There is a lot of retro jungle stuff flying around at the moment. The self-proclaimed Future Jungle scene is bubbling away nicely, drum and bass labels are always after tracks with nods to the past, and producers more known for their techno and house excursions are piling on the amens and sirens! Very rarely will Drumtrip ever feature music not written and produced in the 90s. However, Demonic Possession really is that authentic, you only have to listen to their two releases so far, and speak to FX to realise that this is not a fad, Demonic Possession is Darkcore; exactly as you remember it
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Nick Richmond, and I’m currently based in Kent or London most of the time.
I’ve always been interested in music, and have been buying vinyl for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I had a collection of commercial 7″s with the likes of De La Soul, Dream Warriors and DeeLite getting a regular airing on my ‘midi’ hi-fi unit. It was a plastic Sanyo tape-deck/radio/record player combo, the kind with a 7 inch platter on top that leaves circular friction burn lines on your 12’s… and I never did work out how it claimed to be related to midi in any way either!
In around 91 or so, I was introduced to proper underground music by one of the ‘cool kids’ at school (massive shout to James ‘Chunk’ Burrows!) and, although we didn’t really hang around together, we found that our paths crossed on a daily basis by virtue of the fact that we lived opposite each other and my mum drove us both to school in the mornings! . His dad would pick us up in the evenings, and it was these short return journeys that I used to love because Chunk had an amazing collection of music, and would always put a tape on for the ride home. Here I heard stuff like Blockbuster-Give Us an ‘E’, Altern8 stuff, and particularly Pink Elln – Phobia, which is a seriously eerie Rising High Records techno track, and one of the pieces of music that still inspires me to this day.
Chunk also had contacts with some of the people who were just beginning to open record shops at the time in our area and it was through him that I could get answers to all of the questions about music and the scene that you didn’t dare ask in public!
Once I had been bitten by the rave scene bug, I didn’t look back. There were a few of us at school who started to amass huge collections of hardcore records (Shout to Dan Daly, and Tim ‘DJ Becks’ Becker, who is my DJ partner to this day) and would DJ at small parties, local pubs, school disco etc. This was all happening in 1993, and being still at school we would have to use every opportunity we could to sneak off down to the local record shop in town, Biting Back (Shout to Doug!) to spend our lunch money on tunes.
Biting Back records was the local record hang-out in Gravesend, and this is where I eventually met DJ Ollie who signed my first produced track (Airlock) for his new label, Direct Recordings in 2000.
Around that time, I also spent most Sundays on Cyndicut FM, playing up front D&B to audiences across Kent and Essex. Those were great times, and the buzz of pirate radio and DJing were some of the things that, for me, made the scene really addictive.
When did you first come up with the idea for Demonic Possession and the inspiration behind it?
I took a few years out of the drum & bass scene during around 2005 to 2009, mostly because my focus was on starting my family and work commitments, but also because I felt the scene was becoming a little stale.
I took a completely different musical direction, put the records into storage, and started up an indie/punk band with a couple of new friends of mine whom I had met whilst recording an acoustic gig at a local pub. We learnt to play our instruments together in a short space of time, did the Camden/Brixton/Shoreditch club circuit thing for a couple of years and also managed to put together an album!
But what I noticed most during that time was that the raw energy of five lads on a stage, with guitars revved up to 11 and a manically fast beat, created something really exciting – without even a hint of a science degree in synth programming, multi-band compression, or hours sweating over a snare drum sound to create ‘that sound’ that modern D&B seemed to require.
I loved the simplicity and unpredictability of it all, and so after I left the band to start another chapter in my life (my second daughter!) I started to think about the jungle again, and how I could get back to what I loved about it in the first place…
Demonic Possession came about, mainly as a creative outlet for something that I love to make. The dark sound is by far my favourite flavour in the rave scene and there was a period during late ’92 though to the ‘Dark Summer’ of ’93 where pretty much anything went musically, and people were really experimenting with what samplers and breakbeats could do. A lot of influence was also coming from horror films which I also have a big interest in, hence the term ‘darkside’ which also turned out to be a starting point for the scene to begin splitting into the ‘jungle’ and ‘happy’ scenes.
I was back into buying records again by 2009, mostly older stuff to fill in a few gaps in my collection, but was finding that I was reaching the limits of what was out there from the darkside period. So, I thought I’d have a go at making some stuff in the style of how it was done ‘back in the days’, simply to give myself some more material to play out. I found it totally liberating not to have to be so concerned with production polish or science – just getting on with the track, throwing in whatever sounds good, and leaving it rough round the edges to keep a bit of soul in there!
I was also starting to get involved in some of the oldskool record buying communities out there, and in 2012 made a great new contact and friend in Simon from 7th Storey Projects. I had recently finished 4 of these ‘new oldskool’ darkside style tracks, and Simon was at a point when he was looking for new material for his label. This ended up with the ‘Nightmares EP’ coming out, and being released on a really nice clear 12″ press. Thanks to Simon’s credibility in the scene, the tracks gained some real attention and it all started to move from there really.
‘Amnesia’ and ‘Terrible Things’ were two more tracks that I came up with after the Nightmares EP and so, feeling that they might also be viable releases, and having wanted to start my own label since I’d first discovered the scene, it was going to be ‘now or never’ at this point – and Demonic Possession Recordings was born!
Why start a vinyl label in 2013 – Was it a risk?
These days, I think most people know that vinyl is not going to be a money spinner. Although there is currently something of a resurgence underway regarding vinyl sales, a lot of this is related to indie music, and so is not really a reflection of the direction that the dance scene is taking. Most of the big oldskool DJs have now converted their record collections to digital, and it is fair to say that a lot of clubs don’t even set up the Technics these days which is a real shame, and detracts significantly from what an oldskool night is about in my opinion.
So yes, it is risky, from a financial perspective, but the physical act of pressing a record is something that appeals deeply to me so, as long as I don’t go too bankrupt in the process, I will continue to do it!
What are your and the label’s influences?
I’m heavily inspired obviously by the early 93 darkside and UK/Euro techno/acid scenes. I think there is still a lot of mileage left in experimenting with those sounds as the scene was progressing so quickly back then. Back then, the emphasis was always on finding something ‘new’ to push the musical barriers, and not necessarily exploiting all that a particular ‘current’ sound had to offer, so I do feel that this particular era ended prematurely.
I also listen to a lot of late 70’s punk stuff, as I really love the unstructured and chaotic DIY ethos of that whole scene. Once you scratch beneath the surface of the Sex Pistols / Clash / Buzzcocks etc, there is a whole world of music that is very similar in nature to the early jungle movement. In fact, i truly believe that if they had had access to samplers in 1976, then hardcore would have happened a lot earlier! The vibe is the same, its just the instruments that are different.
As I said before, I also have a thing for horror films, and have a massive collection of DVDs that I’ve built up over the years. This has become a great library for sampling, so I am never short of a scream sample or two if needed!
How were the first two releases received – Was there much interest?
I’m continuously surprised and very humbled by the level of interest in the first two releases! I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on all of the tracks which is really nice coming from people that I have a lot of respect for regarding their musical knowledge.
Interestingly, the only real negative feedback I have had is regarding the label’s design and logos, which a couple people (ironically pretty big names from the old darkside scene!) have perceived as being a little distasteful. But, at the end of the day, I am a very opened minded and tolerant person to anyone’s ideas and creative output, and these are simply mine, so I wont be changing them. I am the last person that would intentionally offend someone though!
Do you have a distributor, or is Demonic Possession entirely DIY? Do you plan to find a distributor in the future?
Demonic is and always will be a DIY project. A lot of love goes into every aspect of bringing these to life, and I mean EVERYTHING! From the tools used to record the tracks, the mastering sessions which I annoyingly attend and critique every minute of, right down to the weight and feel of the records/packaging/graphics, and the vinyl-only ethos of the project.
I gauge the success of the releases by how they are received in terms of quality and people enjoying playing them, not necessarily the numbers sold. if people want to buy them, they know where to come.
You don’t offer Demonic releases on MP3 – Why not?
This is simple – MP3 weren’t available in 1993, so for me to put the tracks into digital form would detract massively from their authenticity!
I do get lots of requests for digital copies of tracks though, even from people who have already bought the wax, but it is no word of a lie then I say that I don’t even make digital masters of the releases for my own uses. I will get dubs cut to test out new tracks, and any online promo material is limited to short 2 or 3 min clips.
I am aware that people will rip the vinyl to digital formats, but I don’t lose any sleep over it – even if they are shared around. The fact is that the Demonic stuff is designed from the ground up to be enjoyed on wax, so if you don’t own the physical record you are kind of missing the point!
The tunes on Demonic really have an authentic feel to them . What hardware and software do you use?
I don’t have a huge studio to create these tracks, as if you look back in time most of what came out in the 92/93 era was made in bedrooms on very limited gear, so I try to stick to the same limitations.
My best piece of advice for anyone wanting to dabble in making this type of stuff is to pick a few choice bits of equipment or software, learn them inside out and stick to just those. The unbelievable choice of plugins these days, and constant upgrade hassle is 90% marketing hype in my opinion, and actually deteriorates from the creative process overall. If you want to compress a break, why spend half a day time auditioning 5 different plugins? Just pull pull up the compressor you use, and use it! It if sounds a certain way each time you use it, then so much the better – that is now part of your sound.
I have sold a lot of my hardware of the years, but still have some bits lying round like a Korg Trinity, Access Virus and some outboard compressors, but I am am currently getting my best results solely ‘in the box’.
I use Logic 9 on a Mac as my sequencer of choice, and I have set up the environment to mimic a typical bedroom studio from the late 90’s. 16 instrument channels maximum, no audio tracks, a couple of grouping busses, and two reverbs and a delay on send busses. This layout is really important to me in getting the 93 sound, because once you get to the point that your 16 tracks are used up with sounds, you need to get really creative to cram/layer more in – this was a common problem back in the day; the small Mackie 16 track desks were the mixers of choice for most bedroom producers back in the days, and a lot of samplers only had 8 physical outputs too!
I do use a lot of samples as well, and the key thing here is to record them properly yourself, not just download them from the internet. Ideally I record from vinyl, as again that’s what everyone was doing back then. You then get a unique sample for your own use that nobody else has, and its impossible to completely emulate that grit you get from a raw vinyl sample using digital methods.
If you could have any producer from back in the day create a track for Demonic Possession, who would it be?
In my opinion, one of the key producers of the ’93 era was Skanna. Most of his stuff is absolute gold and you can hear his sound a mile off, even on some of his more obscure releases. He manages to combine both clarity and warmth in his productions at the same time which is really hard to achieve, and I cant really think of any of his tracks that don’t ooze the vibe of what 93 darkside was all about. Definitely worth checking out tracks like ‘Until the Night is Morning’, ‘Heaven,’ or the ‘Nightstalker EP’ for examples of what I’m talking about!
What are your top 5 darkside tracks?
Thats a really tough question! With darkside, the deeper you dig, and the more obscure the tunes, the better they seem to get! But here are 5 records that I would never be without:
Mega City 2 – Darker Side of Evil
Skanna – Heaven
Thunderhead – Lost in Time
Goldseal Tribe – You Will Die
White House Crew – Where the Sun Don’t Shine
What’s coming up next for Demonic? What does the future hold?
Demonic Possession Volume 3 is going to be mastered in September, so hopefully will see a full vinyl release in late October or so. The tracks will be’The Devil’s Work’ and ‘Legion of Doom’. There are clips available on the Demonic Possession website.
I’ve also finished a new track called ‘Dark Places’ for 7th Storey projects that will be coming out on a new exciting 4 track vinyl EP in October, with three other great artists on – one track is from a BIG producer from back in the day and is mind-blowing, so watch out for that!
I also have a track on the forthcoming Kode 5 album called ‘World of Darkness’ which is true Demonic darkside, but aimed more at the dancefloor. I think this will be out in September.
I also have a few DJ sets coming up over the next few months, where I will be digging deep in the crates to spin the rarest and scariest darkside on the planet! I’ll be at Rewind (London) on the 14th September, and Dreamscape (Northampton) in November.
Will the darkside ever die?
It’s not possible. The darkside only becomes more powerful with each poor soul that it consumes.
Big thanks to FX and Demonic Possession for the interview. Go cop these tunes and support the cause!
Main author and creator of Drumtrip.
I have been listening to and mixing drum and bass in its various forms since 1998.
Drumtrip was designed to celebrate the glory years between 1991 and 1997.