UB40 – Until My Dying Day (Icons remix) – Dep International (DEPDJX4512, 1996)
This is my second contribution to the oldschool specialist blog Drumtrip; a review and the background story behind the classic Icons remix of UB40‘s Until My Dying Day. You can view the original post, as well the previous installments of the TOTD series here:
By the first half of the 90s, UB40’s constant touring had taken its toll and the band was ready for a well-earned rest. During their sabbatical, several of the band’s members worked on their own musical projects. Earl Falconer, the group’s bassist, would follow his passion outside UB40, engaging in jungle/drum and bass production and promotion activities with remarkable success.
In 1992, alongside sound engineer Gerry Parchment and reggae trumpet player Patrick Tenyue, Falconer formed the music act E.Q.P., launching Rough Tone Recordings as a platform to release their own outputs and develop young local artists. The label’s operations were suspended after three years, coinciding with the time UB40 reconvened to record new material. Furthermore, in 2000, Falconer and long-time friend DJ Swan-E, set up Maximum Boost Recordings, a Dope Ammo Records offshoot, in an effort to introduce professional artists, across a wide array of other music genres, in the drum and bass scene.
Back in 1996, in an era when drum and bass was already attracting media attention and many artists were signing to major record labels, Falconer commissioned a limited edition series with drum and bass mixes of UB40‘s tracks. Acclaimed artists, including the likes of Grooverider, Deep Blue, Dj Ron, Blame & Justice, Swan-E and Ellis Dee, have been involved into remixing duties for some of UB40’s early classics (One In Ten, an explicit reference to UK’s record number of unemployed in the early 80s, King and Burden Of Shame) as well as later singles (Where Did I Go Wrong and Until My Dying Day). All remixes were released on UB40’s own imprint Dep International. Dep International was set up after UB40’s contract with Graduate Records expired, with all eight members owning an equal share, effectively enabling the band to exercise total control of their production outputs. Soon, the label signed a word-wide distribution deal with Virgin Records, operating since under Virgin Records’ wing.
Today’s Tune Of The Day is the Icons remix of Until My Dying Day.
One of the recording aliases of Tony Bowes (aka Justice) and Conrad Shafie (aka Blame). The two met while studying media at college in Dunstable, and went into the studio in 1991 to try their hand at producing hip-hop tracks. Instead, they emerged with Death Row – one of the earliest examples of hardcore breakbeat – on Chill Records, a UK bass, bleeps and breakbeat label which was based in Tony’s home town of Luton.
While the rave scene progressed into a self-parodic fluff, Blame and Justice continued producing, both together and on their own. Pushed into new directions by the emergence of a mellower, atmospheric sound in the drum and bass spectrum, the duo released a string of seminal singles on the legendary Moving Shadow and on Basement Records’ sub-label Precious Materials. In late ‘95 the duo formed Modern Urban Jazz Records (re-branded and re-launched as MJAZZ by Justice 12 years later). On Modern Urban Jazz, Blame and Justice released the label’s first two singles, under the Glider-State sobriquet, as well as the critically acclaimed Icons LP Emotions With Intellect, that is still highly praised to this day.
Tony Bowes’ recollection of events:
“We met Earl from the group through our friend Terry Wilson, who ran the Funk 21 label and there was talk of some remixes that they wanted to do. So between Earl and Terry the re-mixers were gathered. Our Icons project was blowing up at the same time, so they asked us to do one. Until My Dying Day was a tune they had done, which was touted to be the theme for the latest Bond film at the time*. Anyway, this was the track we were given, which was great, because it had the great sax bit and nice bits of vocal work, that we used with a nice reversed reverb effect on them. We added a nice break, some guitar licks and stabs along with an 808 bass. We gave the track to Danny Bukem and he used to hammer it at Speed nights. I think Fabio had it as well, which propelled it into being a bit of a Speed anthem, which still gets interest to this day.”
*that would be GoldenEye, 1995 – Tina Turner’s eponymous song was used as the main theme eventually.
Stripped from Ali Campbell’s unique vocals, apart from the snippets “If you’re looking for a war” and “I’ll be leaving”, which are present throughout the track, the remix is dominated by Brian Travers’ original captivating sax riff, gorgeous synth stabs, chopped beats and a sweeping 808 bass, in full accordance with the sound Icons were representing; keeping the basic components intact, giving a modern urban jazz feel to the mix.
The interest in the particular track has revived the last few years, due to an obscure cassette tape rip of a Speed session with Bukem & Fabio (which took place ca 1995 at the Crime Club, in the town of Lampertheim, Germany), that has surfaced on the internet. The Icons remix features in Bukem’s playlist of that night.