Posted by: martinworster | February 18, 2011

115. DRUM N BASS YEARS

Rave recollections – Rage at Heaven, Goldie’s Terminator was out there..

I love how YouTube has allowed our (my?) generation to collectively relive childhood. Or any event, time or place in the past that has audio and video and was at some point recorded. The 60s, 80, 50s, 90s – any era, movement, epoch, time, group, sound, place, rant, show, gig, gathering – no cultural stone is left uncovered. Pop hits, novelty acts, weird performances, nightclubs, forgotten Top of the Pops performances, lost DJ shows, unreleased mixes, B sides, childhood theme tunes, one hit wonders – it’s all there, at the click of a mouse, for us to share, relive and comment on. Looking at and reading comments on, say something, like a 60s Woodstock festival, I can feel nostalgia for something I didn’t actually experience first time. Obviously as I wasn’t born. I wasn’t there man! But I was there now! The adage goes – if you can remember the 60s then you weren’t there. Well if you are an authentic child of the 60s and REALLY can’t remember them, now, thanks to YouTube, you can. YouTube is our collective memory.

Of course essentially being a child of the 90s my stomping grounds were the raves and nightclubs of London. In the UK the 90s was essentially when excessive hedonism was mass packaged and consumed. Hand in hand with this went the music. Drum n bass, hardcore, dub house, handbag, UK garage, jungle, techno, progressive house – all the myriad offshoots and sub branches that sprouted from the first forms of house music that first came over from Chicago in the mid 80s. At that time the internet was in it’s infancy. Pre-MP3. The tunes that counted were delivered on vinyl. Without the rapid delivery of music and dissemination of ideas the internet now offers, music had a much longer shelf life. A tune would be played for months and if it took off would totally unify a scene and crowd – and have a much longer timespan than in todays fragmented hyper-speed world. I feel a lingering lament for this time. A nostalgic wanting. Longevity counts for a lot as far as I’m concerned. The constant buzz of the search for the new is exhausting and can destroy depth, meaning and value. 

Hence, using YouTube, I thought I would write about the key tunes as heard at some of the key clubs I used to frequent back in the day. 

Rage (Heaven, London) Summer 92

Tune – Metalheads – Terminator


Rage was on a Thursday just behind Charing Cross on the fringes of London’s West End. A school night. Then, quite literally for me a school night. I would often go to school the next day having survived on 2 – 3 hours fitfull sleep. In the summer I used to go to my temp job having not slept at all. Yuck. The White Doves were very stong- and I was very young. Happy days!

Rage was in Heaven nightclub and Fabio and Grooverider (amongst others) were DJs. The big room downstairs boomed. The sound was pitched up house music, proto jungle, proto breaks, Detroit techno, big basslines, a precursor to the drum n bass sound. I remember on one of the upper levels they had one of those gyroscope machines you were strapped into and spund around as seen at a lot of raves up and down the UK in those heady times. 

The tune for me that sums up Rage was Goldie’s ‘Terminator’ under his Metalheads moniker. Metalheadz are still going as purveyors of drum n bass and ruled through most of the 90s, including an influential residency in Hoxton’s Blue Note in the late 90s (a club I also frequented). Upon first hearing ‘Terminator’ it was obvious that many sound barriers were completely smashed. It was the first tune to use the timestretching production technique. Its ‘darkcore’ undertone (haunting vocal samples warning us the Terminator was out there), the mashed up breakbeats sounding like their very innards had been turned inside out, the dark yet tasteful hands in the air rave stabs – it was a template for drum n bass over the next five years. The ‘darkside’ sound had just started to become prevalent – a dark aesthetic (eerie samples, off kilter keys, a general pre-millennial heaviness, menacing basslines and stark military drum beats and rolling snares) that perfectly matched the journey that we were embarking on at that time. The music perfectly replicated the dark pull of the whole drug trip – knowing things could go wrong but a perverted and experiemental curiosity to see where it took us. Would we come through the darkside? I did. I think. Many others probably didn’t. It was common to see ‘lost its’ – ie people who had clearly consumed too many of the happy fellahs. Vacant, gourmless faces staring blankly into space – mong heads. I regularly saw medics wheeling out victims on stretchers from the dances at that time. Overdose, heart failure, dehydration and over exertion from dancing in the same spot for ten hours. Quite a few deaths. Sometimes you’d see two or three medic incidents in one night. The yellow and white uniforms of the medics glowing menacingly in the UV. You’d try not to look as it was a warning of what could happen. Victims of the dance. Only for the hardcore.

Quite a few other tunes came to mind as potential ‘Rage’ anthems for me.  ‘Charlie’ by The Prodigy springs to mind – in fact I remember seeing them perform it upstairs to a smallish crowd. Then just a bedroom rave act, dreams of American chart domination a few years away, Liam Howlett a very spotty teenager. ‘Charlie’ was pretty much a novelty hit – it hit the Top 5 in the UK. But it definitely stood out upon hearing it. Again the offkilter keys, the slightly dislocated breakdown verging on the ‘I could quite conceivably lose it to this’ type aura, all perfectly encapsulating the heady, we could all collectively lose it herd mentality.

Hailing from Brixton, Genaside II’s ‘Narra Mine’ also sums up that night and time. A tune that referenced the whole ‘raggamuffin’ aesthetic. The ragga look – shaved head with perched, clipped cap, jeans pullled up, Michelin man type infalted puffa jackets, crisp white Air Max, a spliff tucked behind the ear – was very popular then. Suburban boys playing at being inner city rude boys, a pre Ali G look that probably informed Sacha Baron Cohen of his creation to be, alongside the obvious reference of Tim Westwood. Public school boys pretending to be ruff necks. Don’t get me wrong – there was also a lot of very authentic rude boys in attendence. This type of music – at the time – was very much overlooked and frowned on by the mainstream music press, thankfully as it kept it more underground. The scene was seen as a working class underclass not worthy of serious media attention. Now it is looked upon as a golden seam of British music and style that is still influential today, a punkish DIY mashup of music styles and prodigious label output. So Narra Mine encapsulated the darkness and ragga vibe of the whole scene at the time and in the process kickstarted the jungle, UK Garage and dubstep lineage. I also saw Genaside II perform this at Rage. And at a Telepathy event at the Sobell Centre in Finsbury Park. A few weeks later I met the main ragga at the infamous Labrynth in Dalston but he was too ‘monged’ out to really speak.


 Next club – Labrynth…to be continued…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: