In July I got an unexpected email from DJ Mag editor Ben Murphy saying he was a fan of Drumtrip and wanted to ask a few questions about the site, and my thoughts on drum and bass past and present. Low and behold Drumtrip has a whole page in September’s issue of DJ Mag.
DJ Mag and in particular Mixmag have gotten a lot of stick from drum and bass fans over the years, especially from people who perceive the D&B, and other genres are often overlooked in favour of house and trance (see the annual top 100 DJ poll). Whilst that criticism might be justified, September’s issue of DJ Mag is stacked with D&B articles including a brilliant ‘Top 100 most important D&B tunes’. The list is absolutely spot-on, the guys that wrote it know their stuff, I couldn’t argue any of their selections. There are also interviews with LTJ Bukem, Friction, Break, dBridge, Hype and more. Buy it.
Anyway, here is my ramblings on drum and bass over the years. Bit weird posting my own interview on here but….
Why did you start Drumtrip?
Drumtrip started out in February 2010, as a place for me to write about my favourite tunes and producers from the 90s, as well as a home for my (many) mixes online.
Over three years later the website is still going with a few guest writers and a regular following.
What is it that you love so much about that early jungle/drum & bass sound?
Two primary things, the drums and the bass. It may seem obvious, but these two key components have been overlooked on occasions in drum and bass over the last 10 years.
The drums especially. Flat, two-step drums have dominated the drum and bass scene for a long time, yet it was always the aspect of the music I found that set it apart from it’s dance contemporaries.
I much prefer the organic, human sound of a live breakbeat over than a really compressed and quantized two-step beat which became so prevalent in the mid 2000s.
Being a huge 90s hip hop fan I also miss the use of samples in drum and bass today. I think sampling is an art which is overlooked and perhaps looked down on now, with even big hip hop producers preferring to use VSTs or sessions musicians. Drum and bass doesn’t feel quite as ‘alive’ as it once used to, but I think that goes for a lot of music these days.
Do you feel there’s an increased interest in that period of d&b/culture, as we get further away from it?
It’s odd as it’s often felt like 1995 jungle is about to come roaring back in as the new fad but it never quite does. In drum and bass circles today it seems to be standard procedure to include one throwback jungle tune on your album. Outside of drum and bass I’ve noticed producers like Tessela and Special Request (Paul Woolford) chopping up old breaks to great effect at 130bpm. I find that really interesting and I hope it catches on. Breakbeats sound better below 174bpm, fact!
Why do you think we’re so obsessed with the past in music? What Simon Reynolds calls retromania?
Humanity is obsessed with nostalgia full stop, so I don’t think it’s just necessarily a music thing. Dance music progresses so quickly though, and every genre had those few years in the beginning when creativity was at it’s peak. UK Garage had it in 1997/1999, dubstep had it in 2003/5. But I can’t think of a genre that changed so quickly like jungle / drum and bass from 1992 to 1996. There is incredible variation in production styles, technology and even BPM in those years. It was a fascinating evolution and I think people will always look back fondly on it.
What are some of your favourite tunes from the period and why?
Such a tough question as it probably changes daily. I’ll give it a whirl.
Splash – Babylon (1995). Released on Deejay recordings this tune is what rough and ready jungle is all about. The sound quality and production is pretty poor but it’s irrelevant. The tune has an enormous drop with almost cliche samples. It’s perfect though, and Andy C is still dropping it in sets today.
Intense – Space Time Continuum(1994). Deep jungle with a spaced out vibe. This one has two really deep breakdowns, one of which samples a haunting orchestral section from Evil Dead 3: Army Of Darkness. It’s dark.
Dillinja – Silver Blade (1996). If you are a drum and bass producer in the 90s, the chances are you sampled the Blade Runner OST at least once. Dillinja did a couple of times and this might be his finest work. Once you get past the Vangelis inspired intro, it drops into a devastating drum and bass workout. One of those tunes you really need to hear in a club to appreciate.
Are there any particular producers from 94 and around that time that you feel have never got the props they deserve?
Perhaps they did back in the day, but in 2013….
Ant Miles: Moulded a very young Andy C back in 1992 and (together) launched RAM Records. He was engineer to pretty much everyone on RAM Records throughout the 90s and beyond. He ran his own label called Liftin’ Spirits and also produced under the name Higher Sense (of ‘Cold Fresh Air’ fame).
The Invisible Man: Another producer / engineer who created deep darkcore in the early 90s, was Legend Records in-house engineer for a time, and also released a series of excellent 12″s for Good Looking.
Rob Playford: Launched, in my opinion, the greatest drum and bass record label of them all in Moving Shadow. He was engineer for some of Moving Shadows biggest tracks and artists as well as being behind the boards for Goldie’s album debut ‘Timeless’. Say no more.
What do you think of drum & bass now? Is there any merit in it?
Definitely! There are still a few producers and labels I look out for. Metalheadz being the strongest label out there with some great artists like Jubei, Fracture and Lenzman.
One of the most exciting developments in D&B for a while was dBridge hooking up with Instra:Mental to create the Autonomic sound, although sadly Instra:Mental have little to do with D&B now with Boddika and Convex / Drama doing so well outside of the scene. Andy new Seba and Calibre are still always worth a listen, the most consistent producers in the game.
Has Drumtrip been attracting more attention in the time it’s been around? Do you have plans to expand it?
Traffic has grown nicely over the three years, even more so in 2013. In the future I would love to put a Drumtrip night on around London with some of my favourite DJ’s from back in the day, and maybe look to create a digital label for producers still pushing that sound I love. And first and foremost, keep writing about jungle and hunting for those elusive 12 inch’s.
And that’s all. Big thanks to DJ Mag and especially Ben for getting in touch and publishing the interview.