DRUM + BASS // Radio 1 // Prototype // Metalheadz ·· UK
As one of the figures synonymous with the origins of drum & bass, Grooverider has become a cipher for the sound of a generation. In the close-knit social circles of drum & bass, the mention of his name, which reads like a definition n of the art of dj-ing, inspires nothing but the utmost respect and admiration due to the fact that he has held a torch aloft for this music for so many years.
Groove has been riding the rhythm for over ten years. In the mid eighties having decided he wanted to be a DJ, Grooverider, along with some friends, formed a sound system called Global Rhythm, playing hip hop, rare groove and funk at house parties. Next came a slot on a local South London pirate station, Phaze One, which proved to be a defining time. Swept up in the summer of love, Grooverider used to frequent West End clubs such as Land of Oz and Spectrum. Grooverider then met his partner Fabio and formed what would come to be the dream team of drum & bass. “When acid house came in ’87, it took me and I haven’t looked back since.” Enthuses Grooverider; “Fabio was the only other person on the radio station playing house music, so we just hooked up. We have always worked well together, we play the same music and on the same wavelength.”
The first club they ran together was a tiny venue in Brixton called Mendoza’s, which soon became the after party slot rammed with clubbers returning from the West End on Thursday nights. They used the club as a base to further their reputations and started to get bookings as a team. “It got to the stage where one of us would be there and the other was somewhere else,” recalls Groove, “you can’t do a whole country together – you have to split up and do the same job. But to this day, if we get the opportunity to play together then we do. The importance of playing out together when we were younger was that we learnt from each other, and we still do. You never stop learning.”
A DJ’s work is never done. Like a force of nature, the DJ directs the unending flow of fresh sounds. It’s a job that takes a total commitment to learning the music. ‘You’ve got to do research. You’ve got to know what’s going on all the time. People think you just go into a record shop, buy some music and play it. It’s not like that. As a proper DJ, you have to do research. Find out why people are dancing and what’s making them dance. You have to do your homework by watching other people and hearing the music.’
Groove contends that one of the most important factors to insure a steady stream of bookings is consistency ‘Do your job to the best of your ability, all the time, every time. It’s not how good you play in one place, it’s about how you play everywhere.’
Grooverider is most often associated with Rage, the groundbreaking club he ran with Fabio at Heaven, which he describes as “the home of drum & bass.” Beginning as an offshoot of the legendary acid house club Spectrum, Rage soon overtook it in popularity, and ran for three years. Playing there week in week out gave Grooverider and Fabio a chance to experiment. ‘We were truing different things every week’ recalls Grooverider, ‘bringing new music in and always trying to go forward.’
While keeping their congregation in thrall to the rhythm, they anticipated trends and nurtured new music, bringing out the sound that was pleasing to their ears. Groove believes part of his success as a DJ comes with being able to hear things in music, ‘I’ve been gifted because I seem to be able to hear things in the music that other people can’t hear all the time. Then eight or nine months down the road, people will be into that sound, I don’t know what it is, but it’s worked for me for the last eight or nine years.’
I like hard sounds’ states Grooverider, ‘and you find that sound in all types of music. I used to be into punk at one stage, and live drum & base is the same thing. All music has drum & bass but when you start to emphasise them, that’s when it’s more favourable to me.’
He name checks the stylin’ basslines of Sheffield’s LFP as a reference point in the advent of the drum & bass sound. ‘There were big baseline tunes but nothing could compare to that. It just came and hit everybody by surprise and there was a stream of other music to follow it. There was a massive progression out of that.’
Many of the names now associated with the music were introduced to the ‘sound of now’ at Rage. Grooverider would be passed new vinyl all the time, playing out the tunes that caught his ear, and in that way would meet producers new to the scene and build long-standing associates with others, “if somebody’s got something then you nurture it. You try and bring it out and give it to everybody else. That’s what’s happened with Goldie. He’s come through now, but we already knew this years ago even though people are only just finding out now. It’s the same story with a lot of artists that are all being signed now. We’re all good friends. All of us are family. You can’t go anywhere by yourself.”
This thing’s been building for years, and now we’ve got our own industry. That’s how deep we had to take it because at the time, the outside industry didn’t really want to know. So we have to build our own industry and now it’s foundations are very strong.”
As with many of the major players in the scene, it’s safe to say that Grooverider’s myriad activities constitute a one-man industry. In addition to playing out from Thursday to Sunday every week with residencies at Metalheadz, Fabric, NY Sushi and gigs not only up and down the country but across the world, Grooverider helms Radio 1’s Friday night Drum & Bass show (alternately with Fabio) and also engineers, producers and releases his music via his own label, Prototype.
The label was formed four years ago when Grooverider started making music, the logical step for the self confessed technology freak, as an outlet for his embryonic productions. The first two releases were his, then, after a break of two years, he started to put out tracks by the cream of drum & bass producers including Ed Rush, Lemon D, Dillinja and Boymerang and more recently Trace, Ed Rush, Optical, Matrix and Bad Company.
Signed in 1998 as an artist to the Sony imprint, Higher Ground, Grooverider’s first project, ‘The Prototype Years’, is a Prototype artists album, which was followed by Grooverider's highly acclaimed debut artist album ‘Mysteries of Funk’ prompting many awards including a MOBO in 1999.
1999 also saw Grooverider in the studio with Cypress Hill recording his second single ‘Where’s Jack the Ripper’ released in 2000 on Higher Ground.
As a remix artist he has had the pleasure of working with some of the industries masters including Herbie Hancock ‘Rockit’, Bjork ‘Shapeshifter’, 808 State ‘Pacific State’ and Stone Roses ‘Fools Gold’ amongst many other...