The second installment of the series is dedicated to one of the most influential labels of the jungle/drum and bass scene. From the early hardcore days to the second half of the 90s, Creative Wax fostered an enviable stable of producers and artists, releasing a plethora of classics during its activity. The mix-up of Detroit techno influences and later jazz established Creative Wax as one of the most innovative outlets of quality music in the drum and bass scene of the 90’s. The purpose of this article is to shed light on the massive contribution of Creative Wax to the ever-changing drum and bass landscape, having been the point of reference and an indelible influence to the next generation of jungle/dnb artists.
Creative Wax was founded in 1992 by Ashley Brown aka DJ Pulse (1/3 of Dance Conspiracy and Jazz Cartel) and Jack Horner (Bad Influence). The label roster includes some of the biggest names in engineering and production of that time, collaborating frequently with each other under various monikers. Early releases have been predominantly by label owner Pulse alongside Wax Doctor, with Alex Reece and Professor Stretch (Underwolves) taking care of the engineering duties. The label also had various collaborations by Alex Reece and Wax Doctor under names such as Fallen Angels and Unit 1. Other notable names in the camp were The Underwolves, who went on to record for Ross Allen’s Island Records imprint Blue and Compost Records, Tango, who also recorded with Pulse on the legendary Moving Shadow, Justice another Moving Shadow artist, who now runs his own Modern Urban Jazz label and finally Digital (a well established artist from the Metalheadz and Timeless Recordings collective among others).
In random order, the label has provided the creative environment for the following artists and acts:
DJ Pulse, Jack Horner, Professor Stretch, Wax Doctor, Alex Reece, Tango, Justice, Tertius, Artemis, Marc Clements of C4C, Tobie Scopes of Serial Killaz, Digital, Ned Kelly of The Underwolves, Dominic Palermo of Jazz Cartel, Chad Jackson of Free4orm, Louis Coultrane, Steel and Seeka of Partisan Recordings
- Bounty Killaz (DJ Pulse, Wax Doctor and Professor Stretch)
- Unit 1 (Alex Reece & Wax Doctor)
- Fallen Angels (Alex Reece & Wax Doctor)
- The Committee (Tango & DJ Pulse)
- The Rising Sons (Tango, Marc Clements of C4C & Tobie Scopes of Serial Killaz)
- The Underwolves (Professor Stretch & Ned Kelly)
- Jazz Cartel (DJ Pulse, Professor Stretch and Dominic Palermo)
- Free4orm (Professor Stretch, Chad Jackson)
- Machine (Tertius aka Endemic Void and Artemis aka Shogun)
- Krash (Justice & Tertius)
- Initial Research (1st incarnation: DJ Pulse & Justice, 2nd incarnation: Dj Pulse & Tango after the label’s hibernation, focusing mainly on breakbeat projects)
To the time of writing, Creative Wax has released 24 singles, 3 represses entitled Creative Wax Classics with tracks from the label’s back catalogue (released in 2002) and 2 compilations (Justice presents Modern Urban Jazz and Creative Wax Reviews). Last but not least, Creative Wax has joint-released the compilation Nu Perspective with Partisan Recordings and has provided the tracks (some of them exclusive compositions, never released as singles) for The Revolutionary Generation, which was published by Moving Shadow. In 1994 Creative Wax launched a short-lived offshoot Radioactive Kids, with tracks by Dj Pulse and Alex Reece under the Interception alias, Wax Doctor, and Alex Reece & Pim of the Original Playboys under the moniker Undercover Biz.
The first release of Creative Wax is by the label founders DJ Pulse and Jack Horner (Summer In The South b/w No Gunshots, CW001) and saw the light of day in 1993, creating the stepping stone for the shift from breakbeat hardcore to proto-jungle/dnb, that was about to take place. Creative Wax, Basement Records, Good Looking – which was launching about the same period – and of course Metalheadz and Moving Shadow would be the pioneers of a new sound that was going to dominate the scene ca ‘94.
The next 3 releases were a collaboration of DJ Pulse and Wax Doctor under the moniker Bounty Killaz. Bounty Killaz parts 1, 2 and 3 were illustrative of the sound Creative Wax was championing in the early days of its activity. With haunting basslines, subtle vocals and thunderous amen breaks, the three installments of the Bounty Killaz initiative had set the pretext of what was about to come. (Bounty Killaz part 1 – Brighter Future b/w Bounty Killaz & Voices, CW002, Bounty Killaz part 2 – Approach and Identify b/w Lay Back, CW003 and Bounty Killaz part 3 – Do It Now! b/w Silent Voices, CW101).
DJ Pulse’s first solo release on Creative Wax (Stay Calm b/w Warning, CW103) is one of the most seminal anthems in drum and bass, has been caned by literally every major dj in the circuit and has been included in numerous compilations and mixes. Enough said…
Prior to and after DJ Pulse’s ground breaking release, collaboration between two of the most influential engineers and producers of the scene took place. Alex Reece and Wax Doctor joined forces under the aliases Unit 1 and Fallen Angels to present some early classics, several of them later repressed. (Unit 1 – Theme b/w Your Mind & Arden, CW102, Unit 1 – Atlantic Drama b/w Love Me, CW104 and Fallen Angels – Taken Over b/w Frequency (Tango remix), CW106).
The first release in 1995 was again by Bounty Killaz (Bounty Killaz – Silent Voices (Tango remix) b/w Killa Instinct (original mix) & Killa Instinct (Alex Reece Dub), CW105) followed by a one-off project by DJ Pulse & Tango (The Committee – Final Conflict (Tango remix) b/w Profound Love, CW107) that was re-released also in digital file format in 2009. Tango’s remix of Final Conflict uses the famous saxophone riff of the hardcore anthem Dub War by the Dance Conspiracy, accompanied by Sister Souljah’s proclamation “We are at War!” leading to some of Tango’s characteristic amen edits assault . That same year followed the last work of Bounty Killaz on the label (Bounty Killaz – Do It Now (DJ Pulse remix) b/w Do It Again!, CW108) as well as the debut release of the Rising Sons (Rising Sons – Dreams of You b/w Body and Soul, CW109).
1996 was a prolific year for Creative Wax and drum and bass in general. A mellower, jazzy, atmospheric side of the dnb spectrum (the contentious term intelligent was frequently used) was at its peak at the time, having a profound impact also on the label’s releases. Some great pieces of music saw the light of day that very year: Digital’s debut on the label (Digital – Two faced b/w Mystery, CW110), Tango’s impeccable production (Tango – Spellbound b/w Understanding, CW111), the emergence of Professor Stretch’s project The Underwolves (The Underwolves – The Crossing parts I & II, CW112), the second single of The Rising Sons (The Rising Sons – Touch Me b/w Dreams Of You (Funky Technicians remix), CW113) and finally one of the finest side-projects of DJ Pulse the Jazz Cartel releasing the classic (Jazz Cartel – Expand b/w Blue Haze, CW114). Blue Haze received an excellent remix treatment by the mighty Flytronix – arguably better than the original – and featured in the joint compilation with Partisan Recordings Nu Perspective.
Creative Wax carried on in the same fashion throughout 1997, although the music landscape was starting to change, with darker, technology oriented productions, almost obsessed with sophisticated drum edits. The likes of Ed Rush, Optical, Dillinja, Photek, Goldie and Source Direct were in the forefront, many of the big names had signed exclusive contracts for albums with major record labels (Sony, BMG, Virgin etc.) celebrating the popular expansion of drum and bass, whereas Metalheadz, Moving Shadow and Grooverider’s Prototype were already embracing the new sound.
Readily followed the re-release of Unit 1 Atlantic Drama with a new track by Wax Doctor on the flipside (Unit 1 – Atlantic Drama b/w Wax Doctor – Cool Breeze, CW115), the second release of the Underwolves before signing to Island and Compost Records with Justice on remixing duties (The Underwolves – Redeemer b/w The Crossing (part 2 – Words) (Justice remix), CW116) and Justice’s debut on Creative Wax (Justice – Savage Times b/w Tension, CW117).
In 1997 the label released its first compilation presented by Justice entitled Modern Urban Jazz, inspired by Justice’s eponymous own imprint, which was established a couple of years ago. The compilation consists of 10 tracks, most of them exclusive, showcasing a jazz influenced – as the title implies – rolling vibe of the label’s collective. That same year followed the second compilation entitled Creative Wax Reviews including tracks from the back catalogue of the label, as well as 2 exclusives (an untitled track by Unit 1 as well as a remix of Tango & Fallout Revelations by Essence of Aura, Revelations having been the highlight of the acclaimed Dreamscape VIII mix by LTJ Bukem on NYE 1993.
1998 was apparently the last year of the label’s prolific activity. Free4orm (another Professor Stretch side-project) released (Free4orm – Space b/w Babies, CW118) using a trippy sample of a Jim Morrison’s poetry session (as featured in The Doors’ last album An American Prayer, which was released several years after the split of the band) for Space, Justice with (Justice – Airsign b/w Lounge Lizard, CW119), the re-release under a different catalog number of (Fallen Angels – Taken Over b/w Frequency (Tango remix), CW120) and a collaboration between Artemis and Tertius – both having releases under their belt on Renegade Recordings, among other labels – (Machine – Off The Cuff (original) b/w Off The Cuff (Spirit-ual mix), CW121). That same year Creative Wax released the Nu Perspective compilation under a Partisan Recordings catalog number, featuring new tracks and previously unreleased remixes as per the label’s usual practice.
As most things in life, Creative Wax completed its natural course around that time and the majority of the artists pursued their own challenges, most of them really successfully. In 2002, Creative Wax repressed the Creative Wax Classics series, featuring 3 volumes with classics from the label’s back catalogue. In 2009 several other tracks of the catalog were released in digital file format.
Fast forward to the present, a Creative Wax re-launch is on the cards! Furney recently re-edited Tango’s classic Spellbound which received air-play on Friction’s Radio 1 show and Madcap also re-edited the flipside Understanding. For more information about forthcoming activities visit the label’s page or click on the links below:
Extensive discography and artists’ bios can be found following the links below:
*Other useful links:
If you have ever wondered whatever happened also to Hidden Agenda, Partisan Recordings, Endemic Void, Voyager, Essence Of Aura, Foul Play and Mouly & Lucida, visit the blog’s archive following the link below: