Ade Fakile / Plastic People, Owner and Creator
IMAGE CREDITS: Ali Augur
Ade Fakile is the man to thank for London’s #1 nightclub, Plastic People. His widely adored venue, with a two-hundred people capacity, frill-free decor and much-revered soundsystem has been CDR’s home since 2004. Over the years Ade’s club has spoken for itself, however in a rare interview, he told us about his ongoing quest for acoustic distinction, sharing news that will leave Plastics’ devotees delighted.
As a teenager in Nigeria, Ade put his cassette tapes to good use by DJing at school parties. New Edition’s ‘Candy Girl’, the Mac Band’s ‘Roses Are Red’ and Timex Social Club’s ‘Rumors’ are a taste of the tracks he’d play to get girls dancing. Despite his tender age and limited resources sound quality was already so important to him he’d ensure his stop/start mixes had ear-pleasing key changes. Moving to London as adulthood approached he began collecting vinyl. “I was 17, I had money, I had time” Ade shares, “what do you do in the afternoons when you’ve got money and time? Go to Soho, go to record shops.”
Distracted by his studies, a chance encounter brought him back to the music. In the early-90s he’d regularly attend Fish, a club at 37 Oxford Street. Upon hearing it had closed, Ade checked for himself, asking the manager if it was true. “He said ‘yeah yeah, it’s closed down, but do you want to run it?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Yeah, I’ll run it’. When I woke up that morning I wasn’t looking for a club.” Once the necessary funds were raised Ade stripped the place back to the walls and made the DJ box the focal point. “Active darkness” or no lighting gave extra presence, “I wanted people to feel safe but to pay attention to the sound. Like when you listen to something and close your eyes.”
Six years in the West End built Plastic People’s reputation as one of London’s best, certainly for sound, with the system meeting Ade’s requirements, “I wanted it to be loud, for you to feel it, and to be clear.” Unfortunately steep overheads came with the turf and when the lease expired in 1999, Ade sought to relocate. Scouring near his home in Hoxton for suitable spots, a friend found a music studio available in a basement on Curtain Road.
Unlike the original site, the new location needed to be built from scratch. Dividing the space in two, they constructed a bar area with cherry and “seven shades of grey” paintwork, and laid down American Walnut on the dancefloor. However, acoustically all was not right – low ceilings and alcoves either side of the DJ booth affected the sound. Fitting two-hundred microphones all around the room they took an acoustic picture, comparing waveforms sent in and out of laptops. Ade learnt that anything below 49 Hz was being disturbed by the room. After consulting public service engineer texts, two-inch foam was added across all the ceiling, chicken mesh replaced the grills in the air vents, and specially-made bass traps behind curtains in the alcoves solved the problem. Ready just in time for François K to play.
Contrary to some opinion, Plastic People’s venerated Funktion-One setup is not additionally tuned or modified, in Ade’s own words it’s “off the shelf”. He explains, “I don’t believe in adding extra bass or extra tweeters. I believe music should be played the way the guy that made it heard it in his own studio. All my setups for sound are not based on equipment, it’s based on the room. Putting an amazing two-million, ten-million, a billion pound soundsystem in a space is halfway there, you need to have an acoustically neutral room. That room must be treated, acoustically treated.”
Focusing on the auditory experience, Plastic People is the perfect location for CDR. Ade explains how the marriage came about, “Tony [Nwachukwu] didn’t even approach me, he just told me, “We’re doing this!” It kind of fitted in to what I wanted to do but went again one of my grains, which is I want to have 200 people who are like-minded about music, but by the nature of doing CDR, it won’t be continuous, it won’t feel like a clubnight. But that was a mistake on my part.” Having crafted such an acoustically correct space, CDR submitters get a pure airing of their work in progress, or as Ade says, “The room doesn’t have an impact on the sound, the soundsystem plays the record as it’s meant to be played.”
Not content with the already impeccable setup, Ade has long reminisced for the equipment his father used to have back in Nigeria. “The sound I can hear from that loudspeaker is still the sound I’m looking for today.” He informs, “It was such a perfectly neutral sound. It’s as if the top end never pieced through your head, the sound used to finish right by your ear. It never goes inside your head.” Long unaware that such clarity was unachievable with conventional PA-based drivers he learnt from his father (shortly before he passed away) that studio-based drivers are required.
“We’ll get something super, super accurate. Even more so than now.” Ade states, revealing his project to build an improved set of custom-made loudspeakers is underway. With the help of two friends, he plans to get his hands dirty, putting bass drivers, midrange and tweeters, from their respective top manufacturers, together in a 300litre box and installing it into the Curtain Road basement walls.
As the mouth-watering prospect draws closer, CDR remains an important part of Plastic People’s future, “I’m glad we’ve done it and we’ve done it for so long, and we’ll keep doing for so long” Ade concludes, “It drives me. Imagine the new loudspeakers, the first day we put them in, and the day we have the first CDR. Hopefully people will hear something that they don’t think they could have heard.”.
UPDATE: Since Ade met with us, Plastics have announced they’ll be shut for the Summer. Two months closure will allow for the space to be refurbished; floor and ceiling the likely candidates for a touch up. And there’s that new soundsystem to fit…