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Agent X (2002)

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ

Also published in Deuce magazine 2002

You might not know it, but if you lock onto London pirate radio, you’ve probably been subject to the undercover activities of Agent-X. After selling prolifically with a couple of naughty bassline rerub’s of ‘nameless’ US r&b tunes, and the releases ‘Stutter’ and ‘Western’ on the label Pure Silk, Agent-X blew up the garage underground in the summer of 2001 with their sonic bomb, ‘Decoy’. It was a hybrid of dancehall and soca riddims, 2step and techno with its metallic sci-fi stabs’n’fx, and classic killer drop into an infectious bassline that reminds everyone that you don’t need vocals to make a catchy tune. ‘Decoy’ is both dark and friendly. Agent-X maintains that “we’re just doing our own thing really. We’re not trying to watch anyone or follow anyone’s style. It just came about naturally. We did a couple of things on the label Pure Silk. They sorted us with some money and got us off the ground, but it took ages for those releases to come out. We had ‘Decoy’ half done, then spoke to EZ, and got a little sample off him, and gave him a special. He loved it and played it on his show every week for nearly 2 months and put it on Pure Garage 4. So it’s up to him really. He broke the track, he had the balls to play it, because it was a bit ‘techie’. We don’t think we’re as dark as some artists, for example Ghost or Oris jay though.” If you listen to the other releases, such as the remixes of the Wideboy’s ‘Sambucca’ and Misteeq’s ‘One Night Stand’, then you can hear that Agent-X is trying to “find a balance, trying to please the rudebwoys and please the ladies” simultaneously. Likewise when DJing, Agent-X claims to “always play a mixture of vocal stuff, but with a harder edge, not too fluffy.”

If you listen to Shine FM 87.9 or Garage FM 92.7 on Sunday’s between 6-8pm or go raving at ‘Come Taste the Honey’ or ‘One Night Stand’, then you may have discovered that Agent-X and the operation behind the Heatseeker label is actually 2 humans, one from East London and one from Essex. They met while studying sound engineering at college in London and share the production and engineering duties between them. ‘Decoy’ was made “one afternoon when we finished a few tracks and were just generally relaxing in the studio. Because we had that relaxed vibe about us we just came up with this bassline that was different and which people now recognize immediately as ours. It just happened unintentionally. When we finished it, we were like ‘EZ will love this’, just having a joke. ‘Imagine if he played it’. And then he played it, and we we’re like, ‘can you imagine he put it on Pure Garage’, and since then it has all gone mental.” But don’t be tricked by ‘Decoy’. It’s life may just be beginning. “At the moment we are concentrating on getting a vocal mix of Decoy out, both an MC and a female vocal. We’ll try out a few ideas and see what is working.”

For Agent-X, uk garage is “all good at the moment”, with them especially feeling the MC crews such as So Solid and their East London counterparts, Pay As You Go, with whom they go back some years. “We used to be from the same manor. I used to play on Rinse FM, and we used to all play drum’n’bass when we were 15 or 16. I think the MC thing is our version of hip hop. So Solid have paved the way with people like Relentless, who have put the money behind them, giving them the backing that they need. At the MOBO’s they smashed it. Even afterwards, when they interviewed people like Usher, he was like ‘yeah, So Solid!’ It’s great to see that because they are paving the way for all of us. I’ve got to big up these artists such as Artful Dodger and so on who are cutting it commercially.”

Apart from future vocal versions of ‘Decoy’ on Public Demand/Ffrr, a mouthwatering mix of Ja Rule’s ‘Always on Time’ on Def Jam, the incoming ‘Killahertz’ on their own Heatseeker imprint, Agent-X have released remixes of the Artful Dodger & the Dreem Team’s ‘It Ain’t Enough’ and Dub Syndicate’s ‘I Need Your Love’. Track them if you can!

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2002 – Reprinted with permission.

Category: Hyperdub

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).