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!
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:
I've still got a Bluebird Records carrier bag with Chopper D's Rude FM show advertised on it. He wrote it on the bag as he handed me some fresh drum & bass vinyl. pic.twitter.com/vHm5Ukb5K9
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
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!
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.