The early days of what people now refer to as bass music was very different to what we see today.
It wasn’t about “making it” or aspiring to get big DJ fees and it really wasn’t about getting your track played on Radio 1. It was about finding other people who liked this relatively unheard of and un-supported music, enjoying it and if you were really lucky being a part of it.
Alex Deadman and Junglist Alliance are a perfect example of this original mindset. Equally excited to be playing the music they have discovered and love to thousands at a festival on the other side of the planet or to a small room of people in their home town of Sheffield.
Last week Junglist Alliance joined me as my guests on my UK Mondo radio show ahead of a run of gigs which sees them picking up the mic again and taking to the turntable (yes turntables). So its was only right that I caught up with Alex & Tim and asked him a few questions.
1) OK for those who don’t know what is JA, and how did it come about?
The Junglist Alliance was born out of a collective of DJs, MCs, promoters and party animals. We all went to school (High Storrs) together and spent our days listening to jungle tape packs and hanging out in ‘the roughs’. We started by jamming together in our cellars, taking over house parties and then went on to arrange free parties, fully legal events and made in-roads in other cities like Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester. Events like Headcharge gave us some of our first proper bookings. We were a big crew back in the day, most of the originals have gone on to better things.
2) My favourite memory of JA is seeing you guys driving down Ecclesall Road in a double decker bus blasting out Jungle for your up coming night. (Long before the days of Facebook events.) What moments really stand out for you?
Alex : The VK bus was ridiculous, I’ve no idea why they let us do that and it’s miracle that it didn’t end in a huge disaster. Doing a 4 hour set on 1Xtra in 2006 was good and getting to work with all my jungle heroes like Nicky Blackmarket, Daddy Freddy and Kenny Ken was like a dream when I was still a teenager. It’s a thrill when you play out to a big audience like 5,000+ in Spain but for me the best moments are when you’re right in the session, surrounded by the audience and fully in the moment. I can remember a party at Stag Works that ticked all those boxes!
Tim : We’ve done a few great European gigs. Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and Italy was good and playing twice at the home of Hamburg’s Antifa movement at The Rota Flora was a real honour. The stand out one was in 2009 when we travelled to Albania and played at the first ever jungle night in the capital Tirana. It was in an amazing abandoned communist era hotel which we obviously ended exploring in the dark.
3) While I know you have an interest is many other styles of music (I think you were the first person I ever heard playing Dubstep out in Sheffield) what is it that has kept you coming back to and focusing on Jungle through the years?
Alex: Jungle was our first true love musically. When I was young I heard a little bit of everything through my dad who promotes music from all over the world. When I heard jungle it was like finally finding the shoe that fit. I really enjoyed the early days of dubstep and I love reggae and early dancehall. Jungle has the right balance of musical elements and it’s generally what I want to play to people. I’m very proud of it being a truly British and multicultural music.
Tim: I’ve always loved many different types of music and naturally become involved in lots of different scenes over the years but as far performance goes, jungle was always the one. I think once you’ve put so much of your life into a specialist area like Jungle you can’t help but keep returning.
4) With DnB having moved so far from its original Jungle roots in recent years, Jungle now has a very strong identity and is easily distinguished as its own genre and culture to even the casual observer.
Who for you is still pushing forward proper jungle in 2016 and is exciting for you?
Alex: I felt this differentiation right from the start. I didn’t start DJing until the late 90s when nu-skool DnB had already taken over and I knew I wanted to play differently. There’s loads of great contemporary producers like Aries and all the Birmingham crew. There’s also some really quality guys putting out old skool jungle like Sheffield’s own Kid Lib, Tim Reaper, Percussive P and people like DJ Stretch and Bizzy B who are releasing material from back in the day that was never available to the public. Jungle has an international identity and is still reaching out into new places, it feels like there will always be a fan base now.
Tim: Yeah we never went in for the more drum and bass end of things, I know the line can get a little blurry. The stalwart of the jungle sound and culture has got to be Congo Natty and the vocalists who he’s worked with like Top Cat, Tenor Fly, Daddy Freddy and that lot. Jackie Murda is a mate and I’m big fan of his music, he’s always been flying the jungle flag and is still putting out new music that I’m feeling.
5) For anyone who listens to your radio show on Sub FM they will know that you love your dub plates name checking JA and its members and even your dad.
What would be your ultimate dub plate special for you (or any member of your family)?
Alex: Ahhhh, dubplates. My Achilles heel. For me as an avid music collector it’s the peak of exclusivity and I love all the work that goes into sorting them out. It can be nerve-wracking and disappointing but the rewards are big. I really want to get ‘100 weight of Collie Weed’ by Carlton Livingstone and was nearby a studio in Brooklyn that would have cut last month but it wasn’t to be. Ultimate dubplate special would be something really silly like an original tune featuring Celine Dion and Elephant Man.
Tim: Ha ha Deadman loves his dubplates. To be fair it is really good to have such a collection now. For me the foundation ones are the most impressive being an old reggae enthusiast, the rarer the better. I can’t pick an ultimate one out though, we’ll just keep collecting.
6) Your known for having a million projects on the go at any one time. What else are you working on right now and is there any other projects you want to big up before we finish?
Alex : I’m interested in everything and terrible at saying no, it gets me into trouble sometimes. I currently divide most of the working week between teaching for Under The Stars and doing local PR for Tramlines Festival, I’m also helping to revive R8 Records, a dubstep inspired label that started in 2007 and I do a bit of work with Off Me Nut Records. For the future, I’m hoping to launch a real ale micro-brewery with Kenny Ken called Kenny Enjoys My Tasty Records or KEMTR-ALES for short. Watch this space!
Tim: I work lots of festivals (stage management and artist liaison) and am really looking forward to this season. I run regular Jazz and Swing events all over the north as well so worth checking our website if you’re into that kind of music. www.bigswingevents.co.uk