Most of the blog’s features are thematically based on informal conversations with my guests. Although I often include verbatim excerpts, it’s been a long time since I posted an actual interview. This is the first installment of a new category introduced to replace one of the blog’s oldest series “Jump The Q”, which has unceremoniously completed its cycle. The “Jump The Q” questionnaire template was designed to be short and simple rather than thought-provoking; the general idea being to discover a few personal details about artists and djs (from their favourite drink to the worst live performance they’ve witnessed), whose music-related work I admire and respect.
The new category titled “On The Outside, Looking In” will encompass a broad and conceptual music-centered scope. The timeline is intentionally non-linear, jumping back and forth in times and places and the head-title is borrowed from the first Modern Urban Jazz release by Glider-State (Blame & Justice); a casual chat between friends and a retrospective sneak view into old photo albums, collections, musical diaries, hazy memories and internal monologues.
The new series kicks off with two guests, who share common musical taste, vision and aesthetics, dating back to the early days of drum & bass. Really intrigued to find out more about their views, perspective and insight, I am very happy to present Lewis ‘Sicknote’ and Michael ‘Soul Beat Runner’ (SBR) discussing all things music.
Hi guys and thank you for taking the time. Let’s start with how you first met.
SBR: Lewis and I were introduced by our mutual friend Rico of Darkestral and SRD fame at a Record Store Day in Soho, London, right outside the most famous drum and bass record shop in the whole world, BM Soho (formerly known as Black Market Records). dBridge was on the decks playing anthems like “Capone – Friday” and “Ed Rush, Optical & Fierce – Cutslo” to a packed-out carnival crowd on D’Arblay Street. Music fans and celebrities were everywhere you looked: Paul Weller, Normski, Nico No U Turn. In fact, that was also the day Lewis and I first met Nico, the innovator, the pioneer of tech-step. A trip to Reckless Records was soon on the cards that very day and I remember Lewis picking up the original press of “Alex Reece – Basic Principles” on Metalheadz and “Photek – Form & Function Vol. 2”, especially for the anthem “One Nation”. It was a mighty fine April spring afternoon in London, one that symbolized the end of something and the beginning of something else…
Section One – Early Days
When and how were you introduced to jungle/drum & bass?
SBR: Growing up in the early 90s as a teenager you had to make a choice. You either became a goth or a raver. Now both were really tempting. This was also the era of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Nirvana man. The music was amazing; electric guitars, amplifiers, dreaming of the USA! But it was also the era of rave music, 2 turntables and a mixer, spinning Hardcore-Techno-Jungle. I didn’t know what it was called, but I loved it.
There were these great compilation albums called “Heat” and “Kaos Theory”. I was mesmerized by the quality of the music. It was everywhere in the UK charts too, you couldn’t miss it. However, it wasn’t until somebody at secondary school handed me a live recording of a rave, that things took a major turn in how I perceived music. The music on those tapes was something else. It was the sound of the underground. My first ever tape was Colin Dale and DJ Fabio @ Dance Planet; it blew my mind. Then there were the AWOL tapes, Roast, and tons more… We used to record the pirate radio stations too. We’d catch them echoing out of London into the green valleys of Hertfordshire on our FM dials, and lock down our favourite DJ sets straight onto TDK 90 cassettes. Don FM and Kool FM were my favourites. But it was hearing “LTJ Bukem – Demon’s Theme” and “Doc Scott – NHS (The Disco Remix)” that cemented me into breakbeat music forever.
Sicknote: For me the journey started just a bit later than Michael’s. My teenage years were more towards the end of the 90s and I had recently moved from Essex to Bournemouth with my parents and I was pretty much on a fresh start with life, so I was making new friends and in turn being introduced to lots of new music.
Around this time dance music on the whole was pretty massive in the mainstream, when Radio One had Fabio & Grooverider, Judge Jules and Pete Tong to name a few every week! The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers were in the charts and you would even sometimes hear them during daytime on the radio.
I remember me and my good friend Dave were listening to Prodigy’s albums “Music for the Jilted Generation” and “The Fat of the Land” a lot around this time (I recorded them from his CDs to tape, so I could listen to them on the bus to school). Even though both these albums are amazing in their own right, we always preferred the rawness of their “Experience” album, which I think he might have nicked from his sister, but can’t remember for sure, haha! This leads me on nicely to when I first heard happy hardcore! It was a DJ Dougal tape Dave’s sisters mate gave to him, which I instantly ripped onto another tape, so I could rinse it on the way to and from school. This was a big turning point for me, finding a new sound that was kind of an evolution from the “Experience” album and was a lot more raw and interesting to a 13/14 year old Sicknote.
The bus to school was definitely the first time I ever heard drum and bass! The older crew used to take a battery-powered radio, which played tapes on the bus. Sometimes, they would blare out Mickey Finn and DJ Hype tapes from One Nation, while we used to smoke cigarettes at the top deck of the bus. I and Dave managed to get one of those tapes through one of the brothers of the older crew and we pretty much listened to it on repeat for a whole day! “Brockie and Darren Jay – One Nation 5th Birthday Celebration (1998)”, this tape definitely blew my mind! Tunes like “Dillinja – Hard Noize”, “Known Unknown – Chaos Edit”, “Undercover Agent – Five Tones”, “Hype & Zinc – Disappear” and “Capone – Friday”. Another tape from this time that cemented my obsession with drum and bass was a Grooverider tape recorded live at Helter Skelter. I used to play this so much and I still have it now, again so many tunes on this, “Adam F – Brand New Funk”, “Trace – Sonar”, “Ed Rush & Optical – Alien Girl”.
What kind of music were you listening to before, that you would consider as influence and inspiration?
Sicknote: My biggest influences musically are my parents. I grew up listening to Prince, Madonna, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Alexander O’Neil (‘Criticize’ is a tune!), Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, the list goes on. I might have not known it then, but this music my parents played has definitely shaped my taste in music and I have gone back and bought a lot of records from these artists, as I have gotten older.
I think I have always listened to dance music predominantly to be honest, I always remember when I was a lot younger that I would get the big dance music compilations from the major labels with tracks like “Bizzare Inc – Playing with Knifes”, “Baby D – Let Me be Your Fantasy”, “Orbital – Chime” and “Alison Limerick – Where The Love Is”; my mum would buy them for me and my brother.
SBR: My dad was really into music from Human League, Jean Michel Jarre, Herbie Hancock, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac as well as Reggae. I originally grew up in West London and that was one of the main sounds. My school was in Notting Hill, which meant that I was lucky enough to be part of the Notting Hill Carnival. We used to help make the costumes for the dancers and on Sunday we’d be at Carnival on a float rolling down Ladbroke Grove listening and dancing to all kinds of Caribbean music! Later on, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was all about European and British dance acts like Technotronic, KLF and Orbital. “Chime” was just an amazing record. “Andronicus – Make You Whole (Original Mix)” sends shivers even now. Then there was music from America I loved like “Lil Louis & The World – Blackout (Phase 2 mix)”. That record is sublime.
Your first recollections of early raves/clubbing and record shops?
Sicknote: Bournemouth holds a lot for memories for me in terms of my early raving days and buying records. When I started buying records (around 1999/2000) there were three ‘go-to’ record shops. Destiny being our BM Soho then you would have Standout on the same road as Destiny and then up the other side of town you would have Avid at the triangle.
Dave and I used to start at Avid and then walk across town to Old Christchurch road to go to Standout and lastly Destiny. Avid was specializing in cheap records; it was pretty much strictly 2nd hand and they had loads of it! They did get in the key drum and bass titles and they would always have white labels on the side next to the counter. I remember seeing RAM’s compilation “Speed Of Sound In Motion” on the wall there for ages and always wanting it, but couldn’t afford it. Also, another massive regret of mine was not buying the entire Tom & Jerry back catalogue they had for like £3 each! I was strictly buying the latest release around this time (everything from Bad Company and DJ Zinc to Cause 4 Concern and Dom & Roland) and really didn’t appreciate those records then. What I would do to go back there now! Also Avid was the place where I bought my first ever record, so that place is kind of special to me. Standout was smaller than Avid but had a good selection of the latest Drum and Bass releases in there. I remember buying “Bad Company – Digital Nation”, that copy is now battered to death, ha!
Finally Destiny! Destiny was the ‘go-to’ shop for Drum and Bass and Hardcore. All the big local DJs worked in the shop and I remember you would always be a bit scared or apprehensive about going in there, but once you were in it was vibes! I bought lots of records in that shop along with some of my very first tapes; the previously mentioned Grooverider tape was bought from this shop in their bargain bin. Destiny also ran their own club night, which I think the shop was actually named after not the other way round. I always remember seeing the flyers for Destiny at the Manor; this was a well-known and well-respected night that was held in an old manor house up Matchams Lane (about 15 minutes from my parents’ house). People used to travel from London to go to these nights and if I am correct, Michael even went to one! J. I was too young to go to the Manor, but I remember the older bus crew all went and would tell us about it. Proper gutted that I lost a tape I had from one of the Manor nights, as I don’t think they were that many about and it was proper wicked set! “Kenny Ken Live at the Manor”! I did eventually go to Destiny in around 2001, when they had moved to the old fire station and I remember seeing Brockie and Mampi Swift that night and the place going mental!
Cocoshebeen was also another big night in town they would host some the big label nights like Planet V and Logical Progression and I think they did a Metalheadz NYE as well. I never got to go to these, because I was always too young, but I remember seeing the flyers around town. One of the nights me and my mates did attend was when Bad Company and Fierce played. Some serious tunes getting played by them around that time and I was a proper Bad Company addict! This was around the time “Shot Down on Safari” came out and I remember hearing “Hornet” and “Snowcat” for the first time there. Some of my fondest memories of raving though were at Homelands. This was held at Materly Bowl, which is where Boomtown is now held. This used to take place every year for a whole day and night and you would have pretty much the best of the best DJing all night long. You would have the Movement tent with Marky smashing the shit out of the place and then you walk into the tent next door and Jeff Mills would be playing some of the best Detroit techno you’ve ever heard. This was all actually going out live on Radio One for the Essential Mix! The Movement tent was something else though. I remember hearing some big big tunes getting dropped there for the first time. I vividly remember hearing “Total Science – Squash” getting dropped and the place going off the hook! Calibre’s “Blue Top” and “Mr. Majestic” as well, good times!
SBR: At 16 years old in 1995 I got a job at my local record shop called Pump Records in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. These guys showed me the world of music. They took me out to all the raves up and down the country. Seeing Fabio & Grooverider at World Dance for example djing in an airplane hangar at Lydd Airport was surreal. We went out to Dreamscape, One Nation, Helter Skelter, United Dance… basically all the raves, every weekend. I also worked for United Dance and for Terry Turbo who run One Nation. So looking back, I was really fortunate to have this inner circle of people take me everywhere to witness the evolution of Drum & Bass and UK music culture. It truly was a glorious time.
Highlights from working in the record shop:
We used to drive down to Vinyl Distribution in Reading on Wednesdays. Our representative was a guy called PJ. We’d turn up and on the ground level was the record shop, where you’d see DJ Lee on the decks. In the basement there was a recording studio, where they made music for the in-house labels like Basement, Smooth, Street Beats etc, a stockroom rammed full of all the latest vinyl records and upstairs were all the offices. Now, anytime we went, we never knew what D&B stars you’d bump into. We saw Source Direct one time just come out of a meeting with Phil Wells. He was the number one guy. Anyway, we’d see our representative PJ in his office and he’d have all the tunes ready for us. And I’m not talking about any old tunes. I’m talking about brand new Photek, Metalheadz, Good Looking, Prototype, Creative Source and countless others. Can you imagine? It was incredible. And although this may seem a bit over the top, the sun was always shining on a drive down to Reading. If not in the sky, always in our hearts…
But on the other side of things, you had Southern Record Distributors (SRD) based in London, the home of Moving Shadow, Reinforced, Ram, No-U-Turn. Need I say more? I was in my element having all this access to the powerhouses that moved and influenced all these great record labels. And on the weekends, we’d all meet up at the parties, it was a 24/7 affair.
Black Market, Razor (Mash) and Unity, the famous 3:
All within walking distance in London’s Soho, these were the places to be if you wanted the hottest promos and to rub shoulders with all the DJ’s, music producers and record collectors. As you know, I already had a job in a record shop, but nonetheless, if you were into music, being in London Soho was an essential part of growing up. Each store would have different exclusives, so you’d have to visit all 3 to have a chance at walking away with something special. The atmosphere in those places was electric and each week you’d never know what could be waiting for you. For example, one time I’m in Black Market and Ray Keith is on the decks. His gold rings clanging on the mixing desk. He sees me and pulls out this promo box set from under the counter called “Earth Vol. 1”. I didn’t know what this box set was all about, until I opened it and saw all those exclusive Good Looking dubplates that I’d heard LTJ Bukem play over the previous year or two. I was absolutely over the moon. It’s these moments I cherish as a record collector and the guys behind the counter made you feel like you belonged to this exclusive club of underground music.
LTJ Bukem – Horizons (Looking Good, LGR001, 1995)
I thought I’d share this story with you whilst I’m here. As I mentioned earlier, you had the Ravers and the Goths. And the two styles didn’t really mix at all, until LTJ Bukem made “Horizons”. On its week of release I’m working away in the “rave” shop, and in walks this guy with long dark hair, Doc Martins boots, all dressed in black. He asks me: “Hi mate, do you know a tune called “Horizons” by some guy called LTJ Bukem is it? I was like: “Well, as a matter of fact, I do! And I have a copy for you right here”. Now in my mind I’m thinking” “this record is a defining moment in the history of musical cultures coming together. Guys who were into Heavy Metal music NEVER came into the Rave shop, not until ‘Horizons’ came out that is”. And that was one of the great moments, when I knew that music and fashion were going to change forever…
Section Two – Record Collecting
I know that you are both avid record collectors and I am really interested in your views about the recent vinyl resurgence. We’re suddenly in a period when it’s almost de rigueur to buy records again. Many labels still invest on new vinyl releases, others selectively repress their back catalogues. Do you think it’s financially sustainable for record labels to support the vinyl format these days? Is this a temporary trend that will eventually cool off, or has vinyl reclaimed its well-deserved place? Apart from record collectors, is there an actual audience and market for new vinyl releases?
SBR: We own these grooves, literally, which is one of the many reasons I love collecting records. To actually own a piece of music shows a certain dedication and passion. It’s the ultimate document for the artist to create and for the music lover to behold. And I think this is an important point: that the music created should exist as a physical entity. It doesn’t matter how many copies are pressed. This is why records are still being produced and the record collectors now act like independent music libraries.
A lot of the famous DJs have sold their collections, partly because they don’t need their records anymore. Of course the fashion is to play from computers and to move with the times and technology, which is fantastic. There’s so much opportunity and access to music like never before and plenty of innovative producer-DJs entertain home listeners and punters in the clubs. But we mustn’t forget the classic essence of recorded music, the romance of it and how DJ culture started. You get a whole different viewpoint when sourcing music and DJing with vinyl records, because you have a world of forgotten gems to discover that aren’t all available digitally. Paradoxically, the nature of D&B has always been about moving forward and it must continue to evolve, that’s part of the genre’s very fabric. It’s why D&B is still rolling after 25 years, but due to this instinctive, high-speed technological drive, it’s easy to forget the thousands upon thousands of amazing, groundbreaking tracks that sound just as good as all the future beats you hear the big DJs play…
I think it’s quite original to be a vinyl DJ and a record collector in these modern times, because most people have left it behind. If everyone else is running in one direction, why not run in another? I enjoy unearthing rare or forgotten-about records. For example, it’s crazy the amount of superb remixes that were produced over the years by some of the scene’s most talented producers; guys like Roni Size, Aquasky, Boymerang, PFM. The list is endless. Then there’s music from favourite artists such as Source Direct and DJ Pulse that I may have missed back when they were originally released. I just picked up Source Direct’s first ever release the other week on test press, “Future London” on Odysee Recordings, a true classic. Discovering unknown (to me) aliases is also an additional pastime. I have only recently discovered Override. It’s actually Klute! There’s this tune called “Pac 3”. It’s one of the sweetest tracks he’s ever made, which reminds me, I need to own that on vinyl! You see, how can you not want to own something so good, and not treasure it forever!
Sicknote: I think Michael has hit the nail on the head there with what record collecting means to both of us, we both met through records! From working in the music sector and putting out records myself, I can’t really see where this massive vinyl resurgence is, to be honest. I’m not saying there hasn’t been an increase in sales, because there has, but not in the way I think the mainstream media makes it out to be. A lot of what we see in the mainstream media is based on sales of major label releases and re-issues, a lot of these releases you can get original presses of from a record shop for a lot cheaper by the way. The big shops and media outlets are not taking into consideration your latest UBV-76 or Rupture release when they gathering this information and I think this skews the current situation we find ourselves in.
This scene/music/genre, whatever you want to call it, mostly consists of small independent labels and for a long time these labels kept the vinyl market alive, when the majors all jumped on CD & digital formats. A lot of these major labels destroyed their pressing facilities, so CDs would benefit from not having to compete with vinyl and also this put some pressing facilities out of business, because they simply didn’t want to press vinyl any more. For a long time, from what I have seen and heard, drum and bass, techno, house music and everything else in-between kept the pressing plants going and they were pressing in big numbers; DJs were still playing vinyl right up until around the mid 2000s. Around the middle to the end of the 2000s vinyl sales really dropped, because people were buying music digitally on mp3s and CDJs were becoming more prominent in the nightclubs. All the above have a lot to do with why the smaller labels are getting hit with the shit end of the stick with regards to turnaround time from Test Press stage to full release, because pressing plants are overloaded with all the work from the majors and when you drop Record Store Day into the mix this holds things up even more. Let’s face it, pressing plants are going to prioritize major label release over all the small independent drum and bass labels. Despite all this, labels are still willing to take a risk and put their money into releasing their artists’ music on a 12” disc, even if they are possibly going to lose money in doing so. This is a true testament to why drum and bass is so good at the moment in terms of vinyl releases, it has always been for the love of it and I think that shines through with a lot of releases out there with labels doing bespoke sleeves and artwork to accompany the music, making these releases almost art pieces in a way. These pieces of black crack are our heritage and what the music was originally played on and DJs and fans are playing records in the clubs and at home more which is a good sign. Vinyl will be here for a long time to come, it is becoming a lot more about collecting and owning all of these records, people freak out when they miss out on something sometimes.
Online record shopping has made distribution and life easier and is the norm nowadays; however a casual visit paid to a physical record store, the socializing, the anticipation and the rush of discovering something new or elusive cannot be replicated. Which are your favourite outlets?
Sicknote: Online record shopping definitely has its place and there is still a little bit of excitement online, me and Mikey found this out recently with a record Mikey found on discogs (shhhhh don’t tell anyone!) The real buzz is still going to a record shop, as you never know what you are going to find or possibly buy. Reckless in Soho is the prime spot at the moment; I have purchased some of my favorite records in there. Recently got the whole “Moving Shadow Two on One” series in Reckless and one of my early purchases was all four of the first Photek Productions 12”s (“Third Sequence, “Water Margin” etc). That was really exciting for me and these are memories I will always remember. Other shops I would recommend are Sister Ray, Alan’s Records, Crazy Beats, Flashback and also Wanted Records…. Go and have a dig!
Let’s delve into your enviable collections. What other musical genres do you collect apart from drum & bass?
SBR: I will always credit d&b, my favourite genre of music ever, for getting me into everything else. It’s the samples, the influences and the friends I’ve made along the way that have led me to discover other worlds of audio artistry. Henryk Gorecki’s “Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs” is an essential contemporary classical masterpiece steeped in reflective history. Introduced to me in Lodz, Poland by a very good friend of mine Gosia, the 1992 London recorded version was pressed on vinyl for the 1st time not so long ago and has been proudly added to my record collection. I must also credit Ben UFO for selecting via the radio a band called Hex. Their LP “Bark Psychosis” is something I love. And little did I know that one of the band members is ‘one of our very own’ Mr Graham Sutton aka Boymerang! If you haven’t heard this LP before then I recommend the track “Pendulum Man” as a tester. It’s simply sublime. Of course I own a copy of the “Blade Runner OST” by Vangelis. Not only is it one of my favourite films of all time, but its soundtrack has its own place in D&B history as one of the truly great inspirations. On the subject of cinema, I love the film “Victoria”. It’s about a Spanish girl who decides to live in Berlin and gets caught up in a bank heist with a group of guys she meets in a techno club. The entire film is shot in one take (which is a rare and difficult cinematic achievement) during the night/early morning hours and its soundtrack really touched me. From the opening scene in the club you hear this pulsating techno track by DJ Koze, but then the rest of the music is produced by Nils Frahm, who manages to capture so many resonating feelings within me of being out all night with friends and that sense of living for the moment like there’s no tomorrow. Group Home’s LP “Livin’ Proof” takes pride in my Hip Hop section – What an album!! On a house tip I adore Ron Trent. He recently put together a box set called “Prescription: Word, Sound & Power” highlighting some of the very best cuts from his label Prescription; essential listening. “Change – The Glow Of Love”, “Azymuth – Jazz Carnival” and “Mazzy Star – Fade Into You” can all be found in the shelves. You remember the “Back To Mine” compilation series? Perhaps these are some of the tracks I’d include if I were to compile one!
Sicknote: I would like to say my record collection is quite diverse, I have a lot of techno, ranging from Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills, Drexiya, Wolfgang Voit (legends) to artists like Marcel Dettmann, Shed, Steffi, Virginia, Planetary Assault Systems and loads more. Techno is so huge compared to Drum and bass it’s hard to be on top of all the releases coming out, but I try my best to keep up to date with it all. Big collector of soundtracks: “Predator”, “Akira”, “Ghost In The Shell” are some recent purchases I am pleased with, because they sell fast and go for mega bucks on discogs once they are gone, so I always try to get in there early and get them when they come out. I also love all the 80s disco/funk like SOS Band, Shalamar and Chaka Khan, even though these are probably leaning more to the poppy side, but I think they are wicked tunes Also have Jazz, reggae, dub, hip-hop, hardcore and even some heavy metal records!
Drum & bass is now on the third decade of its existence. Although it’s been going in circles, it is still one of the most exciting and innovative sides of the electronic music spectrum. Could you compile a shortlist of labels, artists and tracks that you think retrospectively best represent each period?
Soul Beat Runner:
- Nico and No-U-Turn Records
Hearing “T-Power – Mutant Jazz (DJ Trace Remix)” on SOUR Records for the first time, is something I will never forget. It was the first of its kind, the first page in a new chapter, top 10 in the all-time hall of fame, the actual record that started tech-step. A groundbreaking remix by one of my favourite artists and engineered by one of my heroes, DJ Trace and Nico No-U-Turn respectively. The record was off-world and paved a new direction in futuristic beats and rhythms… And then, another incredible record shortly after was “Ed Rush – What’s Up” on No-U-Turn. I could hear this similarity in the production to that of “Mutant Jazz”. I realised it was the engineer, a producer who helped all of these next level artists rise to the top of their game, and together they ignited a brutal storm of bass-led, state of the art weaponry. No-U-Turn Records was tremendous. And with the great Grooverider behind them, it was game over. Thinking about it, I guess the ultimacy was achieved with “Ed Rush and Fierce – Locust”, produced by Nico and realised on the Rider’s acclaimed “Prototype Years” compilation on Prototype Recordings. What an incredible time in electronic music. Together, they were untouchable.
- Creative Source
What a label! The way DJ Fabio started it off. It was like an antidote to a poison; laid-back, romantic and groovy. It was in total contrast to the entire hardcore dance. “Carlito – Heaven”, Creative Source’s debut release, was like feeling the first summer’s breeze of the year, wonderful. Naturally, the label defined Fabio’s heart, soul and passion. I guess it also reflected music he’d grown up with and in turn how such influences like jazz and funk could be brought forth into the modern dance. It’s what I adore about Drum & Bass, the genre reflects so many moods and styles of music; it reinvents the past and invents the future. There are so many incredible records to choose from the back catalogue, but if I had to pick a couple to take with me to a desert island, they would be “Hidden Agenda – Rogue Soul b/w The Slide” and “Blue Sonix – The Manna b/w The Source”. But wait a minute… I’m just thinking about the earlier years, but let’s not forget who introduced Calibre to the world! You gotta hand it to DJ Fabio’s A&R skills, as well as being the champion of the soulful groove, the King of swing.
- Darkestral Recordings
The outfit Instra:mental injected a breath of new life into Drum & Bass that got everyone talking from Andy C to Giles Peterson; absolutely unique in their production, arrangements and direction. Although they had recorded previously for Source Direct Records, it was on Darkestral that they started to forge a new musical aesthetic entirely. The influence they’ve had in Drum & Bass and beyond is undeniable. But it was the drive and ambition of the record label that gave light to this exciting new take; a labour of love, an investment into a dream that came true. The best thing since Photek was my perception of the music I heard. Like earth tilting on its axis when springtime breaks, a new ray of light and warmth was upon us that has influenced the electronic musical landscape to this day. The Jonny L track “Output 1-2” – oh my god that bassline! And Pearson Sound delivering the heart wrenching, D&B tempo fitting “Down With You” is gorgeous… dBridge, Consequence, Rockwell, Sabre and Fanu also produced cutting edge recordings for the label. Darkestral’s new sound was the prototype if you will, of the much celebrated and loved ‘Autonomic’ sound and deserves the spotlight as one of dance music most original and pivotal record labels in its ever evolving history.
- Escher – Rugged b/w Late Snare (Narratives Music, NARRATIVES 003, 2012)
One of the most important records of the 2010’s! I say this confidently, because it’s the record that got Blocks & Escher noticed in the premier league of Drum & Bass. It was “Rugged” and “Late Snare” that caught Goldie’s attention and this was the precursor to their signing on Metalheadz. Goldie used to live in the same town as me, Hemel Hempstead, and at that time I was working for SRD, who managed the production and distribution for Metalheadz. We became friends and would sometimes shared the Hemel – London train commute. Goldie would be on his way to Bikram Yoga in Soho and I was on my way to SRD in Tottenham. One morning on the train over coffee we spoke about “Rugged” and “Late Snare”, equally as excited about the single as each another. We both agreed it was a game changer and something very special. In fact, he said that he wished it had come out on Metalheadz. So I said to Goldie: “why don’t you sign them up?” I’d become friends with Phil Blocks the year or so before, as I was truly inspired and intrigued by his and Escher’s new label Narratives. Goldie said to me: “I thought you’d know these guys” and he liked the idea, so that very morning, when I got to work, I phoned Phil Blocks and asked him if he’d mind if I gave Goldie his number. Well, you can imagine Phil’s response! Later that same week, I met with Phil in Soho over a beer, and he gave me 2 copies of “Narratives 003” on test press, one for me, and one for Goldie. I was invited for dinner at Goldie’s with the label distribution manager and good friend of mine Rico from SRD. Goldie cooked us the famous “Cliffy’s Chicken” and I presented him with the Narratives Test Press. The following Friday night we all went to Metalheadz at Fabric, Goldie was on the decks and he played both sides of the vinyl record. It really was a wonderful moment and to see how the guys have moved up to the very top of the game and the huge inspiration they now give to others is something I’m extremely proud to have been a part of.
- The Architex – Escape (Incision LP, ARXLP1, Architecture Records, 1997)
New York City on a summer day, feeling fine, a light wind blowing through your hair, love all around, what a beauty this track is. Just listen to it.
- Q Project – Guitar Thing (previously unreleased, forthcoming Modern Urban Jazz)
How stunning is this tune?? Timeless, elegant, alluring and to think this was written in 1994, which is very early for its style, “Guitar Thing” is truly pivotal. Previously unreleased, but with special thanks to Tony Justice’s record label Modern Urban Jazz, this masterpiece is about to see the light of day.
- Dillinja – Violent Killa (VLV001, Valve Recordings, 1997)
This is my favourite Dillinja tune of all time. Absolutely groundbreaking, this track will shut down anything in its path. One for the sound-clash, this is the standard new producers should aspire to. If you haven’t already done so, then listen to the legendary Grooverider and Cleveland Watkiss set recorded live at the Blue Note in 1996 and check out the response from the crowd and Goldie. “Don’t go there Rider!!!”
- Pessimist – Balaklava (A14, 2016)
I just picked this up on wax from ‘Discos Paradiso’ in Barcelona on a mighty fine August afternoon, astonishing record. So dark, so serious and one of the sickest bass lines you’re ever gonna hear. This is minimal perfection.
- Ilk – The Sound Of Falling (forthcoming Narratives Music)
I was almost in tears when I first heard this. In fact, I could feel the tears on the sides of my eyes. This track is sublime. Ilk has a gift, and I feel lucky to be listening to his music.
- Intense – Breathless (CRSE003, Creative Source, 1995)
This is so beautiful I just had to sneak it in my ‘GodIsNoLongerADJ essential listening experiences’. Producers extraordinaires.
- Narratives Music
From 001, Narratives has really been a standout label. Carrying on that Prototype sound from the late 90s, quality over quantity rather than following the pack, Narratives has been a home for their own productions along with also releasing music from artists such as Overlook, Rhyming In Fives, Concealed Identity and recently SB81. Pushing things in a deeper, more musical direction, whilst also catering for that classic sound so many of us love with the upmost attention to detail; from the music right the way through to the artwork and sleeve design. Stand out tracks would be “Sagan”, “Jimmy”, “Hermetica” and “Headspace”.
- Ram Records
With releases spanning 25 years this label has been one of the many influential labels that has helped build the music we all love so much. Ram really came into its own when “Origin Unknown – Valley of the Shadows” came out in 1993, maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but must be cited as one of the biggest anthems in drum and bass history and is still played to this day. Throughout the whole of the mid 90s Ram consistently released big anthems that were played by all the biggest DJs in the scene – “Six Million ways To Die (Dj Hype Remix)”, “DJ Flatliner – Big Bang,” “Shimon – Predator”, “Randall & Andy C – Sound Control”, “Andy C – Cool Down” and the album “Speed of Sound in Motion” just to name a few…. Must not forget to mention Liftin’ Spirits, Ram’s sub label run by Ant Miles leaning more towards the jungle sound early on with tunes like “Cold Fresh Air”, “Awareness” and “Alive N Kickin”. The Ram sound changed with the times around 1996 /1997 with tunes like “Quest”, “Genetix” and “Turbulence”, which really set the platform for The Ram Trilogy chapters that came in 1998, which are all essential records and definitely have their own distinct sound; “No Reality” is a persy! Ram is now probably one of the biggest drum and bass labels out there, credit where credit is due. Ram is definitely a different beast now, but still played its part in releasing some quality records. Ram might not be what it used to be but at one time this label was buy-on-sight.
- Machine Code – The Landscape (PTL02, Protocol Records, 1996)
One of Bill Riley’s aliases released on his own imprint Protocol. This tune is on the famous Grooverider set from Blue Note with the 3 rewinds of “Violent Kila” (you know the one “Don’t go there RIDER”). The Bristol sound at its best for me, rolling beats and big bassline that are just relentless from start to finish; hypnotic and euphoric at the same time. I dropped this NYE at Launch 2017 and this was definitely the point when the set popped off for me. Also for £1 this tune is a weapon! Not all tunes have to £60 to be the best.
- Codename John – The Warning (METH030, Metalheadz, 1997)
The Rider! This tune is everything you want from a Metalheadz release. Wait for the second drop! Game over!
- Matrix vs Dilemma - Spring Box (Remixes) (GS10, Genetic Stress, 1998)
Big tune from Matrix here with his trademark chugging but crisp techy breaks, big stabs and heavy sub bass! Also treading into the “Krust – True Stories” territory with this one. Guaranteed to blow up any club!
Section Three – Radio
FM Radio used to be a central cultural pillar and the source for discovering new music and keeping up-to date with the scene, especially for people too young or with limited access to raves and clubs. Which were your favourite shows? Do you think that the emergence of online radio has improved the home-listening experience or are people overwhelmed by the over-supply, which is ever so difficult to filter, and resort to on-demand streaming services?
Sicknote: The earliest shows I remember hearing were the recordings of “One In The Jungle” that was started by Brian Belle Fortune, but I think for both of us it is always going to be Fabio & Grooverider on Radio One. Those guys were running the airwaves for so long and were so good at it, I really don’t think anyone has come along and taken on fully from where they left off. They would play the full cross section on that show. The same goes for when they were playing on Kiss FM. They could break people’s careers by playing a tune on the radio and they were well ahead of the curve in terms of the newest music. All the banter and laughs as well added to the show, which I think is missing a lot from a lot of today’s shows. They were certainly not afraid to call someone out or say it how it is!
1Xtra as well was a peak I think in radio for drum and bass. Bailey, Flight, L Double and Sappo used to run the radio. I remember hearing a lot of big tunes being drawn on Bailey’s and Flight’s shows weekly! For me those were the shows I listened to every week for a long time to keep up to date on what was going on, being outside of London this was the only way to hear these tunes. The last decade I think the Pirates have really pushed through in terms of decent drum and bass being played, stations like Rude, Life FM, Origin and Kool are what I listen to the most now, and it’s easy for people to access these shows now, as they are all on the internet and being streamed online.
Section Four – Djing, Clubs and Festivals
From warehouses and sweaty basements to big clubs and festival headline slots, drum & bass has made a remarkable journey through places and time-zones. Which drum & bass club nights have been the most influential along the years? Which are your favourite venues and festivals (as djs and/or punters) at the moment? Which are the most obscure or exuberant places you have dj-ed at?
SBR: I’m sure Lewis agrees, Rupture and UVB-76 are providing both the cutting edge and the history of D&B in magnificent style. My nights there spent dancing are always so memorable at ‘Corsica Studios’ in South and at ‘Five Miles’ in North London. As for festivals, ‘Sun and Bass’ on the Island of Sardinia, Italy is simply spectacular, a life-changing experience that will reaffirm your faith in modern music. It’s like heaven on Earth.
The groundbreaking musical roles of the warehouse parties
It was in the strangest locations that I actually got to hear and witness some of the most memorable moments…
Hysteria at the Sanctuary in Milton Keens one night. It was all about the room 2 upstairs. Bryan Gee was on the decks. We were so excited to see him because he would play dubplate after dubplate of all that amazing Bristol music. Dope Dragon, Full Cycle, V, tracks like “True Stories” being played and “Ready Or Not VIP”. Next level 21st century business. The room got so packed full of junglists you could feel the floor bounce to the rhythm. It felt like the whole place was gonna collapse!
United Dance at Stevenage. This is where I heard Grooverider play “Shadow Boxing” for the 1st ever time. I didn’t get it at all. On the 1st listen that is. 2nd, 3rd maybe 4th time, I was like “hold on a min – this is the future”. And sure enough it was and still is. It’s in my top 5 of all time. That’s one of the main arts of a DJ right there. It might sound obvious and simple, but it’s about foreseeing what’s gonna be the next big track, having that ear for it from experience, and risking clearing the dance floor sometimes to achieve that.
Helter Skelter – back at the Sanctuary once again with Jumping Jack Frost on the decks. Now picture this: We’re in the main arena, Room 1 if you will. JJF is playing to thousands or ravers. So if you were to generalise things, we’re talking about big draws, you know, big anthems. But what does Frost do? He plays “Tribe Zero 2 – Death By Sax”. I mean, that record is basically straight up jazz, and something your typecast journalist would perhaps suggest would only get played in London’s West End. But no, it was in the middle of the morning in Milton Keynes and the ravers loved it. Tune was an anthem.
Blue Note, London – My favourite ever club nights are these. Everything you’ve read about Metalheadz at the Blue Note is true – and then some more, an artistic paradise. But first, my mates and I always had dinner upstairs. They had this chef cooking up chicken, rice and peas, washed down with Miller Lite Beer. That was the drink, the sponsor. Then we’d walk downstairs and DJ Clarky would be on the decks warming up the set with choice cuts from Doc Scott and Dillinja, getting the atmosphere bubbling and ready for the legends to arrive. Now, what amazed me about this club was the music policy. It wasn’t only Techstep. It wasn’t only Bristol. It wasn’t only Headz. But it was also sometimes romantic. I mean when Fabio came on the decks, he’d kick off with something so sultry, like a Peshay track or something from Primary Motive, and it was the reaction from the crowd! They were just as hyped and in adulation for that music, as they were for when Rider would drop “Metropolis” or “Revelations”. And that was what made it a true “musical paradise” … Anything goes. And that was the point. We were in absolute awe and nothing else in our lives mattered more than those moments, being part of a pivotal time in history.
The Source, Oxford – Now over in Oxford, you had The Source. Oh My God, the land of Timeless Recordings, DJ Lee and Total Science. It was on a Thursday night. It was the Blue Note of the West Country basically, but with a slightly different, future-funk edge. Peshay was on the decks one night. Probably the best DJ set I’ve ever heard. He always played harder-edged music in the club than you might expect, as his record releases were very jazzy at the time, which we loved and would’ve welcomed just as much. Nonetheless, he just launched the whole place into outer space with a supersonic driving selection and big double drop mixing. Grooverider one night man, he opened with a track called “560 Degrees” the night I saw him and it just got rewound instantly. Game over. We heard a lot of Optical get drawn there and the first ever examples of his partnership with Ed Rush. There was a great MC called Manic D. I’d always ask him: “what’s this?” and he’d whisper in my ear: “that’s forthcoming on a new label called Virus Recordings”.
My most memorable DJ experiences
1996: Warming up for Nookie and Peshay at the Aquarium Club in London was my first major gig. I wanted to impress Nookie playing straight after me by finishing off with something futuristic and fresh. So I opted for the Lemon D remix of Ken Ishii’s “Overlap”. To my delight, Nookie asked me what the record was and at only 17 years old, I was made up. Selector!
2001: Maximum Boost Records Poland tour with one of the originators, DJ Swan-E. That was a vibe. I went by the name Supersoul in those days. Right in-between Christmas and NYE, flying into Warsaw with British Airways from London Heathrow, record boxes in hand, sheepskin coats, Swan-E refused to put his records in the hold, so we were granted the captain’s wardrobe… 1st gig was in Lodz, (the 3rd largest city in Poland) at this amazing converted fabric factory. It was minus 17 and snowing as we approached the club, steam rising up from the drains, queues of people outside, it was so exciting! Soul:r had just launched so I’m armed with “Calibre – Interphase” and “M.I.S.T – Play On Me”, which both went off in the dance. I ended my set with “Aquarius – The Dolphin Tune”. The request came in for the rewind and it was all curtains. Life’s all about creating memories and that is one I cherish.
Being a Maximum Boost resident DJ back home in England, I got to play records alongside most of the famous guys. One night, Shy FX was booked. The mega hit “Shake Your Body” had just been released, it was all over the radio, and the club in Luton Town was rammed. We all felt like celebrities that night!
The Burlington Sessions: Set in the ornate “Burlington Arms” pub in London’s most prestigious neighbourhood Mayfair, these sessions are legendary in the underground scene. I was introduced to the guys through a mutual friend and it was like going on the X Factor. They’d be like: “Here’s the decks, show us what you can do”… So I showed them what I could do and the rest is history. I was welcomed into the crew as a resident. Ah, the parties we had there, until the sunrise every time. It was like a private members club for Hardcore Junglists.
Fringe, was the name of my own promotion. A couple of friends of mine owned this great venue so I had an idea: Why not bring Metalheadz to Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire? So I got DJ Flight, whom I knew from BM Soho to launch it. She’s one of my favourite DJ’s and what a party we had, bonafide selector. 2nd one I called up on my mate Phil from Source Direct. He only lived down the road in St Albans. When he drew the SD classics, the place went into overdrive. What a legend. The 3rd session and without a doubt my most memorable and biggest achievement to date was DJing alongside my hero, the boss of Metalheadz, Goldie. It was an incredible night. I had these gold tickets made up, gold balloons, ‘Talkin’ Headz’ documentary playing on a projector, huge sound system, Grey Goose vodka… Game over man!
I always dreamt about playing records in Manchester, and with thanks to Jim aka DJ Bane over at Eastern Bloc Records, it became a reality. We ran a one-off night together called “Something Else” in another converted building called The Islington Mill, a superb creative arts space. DJ Flight and Fracture were our headliners. It was just before Fracture’s debut release on Metalheadz. We all travelled up north together from London and you wouldn’t believe who was on the same train? Colin Dale, Breakage and David Rodigan!
Jungle Jungle Barcelona: The flagship organisation for the Catalonian D&B headz. Make no mistake; they bring the heat, from Spirit to Fabio to Digital and DJ Flava. The club is actually set in an open-air museum built in 1929 showcasing Spain’s traditional architecture. If you’ve been to Barcelona, then you’ll know what magic lies there. One of my favourite places on earth, so when I was invited for a back 2 back DJ slot with one of the ‘Jungle Jungle’ bosses Egres to set the scene for special guest DJ Presha, I was over the moon. I got to play “Photek – UFO” on their ‘Funktion One’ sound system which has always been a personal ambition.
Section Five – Music production
Lewis, I discovered G.H.O.S.T through our mutual friend Chris Marigold of Blu Mar Ten and I have been truly amazed by the whole endeavour and the meticulous attention to detail; beautiful packaging, bespoke artwork and fine music reminiscent of the drum & bass golden era. How did you decide to start producing music? Under your solo guise ‘Sicknote’ you have chosen a more “jungle-centric” approach, re-visiting the bare essentials of the genre. How would you describe your new musical ethos and direction?
Sicknote: Thank you man and I must say a big up to Will, Tom from G.H.O.S.T and also big ups to Chris for putting you onto G.H.O.S.T. I got into production because of drum and bass really, after DJing for a while I really wanted to try and create a track myself, so I downloaded a cracked version of ‘Cubase’ and gave it a go. Production and making music takes a long time to get to grips with, it isn’t something you can just jump into and have amazing results straight off the bat. There are lots of ups and downs and I would say it’s only really now I feel I am in a good place in terms of creating something original that sounds like I made it. It’s taken me almost 10 years to get to this point. In that 10 years I went to college and university to study music technology and sound engineering, which has helped me to get to the point I am at now in terms of production. Also in that time I really learnt a lot about the music I was trying to create along with also finding loads of new music, which I think in turn influences you to create a certain style or have a direction you want to go in. I started out trying to make the harshest tunes I could make; I was heavily influenced by Tech Itch, Current Value, Dylan and the whole Freak Recordings sound when I started out, which is totally different to what I am doing now.
What I am making solo wise at the moment is definitely a nod to the late 90s, bit of Metalheadz, Good looking, No U Turn and 31 and even some jungle all mixed into to one, which is all massively influential to me. I would say my main idea or ethos, when I get in the studio is always to start from a blank canvas if you know what I mean, not to rinse the same samples over and over and always try and do something different, let the samples take you in the right direction rather than forcing something or trying to make something in a certain style. It’s hard to describe, but every time I have just gone with the flow without setting parameters, the best ideas have been realised.
Section Six – Exclusive Mix
If you haven’t been already convinced that ‘drum & bass’ has always been the most dynamic, versatile and fascinating genre of underground dance music, the feature includes an exclusive mix: An eclectic selection transcending styles, spanning more than 20 years of d&b history, blending the classics with the obscure for your listening pleasure, courtesy of Sicknote and Soul Beat Runner.
01 – Transportation AAD – Pagoda – Darkestral
02 – Forest Drive West – Trieste – Appian Sounds
03 – Photek – 124 – Science
04 – Overlook – Traveling Without Moving – UVB-76 Music
05 – Dr.S.Gachet & Intense – It’s All Gone Sideways – Parallel
06 – Wink – Simple Man (Optical Remix) – Ruffhouse Records
07 – Ilk – Space Dub – Warm Communications
08 – MLO – New Generation (Boymerang Remix) – Aura Surround Sounds
09 – Bjork – Bachelorette (Grooverider Jeep Remix) – One Little Indian
10 – Instra:mental – Photograph – Darkestral
11 – System – Sound Man – Exit
12 – Oliver Yorke – The Gift – Cosmic Bridge
13 – SB81 – Prototype – Metalheadz
14 – Project 23 – Sugarize ‘Lost Inna Dream’ (Sugar Ray “The Dream” Mix) – Dorado
15 – Clan Greco – Never Still (Dj 2nd Nature,Dj Die & Suv Remix) – Cuadra
16 – Calibre feat. Marcus Intalex & Bricktop – Smother – Soul:r
17 – Primary Motive – Electric Blue – Creative Source
18 – PFM – Cruising Detroit – Moving Shadow
19 – Icons – Time Undefined – Precious Material
20 – Jan Jelinek – Moiré (Piano & Organ) – ~scape
Section Seven – Preacher’s Corner
Soul Beat Runner on the ‘Jungle vs D&B’ debate
It was called Jungle then, not Drum & Bass; that came later. I’ve been really surprised actually by some of the discussions and arguments I’ve seen on social media lately about this subject and what to call the music now. Even some of the music’s major players I follow seem to be confused? So, here are my observations from the time when names and styles transcended:
Everyone knows the foundation of the music is Jungle. So we’re all Junglists. You can’t argue with that. However, the Jungle scene wouldn’t have survived, the music wouldn’t have progressed for another quarter of a century to where we are now, If it wasn’t for a new wave of studio artistry, the visionaries, who progressed Jungle music beyond its initial styles and rhythmic structures. These artists where the future, cutting edge pioneers creating and sampling new breakbeats, sultry moods and grooves, injecting funk, Jazz, hip hop, off-world sci-fi landscapes all in the mix. Producers believed they could change the world with their new spin on Jungle music. And they did. But this new wave of creativity wasn’t welcomed by everyone at first. The handful of DJ’s who believed in this new zone, the new storm of tracks, were getting ignored by certain corners of the Jungle scene. The atmosphere was getting very tense in some of the clubs. There was trouble brewing and not all the new styles were accepted by the promoters and the clubbers. Something had to give…. Music nights like ‘Speed’ and ‘Metalheadz’ provided an opportunity for these DJ’s to play the new music and in turn they inspired the record producers to push things even further. A fresh kind of clubbing experience was born. And so Drum & Bass blossomed from Jungle like a field of beautiful flowers, each of their own variety and colour. DJ’s like Fabio, Grooverider, Jumping Jack Frost, Bryan G, Randal, Kemistry & Storm, Ray Keith and LTJ Bukem spearheaded this new wave of universal cosmic sounds. Producers like Alex Reece, Voyager, Doc Scott, Goldie, Wax Doctor, Blame & Justice, Source Direct, Peshay and Photek for example – created the soundtracks that would shape all of our lives forever. Everyone was proud to call this new Jungle style as Drum & Bass. It was clear as day! I must mention Phil Wells once again over at ‘Vinyl Distribution’, because he full- heartedly believed in this new direction and helped so many artists set up their labels and ultimately, he distributed the new wave of Jungle, what we call Drum & Bass, all over the world.
Section Eight – Epilogue and Future Plans
Last thoughts, credits and what does the future hold for Sicknote and Soul Beat Runner?
Sicknote: I think the main thing at the moment is to just keep on making music as much as I can. I have been making lots of music with Dissect that might see the light of day sometime soon so keep an eye out for that along with two remixes from some artists we are massive fans of. We have been busy in the studio with Tony Justice as well, working on some really cool music that will no doubt be out on a vinyl at some point later this year. I have also been collaborating with Sweetpea, Sopheye, Escher, Chris Dexta and Flava and I’m really excited to get these finished and out there at some point. There are a few gigs lined up for later in the year which are going to be wicked, ‘Underground 001’ out in Romania and ‘Noise Test’ in Bristol are confirmed plus another event in October that I can’t disclose any info on at the moment.. Big thank you to Spyros for making this happen and asking us to do this project. Big up to Mikey my drum and bass partner in crime! And out to Dissect, Justice, Rico, Sweetpea, Sopheye, Monita, Spirit, Will Token, Dexta, Soul Intent, Escher, Flava, Barry Gibb and Immerse…. Respect!
SBR: My D&B peers have advised me many times over the years to start my own record label, so I’m currently putting it all together. Then there’s my DJ mix project ‘Atmosphere Station’ that I want to grow into a series of volumes highlighting timeless D&B from my ever evolving record collection. In addition, I’ve just bought myself a Loricraft PRC6 record cleaning machine so I’ll be busy preserving my beloved record collection for future spins in clubs across Europe.
Drum & Bass is the most powerful electronic music in the world; in my heart I feel this. No other music comes close to how D&B can make you feel. It’s the result of channeling in everything around it and before it. This is the evolution and the revolution of modern music. I love that it owes to everything, but that it also owns everything as a result. Like a shrewd businessman, who doesn’t care what you think. All that’s important is creating that groove at absolutely any cost. It has attitude and drive, the realness, the rawness. You can’t deny its enveloping prowess and the power of its thrust into orbit. It is with the greatest admiration to the greatest city in the world that I stand up and salute, the international and multicultural metropolis, where it all began, the home of Jungle / Drum & Bass. It was made in London.
A special dedication to Lewis Joyce aka DJ Sicknote, Rico Darkestral and Lisa Lohan. And in memory of Chris and Angie Hill, who I always looked up to and always will (xx).
Thank you Spyros for giving us this opportunity to share our hearts and passion for music in your fantastic magazine, it really is a great honour.
The next volumes of the “On the Outside, Looking In” series are in the making and will follow soon…