Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Road to Drum & Bass

I like to consider my music tastes eclectic, growing up I would listen to one style of music and hammer it home without most other genres interrupting my 'dedication'. My introduction to music started when I was young, my earliest recollection being in the car with my parents and being forced to listen to their music loves. There was (thankfully) no Pepper Pig when I was growing up. My Father would listen to Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Robert Palmer and The Commitments to name but a few. To this day I still love the music of Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman, the albums Born In The USA and Tracy Chapman are still some of my favourite musical depositories of all time. My Mother would listen to pop and electronic music of the 80's, namely Depeche Mode, Human League, Alison Moyet and Ace of Base to again name but a few. I believe this early exposure to electronic and rock music have paved the way for my current music tastes and influenced me more than I ever thought they would.

When I was around 13-14 I was heavily into Dance music and many of it's associated sister genres such as Trance, Techno and Happy Hardcore, generally all of which were on the tame and commercial side. I used to get quite a bit of stick for this at school as the popular boys were listening to Rage Against The Machine and At The Drive In. The guys who were not as popular as the 'A' group (but still of much vaster popularity than myself) were into Hip Hop, for this my music tastes would be mocked as 'computer noises' and other derogatory electronic nonsense by both groups. I went to a private school in the UK, classes were small in terms of the number of people, so bullying was pretty hard to get away with. This coupled with the fact I was a pretty big boy those days (vertically and horizontally) prevented me from clashing too much on music styles and kept me out of harms way.

British electronic legends 'The Prodigy', their album released in 1997 entitled "The Fat of The Land" was
an album that made regular apperances throughout my senior school years.

As I grew older and approached the final years of mandatory education my isolated love for electronic music was breached, driven mainly by exposure to rock, metal, pop-punk music which I came to love massively. My introduction into this expansive genre was subtle, happening at a slothful pace. At 16, in the common room of the final year of school it was Limp Bizkit, KoRn, Feeder and Linkin Park if I remember correctly. My immediate metal tastes also attracted much criticism but less so than the 'computer sounds' of electronica. When the formalities of school were over I went to college with the majority of my friends staying for 6th-Form, my grades were nothing spectacular and my parents didn't see the value-add in paying the exorbitant fees of a private school 6th form, fair play to them. College was one of the best things that ever happened to me even if the following text paints a different picture to you the reader, it freed me from the bondage of uniforms and archaic formalities that private school had begrudgingly installed on me for the last 11 years. I was free.

I went to the City of Sunderland College, the old venerable Bede building on Hilton road in Sunderland. Only two fellow private school boys joined me at the college, both good friends of mine - a guy called Adam and a long term friend I'd since by single digit age days called Peter. Adam was to heavily influence the development of my music tastes. As an outgoing individual I quickly bonded with a big group of people from a variety of backgrounds and from a variety of locations amongst the suburbs of the city. As a collective rock music and its related genres were the predominant choices of musical taste. We spent almost every waking hour together as a group; in classes, outside of college and in the chasms that were lunch breaks and free periods. During these three years (I failed my first year miserably and had to re-sit) my love for 'Heavy Metal' music as the older generations call it grew massively.

 I went further and further down the rabbit hole that is Metal and branched out into all sorts of weird and wonderful sub-genre from Scandinavian Black Metal to American Thrash Metal of the 80's. I became musically overwhelmed by the breadth of the different styles of metal and it began consuming me. I was reading books on Black Metal that detailed the origins and culture of the genre, reading about satanic rituals and suicides of influential musicians that inspired countless souls. I was spending every penny of my disposable income on music paraphernalia such as posters, CD's and T-shirts, at one point my collection of Music T's outnumbered by 'normal' clothes 4 to 1. I didn't cut my hair for a period of four years convincing myself that long hair could be cool and when tamed sophisticated at the same time. I began wearing long leather jackets (like Keanu Reeves donned in The Matrix) and bought boots draped in material flame and spikes that came to my knees. I even began painting my nails and started the ritual of piercing parts of my body all in the image of the men and women that fronted my favourite bands.

Cradle of Filth (pictured below) became my favourite band, their posters filled the walls of my bedroom, their t-shirts filled my wardrobe, their albums filled my CD racks and their lyrics filled my head. Why did I like Cradle of Filth so much? As I mentioned earlier I attempted with earnest to fit myself under the parasol of Black Metal but to be honest, bar a few bands the genre was too extreme for me, it's not music I could listen to for more than ten minute bursts, all except Cradle. To sooth all Black Metal fans let me say loud and clear that Cradle of Filth are not Black Metal, well they used to be many many moons ago but they must have realized very early on that if they desired commercial success they needed a USP, their melodic undertones and poetic lyrics were what got me hooked.

British melodic Goth Metal giants Cradle of Filth, with front man Dani Filth (centre)

It seemed that I had been shackled at private school and as soon as I broke free I transmogrified myself into another being. From the boy who fell short of the 'B' Group at school into a neo-Gothic, 190cm tall, long haired, multi-pierced, mono-tone entity that personified the music I so adored. Well that was the idea; however with hindsight I looked embarrassingly and outrageously ridiculous. I guess at the time, it was something I just had to do and if I had the chance to go back in time and re-write my past, other than studying harder at college and smoking a little less I wouldn't change a thing.

Norway's 'Immortal' - one of the few Black Metal bands whose music still make into my auditory cortex.

After my tenure at college I went off to university, well I didn't actually go off anywhere; I stayed at home and attended my local university. I was planning to flap my wings and study away from the nest but my parents, the evil beings they were tempted me with a car if I stayed and I obliged them without complaint. Between the end of the second year of college and me starting university my membership in 'the group' had well and truly been revoked (for reasons I shall not delve into here). Other than a few close friends like Martin and the occasional stint with Adam my immediate exposure to metal music and all its metallic glory greatly diminished and I found myself again reconnoitering other genres. This is where those computer noises begin to oscillate again.

During these theory-heavy years I would use all my spare time working, this included both Saturday and Sunday as well as any free days or afternoons I had during my week. At the time I was working for my father, he had a wholesale alcoholic beverage delivery company. I would work between the office and out on the road (always preferred the road) delivering the products to customers. The latter would allow me to explore the north east of England on a daily basis, it was just me, the road, the Ford Transit van and BBC Radio 1.

It was a Friday and if I had to guess a time roughly I'd say around 4pm. It was Summer time in the UK, late July 2005. I was driving back to Sunderland from Durham, along a quiet country lane, these were the days when Edith Bowman and Colin Murray where hosting the afternoon show together on Radio 1, they were such a good combination, a duo of absolute satire. As Radio 1 DJ's they were pretty on the ball when it came to new music too, something which the station prides itself on still today. I was listening to them on the drive back when they dropped a song that pretty much single handedly got me to Drum & Bass music. That track was Slam by Pendulum.

Pendulum's 'Hold Your Colour' LP released on Breakbeat Kaos in 2005. A little bit of audio heaven.

The rest as they say is history, I still listen to Tracy Chapman and Bruce Springsteen. I sometimes indulge in a little Spandau Ballet or Human League to quash my 80's auditory tendencies. I'm still a big fan of multiple genres of metal and some of your generic dance music too but my love these days and for the past 8 years has been Drum & Bass music. It's difficult to ever imagine it changing.

As an epilogue I leave you with the below link. It's for one of my favourite Drum & Bass songs of all time, this track sums it all up nicely for you in six minutes and twenty one seconds.

London Elektricity - Just One Second (Apex Remix)