Rows of people stand facing out from dark banks of speakers.
Dancing with militancy, stepping on every tier of the Forum, Telepathy, AWOL, Desire, Exodus. The souls on the floor, individuals, all as one, are cuttin’ animated human sculptures – poses frozen in strobes… facing Randall, Grooverider, the bass bins or nowhere in particular, they’re ‘avin’ it.
Lasers reflected in sunglasses, whistles, horns and lighter flares burn the air. They dance with no room to dance… and scream for the rewind. The DJ drops the tune and it all goes off again. This is Roast, Stush, Innovation, VIP Champagne Bash.
The people love dressing up, enjoying an edge in the air.
Above all, they love the crucible that is Jungle Fever.
You’re outside at dawn in a sand quarry in Luton with Exodus,
or on that fairground ride at World Dance.
The rush of weed or E takes hold.
With a breathless surge you move to another level.
You’re in it, it’s in you, wrapped in the music, the air, the vibe.
The mix is running and beats burst through the night
with the visceral intensity of a tempest.
I’m floating in it, at the highest plane.
The ravers weave multitudes of patterns.
They look beautiful. They look wicked.
There’s nothing like this
and I love it with all my soul…
To get the world of Jungle Drum & Bass (JDB) in context, imagine the opening of Citizen Kane that begins in space, focuses on the world and descends through the clouds to a country, eventually landing on a particular street. The same can be done with music. We live in a world of music. Go down from the broad range, Classical, Rock n Roll, Country & Western, Pop, Jazz to Dance music. JDB shares common land with Reggae, Hip Hop, Rare Groove, Soul, House, Techno and Hardcore. It’s all good music. We respect other neighbourhoods with people just as passionate about Oasis or Garth Brooks as we are about Grooverider or Roni Size. People have their preferences. But this neighbourhood is Jungle.
’97 the scene rolls into another weekend.
MCs give out shouts to destinations
on the web of England’s motorways.
The M1, M3, M4, M6, M20, M25, not forgetting the M62…
As you drift down the motorway,
lose the pirates, switch to CD,
sit back, enjoy a spliff, relax and drift into the night.
“They used to call our music, ‘Devil Music.’ A lot of people don’t understand the kind of struggle we’ve been through to make Dance Music predominant in the UK.” – Grooverider, October 2004
“They don’t understand what we had to do. We’d drive way down to them far country places… drag record boxes over muddy fields and play for hours. The kids in this game don’t appreciate what we had to do to get where we are today.” – DJ SS, October 2004
MTV Europe – August 1998
Leisurely coffee in staff restaurant by Camden’s canal. A group of TV researchers are putting together a series of pan European video diaries. I’m summoned to Executive Producer Stephen D Wright’s office. MTV’s open plan innards are covered by blue cushioned carpet. Beautiful Euro kids wearing Club Culture’s clothes sit at PCs, others carry piles of videos or log rushes on TV screens. Robbie Williams is in reception. Davina McCall holds court with a group of interns.
The exec’s cramped office has glass walls – feels like a goldfish bowl. “Have you found a DJ for the Jungle diary?” Yeah. That’s all sorted. We’re covering Wildchild.” “Never heard of him.” “Wildchild’s on Kool FM, works at SRD, plays Carnival. And it’s her not him.” “Her?” “Yeah. Skibadee MCs for her. She’s wicked.” Wright’s not happy: “Interesting but not exactly Jungle is it?” “Sorry. Don’t get you.” “Well Jungle is a black male thing. You need to get back out there – find someone else.” “‘A BLACK MALE THING!?’”
The other researchers clock the action through glass walls: “Oh mi god.” “Look. It’s all going off.” “Shit.” “What the hell that’s about?” “Stop staring everyone. B’s…coming out.” Door opens “‘ … A BLACK MALE THING.’ You haven’t got a fucking clue!” People look up. Door slams. Glass reverberates. “He’s coming back.” “Alright B.” “Not really. No.” “Fancy a coffee?”
Back outside by the canal with Red Anna: “What is it with these media types? They’re only interested in reinforcing stereotypes. Doesn’t matter what the actual truth is. I mean, what is the point of hiring specialist researchers if they won’t listen? I’m sick of them saying Jungle is x, y, z. It’s multicultural that’s why…” Mobile goes off. It’s a BBC producer – wants to meet soon as. “Where you going?” “To see a man who wants to make the definitive Jungle documentary.” “You’re goin’ right now? Suppose they start asking for you?” “Tell ‘em I’m off doing more ‘research.’ ”
One hour later Wagamamas, Soho. Paul’s from a program called Modern Times. He’s full of questions. We chat for hours. “You’ve got your crews and massives, labels, there’s pirates, and record shops, then there’s your DJs and MCs, and producers making tunes in bedrooms, and there’s Music House, and your promoters and your clubs, magazines, distributors, Rave History and people who design flyers, then there’s drugs, fashions, carnival, Bristol, Leicester, the crowds, One in the Jungle, booking agents, multicultural music, has its own language. It’s a uniquely British scene…” Walking along Wardour Street my head’s buzzing with all the info I’ve downloaded. Slope back to MTV but can’t focus. Try to sleep that night – can’t sleep. Get up and start writing notes on scraps of paper.
Reach work early. Start typing an e-mail to Exec Producer. One hour later.
Red Anna checks the screen: “Looks interesting. Church of Jungle, pirate stations, illegal raves… Is it a program proposal?” “No. It’s an e-mail for Stephen D Wright but you know what? I don’t think I’m going to send it.” A couple of weeks later I say to my partner, “Kate… I think I’m writing a book.”
Most of what was to be the first version of All Crew Muss Big Up was written in 18 months. I then wasted months trying to find a publisher. They weren’t interested. I almost lost heart. Friends were saying that the book was good. I’m not sure how much I believed them until Sage, my MC on pirate station Ruud Awakening, asked to read a copy of the manuscript. At the time it was a bundle of paper held together with string. Sage calls me: “I was at some party last night and left your book on a sofa…” I think, ‘He’s gonna say he’s lost it.’ “…Left it on the sofa right. I’ve gone to get a drink, come back and there’s four people trying to read the same page! Serious man. When’s it being published?” “It isn’t.” All Crew… was going nowhere. I went to retrieve a draft from a publisher in a shining tower block on Euston Road and was directed to the post room in the basement. They thought I was a courier. It was depressing. I felt like chucking the manuscript into a skip. But I felt responsible for all those stories on the pages.
With A Little help From My Friends
Friends came to the rescue. I met the designer, Nadine Gahr, at Berlin’s Love Parade. She persuaded me to self publish. Cameron, a friend from Melbourne, had written a poetry book, printed and distributed it himself. That started me thinking, ‘I’ll print up 100 copies and see how they do.’ Nadine got busy with design. Tristan O’Neill (DJ magazine) arrived with photographs and we all went into the mix. We couldn’t afford to print All Crew… so we had it photocopied, spiral bound, then Nadine and I hawked them ‘round record and book shops.
I gave Storm a copy. Goldie nicked Storm’s, starts calling artists and reading bits to them. I crawl out my tent at the Eclipse festival in Plymouth and bump into Kenny Ken. Goldie had called him: “He’s reading out stuff from that interview we did. So where’s my copy?” Same day Resin at Excessive Sounds in Enfield bells me: “When can you drop off more copies? We’ve sold out.”
Neither Nadine nor I had worked on a book before so All Crew… was a little rough around the edges. We even missed out a word from the cover title. Both Nadine and Tristan stayed on board for the second version and took the book to another level. All Crew… was re-released Christmas 1999. There had been a mistake with the ISBN order number, which made it incredibly difficult to find but we sold all 2,000 copies.
Then came stories of books being stolen from shops. Friends even nicked it from their friends. Four years later orders still came in – especially from clubbers and students from London to New York, Australia and New Zealand. I’m pleasantly surprised with the positive reaction the book has received. And it’s humbling hearing people referring to All Crew… as ‘The Drum & Bass Bible.’ I’ve had so many requests for a rewind that I’ve taken up my pen again.
All Crews – The Remix
Colin Steven and Rachel Patey, who produce Knowledge Magazine, have made this third version possible. Their support, guidance and hard work have taken All Crews to a higher level again. It includes many new photographs, mostly courtesy of Tristan O’Neill, Cleveland Aaron, Courtney Hamilton and Andy Cotterill. Nadine Gahr has come up trumps again with her re-design of the whole book. I’m dyslexic so it’s been our mission to make the text easy to read. Thanks to Rico our distribution is being handled by SRD – all proppa tings.
Think of this version as a remix. Part One of this version is the original All Crew Muss Big Up that was published in 1999. Many people featured in Part One have moved on and are now doing different things so some of it will seem dated, but it represents a snapshot of the scene as it was. However, it features some new interviews with characters missed out last time. Part Two covers the many changes and developments in Jungle Drum & Bass since 2000. All Crews is not a who’s who but a journey accompanied by music. The names of tunes are woven throughout the text. Watch the ride.
Sending one out to all the heroes I met along the way.
BUY ALL CREWS