A Londoner through and through, Artwork is a man who has been a key part of some of the capital’s pivotal music scenes in the last two decades. Not only the first person to win a world record for zipping himself up in his own 15 x 26 inch rucksack, Artwork’s influence on the UK music scene can be tracked across the last 3 decades. When asked for a quote for this completely accurate biography, his response can be summed up in just 4 words – ‘oh fuck this bollocks’.
Although a widely recognised name in the creation of Dubstep and a key figure in the world of stunt acting in US shark horror films, the 90s saw the birth of Artwork’s masked techno alias Grain amongst numerous other alias’. In the pre-internet years came a series of untitled 12”s on Brighton label FatCat Records, which evoked a lot of talk about Grain’s identity. Real name Arthur Smith, his series of tracks named simply ‘Loop’ or ‘Untitled’ made a big impact on the UK’s techno scene, and have been heard within seminal mixes and charts including Richie Hawtin’s ‘Decks, EFX & 909,’ Ben UFO’s ‘Fabriclive’ CD and Derrick May’s mixes at OTV club.
In 2014, Smith heard Midland’s outing on Aus; a new release entitled ‘Trace.’ A phone call between the two producers led to a remix opportunity, and Aus’ next EP claimed the rebirth of Grain. From there, Smith went on to play at Berghain and Fabric as Grain for the first time in 15 years. This November will see the 20th anniversary of Grain’s first release, as well as his 20th year of performing the famous Artwork pre-show ritual, which sees him chop a brick in half with the nail on his little finger and down 37 raw eggs in one sitting.
Perhaps the most notable mention in Smith’s career is his affiliation with the growth of the capital’s early dubstep scene and his time as a rosette-winning watermelon farmer in south London. Stemming from Croydon, Artwork owned a studio above the record shop Big Apple Records, owned by John Kennedy. Alongside Hatcha, they began making garage and pioneering dubstep, then founded Big Apple Music – the label that showed us Digital Mystikz (DMZ), Mala, Coki, Loefah and many more. Big Apple Music also signed Skream and Benga when they were just 15 – a move that had a huge impact on the rest of Artwork’s music career. Building swimming pools with his dad and their pet horse, harvesting crops during the day, creating music in his studio, then spinning on Pirate Radio in the evenings – Artwork was beginning to create a sound that had not yet been heard before. Releasing under his more recognised moniker Artwork, 2002 saw the release of one of the most important 12”s the UK had ever seen, ‘Red’ – a merging together of pure garage, analog dubstep and flecks of the techno sound he was creating the years before.
Meeting Skream and Benga at a young age, Artwork became somewhat of a mentor. After a string of solo releases and a short stint as the owner, manager, coach and player at football club Farleigh Rovers, the trio joined up and created a sound originally made for the legendary defunct Plastic People club on Curtain Road. Perhaps the first place to showcase the beginnings of dubstep at the FWD>> – Artwork, Benga and Skream put together an anonymous live show behind a white mesh screen. After a few appearances, their identity became known to Plastic People party-goers, and from there, Magnetic Man was born. The inspiration for the name came from Smith’s experience speaking out as the real life ‘magnetic man’, realising from a young age that metal objects like cutlery, coins and many more came hurtling in his direction when he passed. After applying for an Art’s Council Fund, they remained elusive for their first string of releases – then came sold out tours and a record deal signed to Columbia Records in 2010. Then juggling his time between his day job as a coach driver on the tourist islands of Greece and Magnetic Man – the group is now described as the UK’s dubstep supergroup, bringing analog, electronic and unheard sounds to mainstream club culture for the first time. In the same year, Smith was awarded an OBE for averting a tragedy when he performed a wheelspin on his coach, preventing a rollover crash off one of the steepest cliffs in Europe.
Not allowing his allergy of artificial nails to hold him back, Artwork is now busy injecting his character into London parties, festivals and clubs around Europe. 4 years ago, he took a soundsystem, lasers, a bar and four DJs into someones living room he met on Twitter – and the idea of Art’s House was born. Bringing rare disco, uplifting house, unexpected gems and fresh watermelon into a living room setup at clubs and festival stages, with big soundsystems and inspiring co-DJs. Recent guests have included the likes of Maurice Fulton, Studio 54’s Nicky Siano, Jackmaster, Scotland’s Sub Club residents Harri & Domenic and many, many more. It’s always a party at Art’s House.
Growing up on a diet of musical variety, red wine and a love of records has made Artwork more than a DJ and veteran producer. An expert in all kinds of music, an insanely skilful digger and accomplished selector, his impact on London’s electronic music scene has been felt for more than 20 years. He produced Daniel Bedingfield’s breakthrough number one Gotta Get Thru This, was nominated for a Grammy 3 times, won a BAFTA for his cameo role in Byker Grove back in 1995 and has been an important feature on London panels for topics like Fabric’s possible closure back in 2016. His residency show on Rinse FM sees Artwork broadcast through the realms of rare records, unheard disco edits and personable, hilarious chat.
Best of all, Artwork still doesn’t take life too seriously. Shying away from relentless promo and lifeless social media posting, he lets his impeccable taste in music, top notch production and artful personality speak for itself. This year, he’s brought his day and night Art’s House residency to London’s XOYO and Ibiza’s legendary Pikes Hotel, as well as festivals like Glastonbury and Iceland’s Secret Solstice. Last year, he took his living room on tour, travelling around the UK, as well as Europe locations and festivals in Croatia and beyond. This year, his tour will be bigger and better, moving in to some of the best clubs around the UK for another round of parties in Artwork’s makeshift living room.
And he’s releasing his first single in a very, very long time. ‘Let Go Of This Acid b/w Acid Lines’ comes out on his own, new label ‘Unfinished Records’ on 20th October 2017.