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Weird Scenes Inside The Garage (2001)

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Kevin Martin
London – Hypderdub HQ

With the slick ‘n’ slinky hi-gloss finish of chart toppers Artful Dodger, MJ Cole and True Steppers, you could be forgiven for assuming that the garage revolution has been prematurely sanitised. But the ruffneck slapstick of DJ Dee Kline’s ‘I Don’t Smoke’, or Oxide & Neutrino’s soap-thieving Number One ‘Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty Tune)’, provide a mashed-up alternative for a literally breaking scene.

“Yeah, I think things are just splittin’ in two, observes MC Neutrino (aka 18-year-old Mark Oseitutu). “It’s a completely different sound for garage. Us and Dee Kline are takin’ the music to another level. ‘The Casualty Tune’ is just so different to what other DJ’s are playin’. A lot of the underground stuff is comin’ on like slowed-down jungle. You got the nasty vocal R&B stuff, and then you’ve got the mad stuff on our side, the mic mouth claims.

There can be no doubting the disruptive effect of this new wave of silicon punks. If ever there were sonic suspects who truly deserved the term punk garage it’s these youthful chart hackers. Having never made a track before, Oxide’s and Neutrino’s floor-threatening formation via South London pirate station Supreme, led to a self pressed white label of ‘Bound…’ which sold around 15,000 “from the back of a car, before being picked up by shrewd major East West.

‘Casualty’ was the first tune I ever recorded, in June of last year, I just booked a day in a studio. My brother and I had been talking ’bout the garage track I wanted to make. And this guy rung up and he had a TV playin’ with Casualty runnin’ in the background. Then the DJ brought the tune in on top, and that’s where my idea came from, Oxide (aka 17-year-old Alex Rivers) laughingly recalls.

Yet if the vibrant energy of ‘Bound’ is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the rave resurrecting, genre defying, jungle slayin’ noise mongering of this emerging ruff-step underground which includes Reservoir Dogs, Head Top, Stanton Warriors and the So Solid Crew, the rise of this hedonistic prole art threat hasn’t been welcomed by the garage veterans. With rumours of top DJs like Spoony’s Dreem Team and various other soul-fuelled celebrities attempting to ban these (b)rat packers from club and radio, the London duo themselves were shocked to learn of the leper-like ostracising.

It was at Carnival (Notting Hill) last year. I don’t wanna name names, but it ended up that a lot of the top DJs really hated our tune and tried to ban it. There was this list put up telling DJs not to play ‘Casualty’ or ‘Smoke’. And there was a secret meeting later, where they were dissin’ us, saying we were ruining the scene. They were complaining, saying little kids are buying keyboards and just pressing buttons, he spits indignantly. Yet rather than being phased by the seismic rift, Oxide’s belligerent assertion that he “couldn’t give a shit, is supported by his zealous accusation that “they’re jealous, we’re givin’ people what they want. We’re just laughin’ at those people.

By sticking two fingers up at the puritanical elders of the garage scene, and laughing all the way to the bank with a quarter of a million pound advance, the punk credentials of this dynamic pair goes far beyond their agit style logo. “The underground’s about doin’ what you want, because there’s not meant to be no laws. It’s like that with pirate radio, thievin’ samples, whatever; we’ll do what we want, maintains Oseitutu.

I think people are bein’ controlled, told not to play the dark stuff, complains Neutrino, but ’cause we’re representin’ the underground, it gives kids the inspiration to make dark tunes and push it.

Sharing a white label initiation, pirate radio apprenticeship, East West budget and a chart damaging debut, DJ Dee Kline (aka 21-year-old Nick Annand), also views garage as a positive passport to wish-fulfillment for the next generation. The simplicity of garage is givin’ a lot of young kids a door to start bein’ creative, he enthuses. Yet rather than capitulating to a uniform sound, the exhilirating range of Dee Kline’s wayward sanity attack, is a singularly eccentric headfuckfest. Whether wilfully plundering Oizo, The Jackson 5 and Public Enemy, or sadistically dropping hyper modulated basslines, Dee Kline is capable of breaking down the staunchest resistance.

When Annand confides, “what I’d like to see is clubs with no dress restrictions, no attitude and you can play what you like, it not only highlights his taste for clique crashing, it’s also an understandable reaction to garage’s superficial constraints. In a “larging it up club scene where dress codes deny entry to ravers wearing trainers, hoodies, hats or “bad attitudes, he has tasted intolerance first hand. Yeah, I wear trainers all the time. It was funny, ’cause I was playin’ at Eros and despite the fact I’d been booked for a PA there, the bouncers kicked me out before I could appear. It’s a joke, but hopefully with the sounds evolvin’ the attitudes will as well. Opposed to being “stereotyped alongside Oxide, the audio prankster also refuses to buckle under corporate pressure. No, I won’t ever feel pressured, they offered me options, but I don’t wanna do an album, I don’t feel ready for it, he candidly admits. Fittingly, he also refutes recent allegations that the major investment will destroy the scene. It just enables more people to hear the music, no one will stop me doing what I’m doing, I’m still developing fast. Drum ”n’ bass wasn’t killed off by goin’ major. It’s now gone global and opened many doors, filtering out the bad characters along the way, he ambitiously protests. “I don’t understand the word garage either. I liked garage four years ago, when it was really soulful, but now it’s more like a new kind of hardcore, the music’s gettin’ more like rave. It’s gone beyond garage. What I’m basically doin’ is tryin’ to be different, confesses the square peg seperatist.

These garage ruffians may have inherited the big bang of jungle’s absorbing culture clash, but what this insubordinate posse of renegades offer, that drum ‘n’ bass arrogantly rejected, is attention-grabbing vocals, a militantly funky flow and an anti-elitist floor bombing formula which is lucratively delivering cash from chaos.

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

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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).