If you hadn't noticed the link between hip hop and drum 'n' bass already you can't have escaped it recently It's not just the blatant rap samples replacing the well-worn ragga ones, there's a whole generation of 80s b-boys now coming to the fore as drum 'n' bass producers. Names like Goldie and Crystl immediately spring to mind, and another becoming difficult to ignore is Pascal. "I never liked any early house stuff and I wasn't too mad about rave either" he admits, reminding us of the previously distinct boundaries between black and white street culture. "I only began to relate to hardcore when breakbeat came into it in '91 and '92. Tunes with 'nuff hip hop flavour, like Ruffidge Crew's "Crisp Biscuit," converted me."
Pascal has had more success producing drum 'n' bass in this short time than he ever has with hip hop. Prior to '95, he was best known for his Johnny Jungle project on Suburban Base and his involvement with Face Records. Sponge was his partner is both projects, but they amicably split last year. Sponge now runs IQ Records with Marvellous Cain, while Pascal continues with Johnny Jungle alone (check out the excellent "Killa Sound" from earlier this year), and also has a new label, Frontline Records. Frontline are only one year old, but through releases like P-Funk's "P-Funk Era", H.M.P.'s "Runnin's" and Rude Bwoy Monty's "Warp 9 Mr Zulu" they have quickly established a fine reputation.
Pascal was responsible for "P-Funk Era" and "Runnin's" (in conjunction with Hardware). Technically, the arrangement of these tracks as is sophisticated and original as any so-called 'intelligent' drum 'n' bass. With relatively light, simple beats and catchy melodies he appeals to those who like their breakbeat more 'musical', but also contain latent power to drive any dancefloor. "I don't go for any style, it's just depends on my mood at the time," confesses Pascal. "I've loads of tunes that I could never release because I don't think anyone would like them, I used to make tunes for the dancefloor, but I can't do that anymore. That's the big change this year - before I made tunes for everybody else, but now I make tunes for myself."
P-Funk's new single, "Return Of Da Funksta," is out now, and Pascal's part of Bonafide whose "Super Bad" is forthcoming, but the release most on his mind is a compilation album called "Still Smokin'." A collaboration between Frontline and Ganja (DJ Hype's label) it not only features both labels' many '95 highlights, but also exclusive material and remixes. "We've had people telling us we should sell the album to a major, and we could easily sell it, but that's not why we did it. The reason is, we're sick of all these bogus compilation albums and so-called artist albums containing about eight tracks. Frontline is a very small unit, so it's a big step for us, but we want to show we can do it all ourselves."
More projects with Hype are likely if it is successful, not least a joint record label. "We've released a few tracks on Frontline now, and Hype likewise on Ganja, so we just need another outlet," concludes Pascal. "I think what will happen with this new label is that Ganja and Frontline will eventually close and we'll really try and make it a big label."
As if he wasn't already enough of a force to be reckoned with!
RUDE BWOY MONTY
"I only ever wanted to do one record," remembers jungle producer Rude Bwoy Monty. "When I was a kid I always dreamt of being in a band or something, so actually seeing my name on a piece of vinyl meant a lot to me." It's a common enough boys own dream, but not many ever get to fulfil it. Maybe he's lucky to have had the opportunity but now Monty has grabbed his chance, there's no stopping him.
Monty is still a relative newcomer to production, his first release, "Out In The Streets," was only a year ago, but he's a fast learner. Since then he's had "Steppas Anthem," and the one that went stratospheric, "Warp 9 Mr Zulu," all on Frontline. With its burly, pulsing bass and inspired Hawaiian guitar intro, it's one of those ubiquitous tunes always guaranteed a reaction. This is no accident, Monty likes to plan his music carefully. "I aim to get people dancing, not just nodding their heads in the background," he explains. "I want to see people actually sweating to the tunes or screaming for the rewind. I know I've done a good tune when it gets the rewind from the crowd." In this respect, Monty belongs with crowd-pleasers like DJ SS or Marvellous Cain, and the similarity doesn't end there - all like the odd debatable intro. Monty's remix of Warp 9 ("Warp 10") is remembered by its "Rocky" theme tune. When it drops, it really works the crowd, but you get the feeling someone's going to take this unusual trend too far soon.
Anyone worried about this rapid success affecting Monty needn't worry. He's naturally down-to-earth, and Frontline is more than just his record label. Pascal and Hardware make up the rest of the Frontline crew, and while teamwork lies behind their success, they still remain close friends away from the studio. Street credibility also counts. "in underground music, the streets make or break you. If you've lost touch with the people, or you're not doing things for the average punter out there, then you're going to lose credibility fast. There's nothing wrong with trying more commercial' elements like live vocalists or rappers, but you've always got to come back with something for the streets."
Monty's highly sought-after "Rocky' remix will only be available on Frontline and Ganja's "Still Smokin" compilation, and "Warp 11" is coming soon too. His main aim is to remain busy learning in the studio, and with his imagination he'll never be short of ideas. One he has in mind is definitely not for the fainthearted. "I'm looking to create a tune called "The Beast," laughs Monty. ""Mash Up" by DJ SS inspired me to look for some samples for it, but I couldn't find the right one. However, I did stumble across the Hawaiian theme and from there "Warp 9" was away. "The Beast" is still to come!"
I believe Monty's best is also yet to come - a scary thought for the competition, but good news for the rest of us.