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Interview: Play No Games

27 November 12 interview: Parisa Eliyon
photos: Dom Henry

The multi-faceted globe-trotting vanguard of the new school of electronic club sounds in Notts

Play No Games - from l-r N3ON, Fable, Solero, Gaz Congi and Alex Congi

You're scattered right across Notts - Wollaton, Sherwood, Aspley, Bestwood and Bridgford. How did you all meet?
Gaz Congi: We were doing our own thing about four years ago, but we went to each other's events. We found that we all had a sound that matched, and we discovered that we were all at the same level when it came to producing and DJing.

N30N: It's the usual thing; we're all friends of friends, essentially. When you start to get into producing, you get a network together - like a spider’s web - and you start swapping files and getting to know each other's styles. It was a natural progression.

You've been all over the world of late. How did that come about?
N30N: Back in 2009 a couple of the Rubberdub boys and I travelled to the Netherlands, and ended up jamming with the guys from Laag, and Riddim & Culture, and got on really well. It became a regular thing.

Fable: I was sent an e-mail regarding a DJ booking in Montreal. They said they'd been following my music for a while and wanted me to go play a set for them. At first I didn’t think it was real, but it all came together and I played twice over there.

And in the meantime, Congi have been getting attention off some pretty big names...
Alex Congi: The most significant attention we’ve got so far was from Phaeleh - he used two of our tracks in a mix which was featured on the Fabric website. When we supporting him at Dogma he told us he plays the tracks out on most of his sets, which was so great to hear.

Do you feel more appreciated outside of Notts then?
N30N: One thing I like about the music we do is that your persona is taken out of it. People don't judge you on who you are or what you look like; it's solely on what you produce. The thing about the electronic scene is that the people who are involved in it love to hear fresh music; I can remember nights out by what tunes I heard for the first time. So when you take your music to people with that mindset from an entirely different city or even country, you're bound to get a bigger reaction.

Fable: Everywhere I’ve played the response has been great. It’s nice being around new people and new environments because every city has a slightly different scene and atmosphere. It’s weird when people know your tunes, but pretty cool too.

The local band scene seems to be very cooperative. Is that the same for the local dance scene?
Solero: There's quite a lot of elitism here - certain people can be criticised before they've even been heard properly - but I have to say we've never been treated like that.

Gaz Congi: It can be very cliquey, definitely, but any criticism that's been given to us has always been constructive.

What's the biggest misconception people have about the music you play?
Gaz Congi: When you talk to someone who has no background information on the genre that we work in, and you say the word 'dubstep', and they automatically assume a certain type of music that they've heard in the charts which is a million miles away from what we produce. We're not as noisy as that; our music is something that you could play in a club, but you can also take it home and listen to it there.

Alex Congi: The problem with any new genre of music is that the minute it comes out, people want to hang labels on it and put it in a box.

You must have seen the club night posters that said 'Stop Pretending You Like Dubstep'...
All: (groans)

Solero: We try not to be defined by genre, but we all have our roots in early dubstep and that will always be evident in our production styles. It's nice that we all have different sounds as it helps us to stay healthy as a crew.

N30N: But having said that, it just doesn't interest me at this moment in time. I'm currently experimenting with reggae and even garage, and it doesn't feel natural for me to produce dubstep at this point -  I don't think it has the same impact for me. I’m happy doing what I’m doing so I'm just gonna go with it, it doesn't mean I won't make any more, just not at the moment.

Alex Congi: Our backbone is always sub-bass and drums, and we try to blend different styles of instrumentation and samples to add some soul to the music. The more we produce together the more we keep on learning about our sound and the outcome we aim to achieve. A lot of the recent unheard stuff is very minimal, but all share a similar theme; intricate drums, low bass and melodies.

N30N: I love a lot of old music - more so than modern tunes - so as an artist I like paying tribute. Not mimicking, but taking influences and creating my own modern interpretation. It’s like an evolution; you have to be open minded, and listen to a wide range of music.

Is it easy for people who play this kind of music to get bookings in town?
N30N: It's possible to get a one-off slot, but to get consistent bookings...that's tricky.

Fable: There are so many people out there who hassle promoters to death just to get a DJ booking, when nine times out of ten they can't actually do it. So there's a lot of competition. And not all of it good.

N30N: We have a good relationship with DHP, but we also do a lot of business with the more independent promoters like Mimm and Rubberdub - in places like Sheffield and Derby and Birmingham.

What's your favourite places to play in Notts?
Gaz Congi: For me, it's between Stealth and the Bodega. Actually, the Bodega - the vibe's great there. There's less of a barrier between you and the crowd - you can see them, they can give you the big fist, and so on.

N30N: Personally, I feel my natural home is The Maze. I love the response you get there, as the people are so enthusiastic about their music. It's just you, the people, the music, and nothing else.

Alex Congi: The crowd at Dogma are the most knowledgeable, I find - they know what you've done and what you're up to.

N30N: I think we all would have loved playing at Blueprint. The atmosphere was amazing there, and it's sad to think there'll never been another venue like that in Nottingham.

Who are your audience?
Gaz Congi: There'll be about thirty people or so at every gig we play who know what the Play No Games sound is about, but there's a lot of people who come and go. Loads of students.

What's next for Play No Games?
N30N: Vinyl. A lot of vinyl.

Gaz Congi: Last year put out a series of downloadable EPs. This year, we shut down on the releases and have been stacking a lot of money together. We're sitting on a lot of music at the minute. It's time we became more of a label than a collective.

N30N: What I really want to do is give the next generation of artists in Notts the opportunity to get played, because there's a lot of music out there that's pushing through.

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