“The Luke Skywalker of Breakbeat. He is unbelievable, he is so talented. I’ve been watching him grow up in the last two years. I’ve seen him grow from this inquisitive street kid to that age where he’s humorous and simply enjoying life. I do feel like a big brother to him.” – Goldie on J Majik, Platinum Breakz inner sleeve notes, 1996
This week is the blog’s 7th year anniversary. Traditionally, the anniversary features are retrospective accounts. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve taken a nostalgic trip back to 1997; the pinnacle of drum & bass’ golden era and a seminal year for full-length albums and various artists compilations*. Drum & bass had already attracted the media spotlight, which in turn exposed the niche genre from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing artists with a vital and creative space for experimentation. However, what started with bona fide artistic intentions came with a price, but this is a story for another day.
As manifested in previous posts, over the years I have developed an affinity for albums. Immersing in the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples, the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the evident or cryptic messages they convey; everything eventually culminates in a narrative with a purpose and a profound personal touch. I prefer conventional structure: an opening track foreshadowing the main theme, which is divided perhaps into multiple sections with interludes or vignettes and a closing track that concludes the musical journey. Some artists get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot midway and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, gradually unveiling beauty and truth in time.
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.
Sicknote x Soul Beat Runner
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.
This is the first part of a mini-series focusing on cross-genre drum & bass remixes; from subtle re-interpretations to complete re-constructions. The burgeoning d&b popularity in the mid-90s attracted media attention and interest from independent, as well as major record labels, which commissioned d&b remixes for their artists across the music spectrum; from post-punk and progressive rock, to indie-pop and acid jazz. The syncopated, sample-based drum & bass template accommodated for experimentation and fostered an adventurous environment to introduce innovative production techniques and sonic landscapes.
In hindsight, efficient promotional, publishing, licensing and distribution models exposed UK drum & bass to the large emerging markets of Japan and USA and the genre has been effectively embraced by a wider audience. Many artists seized the opportunity to explore new musical paths. However, what started with bona fide artistic and creative intentions came with a price. In certain cases, it was no more than a sly scheme to cash in on the niche genre emerging from the underground. As a counter-measure, a few years later, the d&b scene retreated back to introversion, inaccessibility and darkness with many struggling to find their place in the new bleak reality (more on part 2).
“I made this tune at the request of my old friend Stephen Bradshaw aka “Braddie” RIP from Foul Play. I’m honored to be part of his musical legacy & to know what it has meant and still means to some many over the years” – Denise Gordon
From left to right: Steve Gurley, Steve Bradshaw, Denise Gordon, John Morrow. Picture taken from the back cover of Foul Play Vol. 4, photography by NSL.
Throwback to 1994, the 9th installment of the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series is about a seminal record, written and produced by Foul Play; one of UK’s most respected and influential jungle/d&b acts. Heralding the transition from hardcore to jungle/drum & bass, the fourth volume of their recording series includes two tracks that have transcended time: ‘Being With You’, one of the genre’s most celebrated anthems, which is still being played to date (Om Unit and Doc Scott included it in their sets during their recent gigs in Athens) and ‘Music Is The Key’, one of the genre’s most lyrical and emotionally charged vocal tracks.
“… At Basement Records we also wanted the artists to sample as little as possible, to create pioneering and original material, hence the label title ‘Precious Material’. Some of the releases are produced in the studio and some are recorded live performances…”- Phil Wells reflects on the label’s ethos and purpose
After a long hiatus, the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” series return with the 9th installment. This time into the limelight is Precious Material; one of the most exhilarating and pioneering drum & bass labels of the mid-90s. Though short-lived, Precious Material has been one of the finest outlets of experimental drum and bass, integrating elements from various musical genres into the drum & bass template, defying stereotypes, constraints and agendas.
Established by Phil Wells in 1994 as a Basement Records’ subsidiary, during a time when drum & bass was still in its infancy, the main driver had been to foster a creative environment for established, as well as up-and-coming artists, free from dance-floor reactions and limitations. Following the huge success of the parent label Basement Records during the early rave years and the jungle/drum & bass evolution, Phil’s aspiration and incentive had always been to spearhead a new musical direction and introduce drum & bass to wider audiences.
This is the first installment (an updated version in terms of content and structure) of the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” article series, inspired by the eponymous Hidden Agenda album, released on the Swiss label Straight Ahead in 2000.
“They’re talented boys! Fusing old-skool jazz, with a touch of the Miles stylez. They deal with a genre which was previously missing from Metalheadz. Our Urban Break-beat representatives up north”. – Goldie on Hidden Agenda
“Metalheadz gives us the freedom to try out new things and to develop our music without the usual constraints alongside like-minded artists”. – Hidden Agenda
(Notes taken from the inner sleeve of the first Platinum Breakz volume, released in 1996)
Bushidō (武士道), literally “military scholar road”, is a Japanese word for the way of the Samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry; a rather modern term than a historical one.
Godisnolongeradj caught up with Geoff Wright (aka DJ Presha and head honcho of the Samurai Music group) in Athens after his gig, to discuss all things Samurai, inspired by the seven main virtues of the “Bushido Code”.
The twelfth installment of the blog’s Count To Ten series is dedicated to a leading figure in the drum and bass proceedings; a prolific artist, a veteran dj with bookings worldwide, a label owner and the undisputed leader of the wave of noir that has swept the scene in the second half of the 90s, Ed Rush.
Essence Of Aura
The sixth installment of the “Whatever happened to…?” series is dedicated to a highly influential music trio; one of the pioneering electronic music bands that came from hardcore beginnings, progressed through jungle techno to drum and bass and has been active throughout the first half of the 90s. Despite their short-lived career, the trio released timeless classics along the way, before they finally disbanded in 1996.
Essence Of Aura, referred to also as EOA onwards, were formed in late 1990, originally based in Kenilworth, UK before moving to Coventry in 1992. The founding members have been Tim Grantham (DJing, Management and Production responsibilities) Ian Scott (Sampling and Production) and James Mitton-Wade (Production, Programming and Engineering duties for all EOA tracks).
A veteran producer, a prolific artist, a dexterous sonic fusioneer, a label owner and one of the most interesting figures in the drum and bass circuit Klute is the primary recording alias of Tom Withers.