It’s taken a while but Drumtrip Sessions finally reaches the big one zero. This time around scene stalwart DJ Trax talks to Drumtrip about his beginnings, his working with the likes of Paradox and Moving Shadow, and what’s he’s got next in the pipeline.
Hello DJ Trax, where are you from and where are you at now?
I’m originally from Harlow in Essex. These days I am still based in Essex but I moved to Hutton.
How did you first get involved with the Hardcore scene? Were you a raver first?
I was always a Hip Hop head. I use to Break in a crew with Nucleus and others called ‘The Electro Breakers’
I had been collecting breaks for years and started off as a drummer (age 7) so to me it was all about the beats.
When I first heard House music I really didn’t like it, I couldn’t stand the 4/4 kick drum. This was until 86/87 when I heard tracks like Mr Fingers ‘Can U feel it’ and T-Coy ‘Carino’.
Although still heavily into Funk and Hip Hop, I was now also influenced by Detroit Techno and Chicago House.
In 88/9 I got some work experience at a studio in Roydon. They use to put on acid house events there. As local DJ`s, myself and Nucleus were asked to play. We had a few house records, but not enough for the whole night so we played a lot of hip hop instrumentals on 45. I loved the frantic sped up breaks.
Shortly after, myself and Dev recorded our first track in a `proper` studio there (engineered by Plastic Jam.) It was essentially a sped up Hip Hop tune with bleeps and sub bass (around 140bpm) with Dev rapping and my scratches.
After this, I started playing on various pirate stations and out at events.
I was going out raving every weekend in large convoys up and down the country.
What were some of the early raves that got you hooked?
The first big thing (20,000+) I played at was World Party. I scratched for Bug Kann + the Plastic Jam. I was still working at the studio with Plastic Jam and sat in whilst they recorded tracks like ‘Made In Two Minutes’ + ‘Beware of the Bassline.’
One of the first things I went to was in 88 called Total Confusion. It was one of those.. phone this number at a certain time illegal (they were pretty much all illegal back then) events. I went with Dev and Leke (who now runs Aerosoul.) I remember us carrying beers in and going through underground tunnels to get to in. I can still see it now 🙂 We got chatting to some girls and soon realised they were on drugs!! ha ha..We were really young and naive to it. From that night I was hooked!
Other stand out events I remember include Sunrise, Genesis, Vision, World Dance, Dance 91/2, Evolution and many other events at The Roller Express.
What was Trax listening to before Acid / Hardcore?
Electro, Hip Hop, Funk, Reggae/Dub and Soul
How did you first get into production? Were you DJing first?
I started DJing when I was 11. I say DJing but it was more scratching, a lot! Trying to imitate DJ`s like Whiz Kid, Jazzy Jeff, DJ Cheese, Cash Money and many more.
I had two (sort of) decks. They were stereo systems with tape and radio and a belt drive deck. They had no pitch control so i could only mix records that were the same bpm.
I use to make mix tapes using two tape decks. I would record a break… Pause, wind back the tape, and record the same break again etc… to make loops. I would then over dub scratches and samples. Soon after this I brought a four track which was next level!!
A year or two later Commodore brought out a program where you could sample and could change the pitch of the samples. At the time this was amazing!! The next and critical stage was OctaMed on the Amiga (which Dev still uses (my Amiga I should add! ;))
Where did used to get your records from back then? Parliament Records in Hertford, ran by Rob Omni Trio, Boogie Times, Solid Base in Harlow, Music Power, Ilford, Black Market and other shops around Soho.
How did you hook up with Dev (Paradox) and form Mixrace?
I was around 13 and was seeing Dev`s sister. One day I went to meet her at the station and she said my brother wants to meet you. I thought…Shit! I walked round to a lake where Dev was sitting. He had a huge high-top and Air Jordans and had that young moody rapper thing going on ha ha.
At first we didn’t really get on, I would go round to see his sister and his door would be shut blasting out Public Enemy or I would hear him rapping over instrumentals. One day he phoned me up and said he had heard one of my mixtapes and wanted to come round lay some raps down. From that day Mixrace was born. Soon after, Leke joined the crew. Both Dev and Leke rapped and I produced the tracks and scratched.
The whole Shadow thing came about as Dev sent a tape to Moving Shadow. It had a version of ‘TFIBYE’, ‘Too Bad for Ya’ and other tracks on it. Rob called up and asked us to come in for a meeting so we went to his place in Stevenage.
He loved the tracks and every Tuesday and Thursday we went there to re-create them in Rob`s Studio. I remember at that first meeting I saw a tape with Hyper on Experience handwritten on it. I asked Rob what it was and he said he had just signed these guys. The tape was mind-blowing!
Who is behind the mic on “The Future Is Before Your Eyes”?
The Brown Assassin AKA Brown AKA Dev Paradox 🙂
The EP also featured a tune called “Too Bad For Ya (Is 180 Too Fast For Ya)“, what’s the story behind this track? as its pretty out there and fast in tempo for a ’92 release. Did you ever anticipate back then that the genre would eventually speed up to near 180bpm?
Originally ‘Too Bad for Ya’ was 188bpm and TFIBYE was 180bpm. We were young and had a lot of energy and we wanted the tracks to be hype! The tracks were originally written on MED. As the early versions of MED did not have a BPM counter we didn’t really know how fast they were until we came to re-record them at MS.
We had an argument with Rob about the speed. Most of the tracks at that time (91) were in the 140`s, after a lot of debating we agreed that ‘TFIBYE’ would be 160 (as i remember) and ‘Too Bad for Ya’ would be 180, hence the tag line Is 180 Too Fast For Ya?
We were not really thinking about where the music would go speed wise. We just knew that we wanted our tracks to be hype. Although I heard the tracks played out by a few brave DJ`s we didn`t really do ourselves any favours by making them so fast. But f*ck it, it wasn’t about conforming, it was about writing what we wanted to write.
At this point what sort of production gear were you using for the Mixrace and DJ Trax releases (around 1992/1993)?
At my place we used MED on the Amiga with a £30 Techno Sound Turbo 8 bit sampler. Around 93 I brought a Yamaha SY85 shortly followed by an Akai S01. From that point on we were 16 bit 🙂
At Moving Shadow we used Q-Bass a Akai S950 and 1000 sampler, a Korg M1, Juno 106 (I love that synth!), Yamaha DX7, Vintage Keys Rack (another favourite of mine), various Alesis FX and other outboard bits.
High Time is a huge favourite of mine today, as someone on Discogs put it it’s “packed with synths and melodies without sounding cheesy”. It was released in late 1993 in the midst of a lot of dark sounding tunes, how was it received?
It was written late 92/early 93 but as with most labels, releases were backed up a bit. As I remember we were also waiting on Nookie to complete the remix. It was well received, although there were a lot of dark tunes at that time, there was still a fair amount of more uplifting ones.
Another alias of yours and Dev’s was Dangerman and Brown? What’s the story behind the alias? And who was behind Stronghold Records?
Stronghold was run by Scott Rhymeside and a guy called Gary (Where are you Gary??) They were friends of ours who we use to go to AWOL, Bluenote, Logical Progression and Speed with. They were great to work with as they really supported what we were doing and allowed us to get creative and to release tracks with heavily programmed drums.
We use to go to a lot of events, sometimes going from one to the next, to drop of test pressing to DJ`s. A lot of DJ`s did not really support our stuff as the drums were not straight enough. But we refused to conform to what would have been more current at that time and Stonghold, Mobhanded, Offset and Nautilus (all labels set up with the same guys) supported that.
Regarding the name, Dev had always been Brown or The Brown Assassin, so he wanted to go back under that alias. I remixed one of his tracks and put this sample saying Dangerman in it. I found the name quite ridiculous and funny as it didn’t really suit me but then again that`s why it was an alias.
The relationship between Mixrace and Moving Shadow was short and sweet. Am I right in saying you didn’t release on Shadow beyond 1993?
We were with Shadow from 91 although it took time to recreate the first tracks so they were released in 92. We parted ways in 1994.
We almost released a 3rd Mixrace 12″ with MS, but it only made it to test press stage. There were only ever 10-15 TP`s. Dev doesn`t even have a copy!
It remains one of the most sort after and expensive oldschool records.
In the mid 90s you seemed to take a step back from D&B and produced downtempo / leftfield music for labels like Nautilus and Beats & Pieces. Was this a conscious decision to move on from the scene?
As Hip Hop was my first love, I’ve always written down-tempo music. It wasn’t that I consciously thought I’m not going to write D+B anymore; It was more that I loved the freedom you get from working with different tempos. I went to so many hardcore/jungle/drum and bass nights from 88-97 and in 97/98 I was hearing less and less drum and bass that was really inspiring me.
I`m not saying there wasn’t some great music out there, but I just found those early days, where the music was constantly changing and adapting, more exciting and inspirational.
I know you’re a fan of crate digging and sampling. Sampling in general has been on the decline, especially in D&B, why do you think there aren’t as many producers digging the crates like they used to? Is there even an (unfair) stigma attached to it now?
Hmmmmm.. I still think there are a fair few artists who dig deeper to find interesting samples. It’s just that there are more lazy ones 😉
Making music has become a lot easier and more freely available. In order to make a studio quality record, back in the days you had to be signed to one of a number of labels, who had worked hard to build up their studios. I feel this ensured more quality control and you had to REALLY want it.
These days it’s possible to download a studio which is more powerful than you could have dreamed of back then. You can set your own label up and release your music in no time. On one hand this is amazing, on the other it means that some people want everything instantly and so may not spend the time and energy hunting for samples as some did back in the day.
But as I said, there are still plenty of diggers out there 🙂
Post 2000 you have been fairly prolific with releases on Paradox labels Outsider and Paradox Music as well as full length albums on your own label Audio Buffet. What have you been working on recently and what have you got planned?
Over the next two months I have a three track 12″ which will be released on Tempo Records (www.t3mpo.com) a Mixrace 12″ which features two unreleased gems from 93/94. I can`t say anymore than that yet ;)) A track with Naibu which will be on a double 12″/CD album on Subtle Audio, a track on a compilation on Phil Source Directs – Vampire Records (with a Source Direct Remix!)
In the summer I have another track with Naibu coming out IM:LTD, two new Audio Buffet releases and a Hip Hop album with Assorted Anonymous.
Also in the pipeline is another release on Omni Music and collaborations with Nucleus, Okee, Acid Lab and Enjoy. And finally, I have a remix of IASI coming out on Berlins Superb recordings.
Can you tell us a bit about your selection for your Drumtrip Session mix?
I never plan my sets so I treated it like playing any set really. I got load of records off the shelves, usually about 3 times what I need! I choose the first tune and I guess have a general idea of the mood, but then I just run with it and see where it goes.
There are a few tunes that are long-term favourites of mine and that I feel were ahead of their time.
Tracks like ‘Nice and Slow’ by SLM. I first remember hearing this in a night we use to go to in Basildon Festival Hall in 92. It really stood out as it was so much more rolling and hypnotic than most of what was getting played. Also the Ruff Justice and ‘Hoppa’ tracks were drum and bass, before drum and bass!
I also included Tekniq`s Forbidden Reality. Myself and Dev loved this tune as the breaks were proper funky and lively! The On-remand 12” was and still is one of my favourite dark 93 tracks.
There’s also a Brown and Dangerman track from the first Stronghold release. I remember writing this in one night (until 7/8am) at Dev`s tiny flat in 93 🙂 we used to program a bar or two each and kind of play off each other’s programming. We were jumping around like idiots haha.
The mix ends with ‘Feel It’ which was overshadowed by the flipside. I only heard it out a couple of times but always loved it 🙂
Finally, can you confirm that I once saw you in a cheesy bar in Hertfordshire getting your groove on to Usher (or some sort of terrible “R&B”)?
Haha… I remember seeing you there. You were dancing to ‘Careless whisper’ with some huge old lady. *Lies I tell you, lies! – Law
A Guy Called Gerald – Anything
Biology – Sundown
SLM – Nice + Slow
Jody Wisternoff – Untitled X-iting
Dark + Moody – Volume One
Tekniq – Forbidden Reality
Jack Horner + DJ Pulse – No Gunshots
On Remand – Blacksteel Part 2
DA Intalex – What Ya Gonna Do
Heard – Like This Like That
Mind At Large – Rough Justice
Brown + Dangerman – Ideas For The Ear To Fear
Subnation – Untitled
Hopa + Bay B Kane – Hoppa
Randall + Andy C – Feel It
A huge thanks goes out to DJ Trax for taking the time to talk to Drumtrip!