Ski Sunday - An alternative view on the history of the UK Garage scene

$ki Sunday
An alternative view on the history of the UK Garage scene by DJ $ki


Underground Garage. Tha Sunday Scene. UK Garage. Speed Garage. Ragage...
Garage has always been a style of music dat gets you up and movin'... it's also always been a style surrounded by controversy - all tha way from Larry Levan to DJ Luck... It's come a long way from tha Paradise Garage, tha club that gave it it's name, and it's changed and split into one of tha most varied scenes in modern music. A lot of well repected US Garage DJs and producers, most notably Tony Humphries, have rejected tha UK's version of Garage, and called it a cop-out from tha old skool New York vybe...

 

... but as far as Garage in tha UK goes, there are no rules - as we've all heard...

Why 'Sunday'?
Back in 1993 and 1994, Garage had moved away and back into tha underground due to its rejection from mainstream clubs playing more house, jungle and even hardcore. Tha sound moved down to the unlikely location of tha South coast of England, where DJs such as tha Tuff Jam duo and the Dreem Teem would play at events like 'Deja Vu'. Small raves and parties were springing up around inner city London and tha Jungle pirates were dying off in favor of tha new wave of underground Garage stations. Old skool originators Girls FM, London Underground, and Freek FM were joined by ICE, Magic and others later on (we now have over 30 when they're all up). Most of tha DJs were playing their US Garage pitched up for these new audiences, and dropped these old classics alongside tha new tunes that were starting to emerge.

So why 'Sunday' then? Well it came about because of this rejection from tha mainstream clubs. Tha UK Garage sound wasn't so popular at this stage, so tha only nights that venues could be rented out on were Sundays. It also seemed that tha number of clubs turning tha black Garage crowd away from their doors was increasing. Those clubs that did were to learn this mistake tha hard way when tha UK scene broke.

As far as I can remember, tha most famous of these Sunday nights were 'Spread Love' at tha Gas Club in Leicster Sq., 'Open When Shut' at tha EC1 in Farringdon, and 'Twice As Nice' at tha Coliseum in Vauxhall. As time progressed, Fridays and Saturdays were taken in by tha Garage sound. Cookies & Cream at tha Leisure Lounge in Holburn (originally in Picadilly - now without a regular venue) were to join them. Tha massive McMahon promotions 'Obsession' and 'Exposure' nights were to rule tha fit-mass-audiences-into-small-spaces genre, and tha old favorites 'Sun City' at tha Adrenaline Village and 'Num Numbs' (@ all over tha place ;) were just some of the other main players.

So who were tha people involved at the start? - Why the controversy?
If you ask most people about which tune broke tha scene, they'll probably tell you that it was Van Helden's mix of CJ Bolland's 'Sugar is Sweeter' ('96). Even though I must admit that Van Helden's much-rinsed mix did have a big effect on this scene (and others), I don't think it deserves tha high accolade people give it, and it's definitely not his best remix to date. I still play his mix of Kim English's 'Nitelife' more than 'Sugar is...' just because I reckon it's a better tune. I respect tha guy, but I don't reckon tha glory is all his. Not at all.

Double 99 (DJ Omar and Tim Deluxe / 'RIP' / '10 degrees below' etc.) and 1997's anthem, 'RIP Groove' - First appearing on their 'Volume 10' double pack (on their own Ice Cream Records label), this tune (like Van Helden's) was received as well by house audiences as tha Garage kru. As soon as they tested tha water at 'Twice as Nice' @ Tha Coliseum in Vauxhall, it broke so quickly that tha double packs were said to be changing hands at £50 - £60 a piece. Then BMG bought tha tune, and tha much hyped sell-out began. Now I don't blame them for this, I would have done tha same thing in their position. They used tha tune as a stepping stone to go on to produce some of tha finest slices of UK Garage, such as their mixes of Stephen Emanuel's "What U Do", Kele Le Roc's "My Love" and Roz White's "Little More Love". Absolutely rinsin' tha US vybe, UK style!

Tha evolution of tha Garage vybe
Well as you can hear, tha tunes we hear today are just a bit different (!!) to those that tha late, great, Larry Levan used to play at tha Paradise Garage in tha 1980s. It seems that here in tha UK, we like our sound to be tuffer than tha more traditional US style. Just look at what many people believe to be our equivalent to Hip Hop (Jungle - or d&b for those that care ;) and you'll see this definitely is tha case... Here's a short run down on what's been goin on in tha past few years...

1994
Looking back @ 1994, when tha uk underground scene was begining to move forwards, this is when tha scene was known as tha Sunday scene. Back in those days tha basslines weren't so ruff, but tha Garage sound we had previously known had become tougher and faster. Even though this style was very much 4-to-tha floor orientated, tha long sustained organs had become stabs, and tha vocals were either cut up or pitched up. However, there was no denying that this music was a descendant of full-on gospel Garage... Tha DJ's back then were often jus' pitching their US Garage up for tha uk audiences (we like it rawer! ;)... hence tha Sunday vybe was not too ruff, but getting harder... more dubs that sounded "uk" were emerging... examples @ this time were tha "Hard Dub" of Logic's "Blues For You" (US on Strictly Rhythm) and Grant Nelson / Steve Firmin's "Together" & "Allnighter" (UK on Nice'n'Ripe). Classic choons, in my oppinion.

1995 / 1996
Moving thru 1995 and 1996, a similar sounding style was established. Based on US flava's, this newer underground Garage was becoming more popular, and tha ever-increasing-in-number uk crowd's need for speed was joined by a need for more bass... basslines got brought forward in tha choons, and use of sub-bass was on tha up. Todd Edwards was right @ tha forefront here, even tho he's from New Jersey, US, he had 'that' vybe. Still has it, in fact!... Some interesting developments were also gwannin'... tha first tunes were appearing that didn't have tha old skool 4-to tha floor beats - more like up-tempo R&B. And 2-step was born. There was a lot of controversy about who actually produced tha first 2 step tune. Some say it was Kelly G and his mix of "Never Let You Go" (Tina Moore). Others say it was tha Dreem Teem's mix of "My Desire" (Amira). Another early example was a rare white label called "Good Thing" (Chris Mac), and then there was tha massive bass bin thumpin "Gabrielle" (Roy Davis Jnr.)... No one really knows - or really cares - tha tunes were classics and provided floor material for tha eager crowds to bubble to.

1997
As we move into 1997, people are goin' crazy with this new ruffer style. Out go tha regular Garage organs, in come short resonant stabs. Bass guitars stop, sine, square and pulse basses are in every choon u hear. Tha 2-step that had appeared seemed to dissapear during this year. If any style had tha shitty, media hyped "speed Garage" tag, then this was it. Of course this 1997 vybe learned a lot from tha Jungle ppl, and of course there was tha massive "Dread Bass" argument. Which is a load of bollox anyway. Tha whole underground Garage scene did not decend from Double 99's "RIP Groove" (that sampled the bass sound from "Dread Bass") and Bolland/Van Helden's "Sugar Daddy"... Ragga b-bwoy vocals, spin backs, reversed drums + cut up beats were all around... Tha jungle ppl's piss take name for our scene at tha time was "Raggage" (u work it out)... fu*kers! How dare they! ;)... Garage as a scene exploded, and we have tha emergance of tha 'Garage Anthem' phenomenon. Julian Johna's mix of Boris Duglosh/BOOOM!'s "Hold Your Head Up High", Industry Standard's "Industry Standard Vol1." (what u waaaant... ;), Tywanda's "Rush", Andy Mowat's "Give Ya Funk", Big Bird's "Flav", even Antonio's "Hyperfunk" had appeared ('bout tha only non-4 to tha floor choon around ;), Ramsey & Fen's "Style" and loads more...

1998
This pushed us into 1998 with a 2-step bump. 1998 was tha year our scene recovered from tha bass. Everything suddely became funky, bass guitars were back, R&B remixes and R&B vocals were in. Garage producers were remixing all tha old Sunday choons into newer 2-step skippy versions (e.g. remix of Indo's 1995 choon "R U Sleeping" wid Bump 'n' Flex / G.Nelson on remix duties there). And it seemed that 4 to tha floor was no more (except for Booker T! ;). All tha choons became >very< soul and swing orientated. This probably happened 'cos Garage as a whole was becoming more popular in all tha clubs - 2-step is easier for non-Garage headz to digest than tha 1997 stuff. Ramsey & Fen's ex-engineer, Matt Coleman (MJ Cole) was brining a lot of this funk back. Some say MJ Cole is a lil bit like a uk version of Todd Edwards, and I suppose there are similarities there... anyway, towards tha end of 1998, a new breed of choons had begun to emerge - MCs would replace or chat along-side vocalists. "G.A.R.A.G.E." and of course tha "Red Rose e.p." were two of tha biggest choons over tha end of '98 - and tha crowds were lovin it.

1999
1999, and it all went a bit pear shaped, in most people's opinion... underground Garage at number one in tha charts, underground Garage at number two in tha charts, DJ Luck and MC Neat on top of tha pops - all tha choons sounded so similar, and every other choon was a remix... tha old skool idea of sampling from tv and film came back wiv a vengance, producing choons such as tha much detested "Casualty"... but don't get me wrong - 1999 was also a ruff year for Garage in other respects - lots of producers, such as tha infamous Zed Bias, tha Artful Dodger and many more were producing quality choons... 1999 was even tha year dat Todd Edwards finally (!!) released his 1998 album...

Tha Future of Sunday
Well, as usual, it lies in tha fickle hands of tha majority of music listeners. 1999 raised tha oldest argument in music once again - should underground stay underground? Well, I'll leave you to decide... although it may not be in our hands... my personal view is dat underground Garage may well survive for a lot longer... At present, it seems that it might split in two - one half might run alongside british R&B as our new mainstream music - and tha other half of underground Garage will return to being just that.

We'll probably see it influencing some new genre. That's just my prediction anyway. Only time will tell, I suppose... personally, I'm sittin here hoping dat some of tha Sunday will flavas return, while 2-step will continue to change and evolve... both styles have their plus points and their downfalls...

Anyway, all you need to know is that it's "UK Underground Garage", and you'll be fine. Don't call it "Speed Garage" or "Raggage" or I'll come and beat tha shit outta ya... ;)

So, hold tight Garage nation - it ain't over 'til tha Garage diva stops her soulful groove...