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What Would the Implications be on Drum & Bass Music if it were to Become Mainstream in its Approach and Attitude?

38 pages
What Would the Implications be on Drum &
Bass Music if it were to Become Mainstream in
its Approach and Attitude?
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What Would the Implications be on Drum & Bass Music if it were to Become Mainstream in its Approach and Attitude?
Tom Chaney RAD1101Y1 42550 (BA Hons Recording Arts Degree)
SAE Institute 2003
Contents:
Abstract………………………………...
Acknowledgements……………………
Introduction……………………………………………..1
History Of Drum and Bass……………………………..3
Drum and Bass as a Subculture……………………….10
General Subcultures The Jazz musician Drum and Bass
Effects of Mainstream Coverage and Commercial Influences……………………………18 UK Garage Punk Hip-Hop
Conclusion………………………………………………25
Negative Implications Positive Implications Summary
Appedix………………………………….
Footnotes (Chapter by Chapter)…….
Bibliography……………………………
 Abstract
This dissertation is an attempt by the author to try and calculate the implications and possible incurrence on Drum and Bass music if it were to take a mainstream approach as opposed to the current underground status it presently enjoys.
Various methods of research and data have been employed in order to complete this dissertation, but obviously there is no definitive and ‘true’ measurable answer that can be given in conclusion to this dissertation, only what could be called predictions or possibilities.
The methods of research and data collection that have been undertaken have tried to examine past events and peoples views on music, as well as their personal opinions on the commercialisation and mainstreaming of music as well as culture. Also issues such as authenticity and originality have been considered and delved into to understand why groups and societies wish to stay controlled -as is Drum and Bass- by the minority.
Possibly the most useful and I dare say most poignant method used to research this subject is the informal interview. This being either one-to-one or group discussions, where views, ideas and reasons are brought forward about the fate of music genres due to their submission to the power of commercial and corporate interest.
Internet chat rooms were consulted during the research stage of this dissertation, although unfortunately the response was not as encouraging as was first hoped. It seems that to many Drum and Bass related chat rooms this is not a new or relatively unthought-of issue and many participants seemed hesitant to keep on churning out the same answers and views they have given before when the topic came up; needless to say it was not a wasted effort as many useful comments were posted.
Research through the medium of books and personal experiences was done on ‘subcultures’, this allowed for a greater understanding of the thought processes, feelings and habits of those involved in subcultures such as the Drum and Bass scene.
Within this ‘Research Project’ it will become clear how fine the lines are between commercial success and sell-out are, as well as what it means for a genre to remain truly underground.
 Acknowledgements
The author would firstly like to thank all friends and family who have offered much support during the completion of this dissertation.
Thanks are extended to SAE for guidance on the subject of this dissertation.
The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of all of those who allowed themselves to be questioned about their thoughts and feelings on the state of Drum and Bass and the commercial music industry.
A special thanks to all at Trouble on Vinyl for helping to formulate through our endless discussions a greater understanding of the genre and its practices.
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
Locating the origins and compiling a history of music such as Drum and Bass comes with a plethora of problems. Being unlike the more commercial spheres of music genres there is a lack of literature on the subject, and there being many internal feuds within the scene linked with internal politics meant that many of those questioned and sources consulted can be said to be somewhat contradictory towards each other.
“Disco was the revolution. Disco was freedom, togetherness, love. Disco was dirty, spiritual, thrilling, powerful. Disco was secret, underground, 1 dangerous.”
It is fair to say that Disco has probably been the singular most important movement or event in time which has spawned, and helped shape today’s youth/ dance culture (including Drum and Bass) as we know it. Perhaps musically it is less similar than -lets say- Dub Reggae to Drum and Bass but Disco helped to give many a sense of importance and helped create ideals and an ethos to live up to and believe in. We have seen many other subcultures, movements and styles before the disco era such as the ‘Teddy Boys’, ‘Mods and Rockers’ but it was Disco which was the point at which the DJ was able to develop as an artist and were they were given breathing space and an environment in which skills on the turntables could be honed and new styles of music were encouraged and allowed to develop. You have only to look at Hip-Hop, which being related closely to Drum and Bass was developed by furthering the skills of a disco DJ.
“The club culture we enjoy today was conceived under a mirror ball, 2 born to the sound of Donna Summer.”
The music back in the Disco days may have been a far cry and unbelievably different to the sonic battering our ears will receive at a Drum and Bass venue, not to mention the way people would dress and generally conduct themselves; women would dance around handbags and men would swell pints of beer (generally) instead of ingesting cocktails of amphetamines and Ecstasy. Needless to say at today’s clubs whether it be Drum and Bass or Hard House, Disco embraced diversity, freedom and change. At the time of the Disco revolution, cultural acceptance and diversity were not the norm and being black or gay was nothing to be proud of and was sneered at by the mainstream society. But at the Disco, black people danced among white people and homosexuals danced 1 FromLast Night a DJ Saved my Lifeby Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton
2 FromAdventuresinWonderlandbySherylGarratt
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
among heterosexuals. As Disco faded into oblivion new forms of music began to be created to fill the void left by the collapse of the Disco era. With the advent of new technologies and the use of electronic equipment such as synthesisers, sequencers and samplers as well as new turntable techniques, new sounds, nothing like anything heard before, began to enter the clubs via the 12” single format.
Drum and Bass includes the use of breakbeats, which give the genre its distinctive sound. To clarify any confusion, breakbeats are the sections in a particular song (originally samples were used from R’n’B and funk bands) in which the main body of the song and all instrumentation drops away leaving the drum track in solo. It was around the late 70’s that these breakbeats began to be experimented with in a way that is similar to the way in which they are manipulated now within Drum and Bass. The early 3 pioneers would use these ’breaks’ to construct new musical structures and rhythms to dance to. Franky Bones a DJ of this early period would lay two records onto the turntables, which would be pitched at two very slightly differing speeds, which would cause an ever so slightly changing delay effect. Next to incorporate these breakbeats in new pioneering ways were the pioneers of Hip-Hop, Kool Herc and Grand Master Flash; they were to invent new songs live on the turntables by cutting together different breaks from different songs.
It was not until the late 80’s, that the American influences of Dance music, most notably the early form of house music that had been developing, hit the UK shores and our Dance culture began to form. Previously had been Northern Soul but unlike the music of the late 80’s this was acoustic R’n’B and produced in America.
Worth noting is the development of both House and breakbeat styles of music were equally important in the development of Drum and Bass as influences of both are fused together producing the breakbeat led synth music that can be heard today. Obviously other influences are present but these are possibly the earliest direct elements that shaped Drum and Bass.
From 1988-1990 the dance music of the UK was known as Acid House, it was short on any breakbeat influences as Hip-Hop took care of the beats around this time, but Acid House took synthesiser technology and brought it to the British youth. This was in the form of ‘pirate’ radio broadcasting and the newly formed rave scene.
3 ‘Breaks’atermusedtodescribebreakbeats(usuallyaloopofnomorethantwobars)
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
It was around 1990 that the rave scene began to fragment and new genres of music began to emerge out of Acid House. One new form of music that began to emerge through the fusion of House, breakbeats, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Dub and Techno was given the name Jungle. The origins of this name are still disputed to this day. Some believe that it is a racist and derogatory term used due to the music being produced prolifically by black producers. Jumping Jack Frost believes the term was first coined by DJ’s to describe bass heavy house records as early as 1989, whereas Fabio believes that the term originated on the dance floor at ‘Rage’ where “a proud black Rasta” called ‘Danny Jungle’ would lead the crowd in cries of ‘Jungle’. The other possibility is that the name comes from the underground club in London called ‘Jungle’ which used to play the early breakbeat fusion experiments.
DJ Hype formerly a Hip-Hop DJ began to experiment with this new sound and began to mix together House and Hip-Hop at greatly increased pitches on Phantasy FM. He then began to produce some early jungle tracks under the alias The Scientist; tracks of note include ‘Exorcist’ and ‘The Bee’.
Still at around 1992 Jungle and Hardcore were still inextricably linked together and many still confused the two. At the time differentiation between the two was not totally clear as there were many similarities between the styles. However as time progressed so did the music and it become easier to tell Jungle and Hardcore apart. The Hardcore sound 4 became based around a 4/4 base rhythm ‘Mickey Mouse vocals’ and piano samples, whereas Jungle took on an assortment of asynchronous rhythms and heavy basslines. Many early raves had DJ’s playing both Hardcore and Jungle in their sets and many not even being able to distinguish between the two. This mainly being due to the fact that the two separate genres were co-existing in the same musical environment and not being able to develop separately of one another.
It was producers such as Pascal (formerly Johnny Jungle) who began to highlight the Jungle sound with tracks such as ‘Hurt You So’, which emphasise the breakbeat driven elements. 4Hero. LTJ Bukem, Fabio, Grooverider and DJ Hype amongst many began to follow suit and experiment with these breakbeat elements.
4 Mickey Mouse vocals was a term used to describe vocals which had been sped up to fit in time with the music with no attempt to adjust the pitch accordingly, thus giving a high pitched result reminiscent tothatofMickeyMouse.
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
Around 1993 was the time that Hardcore and Jungle made their definitive split from one another, which allowed for deepened experimentation and new musical elements and sounds to evolve. Hardcore remained with its 4/4 rhythm while Jungle continued with the dissecting and rearranging of breakbeats to create new and exciting polyrhythmic collages of drums. It is a fair comment to make that at around this time there was a vast increase in the technological skills of the producers, this allowed the music to lose the mocking comments of its many critics.
Jungle had its peak in around 1994 with many clubs such as AWOL (A Way of Life), Jungle Rush, Jungle Fever, Thunder and Joy and Roast enjoying packed events week in week out throughout London. It was also during this time that jungle was most influenced by Ragga basslines and vocals. The amount of Jungle pirate radio stations had increased rapidly with Kool FM and Rude FM being the main players in sending the Jungle sound out over the London airwaves.
It was during this year that saw the creation of Ganja Records by DJ Hype, Zinc and Pascal, which was to become one of the most influential labels in the scene.
Although Jungle was still a predominantly London based scene its popularity was undeniable, this led to Telstar producing a number of Jungle compilation albums named ‘Fantazia Takes You into the Jungle’ and ‘Jungle Mania’.
Before the year was out World Dance was to become a Jungle orientated rave with its main arenas playing Jungle and a new style of music called Drum and Bass began to develop. It was still representing the Jungle style but incorporated the ‘New School’ techniques and approaches to the production of the music. This new style still incorporated the clattering drum tracks of Jungle but with a new higher emphasis on the acoustic effects and a sonically advanced production quality.
Among those whom could be listed among the creators of this new strand of music are LTJ Bukem, Fabio, Doc Scott, Grooverider, Photek and Dillinger. All had changed their direction away from Jungle towards the newer, fresher and sonically superior sound. To begin with Drum and Bass remained similar to Jungle, and it is still a differentiation that leads to confusion, the easiest way however to define the difference between the two is to see Drum and Bass as the continuation and natural progression of Jungle.
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
With the commencement of 1995 Jungle/ Drum and Bass had begun to take a turn for the worst, and the torrent of commercialisation had begun to take a hold over the scene, its DJ’s and producers. Goldie had signed to a major record label ‘London Records’ and released his album ‘Timeless’ which sold 150,000 units in the UK alone. Soon after this he began to concentrate on his own label metalheadz. During 1995 it was felt by many that the original atmosphere had left many of the raves and the original vibe was being lost. There are several arguments as to why this was happening. One was the increase in the quality of the drugs that were being supplied at the raves but this would have meant that the same effect would have been seen across all dance music events whereas Hardcore was still going strong and Garage was enjoying a gain in popularity. Another theory was the influx of the so-called ‘Rude Bwoy’ element into the scene as many reported to have witnessed an increase in muggings and violence at Drum and Bass raves. Those more involved with the scene believe a decline was prevalent around this time due to DJ’s beginning to cover niche styles of Drum and Bass to accommodate the new commercial aspect and the concept of underground was betrayed for money. At the beginning of 1996 events even as large as AWOL and Roast were disbanded.
It was in 1996 that Drum and Bass began to fragment and diversify into separate styles and sub-genres of itself. Grooverider coined the term ‘Hardstep’ which gained mainstream acceptance, this term being used to describe and symbolise Drum and Bass, which fused Hip-Hop with a stronger rougher rhythm with more in common with a 4/4 rhythm than the breakbeat style. ‘Intelligent Drum and Bass’ was classified by any Drum and Bass, which incorporated ambient and jazzy elements and samples. ‘Darkstep’ or ‘Dark’ Drum and Bass was a term used to describe the deeper, scarier and moodier shades of Drum and bass and a good example being ‘Shadow Boxing’. Lastly ‘Experimental’ was a term, which was used to describe any Drum and Bass that could not be categorized by any of the above terms and was an outlet -as the name suggests- for music, which incorporated real sonic experimentation.
1997 could be said to have been the worst year for Drum and Bass as it seemed that the fragmentation was gaining momentum and the term Drum and Bass would no longer represent many differing styles of up-tempo breakbeat. The Classic style of Jungle/ Drum and Bass breaks known as ‘amen’s’ had seemed to disappear from the music totally. Both World Dance and Labyrinth threatened closure, although surprisingly ‘Ministry of Sound’ along with many other House clubs were hiring DrumandBassDJsfortheirDrumandBasssessions.Totryand
Chapter 1 4 History of Drum and bass
overcome this segmentation labels such as juice, Splash, and Back 2 Basics kept releasing hard underground tracks with the various flavours of the fragmented elements (Hardstep, Intelligent etc) in an attempt to consolidate all the fragmenting elements back into one genre, that being Drum and Bass.
By 1998 we see an end in the style-splitting antics of the previous years. Now all shades of the music were given only one label; Drum and Bass. There was also resurgence in the use of the classic amen break. From 1998 and onwards to this day The music has continued to grow in popularity with clubs like Fabric playing to packed out rooms every week, and Movement at Bar Rumba gaining worldwide acclaim through various cross-continental events. World Dance is still going strong, as is Renegade Hardware. The number of foreign producers is growing all the time from both the east and west. The number of record labels has also increased rapidly and all have stayed fiercely independent, away from the holds of the major labels.