We’ve awarded the Outstanding Contribution award to drum & bass dons Fabio & Grooverider, to recognise their major contribution in birthing that great British institution — drum & bass!
Drum & bass is one of the most firin’, most creative music genres in the world. It’s a great British invention, effectively birthed in London town — in the very place where the DJ Mag Best Of British awards took place at the end of last year, in fact.
The sets that Fabio & Grooverider would play at seminal club-night Rage, at Heaven in central London in the early ‘90s, acted as the catalyst for the formation of the drum & bass scene as we know it today. The guys had initially known each other since being on the same pirate radio station in the mid-‘80s, and ended up playing together at many of the big outdoor raves from 1988 onwards. “We did Energy, Biology, Sunrise, every big rave that there was out there,” Fabio recalls. “We had our following from the early rave days, and we kind of translated that whole thing into Rage.”
Rage was a cauldron of hyper-kinetic energy. Fab & Groove started off playing acid house upstairs before being moved into the main room by popular demand. Their mash-up sets of breakbeat hardcore, jungle tekno, sped-up hip-hop and even some bonus beat house rhythm tracks was hugely influential on producers visiting the club and then going away to make phuturistic ravey tracks. “When ‘We Are I.E.’ came out — Lennie De Ice — that was the first track that I can remember with those proper speeded-up breaks,” says Fabio. “When we played that in there, it changed the game. We saw a different vibe in the club.”
Tracks on Ibiza Records, Suburban Base, Moving Shadow, Andy C’s embryonic Ram Records… out of hardcore came a new sound that foregrounded chopped-up breakbeats, with these polyrhythmic patterns providing the blueprint for jungle/drum & bass. “The purists didn’t really like it,” remembers Fabio, “but the promoter didn’t care — he was like, ‘You just do your thing’. He gave us free rein to do whatever we wanted.”
One budding producer who’d made it his mission to craft a track that Grooverider would play at Rage was Goldie. “He just gave me a plate one time,” says Groove, nonchalantly. “He expected me to play it immediately and I said, ‘I don’t know about that’, so I went home and examined it and came back and thought it was alright.
He got inspired, and then one time he come with ‘Terminator’, and that was one of the only tunes ever that I’ve just slammed on, cos I trusted him that much. It turned out to be the tune that broke him through.”
But didn’t ‘Terminator’ clear the dancefloor at first?
“Yeah, I didn’t say it was a good tune,” Groove deadpans. “I didn’t say it would work on the dancefloor [much laughter]. People didn’t get it at first — that’s the difference between shepherds and sheep.
You’re not always going to get the reaction you want from a brand new tune. Some things grow on people. It might not have gone off that first time, but three months down the line that’s one of the big tunes. And it’s our job to hear that three months ahead.”
Goldie’s determination to joyride music-making technology would, of course, lead to him, Fabio & Grooverider and countless other breakbeat scientists forging the dynamic new drum & bass sound. The most exciting, futuristic electronic dance music genre of the ‘90s, it’s now blossomed into a truly global scene.
As well as effectively birthing it, Fab & Groove’s influence in spreading the music far and wide through club sets, unpaid A&R work and also on the radio is immeasurable. After a few years on Kiss, they did a weekly show on BBC Radio 1 from the late ‘90s until 2012 — preaching the drum & bass gospel to hundreds of thousands the world over. As they continue to do to this day.
“To be honest, people go on about Rage, but we didn’t really know what we were doing,” admits Fabio. “We were just playing tunes — it’s still the same now. We didn’t sit down and analyse it. The thing is with me and Groove, we’re music people — it was on a Thursday night, and we could play new tunes. There wasn’t a system to what we were doing – we’ve never planned anything. We were just playing new music. We were speeding things up so they’d fit into the tunes that we were playing.”
“We were really talented – ha ha ha. What’s happened to us?” questions Groove, comically.
“When you look at it and analyse it, what we were doing was kind of unique,” says Fabio.
“To me it just seemed like, ‘Got a tune and sped it up to 45’ — that’s all it seemed like to me,” adds Groove. “When you look at the mechanics of what we were doing, we were taking the piss! If I made a tune and somebody sped it up, I’d be like ‘Hold on a minute…’ I’m gonna hunt this person down. I don’t think they appreciated it. ‘Because of you lot, we built another scene’.”
If there had been no Rage, and you guys hadn’t been DJs, would drum & bass still have happened, asks DJ Mag?
“No,” affirms Groove, immediately. “Not in this current form. You have to remember, we innovated that whole kinda thing by speeding up breaks, nobody else was doing that. We were the only people that had the insight to do something like that.”
Words: CARL LOBEN