I think it’s safe to say that in many ways, the dubstep scene has never been healthier. Original stalwart labels are still going strong, while many younger labels are increasingly maturing and are in various stages of solidifying themselves as drivers of the scene, not just simply “ones to watch”. Hotplates Recordings is one such label, and has boasted releases featuring the likes of Glume, Causa, and Saule among others. As well as their newest release with Teffa – a producer who in a short space of time has gone from relative newcomer to rising star in the scene. In the time I had between rinsing the various lockdown Bandcamp releases (every cloud has it’s silver lining), I had the chance to (virtually) sit down with Hotplates Recordings founder and boss Ed ‘Kirbstomp’ to discuss the label, his story, the changes lockdown has had on the scene, and more.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into dubstep?
The name’s Ed, but I DJ under the alias ‘Kirbstomp’ at the same time as running my record label Hotplates Recordings. I’m a self-confessed foodie and work as a full-time chef at an Italian restaurant in Portsmouth, where I’m currently based. I actually grew up in Buckinghamshire but moved to the sunny South some years back. I got into vinyl culture back in the day when I used to go to Hardcore/Punk nights. I started collecting 7” records, which soon branched into reggae and dub. Eventually, I began to explore more electronic sounds and found a new love for dubstep. I was digging up plates such as Kode9 and Skream.
Were you active in the scene in any way before you started the label?
I was active in the sense that I went to a tonne of raves, knew quite a few heads and was always on the look out for up-and-comers. This knowledge along with my passion for the scene provided me with the building blocks for the label. However, it actually started as a pirate radio show, despite the desire to create a label always being present.
What was the concept behind Hotplates?
My mate Liam (DJ Loki) and I landed a show on pirate radio, Lush FM. We would carry our records to and from the show; records were always ‘plates’ to us, hence the name ‘Hotplates’. We would play a 2 hour show every Sunday religiously and would go 1 for 1 the whole time, like battle mixing. Around about the same time, I met my now good friend Theo aka Sepia. He started coming over from the Isle of White to play on our show and he would send me tracks. Unfortunately, after moving locations a number of times, the radio show came to an end and so to keep the flame lit I created the label in order to sign some of Sepia’s tracks, thus, the birth of Hotplates Recordings – despite Sepia losing the files for the first release, and OTZ jumping the queue!
Was there any particular idea behind the aesthetic of the label?
I always wanted a skull as the logo, which was possibly something to do with my earlier influences. I had an idea in my head that I’d sketched out many years ago. Once the label was going ahead, I proposed this idea to Cimm who finely tuned the design until I was happy with it and now it bangs! The change in colour with each release was Cimm’s idea, and I think at the time there were lots of labels using dark artwork. We wanted something that popped and stood out, for people to know it what it was the second they saw it.
Was there anything in running a label that took you by surprise?
Initially, I thought it would be easy but soon found out that it’s a full time job in itself. I started off clueless if I’m being honest but with each release I learn something new and it becomes a more streamlined process every time. It’s all a learning curve but I’m in love with the music and I’m crazy about the culture, which I think goes a long way. I can’t wait to see the future unfold.
Two years and five releases in, you’ve featured some of the most exciting producers in the scene currently. How do you go about selecting and securing releases?
Time flies! I’m really proud of the artists and all the music released so far. Some signings have happened organically through meeting the artists at events or parties. Some have been via communicating online, such as Saule, obviously he’s the other side of the world. Sepia and Lord Jabu also do some A&R work for me as they are both hot on the scene and living in central hubs such as Bristol/LDN – they’ll let me know if they come across something worth signing. Every now and then, I hear an artist and I’m like FUCK, and I’ll contact them straight away.
What’s your criteria for a Hotplates release?
I feel like I know straight up when I hear a track suited to the label! I guess they’re all bass-heavy, minimal old-school steppers. A lot of the tracks have slightly obscure elements to them, as well as exuding a melodic ‘trappy’ vibe. Artists will normally send me a bunch of tracks they think will fit with our sound and I’ll go ahead and pick the ones that grab my attention. Sometimes I’ll get sent fire that I like but can’t sign because it just isn’t Hotplates material!
Your latest release on the label is Teffa! How did that release come about?
I’ve been in contact with Teffa for a couple of years now, almost as long as Hotplates has been about. We started chatting online shortly after we released 001. I’ve wanted to put his music out on Hotplates since the start really. I had a couple tracks of his lined up, which then got replaced because he sent me more bangers that I preferred, so it has been a process, but we got there in the end, the guy is a beat making machine.
You told me that Teffa sent you a folder with 80+ tracks on it. How do you go about choosing two from that huge selection?
Yeah it was pretty daunting in the best way possible. I had a job getting through them, but funnily enough I think I found the two tracks that I wanted within the first half an hour. In regards to the vibe, my ears have been kind to me whilst selecting Hotplates releases so far, I think now when I hear a track that fits, I just know! I did originally want ‘Jurassic Park’ but White Peach beat me to it. Big up Zha, he absolutely smashes the game. Stellar release after stellar release!
If you could go back in time and steal any track from another label and release it on Hotplates instead, what would it be?
Wicked question man, that’s a tough one. I would probably have to rob up Innamind Recordings and pick LAS, either ‘Uuha’ or ‘Pirates’. His style is on point and I would probably go as far to say that he’s my favourite producer when it comes to 140BPM. All of his stuff is stupidly original and I just can’t get enough of his sound. Big up Kursk – Innamind Recordings is a huge inspiration for me.
If you had to pick, what’s been your favourite Hotplates release and why?
That’s cruel! They all have a special place in my heart. 001 was wicked because I got entrusted with a sought after dub which kicked off my journey with a bang! Sepia is one of my best mates, so it’s always been an ambition of mine to put out his music. It was also an honour to work with Glume and Chad Dubz who are some of the hottest talent in my eyes. Working with those outside of the UK like Saule is a madness and he absolutely killed his release ‘Ghettotech’ and managed to get it in Mixmag as track of the month. To be honest, I love them all man.
Who are some other lesser known or upcoming labels that you think we should pay attention to?
Sicaria Sound’s label Cutcrxss has had a strong start, such a banging first release so looking forward to hearing more from them! I’m also digging the output from Silent Motion Recordings, Ourman’s latest release was dope. Also, the Juan Forté boys are killing it! The underground scene is hella strong at the moment.
What are your plans for Hotplates in the future? Anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?
The plan is to carry on as we are for the moment and continue releasing more singles. I’ve got another 5/6 releases waiting to be unleashed. We’ve got some UK talent along with more artists from overseas including another American, but that’s about all I can say right now. There is also talk of getting some EP’s out there, possibly including various artists – more info on that soon.
Formally vinyl-only labels have been selling digitals since lockdown began to make up for the lack of live shows etc. Has lockdown affected you or your label’s plans much?
I’ve been pretty lucky, it hasn’t affected the label too much. Luckily, we got into the digital game just before 2020 began. Since going into lockdown, our Bandcamp has been popping off and we have been doing really well so big up to everyone supporting the label. You know who you are! Buying directly from the label really does help during these times. The scene has reaped some benefits from lockdown and producers have been busy so let’s just hope we can go to a rave soon and listen to the music the way it’s meant to be heard.
You’ve already taken part in some Outlook promo events as well as the recent ‘Stay At Home’ Festival stream, will we see more Hotplates events post-lockdown?
Yes, myself and DJ Mota (Reform Records Bossman) have been running the Outlook Festival launch party in Portsmouth for the past 5 years – it’s always a wicked turn out. Stay At Home Festival was dope too and I was gobsmacked that we managed to raise 30k for the NHS, what a result. The plan was to do some nights this year, possibly in Bristol or LDN, but unfortunately due to Covid this has been put on the back burner! Definitely not forever though, I have big plans for Hotplates, and Bristol especially is calling.
You’ve kindly provided us with a fresh mix, can you tell us a bit about it and the tracks you’ve included?
The mix is full of Hotplates releases, old and new, including forthcoming material which I am sure will come to light over the next few months. I can’t really say much else on that. There are also some extraneous dubs from other artists along with top tracks I’ve been rinsing from the recent Bandcamp Fridays. I’ve supplied a tracklist but there will be many mysteries until the announcements. I hope you enjoy!
HOTPLATES006 is out now and available from Hotplates Recordings’ Bandcamp.