To anyone who considers themselves an original junglist, DJ Crystl needs no introduction. As one of the early pioneers of precisely engineered breakbeat drum patterns that went far beyond the usual amen formula, and dark, yet deeply melodious atmospherics, Daniel Chapman released tracks on DeeJay and Lucky Spin recordings in the early 90s that helped to define the future of jungle and drum and bass for decades to come.

My story with DJ Crystl’s music goes back to secondary school. A classmate lent me a mixed compilation CD called Counterforce (which his elder brother had bought from a man called Horace in Camden Tunes). I was immediately blown away by all of Crystl’s tracks on the CD (Let it Roll, Warpdrive and his remix of A Better Place by Tamsin & Monk). Later, I heard another one of his tracks called ‘The Experience’ on Don FM, released under his MI5 alias.

Although these tracks were one or two years old by the time I had heard them, collectively, they were my soundtrack to the future. I had copied Counterforce onto tape and would spend hours listening to it while sitting on a park bench in Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill, looking into the distance of central London’s skyline (something that also inspired me to get into urban photography several years later).

Tap here to see the Counterforce CD track list.

1 DJ Tamsin & The Monk – A Better Place (DJ Crystl Remix)
2 Hyper On Experienc – Disturbance
3 Goldie – Inner City Life
4 DJ Crystl – Let It Roll
5 DJ Crystl – Warpdrive (Remix)
6 Zero B – Lock Up (Counterforce Remix By DJ Crystl)
7 Lemon D – Deep Space (I See Sunshine) (Drum & Space Mix)
8 DJs Flynn & Flora – Dream Of You
9 DJ Tamsin & The Monk – A Better Place (Bay B Kane Remix)
10 Inna Rhythm – Carrie
11 Koda – The Deep
12 Rogue Unit – Dance Of The Sarooes
13 Orbital – Are We Here?

Over the following years I would try to grab any compilation that included his music, so when DJ Crystl announced that he made available a number of limited edition USB sticks with his entire jungle discography that he personally numbered and signed, I rushed to his Bandcamp page and hit the order button without pausing to think twice.

The USB arrived a few weeks later and did not disappoint. It contains 34 tracks, including all the well-known releases such as Crystlize / Deep Space, The Dark Crystl / Inna Year 3000, Meditation backed with the original, dubplate version of Warpdrive, Paradise / Let It Roll, but also some recently recovered and originally unreleased tracks such as Crystlize 94, Kold Drumz, and DJ Trax’s Slice and Dice Warpdrive remix. It also has an all DJ Crystl mix by Equinox from Scientific Wax, Crystl’s Futurizm atmospheric drum & bass sample pack, and Too Deranged to Meditate, a previously unheard track that Crystl made especially for this project.

The USB also contains a separate folder with high resolution copies of Crystl’s artworks, including the original label for the Meditation / Warpdrive release.

While searching for more background information for this post, I came across an interview with Crystl in the October 1995 issue of the Generator magazine. In this interview, he talks about his early passion for graffiti, b-boyism and hip-hop, and how these later influenced his music. This was fascinating for me to read, because without knowing these details, his records have always felt distinctly urban and metropolis-inspired to me. They resonate with my own perceptions of the city, whether I am surrounded by tower blocks or see graffiti tags when travelling on the Overground.

Tap here to expand inline excerpts from DJ Crystl’s 1995 interview.

It’s all about attention to detail. It’s all about obsession. When Danny Chapman was a kid growing up in North London’s Edgware he decided he was going to be a b-boy. He wasn’t black, he wasn’t American and he wasn’t raised in housing projects. But he got the details right. By the time he was sixteen he had decks, he could scratch mix, he could breakdance and he could spraypaint. He could talk the talk, do the handshake and depending on your point of view he was either fiercely cool or predictably absurd.

“We were our own kind of crew in our area,” recalls Danny, “there weren’t many others. But we knew all the other crews around London and shit. And it was like yeah man this is bad’. We used to go to Covent Garden (a regular breakdancing spot), ride the Metropolitan line, go tagging, bomb train yards (spray them with graffiti) and shit like that man. Everything to do with hip hop we’d do it man. Just checking what was going on, walking down the street, seeing tags, meeting graffiti artists, meeting breakdancers, saying let’s have a battle. I was b-boying in school. I’d take the lino into school and start breaking in the playground at lunchtime. It was mad.”

Seven years later and the teenage b-boy wannabe is best known as 23 year old DJ Crystl and signed to London Records. And DJ Crystl is the cat who sprinkled drum’n’bass with stardust to produce the ambient jungle of cuts like “Meditation ‘Crystlized and ‘Sweet Dreams”. Even the titles were pretty while his soundscapes wers formed from birdsong, waves, weightless girlie sighs, flyaway strings and soft machines. Once again it was about all about detail. About micro edits where sounds morphed in and out of each other while every kick, snare and drum bit was stretched, teased and flexed. Every half-second of every track was a world of mutation and concentration: a place of obsessive sound processing and musical change. Just like a teenage b-boy practising his breaking in front of the mirror: everything is covered. Everything is immaculate. Even when Crystl used to hit the raves there was a part of him that was always sharp, controlled, b-boy, self-consciously cool, whatever.

“I was like the only one of all the people I was raving with that used to dress like a b-boy. I still wore black trainers. I used to dress sensibly with a nice cap and a nice t-shirt. I never used to dress in the stupid clothes the ravers used to wear. I would just enjoy the music and have a laugh. And the best was laughing lat all the ravers out of their faces with their jaws going everywhere but not” he laughs, “noticing my own.”

Once a b-boy always a b-boy perhaps. Like Goldie he enjoys tracing a breakbeat connection from drum n bass into hip hop. It’s an interesting story mainly because it’s not about the evolution of music but a transfer of loyalty. Drum’n’ bass doesn’t depend on KRS-1 or Public Enemy for it’s existence. Instead godfathers of this music are as diverse as LFO (for the sub-bass from ‘LFO’), Meat Beat Manifesto (for the gargantuan breakbeat of Radio Babylon’) and the micro-editing and sound mutation offered by the Apple Mac, the Atari and effects boxes like the Harmoniser. What Goldie and Crystl are talking about is how they map their b-boy sensibilites onto rave and then drum’n bass just as the Goa hippies have locked into and mutated trance.


“I was so into hip-hop that I used to diss acid,” recalls DJ Crystl. “I hated it. We used to drive around and laugh at people in flares and shit. Just pointing and going ‘Yeah you acid freaks man’. I suppose they were doing that to the hip-hop heads, taking the piss out of us. Fair enough.”

And then Crystl started raving. Like most people he didn’t really know what was going on but a few friends, the sort who get almost messianic about the whole thing, made an effort to take him out and turn him onto the scene.

“A group of my friends who weren’t really into hip-hop that much managed to get into raving, did E’s and everything and as you can guess I got drawn into going. They pulled me to a club and I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I was very suspicious about whether to do E or not. I was like standing next to the speakers going like fucking shut up. The music was doing my head in, everybody was dancing around, treading on my feet and I just got paranoid and claustrophobic. So I went home and put on some hip-hop and felt good.”

But he went out again and eventually he started to enjoy it. “I went to Telepathy and Rage,” smiles Danny, “and to me that’s what did it. I was standing in this club and I started coming up on this E and I heard the maddest, dirtiest drum’n’ bass. And it was just like what it did for me, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I got a wicked buzz and I went another week and another week and it progressed from there.”


Sometimes house, techno or rave feels like another reality: a form of VR that can only be accessed through taking E. And once you’re in there, locked deep, everything else seems so far away. It’s like you’re becoming a different person. And then you have to decide, especially if you’re an artist, what happens next? How much of vour old self can you incorporate into the new.

“I used to listen to mix tapes,” recalls Crystl. “Micky Finn, Grooverider. I could see the hip-hop element there which is why I liked it as well. I liked the breakbeats and then I heard a couple of hip-hop tracks which I already knew sampled in there. But for a whole year I wasn’t really listening to much hip-hop. In fact, I hated it and couldn’t relate to it. The ecstasy had turned my brain around and fused me onto the rave. I couldn’t relate to the 90bpm speed and rap of hip-hop. It took me a long time to get back into it. It was only when I started getting off the drugs and the E’s that I started getting back into hip-hop again because my mind was free and I had nothing to block it. I carried on raving but then I was listening to hip-hop as well.”

Or read the full interview in the October 1995 issue of Generator here (PDF).

There is so much more I could say about the impact that DJ Crystl’s music has had on me, but for now I will finish this post with an excerpt from DJ Crystl’s interview with Uncle Dugs on Rinse FM earlier this year.

Uncle Dugs: Your style, you know, we’ve all got a ways of describing someone’s style. How I looked at you and even now playing the tunes today, even though it’s 2023, 30 years old, those tunes.

DJ Crystl: That’s nuts, isn’t it?

Uncle Dugs: They still sound futuristic in the sound. Again, like I was saying to Dom, compared to the music of the time, yours both stood out for different reasons. And yours, I looked at, Andy C was doing something similar with the Sour Mash EP at the time. It sounded like it was made like a space film soundtrack, and your music always sounded far ahead of its time, like Bukem’s and people like that for me.

DJ Crystl: Well, he was an inspiration of mine.

Uncle Dugs: He was so good. I didn’t get his music till later down the line […]

DJ Crystl: Especially now with the resurgence of it all, it fits in with everything that’s, I suppose, going on. But yeah, there was no real, again, definitive kind of moment, or I’m going to make it like this. And I suppose it’s the same with every producer, at the time when it’s first time round. You know, maybe more so now trying to be a certain way. I mean, I make it a certain way. But back then, it just progressed into that. And I found myself liking a lot of futuristic sounds. Movies, Blade Runner and all that kind of inspiration, I suppose.

Uncle Dugs: Yeah, you definitely had your own lane. I mean, we just mentioned Brockie when you got here, and give him a shout because I know he’s going to be locked in. But he mentioned one of your tunes as being his favorite tune. And I tell you what I found, because I was a massive Kool FM fan of that time. Proper jungle head, like, couldn’t even look outside of that little bubble. And tunes like, Warpdrive, for instance weren’t necessarily like what were going on, but got battered in the jungle scene. With MCs all going over the top of it passing the mic. And when you think of it, it’s not really that kind of song.

After a lengthy hiatus caused by the rollercoaster of events in both my work and my personal life, I am finally back to blogging about my rediscovered pirate tape collection. Since it has been a while after my last upload, I decided to switch gears from my 1997 Rude FM tapes and introduce the person who did more than anyone else to shape my understanding of hardcore and jungle music in the 1990s. His name is Matthew Wharmby, and we got to know each other via the Internet in 1996 after I reached out to him using the email he had listed on his personal website.

Matthew was older than me by several years, but we had mutual friends, who suggested I should contact him to find out more about London’s pirate radio scene. I was new to London, having only lived in the city for a year and a bit, but we quickly established rapport over our mutual love for jungle and drum & bass music, as well as the city’s geography. Over the course of the following year, Matthew sent me tapes of the stations that I had missed out on before 1995, such as Impact FM, Pulse FM, Format FM, Cyndicut FM, the Weekend Rush, Unity FM and many others. Being fourteen at the time, this was the only accessible (or indeed affordable!) way for me to reach back into the early years of hardcore and jungle, and to understand how the music had evolved. Matthew would patiently explain the backstory of each station, and would give me the chance to pick which recordings I was keen on exchanging with him using the tape catalogue on his website.

Today I am sharing one of my most prized tapes from the selection that Matthew sent me – Love Dove Jay on Eruption FM 101.3 on April 3, 1994. I believe that this is an online exclusive and is also the earliest set I have heard that I could confidently classify as “ambient jungle”. The tracks by Love Dove Jay himself, Eze G, Essence of Aura, DJ Rap, The Occupant, Danny Breaks, Codename John, The Groove Gangster and others have a distinctive spacey, atmospheric sound that was very new in early 1994 after the darker sounds that had dominated the airwaves throughout 1993. The unassuming way in which Love Dove Jay hosts this show and reads the shout-outs from the listeners evokes a certain nostalgia in me for the days before social media and Internet streaming transformed our radio listening experience. I hope you enjoy this recording!

One of my all-time favourite drum & bass tracks is Soul Beat Runna by Boymerang. It spent the best part of 1996 on dubplate — played regularly by Fabio and Grooverider on their Friday night Kiss FM show — and finally got released on Regal in April 1997. The track is famous for using a re-engineered version of the original Amen break that was handcrafted by Boymerang himself, and which has since been sampled in countless drum & bass releases. However, I recently discovered that there was also an official music video made for this track (which I assume was also done in 1997).

What’s striking to me about this video is that it plays on a number of cinematographic themes later encountered in The Matrix trilogy, such as dodging bullets in slow motion, long chase scenes involving identikit-looking agents, seemingly supernatural teleportation powers and dreams of falling off a skyscraper that ultimately become reality. I wonder if the Wachowskis saw this video before incorporating many of these elements into their films?

Below is the video, with credit to the original uploader on YouTube:

Later that same year, the track appeared on Boymerang’s full length album “Balance Of The Force“, which I promptly went out and bought upon release.

Temporarily breaking out of the 90s pirate radio time capsule, and ahead of the Rupture x 25 years of Bassbin event at FOLD on April 9th, I decided to dig into my archives and post the radio debut of Breakage‘s seminal This Too Shall Pass album, presented by DJ Flight on her BBC 1xtra Next Chapter show in May 2006. The album was released on Bassbin later that year.

Both Breakage and DJ Flight were instrumental in the resurgence of jungle music in the early 2000s, and 2006 saw the first Rupture event at Dingwalls in Camden. Flight’s interview with Breakage and the album debut start 27 minutes into the recording.

Following on from my previous post, below are three more Rude FM tapes I recorded in the summer of 1997. First up is a heavy jump up selection by DJ Skills, who had a regular Sunday slot on the station. I have one other recording of his show from 1997 but so far I have not been able to find any information about him online, apart from a single mention in this Facebook post. One of my favourite tunes from this set is the amen tear-out Last Gasp by T.I.C., which still feels futuristic and wouldn’t sound out of place at Rupture today.

Next up is yet another jump-up set by Chopper D and MC Evil B (a.k.a. B Live), recorded in early August. The video below is one of my favourite moments on the tape where Evil B shows off his MCing skills.

When I tweeted the short clip above I got a reply from DJ Kryptonn, who used to buy vinyl from Chopper D at Bluebird Records in 1996:

The final tape is one of my favourite old school jungle sets that I managed to record off the radio. It was mixed by DJ Chillum, who was one of the key partners at the station and who sadly passed away at the end of last year. The selection dates back to 1993, and somehow it feels crazy that I was making these recordings only four years later and yet the music had already evolved so much during that period. I had to spend quite a bit of time on digitally restoring this tape, as it was thoroughly worn out from doing multiple rounds in my Sony Walkman.

Thanks for tuning in, and look out for more of my pirate tape uploads in the near future.


Many thanks to JJ for the track listing of the set by DJ Chillum.

01 Acen – Obsessed – Production House
02 Ellis Dee, DJ Krome & Mr Time – Drum Thunder – Production House
03 The Vice Squad – Give The Poor Man A Break – Pimp Plastic
04 Rufige Cru – Menace – Reinforced
05 The Brothers Grimm – Field Of Dreams – Production House
06 Rufige Cru – Darkrider – Reinforced
07 FBD Project – Terminate – Bang-In Tunes
08 Egyptian Empire – The Horn Track – Ffrreedom
09 Sacred – Do It Together (The Baggy’s Mix) – Not On Label – SACD001
10 Nookie – Shining In Da Darkness – Reinforced

Brian Whittle / View of Westminster and Central London from Canonbie Rd / CC BY-SA 2.0. The image has been digitally altered to show what this view looked like in 1997.

This post was delayed due to my tape player developing a major technical fault, which took quite some time to resolve. Now that I’m back in action, I decided that I should upload two Rude FM tapes I made in July 1997.

First, a few words about the recording location. I made these tapes while living near one of the most elevated spots in South-East London, which provided for fantastic pirate radio reception, and by walking several hundred metres I was able to get stunning views of the London skyline (see the images above and below). Coincidentally, Reprezent 107.3 – one of London’s most popular community-licensed stations – currently have their FM transmitter just a few streets away.

Rude FM is a legendary pirate that belongs in the same hall of fame as Kool FM and the Weekend Rush. Founded in 1992, the station was a constant presence on the FM dial, playing hardcore, jungle and drum & bass, and in fact has only recently left the airwaves. Brian Belle-Fortune’s excellent book on the history of jungle, All Crews, has an entire chapter dedicated to the station and its origins. Amongst the key characters affiliated with Rude FM the author mentions DJ Psychic, who held down a regular Sunday slot between 2 and 4pm, playing mellow drum & bass (which was also dubbed “intelligent” at the time). Surprisingly, very few recordings of his shows are available online, so this first upload is an exclusive!

Looking south from Canonbie Road. Original photo © 1997.

Amongst the interesting things mentioned by Psychic during the show are that he was interviewed on a Channel 5 programme featuring Rude FM (I have searched for it but so far can’t find any traces online), and that sending shouts to mobile phones via text messages was a novelty in 1997. The adverts feature Rhythm Section, the record shop that was affiliated with the station, and the Youth Awareness Programme, which provided verified information about drugs confidentially over the phone.

The next tape is on the darker side of drum & bass. The selection is emblematic of the corresponding period in 1997: still maintaining a healthy balance between tech-stepping beats and amen breaks. Side A features a set by Dylan while Side B has an excellent mix by a DJ whose voice is very familiar to me but whose handle I have unfortunately forgotten! There are a few lesser-known tunes on this side, such as Reminiscence by Mace, as well as one of my personal favourites, Warriors, at the very start.

Thanks for tuning in, and look out for more of my Rude FM uploads in the near future.


Many thanks to DJextreme for the track listing of Dylan’s set.

01 Technical Itch – Conscious – Moving Shadow – Blueprint LP
02 Peshay – Phobia – Unreleased
03 Dom & Roland – Aliens – DRP
04 Optical – High Tek Dreams – Prototype
05 Swift – Analogue – Suburban Base
06 Danny Breaks & Dylan – Molecules (Dubplate Version) – Unreleased
07 Dom & Roland – Thunder – Moving Shadow – Industry LP
08 Dom – Drones – Moving Shadow
09 Dylan – Code Breaker – Droppin Science
10 Optical – Shape the Future (Remix) – Metalheadz
11 Dom & Optical – Quadrant Six (Fierce Remix) – Audio Couture
12 Future Forces – Synthesis – Unreleased

This is the second tape I’m posting from my recovered archives. Nowadays, anyone who follows urban dance music will have heard of Rinse FM. However, newer listeners may not be aware of the station’s pirate origins prior to obtaining Ofcom’s community radio license in 2011:

Rinse FM is universally recognised as having played a key role in the emergence of grime and dubstep in the early 2000s and there are many recordings from this period of the station’s history available online. Although Rinse started out as a jungle and drum & bass station in back in 1994, there are relatively few recordings around from their pre-grime/garage days. I happened to tune in to one of their shows on one rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1997 and hit the record button. Note the regular shouts-outs going out to Wiley.

In the years between 1995 and 1999 I recorded a number of tapes of London’s pirate radio stations. Pirate radio was my gateway into the world of jungle music, as I was just shy of the minimum age limit to be (legally) admitted into raves. I remember countless nights when I would be sitting by my table-top FM radio and listening to the likes of Kool FM, Eruption, Rude FM and Don FM. Whenever I would hear something that I would really like, I’d throw in a blank audio cassette and start recording, although I had to make a careful decision each time as good quality tapes were not cheap!

Those years marked the evolution of jungle into drum & bass, and every few months a slightly different yet distinct sub-genere would emerge that is still possible to date with accuracy today. It was an exciting time to be listening to the pirates, as well as to legal stations like Kiss FM and the iconic One In The Jungle show on BBC Radio One. I was pleased with my growing tape collection and felt like I was documenting an important part of the UK’s music history. I also had quite a few pre-1995 tapes, which were copied for me by a friend to help me catch up on what I had missed out on in the early jungle days.

What happened next was heartbreaking: while I was away from home, a flooding accident damaged a lot of our possessions, and it appeared that all of my tapes had perished alongside. That’s what I carried on thinking for about 20 years and until last week, when we discovered that many of these tapes were in fact preserved and had been quietly sitting in a cardboard box in my brother’s garage ever since!

The tapes seem to have survived huge temperature and humidity variations, which simply amazes me. I’ll be gradually digitising and uploading them in the next few months. Rediscovering these tapes feels like entering a time capsule and brings up a mixture of emotions ranging from wistful nostalgia to happiness and gratitude. Below is a July 1997 recording of Life FM, a somewhat short-lived pirate station of which I couldn’t find any other recordings online.

Back at the start of the first lockdown in 2020 I decided to revive an old passion of mine — listening to London’s pirate radio. Below is my original Instagram post describing what I was hoping to achieve at the time:


10 months later, I am happy to report that I have uploaded over 30 pirate radio recordings — all made in 2020/21 — and many more uploads are on the way. Whenever I managed to record something really good from community-licensed stations, many of which are former pirates themselves, I uploaded that too. This project now has its own website and a small but growing following. There are no restrictions in terms of musical styles. The idea is to showcase the diversity of London’s local FM radio landscape and to pay homage to a medium that was instrumental in the formation of multiple musical genres but is now endangered by the proliferation of digital streaming. I hope you take the time to check it out! Below is one of my favourite recordings so far: