While the dawn of a new year often brings with it the accustomed notion of looking to the artists of the future, we’re taking the opportunity to buck the trend and shine a light on one of our favourite artists who helped create the foundations from which an entire scene was built. That scene was UK Garage.
Picture the era; It’s the mid-nineties and the demand for the UK’s current underground sound of choice ‘Jungle’ is starting to diminish. This is in part due to a new, more House-derived sound surmised for it’s love of high-end urban brands by it’s vastly evolving fanbase. It’s a sound that’s proceeded to create countless sub-genres yet despite its ensuing permutations Jeremy Sylvester has been at the forefront of soulful, bass-driven Garage music since it’s earliest days.
“For me Garage music in all its forms has always been there and hasn’t gone away”. It’s an easy statement to make when you’ve created such a rich repertoire that makes up much of the scene’s best productions. As a DJ and Producer Jeremy Sylvester has been a mainstay in UKG from it’s birth to present day, churning out club-driven anthems under a plethora of aliases at an unrivalled rate and is rightfully considered as a legend within the scene.
As one of the most consistent figures in a scene that has seen many come and go, the Birmingham-based producer continues to produce at a work-rate embedded in him having come from a musical family who’s father had enjoyed mainstream success during the Disco era of his childhood. Two decades on his discography is as extensive as it is historic as the veterans repertoire continues to build with a number of releases forthcoming in addition to a host of collaborations as the label owner shows no signs of slowing down as the scene continues it’s resurgence.
In addition to being recognised for his impeccable skills and selections behind the decks, we at AboutToBlow are particularly hyped to have JS in for an exclusive mix as part of our Guest Mix Series as we took the opportunity to catch up and find out his thoughts on the past as well as the future…
Hi Jeremy, really appreciate you taking the time out to talk to us today, how has your 2015 been thus far?
Hi guys, thank you very much for having here.
Its been a great start to the year having just come back from holiday and feeling refreshed and back almost immediately into the studio to lay down tracks for a couple of forthcoming E.Ps I’ll be releasing on my Urban Dubz Music label from the end of February. I’m really looking forward to getting it out there.
As well as my studio work, we’re about to also release a new single with my collaboration (As Club Asylum) with Leanne Brown who you may know from the massive UK garage hit ‘Flowers’ with Sweet Female Attitude. There are some great mixes on the package including Booker T, Snazzy Trax, Groove Riddim and Time Takers.
In between all of that, I’ve had a couple of international gigs in Switzerland and Amsterdam, so it’s been quite a busy and exciting start to the year so far.
There’s no doubt your one of the founding fathers of UK Garage but prior to that you were in the Jungle scene, can you give us some insight into what the scene was like in it’s prime?
I started producing Jungle back in the day during its infancy I guess around 1991. At that time, many people were calling it Ragga Techno, or even just ‘rave’ before it became commonly known as ‘Jungle’. I recorded under the name as ‘Dubtronix’ and released on our own label Cream Recordings with my dad, as well as other labels such as S.A.S Recordings, Q-Dance Recordings, Renk Records, B9 Records and others.
Back then it was a very experimental time for producers. There was a lot of excitement within the scene. It was new, fresh, cutting edge, but most of all it was OUR sound, a very uniquely and distinctively British sound which we were and still are very proud of.
As a producer, I always had my ear to the ground, buying records, listening to pirate radio, raving at clubs and warehouses up and down the country to hear and see what the punters were dancing too and listening to the latest tracks/trends to hear what the vibe was. Every producer that I knew wanted to come up with something different and unique, producers wanted to be the first to create a track with the next new piece of kit, or synth, or bass sound, or drum programing technique and exploit it to the max. It was exciting, and in many ways shaped me as a producer today. I’m always looking to create something a little different from everyone one else. I didn’t want to sound like every other track out there.. So in those days, it kept you on your toes and you had to keep coming up with fresh new ideas. I think that is why today British underground electronic music is so creative and envied around the world.
It’s evident your productions derive from a multitude of different styles, growing up what sort of music were you exposed to & interested in?
I grew up listening to Disco music because my father was in a successful band called The J.A.L.N Band in the seventies. He had a few chart hits with many performances on Top of the Pops, The Tube and others. Growing up as a child around my dad and his band had a great impact on me musically.
I didn’t really get into producing music until the early 90s when my dad had his own studio in Handsworth Birmingham called ‘Eye to Eye Recordings. I used to come by after work and when nobody was in the studio, I used to have a play around making mainly at that time US Garage style grooves. I was influenced by much of the American house music with producers /artists such as Todd Terry, Roger Sanchez, Eric Morillio, Armand Van Heldon, Masters at Work, Ron Trent, Lil Louis, Eddie Perez (Smack Productions), Todd Edwards, Kerri Chandler and others.
I was exposed to all types of music growing up in my household and early years and have always been around a very musical family. You can probably hear influences of Soca music. My family are originally from Grenada in the Caribbean, so growing up hearing those 4×4 rhythms must have had an effect on me, especially with my traditional bumpy style 4×4 beats which have a certain swing and feel which suited the UK garage style people know me for. I was also very fond of Latin, Salsa and certain feels of Jazz music. But when it comes to music, I pretty much listen to all types of music from 80s Hip Hop / Rap to New Romantic and everything in between.
Was the move from DnB & Jungle into Garage & House a natural one? What was the catalyst behind the transition?
The move from Dnb to Garage/House was very natural. Like I said before, I actually started out making US style Garage/House music, so that has always been in my blood. When the Garage scene exploded, there were so many strands/branches within the scene and I found I could use my knowledge within the Dnb scene in the Garage scene, and you can probably hear influences within my early ‘Speed Garage’ releases on Nice N Ripe and countless bootlegs and white labels I produced back then. I have always tried to maintain my jungle/dnb roots within my music however subtle. It could be a bass line/ sound or a breakdown within a track.
After buying, listening and discovering certain house tracks, I began to come across a certain producer by the name of Grant Nelson. At that time he was releasing music with his label Nice n Ripe records. When I first discovered Grant Nelson, I actually thought he was an American. Many of his release and aliases, if you read the credits were made to look like it came from the USA as an import record, but later found out that this guy was actually a Londoner to my surprise. At the time, I was based in Birmingham where I lived and so I contacted the Nice n Ripe label to see if they were interested in hearing some of my house tracks. They got back to me quite quickly to my surprise and soon after, I began to produce tracks for there sub-labels at the beginning. The first release was on one of Nice n Ripe’s many sub-label called ‘In The Air’ records. The first release was called ‘The Custard Slice E.P’ which was produced with two friends of mine Danny Technique and Spud. We were called ‘3-PLAY.
One track on that E.P ‘RIO’ became very popular in the clubs and on the pirate radio station’s around London with DJ’s like E.Z and Steve Jackson on Kiss 100 FM championing the record. For me this is where it all started.
It’s great how Jeremy Sylvester signifies a different alias depending on who you speak too & the era their from. Having produced under such a vast amount of aliases, what does each one represent to you?
The reason behind all of the alias was because at the time I moved to London and joined Nice n Ripe full time, the label as I mentioned above had many other sub-labels to keep up with the growing demand of this fresh new music from distributors/record stores and buying public.
It didn’t make any sense us releasing tracks using the same name over and over, as we were releasing music vinyl on a weekly basis. People would of got fed up of seeing yet another JS release.
The turnover rate for making tunes at the time for me was almost industrial and so I had to create different aliases to 1. keep up with demand and 2, showcase my many different styles. I’ve always tried to be musically open minded and I really didn’t want to pigeon hole myself as a producer for one particular sound, so found it easy to branch out into other styles of house/garage, from heavy bass line influenced tracks, to soulful full vocal tracks and anything and everything in between. By doing this it kept me interested as I do have a habit of getting bored quickly.
So to answer your question, what does each one represent?! Many of my alias’ represent a particular style or vibe, whether its 2-Step as Club Asylum, Speed Garage as G.O.D Limited/Miles Fontaine. But the main reason is because I simply could not release all my records under one single name at that period of time. My name would of flooded the market with the sheer amount of music we were putting out, and we didn’t want that.
One aspect of your productions that caught our eye is your use of Latin samples like on one of our favourites ‘C’est Cool’, where did the preference for Latin stem from?
I’ve always loved Latin/Salsa music from an early age, and I have used Latin style samples and loops within my production for a long time. It was mainly prevalent within my Socafrica alias, which I released under Azuli Records. But yes, even before Socafrica releases, in some of my early tracks such as ‘C’est Cool’ which actually featured a French female vocalist, a freind of mine from Birmingham, I’ve always had some kind of Latin/African influence within my music production whether intentionally or not.
As well as enjoying huge success releasing for your own label like Urban Dubz you were also signed to the legendary Nice ’N’ Ripe records, what was it like working with Grant Nelson?
When I moved to Nice n Ripe in early 90s, I was quite young, so it was a massive step for me moving out of Birmingham where I grew up and heading down to the big smoke of London. Like I said before, I was heavily influenced by Grant Nelson’ sound, it was so cool to know that there was a label / producer in London putting out music like that, so I just wanted to be involved with it, so when I got signed to Nice n Ripe label by George Power, I was really excited. But the truth is, I never even met Grant Nelson. At that time, the label was going through some internal business issues, which wasn’t my business and I was kept out of it. I met Grant a couple years later in a bar in North London randomly which was bizarre, what a great bloke.
Why do you think there’s been resurgence in Garage particularly over the last few years? Guys like DJ Q, Flava D & Royal-T have emerged in a big way, who are you currently rating?
Right now I’m currently rating people like Disclosure, Detroit Swindle, Scott Diaz and Preditah.
It’s great to see DJs like them keeping the music alive especially for the new generation of ravers only now discovering the music. Some may have even been too young when there older brothers and sisters where raving back then. Its also great to see that the producers who were making the records back then, still producing /djing now.
For me Garage music in all its forms has always been there and hasn’t gone away. There has been so many off-spring genre’s coming and going, but Garage or UK Garage has always been consistent. The demand from the public is there, you can see it every time you switch on the TV with adverts promoting Old Skool Garage compilation albums, and they quickly become best sellers.
Channel 4 premiered an excellent mini-documentary last year called ‘Brandy & Coke’ did you catch it at all? We’d love to know your thoughts and whether it painted an accurate picture on UKG in it’s prime.
Yea I watched Brandy & Coke, what a great show and it gave you a real insight into the clubbing scene back then. It was good to see them feature one of my good friends on the show Noodles (Groove Chronicles). He’s a man who was on the frontline of the scene from day one selling the tunes from various record shops around Soho, London which is where I met him.
It would also be cool to see another similar documentary from the point of view of the record producers behind the scene making the tunes back then with myself and people like Grant Nelson, MJ Cole, Tuff Jam, 500 Records, Richard Purser, Michael King, Steve Gurley and the likes.
With so many productions evidently in the pipeline what does the rest of the year have in store for you?
My main focus will be Djing and Live performances, I have a couple of bookings lined in the coming months taking me around Europe. The plan is to step that up and get more gigs this year in the UK and elsewhere.
Music production wise, the plan is to continue what I’m doing and that is producing and releasing new music on my label Urban Dubz Music. New E.Ps, singles and compilation albums are in the pipeline and possibly a Jeremy Sylvester album which will be a first towards the end of the year. I’m currently collaborating with various singers/songwriters and artists for different Deep House projects.
The first couple months of the year will see two new E.Ps released digitally called WAX and ABTRAX on Urban Dubz Music, then I have a release as Club Asylum with Leanne Brown ‘Reasons’, there will be some new remixes I’ve done for a couple of other labels which I’m excited about but can’t say too much about right now.
In between that I’ll be dropping bit n bobs, little bootleg revamps of some of my old garage tracks and remixes and throwing them out there.
Last but definitely not least we’re thrilled to have you as part of our Guest Mix Series, what can we expect?
You can expect a mix of old and new garage, mixed in with specials, remixes and one-offs which is how I play when I do my DJ sets LIVE.
Expect early Nice n Ripe bits, unreleased bits alongside some of the current tracks out there blowing up. I try and mix it up a little.
Check out the mix in it’s entirety from Grant below.