“We don’t want to become a Future Classic or a Universal” Plastic World on comfortability, their compilation and curating taste
You either know Plastic World or you don’t. You may inadvertently know their name, but when you hear a Plastic World release, you know it’s a Plastic World release.
Put together and run by James McInnes of Future Classic and FBi Radio alumni and Vic Edirisinghe of Astral People, these two guys are dedicated 1000% to everything that they do. Each release coming from Plastic World has been carved with such finesse, a testament to the artists that they’ve signed and the insight both James and Vic have too.
Sitting at around three years of age, Plastic World is one of those local labels that just gets it. From the start they defined the kind of artists they wanted to back, and solidified that with a now absolutely impressive back catalogue of releases, parties, forthcoming releases and now their very own compilation.
Titled Plastic World Volume 1, it’s every electronic music fan’s wet dream to be quite frank. 16 tracks feature on this one, each separated by the artist’s experiences, strengths and interests. From Sampa The Great‘s expert insight into hip-hop to Tim Shiel’s minute perfectionism heralded within his ambient musings, not one track on this compilation sounds remotely similar.
We sat down to have a chat with James a few days post-compilation. Talking all things from comfortability, balance and composure, to upcoming releases and schoolies 2.0, it’s quite easy to gather that the guys at Plastic World are just stoked to be here.
With 16 different tracks, curating the compilation must have been hard enough. How did you pull all of that together from all of those different artists?
JM: Well over the course of maybe a year, we were getting bits and pieces from lots of side projects from artists likes GL and Retiree, so you can hear some of their side projects in there. And they were kind of sending them to us and started being like, “We’re making some stuff, what do you think?” and we’re like “This is just as good as the other stuff” and I think you can often forget that people in bands have multiple interests and they like making all kinds of music. So, we were getting some of that, we were getting some completely out of the blue stuff where someone would just email it to us, and we’re like “this is fire” too. We also reached out to a few different people that we really liked just to see if they could send some things in to us. After about a year, we got to plan it all and then me and Vic sat down and were like “okay, we have all of this music that covers every different genre that we like. How do we arrange it?” So we had to sit down and work out the flow of it all. That was a really fun process as well. It was kind of like DJing, but more curatorial. I really enjoy it – curating like that.
Yeah, especially because you’ve DJed for a while as well.
Yeah! It kind of fits nicely in there. It’s definitely a journey from start to finish.
On the compilation, you’ve got a big range of artists. From bedroom producers to the likes of Sampa The Great, you’ve got all of the in-betweens as well. How did you come to work with all of the different artists?
For the artists who have started with us and released records with us like Retiree and GL and Alba, a lot of it came through Vic, because he comes from the management side, so there was a bit of a crossover. A lot of them are friends too and have been making music. And with artists like Sampa the Great, SilentJay, that was actually through Wondercore and the legends there, so we often cross paths through a few different lives. It’s kind of nice to work again with people you’ve worked with. It’s a nice synergy of everything. I don’t think it would be in our style to reach out to a completely random person and throw a really intense contract on them and not actually be able to have a good banter with them. And even if we haven’t met them, we’d love to just hang out with them.
Ultimately, this has been a massive project for you and the artists too. What does this compilation represent overall for you and Vic?
I think the compilation represents three years of working on the label really. It’s been a real journey for us. There’s been ups and downs, we’ve slayed things and made mistakes on things, but I think the compilation shows off all of the stuff that we love from different genres, our ethos, all of the artists that we love working with and we put a big investment in to make it work and to really drive it as well as we could. It should be a summary of who we are and we’d really like it to stand the test of time. Whether we do another one or not, who knows, but I think that this will be a nice little seal in 2016.
That’s the other thing with the compilation, it kind of goes through the different stages that electronica is in like from Sam Weston who’s making really house-y, tech-y, with fun like Chicago kind of stuff, to the really big, synthy kind of stuff of Hugo Frederick, and the atmospheric with DREEMS, and Tim Shiel who’s making really cool electronic music. He’s a gun, he’s been around for like a decade. And descending into like the soul of Silent Jay and Sampa the Great. I think it kind of summarises this melting pot of what’s going on in the scene today.
I like that it’s all really spread out. Like there’s not a major house section and a major techno section, the more you listen to it, you get a bit of everything. It’s definitely been curated well.
Me and Vic, we’re trying to put it together as a mix. We’re going to talk over the top of it.
Like a narration?
Yeah, it would be hard, but hopefully we actually make it. It started off with Vic pretending to be a creepy commentator. Sport is his true passion – second to music. So hopefully you see that soon. When sport is on, he cannot stop talking shit, absolute dribble – you can write about that.
Yeah sorry Vic.
I know that Vic’s been involved with management and you’ve been involved with labels. How has it been transitioning from working for someone else to working for yourselves?
Very different. Well, all of the jobs and duties are the same, but I guess having the responsibility has changed. So if you’re late sending something in, that just costs you money. That’s going to affect the artist, that’s going to affect everything. If you’re not running a company, you’ll usually have a boss that’s like “James, where’s that file?” So it is a bit different in that respect, you have to be way more disciplined. But I’m very lucky, and I think me and Vic bounce off each other very well. We’re never grumpy, we’re always kind of keeping each other going and we buzz off the same energy. In the end it kind of works out, it’s balance.
Yeah I think that’s hard with a partnership as well. Because there’s always the possibility that everything goes south, and it all falls to shit. You guys seem to have a good professional and non-professional relationship.
Yeah we do. We do all kinds of things together. The latest thing we did was we went to Korea with two other friends, and it kind of became like schoolies 2.0, but for a bunch of 27 year olds. We also just go driving around on Sunday’s and listen to demos. It’s good. Plastic World isn’t meant to be a 9-5 to us. It’s something that we take very seriously. We look after all of our artists and want to make sure we’re doing everything right by them. But we don’t want it to turn into a 9-5 grind where we have to sell this amount, you know? And make heaps of money, that kind of thing.
I wanted to touch on the relationship you guys have with your artists. I know a lot of other labels keep it strictly professional. Do you think that approaching it in that way would change the culture of Plastic World?
I think so, but I think we do all of those things too. There’s a line between actually being mates and actually doing work together, and I think you have to get that balance. Sometimes it can go too far left or too far right, but I think we’re always professional. We always do contracts and go through all of the approval processes for all parties and work to really tight deadlines to try and nail everything for them. It is a balance.
I think Purple Sneakers and Plastic World have a very similar mindset and attitude. We both make a point of focusing on emerging electronic music and new artists who are coming out of the woodwork. I guess you could say we’re both tastemakers in the sense that we’re not out to look for the biggest thing, but the coolest new thing that we can find. What do you think personally sets you guys apart from other independent labels?
Well I think we kind of have our feet in both worlds because we take vinyl very seriously and we like to focus on that for all of our releases. We only do local artists from Australia and we really like to be able to shape someone’s career. Someone who’s really breaking through and doing something for the first time so we can take all of that knowledge that we’ve learned from our labels and management companies and all of these other things at day jobs and kind of use that to help them explore the whole new world that they’re about to enter.
Someone like GL, our friend actually forwarded us their demos and they were like “I don’t actually know what to do with it” and it was pretty much all of the same tracks from their EP and I listened to it and was like “wow this is fucking fire”, and then I sent it to Vic and he was like “this is incredible” and we just said “Yep! We’re gonna do the release. I’m gonna go fly down and meet you guys.” So we kind of get things like that. And I think we really like to focus on careers. Especially for someone like GL, I think 2 years ago they didn’t even have a name for the band. And now, they’ve played Meredith, they just finished the album and they’ve had all of this success which shows they’re just going from strength to strength, and it’s really special for us to be able to see how that has grown. So I think if you are doing a record with us, we really want to make sure it’s not just a flash of the hand. But the thing is as well, we really like to do the start bit, let them grow, and we don’t really want to lock them into a really long deal and keep them as our slaves forever. We kind of just like to do that special part at the start where we can throw all of the ideas around and really grow together and then kind of let them free. Cause we’re not really set up to be doing 10 album deals and really big projects.
And it also gives them freedom for bands like GL if they want to, to go internationally. Their album is incredible by the way.
I think Graeme who does all of the beats works incredibly well with Ella who does all of the singing and keys as well. I think her voice sits on this kind of music perfectly, and it gives her all of this range to work with. They just did a tour with Client Liaison as well around Aus, which is amazing. What a combo. And to see them playing really big venues with guys like Client Liaison, who are killing it now, it’s incredible. And it translates so well. It’s crazy how it can go from your iPhone to a massive stadium.
This year has probably been your biggest year yet. The compilation, new signees, releases, albums, parties too. This is all kind of new territory to you guys. Has it ever become overwhelming at any point?
I think so, probably the year before, there were a couple of releases where it was very hard. It was a learning curve; with every release we learned something new. I think every release is different to the other one as well. Where you’d really like to be able to go “Oh, well this is a dance record, we have to do these three things” and then it all works. But it’s so different, every artist is different. The product, like vinyl is different every time around. Everything is so organic, you can’t really make a template for it. And I think that over the last 3 years, we’ve learned so much. And with every mistake we’ve made, we’ve learned from it. I think this has definitely been our biggest year; GL album, compilation, we did that big party at the Chippendale Hotel, then we have 2 more EP’s before the end of the year; Donny Benet and The Posse. They’ve got a 4 track EP which sounds like something you’d hear in a Motor City Drum Ensemble set. Hopefully more parties as well. We’re very careful about parties because we don’t want overdo it. We like to make it special, but we’ll probably do one more by the end of the year, maybe 2.
Can you guys see the label expanding anywhere in the future?
We work with lots of artists from Melbourne, I mean it would be great to find some from other states as well. I’d like to look deeper into Australian music; Aboriginal and indigenous music. There’s such a rich territory there. I’ve been listening to a lot of Koori radio lately, which is sick. I can’t get enough of it. It really makes me think that there’s a whole chunk of music that me and Vic haven’t explored. And we would love to. But in terms of size, I don’t really want to. I want to kind of keep chugging at this size, Vic and I both have day jobs, and I think if it gets any bigger, it would compromise what we wanted to do with it. I think we’ll continue to pick up incredible artists. A tastemaker is a nice way to put it, it’s a nice term. I don’t know, maybe it’s not.
It’s probably a cliché to say, but it would mean a great deal to the both of us if someone came up to us and said “I love every release you have, I know when the next one comes out that it’s going to be good.” It could even get down to like one release a year. If people were still checking that and going “love that artist, changed my life”, and they went on to get a deal with Sony, or whatever may happen, that would be very special to us. I don’t think we really want to explore and take on the world. We don’t want to become a Future Classic or a Universal. There’s no rush, we’re just happy doing what we do.
Plastic World Volume 1 is out right now. You can listen on Spotify, or purchase on Bandcamp.
Words by Caitlin Medcalf