Now that anything can become an instrument, musicianship can become the practice of finding the spirit in the unexpected. It’s what Matt Moldover championed in the notion of controllerism, what years of DIYers have made evident. It’s not just a matter of finding a novelty or two. It’s really taking those novelties and making them a creative force.
Adriano Clemente, the Italian-born, Brooklyn-based artist (aka Capcom), is a shining light of just that sort of imagination. Regular CDM readers will see some familiar techniques. There’s a laser harp, a circuit-bent toy, mic transducers making objects into triggers, a Numark Orbit controller, a LEAP Motion, a Kinect, an Ableton Push, and I’m fairly sure that’s fellow Italian Marco Donnarumma’s wonderful Xth Sense controller in VICE/Motherboard’s featurette on the artist. But it’s the way Adriano puts it all together that becomes the magic.
To put it simply, it’s hard not to get infected by his enthusiasm. He doesn’t just play these unusual objects – he really plays. He’s exploring the reality around him. You can check the entire Create Digital Muisc review, with interview, gear set up, details and many more here.
Benny Page has been talking to DJ Mag about his debut live show, his new single ‘Champion Sound’ and his new album, recorded with a number of dancehall vocalists in Jamaica. Just in advance of the live show, Benny releases ‘Champion Sound’ on his own High Culture Recordings — the first single from his forthcoming album. A skanking dancehall breakbeat number, it features Jamaican artist Assassin on vocals — and a rather cool video, featuring the little kid on all of Benny’s new artwork. Check the whole DjMag interview here.
It is safe to say that AK1200 is an artist to be admired, not only for his skills, but also for exhibiting a true dedication to the drum & bass scene—each and every aspect of the scene. Since arriving as a DJ in the late ’80s, AK1200 (born Dave Minner) finds it imperative to keep the drum & bass fire strong by promoting his fellow artists on the street or through social media. He continues to assist upcoming and established artists on his successful label, Big Riddim Recordings. When he’s playing live at a club in an area lacking junglists, he works twice as hard to ensure that when that promoter throws another party, the crowd will be doubled. “This whole community is a very nurturing one,” he says. “We all look out for each other.”
Insomniac caught up with Dave after his appearance at the Big Dub festival in Artemas, Pennsylvania, to get an update on the current state of drum & bass, the misconceptions about the genre and its fans, and what it takes to stay in the game for so long. Read the entire interview by Insomniac‘s Lori Denman-Underhill here.
Micky Finn and Uncle Dugs on the Rise and Fall of the Junglist Jungle, as pioneering DJ Micky Finn describes it, “the bastard child of dance music.” The underground movement born in Hackney, destined to take over the world. The love child of London’s sound system culture, and the late 80s… Read the full article by Junglist Network’s David Sullivan here
Few names are steeped in as much drum & bass heritage as Roni Size. One of the first artists to take the genre to the global, mainstream stage and show how creative and musical it can be, his 20+ year career has been littered with matchless moments… From winning the Mercury Music Prize to being the only D&B artist to ever remix Bob Marley.
The last few years may have appeared a little quiet in Size City, but trust… Behind the scenes he’s been plotting and devising a whole new chapter. A chapter that sees him taking full control of his own brand, his own beats and his own label Mansion Sounds. In his own words he’s “hungrier now than ever before” and his forthcoming album Take Kontrol is testament to this. We grabbed Power two weeks back…
Featuring a band of musicians he’s handpicked from other realms of music, Take Kontrol still rifles with some of Roni’s distinctive motifs – a firm funk bedrock, pulverising basslines that flex in from nowhere, surging vocals from Onalee, on-point mic command from Dynamite MC– but there’s a clear shift in dynamic and arrangement, too.
“I’m moving away from the Full Cycle sound. For me that era of Reprazents is 1993 to about 2008,” he says. “Sometimes you can go around rehashing the same old thing without realising. This is me stepping away from the roots and making music that’s more appropriate for our times. Drum & bass fills entire stadiums nowadays! It’s amazing to see crowds of 20,000 or 30,000 going off to proper drum & bass!
“It’s miles away from the roots I came through on. It’s not just about underground parties and having the most upfront dubplates possible. Drum & bass has broadened to include anthems. Big tracks that have huge crowds singing along. But it’s also totally credible. I love this new era drum & bass is enjoying and Take Kontrol is me taking part in that as I’ve always believed drum & bass would become as big as this. I’m proud of the role I’ve played in the past, present and future!”
And here are five examples of the role he’s played in our favourite genre’s rich history, handpicked by Roni himself…
“This isn’t just ravers raving, this is real music!”
1993: Being visited by Bryan Gee
Let’s go right back to the start. The original family… Me, Krust, Die, Suv, Flynn, Flora. Being in St Pauls in a creative area with my brother building a studio. We were broke but hungry. We were all on the same wavelength, all together. We were approached by Bryan Gee who came up to Bristol from London and told us he wanted to sign us for V Recordings. That’s the moment when we thought ‘yes, things are happening’. Bryan Gee sitting in my flat telling us he wanted to set up V Recordings and our sound was going to be the foundations of it. It was fantastic. We’d been following him for years and knew he wasn’t bullshitting. So he signed us and from that we were signed to Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud. Which brings me on to my second key moment…
1994: Signing off the dole
This was my graduation day! The day I went to the dole office and signed off. I knew I was up and running. Signing off, signing my Talkin Loud deal and knowing I had a proper job. From here I was just bombarded with incredible experiences which taught me so much. The whole relationship with Talkin Loud and Universal Records was fantastic and this is where it all began.
1997: Winning the Mercury Music Prize
I still remember it as clear as day. All of us sitting down in the Grosvenor Hotel, paying no attention to what was going on around us and hearing our name shouted out as the winners. I’d never won anything in my life, I haven’t got any qualifications, but I’ve got a Mercury Music Prize!
It was amazing. And what was special to us is that we had the go ahead from all the key players… Jumping Jack Frost, Goldie, Bryan Gee. They were all fully behind us, and told us to go for it. We put ourselves up there and said ‘this isn’t just ravers raving, this is real music’. Along with key people like Goldie, Photek and Adam F, we were at the very front showing people how big and how credible and how creative this music can be. We loved it.
The first thing we noticed after winning this was that we never knew the MDs or CEOs of Universal were. The moment we won, you bet we knew who they were very quickly! But when I look back that all led to a lot of meetings and, in the scheme of things, pretty boring stuff. Much better memories in terms of relationships come from Talkin Loud; getting to know people like Gilles Peterson was much more special and rewarding.
Was there any pressure after winning? Yeah there was. But it’s how you deal with it. Because there were so many of us, we absorbed it collectively. We embraced the pressure and ran with it. My name was at the forefront of the deal but it never would have worked without all the boys. From this we did tours, we did albums, we seemed to constantly be on tour… That buzz ran right up to 2008 before we realise that we’d disbanded and moved on to our own separate things. Which brings me to the next moment…
“My name was at the forefront of the deal but it never would have worked without all the boys.”
2008: New Forms 2
This was the first time I put out a record pretty much by myself without support from the Full Cycle camp or the V camp. It was me going back to the roots and work out who I am… Especially the business end of things. This is where the seeds were sown for me deciding that I wanted full control of what I do.
New Forms 2 was followed two years later with a full performance of the album at the re-opening of Bristol’s legendary Colston Hall. I had a full orchestra and choir and I spent a long time scoring and rehearsing and organising. It was so much work but I was always frustrated we didn’t do another show and follow it on. All that work for one show! I had such high expectations and wanted to do it again but it never happened. It was a wasted opportunity, and I knew from this moment what I had to do next…
“I love drawing for inspiration. People have been inspired by me, and I’m inspired by other producers. It’s how you reinterpret those influences and references.”
2014: Take Kontrol
All of those moments are precious but the most pivotal time in my career is right now! I have a studio in a great building called Metropolis. I have a great team of people and my label Mansion Sounds. It’s the next step from Full Cycle. What I’m doing now is down to me. I am responsible for every aspect of my business from the ground up. I have a team but it’s through my choice. I am my own CEO! It’s so refreshing and exciting and it’s taken me four years to get to this point… Hence the title of the album which I’m so excited about getting out there!
The whole album is my take on today’s drum & bass married with everything what I love from the last 10 years of the music. Of course I’ve been inspired by Pendulum and Sub Focus and all them. I love drawing for inspiration. People have been inspired by me, and I’m inspired by other producers. It’s how you reinterpret those influences and references. I have records by these guys in my record box and I wanted to make records that would fit with them. I’ve been DJing a lot of these tracks for the last year solidly and always get asked about them. In a way Take Kontrol is an album of special requests!
And from there we’re not stopping… We’re about to announce the next load of Reprazents shows and trust me, there is A LOT more new material to follow Take Kontrol. We’ve still the soul. We’ve still got the funk. Tune in and never ever tune out.
That’s not a Photoshopped picture: DJ Worx spotted these ultra-rare Technics SL-700s at the Tools of War Crotona Park Jams, manned by none-other than the Clown Prince of Hip-hop, Biz Markie.
According to his Twitter, Biz owns the world’s only pair of Technics 7″ turntables; DJ Worx speculates that the set were prototypes crafted before Technics’ 2010 shutdown. We can’t think of anyone better to own the turntables than Biz Markie: watch the legendary rap personality leaf through his ridiculous collection of classic 45s in the following clip. [via The Vinyl Factory]
I first got into performing live in 1979 through reggae sound systems. I rose through the ranks of the north London sound system circuit on sounds called Phaze One, First Choice and Fatman Hifi, ultimately becoming a member of the top sound in my area Unity Hi-Power in 1985 where I joined forces with Deman Rockers & Flinty Badman now known as Ragga Twins. I left sound systems in 1988 and after a 2 year hiatus I started to go to rave parties as a hype MC for Ragga Twins when they did PAs of their tracks from their legendary album Reggae Owes Me Money. They were one of the biggest acts signed to one of the biggest labels at the time called Shut Up & Dance. So I just observed everything that was going on around me and came to a realization that I could utilise my vocal skills in this new field without compromising my style and reggae roots. Two years later Jungle music was on the way to becoming one of the most phenomenal genres of music to emerge out of London and I was privileged enough to be right in the thick of it. Being involved at the inception of Jungle Music really opened my eyes to the music ‘INDUSTRY’, it was then that I learned a lot more about the many facets that are all part of the colossal music industry machine.
Who inspired you at the time?
Jamaican sound system cassette tapes were my main inspirations from the mid 70s right through the 80s. King Stur Gav, Killamanjaro, Metro Media, Gemini, Volcano, Black Scorpio, Black Star, Stereo One, King Jammys, Youthman Promotion etc etc. MCs where called DJs in Jamaica at that time and what we call DJs now were known as selectors. My DJ influences were Lone Ranger, Ranking Joe, U-Roy, Brigadier Jerry, Josie Wales, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Metro, Burro Bantan, Professor Nuts, General Trees, Super Cat, Early B, Welton Irie, Leiutenant Stitchie, Papa San, Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus, Major Worries, Beenyman, yo.. the list is endless. Singers: Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Sugar Minnott, Johnny Osbourne, Gregory Issac, Barrington Levi, Frankie Paul, Sanchez, Tenor Saw and many more. Listening to those tapes taught me pronunciation and how to project my voice into the mic properly until I started writing my own lyrics in 1985. Another massive influence is David Rodigan, he was ‘THE’ host/voice of reggae on mainstream UK Radio from the mid 70s through the 80s and he was one of the main people who really educated the masses about Jamaican reggae music. I listened to him religiously, pause button taping every show, so as to cut out the talking and just have the music to listen back to, so really unknowingly Roddi played a big part in the development of who Navigator is today. I also got a lot of inspiration from Jungle promoters, artists, DJ’s and producers too, Ragga Twins, Rebel MC, SL2, Prodigy, Grooverider, Fabio, DJ Ron, Guy called Gerald, Lenny De Ice, Uncle 22, Cool Hand Flex, Randall, Mampi Swift, Kool FM, Roast, VIP Champagne Bash, Jungle Fever, MC Moose, Tenor Fly, Top Cat, General Levy, Demolition Man and many more. Last but not least I also found John Lennon to be a big musical inspiration, not only musically but also for what he stood for as a man, just like Bob Marley. My two all time favourite songs are; Imagine and Redemption Song. #SaluteForTheInspiration
How did you start working with the Freestylers?
It was almost a coincidence to tell the truth, but everything happens for a reason. It was in the summer of 1998 when I got a call from an independent label I was working with. They wanted to link me to a label called Freskanova who Freestylers were signed to at the time. Freskanova were looking for an MC to hype up the live shows. Anyway I eventually got booked to do a ‘test’ live Freestylers show at Fantasia in G MEX centre Manchester. I walked into the dressing room and saw Tenor Fly, J-Rock (Blapps Posse), and Aston who used to engineer for Rebel MC/Congo Natty and DJ Rap. I was shocked to see them all again so suddenly like that, the vibe was high when we hit the stage.. we killed it!! The week after that the label manager called me into the office and we sorted out a deal. Couple months later I voiced Ruffneck and Warning and the rest is history.
How important is soundsystem culture to Jungle?
Its very important because of the heavy Reggae influence in Jungle and is also relative to the social cultures that Reggae and Jungle grew out of. Kingston Jamaica and London UK are responsible for the emergence these two highly innovative genres of music and the amazing thing is that both genres still continue to draw new inspiration and empowerment from each other today. Obviously there are many sub genres of Jungle that have come along over the past 20 years, so everybody has their own experiences and influences, but the foundation people who were the innovators of this blessed movement are all coming from a soundsystem culture background. Regardless of whether they came from a reggae or hiphop soundsystem its all the same empowerment from music we used to rise up out of our individual and collective struggles. Soundsystem is a rebel culture that promotes elevation, entertainment and happiness through musical expression and that is essentially what Jungle is.
Why did Jungle die off for so long?
JUNGLE DIDN’T DIE!!! .. lol.. when the mainstream turned its back on Jungle we just carried on making the music we love. There are many established producers and artists around and many new producers and artists that have been passionately putting the work in behind the scenes. It never died for us because its something that is near and dear to our hearts. Many people including myself have diversified into other genres because most of us are quite versatile in our individual capacities as producers and artists. But patiently, steadily grinding with persistence and perseverance always turns the tables in the end and now Jungle is back at the forefront again. But if the truth is to be known you just have to look at any genre of music, they all go through periods where they’re not so popular or the ‘in thing’, then after a period of time it becomes the ‘in thing’ again. Much like high street fashion, one season is crew neck t-shirts and the next season is v-neck pullovers, but just because one style is in season it don’t mean the last style that was out before the new one came in ain’t still popular, coz some people just like what they like.. period.
You supported James Brown once, what was that experience like?
It was amazing. I was there with Ragga Twins on a Scandinavian tour. James Brown must have been in his mid 60s then and he was totally on point. The show was in a ice skating rink in Oslo Norway. We did sound check and he was conducting like a 16 piece band, occasionally he would point at a musician and carry on conducting. At one stage he stopped the band and went over to one of the guitarists and took the instrument and played it how he wanted it to be played. Then he counted the band back in again and it sounded like he dropped the needle on a record, it was more than tight.. So amazing!!! After the sound check our manger told us he was talking to James manager who said that every time he pointed at a musician he was docking 5 Dollars off their wages for mistakes they had made haha! I also spoke to one of his backing singers, she only had one leg, she had been his backing singer for 30 years and she had bought her house and raised her children on the money she had been paid touring with him, she had a lot of respect and admiration for him. He killed the show though, dropping splits and dancing the whole time, it was a very high energy performance and when the show was over he jumped straight into a limousine at the side of the stage and he was gone. True superstar business! For me he is the first MC that set the template, yes I said it MC!!.. Listen to his music, he is not really known for singing soulful ballads is he? He had a uncanny understanding of the balance needed between vocally interjecting, leaving space for the music, dancing and hyping the crowd. He was a Master at it and even though it may not be so obvious to say for instance a new school DnB MC, in my opinion he was one of the Fathers amongst others that unwittingly laid the foundations for it all. RIP James Brown #Salute
What made Mo Fire such a massive hit do you think?
I think the main thing was the amount of high profile people involved in the project. Me and Spyda voiced the original version produced by Krasqn & Royce in Rawhill studios in a small village called Rauenberg – (which actually means Rawhill) near Mannheim Germany. We got Soultrain, Tenor Fly & Shabba D on it after. I then met Vegas (BC) at a live performance of Mo Fire in MS Connexion Mannheim and he linked me to Fresh, I gave Fresh who was at the time further establishing his label Bad Company the accapellas to remix it. Bad Company were the hottest new producer outfit and label then, so for me it all went hand in glove. I went to Fresh’s house and he played me a beat I liked, then he simply cut, pasted and tweaked the vocal over it but only used mine, Spyda and Soultrains vocals. He then gave it to Andy C who was about to go on tour in the States with MCGQ. When they got back from the tour GQ called me and told that Mo’ Fire was the tune of the tour and it had smashed every dance. His exact words were, “You got a hit on your hands Navi.” After that Fresh & Andy C did another remix to add to the package and then we shot the video in a mansion in Maidenhead and at Movement Bar Rumba. The tune was a big hit, but it was also a huge accomplishment for me because I had waited 10 years to get a hit track that was actually killing the dancefloor in those Jungle/DnB parties in the early 2000s. #RawhillCru
(incidently the ‘Shotter Hitter’ bars in ‘Tarantula’ is actually the original Tenor Fly vocal that he voiced for me on Mo’ Fire. Fresh gave the accapellas to Pendulum and the rest is history).
You moved to Germany about 4 years ago and you’ve just passed a sound engineering diploma, will this change your works focus and how has it effected your sound??
Very good question. The sound engineering diploma gave me a very in depth knowledge of sound as source energy. It actually gave me a higher overstanding of why some people get along and some don’t. Just like magnets, frequencies attract and repel and also cancel out. Having understood that in principle; everything else became clearer and I started to produce stuff at home by myself. But I am essentially a vocalist and have no desire to sit in front of a computer for hours tweaking synth sounds with filters or drums with EQs. I just wanted to have the knowledge of what was being done so I could be more specific when explaining to my co-producers or engineers about the type of sound that I am seeking. Living in Berlin is not as cluttered as London so I feel like I have more space, which in turn makes me more open to everything. For me it has been a good experience living here and it has definitely helped me to become a much more grounded and focused artist with enhanced skills.
What are you working on at the moment?
WOW… that’s a lot to talk about, but here is a brief overview.
I have plans to release a lot of Jungle this year. The first release will be Kingston 11 which was originally produced by Lion Dub (NYC) and featured Miami based ragga vocalist Bass Nacho, I got involved and added some vocals and since then me and Lion Dub have been formulating this release. Now we have a banging remix by upcoming producer Code Red from Toronto which has had interest from Brian G (V.Recs) & DJ Hype (Playaz). Lion Dub and I have been steadily working on product for the last decade and have a lot of tracks so we are intending to drop it all, we are in the process of working out how to drop it in relation to the current musical climate. Kingston 11 will start the ball rolling though and we are proud of the unification this track has caused, that’s why we decided to shoot the video footage in London, New York, Miami & Toronto because we want to show the global links. There will also be other releases with Marcus Visionary and some remixes and original material by Aries plus I just did a tune with the man, no other than the legend that is Ranking Joe through a Lion Dub link up. There is a lot more too… but I dont want to give out too much info about that yet because things have a way of changing at any given time!
Being the cross genre artist that I am, I’ve got lots of other stuff ready to go that I have had for a while but have not released because I had been busy studying. I actually really want to go back to college again to do Personal Fitness Trainer license now, but this year I have been focused on releasing music again. I have had two singles released this year both on Italian labels with Italian production, the first one is a house number that came out in March called ‘Shake It’ featuring myself, Adam Clay and Ciljeta Xhilaga produced by Spankers which went to No.2 on iTunes Japan. I am working on a follow up for that right now in the form of a next single called ‘Let Loose’ featuring me and my brother Alaska MC, we are currently getting remixes together and have already shot a video for that forthcoming release. I also have a roots reggae lovers rock style single called ‘You Rock’ on which I feature for an Italian reggae singer called Ma Rumba who is based in Ancona. ‘You Rock’ is out now on Soulove Records – owned by DJ Afghan who is another good friend of mine from Ferrara Italy. I have a few more solo reggae singles to drop this year so look out for those too.
I am pleased to add that I am back in the studio working on tracks and planning to do live band performances with the Freestylers after a 16 year break which possibly has big potential. I also have a couple of tracks coming out at some stage this year with my friends Profit from Berlin who are a bass/breaks production outfit. There has also been talks about getting back in the studio with Feel Good Productions who are an Italian live band/production team with whom I extensively toured Italy back in 2005/6. I got a next huge Jungle mixtape and related single with video project coming in the future with King Kong aka Zoobie from Social Security/Benefit Beats. We are hyped about this one because the way we are planning to drop it is very innovative and hasn’t been done before. There are also tracks that I have ready for release on my label ODT Muzik with Alaska MC, SMK, Bobby Bizz, Soultrain Locomotive, Spookasonic, Drapes da Pro and E Prezi and his 53rd Platoon imprint, plus I am still working with ErbNduB on new stuff. Me and Alaska also have a Trap/Hiphop project in the making combining Alaska’s Florida rap flows with my UK ragga style, with very uplifting positive affirmation style lyrics. Trust me when I say we are very excited about this project too. Since 2014 kicked in I’ve just been looking at things from a new perspective and at the same time I’ve been reconstructing the ODT Muzik website and brand etc, but we are definitely gearing up to drop some bombs in the very near future. So to say I am working on a few things is really understatement.
What’s your most memorable live performance so far?
There have been many but Glastonbury 99 was the one!!
Close 2nd was KOOL FM 3rd Birthday Bash at Astoria.
words can’t describe the feeling…. check the links?
Only thing I will say is that for me as an artist on the microphone projecting my voice from a stage through a massive PA system to the masses, and then I get that really colossal response from a 10-20,000 or upwards of that size crowd, it gives me goose bumps and my hairs stand on end. No other high can make me feel like that, it’s an amazing, empowering feeling. I was born into the game from a live performance perspective and it will always be my favourite way of musically expressing my love for what I do. Thanks to all the fans, audiences, and all my fellow musical family, friends and colleagues. Praises to the Creator for the blessings.
If there’s one name in the world of drum and bass DJs that resonates beyond the genre itself and into the further spheres of electronic dance music it would be Andy C.
Known for his unrivaled technical skills as a DJ and maintaining an extraordinary command of the dance floor – as well as his innovative and influential Ram Records which has been a leading drum and bass enterprise for more then 20 years – The Executioner is a man who has more then earned his substantial degree of reverence.
DJ Mag Canada caught up with him less than an hour before his set at this year’s Bud Light Digital Dreams Festival for an exclusive interview. The resulting dialogue covers the untold story of the Ram Records’ beginnings, a hearty embrace of the dubstep explosion that followed drum and bass, and serves as a powerful affirmation of Toronto – and Canada’s in particular – vibrant drum and bass scene.
DJ Mag Canada: Let’s start from the beginning. What music were you raised on, and what got you into DJing and electronic music?
Andy C: Well, [I was] raised on, I guess, just the music in the UK in the ’80s. My parents got me drums and were very encouraging with music. My sister was going out to the old raves, the original raves, when acid house first came around. And she was five years older then me so basically [I was the] younger, annoying younger brother. I just wanted to be part of her crew.
One of your early big successes was of course “Valley Of The Shadows” in 1993. You started Ram records in 1992. What was the musical climate like at the time. Was Ram started with the express purposes of catering to jungle, or had jungle not even placed itself apart from its hardcore predecessors?
Andy C: I guess it was the period of time when Reinforced Records were around and LTJ Bukem was starting with Good Looking, Formation. There was a split starting to happen and there was a scene emerging that was getting faster and faster.
I remember the first tune I ever made was at 128 BPM and then pretty much every tune we’d raise the BPM by a couple and a bit more and more.
Eventually we kind of got to the 160s. I think Valley of the Shadows was at 160. But Ram was started when we were having dinner one night in my home, and I had just left school in May of ’92, and Mom’s like “Gotta get a job, What are you gonna do?” and I had been making this EP for 6 months, and it was a real labour of love because back then it was on reel to reel tape machines, monophonic samplers so you had to output each individual sound.
It was just so long and it took me six months. And I had a couple tunes out, myself and Miles and I had been faithful. So my sister was like “Why don’t you start a record label?”
And you know, you’re 16 and you’re sitting there eating dinner and you think “how hard can it be?” And she sat there and she hand drew the logo for Ram that evening. She said “Call it Ram because you’re an Aries.”
I woke up the next day and I looked through the Yellow Pages because there wasn’t Google back then and I found a printing company, phoned them up and said “Can you print record labels” da-da-da-da 70 pounds for 1000 pairs. I printed them out, shipped of the DAT to the company, and Ram Records was born. Pretty ad-hoc.
Then I went on holiday, so from that point I sent it off to JTS in Hackney and mastered it and then I went on holiday to New York, my first ever holiday without my parents, with my best mate. Had a pretty wild time, Came back, got picked up from the airport, and in the car was 1,000 copies of Ram 001. That was the beginning.
Who were the breakbeat hardcore acts who really influenced the jungle sound for you?
Andy C: One of the first ever times that I can recall hearing a breakbeat and being absolutely blown away by it, I was in a shop called “Mash” at Oxford Street in London, which was an old fashion store, and downstairs they had turntables and the DJ would play, and I heard Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Radio Babylon” and it absolutely blew my mind. To listen to it today it’s so simple, but at that point in time, being a young kid and hearing an off-beat pattern with all that sub bass on it, I was like “What is this tune?” It absolutely, completely changed my world.
What about drum and bass. What do you think was the tipping point from jungle to drum and bass. Was it sudden or was it a more nuanced, gradual process?
Andy C: I think it was nuanced. Obviously we had the jungle period from, like you say, ’92, ’93 up until ’96 maybe. Then drum and bass started. We had a couple of tunes on Ram that had the two-step pattern. Myself and Shimon did Quest, which is more of a two-step pattern.
Then obviously Ed Rush and Optical were emerging with such an influence in sound. Then laterally, a year or so after that Bad Company started to emerge. And obviously then you had Metalheadz with the Blue Note going on. It just got darker, and people were like, “Oh it disappeared.”
In the mainstream everyone thought it disappeared but it didn’t. It went underground to build its foundations and lay the cornerstones of why we’re still here in 2014, because that was the period when this new darker-edged aggressive sound came through and we had to go underground because that’s the only place it would work. But because there was such a network of labels and DJs supporting it and that’s where the foundations were built.
On Ram records now you’re releasing a variety of genres. For instance, some dubstep and garage like Chase and Status’s “Blk & Blu” last year. How does the emergence of dubstep and re-emergence of UK garage effect the drum and bass landscape? Do you see it as a competition in a sense or more as a good thing that encourages drum and bass artists to step up?
Andy C: Well it’s an interesting conversation piece because a lot of people, when a new genre comes along, they see it as a threat, and then all of a sudden you have all these new DJs and new producers and they’re getting booked and everybody’s standing there going, “Who’s he? I’ve never heard of him?” But it’s the natural thing of music, and we need new genres.
So don’t get me wrong, when a new scene emerges and all of a sudden people might be down on drum and bass or not so interested, it does hurt a little bit. But at the same point, I use it as fuel, because if a scene like dubstep especially – because I don’t think our music resonates so much with the re-emergence of UK house, they’re just so far apart – the explosion that it had and the amount of people that it called into aggressive electronic music in general, it’s like a big fishing pot. And it’s brought all these people in, and what the beauty of that is, a lot of the old dubstep guys started out as drum and bass producers, so there’s a real great connection, a lot of them are really good friends of mine. And what has happened is that I end up playing on a lot of the same bills and you get a completely new audience opening their mind to drum and bass, and that can only be a good thing.
We don’t want, “this is the end of music as we know it, these are the only genres that can exist, there aren’t gonna be any new genres.” We need new genres because new genres expand the horizons of everybody and open everybody’s ears to new music.
Drum and bass is certainly a primary influence on dubstep but do you think the kids these days realize that fact? They might have not have had as much of an opportunity to be exposed to it: there is no Skrillex of drum and bass.
Andy C: Sure, you’re right. I don’t think they do realize that. I think that they’re open, and it’s made them open to accept drum and bass like I just said. Does it bother me and make me wanna shout from the rooftops, “Hey, these guys used to make drum and bass,” no, shit like that don’t bother me, I’m not one of those purists that’s sitting in my room like “uhhh.” I mean we’re in the room right now, Jeff Excision is on, The Dirtyphonics guys are around, I’ve got all my Ram guys here. It’s a beautiful thing. And that shit don’t happen unless you have a broader melting pot of music.
Now, Toronto is one of the cities that has maintained quite a large drum and bass scene outside of the UK.
Andy C: It’s like a second home.
Yeah, and you’ve had a relationship with the city. You come back pretty frequently. Do you have any insight, what is it about Toronto that keeps the jungle spirit alive and what is it that people respond to differently?
Andy C: First of all there’s a number of people behind the scenes in Toronto that have really helped shape the scene from Mystical influence and Sniper back in the day, Marcus Visionary, you know you got Robbie and all those guys that were throwing the parties back in the day. And then you’ve got Ryan and Jesse and Rick from Toronto Jungle. There’s such a core of people, and I’ve probably missed people out, but you can’t underestimate the passion that these people have got, that has carried the city of Toronto through. And then, I know every UK DJ, It’s an absolute honour to play this city. I’m just so hyped for this set tonight.
We did the old Docks, Sound Academy in March, we did the 4 hour set last year in the Guv. It’s just a beautiful thing man. There really is something special about Toronto and drum and bass and jungle that resonates from the very beginning of the whole scene. And you know what, the crowd they just get it. They just love the free abandon. The fun, the energy, the positivity of drum and bass. Toronto just gets it and always has.
You’re extraordinarily renowned for your DJ sets, maybe more than any other drum and bass producer. How has the digital age of controllers and CDJs impacted the DJing process for you?
Andy C: I’d say that initially I was very reluctant to join the digital age. I kept on carrying my bloody dubplates around and to be fair it was getting harder to play a set because of the amount of skipping and the amount of terrible sound.
I now play on Traktor. I still use turntables because I love the physicality, I like working up a sweat, I actually like mistakes. I love the performance angle where anything can happen.
Traktor, I’ve been using for a few years now and it has been a revelation because now, in the UK, I do all-night sets. I might play hundreds of tunes. And before when I used to go on tour it would be,“What dubplate am I not gonna put in the box?” because you’ve only got a finite amount you can bring. Now the freedom musically for me is just incredible. So in that respect I’ve completely embraced that side of it.
As far as the controllerism and syncing and all that, that’s just not my thing. But that’s because I come from a different time and place and I actually enjoy the process of DJing, the beat-matching process, the fun – because it Is fun.
So at home I still go and lock myself in my studio and mix for five or six hours at a time just dancing around like a loon, working up a sweat. So from that angle, I’ll never change that aspect.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Andy C: Well, as well as the DJing and the touring, the festival schedule this summer is incredible. I’m working on tunes. I’ve been doing a number of remixes, but I got a new tune coming out in the autumn and I’m working in the studio more then ever.
I lost the buzz for a few years just because DJing went so crazy. But now, having done a few tunes and turning up to venues and hearing them play. You know when you walk in and there’s this muffled bass sound, and you’re like “I recognize that. Oh, that’s my tune.”
The excitement that you feel when other DJs are playing it is such a brilliant buzz and it reminds me of being young again, in terms of when I was breaking through. So i’m super hungry for it, so that’s what I’m gonna be doing: I’m concentrating in the studio.
Any last words for DJ Mag Canada?
Andy C: I’ve got nothing but love and respect for the Canadian drum and bass community. It really is an honour. This is my last show of this tour and I couldn’t have picked a better place to end it, man. It’s gonna be fantastic.
Canadian electronic artist Venetian Snares (aka Aaron Funk), 39, is a micro-genre master. He’s one of the pioneers and most prolific leaders within breakcore, IDM, and lots of other niche musical styles. Last week, he released his latest album My Love is a Bulldozer on Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu label. This week, XLR8R chatted with him about his first new album since 2010, the power of love, cats, coffee, and much more. Catch the full 20 questions with Venetian Snares here.