Running under the motto “making way for the new wave”, UK-based dubplate specialist ec2a has played a pivotal role in the burgeoning garage and 2-step scene. “I always wanted ec2a to be that voice of the new gen,” explains label founder Dr Dubplate, whose imprint has nurtured a slew of artists including Main Phase, Introspekt, Bakey, Bluetooth and Daffy. He’s speaking from the label’s office in the St Werburgh’s area of Bristol, flanked by shelves stacked high with freshly pressed records waiting to hit the shops.
Starting out in 2020, the label hasn’t been limited to the UKG dubplates it’s best known, putting out dubstep, breaks, jungle, donk, techno and more as part of its often dizzying output. “It’s a representation of the raw energy that the youth currently have in music where the lines are blurred,” Dr Dubplate, real name Yanis Koudjo, explains. “Essentially, everyone’s doing a bit of everything.”
Named after the postcode area of seminal London nightclub Plastic People (which his dad worked at as the manager and Koudjo used to rave at as a teenager), ec2a is now an umbrella for a series of sub-labels and products. The main dubplate catalogue is 53 releases deep and counting at the time of writing, and runs limited copies of “certified wheel-up wax” with no represses guaranteed.
Teasers are shared on Instagram days ahead of release and “if you miss it, then tough shit”. The dubplates built hype around new and upcoming artists during lockdown, at a time when clubs were shuttered, events cancelled, and bootlegging culture seemed to explode. “A lot of smaller artists were unable to get their music out in a timely fashion,” Koudjo explains. “So the main ethos was: if I can have shorter lead times on vinyl production, it will enable me to give them that first opportunity.”
With the dubplate scene already on the resurgence when Covid hit, the label created the perfect storm for hype within a dance music community forced to exist online, and every release on ec2a’s main label has sold out since. “There’s always that market for collectible records, and especially dance records,” he continues. “I can see the appeal in having a tune that not even Ben UFO has. When you take into account vinyl delays, it only makes sense that smaller runs and dubplates are becoming more interesting.” The recent success of garage hitting the charts again means interest in the label is no longer purely underground too, with major labels reaching out to licence ec2a dubs. “They’ve got a real hunger for it at the minute,” Koudjo smiles.
His Bootleg Banditz sub-label launched in 2021, working on the same release format as the main dubplate catalogue, but is used to press the more “outrageous” edits from the label. Releases have included bootlegs of Dominica’s ‘Gotta Let You Go’ and Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’. “It’s just stupid shit like that,” he laughs. “Music that’s really: ‘Should you have bootlegged it?’ Probably not, but that’s just the fun of it.”
Original Pirate Material (or OPM) — a nod to The Streets’ ground-breaking debut album — started in April last year with the V/A ‘Curtain Road Vol. 1’ EP. Another nod to Plastic People (a club he says “holds a special place in my heart” after the musical education it gave him at a young age), it featured Main Phase, Bluetoof, Ollie Rant & Takjacob and DJ Crisps. Already four releases deep, OPM is used as a vehicle to press “forward-thinking and progressive” garage, showcasing interpretations of the sound by artists that circulate the ec2a sphere. TWELVEZ started shortly after, in June 2022, with a collaboration between Dominus, Daffy & Riko Dan.
The sub-label presents classic two-sided dance 12” records, featuring one track per side and cut to 45RPM so it sounds “super chunky in the nightclub”. The label’s popular free downloads series has also put out music from Ghoulish, Daffy, Warwick, Sir Hiss, Papa Nugs, Etch and a host of others through the label’s SoundCloud page, while ec2a’s merch lines can prove as hard to cop as their 50-run dubplates.
The success of ec2a, which saw the label nominated in the Best Label category at our Best Of British awards in December 2022, has boomed with the rise of the artists it has pushed. And Koudjo says that the pandemic weirdly played a central role in that happening. “Everyone’s trajectory has been mental,” he enthuses. “[Pre-pandemic] it felt like there was no sense of community. Then when the whole industry was on ice, everyone was at the same level. Touring artists that were making £5k a show, you weren’t really hearing about. There was a whole group of people that are sick, but didn’t have the spotlight [before], putting out tunes in a time where you couldn’t hit the fucking club. It was [those artists] that were keeping shit super interesting.”
And he says we’re seeing the ripple effect of those foundations being laid now that clubs are open again. “It’s just a really good time,” he beams. “There’s a buzz, [and an] even newer generation making a name for themselves, like Oldboy [and] Silva Bumpa.”
Since lockdown lifted, Koudjo’s own profile as Dr Dubplate has surged, too. He played a string of dates across the UK and Germany in autumn, including an ec2a takeover of the second room at The Beams for the Skreamizm party in December, and has a run of shows and festivals locked this year. “You really need to have some self-discipline,” he explains. “I was reaching a point towards the end of last year [that] I struggled with the balance. It’s a blessed position to be in, but the burnout aspect is real.”
He’s recently started DJing sober, and says things like his own music production have had to take a back seat for now. “If your personal relationships don’t slip, then it’s your health. If it ain’t your health, it’s the amount that you put into your DJing. Something always gives,” he explains. “So you’ve just got to find the best balance for yourself.” At the time of writing, there’s a buzz around a dubplate known only as ‘Sidewinder’, and another called ‘Doin’ Nish’ by Skeptic, someone Koudjo recently signed to ec2a to help his journey as an artist. “I want it to be my generation’s XL,” he explains. “They were putting out mad dance records and have been pivotal to artists reaching mad chapters in their career.
I want to be the label that others are watching, because I’m not worried about what’s poppin’, and I’m trying to push the next sound. I really want to establish ec2a as a platform that’s going to be here for generations to come. At the minute it’s got to a point where I know that if I focus, it’s not too far-fetched to achieve what I set out to do. So I’m buzzing. It’s a full circle moment where the energy I had as someone discovering music, I’m now able to give back to other youngsters discovering shit for the first time.”
Listen to The Sound Of ec2a below.
Soul Mass Transit System ‘Happiness’ (Forthcoming OPM)
DJ Swagger & Ease Up George ‘Cheesebag’
Longeez ‘Move Your Body (Joe Koshin Edit)’
Dwellin ‘Sound Check’
Introspekt ‘Let It All Out’
Silva Bumpa ‘Wickedest’
Dominus, Daffy & Riko Dan ‘(Warlord Holloway VIP)’
Oldboy ‘From Day’
Soul Mass Transit System ‘As We Enter (Forthcoming OPM)’
Etch ‘Bricks & Blood’
Benga ‘Skank (Holloway VIP)’
DJ Swagger & Flying Solo ‘Crotch’
Fonzo ‘Siondewindah Dub’
First Touch ‘Them Say’
Coco Bryce ‘Make Me (Breaka Remix)’
SSSLIP ‘Hot 4 U’
Fonzo ‘Princess Dub’
Etch ‘It’s Ok To Cry’