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Earth beats

Jungle | Roni Size, Goldie

Article from The Mix, April 1995

We profile three of the hottest production teams in jungle


Fast emerging from the underground is a new breed of Jungle producer/artist. Timestretching and juxtaposing styles, they're re-defining the sampling and sequencing art. Roger 'James' Brown profiles three of the hottest jungle production teams in search of a break(beat).


Perhaps lhe most exciting, creative music happening today is that blend of sub bass, breakbeats, ragga shouting and ring-modulated voices known as Jungle. It's young, it's fast, it's happening and it's a uniquely British blend of American hip hop beats and Jamaican rhythms, all served up with an attitude that recalls the punk era. And in the same way that the aftermath of the Damned and the Sex Pistols saw an energetic fusing of rock and soul sensibilities on the streets, so Jungle fuses our immediate past into an energetic present, full of future promise.

Trying to trace the origins of Jungle is a tricky business, however. Some date it to Ragga-based hits like General Levy's 'Incredible', while others claim the origins go right back to the early days of house. Certainly, the breakbeat phenomenon has been around since those times, surfacing as hardcore around 1991, later turning dark and heavy, and finally incorporating ragga and 'rude boy' toasting. It was then that hits like General Levy's started to emerge.

Jungle has moved on since then, becoming more melodic and adventurous. Artists like Goldie have played a large part in this, developing a style and an attitude which has even garnered attention on the other side of the pond. Billboard ran a cover story on the new British phenomenon, likening Jungle's originality and impact to punk. Just recently, the trans-Atlantic traffic has begun, with Scarface and Ice Cube collaborating on a single incorporating the best elements of hip-hop and Jungle, mixed to perfection by Goldie. There's even a top ten hit in the offing, with the sexy, 'Love Inside', by Sharon Forrester, moving couples back together on the dancefloor.

In the following pages we profile the leading light in new Jungle, Goldie, and talk to two exciting new Jungle production teams from Bristol, More Rockers and Roni Size and DJ Krust.

Where the grass is greener...



The production team of Roni Size and DJ Krust has been responsible for some of Jungle's best singles. As production is the heart of jungle, I started by asking them how they got into producing.

Roni:
"I used to play sound systems, yeah? Reggae stuff and all that, and I would be in the studio with my brother, experimenting with lovers rock, and soul vibes, and all that. It was reggae vibes, but we were just searching for the way. That's like the same with Krust, 'cos he was in Fresh Four and they used to do the same thing, but they used to expand it with hip-hop and soul and things."

DJ Krust:
"Basically, I got into it through our sound system, where we used to go around doing house parties. Like a festival vibe but on a smaller basis. Just find a little warehouse, a little field and we were playing out. About the time of the orbital parties, we were doing our own thing, hip hop, acid was just comin' in and we were playing that, still playing the funk and the house and whatever. Then we kind of moved into clubs, and then my brother got an opportunity to make a tune, 'Wishing On a Star', and from that we got an interest in working in studios."

It's interesting that you both point to that time. I remember those early days and it was as you say, people were playing everything then, there were no musical barriers. Now Jungle seems to be bringing things full circle, mashing things up in a similar way.

Roni:
"Yeah! That's why we call our label Full Cycle!"

Clockwise from above: Studiomaster desk is ‘the lick’ according to Roni; Roni Size and DJ Krust in their editing suite; Trusty Atari ST and Cubase handle the sequencing chores while the Casio CZ101 is kept handy for those moments of inspiration.


Aside from 'Warning' by Firefox, and '4 Tree', I hadn't had much success in hunting down Roni and Krust's other releases. What became of 'Music Box', 'Timestretch', or 'The Resister', I wondered?

"Cos we only had the balls to press up two and a half thousand! Cos our stuff's so experimental, we didn't know if it was going to sell or not! But we got a track out right now which is in the shops, so people should go out and buy it! It's called '11-55', ask for it!"

Up till now, Roni had been doing most of the talking. That changed when I asked the duo the crucial question, what is Jungle? Krust had a few things to say about that.

"You have to define what you like, Jungle means different things to different people. The first thing that separates it is the tempo. Jungle is faster, 'cos of the breakbeats. The basslines come from everywhere, they're played at half speed, and when you slow them down they sound dubby or jazzy or hip hop. To me, it's too much to just categorise it like that, Jungle or Drum & Bass. The way it's going now it's music, it's going definitely more musical. We shouldn't really be too concerned about labels or what we call it, it's only the record companies who need those things."

Being such a production-led music, Roni and Krust have some favourite pieces of kit, including lots of reverb units, their two Korg SRV 2000's taking pride of place in their rack, alongside numerous other processors, including a Behringer Enhancer and Yamaha SPX units. Sample manipulation being at the heart of Jungle production, I wondered which samplers the duo rated.

Roni:
"I like the Roland stuff. I'm really into the Roland stuff. I got an S760 all upgraded. I got the SyQuest hard drive, and to me that's just the lick. Yeah man, it's wicked. The only thing I've got to say about samplers is why isn't there 24 outputs or 32. I hate it when you only get one set of stereo outs, and even eight ain't enough. Tell them sampler manufacturers to wise up! But otherwise, digital is cool, man. We master straight onto DAT, DAT can handle anything you throw at it. The thing with Jungle is it's got a lot of slang, it's got to be a chattering mix. It's gotta be loud and tearing. We go straight in at 165 bpm, sometimes variable to 150. Some people do 'em 170s."

Krust:
"I've heard some fast 180 stuff down London."

Roni:
"Yeah definitely, but that's London."

Bristol seems a bit more laid back, I ventured. Roni was quick to jump on that one.

"Yeah, Bristol, where the grass is green!"

Positive Vibrations



Pete and Rob present their rediscovered Roland Drumatix, listen out for it on future releases.

Bristol is fast emerging as the new centre of Junglism, with innovative producer/artists like DJ Krust, Roni Size, Rob Smith and Peter Dee, mashing up a furious blend of dub, hip hop, jazz, soul and whatever else takes their fancy. What emerges is a more positive, uplifting vibe than any which has yet come from London's dark hinterland.

As the project More Rockers, Rob Smith and Peter Dee represent the roots side of jungle.

Describing More Rockers sound as 'breakbeat dub', Rob and Pete have produced a glorious single, 'You're Gonna (Make Me)', featuring the enchanting vocals of Smith & Mighty singer Marlyn McFarlane. The album, Dub Plate Selection — Volume 1 is more of a dub platter, as the title would suggest, but there's still enough of the soulful, lovers rock vibe in titles like 'I Need Some Lovin', to unite hands across the dance floor. I asked them how the project had come about, and just what is Jungle?

"Jungle as a form has been around for quite a while, but a particular strain has been termed Jungle recently. It used to be called Drum & Bass, but now that seems to be what they're calling Jungle. Years ago we were at a rave, and someone put it to me that some of the tunes were flat beats and some of them were jungle beats, and I was going, "Yeah, yeah, I see what you mean", 'cos some of the tunes were 4/4 house, and some were using breakbeats. The ragga stuff is a newer strain, really. The More Rockers sound isn't strictly Jungle, it's more roots than ragga, for example. I guess you could call our sound Breakbeat Dub.

Yamaha DX100 sits atop a rack of effects and a Sony DA2 machine used for final mixdown while Realistic monitors and Revox reel to reel are essential tools for capturing the warmth that is the More Rockers sound


We're kind of separate producers I suppose, but we've come together for More Rockers. It's a kind of loose collective. That particular album is mainly Peter and myself producing, with a few other people involved either on the vocals or the instrumentation. We're both into reggae from a long time ago really, from the early 80s, when we were a sound system, lugging boxes around."

What kind of dub was an influence on you then?

"Me (Rob), I just loved the early 80s stuff, Lee 'Scratch' Petry, Scientist, all those people really."

The whole thing about jungle seems to be that it is all based around reggae, around dub basslines, hip-hop and reggae drum beats which have been pitched up. Was that how Rob & Peter achieved their sound?

"More kind of old skool breaks really. The ones that were being used for hip-hop. The way things are going now, there's no rules. There's a lot of scope for different interpretations of it."

With all this talk of doctoring the beat, and time-stretching vocals, there was clearly some intense sampling going on. What samplers were the duo using, and how did they rate them?

"I'm using an S1000 and a Casio FZ1, and Pete's using a Casio as well, so we can swap samples around. I got mine because at the time it was the cheapest, but I think it's really good, it's a warmer sound than the Akai. The buttons are getting a bit sticky now, but I like the warmth. The Akai I use for more complicated manipulations. I've just recently got a DD1000 digital editor, which we use to put the masters together. We tried Soundtools, which I really liked, but based on the Atari it was just crashing all the time. On the DD1000, you can fit about half an hour onto that, so we record onto it, do our edits and then transfer to DAT. I've been doing some stuff on ADAT, which I think is okay for the money, I don't think it's brilliant, but it's good. There are some holes in the sound, it just seems to lose warmth."

There's definitely a new take on Jungle coming out of the Bristol area. The other thing about the Bristol sound is that it's very well produced. What is the difference to Rob and Peter's ears, and what sort of background did they have in production?

Peter Dee finds the Spirit Live desk is high enough quality for mixing down to DAT and the Casio FZ-1 is a sampler with warmth to spare


"Bristol people seem to like the melodies more. We've been doing it for a while now, I used to be in a reggae band called Restriction years ago, and I was the one who tried to get the demo tapes together. Portastudio stuff, you know? On a personal level, I got a lot of experience, we got to meet The Professor and he did a track for us. It showed me that I didn't want to be playing live too much. I used to start onstage really tense, and then halfway through it I'd start really enjoying it, and by the end I'd think, 'Shit I should have just enjoyed it from the start!' It's just that cycle of getting really nervous before going on, and relaxing as the gig progresses. Now I'm glad I did it all."

So was it the portastudio work that led to producing?

"Yeah, and even before that I was into mucking around with two tape decks and a crappy old mixer, and just dubbing things on top of each other. It was only in later years that people said. 'Oh, you're a producer.'"

So did the duo consider themselves part of the Bristol thing?

"The Easton thing, yes, not Portishead!", joked Rob & Pete.

"If there is a mission, it is to promote positive vibes." concluded Rob.

On the RE:MIX CD

Because it's still emerging from the underground, jungle tunes are hard to track down. More Rockers have a track for you though. 'In The Beginning', is from their current EP, 'You're Gonna (Make Me)' and traces Jungle's dub origins.



The Man With the Golden Teeth



Acknowledged as the prime motivator in establishing the new Jungle, Goldie is a man whose street credentials are so in order its a wonder he isn't being cited by more people as the originator. But even with all the media attention afforded Goldie and Ambient Jungle, it's still only those in the know like Roni Size who credit Goldie with seminal status.

Born in the West Midlands, Goldie has certainly lived some in his 30 years. His early days in Wolverhampton as a B-Boy, breakdancing and practising his graffiti art during the days of soul all-dayers in the Midlands, led to his first burst of fame. Afrika Bambaataa came over to do a show at London's Shaw Theatre, and Goldie went along. New York graffiti writer Brim was over with the Godfather of rap, making the Channel 4 documentary about graffiti art, Bombin'. Goldie got involved, which led to his going to New York to film scenes with Afrika in the South Bronx. Brim's crew embraced him, even licensing his use of their tag TAT. It earned him some respect upon his return to Walsall.

After exploring the apocalyptic visions of Rastafarianism and rejecting that discipline, Goldie returned to the States, to Miami where his father was living. It was here he earned the nickname Goldie, running a shop in the fleamarket, selling engraved gold teeth to the rappers, doing some painting, and a little ducking and diving on the side.

After the excitement of Miami, Wallsall seemed pretty humdrum, and Goldie soon gravitated to London, where his friend Nellee Hooper was living. He started going to Rage at Heaven, and was instantly fuelled by the energy of hardcore, Fabio and Grooverider becoming his new heroes.

His first tune was as the Alex Project, followed by two EPs for Reinforced, under the name Metalheads, a moniker which has stuck. Because he was drawing breaks from his breakbeat days, the Metalheads had a harder edge to them, and Fabio and Grooverider were soon playing his records out at Rage. 'Terminator' was the track that did it, a writhing piece of sonic metal which signalled the end of the cartoon phase of hardcore, and the true beginning of Jungle.

Never one to stand still, Goldie moved Jungle onto another, more soulful dimension with his next releases, 'Angel', and 'You and Me', featuring the breathy vocals of Diane Charlemagne. This trend continued with 'Inner City Life', a breezy melody underpinned by tense breakbeats, imparting a sense of the tension that lies at the heart of Jungle. The taster for the new album is 'Timeless', a twenty-two minute journey through the heart of dub, jungle and the inner city blues.

Goldie has also set up Metalheads, the label, to release avant garde jungle by those artists who have earned his respect. As he puts it, "These people are my friends, and all of us have made this happen. It's a culture, not a business, and I love it. I love it so much that's why I'm ranting about it. If I die tomorrow I don't really care, because I'm an artist who has expanded the vista, created another avenue." Nuff said, nuff respect.

How do they do that?



The most distinctive element in the Jungle sound is of course the sound of sped-up breakbeats, forming all manner of weird syncopated rhythms (and doing peoples' heads in, in the process). For those who complain you can't dance to Jungle, the answer is to follow the slow, loping basslines with your feet, and let the fast rhythms move your head.

The question still lingers for those of us who are interested in getting some of these rhythms down, How do they do that? Anyone who has tried to program or play Jungle beats will soon find the fastest rolls simply too fast for human fingers to follow. I asked the two top jungle production teams from Bristol for some insight into their methods of programming these fascinating rhythms.

Rob Smith of More Rockers offered his tips on achieving that breakbeat groove.

"There's no rules really. People are time-stretching them, people are just blatantly pitching them up. You can break down a sample so you've got one part of the sample, which is from the bass drum to the next snare, and another sample which goes from the snare to further on, and you spread them out across your keyboard and play them in your own combination where the beats come. We've been experimenting with programming up rhythm patterns using Procussion, getting them quite authentic, about 98 bpm, and getting a nice couple of loops going, sampling it and then pitching up the sample. That way, we're getting the crustiness from sampling it, and you're getting an original breakbeat when you speed it up and break it down."

What about the old hip-hop breaks, are you taking them from hip-hop records or are you going back to the originators?

"Yeah, some of the breaks are classics. A lot of them originated from the 'Funky Drummer', and the Amen breaks are still doing it, a lot of them originated from the Amen Brothers, that's the strongest, the one you hear most in Jungle."

Roni Size agreed that searching out great breaks from old records was the first step in programming Jungle.

"We get those breakbeats by looking hard! We get them from old hip hop, like Grandmaster Flash. As soon as I heard them, I was gone. W'happen is we just doctor a beat, take it into the studio, cut it up, put it back together again. It's all experimental like, you put it in and see what the piece of machinery can do. Certain pieces of equipment can do certain jobs, and you have to find out what job you want it to do. Like if you want to time-stretch, you've got to get a sampler that time-stretches. In the last couple of years, Jungle has found certain ways of doing things, and you use all those ideas that you've learnt, and put them into a tune."

DJ Krust:
"Because we've got a history with hip hop where breaks have been used for a long time, we recognise a sound we like straight away."

Roni:
"That's from over the years just experimenting, just hitting knobs and seeing what the machine does. We been at school for the last two and a half, three years making Jungle. We been making all different types of music, and now it's come around to a formula which works."

So, what is the formula?

Roni:
"Oh, the formula! Well, breakbeats, sub-bass and anything, you can use anything, there's no boundaries, no law. If you want to use Mozart, there is a tune out with some of that, you can do it. Just remember, Jungle is like life, there are no rules!"

On the RE:MIX CD

Check out the Breaks folder on Track 1 for some programmed breakbeats in MIDI file format.



Previous Article in this issue

Monitor mix

Next article in this issue

Eight track mind


Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...

 

The Mix - Apr 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Chris Needham

In Session

Artist:

Roni Size


Role:

DJ / Producer

Artist:

Goldie


Role:

DJ / Producer

Re:Mix #10 Tracklisting:

04 More Rockers: In The Beginning


This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #10.

Feature by Roger Brown

Previous article in this issue:

> Monitor mix

Next article in this issue:

> Eight track mind


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