Interview with Tekniq

DJ Hostyle (one half of Tekniq) talks to Jamie S23 about their early releases and production techniques, life with Formation Records and his time within the jungle scene. What’s next for this talented dj and producer? Read on the find out..

A-4255-1335025648Having been a producer since the early 90’s your journey into underground dance music started earlier than most. Was this the era that kickstarted your passion for music production?
Around 1986 I was heavily into Chicago house & early acid house, I loved the fact that it was new, unusual and underground. I wasn’t really into chart or popular music.

I use to muck about on a friends Casio keyboard. You could get a basic four four drum pattern down and it had around a 2 second sampler on it, hi-tech at the time! I just fooled around, nothing too serious.

It was when I got my Technics 1210’s that I got seriously into music. I worked in a supermarket at weekends for little money to get them bad boys, but it was worth it. All my time and money was put into record hunting, record buying, raving and learning the art of mixing.

Tekniq was your production alias alongside John Williams (JT), how did you guys meet and what took you into the studio initially?
Me and a few other DJ’s use to put on these little basement parties in town, Syco (now a Techno DJ) & Mike Bolton (who went on to become PFM Good Looking Records) to name a few were trying to make a name for ourselves in the local scene. John Williams, an old school buddy of mine, was putting on college parties and he asked me if I wanted to do a set.

They were mad little parties. I used to throw some underground tunes in with the normal cheesy dance music which the crowd seemed to love.

John suggested we hook up and play around with this free music programme he had from a magazine, it was on an Amiga, I think it was called midi player or something?  It only had 4 channels but you could run tiny samples on it and get some ideas down. Syco had a track released on Sheffield based Ozone Records so we sent them a very dodgy sounding demo tape and randomly from that tape they asked us to go up and work with Matt Ellis, Main Engineer for the label. This was our first proper studio experience and a lot was learnt from Matt, he eventually went on to work for EMI, all we then wanted to do was get better equipment to make better tunes.

This was the birth of Tekniq.

Tekniq in the studio

Discogs has a great photo of you guys in the studio, when and where was it taken?
I wouldn’t say great photo! lol! This was DJ SS’s studio above the 5HQ shop in Leicester.  This would have been 1995 or 1996 I think?

Your debut release on Formation Records is listed as the ‘Best of Both Worlds EP’ released in 1994. How did the link up with SS happen?
We actually had a few releases on Formations sister label, F Project before ‘Best of Both Worlds’ was released. Leroy (DJ SS) wanted only the biggest and best tunes on his main label.

We actually hooked up with SS via another DJ friend, DJ Dance. Another demo was sent, much more professional than our last. We went up to Leicester to meet him, SS was working with EQ at that time on the early Formation stuff so we did a few tunes on F Project with EQ engineering. Getting on such a big label was a real buzz for us.

Formation Records quickly became the staple diet of every jungle DJ during the mid 90’s, what do you think stood it apart from every other label at the time?
Every Formation release you had to buy on sight as every 12” they put out was simply ahead of its time. It had certain edge and style over other labels of that era, their tunes had energy and great party vibes. SS knew how to get the crowd jumping and you can hear that in his production and arrangements, classic stuff. We feel honoured to have been part of the labels history.

The Riot ’ was a monster of a tune and I assume one of your biggest releases in terms of dj support? How did you make that absolutely killer bassline? What software were you using at the time? Any prefered hardware?
It was one of those tunes that when you first heard it you would be unsure if you liked it, if you know what I mean. It was different from any other tunes at that time but it worked. The crowd reaction to that bassline was incredible, it was an SS bassline. We had been in the studio all day with Leroy and laid down the track, it sounded good but it needed something.

We left for home and a few days later received a DAT tape with the finished track on it. SS had added the warp warp bassline, it sounded phat, hats off to him for that one!

We used to write on Cubase with an external Akai sampler, multiple rack sound units, effects and various keyboards. We also had a good collection of old synths such as the Roland SH101, Juno, and Korg Monopoly. Back then you had to create sounds externally if not using samples in the sampler. The Akai sampler was a key bit of kit, this was the best way to chop up breaks to make jungle style patterns, you could also timestretch samples which, at the time, was revolutionary.

Your output on Formation Records was not quite as frequent as other producers, was this due to working full time outside of the studio or for another reason?
To begin with we put out quite a few tracks on Formations other side labels but the main Formation 12’s had to be killer tracks, that’s what SS always wanted. It’s hard to come up with massive tunes one after the other, especially as we were always out to try something different with every track we did, we didn’t want to be pigeon holed with one particular style.

Because of work commitments we were only in the studio in the evenings and weekends and John was engineering tracks for JMJ & Richie & Kudos for Moving Shadow, as well as our own stuff. So literally, every night was studio night! We actually spent a year writing a Tekniq LP for Formation but unfortunately this was never released. One of the main dance floor LP tracks did come out on one of the ‘Decade of breaks’ 12’s though, our track ‘Hardlines’ with Tungsten and Morph’s track on the flip side.

One Style’ featured a vocal sample “this is just one style, out of many” – was this a subtle hint towards forthcoming changes in direction?
The Ice T sample in ‘One style’ was a perfect fit for the track. At that time drum & bass was changing and morphing into different styles and the kick snare drum pattern thing had taken over dramatically from breakbeats. Trouble on Vinyl was pushing this new sound and I was well into that. I think their output must of influenced us. Clayton (TOV) actually wanted the original version of ‘One style’ for TOV but we had already signed this to Formation.

Moving on from 1997, Formation Records did in fact move with the times and take a totally new approach to Drum & Bass. From seeing the scene diversify countless times since the early 90’s what did you expect to happen to the scene reaching the millenium?
Being part of the scene and living it for such a long time, you notice and come across times when you don’t really know what’s going to happen next, you didn’t know which direction things were going to go. I think because vinyl sales dropped a lot, labels became more cautious about what they put out. Big tunes made their mark and lesser ones fell by the wayside. You knew things were going to change going into the new millennium.

During your time as a producer in the 1990’s, what do you think influenced you the most to create the types of tunes you made? Any favourite dj’s that supported your releases?
If we wasn’t out dj’ing we were out raving so every weekend we would soak up what new tracks were being played. The scene itself basically influenced what dance floor tracks we produced.  We were part of the east coast scene as well, the more melodic musical side of drum and bass with tracks put out on Moving Shadow alongside EZ Rollers, Flytronics, PFM & JMJ & Richie. It was good to experiment with new sounds and styles. And one of our Shadow tracks made it onto a Playstation 2 game. That was cool. As I’m a big gamer.

Obviously SS pushed and played our tracks, we also had support from Grooverider, Jumping Jack Frost & Roni Size to name a few. I remember being at an event in the Sanctuary and hearing ‘The Riot’ getting 3 or 4 rewinds when Roni dropped it, that was such a rush and an awesome thing to experience.

Your tune alongside Twisted IndividualNappy Rash’ was released on Grid Recordings, was their any reason why you didn’t put anything further out on this label? What was it like working alongside Lee?
John actually did that track with Lee Twisted one day when he was visiting 5HQ in Leicester. Lee was renowned for working quick and that track was written in a day, such a crazy mad talented producer.

What’s next for Tekniq? Are you still together? Any solo releases planned?
We are both still right into our music and DJ as a duo from time to time although our children take up most of our time these days. Producing music went from being a hobby to being serious and now a hobby again. I have been writing a lot lately and would like to put something out again myself this year under my DJ name Hostyle, I’m also doing a monthly show on Radio Frontline from this February. The Frontline guys have some good DJ’s from back in the day like Digital, DJ Monita, Remarc, Suv, Stretch & Teebone. I’m looking forward to playing some Jungle again from the best era of drum and bass.

Did you make any New Years resolutions for 2014?
Make more music! I built a new studio last year so that needs to be put to good use and also my radio show. Hopefully a few more projects in the pipeline also.

In terms of your production now, what software and hardware do you use?
Logic Pro and a midi keyboard running on a fast Mac with as many plugins as possible.  That’s all you need these days.

If you could name one jungle tune released between 1990 and 1995 that really stood the test of time what would it be and why?
Deep Blue ‘The Helicopter tune’.  The bass and mood of that track is phenomenal, it still sounds fresh today. Totally ahead of its time and an all time classic.

 Huge thanks to DJ Hostyle for talking to Drumtrip, and Jamie for the words.

About Jamie

Jungle/Drum&Bass Veteran. Section 23 since 1993, part of the editorial team for Drum & Bass Arena, writer for UK Bass Music, Everyday Junglist and Drumtrip