Who Say Reload is a story of the scene by the scene. Through interviews with the likes of Goldie, DJ Hype and 4 Hero, Paul Terzulli delves into the stories behind seminal tracks of a genre beloved decades on. Perfectly coupled with the renowned photographic work of Eddie Otchere who documented the visual unfolding of Jungle/Drum and Bass, the book is an essential nostalgic indulgence as well as an indispensable tool for someone wanting to get to grips with the scene’s musical origins. Further marking it’s publisher Velocity Press as the go-to publisher for Dance music and culture, it should be an essential addition to any fan’s collection. Paul was kind enough to sit down with In-Reach to tell us more about it.
Could you start by talking us through how book came about?
Really it came about by not already existing. I’ve always wanted to do a book and music’s the onlything I’ve got any authority on. I’m very into hip-hop and pretty much anything you need to know about hip-hop albums has been discussed or revealed. There’s a book called Check the Technique by Brian Coleman where he interviewed everybody that was involved in the making of all the classic hip-hop albums in the ‘90s. So I thought, well, there’s nothing like that for jungle. And there’s never really been anything written much really about drum and bass. I think a lot of artists as well as a generation of listeners have slowed down a bit, and they like to look back on it – there’s a nostalgia thing going on and you want to have as much as possible to remind you about it and to keep the feeling there. As I started to interview people and saw other debates on the socials, I realised it was important that the pioneers were acknowledged and there was no revisionist history which is something that can gain traction quite easily online. Once something is solidified in print it makes it a bit more indelible than it would be on social media or a podcast.
And the book is made up of chapters covering different tracks?
Yes, that’s it, each chapter covers a different record and I interviewed the producer behind that record. The initial concept was covering the making of each tune, but it kind of branches off a bit more, some people I interviewed spoke more about their career in general. Other peoplestarted talking more broadly about the scene, and how things changed in the music. I tried to cover as many bases as possible, including as many of the main labels and artists as I could. It starts off in 1990 with a bit of pre-jungle, early hardcore breakbeat stuff like 4 Hero and Shut up and Dance, I cover the anthems from the mid-90s by people like Shy FX and Peshay, and then you end up with Bad Company and Ed Rush & Optical towards the end of the decade. That’s only 8 years but the music changes a hell of a lot in that 8 years compared to now; if you went from 2013-2021, there’s not a huge difference like there was then. The technology hasn’t changed as much so the sound hasn’t changed as much.
Was that a big part of it in the ‘90’s, the technologies changing and advancing so quickly that that was having a big impact on the sound?
Yeah, at the start people were learning the equipment, and a lot of these people when they started making the first tunes were teenagers and the technology was still quite primitive. And as they get older, they get a bit more knowledge of production and find their feet and their individual styles. With that early hardcore sound, everybody is pretty much on the same sort of level, the vibe of the tunes is quite similar. Then you get people like LTJ Bukem and Goldie and Omni Trio coming in, and you start seeing things branching off, you’d get the jazzy stuff with Roni Size, the techno stuff coming in with Doc Scott, DJ Zinc was using a lot of hip-hop samples and then you get more flavours, to the point where we had 20 different sub genres or whatever. Roni starts doing his thing with a live band, Bad Company just went totally off in their own direction and took it into the 2000s. If you compare the music between then and now, you see the influences start to change as things progress. The originators were influenced by hip hop, rare groove, reggae and early house music so you can hear a lot of that in the early productions. We then get to a point where you have a generation of producers that have grown up on D&B so maybe the influences are less diverse than they used to be.
Is there a particular track featured that you have strong memories of?
Dred Bass was certainly out there, that’s one that’s always stood out to me. I didn’t really like early Hardcore much, but everybody around me on my estate listened to it. They used to do the big tape packs of the raves. So you’d have the whole night recorded, like eight or six tapes. The events then were still kind of mixed. You’d have Happy Hardcore DJs and the Jungle DJs before it really split up. So my friends bought the Hardcore packs, and then I’d take the Jungle one off them, because I started to think that was a bit more interesting. My friend gave me a tape of Hype at Dreamscape 12 in ’94 and that really changed the game for me. If you listen to it now, it’s like a ‘best of jungle anthems’ tape, but at the time it was all brand new dubplates. You probably wouldn’t have foreseen it all being listened to 20 years later. Anyway, Dred Bass was on it. I remember listening to the tape in a Vauxhall Corsa with the Windows blacked out and when Dread Bass came my friend cranked it up and the gunshots come in with that weird, reversed baseline. I wouldn’t even necessarily say it’s one of my favourite tunes now but at the time it was a proper mind blower. It’s a crazy record and you can hear its influence by it later on in speed garage and dubstep.
Could you say a bit more about the importance of the book being an Oral History?
I didn’t want it to just be my opinion on everything because you get enough of that on the internet with people spouting off. There’s also always been a bit of a thing with a lot of these guys not really wanting to talk to the media too much because they didn’t want to be misrepresented and at the time the media didn’t show much of an interest anyway. I just wanted to do it in the first person perspective. That way there can’t really be any argument about how it all happened because these are the people that were there and this is their version of events. And aside from the main chapters with the producers I’ve got a few other interviews with DJs like Friction, Fabio and Flight to of add a bit of commentary around the records, certain club nights, events and things that meant a lot to them. I haven’t got everybody in it but I did better than I thought I would. Most people were really up for being involved but there was a handful I couldn’t pin down or make contact with.
These people aren’t celebrities, obviously you’ve got people like Goldie and Roni Size who won all the awards and were in the papers, but I wanted to make a point that it wasn’t all about them and there were all these other people that put in as much work. It used to bug me and my friends a bit, you wanted to read something about the scene and it would always be about the same 3 or 4 people, you wouldn’t even know what anyone else looked like, so it’s been good to find out more and hear about it all first hand.
You’ve had a hip-hop blog for so long and I was wondering if you could say a bit about the relationship between hip-hop and Jungle/Drum & Bass?
I could talk about that all day long! Before the rave scene came in hip-hop was the thing for kids to listen to in the ‘80s. So the majority of early producers started off in that scene, that’s what they listened to when they were younger. So Gus from 4Hero was originally in a hip-hop group called Trouble. Tim Westwood put out their first record, Shut up and Dance basically thought they were making hip-hop that was just faster and it ended up getting played at raves. A lot of it was the same beats so if you put on like an old hip-hop tune from ’89-‘88 there’s a lot of James Brown beats and in early Jungle it’s the same James Brown tunes sped up a little bit, the same break beats like the amen break. So it’s sampled from this old ‘60s record, but nobody’s got that record, they’re taking it from the hip-hop tunes that sampled it. Aphrodite, Hype and Zinc were probably the main artists that were using a lot of hip hop samples like Wu Tang or Redman. By ’96 there were loads of tracks using the sort of half speed hip-hop intro in things like in Super Sharp Shooter where they’d used more of the whole vocal than just the breaks. Drum and Bass had got to a point where it was double the speed of the hip-hop stuff in the 90s so it fits together quite nicely.
I think generally the big hip-hop producers in the 80s really influenced the first wave of Drum and Bass producers. I’m not sure you really hear it now. I think now the Drum and Bass producers are influenced by other Drum and Bass producers which is fair enough because that’s what they grew up on.
You’ve mentioned how this book is serving a bit of nostalgia for those who raved in the 90’s but I feel like a lot of people who’ve only recently got into the music have a nostalgia for this time as well, that the grass was a bit greener the other side of the millennium….
I was talking somebody about this the other day. I didn’t really like a lot of the jump up stuff that was around a few years ago like Hazard and Taxman as I don’t really recognise much in it that I like about Drum and Bass, but then I think if I was 14, and I hear this noisy lairy music, I’d probably love it. So I think a lot of it’s the context you hear it in, if you’re just sitting there listening to it, as a middle aged man listening to it on YouTube, it’s not gonna have the same effect as going out to Innovation in the Sun and hearing it at a pool party or something.
Was it better? I think there was an innocence to it you know, if you wanted to hear it, you really had to go out and hear it. And then you hear it in the context which it was meant to be heard. You need it on a big system. I think there was a bit more experimentation in the music. Some records, especially from around ’93 are very hard to mix. Whereas now for the DJs, everything’s presented with like a 90 second intro and a 90 second outro and a breakdown in the middle. Whereas back then things might just start with a piano, or film dialogue, they’re all over the place. If you go online and look up tracklists from the raves at site like the RollDaBeats forum, there’s a lot more variety. I think DJs weren’t as stuck to one type of music because there wasn’t one type of music. Some people now seem to have more of a tendency to play stuff from their own label which can get a little bit samey.
What’s something you’d want someone new to the music to know about how things were when it developed?
I think the important thing for people to know, and this was a recurring theme in the book, is that was no real format to the music. And people are really just finding their feet so they’re kind of trying anything and everything. And some of it works, and then it doesn’t. There’s a lot of obscure jungle tunes that halfway through just totally switch into a ravey piano or techno stabs and then a bit of a soul or reggae tune and then go back to a jungle beat. It was kind of anything goes and let’s just see what works. And you hear, probably from about ‘95 onwards, when Metalheadz and people like that come in it gets a bit more refined but it’s still very experimental and adventurous. Overall, there was no real emphasis on branding or commercial appeal, and that was the case for a long time which is why it survived for so long as a self-sufficient scene. Tunes were made specifically to play at the next rave that weekend, so to understand it properly you had to go out and hear it.
I think one of the best ways to get a good feel for it now is checking old pirate radio tapes and old sets online. If you pull out a random pirate radio tape from ‘95 today, it won’t be full of all the big anthems, it will be whatever had come out in those last two weeks, they might have played those tunes twice. It will give you a bit more of an idea of how things were. And obviously you should buy my book!
How did Eddie Otchere get involved with the book?
After I’d done a few interviews, I realised I was going to need some visuals to go with it. There aren’t a lot of photos online from that era, people didn’t have phone cameras like now, but of the ones I did find, Eddie’s name kept appearing. So I looked him up and realised I recognised a lot of his hip-hop photography. He’s photographed Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, Aaliyah, he’s done a lot. I found him on Twitter and explained what I was doing, and he messaged me back almost straightaway and said it sounded great, he had all these photos and wanted to do something with them. We met up a few times and he helped me with the concept and layout and arranged a few interviews with people like Goldie who he was still in touch with from the Metalheadz days.
Eddie’s archives are crazy, and there were some great photos we didn’t quite have space for which I was gutted about but it we only had so much space in the book and we wanted to keep it affordable.
From what I’ve seen of Eddie’s photographs of this era it documents quite an inclusive scene?
I’d say the difference between then and now was people didn’t really think like that so much back then so maybe that suggests it was? As you can see in the book, most producers were male, but there were female DJs and artists like Rap, Kemistry & Storm, Dazee, Spice and Wildchild that were well respected. There was also a strong female presence on the business side running labels, agencies and generally making up the backbone of the scene’s infrastructure.
In terms of the ravers and crowds it was very mixed. I’d say the main thing I used to notice was that it wasn’t a pretentious thing at all. It was kind of like “anyone’s welcome” really and you did get a good mix of people. By the late ‘90s, that probably changed a bit. The early days of jungle are only a few years after the summer of love in the late 80s so that loved up vibe was still prevalent and everyone was your best mate, and as time went on it did get a bit moody andthere definitely wasn’t as many girls in the raves for a while once the vocal tunes and ragga jungle died out. That meant that on one hand the people that were there really liked the music, you didn’t have people going out just to be seen, but it could be a bit of a sausage fest around 98-99. But then Shake Your Body and LK and all that came out and it redressed the balance a bit and bought the ladies back in to the clubs.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the book?
There’s some things I didn’t really get to cover in the book because I didn’t want to get too much into my own opinions on things, but we did set up a blog where I can elaborate on certain topics; I’ve also posted the tape of the first rave I went to which is DJ Hype at Helter Skelter back in ’96, and it’s still my favourite set! Right Here
There’s an old pirate radio tape up on there, and there’s a bit about the death and resurgence of ragga Jungle. I’ll be adding more over the next few weeks and months. Hopefully we can do a launch party at some point too.
Who Say Reload is available now from Velocity Press [hyperlink] and everywhere else from Friday 5th March.