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Interview with the S.L.T. Mob. (2001)

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ
Originally published in 2001

With forthcoming releases on underground garage label N19 (#014), the S.L.T Mob are among a growing number of London based garage crews getting increasing pissed off with the effect that the commercialisation of garage is having on the music. The Slaughter mob, abbreviated to S.L.T for obvious reasons in the current rave climate, are MCs Vicious & Dangerous, backed by DJ Bandit and Q-Nice on the wheels of Steel.

Based in Archway, North London (but actually a combination of N19, N4 and E17 to be exact) S.L.T have been running things out of 90.6 Y2K FM, transmitting underground beats to the capital for the last couple of years. Combining the influence of underground hip hop, ragga, jungle and garage, S.L.T distance themselves from the commercial side of garage music, and the so called ‘ambassadors of the scene’ who influence the general public conception of the scene by concentrating on the R&B/garage overlap. S.L.T. give massive props to ‘deep-step’ garage producers such as El-B, Horsepower, Zed Bias, Jay Da Flex, Steve Gurley, Wideboys, Ray Hurley and MJ Cole and show maximum respect to the labels that they consider to be the heart of the underground right about now, from N19, to Ghost, Locked On, Tempa and Turn U On. As far as S.L.T. are concerned, it is on the backs of these producers that the now hypercommercial uk garage industry was built.

S.L.T. predict a big split approaching soon on the garage scene: “Alot of people in the scene want to be innovators and be doing stuff that not alot of people know about yet. By just handing the whole thing over to the mainstream, many people have been alienated from the scene.” S.L.T don’t ‘dis’ people making commercial music to make money, “but when it is mashin’ up the scene. . . Some of these people just need to know their place and admit that they are no longer ‘underground’ but are commercial.” Indeed even “Ayia Napa has a lot to answer for.” One feeling you get from chatting with the S.L.T. crew is a sense of loss at the way the garage scene has changed. They are constantly seeing “people playing what they don’t even like, and many DJs have stopped even attempting to teach the full spectrum of tunes.” S.L.T. argue amongst each other the reasons behind this. But one thing they agree on is that when they “drop the biggest, badest, underground beats, it is the women who seem to feel it most.” In fact they go further and make a point of challenging the urban myth which connects violence within the garage scene to a ‘darkening’ of the music. “It’s not about the darker tracks bringing trouble into the scene. As we all know, drum’n’bass has been much much deeper and much darker with no bad vibes at all. It is simply down to the crowds.”

The Slaughter Mob believe that the garage industry can learn alot from how drum’n’bass has become a global phenomenon. They ask “why would R&B garage do well in the US? The US has an R&B scene that is totally untouchable. They’ll want something totally different from what they have got. That’s why people in Germany, for example, feel the El-B stuff, because it is so new they haven’t completely labelled it yet. That is the sound that will take uk garage worldwide and not ‘Piano Loco’ or some shit like that.”

S.L.T. position their own sound tight up alongside the dubwise grooves of El-B. S.L.T’s DJ Bandit favourably compares El-B’s sinuous and supple garage sound to some of the more “stiff & rigid” breakbeat tracks that have been coming thick and fast in the 2001. He will drop the odd Hype or Zinc breakbeat track but for the most part his bag is still made up of groovy garage cuts. What is both interesting and common among crews such as S.L.T. is that you can tell that jungle is in their hearts. In fact the crew tend only to go raving properly at jungle nights at Fabric or the End where they can be sure that the “vibe will be bublin’ until 6 in the morning”. They maintain that drum’n’bass is still more underground than garage, because the key DJs are still playing plates that you have never heard before, and not just cross over hits. For S.L.T, “underground” does not necessarily signify a specific sound, but rather refers to whatever is the cutting edge of the music at a particular time. As MC Vicious maintains, this is not where the end result sounds like commercial R&B. S.L.T. aim to steer clear of that side of the scene. Again like many London based garage DJs, S.L.T.’s DJ Bandit used to be a jungle DJ but felt like the whole scene had become locked off, so that unless you knew Grooverider etc. there was no way of breaking through. But he continues to check & respect the likes of Andy C & DJ Hype for always pushing forward and teaching the crowd through playing fresh dub cuts. He even comes across as a little tired of a garage scene where all the DJs play an identical set of commercial tunes and crowd pleasers.

S.L.T. drop names like junglist MCs Skibadee, Det, Spyder and Navigator alongside the Wu Tang in US hip hop as key influences. Against the direction of pop garage, they even cite Wu Tang as a great example of how to make money and simultaneously stay underground. “We talk about things in our lyrics that some of the big record labels might not want us to be talking about, like drug addicts around the estates. We talk about everything. There is a big hip hop influence. Big respect to Miss Dynamite because she hasn’t bent for anyone with her lyrics.” MC Vicious views the current emergence of crews within garage as a totally healthy phenomenon in the tradition of the reggae soundclash. S.L.T. love to battle with their lyrics and “have defeated a number of crews who have since crossed over into the public eye.”

If you are seduced by their infectious self-confidence, as it is very difficult not to be, then you know that whatever happens to London’s UK garage scene in the next couple of months, expect S.L.T. M.O.B to be involved.

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

Category: Hyperdub

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