“I see you, can’t you see I’m – paper thin, I’m made of neon, weekend come – I gotta see ya, take your time and consider..” Ultra Obscene – Breakbeat Era (XL Recordings 1999)
Leading up to our trip away to the UK, Joe and James organised yet another party, this time a purely local lineup. ‘Scientific presents Cells’ with Katalyst, Dexta and Grind playing Techno, and Solid State, Mosus (Joe) Pylon and Wizard playing DnB. The guys had been trying to find a venue for a while that would accommodate the sort of party we were putting on – it wasn’t going to be huge like Ministry, Base was getting tired, and Heaven was too small. Finally they negotiated to use a downstairs venue called ‘The Bassment’ on Manchester street. Emma.A and I were on tickets and guest list for the first half of the night, and watching group after group of Jungalists and Techno heads come down the stairs was very exciting. The night looked like it was going to shape up to be a success, and it was. The place was packed until 5.30 a.m and I knew from Joe’s face that things were going as smoothly as they could. The only negative was that we ran out of the water we were selling, which was a bit of a mistake. It was hot down in the Bassment and we certainly could have made more of a profit selling water to thirsty ravers.
The following day, Joe was on a high, people had had a great time, the DJs were all paid and had enjoyed themselves and best of all, Scientific had made its first profit on a gig. It was the perfect send off for Joe and I as we packed our bags for London and flew out three days later via Singapore.
Before we left Joe had set about making as many contacts as he could with labels, DJs and agencies. His idea was that he would make the connections and then follow these up visiting as many of them as we could whilst in London. One of the people who he particularly showed an interest in was a guy called DJ Bailey, who despite not being a producer, was very well known for being one of ‘Metalheadz’ finest DJs for his selection and mixing style. Joe felt that if we made the right impression and followed up these connections, this would see us in good stead for future international events.
I look back at this time and recall that even although Joe very much insisted we do what he wanted us to do while in London – seeing the people he wanted and needed to see for his business, I no doubt fully felt the benefits of these connections years later. Seeing the rave scene in London first hand, prepared me for what was to come only a couple of years after, and I certainly admired and respected Joe’s professionalism and ambitious nature in trying to create these connections. It cemented for me how imperative it is to follow things up and keep your relationships with people flourishing and positive.
Landing at Heathrow the first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was the temperature drop. It was colder than anything I had ever felt, even living in Canterbury with its freezing dry winters, this took my breath away. We quickly set about pulling jumpers and our puffa jackets out of suitcases, changing our footwear and wrapping scarves round our necks. We took the high speed Heathrow Express into the West of London and then got a cab to our complimentary hotel which was on the edge of Hyde Park.
After checking into our gorgeous hotel we were straight back out for a meeting with Caroline and Sonya at Groove Connection. Their agency was run out of one of the rooms in their terrace house, and from what I can remember I think Joe was there to try and secure a tour for Bailey and generally talk about other artists on their books for potential future events. I was rather intimidated by this meeting and just sat and listened, letting Joe do the talking.
That night we took the underground to ‘Swerve’ at The Velvet Rooms. This night was DJ Fabio of BBC Radio 1’s weekly DnB night and consisted of liquid funk from him and other residents. I don’t remember who else played that night, I was pretty jet lagged but I know I managed to have a wee boogie on the tiny dance floor. Swerve was small but perfectly formed in my opinion. With red velvet curtains and booths snuggled in the corner, it felt classy and cool at the same time.
Thursday we set off to do some shopping, in particular, trainer shopping – such freaks were we about our footwear. I scored myself some bright fluro green Adidas which I had spotted a girl wearing the day before. I was very excited to be heading out that night as we were going to go to ‘Bar Rumba’, where on Thursdays it was home to ‘Movement’, run by Bryan G and the V Recordings crew. Another trip on the underground to Tottenham court road and using the A-Z mini London edition we had bought, we eventually found our way down Shaftsbury Avenue to the club.
There was a long queue outside but somehow Joe had managed to swing us guest list through the various connections he had made. Inside we walked down some stairs and into a long rectangular club with a bar at the back. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was the variation in races and faces and languages being spoken. There seemed to be a lot of different people down there for the same experience, to attend the famous Movement night, legendary for its nights of the freshest, funkiest DnB.
Luckily for us the night we were there involved a visit from one of our favorite DJs and producers of the moment – Full Cycle’s DJ Krust. Bryan G played a dope set with a few tunes I recognised from visiting DJs and mix tapes, but it was Krust who absolutely tore it up.
He came walking through the crowd pulling his box of records and dubplates, it’s size overwhelming in comparison to what DJs at home rocked up with – but he certainly bought his ammunition. Krust had the crowd going crazy up the front of the club, myself included. He dropped ‘Warhead’, ‘Share the Fall remix’ and ‘Brown Paper Bag’ much to everyones absolute delight, but the tune of the night and which to this day I still absolutely love was a tune featuring a singer named Leonie Laws on a side project Die and Roni Size had going on called Breakbeat Era. The tune was called ‘Ultra Obscene’ and was like nothing I had heard before, or was currently hearing from DJs visiting New Zealand. (I didn’t know all this about the tune at the time – it was a few months before I found out what it was actually called and who it was by). I remember watching this black guy next to me with dreads falling about his shoulders going absolutely nuts, dancing in a way I had never seen before, syncopated with the music. Both he and I were absolutely lost in the music and I just had this huge grin on my face as I thought to myself ‘I wanna be here every Thursday night!”.
As Joe and I boarded the night bus back to Queens Park where our hotel was, we were all a flush with excited chatter. “This is why I want to bring out the DJs to New Zealand that I like” Joe said “I want to hear tunes like that, not just tech step and amen heavy tunes, but tunes that are cutting edge, and doing something different. That’s especially what Full Cycle are doing I reckon”
I had to agree. Full Cycle certainly were my favorite label no doubt, I was so chuffed to see Krust play, but could only imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of Roni Size!
On Friday Daz came into London to meet up with us. It was so nice to see a familiar face and to have someone play tour guide for the day. Daz took us shopping in convent garden and to some of the landmarks of London. We had dinner with him at a Pizza Hut (ew) but it was hard to find anything vegetarian and in our budget in the centre of Tottenham court road, and to be honest, it was good to just get out of the cold and sit down for a while. Daz had arranged for Joe and I to get guest list the following night at One Nation, a huge rave happening out East in Stratford at The Rex.
After another day of sightseeing on the Saturday, plus a visit to see Clayton at Renegade Hardware, another prolific DnB Label, we headed back to our hotel to get ready to go out. Stratford was the opposite side of the city to where we were staying, but by now we were pros at using the underground and getting around, so we found it relatively easily.
It was exciting being able to stand in the guest list queue again, especially as there was a huge line stretching right down the street.
I couldn’t quite believe the artists that were all on the line up. These were people we could wait years to see, let alone all on the same bill on the same night. While it was more of a jump up DnB line up we had had a good couple of nights experiencing the deeper side of DnB so I didn’t mind, and was especially amped to see Zinc, seeing as I had missed him in Christchurch the time before. On the line up alongside Zinc was, Mickey Finn and Darren Jay back to back, Hype and Andy C back to back, Swift and Kenny Ken Back to back, Brockie and Nicky Blackmarket back to back, with Randall.
The MC’s were guys I had never heard of before apart from Moose, and certainly in a style that was different to what I was used to. Det, Skibbadee, Fearless, Shabba D, Foxy and IC3, these were the Dons of double time on the mic. They spat rhymes like they were going out of business, and I remember straining to make out what they were rapping about but being super impressed by their style. They certainly got the crowd super hyped. The Rex was a huge venue and fully packed with ravers. There were balconies with people dancing looking down on the dance floor and everywhere I looked, again I saw different faces and races, all united for the love of the music.
The DJs were all up on a stage behind the decks and during their sets these girls dressed in tiny little costumes came on stage and shook their booties in time to the music bending over in front of the crowd so you could see up their skirts. I was quite confused by their presence onstage. I got that they were supposed to maybe create hype, but I just felt like it made the whole thing sexualised. However, another group came on after them wearing caps and crop tops with baggy trousers and they danced more in unison with each other which I preferred. I was snapping away with my camera in the dim light, thinking of how I would explain dancers on stage at a rave to my friends back home.
What I did definitely notice however was, apart from the dancers, there wasn’t a single female on the line up. No MC’s, vocalists or DJs to be seen in the shape of a female and it bugged me a little. I knew in my mind I would love to up on that stage on the mic hyping the crowd for anything, and yet, there didn’t seem to be a place for women on the lineup – at least, not at that kind of rave. The only Women I saw were there were cast as objects of titillation.. even if that was not their intent. The crowd was also mostly made up of guys. There were a few Women here and there, but it was pretty much guys when you looked out into the sea of faces.
We left around 3 a.m, knowing we had a long night bus ride ahead of us back to West London. While I enjoyed the experience of going to a super club and seeing so many big names, I knew I preferred the smaller confines of a club where the DJ was within reach and the energy much more contained.
On the Sunday we headed East to visit Daz. He had arranged for Joe and I to stay one night with him, and for Joe to have a mix on the pirate station Syndicate. Joe also hoped they might get some bombing in too, such was his lust for painting Graffiti! We met Daz at one of the tube stations East of the city, and then he took us onto the District line out towards Essex where he lived. It was a freezing cold, damp day in London, and as we sat on the train heading out of the city, I watched as the winter sky darkened early, feeling the warmth of the trains heating seeping into my chilled bones.
We raced past tall estate houses that seemed to be built in the middle of no where, their windows shaped like gloomy eyes and the anntenne on top reaching towards the sky like desperate fingers. We passed fields with motorways running above and through them and every concrete space awash with colourful graffitti. I tried to capture it on our camera as we whizzed by, and took notes in my lyric book.
I felt a strange feeling. Back home in New Zealand, we had all this endless, beautiful space. Huge mountains and vast forests, wind swept beaches with barely a soul in sight, all perched at the edge of the world and a draw card for many a tourist.
But as beautiful as it was, I also often felt frightened by it. It was like the vastness and emptiness stirred a sadness inside of me I couldn’t quite explain. As if I was being swept along with the westerly winds and out to sea, Like I was drowning in the silence and uncertainty of it all.
With my head against the glass staring out the window at distant pinpricks of light from the surrounding boroughs, I felt the enormous space of London spreading out around me, huge and scattered, grey and damp. But I wasn’t afraid of it, I was compelled. I was inspired, I felt my heart tug ever so slightly at the thought of making my home there, of the verses I could draw from this enduring, crowded, and unfamiliar place.
We eventually got off the train at a stop called Plaistow, and walked to a wasteland area with some concrete walls lining the tracks. Here we met another one of Daz’s mates who had bought with him a bunch of paint and nibs for the boys to do some bombing. It was absolutely freezing, not a smidgen of sun to be found in the sky, and after the warmth of the train I felt the cold even more.
Joe took his puffa off so he had his arms free to paint so I pulled it on over the top of my own and sat watching as the boys each threw up a piece. Joe’s nose was red and running, the tips of his fingers poking out of his fingerless gloves looked like they were turning blue, and yet on he painted. I knew it was a massive buzz for him to be leaving an imprint of himself in the form of his art on these walls, but still I felt myself shaking with the cold and hoping we would leave soon. As the last drop of light was extinguished from the sky and the night well and truly set in, the boys took photos of their efforts and finally we clambered back onto the train for the last stretch home to Daz’s house.
Grays was a little borough with more terraced houses and tiny yards, and we grabbed some real English fish and chips to eat back in the warmth of Daz’s front room. That evening Joe had his first ever mix on pirate radio – ‘Syndicate’ alongside Daz. It was another achievement and tick in the box for him, although he seemed to be fading by the end of the show. We put it down to being tired and jetlagged, and went straight to sleep after smoking a huge blunt back at Daz’s house.
In the morning it was time to say another sad goodbye to Daz, but not before he gave Joe some dat tapes with new tunes on them for Joe to get cut at the infamous dubplate cutting place – ‘Music House’. However, this was still my holiday too, and part of it was that I wanted to go to Paris!
We had arranged to leave on the Monday, so we took the over ground back into Waterloo, and set off that afternoon taking the train out of London, down to the coast and under the English channel into France.
As we came flying out of the channel tunnel we passed fields covered in snow, and little country houses with quaint barns in which they kept their animals sheltered. I was so excited, chatting away, calling for Joe to look at this and that. I was on my knees, nose squashed agains’t the window by the time we came pulling into Paris.
The first thing I noticed was that the sun was out! Though it was late afternoon and still chilly, and the sun was thin and weak on the ground, it made all the difference. The outlines of all the old buildings were sharp and clear, the river Seine glittered as it snaked its way down through the city. Paris Nord was very much like Waterloo, a huge, beautiful old art deco building with vaulted ceilings and bustling with people. Using my best school-girl French I asked the information desk for help in hailing a taxi, and with the address of our Kiwi friend Al scribbled on a piece of paper, we managed to get a taxi into the city to where he lived.
It was awesome to see our old friend from Christchurch again, especially as Al was letting us stay for two nights and offered to show us around. He was also pretty much fluent in French which would make all the difference in shopping, eating and getting around. In the two brief days we had there we tried to pack in seeing as much as possible. Visiting Monte Mart with Sacre Coure the beautiful basilica church on the hill overlooking the city, The Arch De Triumph and the massive glass La Defence that mirrored the Arc at the other end of the city, obviously The Effiel Tower, as well as trying to get some shopping in at some of the local boutiques. I was so excited and inspired by Paris, skipping down street after street calling for Joe to catch up. Joe seemed grumpy and low in energy, it riled me somewhat as it felt like we had spent the last few days doing what he wanted, and now we were in Paris which I had wanted to visit ,so much he was being a grouch!
We left Paris on the Wednesday and were only back in London for a night before we left again the following day. This time we headed out West to Bristol. Home of Full Cycle and Knowledge Magazine. As the train pulled into Bristol I noted the cute jumble of colourful houses lining the hill. It was clear day and I liked that I could see fields in the distance, the masts of ships along the waters edge down by the harbour, and that for a change there were less people on the streets.
Joe had made friends online with a girl named Rachel who was one of the editors of the magazine. She had invited us to visit and show us Bristol, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything in the way of club nights happening when we rolled into town. Still we had a good 24 hours there, so Rachel took us to local joint Cosies for a drink and we went to the Full Cycle offices where Joe had arranged a meeting with Gary, who was overseeing Full Cycle, to talk about getting on their mailing list. I’m not sure if I was fully aware of what was going on when we turned up at the office, but what I do remember is walking in and seeing that through the office was another room, a small studio with a glass window.
There, sitting in his office chair on the other side of that glass was DJ Krust. During the meeting I don’t remember what was said between Joe and Gary (Krust’s brother), I just kept throwing glances through the glass window at Krust, but I was too shy to ask if I could go in and meet him. Finally Gary noticed my glances and said to me, “you wanna meet Krust? I can tell you do! Go on, go in there and say hi” He called out to Krust and signaled to him that I wanted to come in.
Krust beamed a huge smile at me and opened the door so I could enter. The room was small and every space taken up with compressors, a mixing desk, keyboards, a computer and so forth. He was very softly spoken with a prominent Bristol Burr in his R’s.
I could feel my face hot and pink the whole time I spoke to him, telling him I loved his music, and that Joe and I had all his tunes.
“If its alright, before we go, I’d love to get a picture with you?” I pulled my camera out of my purse.
“Sure” He obliged, and Joe took a picture of us together, my jaw hurting from my huge smile. I couldn’t believe I had met one of my Drum n Bass idols!
Our trip to Bristol was far too brief, and we were back on the train and into London the following day. Joe had scheduled a meeting with Nico from No U – Turn, this time in some warehouse in an industrial area of town. We were there for a while, my interest waning as the talk revolved around tunes and DJs and the like. I loved DnB and I loved talking about it for sure, but all the rushing around and travel was starting to take its toll.
The 20th and 21st of February was our last weekend in London. On the Saturday Joe had made a booking to get dubs cut at The Music House which was in Holloway, North London. This was a pretty exciting thing for two young Jungalists from New Zealand, and sitting there in the tiny little room in a queue with others waiting for their dubs was certainly eye opening. We were there from when it opened, lined up on chairs, no one daring to move from their spot in case someone else got in first.
Each Dubplate took about half an hour to cut and when lunch time rolled around and we were still waiting, I went out in search of food so Joe wouldn’t have to leave. One guy we got talking to had come over from Germany to get his dubplates cut, another from the North of England, but we had certainly travelled the furtherest. We watched as people came and went, Micky Finn and A Sides, another guy we thought looked like Lemon D. Just as we were nearing our turn, a huge black guy came cruising into the building with dat tapes in his hand and walked straight through into one of the cutting rooms. “Gotta get these done before tonight, do you mind fittin’ me in bruv” we heard him say. I frowned thinking of how it would mean another half an hours wait, but when Joe leaned over and whispered to me, “Im pretty sure thats Mampi Swift” I cracked up. Course we would wait if Mampi Swift was in the building!
Finally our turn came and we watched in awe as the machine spun round and round etching its needle into the plate and creating the grooves. An hour later and we left the building, mission accomplished, dubs in hand, smiles on faces.
Sunday was spent shopping and picking up souveniers for family and friends, I was desperate to get myself some Nike Air Max reissue 95’s but we ran out of time. We had to get ready for our final night out in London – this time going to the famous ‘Metalheadz’ night. Unfortunately for us the venue had been shifted from the legendary Blue Note to another club whose location I can’t recall now.
When we arrived it was already quite busy, and as you entered you passed by the dance floor, up some steps and to the bar at the back. It was here that we finally encountered DJ Bailey, the Metalheadz DJ that Joe and James were determined to bring out to NZ. Bailey was friendly and charming, with long black dreads, a babyface and a huge smile that instantly made me feel comfortable. After a quick chat I left Bailey and Joe to talk business and hit the dance floor just as Goldie arrived. He came storming in full of energy, his gold teeth flashing in the lights, and went to work on the decks with the ferocity that only Goldie can. It was super surreal seeing him there in front of me DJing, bouncing up and down and roaring with enthusiasm.
His album ‘Timeless’ was an incredible piece of music that merged atmospherics, soaring vocals and crisp DnB beats together like nothing else I had heard previously, and which had been a staple in my record collection the last three years. ‘Inner City Life’ was the kind of track I would put on in the car and imagine I was driving through the streets of London, huge buildings around me, a rush of people and traffic. Now I was actually there I could see how fitting a sound track it really was for London life.
Before I knew it, it was midnight and the night was ending. Joe and I said goodbye to Bailey who gave us both a hug, and again the whole way back to the hotel we chatted excitedly about the vibe, the music, and of course our next steps with Scientific. ‘Well Bailey is keen, so as soon as we get back we need to send his agent a contract” Joe was practically chomping at the bit to get back to NZ, despite the fact he also looked incredibly tired and rather run down.
We flew home to NZ the next day, and within two days of arriving back Joe was diagnosed with glandular fever and was in bed for a week. The Doctor said he’d probably had it since Paris, hence his feeling under the weather and lacking in energy. But despite this, he had soldiered on making those contacts, and securing what was to be Scientific’s next big show.
As I lay in bed in the darkness unable to sleep, my thoughts were like a neon light, flickering on and off inside my mind. “I want to be an MC” “I can’t be an MC” “I want to be an MC” “I can’t be an MC” until finally I drifted off, my dreams awash with people and busy streets, tall buildings and endless beats.