detroit techno and the genepool of jungle
Ragga wasn’t Jungle’s only influence: Ray Keith, A Guy Called Gerald, Eddie Fowlkes and Marcus Intalex explain how Detroit Techno inspired Jungle…
"Jungle came in… this broken beat shit. It was no different to what we was doing." This was the opinion offered by Eddie Fowlkes when we met him in Detroit this year for the 30th anniversary of Metroplex, Juan Atkin's label which helped birth the sound of Techno. Speaking about the UK's late 80s and early 90s fascination with Detroit, Fowlkes, who released one of Metroplex's first singles, Goodbye Kiss, has widely been acknowledged by Motor City as one of the joint founders of Techno.
It's a symbiosis that's been largely forgotten. On the face of it, Jungle's hyper-speed breaks and bass have little in common with the melodic four/four that characterised Detroit Techno. During Jungle's heights in the mid 90s, commercial compilations such as the Jungle Mania series shone a light on the Dancehall and Ragga influences it had run with, inlays promising 'Cantankerous, Ruffneck Jungle Ryddims'. Music critic and author Simon Reynolds, meanwhile, in his seminal text on the evolution of UK rave culture, Energy Flash, refers distastefully to how those trying to distance themselves from the brash, drug-fuelled energy of D&B, which followed Jungle, "genuflected at the shrine of Detroit techno." But the reverberations of the impact of Techno helped birth Jungle, and continue to vibrate in the bass cones of Drum & Bass.
Grooverider's 1992 remix of Up Tempo by Tronic House, or Kevin Saunderson wearing his European Rave hat, hark back to a vital period when Detroit and London were feeding off one another. Ray Keith was the first to lift the Reese bassline from Saunderson for 1994's Terrorist. But the sound became a staple that defined subsequent artists. Capturing a dystopian end-of-Millennium mood, Ed Rush & Optical & Fierce's 1998 Cutslo (Lokuste mix) transformed the Reese bassline into a squat party window shaking anthem, a Predator 2 sample of 'other world life' indicative of tech-step's shared sci-fi obsession with techno. Dillinja's 2001 debut album, Cybotron, meanwhile, paid direct tribute to Juan Atkin's proto-techno electro group of the same name. More recently producers such as Boddika and Trevino - aka Marcus Intalex - have been putting aside Drum & Bass to make Techno.
We spoke to Jungle pioneers Ray Keith, A Guy Called Gerald, and Marcus Intalex, to ask about Jungle's shared gene pool with Detroit Techno and the track that sums the subculture up for them.
Kevin Saunderson - Just Want Another Chance
"Originally we were all House DJs. I was resident at The Astoria and I was playing with the likes of Paul 'Trouble' Anderson, Mr C, Evil Eddie Richards, Frankie Bones. I was also working in the shop City Sounds [then in Holborn] and I knew Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson. They were listening to what we were doing, too, if you listen to some of the stuff that Kevin Saunderson did with the breaks and stuff.
The Detroit sound was phenomenal, it had its own mark. At that time there was a lot of sampling going on and a lot of experimentation. I remember playing Derrick May Strings Of Life and thinking what a fucking tune that is. People used to clap from the back to the front - and I was playing warehouse parties.
With the Reese bass, originally we were trying to find out what machine it came from. If it wasn't for Atari, and the ST 1040, and the guy putting midi on the side of it -- which you could midi out into a sampler -- we'd all be fucked now! There wouldn't be this history. I used to sample lots of stuff, I'm an old Hip Hop head, I just wanted to be the first one to use different types of breaks, or different types of basslines. If it worked, it worked.
These artists we were looking at inspired us, and we inspired another generation. That's the forgotten story. A lot of people say that from Jungle came Dubstep, came 2-Step Garage, came Grime, came breakbeat, but where did that come from? We were blessed to be at the right place at the right time and have all that music."
A Guy Called Gerald
Model 500 - Off To Battle
"I went over to America in the early days, '89 I think, or '90. I was interested in how the music started there. I wanted to see what it was like, since I'd been into electro-funk and all that kind of stuff from the early 80s. I'd been following electronic dance music from then. By 86 I already had a drum machine.
I met Juan [Atkins, aka Model 500] first at the Hacienda. He came over to play probably in '86 or '87. I was trying to get an autograph or something.
In those days I didn't have such a separation in the music. It was all made in a similar way. Some of the early Juice Box [Gerald's label] stuff had some kind of Techno sound stuff on one side, and the other side would have more a Jungle type break. I saw it as different forms of the same music. My album 28 Gun Badboy had Techno, House, Jungle… there's all sorts on there.
Detroit excited me because it was like an industrial wasteland. Even the residential places were really sparse. It was built in times of affluence with a dream. The people doing the building probably thought the sky's the limit, it will go on forever. Then somehow that stopped. You could still feel the ghosts of that energy.
You had that in Manchester a little bit too. I used to walk around Trafford Park, before I'd been to Detroit, listening to Derrick May. That's how I was inspired to make music."
Rythim Is Rythim - It Is What It Is
"I remember buying The New Dance Sound of Detroit album in WHSmith's in Burnley on the day of its release. It's just an amazing album. I was like, 'What the fuck is this music? Why have I never heard it before?' I'd never heard it because it hadn't been invented; it was music that was just around at that time. It was just futuristic.
I became a real fan boy of Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins. Especially Kevin Saunderson, as he had the basslines. That city, that sound, just a few producers, had such a massive impact that it's still influencing people to this day. It was so melodic, but it was machines. Maybe if I was ten years older and had heard Kraftwerk, I wouldn't have been so blown away.
LFO, Nightmares on Wax, the Warp thing, they were getting influenced by it but adding their own thing, bass, and slowly it started moving away from the classic drum machine thing to incorporate breakbeats.
Around the early 90s the UK thing was a London thing. You'd get tapes from Grooverider and all the great tunes you'd struggle to get up North. Manchester was more Italian house. So this white label sound that was specific to one city, and to raves, just blew up and was huge. It continued to influence things and eventually turned into the early sound of hardcore, and jungle with people like Doc Scott taking it up.
That music's always been inside of me and I always wanted to have a go at it. The first Trevino tracks were almost like tributes to artists and songs of that era. They just had to come out."
Text Joe Roberts