Eddy Says

Eddy Says: Drum n bass topping the charts? Amen to that

By | Published on Tuesday 6 March 2012

Eddy Temple-Morris

For all its dalliances with mainstream popularity in its 20 year history, drum n bass didn’t manage to score its first UK number one single until last month. DJ Fresh helped dubstep to a more rapid ascension with its first number one, ‘Louder’, last year, and in February he dragged drum n bass up to the top as well with ‘Hot Right Now’, more than fifteen years after Goldie became the first dnb producer to be playlisted on Radio 1. The chart achievement may only have lasted a week, but its no less of a milestone. So why hasn’t this been more celebrated? Eddy Temple-Morris looks back at the long journey of drum n bass.

Last week the number one single in the UK was a drum n bass tune. DJ Fresh managed what no other DnB artist in the genre’s glorious history has done over all these years. Yet it feels to me like not enough was made of this fact. Surely I can’t be the only one for whom this was a massively big deal?

I never got house music. In 1988, it was just the music I could hear in the distance, keeping me awake at the Glastonbury Festival. It was the quagmire of human faeces on Castlemorton Common when I worked for BBC Hereford & Worcester. I wasn’t involved with it on any level and I resented the fact I was told so many times that I would have to take class A drugs in order to appreciate it.

But when I got a job at Radio 1 in the early to mid 90s the big city beckoned once more, and I discovered a dance genre, and a label, that would change my life. Up until that point my feet had been planted firmly in the world of rock, of guitars. Punk, post-punk, new romantic, metal, goth, then grunge. No part of ‘dance music’ had really touched me deeply until I found myself at The Blue Note in Hoxton Square back when that neighbourhood was just warehouses. The night was called Metalheadz Sunday Session, run by Goldie and his Metalheadz record label.

This music appealed to the punk in me, and the metal lover. I could hear distortion, rage, darkness, all the things I’d associated with metal, but juxtaposed with this, I could hear beauty, melody, harmony… this was unlike anything I’d heard before.

But those beats. My god the beats were astonishing. Like they were made of razors and bullets from machine guns. Percussion from another planet. Every Sunday evening I rode my motorcycle to the front doors when they opened at 6pm, and headed to the back of the basement, where a rasta guy made stodgy rice n peas, jerk chicken and plantain. I’d eat, then head to the dancefloor above to nod my head and digest to the sounds of ferocious Amen breaks, played by the likes of Peshay, Randall, Doc Scott, Dillinja, J Majik, Lemon D, Photek and the like, until the club finished at 1am sharp and all of us with jobs could go home and get up without the red eyes that betrayed seven hours in a nightclub.

Jungle, as we called it then, was the first genre of dance music I fell in love with, and my love for it goes deeper than anything else.

In the corporate music world at the time, one man had the foresight to know something was about to explode. That man was Pete Tong. So when the first Goldie single, ‘Inner City Life’, was handed to me by a lovely plugger called Laura from the Universal-owned London Records, I smiled at the Full Frequency Range Recordings logo on it, in the knowledge this was the first release on that, or any major label, that actually employed as full a frequency range as a human can hear.

But while Pete was forward thinking and progressive, jungle at that time caused fear and loathing in certain circles. When I took the CD into the infamous Radio 1 playlist meeting I knew I’d have to roll up my sleeves and get ready for a fight. The only immediate allies I remember that day were Ivor Etienne, the ‘Soul Show’ producer (this was pre-Trevor Nelson), and Jeff Smith, the production chief and one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with.

The opposition formed a virtual phalanx around Simon Mayo’s producer and the debate kicked off. They argued this record was divisive, alienating, inappropriate, a flash-in-the-pan and too urban. Divisive it certainly was, but anything that changes the game and sets a new standard will cause conflict. People will fear it. I launched into the most heartfelt and genuine speech I ever made at that meeting, and by the end of it, I’d persuaded a few fence sitters that what I was seeing on a weekly basis in clubs like the Sunday Session and Botchit & Scarper events was a veritable spark to a dry tinderbox and that it was our duty to support this record. It was our raison d’être. It was our duty. No other mainstream station would be brave enough.

The chair of the meeting, Paul, gave me a little wink as he topped off the heated debate saying: “So that’s Goldie on then”. He was on the N List, as I recall – N for ‘New’ was where the upfront, unfamiliar stuff went. This still gave it daytime plays, and that week every time I heard it in the daytime I got goose-bumps and a warm feeling of pride that we’d helped do something really positive for British electronic music.

Not everybody saw it that way though. Simon Mayo flat out refused to play it, even though it was scheduled on his show. In his defence, I think his show had a much older audience profile than all of the newer shows on the station, and Simon’s blue-rinse-brigade certainly did not want any other kind of rinsing going on.

Mayo, bless him, for he is a very nice man, could not stop the inevitable spark from reaching that dry tinder, and dnb exploded. Soon Roni Size won the Mercury Music Prize and Goldie was playing at Glastonbury, the first drum n bass act there. I remember the feeling of palpable excitement in that Stage 2 field, watching the giant LED stop watch he’d put as a backdrop count down second by second. A monstrously low sub-bass drone rumbled out of the speakers for the whole 20 minute countdown, and I looked around to see people running towards Stage 2 from every direction, like flies buzzing to a carcass.

Some people didn’t know why they were there, they were just carried along by the crowd or drawn by the deep whale call. Several wide eyed people asked me what was going on.

“It’s Goldie”.

“Who?”

“First jungle act to get playlisted on Radio 1”.

Those that were there witnessed a dazzling salvo of beats and production like they had never known.
The grass in that dairy field had never felt vibrations like this as I danced and smiled, dizzy with cider and weed and the thought that this amazing genre had reached its tipping point.

Is it really seventeen years since that moment? Christ. Now my son knows Goldie as ‘the baddie from James Bond’, and most other people in this country probably know him as the loveable character that should have won that orchestra conductor show on telly. To me he’s a hero. If I was in charge he’d be knighted already.

I will tell him this on Friday when he comes on Xfm to co-host an hour of The Remix, for the first time in its twelve year run. I’ve met him several times. I made his jingles when he was on Radio 1’s first drum n bass show, ‘One In The Jungle’, in 1995, before Fabio & Grooverider’s tenure. We’ve DJed together and I even bought the centrepiece of his first headline art show, ‘Love Over Gold’ (Goldie was an artist before he was a junglist.) It’s the most expensive thing I ever bought that wasn’t made of bricks or had wheels and bumpers, but I love it. It’s above my mantlepiece, in pride of place, the last thing I see before I go to bed and the first thing I clap my eyes on when I come down for coffee in the morning. It’s my daily reminder of how I should behave. This piece of art defines me. It’s how I live my life, and it’s what all the people and the organisations that I really love hold as their central tenet. LOVE over GOLD.

It was Metalheadz that inspired the drum n bass I love today, and without Goldie and his label we may never have had some of the best music I’ve ever played on Xfm or at gigs: Pendulum, Sub Focus, TC, Chase & Status, and countless others.

Maverick, envelope pusher, game changer, rule writer, and icon, nay British institution, it will be a heart felt honour to have Goldie co-host this week’s Remix on Xfm.



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