text: Julian Rolfe
Photography: Eddie Ochthere-Dhagren
The increase in media coverage of the Jungle scene over the past eighteen months has been pretty dramatic, with media figureheads like Goldie, Bukem and Alex Reece commanding the bulk of the attention. But while these newer talents have had their music, attitudes and psyches dissected at length, there has been precious little investigation into the people who have been playing quality Jungle since it evolved from the rave scene back in '92. Is this because the media doesn't know who they are? Is this because the media is simply jumping on a bandwagon, rather than truly checking the whole of the scene? And is 'intelligent' now a dirty word? Wax magazine got together with some of the DJs, producers, promoters and label owners that have been around the scene for a while to find out the answers to these and other burning questions.
Darren J (D) Top DJ, Resident at A.W.O.L. Regular at World Dance and many other top raves over the past seven years or so.
DJ Rap (R) Top DJ, producer and owns two record labels. Has played out all over the world since her debut in '89.
Brian G (B) Another first class DJ and producer, who also runs V and Philly Blunt Records with Jumpin' Jack Frost.
L Double (L) Leeds based DJ and producer, who has also been running things for the last few years. Special respect is due for driving two hours to make the debate.
Jarvis Sandy (J) Runs ace rave organisation Desert Storm and is now putting out albums showcasing the best of these gigs.
Graham 'Boymerang' (G) Up-and-coming producer whose group Boymerang released some quality twelve inches last year. Currently working on an album... Newer to the scene than the others.
Clarky (C) DJs at The Blue Note on a Sunday and works in London's Blackmarket Records.
Wax Magazine (W) Yours truly, probing, prompting and playing Devil's Advocate...
W: Do you think that Jungle is the bastard son of rave?
D: Breakbeat's always been the bastard son of house, so probably, yeah.
R: What do you mean?
J: Just in the atmosphere. Rave was all about celebration, whereas Jungle appears more to the dark side.
D: It's just a different scene now; the police don't raid Jungle parties for loads of E you know, because they know it's not about. So people have come into the scene now with a different frame of mind.
B: It's not all about "Hi, what's your name, what are you on, let's go on holiday together" which rave was.
D: Now people bare becoming a little bit old-fashioned, going out, not taking E's...
R: Which makes people less talkative. The art of conversation in this scene is dead now. It needs a different attitude in clubbing - something to go and see, like how The Complex has been done. At most Jungle clubs all you can do is dance, but at garage raves like Pushca or Chuff Chuff there's a different scene, there's fancy dress, stuff to look at, it's broader thing. Jungle is just about the beats, man, but it's not the bastard son of rave.
G: Also it comes from so many roots - jazz, reggae, not just rave.
D: I remember playing years back at Raw or Thunder & Joy and if there weren't Es about, it wasn't happening. Now if you look at happy hardcore events, there's people there who, to me, are in absolute trouble, I mean if I was the police, I'd look there. Mind you they get their Es down the bloody pub anyway.
R: Don't forget most of us have been around since '88 so you know you grow out of the E thing.
G: Plus, I don't think Jungle is E music anyway; you can appreciate it without E.
W: So why do you think to a certain extent crack has come to the fore in Jungle?
D: When it was all acid house, and I used to go as a punter, you'd have magistrates' sons, barristers, Lords mixing with people who'd just come out of prison. And now Jungle comes more from the street and unfortunately crack is a part of that culture. People put crack and Jungle together, but you can get it in a pub just as easy.
R: Jungle is the living scapegoat.
W: So it's a sociological change?
J: It's like you can't go to a garage do without finding cocaine. Let's all be like 'la di da'. That's the main ingredient.
B: Or going to a raggae do an' find no ganja! It's not a music problem, it's a society thing.
J: I think the crack thing with Jungle has got a lot better; you used to smell it all the time, but not so much anymore. It used to reek...
All: General agreement.
J: Plus it's a seriously expensive habit.
B: Really it's got no part in this conversation. It's just society.
R: The thing you got to remember is that it reflects the time with the Government and everything - this is not the '88 days when people had loads of money and felt great about everything.
D: It's so easy for the media to say 'Oh yeah, Jungle and crack', but I play in some dodgy places and the number of things that are crack related, it's like pissing in the wind really, it's more to do with people's attitudes.
R: I mean, say for example we've all played at 400 gigs and how many stabbings have we seen; how many deaths are actually related to crack, but go to a football match or a pub, there's fights all the time.
G: I think the vibes at Jungle gigs have got better, because people are just there for the music.
D: Something is going wrong out there though, 'cos when I go to places like the Blue Note, the crowd's really mixed and the vibe is completely different to a lot of places I play at that are either completely black or white and not mixed as they used to be and that's not what it's about.
J: It's a multicultural thing.
D: And that's the way Jungle should be going: black, white, Indian. DJ Ron said something to me a while ago, he said "It used to be lot of different people at raves, now it's like the street has come inside your party". Things also aren't as spectacular as they used to be.
R: And that's the promoters, who need to put a little more into it.
D: Now everything's illegal too, that changed things, pushing everything into clubs; it used to be all word of mouth. The 'streety' people were still going to pubs and football, they weren't into the smiley acid faces an' that.
W: But at hardcore gabba events the music is just as mad, and you don't get any trouble there.
G: It's down to the culture of the people who go to the raves.
W: Do you feel that putting gunshots in records was an invitation for trouble?
D: I played at a rave once, and dropped a record with a gunshot sample, and the promoter refused to pay me because someone was shot there last week. Firstly, I didn't know someone been shot there, secondly I'd still have played it if I had known, because the crowd went mad crying out for a rewind and there was no bad feeling. And thirdly it was security who'd shot the person anyway!
J: It's like saying violent films make you go out and shoot someone.
W: How do you compare vibes at clubs in and outside London?
R: Personally I prefer it outside London, unless it's Club UN, where there are some top parties.
W: But seriously agressive security.
R: For me it's the Sanctuary who have the worst security.
D: Or the Astoria. Why do people pay fifteen quid to go in there and just get treated like shit? That's why people misbehave.
B: But security don't have no respect y'know? No respect for the punters, unless it's a pretty little girl.
D: That's why people like Jarvis used their own security, but venues don't let you do it now. You got no say. The venue just hires a firm.
W: So what about abroad?
R: Yeah, it's much better. Completely different.
B: No comparison.
W: Where do you play?
R: All over; Germany, USA, Switzerland, it's just a different vibe. It's new for them. You can play more what you want to as well. You get maybe three hours, whereas here...
B: You play like one hour and your personality can't come out in that time.
W: Is there a lot of competition between DJs and MCs?
L: Everyone's just doing their thing, you get what I'm saying?
R: Otherwise getting each other's dub plates wouldn't happen.
D: In the States, DJs just do battle with each other.
B: One of my friends has got a reggae sound system and he couldn't believe we give each other DATs and stuff without charging for it.
L: And everyone's feeding off each other.
G: There have been a lot of comparisons between this scene and the American hip hop scene. But to me, that's the main difference, the fact that everyone knows each other and helps each other. It's not East Coast versus West Coast, or whatever.
W: So do you think that Jungle is still in its infancy?
R: No, it's been going a while!
D: It was only a year and a half ago that people were writing it off. I do think that it's always been kept down, in fact the whole of breakbeat has been kept down. But then all of a sudden a year ago, it's like "Oh,! You play that Jungle don't you? Nice one!"
W: Why do you think that is?
D: Firstly, it had a name put to it - Jungle.. People could identify with it and also it was in your face all the time. You couldn't really ignore it anymore.
L: The music has reached a different audience now as well.
G: Yeah, like at Notting Hill carnival...
R: It's very trendy now as well to like Jungle.
W: Yeah, but it's all just breakbeat at the end of the day.
R: Musically though it's more accessible now. Because the people who buy the records aren't necessarily the ones that go raving.
W: Do you actually sell more records now, than two or three year ago?
B: Man, less.
R: Definitely less records now.
W: Is that just because everybody buys the compilations?
B: I don't know, y'know, but last year we were selling double what we're selling this year.
R: Everybody's in that situation.
B: And the year before it was more than that.
R: If you've got a tenner, are you going to buy two tracks or a compilation with fifty? You know, what are the kids going to do? But I do think the 'intelligent' stuff is on the increase sales-wise 3000 average or so.
B: Also Jungle is just such a wide thing now, before it was just one thing, now you got hardstep, intelligent - I hate that phrase.
W: Even Everything But the Girl!
B: So it's all breaking down.
W: Do you think it's the media who are responsible for that?
D: Because they didn't understand Jungle. But now they can go to Speed or Blue Note and they're like "Oh yeah! It's wicked!" It was wicked before as well you know.
W: Do you think that the media has done Jungle any good at all?
D: Well, we can't sit here really, or do any interviews or whatever and say no. Because we've all got our views and we want them to be heard. Unless you refuse to do any press at all, then you have to say that the media has done some good.
R: It was only The Sun newspaper who really did damage.
G: What I think is bad is splitting things up; Intelligent versus Hardstep or whatever.
W: But if you need to describe something you have to use an adjective.
D: Yeah, but that 'intelligent' word is just an insult.
R: And the rise of that music was due to people like Bukem, Peshay, Dillinja, Goldie etc, all with a common idea. The media aren't responsible for the music you know. It was a collective thing.
W: And does it wind you up because you play somewhat harder than them, the media attention kind of passed that by.
R: I'll tell you what pissed me off about that; if say Bukem makes a track that I like I'll drop it, whatever; but they don't drop records that we make unless it's on that vein completely. It's very cliquey.
B: Yeah, it's more mainstream, watered down.
B: So they're snubbing you?
R: No - but they're the people categorizing because they don't play anything harder.
D: I used to come across Fabio all the time, but now it's like I can't remember when I last saw him which is sad to me. So it's almost like we're working on different things.
W: But the Blue Note can be raging with Grooverider or Fabio or whoever.
D: Yeah, it's angry beats.
J: It's hard you know.
G: Yeah, it's hard beats, but not an angry crowd.
B: I went to Bristol, and it was pure students at Goldie's tour. But at The Full Cycle launch, there was a more regular crowd. So it's easy to see that it's partially what's trendy that attracts different people.
R: There's a huge audience that like the music, but don't rave.
W: But then you'd sell more records.
R: Not necessarily, because all they hear about is the lighter jazz-influenced stuff and we're making the harder edge stuff that works on a dancefloor. They're not going to connect with our thing.
W: Do you think Jungle is going to be as common as House?
R: I think it is already. It's booming out of sports shops, adverts...
D: I wouldn't agree with that; there are a lot of places in the world where you can hear Jungle, but every single place has House all over it.
R: No, I'm not saying it's the biggest in terms of numbers, but it's the freshest thing. That's why everyone's on it. It's the biggest buzz.
D: Yeah, but actually the scene is getting smaller. There's less places playing Jungle now. Less venues.
R: But that's because of licences, you know, and raving being made illegal and so on.
D: Yeah but the Lazerdrome (in Peckham) has gone now. I tell you if A.W.O.L. goes that's the beginning of the end.
R: I used to play out in the Midland for like two years solid you know, but now there's no venues putting on Jungle raves up there.
L: I hear it in my environment all the time, but as for the mainstream it's far from it Leeds and so on. I think a lot of people are scared of it. Scared of what people it'll bring those people?
L: Well, the music's not for that. It's hard to get a club up north if you say Jungle. Call it drum 'n' bass and you're alright!
W: So it's how you market it?
B: Jungle to a lot of people is a black thing you know. So certain things spring to mind, and you get people who don't understand it.
R: It's like the 'intelligent' thing is just a nice coat of paint on an old thing. Just give it a face of respectability.
B: Because you can't have some rich white person in his nice area, with his kids listening to Jungle, he ain't havin' it. So to him drum n' bass is more respectable.
R: It's squeaky clean innit?
D: So it's more acceptable for your kids to go to that club.
W: Obviously Murray from Dreamscape sadly died ten days ago. And end of an era. Do you think Dreamscape will die with him?
D: Yeah, well they've cancelled the party because his funeral's just a few days before.
R: But the thing is, is that he was such a one-man show, it's just too much work for, you know, his girlfriend or whatever.. .I think a lot of people should get together anyway and do something as a tribute, DJs, promoters etc.
W: So you've hot a lot of respect for promoters?
R: Definitely, they're the ones. A lot of DJs have inflated egos that believe without their names on the flyers, the rave doesn't kick. But for me, it's the promotion, the lights.
D: To have the balls to put on that big a party, like Murray did is incredible. You can have a rammed party and still not make a profit.
L: It's a big gamble for promoters.
R: The government in fact is trying to charge promoters tax for the last seven years, so we could all be out of a job in a year. But then the government is making so much money out of this scene now that I don't know if they will. Promoters should try and get together to work for bigger, better parties. Also I think more promoters should own their own clubs. To have a bit more harmony.
D: I'll tell you what's odd. There's not a Jungle club in London on a Friday. Also places like Great Yarmouth and Kent they're still like they were about two years ago. But Birmingham or whatever, it's just dead.
G: What happened to the Paradise Club's Friday nights?
D: There's a Jungle club every night of the week in Berlin, but not in London anymore.
B: The scene's dead, man. Less gigs, less records - I tell you I'm watching a lot of Match of the Day at the moment!
D: It's in trouble.
C: There's more interest, but working at Blackmarket, you get people wanting to listen to one style of music.
W: But that's just because there's more options.
C: But there's always been mellow tracks, hard tracks...
B: And now it's all categorized by the media, saying it's all different things, but it's not.
G: The media, too, pit factions against each other. It's got to be all types of music under one roof. That's the only way to go.
W: Anything else to add?
J: Yeah, radio stations too, like Kiss claims they're playing Jungle and so on, and all they're playing is Everything But the Girl.
B: And there's loads of excellent drum n' bass out thee still getting ignored.
L: Yeah it's gonna get really big, but we'll hear this stuff and not recognize it as being Jungle. All the attention is gonna be on the Jungle songs, and not on the styles that it should be, in its raw form.
R: Major labels are picking up all these artists and it's gonna be tough for the artists, because you can't return to the underground once you've been there. Look what happened to Adamski for example.
G: And the labels are trying to water down the music.
R: Yeah, the labels should either accept and support the music as it is, or just fuck off.
check THE JUNGLE DEBATE on WAX MAGAZINE