene. He used to play a lot of hardcore, but also a lot of reggae, we used to listen to lots of dub reggae and dubstep started to creep through from that. I just fell in love with bass and going to weighty soundsystem [nights]. There weren’t any in Southampton really, but I’d go to them when I was back in London. The End [after reopening as The Den], fabric – I used to go a lot when I was 18.

Was that when you first started buying records and DJing?

Yeah, I’d bought some stuff earlier on but it’s funny looking back – at that point where none of it was too expensive then, so you could get hold of copies of rarer records a bit more easily. And once you’re into one form of bass music you start to look at other stuff – so I got heavily into grime, then UKG and then UK funky. I bought all the UK funky I could get my hands on. I started mucking around on my own Stanton belt-drive decks – if you can mix on belt-drives you can mix on anything.

What sort of things were you collecting? And are you still coming across bits that you haven’t come across before?

Pretty much, I’ve still got records that I bought when I was 18 that I still play today. And there’s always new stuff coming out. And I mean [with older] garage, you think you know it all but you don’t. There’s always so many different white labels and stuff like that.

Read this next: 14 of the best UK garage mixes ever

When did you start playing out?

I played out once in Southampton, it was a shitshow. It was in a student union, and it was loud and it really put [me] off, but I was on at 10:PM so it didn’t really matter – it was just me and the bar guy. It’s a rite of passage though, you can practice in your bedroom but practice in clubs is a different story. Then in 2012, 2013 I moved to Nottingham and started playing in bigger clubs, me and my mate played on a pirate radio station, which I’m not sure is there anymore but used to be above a record shop called Oh My Gosh. It was funny you’d ring the shop and they’d answer: “Oh My Gosh?”

Then Radar Radio came along, and at first when the guy hit me up I thought: “What is this?” I just thought it was someone who had a broadcast thing but then I actually went round the offices, they showed me the entire thing and it was just crazy. Probably should have asked more questions – like how is he financing this etc.? Which we know now. But that’s how it picked up, I was playing a lot of grime back then and there was a sort of resurgence of it.

I remember dubstep felt like it was coming back a bit back then as well, and you were mixing it with grime.

Yeah that was my thing, I was also trying to do like maybe the first hour garage, and the second hour dubstep and grime or whatever.

Do you still cut your own dubplates?

No, it’s been a while. It’s really expensive to get them done now – there’s only two people doing it in the UK and the factory in America where they make the acetate burnt down so it’s hard to get hold of. I was cutting [dubplates] every week so I’d get tunes off people, cut on Thursday, my mate Leon would meet me in a McDonald’s car park and give me the dubs and I would play them at the weekend. But it’s so expensive now that it’s unsustainable.

Read this next: Why the vinyl industry is at breaking point

Would you ever get it done on vinyl?

You could do, it depends — I’m not such a massive fan of the [vinyl] cuts because I just love acetate. I used to go see all the old guys play like Skream and Benga, Mala, N-Type and they all played acetate dubplates. It’s basically a metal disc with acetate on top of it, and it’s cut on a massive lathe as opposed to something you strap onto a Technics. If you’ve got the right setup with good speakers, good turntables that are weighted properly then put an acetate on – because it’s heavy the bass is more resonant, you can’t go wrong. But it’s hard to find a club these days with a good setup, so it’s partly why I stopped [playing records].

As a guess, how often would you say you go to a club with a good setup?

If I’m lucky, I’d say five times out of 10. But now because I’ve played quite a lot of places I know I can take vinyl there. Like I played fabric the other day, so that was fine. I played a dubplate set the other day in Bristol, but I think the promoter was more into it than the crowd. I don’t think the crowd cared that I was playing acetate – not that it wasn’t amazing, like they loved the music but I think the dubplate culture is not where it was five or six years ago.

Do you think that’s a loss?

It depends, music is more accessible now. So you can play a whole set with just stuff you’ve found on Bandcamp, and it would be sick. Whereas back in the day you’d want to go and see a DJ with unreleased stuff because they were the only person that had it, which was a selling point and I don’t think that matters so much anymore. You could see it as gatekeeping, but it was part of the culture.

I mean people are still sending and playing unreleased stuff, but it used to be on Rinse [FM] you’d listen to it, and then the next day someone will have ripped all of the unreleased stuff off the mix you’ve just heard – I think that’s dwindled slightly, to my eyes at least, I might be wrong.

‘Midnight’ by Loefah is probably the biggest example of that

Yeah, it was one of Loefah’s “lost dubs”. The dubstep scene has always had lost dubs, where no one thought it would ever come out and only a few people had it. Youngsta had it for sure, and I think Oneman had it. I think Loefah must have found it again because they pressed it. People went mad, they were queuing outside record shops at seven in the morning.

As someone who has played garage, grime and dubstep for over 15 years now, what still excites you about it?

It’s the way people are taking the genre and making it their own. Dubstep-wise you’ve got people like Truant and Rareman. Garage is huge now, I can’t believe how big it’s got – too many to name but [artists such as] Interplanetary Criminal and Holloway. It sounds a bit like the old stuff but people are putting their own takes on it. Speed garage as well, a lot of it sounds a bit like the 2000s El-B sort of stuff but also a bit more modern.

It’s really cool, the fact that 18-year-olds are getting into garage is crazy and going to raves as well. But it all comes in circles doesn’t it? Grime was a big thing, then dipped and came back, then the garage resurgence, stuff comes in waves, something else will come next.

Read this next: Interplanetary Criminal is introducing a new generation to garage

You play with MCs sometimes and sometimes you don’t, how different is it for you as a DJ?

It can stress me out a little bit because I’m sort of responsible for someone else. I’ve got to be aware of their craft as well as mine, so I’ve got to make them sound good as well as play stuff I like, which can be difficult at times especially if it’s with someone I haven’t worked with too much before. It’s quite difficult to do, it’s another skill – it’s not about blends it’s more about the selection and getting it in at the right time for the MC to get their flow going and not fuck up their flow. Say you’re halfway through a bar you can’t change a tune, it’s not going to work.

But it can be amazing, I did a set with Riko Dan in Brixton and it was crazy, because I get on with Riko and his energy was mad. If you’ve got a sick MC it can keep the energy up, and this sort of underground music is built for MCs as well, and that’s something people forget. It’s part of the culture.

What’s your process for finding music and digging for records?

I used to go record shops quite a lot, like DNR Vinyl in Croydon but then lockdown happened. I’d go straight to the garage section and pick out stuff, like if I know the label or if it’s a white label I’ve got to play it as well. Otherwise it’s just Discogs, I fucking love Discogs – you can go down a rabbit hole, like this guy did this song, he did a song on that label, there’s another remix on that label, he’s got an alias called this, you can spend all afternoon on it. I’m also a big funk and soul fan so if it’s got a sick LP cover I’m buying it, the wackier the cover nine times out of 10 it’s going to sound sick.

You attracted a bit of controversy a few years ago when you wheeled a song during Sherelle’s Boiler Room set. How do you look back on it now?

The worst thing was I forgot I did it, which is embarrassing and it did teach me a lesson. You’ve got to remember who you are in a place and what it looks like to other people and made me definitely more aware of how to behave. It made me think of my role in the clubs and my actions in clubs quite a lot as well, which is important. It’s not good to be messing around on someone else’s set – it’s not a good idea. It was badly timed and I was drunk, but it's no excuse – I just got carried away.

Onto your mix now, how did you record it and what was the idea behind it?

Just at home on two old Mackie monitors, my DJM-600 which is like an antique and two XDJs. I wanted to play mostly new stuff and I felt like I wanted to represent my newer sound and what you’d expect from me in a club environment. It starts with the piano, and sort of progresses and ends with the four-by-four dubstep stuff, and then piano again with the half-time jungle bits.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

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