More than not, when someone’s introducing Andy C, Goldie, or Grooverider they’ll probably refer to them as “The Godfather of DnB”. And while that’s not wrong, it might appear as we’ve got more than one. So I’ve searched far and wide, and came up with a list that explores the creators and shapers of this thing we like to call Drum & Bass, from producers to Dj’s and MC’s. In no particular order, here are the fifth 4.
Check Part 1 here where we covered Rebel MC, Fabio & Grooverider, Goldie, and LTJ Bukem; Part 2 here where we covered Doc Scott, Shy FX, DJ SS, and Stevie Hyper D; Part 3 here where we covered Andy C, Bad Company UK, London Elektricity, and Marcus Intalex; and Part 4 here where we covered Rob Playford, Ed Rush & Optical, DJ Hype, and Kemistry & Storm.
17. 4Hero (Tom & Jerry)
Marc Mac (born Mark Clair) and Dego (born Denis McFarlane) are not only known for their work as 4hero or Tom & Jerry, but are also the creators of the much influential Reinforced label (along with Gus Lawrence, and Ian Bardouille).
The musical careers of 4Hero started with them having and operating a soundsystem (called “Solar Zone”, later “Midnight Lovers”) with which they fiddled around 1985. Later, through their knowledge in electronics attained in College, they started their own pirate radio station (Strong Island Radio). This radio station (as apparently every radio station) needed jingles, so the group decided to create a tune the groups first venture in producing. The early years of their musical carreer saw them playing mostly the sounds they naturaly came in contact with like Soul, Groove, Reggae and Hip-Hop. By the late eighties they also started to gain interest in the Acid House scene, that was on a rise at the moment. “Strong Island Radio” was a finger on the pulse of what was going on in the underground music scene at the moment.
Early productions where more Hip-Hop oriented, but already had that Jungle-feel to them, like in their track “Mr Kirk’s Nightmare“, or the break in “Rising Son” (from Johnny Pate’s “Shaft In Africa“), two very different tracks. “Rising Son” was also their first release on their own imprint: “Reinforced Records”. The labels early output was mostly their own music, as 4hero, but also their solo projects like Manix and Tek 9.
4Hero also played gigs at the legendary London Astoria. One faithful night one of the ravers there pulled Marc to the side, and gave him his number, saying “Look, I do a lot of artwork and stuff, I wanna work with you.”. That raver was Goldie, and that rave was Goldie’s first contact with breakbeat. Shortly after that, Goldie went to 4hero’s studio in Dollis Hill, and redesigned Reinforced records’ logo. Goldie later released on Reinforced records before (and after) creating his own imprint Metalheadz.
In the meantime 4hero wasn’t sitting still, releasing many anthems under their “Tom and Jerry” moniker, released on a label bearing the same name. Most notable tracks released under Tom & Jerry are “Maximum Style” and “AirFreshner“. These releases are on the most wanted list of any serious Jungle and Drum and Bass collector, but because of their limited pressings, and high nostalgia factor, the prices for on of these Tom & Jerry imprints can run quite steep. (expect to drop around €80 for a 12”, easily) Luckily for us, those releases can now also be found on various jungle samplers and compilations.
In 1993, when Jungle was blowing up, you couldn’t miss reinforced records. Marc Mac is quoted saying: “I was driving through London in my car and I went through about 10 different pirate radio stations and every single one was playing a Reinforced record.“. They had a must buy status. They had releases from big names of that era: Goldie’s Rufige Kru, Doc Scott, Dj Randall, DJ Peshay, and later on even Aphrodite, and Aquasky.
4Hero’s second full album “Parallel Universe” was voted “Best Album of the year” by NME when it was released, and their third full album called “Two Pages” gained instant critical acclaim, getting on the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize, as well as receiving a MOBO award.
Even though 4hero went almost all-jazz in their later days, it’s hard to understate the importance they had on the early Jungle scene.
With over 500 releases produced since 1991, Dillinja (born Karl Francis) can undoubtedly be called one of the hardest working persons in Drum and Bass.
Starting of listening to 80s electro, moving on to oldschool Hip-Hop, and eventually House, Dillinja formed his musical tastes early. Those tastes where more then fed with him going to local parties in South London, where big sound systems like King Tubby’s Hi Fi and Jah Shaka were all the rage. He later got into building his own sound system, at the early age of fifteen, but called it a day when some time later the infamous “Criminal Justice Bill” was introduced, clamping down on sound systems and the events they were used at. He sold of his equipment, and started producing.
His early work as a producer where mostly all white labels (like “Tear of your Chest“) but later on he created a myriad of labels like Deadly vinyl, on which he released classics like “Sovereign Melody” and “Deadly Deep Subs“. As well as these homegrown labels, Dillinja went on to record for many other drum’n’bass labels, including V Recordings, Hardleaders, Prototype, and Metalheadz. Dillinja used these labels to show his unique musical versatility; while labels such as Philly Blunt and Lionheart Records showcased some of Dillinja’s more raw jungle based sounds, his critically acclaimed release “The Angels Fell” was the frontrunner of the new wave of drum’n’bass encapsulated in the cutting edge Metalheadz sound.
Mid 1990s Dillinja was introduced to Lemon D (born Kevin King) through a mutual friend. The duo started Valve recordings in 1997, with Dillinja’s “Violent Killa” as its first release. It took them till 2002 to release the labels first album called “Big Bad Bass”, an album including dancefloor smasher’s like “Thugged Out Bitch” and the seminal “It Ain’t Too Loud“. It was also with Lemon D that he created Drum and Bass’ first big sound system called “Valve Sound System“.
19. Nicky Blackmarket
As part-owner of the world famous (and sadly closed) BM Soho, Nicky Blackmarket’s (born Nicholas Andersson-Gylden) influence in Jungle and Drum and Bass is not to be downplayed.
In the early eighties, at the mere age of fourteen, Nicky found himself playing Electro at the many youthclubs in London. Together with his long-time partner-in-crime Clarky, he started mixing a wider variety of electronic music at Star FM, which he left later for Friends FM, run by Mad B. During that period he met Dave Piccioni (who later started Azuli records, one of the most successful independent labels of all time), with who he bought Blackmarklet Records in Soho, from Steve Jervier and Derek B in 1990. Around 1992, amidst the rise of Breakbeat and Jungle, Nicky decided to dedicate a seperate department in the record store catered for the sounds that would eventually evolve into Drum and Bass.
Nicky was found pushing the sounds he loved with a regular show on Pulse FM, and Eruption FM, and many performances at the Roller Express. During those times he also produced the excellent D’Bounce vol. 1 and 2, at the Reinforced studios (of 4hero fame).
His partnership during that time with the now gone Stevie Hyper D has set a new bar for what a Jungle/Drum and Bass set should be, and are considered by many peers and ravers alike as legendary.
By 1997, Nicky set up his own independent label by the name of Kartoons, releasing material from the likes of Ray Keith, Dragon Fist, and Twisted Minds.
On February 27th 2015, a note adorned the almost empty shop-window of BM Soho, just stating: “Due to circumstances, BM Soho has to close.”. That statement was later that day explained more elabaratly on their facebook page with the following message:
Unfortunately due to contractual dispute over the building that has been home of BM Soho for the past 25 years we have been forced to temporarily close. Our landlord has been certain that our address, will join the massive gentrification of Soho and regrettably we could no longer afford to fight the legal battle to stop that happening anymore. Unlike many businesses that have closed recently, BM Soho BeatControl was performing well, so it is a massive shame to end this way. Fear not though we plan to be back bigger and stronger than ever very soon in central London. Until then we remain open for equipment in Edgware North London and online at bm-soho.com.Thanks to all our loyal customers and friends, cheers for all the support over the years. We will keep you updated here as soon as we have news!
This sounded in the end of an era, yet Nicky Blackmarket can still be found sharing his knowledge of the history of Drum and Bass, touring the world, and promoting his
20. The Winstons
An american funk and soul band based in Washington D.C. that has released 2 full albums and 16 singles in their career between 1968 and 1976.
Early 1968 they’ve signed on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom records, but lasted there for only one release: the rousing “Need a Replacement“. The Curtom imprint wasn’t as big as it would be on later days, when it released Curtis Mayfield’s own album “This is my Country“, with his band “The Impressions”. A year after leaving Curtom, they signed to the Metromedia label and released their hit single “Color Him Father“, reaching the Billboard Hot 100, at number 7, and winning a Grammy.
Fast Forward to 1986, when a Downstairs Records employee known as Breakbeat Lou compiled his first edition of the bootleg series “Ultimate Breaks and Beats”, featuring the lesser known B-side of The Winston’s hitsingle, called “Amen, Brother“.
That small and clean easy-sampleable 4 bar loop in the middle of the song shaped Drum and Bass as we know it today, and is probably the most used sample in the world today, seeing used by N.W.A., The Prodigy, and even the late David Bowie.
Never asking for any royalties, stating the sample to be “plagiarism and flattering at the same time, drummer G.C. Coleman finaly received payment after Brittish DJ’s Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald set up a GoFundMe campaign in his honour, they raised around €24.000.
Check out our Spotify playlist, containing every song mentioned in the series, and more: