It's the tail-end of 2018. It's raining. I'm stood in the car park of a well-known music studio brand who hasn't approached us for a sponsorship deal yet so shall remain anonymous. I'm armed with a notepad, a younger brother with a camera - and a logically flawed premise for an article. The idea being that I was going to define "the Nottingham sound" in a cunning feat of cutting edge music journalism.
That article never made it to print. I'd reached a point where the end goal had clouded the great logical conundrum at the very centre of the concept. The original idea came from a recognition that Nottingham's underground scene is very active at every level - from producer to promoter - and it beats to the sound of its own drum. It's a very cohesive yet diverse city when it comes to its underground music scene. The tunes that come out of the city don't sound like the tunes that come out of other cities, but - crucially - they don't sound like each other either which is where my massive logic gap existed. In essence, I would never be able to define a "Nottingham sound" because the "Nottingham sound" is quantified by what it isn't as opposed to what it is.
Flash forward to March of 2020. It's still raining, but I'm indoors. My brother is now in Australia, and I've given up on notepads because I doodle too much. My phone buzzes.
It's one of the guys from that interview way back when - Daseplate. He's got a release dropping on the 10th of March and is looking for some coverage. I decide to dig out the old notepad to see what I'd written down all that time ago.
There's a drawing of a triangle. "Johnny Rotten" is written in one corner. "Del Boy" is written in the other. "Coki" sits in the remaining corner. There's a dot in the middle with a big "DaseP" scrawled above it. Part of my brain goes "this is why I don't do notepads anymore". The other part goes "fuck, maybe I know how to write that article now". The release of 'Bulldog' release gives me something to focus on, and I can draw on some broader trends in the Nottingham scene.
So, without further ado, here is "Daseplate: The Nottingham Sound".
Daseplate has three forms. You have Johnny Rotten Dase, Del-Boy Dase and Coki Dase. These forms aren't mutually exclusive and often crop up in different combinations depending on the circumstance. Broadly speaking, there's a definite punk influence to what Daseplate does, coupled with a DIY mentality and penchant for the grittier side of bass music. And I'd argue that these influences pop up with a lot of other people operating in the Nottingham underground right now.
If we look at 'Bulldog', you might get an idea of what I'm talking about.
It's a very punk track - like a lot of Daseplate records it's very in your face. You probably wouldn't get away with playing it at your bait nightclub of choice, but it'd probably get a couple of wheel ups in a mosh heavy underground venue with big speakers. Those are the Johnny Rotten/ Coki sides coming through. And you can find these trends in the output of other Nottingham names. Snowy's 'Effed' with Jason Williamson sits in a similar bracket - it's gritty, it's dark, and it's somewhere between punk and grime. And again with Darkzy and Windowkid's new 'Grottingham' - less conventionally punk but still very in your face. And I think this is something very unique to Nottingham. I think my first introduction to Notts music was Vandull telling me to Fuck off over a greezy Cosmos beat. These aren't tunes built for the mass consumer nor the contemplative dubstep head trying to add value to their Discogs collection. These are tunes built to be tunes, listen to them or fuck off.
If we look at the distribution side of 'Bulldog' we'll find it's released on Pond Life - Daseplate's own imprint - cutting out the middle man distribution, bringing it directly to your streaming platform of choice Del-Boy style. I don't think handling your own distribution is a uniquely Nottingham thing by any means - but I think it's slightly more prevalent than in other places. In the last week, i've seen Vandull get a bag of USBs made up to hand out and then that Grottingham tune is out on a homebuilt label. There's a very DIY hands-on approach to distribution in Nottingham.
This DIY attitude finds it's way into the actual parties of Nottingham too. The Pond Life raves are always a lot closer to punk shows than your typical chin-strokey heads night put on by other promoters. I don't think I've ever been to a Pond Life night in a conventional setting - it's always a DIY set up in a location that'll you probably never go to again because no-one else would be able to get their event in there. And that's a very Notts thing to do. If you look at other promoters operating in Nottingham - particularly Wigflex - you'll notice Soundsystems in Churches, brewery warehouses or just random houses. In an age where venue closures are the norm - the DIY aspect of Nottingham's scene is one to replicate. The closure of traditional venues doesn't sting as much when you know you have proactive promoters opening up the next weird space for you to go and get messy in.
So, essentially, if you want to get an idea of what Nottingham is like - you should go and listen to 'Bulldog' by Daseplate. Out on all major streaming platforms on the 10th of March. There's also a Pond Life Party on the 12th of April if you want to come and experience it for real.