The second part of the blog’s mini-series covers the period 1997-99. What may have started timidly for artistic purposes or exclusive dj promotional use, by 1997 it became almost de rigueur for record labels to commission drum & bass versions for selected singles and various remix compilations. The niche underground genre infiltrated the mainstream and many d&b producers signed with major labels to curate collections or record personal albums. On reflection, it turned out to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, d&b found its well-deserved place on the electronic music map. Artists were finally rewarded and vindicated for their efforts and their work was introduced from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing them with a vital and creative space for experimentation. Commercial success and critic appreciation motivated accomplished, as well as up-and-coming producers to master their craft, pushing the musical boundaries beyond genre confines. On the other hand, the roller coaster of media exposure, politics, cloudy distribution and licensing agreements, self-indulgence and the drama that inevitably occurs when money and temporary fame enter the equation, terminated careers and friendships untimely and ingloriously. Effectively, drum & bass re-entered a phase of introversion, darkness and belligerence marking the end of the romance. An injection of fresh air was desperately needed and a new breed of producers and record labels emerged to fill in the gap created by those who helped the scene flourish, but sadly realized that they no longer fitted in the d&b reality of the new millennium.
“… when I refer to the music now as d&b, I never really considered it much then. I know that may sound strange, but I think we always operated as outsiders; I personally always felt on the outside looking in, which is why our Glider-State track was called so…”
“… I hadn’t done anything on Modern Urban Jazz since the ‘Emotions With Intellect’ LP, so to keep the ethos going, we decided that this would be an ideal collaboration by using the Modern Urban Jazz tag on the Creative Wax label. I don’t think either of our labels had been ones to follow trends and certainly at the time we were ripe for a more experimental sound…”
Modern Urban Jazz front cover (CWLP001, 1997)
Modern Urban Jazz 01 is a seminal compilation album, curated by Tony Justice Bowes and published by Creative Wax. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the official release, this is a retrospective account of the series of events that culminated in the realization of a brilliant project, which transcends genres and time. Titled after Justice’s eponymous record label, the compilation shares similar aesthetics and musical direction. An amalgamation of sounds with allusions to musique concrete; jazz noir, hip hop, funk, techno and electro instilled into drum & bass, with all contributing artists showcasing their musical backgrounds and creative influences, free of formulas, dancefloor reaction and genre constraints. Walking down a long, nostalgic and captivating trip down memory lane, this is a colourful and emotionally charged narrative, through the protagonists’ looking glass, filled with fond and distant memories that capture vividly the atmosphere of the mid-90s drum & bass scene.
“A passion for music that gradually escalated over time into a controlled obsession”
It has been three years since this blog went online, although its conception goes further back, so I eventually decided it’s about time I shared some thoughts about how it all started, as well as provide a retrospective account of the events that influenced the blog’s thematic basis. At the end of the feature, there is a quick walk-through the blog’s various categories/series and a brief background story behind each one of them.
The Modernists vol 1-4
The Modernists is a highly acclaimed, collectible, limited edition, compilation series project released by the forward-thinking Modern Urban Jazz (MJAZZ) label. To the time of writing The Modernists series consists of four volumes (official release date of the 4th volume is the 22nd of July, 2013), featuring mainly artists and affiliates of the MJAZZ collective. An eclectic cross-genre selection, covering a wide palette of electronic bass music, from techno to deep drum and bass, with clear electro, house and hip-hop influences, every volume seems to be pushing the music boundaries even further.
Limited to strictly 100 copies per installment, with hand finished artwork and stickers or badges included, every release is a collectible; an approach that seems to be becoming more popular within drum and bass, rendering every physical copy unique and individual.
“Ennio Morricone meeting Isaac Hayes in a full-on jungle vibe, Endemic Void pushes the limits of time-stretchology with this deep, cinematic, frontline fanfare. Rich, vibrant and all-encompassing” – (Melody Maker, 1995)
The fourth installment of the series is dedicated to one of the unsung heroes of the golden era of drum and bass Danny Coffey (aka Basic One, Blades, Tertius, Endemic Void, Slipstream and Strictly Rockers).
A mini-interview with 22 short questions (some personal, some tricky) looking for equally short answers, addressed to artists, producers, promoters, djs, friends and affiliates of the blog in general.
Today Endemic Void Jumps the Q
With a history that goes hand in glove with that of the development of drum & bass and jungle itself, Tony Bowes, aka Justice, has consistently spearheaded new musical forms. He is very much instrumental in the birth of drum & bass and is heralded as one of the true pioneers.
Raised in Luton, Justice began producing at the age of 17 with friend 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 his 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 formed Modern Urban Jazz Records. Continue reading