Roots & Culture: North West
Kicking off the Roots & Culture series with the North West of the UK. A series of articles dedicated to bigging up the whole of the UK and their individual segments of the drum and bass scene. Introducing the Kaiju Promotions crew and their host of wicked DJs.
Kaiji Promotions originally started out as an unknown, unbranded outfit way back in 1994. Like many events at the time, you guys were just a bunch of mates who enjoyed a good night out. What did it feel like at the time to be kicking off your own events?
“We started out just promoting as a group of friends. The only ambition we had was to put on a party that we would like to attend ourselves, in our local area. Back then, there wasn’t much happening in the North West for drum and bass and if it was, it was miles away. We were so excited about the music we were into we wanted to bring it to a local audience and create a buzz. It was a very exciting time, drum and bass was just out of its infancy really, it had recently transformed from the breakbeat or jungle techno vibe into early drum and bass. Producers were moving fast (considering the technology of the time) and we were starting to see separate rooms at the bigger raves catering for drum and bass, or, 2 rooms with rotating DJs. As a group of friends we loved all styles of the ‘rave’ music but, we could clearly see the potential of drum and bass. Very quickly we went from ravers into raver/promoters. Promoting our own events, making our own tunes to play out and travelling around the country speaking to other promoters and party goers. We just wanted to be involved in the zeitgeist going on down South and bring it up North. I’ve always thought on reflection that it was our generations punk, very much a communal DIY feel about things and a very firm finger up to commercialism and the establishment.”
Did you all have individual roles back then? Someone to make the flyers, book the DJs, rent the sound system etc or did you all just come together and muck in?
“When we first started we just kind of decided who could do what based on his or her skill set. That sounds organised, but it wasn’t! However, as things moved forward over about 6 months we changed things around and after a few meetings we all decided who was best suited to what position and what that position required. Not only that, but what needed to be communicated and when, to all other people in the group. We also employed the services of a local professional graphic designer for the flyers. She came up with some very innovative ideas for the time. Back then, your event flyer was everything, it was literally all the branding and marketing we had.”
The mid 90’s was obviously a special time, what would be your fondest memory of that time being a promoter in the North West?
“Well, yes… they were halcyon days indeed. I have some amazing memories of that time.
One that springs to mind would be the morning after our first free event on a beach in the North West. I was sitting on some sand dunes circa 1994 watching the sun come up whilst the DJ was playing ‘Belfast’ by Orbital. It was that single moment that made me think I wanted to promote events. Not very drum and bass, but personally I have a very eclectic music taste.
Another would be our second paid for event where it was absolutely rammed. We had promoted it like never before, flyering all over the north west, putting posters up everywhere in local cafes and the like. We were all absolutely exhausted from the exertion. Our Cadence group were standing on the balcony overlooking the dance floor as one of the resident DJs dropped Higher Sense’s ‘Cold Fresh Air’ and, it just went off! We were just in awe of what was going on… it was epic. It’s those moments that stay with you forever and define you as a person in my opinion. Moments in time. Cliched I know.. But true!”
Flipping that on its head, did you face any dilemmas running events? Any stories to tell?
“Oh yes… plenty! Back then nothing ever ran smoothly. You had to be very much on your toes as a promoter and be prepared to adapt at a moments notice without letting the stress get to you. If there is a problem with the party it has to be solved, there is no can’t in my opinion. We all shared that philosophy at Cadence it’s something I carry with me today and it has served me well. There was also the situation of the authorities as well, you had to be one step ahead and have everything covered. It’s no secret that the local constabularies around the country were not fond of raves in any forms, whatever the music policy. One time the night we were putting on got so incredibly hot inside the venue due to the air ventilation failing in the summer. We decided as a safety measure to quieten down the music for a while and open the fire escapes to vent the air outside offering people some relief. In about 15 minutes we had the Police at the venue along with a council member advising us we were breaching health & safety guidelines by having the fire escapes open and therefore we had to close. Fortunately, I was able to convince the Police that is was a temporary measure due to the ventilation system failing therefore we were actually minimising the chances of someone passing out or suffering an injury by falling on a slippery floor due to sweating and, also preventing a possible fire risk due to heat build up inside the venue. Whilst this was going on I had a team going to the lock up that we had picking up some industrial fans I had acquired so that we could set up inside the venue to move the air around and provide relief. Anyway, the upshot of it all was once we got them set up and blew the fans, plus gave out free water to people, the authorities allowed us to continue the party for the rest of the night. As I said, you have to be on your toes!”
After taking some time out at the end of the 90’s you’re now back promoting events in the North West. Is the event in April the big comeback?
“It is indeed. Cadence came to an end in 2003/4 due to numerous events all coinciding. Kaiju Promotions Presents: Enter the Kaiju has been developed with the philosophy of Cadence but we are aiming to bring things fresh and new to try and reflect where we have come from but also the development of the scene. We came from a scene that originally had all the rave music in one room. Now there are so many sub genres of drum and bass you’d need a very special venue to fit all those styles inside. Even derivative forms, dubstep, grime and UK garage can trace their roots back to early drum & bass so, what we are trying to do is bring that whole audience under one roof. We want to cater for all tastes because that’s where we come from, originally it was one big scene. This first event is going to be off the scale but that being said and moving forward, we have some very special ideas lined up for future events so watch this space!”
How have you seen the scene develop over the last 25 years? I know you previously mentioned the take up for drum and bass was relatively low many years ago, has this changed? If so, why do you think that is?
“The scene has changed dramatically and yet there’s that old saying.. The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s all about perspective. drum and bass has had some difficult years and there was a noticeable drop off, from our perspective around 2003 – 2006/7. Technology has advanced massively in that time coinciding with an entirely new generation of ravers that are seriously dedicated to the music.
Drum and bass heads have always been and continue to be very loyal ravers. If they like something they will let you know, if not they will equally have an opinion and it’s all about listening to those opinions to make things better and better as a promoter.
In recent years particularly in the North West drum and bass has experienced a huge resurgence. The scene is extremely healthy. You could argue that this is directly related to new emerging genres and artists, which I accept. I have also seen many people reliving their youth if you like which is also a great thing. I kind of feel right now, although things are different, they are very similar to drum & bass’ heyday. The energy around the scene right now is electric, you can really feel it in the venues and events. It’s an exciting time and we aim to capture that feeling at our nights. I am also extremely excited about the amount of female talent, both established and emerging right now. As we know, drum and bass was a mostly male dominated world for many years. I’m happy that the scene has moved forward with the times and is now fully recognising female DJs and MCs.”
The line up in April is looking big! How did you guys decide on who to book? Fabio, Grooverider, Blackmarket, Doc Scott, Total Science – a right mixed back going on!
“Hahahaha! I’ll take that as a compliment! Well, it’s all about representing all styles. jungle, drum and bass, jump up, neuro whatever you are into you’ll find something for you at a Kaiju event. As I touched on earlier, as we move forward we aim to incorporate all styles and sub genres. We are very big on providing a platform for the pioneers of drum and bass, whilst also providing a stage for emerging artists, for the music that we love so passionately. I think that is clearly shown by our line-up and we have had a very positive response. We have also recently added Dillinja to the line-up and a local DJ/ Producer called Freak Response who features in the mixes.”
Talking of selection, was it an even tougher choice selecting DJs for the Roots & Culture series?
“It’s been incredibly difficult on who not to ask! There is literally so much talent around right now I didn’t know where to start. Obviously I had some immediate ideas, but there is such an abundance of talent that it makes me feel bad that I have had to either leave some people out or I didn’t ask them. No offence to anyone at all, but I really wanted to focus on emerging talent and a collection of genres.”
The DJs play right across the board, was that your intention or is the North West represented like that?
“Yes, it was my intention entirely. I wanted a representation of all styles of drum and bass. I think it accurately shows that the North West is repping all flavours and forms. If it had been any different I really don’t believe it would be a fair representation of the North West by just concentrate on one or two styles. There is a lot going on with all drum and bass subgenres here right now.”
As you know, drum and bass now spans multiple sub genres. Do you find there is a current trend at the moment in terms of favouring one in particular?
“Controversial. Hahahaha There has been a trend towards jump up in recent years. Jump up has a very youthful feel, sound and vibe to it so it’s only natural that the younger crowd would be into that style. That’s not to say older people are not into it, there’s many jump up tracks I love! That being said there are so many styles. Personally, I have a very eclectic music taste a good track is a good track to me, so the genre is irrelevant. We also take that philosophy with our events at Kaiju. However, it could be argued that other sub genres are also fighting back. I mean look at the popularity of say, Noisia, Black Sun Empire, Mefjus, Manchester’s North Base, Prototypes to name just a few. The drum & bass scene as a whole is extremely healthy.”
What makes you proud of the North West’s drum and bass scene?
“It has come a long, long way since I first started out. The scene is incredibly healthy. A great example of this would be I was at a gig in Liverpool a week ago on a Tuesday night and it was rammed. Absolutely rammed. On a Tuesday! All ages, all cultures and a great vibe. That would have been very difficult to achieve in the mid 00’s or even in what some consider to be DnB’s heyday around 1996 – 1999. I think this is proof that promoting the culture of supporting your local scene really works long term. I am also very proud of the abundance of talent in the North West. There are so many talented DJs and producers here right now that the future looks very bright for the North West. Drum and bass was, back in the day, a London and Bristol thing. Historically that is true, but in 25 years it’s very much now part of British culture. The UK as a whole should be extremely proud of drum and bass as it has now been exported all over the world with strong scenes in many other countries.”
Where can our readers find more information on your up and coming events?
Finally, any shouts or big ups?
“Absolutely loads. I’m not one for name dropping but I have to mention the following.
The love and support I have received from the following since I have returned to the scene has been nothing short of incredible.
All the people who have contacted me and wished me well in this venture. I know it’s a bit cheesy but it really means a lot and hasn’t gone unnoticed. Thank you all!
Jack Banner from the Bloc2Bloc Crew in Manchester. This guy has literally built bloc2bloc and the culture/ community surrounding the crew from scratch. When I returned to the scene we didn’t know each other and the support he and the crew have showed us is immeasurable. In my opinion Bloc2bloc are really representing what’s happening in the scene right now.
Nicky Blackmarket – The man is a legend and a true gent!
DJ Pilgrim – Most underrated DJ of all time in my opinion. An absolute beat mixing master. Lovely guy who has helped out with advice and guidance hugely.
The unsung hero Brian Knowles. All those behind the scene know Brian, he’s been the main man of the flyering game for over 25 years.
All the DJ’s on the mixes. They have all been incredibly supportive and deserve all the credit they gain.
Shoutouts: Producers that are killing it right now (apologies if I forgot anyone!)
Warhead, Bou, Epicentre, NUUSIC, Motiv, Erbman, Sl8r, Dutta, Aagentah, Data 3, Djinn, Antagonist, Fortune, Dub Phizix, Synkro, Arcilect, SHADRE, Literally far too many to mention!”