My history in the scene started back when I was employed as garage buyer at Hard to Find Records. My job was to source and purchase new UK Garage vinyl to sell on. The new music we was selling back then is now labelled as oldskool garage.
I went from supplying DJs with new UKG to supplying the new UKG to ravers when I became a DJ. So I am very aware of how important new music is and how it is a vital ingredient to keep a genre alive & growing.
I’ve seen genres be created & disappear, I’ve seen genres spawn into sub-genres, to then become genres in their own rights. But one thing I’ve noticed over the years is how other genres don’t focus so much on the past.
I’m not saying don’t play any old tunes or classics. Or everyone should play just new music, because I play a mixture of both, but more new. That is just my personal preference. But does the focus need to be shifted more towards new music, or is the balance right?
Maybe there are not enough original garage tracks being made recently? There are definitely a lot of remixes that could never see the light of day officially. Or like B1G PR0J3CT said in his artist showcase, is there enough new UKG being produced that can be played in clubs?
I have asked some key players in the scene for their opinions on the current state of UKG. To try and figure out how we can help push UKG forward, and if they believe anything needs to change. Starting with and in no particular order, Rude Jude.
What is your view on the UKG scene at the moment? Do you think the balance of new & old is right? What are the main issues that you would address?
“I think the scene is a bit unbalanced at the moment, you see a lot of old acts taking a lot of space that could be allocated to newcomers. Some of the old school guys are still very current and release music regularly but others are just living of their old success. You see a lot of old school DJs and producers playing the same set over and over, it’s been 20 years, maybe it’s time to move on to something new? I’m absolutely not discarding the influence they had on today’s UKG and many producers including myself still rate their work greatly and are heavily influenced by it. But I think it’s also their responsibility to use their fan base and influence to introduce the public to some new music.
People would argue that it’s what the crowd want and I agree that we must not cut away our roots but I see this kind of “play it safe, play what people know” mentality as a lack of vision. This music will evolve, maybe we should all be part of that journey? That includes all the people in the industry. Thankfully we have people from the old generation helping the new with their labels and productions.”
What is your honest opinion on the current UKG scene? Do you see an imbalance between new & old music being played & supported? What can be done to help push the scene forward?
“1st of all I’m very thankfull to the garage gods (no not Todd) for it seeing a rebirth with the young, around 2 to 3 year ago…….
Yeh I see a massive imbalance between old & new. Lord knows there were tons of old good real authentic garage made….But the DJs that are most active & paid the most DO NOT HAVE THEM or JUST DON’T PLAY THEM. Coz they wernt religiously hunting & buying ……..like Perception & DNR & Wisk obviously DO coz their selection constantly changes & covers old AND new…….when the the top names all sound like their playing from the same commercial bag. It personally makes me cringe & could kill the scene for everybody……..
However I have an antidote to this I think. A strategy that never seems to fail is the group/squad thing. There is more of a presence, more pulling power and more possibilities in numbers…..not enough of this in dance music!!!! And not to mention, BIG things are only done with a team.
I can personally present at least 6 shit hot producers that have never had a track released, due to a lack of contacts , or confidence to go & equire the contacts. I’d better this is partly to do with the attention that is put on those at the top, I speak of. We need a lil EGO strip down for those at the top of the food chain I think.”
What is your opinion of the urrent Garage scene?
What do you think would help push the scene forward?
“I think garage is in a good place! There’s so many people making good quality music right across the spectrum. From the deeper more experimental stuff to the straight up dancefloor heaters! In order to keep the scene moving forward, I think we need to lose this divide between ‘old skool’ and ‘New Skool’! I’ve never been a fan of those terms at all because it starts to put things in a pigeonhole! To me good quality UKG is good quality UKG, no matter when it was made. As long as people are putting great music into the scene then it will always grow in my opinion!”
Do you think garage is stuck in the past?
“My view. Garage is not stuck in the past. The producers are not stepping up to the mark. There are only a handful of musical producers and that stick to making garage. It’s like safety in numbers. The more quality producers the more we can build a scene. At present there is a huge lack of musical talent which is now evident when you cross match garage track of yesteryear to today. Hence why people play the older stuff.
I’ll put it like this. You cant be a doctor with out having a PHD and a doctorate in that choose field. A chef needs to learn the basics of cooking. A scientist needs to know the basics of life before he can claim his title. So a producer needs to know music. Studied the theory and practiced ting. So for me a producer who doesn’t know about music is like driving a car without a licence.”
As part of the new wave of UKG producers, how do you feel new UK Garage is represented in general? Do you feel there is too much focus on the classics and why do you think this is?
“In club land in general the emphasis definitely seems to be on oldskool UKG. Obviously the scene was massive back in the day and most people know the old classics, so it’s a safe choice for DJs / promotors to go with the old stuff. A lot of the time it comes down to money, if a promotor thinks he will pack out a venue with the oldskool then he is going to be unlikely to take the risk of putting on a night of just new stuff.
Obviously there are certain DJs and promotions that are pushing the new stuff which is great but not enough. On radio it seems to be different, I seem to hear a lot more of the newer stuff coming through but it doesn’t seem to cross over to the club scene enough.
I also think the way tunes are produced nowadays also plays a part in limiting the newskool scene. The oldskool stuff had a lot more vocals, and were recorded with real vocalists. Tunes like Sia Little Man, MJ Cole Sincere, Roy Davies Jnr Gabriel, Tuff Jam Experience, Wookie Battle. These tracks are a lot easier for the general public to grab onto because of the vocals, which made them big records with the average listener (not just the garage heads) and brought the scene to a wider audience. In contrast, the newer stuff is darker and sample based, and I think that limits its potential to hit a large audience as it can become an acquired taste. So I think as much as the DJs / promotors in clubland nowadays need to be supporting the new music, the new wave of producers need to also be coming with the big records with great vocals that have cross over potential and stand up to the classics of yesterday.”
What do you hope to see in 2018 for the UKG scene?
“Most definitely more events pushing the new sound of Garage music! For the scene to stay fresh & healthy this has to happen in our opinion, there is a handful of people throwing these kind of events such as ‘Garage Splash’ ‘For The Love Of Garage’ etc! Also noticed ‘Garage Nation’ booking a few of the new boys so hopefully that could be the start of something!
Something else we hope to see in the new year is more new producers being bought through! There’s a s**t load of sick producers making this sound right now not getting enough credit & recognition they deserve! Above all we have to reach out to each and every individual keeping Garage Music rolling, long may that continue!”
What do you feel about the current UK Garage scene? Is there too much of focus on the past?
“My feeling on the UK garage scene is. If we want the scene to grow, we need to push a new sound, as Garage to me is about bpm and swing.
The scene as I know it seems to be based around Old djs and producers holding onto what they know. Stuck in their Comfort zone. But nothing ever changes in your comfort zone.
For me it’s not about is the scene being stagnant it’s more about new innovative djs and producers taking risks and push their own sound and style, challenging the listener
I grew up in an ere where house and Garage was one.
I feel it’s a shame that people or djs have chosen to put UK garage in a box. Nostalgia is wonderful, but in small doses.
How does the scene grow if you don’t plant new seeds?
I’ve never seen myself as a UK garage producer
But I’ve always been drawn to the tempo of 128-135.
So if Garage heads like my sound that’s cool, but the same also goes for house head too.
I’ve always made what I feel and never tried to fit into a scene.
I don’t want to put myself in a box. I grew up listening to garage, so it will always be a part of my sound.”
What is your view on the current UKG scene? Do you feel there is still too much focus on old music? What can we do to help push new music through?
“The UK Garage scene is the healthiest it’s been for a long time in terms of quality of output and potential to grow. But there’ll always be a focus on old music in Garage. That’s what the Garage scene is to many people; it’s the memories that come with those tracks, so it’s something that can’t be replaced or replicated by new music. There was a generation that grew up with the music. Imagine being back in 2000, when Garage really hit the mainstream, and there are DJs only playing music that’s twenty years old… sure, people made music with that 80s vibe, but it would never take the place of what those tracks released in the 80s mean to people (except perhaps remakes or covers, as with Garage sampling itself etc).
The ‘new Garage scene’ needs to focus on itself. Don’t worry about what other DJs are playing, whether they’re playing old or new. Some DJs will only ever play old music, and that’s okay – they’re playing tunes that their crowds want to hear. I wouldn’t expect them to drop our latest track in a set, and if they did I wouldn’t expect the crowd to react as they do to old tunes – again, because the connection with the tracks isn’t there. We’re fortunate enough to have worked with some legendary names from back in the day like Luck & Neat, Sweet Female Attitude and Kele Le Roc, but we do so because they’re amazing artists and we grew up as fans of their music, not because we specifically want to appeal to people who like old Garage music.
We’re focusing on finding new audiences, and the technology is there for it now. When we first started putting music out around 2004, there were very few outlets for new Garage music. We were lucky enough to have early support from the likes of DJ EZ ,The Wideboys, Matt Jam Lamont etc, but besides the occasional mainstream mix CD with a few new Garage tracks included, forums and online radio (pirate if you were lucky enough to get within reach) were the only ways to hear the music. You had to search it out, and you had to know what you were looking for. Now with the likes of SoundCloud & Spotify it’s easier than ever to get new music heard by the people who might like it. It’s about looking outside the scene too – many DJs are a lot more open-minded nowadays; we’re still amazed to see big-name house DJs like Oliver Heldens playing our 2-step remixes, but it’s pushing the sound to new ears. So it’s just about finding new avenues for the music and exploiting ways to get it to new audiences who might be into it. Of course there’ll be some crossover between old and new, but it’s not enough to just expect old-school names to turn up with a USB full of new Garage music. It’ll take time, money, risks and luck to push the new music (much as it did for those who established a scene in the first place).”
Big thanks to all the artists above for taking time out to share their valued opinions & answers. Don’t forget to check the links below each artist & show them some support! Lets hope we can take something away from this and keep pushing the scene forward in 2018!
If any artists, DJ’s, labels etc. want to add their views. please let me know by messaging me direct from the contact page here.
Please share & let us know your thoughts by commenting below or tweet @djwisk
Happy New UKG!