So I know it’s only week two of the chin-strokey blog series from our very own Willy Mason, but this week Front Left celebrates my favourite music… Jump Up Drum and Bass. It may not be very chin-strokey but it certainly gets you to the Front Left of the rave.
If it weren’t for drum and bass (and most specifically Jump Up) I’d probably not be doing what I’m doing today in life, I wouldn’t have the amazing friends I have and I probably wouldn’t be doing this job, because like most Londoners into music I started my raving career at Playaz at Fabric.
Playaz, the jump-up drum and bass label signified by a Ganja leaf, bought to the world by the one and only DJ Hype. If you don’t know how old I am there’s no harm in knowing that my Playaz career started in 2005. This was a time when Jump-Up, far from its humble jungle roots with tracks such as Power of Ra (circa 1993) Zinc’s Supersharp Shooter (1998) and Krust’s Warhead (1997), was breaking into the mainstream with tracks such as Tarantula from Pendulum, Number One from Clipz & Die ft. Ben Westbeech and Mr Happy from Hazard & Distored Minds.
Now I’m not professing to be an expert by any means, just a humble fan born of the second wave drum and bass generation, but for me this was the turning point. Fast forward a few years and off the back of their 2005 Breakbeat Kaos release ‘Hold Your Colour’, Pendulum have an album released on Warner Bro’s and are doing Global Tours, DJ Fresh (who bought the world The Nine alongside the rest of Bad Company!!) is making tracks with Diplo and Dizzee Rascal and all my friends have ditched DnB to stroke there chins at the front left of a techno rave. It’s like it never even existed, gone from their mind. They don’t like it anymore… and I’m not sure the brief encounter with ‘Drumstep a.k.a Clownstep’ born of the Mr Happy release had done it any favours either….
I found the crossover period an interesting one. One of the greatest things for me about drum and bass is that tracks are timeless, you can go to a rave and hear tracks that are 20, 15, 10 years old and not just in a novelty nostalgic way that (I personally) think you do in a house rave.. half a set from a newer fresher DJ can be made up of the old greats, that are timeless, for me that’s partly what keeps the community together. However, during this period where drum and bass became mainstream, entered the charts and was doing arena tours, there was a divide. Tracks that once might have been enjoyed when they were first released got cast into the background and pendulum, Subfocus and DJ Fresh didn’t get plays anymore… Jump-up having been the snubbed became the snubbee and if you weren’t staying true to the ‘underground’ you weren’t a true fan. Tracks like Machete from Hazard were the true underground – getting harder and ‘philthier’ sticking truer to their roots and as far away from than the accessible vocals and formulaic pop songs with hooks some had ‘bastardised’ the drum and bass sound with..
It’s interesting the whole idea of remaining authentic whilst reaching mainstream popularity, so interesting to me that I wrote my dissertation on it. Some people get away with it – Andy C for example, whilst he’s not a music producer, he headlines SW4 every year for a nice tidy sum. What makes his mainstream appearances at big festivals and headline shows for 10,000 people around the world any different to Pendulum’s chart success’? My dissertation determined it was authenticity, the true reason for doing what you’ve done.. do you believe in the music you’ve released and you play to your fans? It was obviously fluffed out with 10,000 more words to explain what I just did in one sentence and there may have been a splash of evidence thrown in. I guess this begs the question though, who are we to say that DJ Fresh doesn’t like Gold Dust? ANYWAY… that may be a blog post for another time.
I’m ashamed to say that there was a time where I gave up on drum and bass too. Probably 2010 where I followed my friends to their techno raves and I blended into warehouse parties… I still dragged them to Christmas Playaz every year for my birthday and we enjoyed the Carnival special annually as well, but it felt like all was lost in the jump up world. A personal highlight for me was hearing Hazard’s ‘Time-Tripping’ on my birthday one year (2014?) and my boyfriend of the time (no names) getting me a shout out from the MC and a reload. What time a time to be alive (if you’re me and you love jump up and DJ Hazard). I actually once asked him for his autograph, he asked me if I was serious before looking at me weirdly and then scribbling on the piece of paper I’d found.
This wasn’t meant to turn into a brief history of Drum and Bass but I’ll finish up, before my thank you’s, by saying how pleased I have been the last two years to see the scene in full fledge having taken their monthly’s to Electric, selling out (or nearly) shows at Printworks, getting props from Red Bull Music Academy and DJ Hazard getting headline slots at SW4. Just don’t forget your roots guys…
Anyway, I could write on this for hours… so before I go I’d just like to say thank you Jump Up – if it weren’t for you I’d never have danced so much; I wouldn’t have taken that flyering job for free guestlist; My thighs wouldn’t be half as strong; I wouldn’t have the gunfinger to signify moments of pure excitement; I wouldn’t have met that promoter who gave me a job that lead to my festival career… and I’d never have met my best friends at the front left of room 2.