“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.
“I think things are cyclical and in the advent of digital, people crave the physical”
“And I think record collectors will always be buying vinyl and building a collection of good music, then passing on that knowledge to others who might not collect yet, because it’s great and fun and a way of life!”
This is the second installment of the blog’s new series titled “On The Outside, Looking In”. As the title suggests, it is a retrospective sneak view into my guests’ photo albums, collections, musical diaries, hazy memories and internal monologues. The discussion timeline is non-linear, jumping back and forth in times and places, as it would probably be in a real-time conversation with friends, whose music-related work I admire and respect. The concept of interviewing my guests in pairs has been intriguing and thought-provoking, trying to find out how their paths have periodically intersected and eventually converged through music: from rented studio time in the early 90s to custom-made studios and modern production, from raves in warehouses and sweaty basements to transatlantic tours and remixing punk priestess Siouxsie (well, that’s a story for another day), from tape packs and pirate radio to record fairs, eclectic record collections, running boutique record labels in 2019 and everything in-between.
Justice & Dissect
The head title of the series has been inspired from the first Modern Urban Jazz release by Glider-State (Blame & Justice), so it is with great joy that I present the man himself Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes alongside one of the most interesting figures of the new generation of producers Michael ‘Dissect’ Walsh.
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.
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.
My friend Ricky Law @ Drumtrip UK, recorded a fine mix paying tribute to one of my all-time favourite artists Hidden Agenda, featuring a plethora of classics, as well as underrated gems like “Get Carter”, “Sirens” and “The Wall With Paintings” remixes.
Biography, discography highlights, reviews and all things Hidden Agenda are available in the blog’s archive here
You may read the original post on Drumtrip here
An older Q&A with Law, from the blog’s archives, is available here
“I don’t feel I was trying to be anyone else, I was drawing from my influences when I was younger, a bit of reggae, hip-hop … It was coming straight from the heart and I think that’s important” – Digital on his first production steps calling for individuality – Red Bull Music Academy, Rome, 2004
The next international guest of the blog’s “Jump the Q” series is Digital; one of the most prolific, influential, consistent and widely respected drum & bass artists. Two decades after his inaugural solo release, with an enviable and extensive back catalogue under his belt, as well as a plethora of classics for the genre’s most prestigious record labels, Digital celebrates the 20 years milestone of his recording career with the re-launch of his own imprint Function Records.
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)
The seventh installment of the “Whatever happened to …?” series is dedicated to Foul Play; a pioneering, genre-defining and innovative electronic music act, heralding the transition from hardcore breakbeat to jungle/drum and bass. Being active almost throughout the 90s (the band’s synthesis changed twice during its activity, due to unforeseen circumstances) constantly re-inventing themselves, with dexterous, second-to-none programming and sample manipulation, their illustrious productions have marked indelibly the UK underground music map.
Undoubtedly one of the leading lights in the Drum & Bass scene, Nookie (aka Cloud 9, Freddy Fudpukker, Main Attraction, Private Productions, Second Vision, Traces Of Guilt and Windy Milla) is London Herts dj, producer, artist and remixer Gavin Cheung.
Nookie is a true veteran of the drum & bass scene, whilst at the same time one of its most forward thinking protagonists. With dozens of releases on key labels such as Reinforced, Moving Shadow, Labello Blanco, Penny Black, Good Looking and his own Strictly Digital and Phuzion, almost a hundred remixes and five albums under his belt, Nookie has been one of the most prolific drum and bass producers keeping a perfect balance between quality and quantity.
An early fan of hip-hop and electro, Gavin Cheung was a member of a break-dance crew that also recorded several sessions during the mid-’80s. After studying for several years, he began working in a record store around the time of the acid-house explosion of the late ’80s. Debuting on wax with a ragga/hip-hop remix of Ninjaman’s “Zig It Up” in 1990, Cheung was a proper player in Britain’s growing hardcore techno scene of the early ’90s. Continue reading