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The story of Deep Jungle and their dubplate treasure trove

The story of Deep Jungle and their dubplate treasure trove
18 Mar, 2019

“You hear people saying tracks are lost but things don’t get lost. They don’t disappear in a DAT hole. They’re sitting somewhere in a draw or a box in a loft. It’s getting access into those draws or boxes that matters…”

Lee Bogush is one of the most dedicated dub hunters you will ever meet. The man behind the revered and loyally followed Dubplates-Vinyls Soundcloud page, he’s best known as jungle producer and selector DJ Harmony.

Coming through some of the most fundamental foundations of the genre such as Lucky Spin and Moving Shadow, he’s remained entrenched in the game ever since… As an artist, a DJ, a longstanding friend of many of the genre’s most significant pioneers and, more recently, a serial archivist and co-owner of the label Deep Jungle alongside fellow OG J Majik. Since launching in September 2017 with long ‘lost’ Dillinja dubs Another Dimension / Humanity, Deep Jungle has quickly become one of the most exciting imprints currently excavating unreleased gold and giving it a brand-new lease of life.

It’s been a consistent trove of formative breakbeat fire from the likes of Grooverider (with his infamous Charade), Adam F, Tech Itch, Shut Up & Dance (under their Red Light alias) Babylon Cru, DJ Nut Nut and Harmony and J Majik themselves. And as more artists entrust their persy DAT briefcases to Lee and J, we can expect this activity to accelerate.

But first, a rewind: Deep Jungle was actually co-founded by Lee in 1994. But, besides a few one-off hardcore outings from Lee and previous owner Steve Lyall, it wouldn’t officially make it past its official DAT001 release for another 23 years. As of this month Lee and J are now on 013 (with two more never-before-released slabs from DJ Nut Nut). They tell us they’ve got the next 12 releases locked and the next one will be from none other than Simon Bassline Smith.

Tracks don’t get lost in a DAT hole, but we’re about to get lost in one as we catch up with Harmony and J Majik to get a taste of the label’s re-rise, the dubplate culture it was founded on, how they’re in the most enviable position an archivist can ever dream of. Time for some access…

23 years between 001 and 002. That could be the longest back cat gap in label history!

Harmony: Ha! It had to start off properly didn’t it? We had tracks in mind to start it off and do it properly and we weren’t going to go in half-cocked. Plus it’s got to be said, going right back, I started the label with a guy called Steven and we both released a couple of bits on the label after 001. Not many, mind. And they were different cat numbers, but we shared the label and that’s how it came about.

All of this came from the Lucky Spin era, right?

Harmony: Yeah I came from there then moved to Section5 and then to Moving Shadow. It was a very tight little scene back then. We knew we had something special and everyone involved knew each other in some way because we met at these important places. The record shops, the dances and of course Music House which was where you really got to know people.

J Majik: It forced people to have to sit with people they may not normally socialise with. Music House brought all the styles together and made you sit together. You didn’t send a DAT to them by post or send a cab down there. If you wanted it, you waited and it forced interactions which were great because, after spending five or so hours with someone, you understand them in a different level.

And you heard what everyone was cutting!

Harmony: Yeah. The thing people forget is that we were all at least a year ahead. Over time that’s been forgotten. What was released in 94, wasn’t what was played in 94, you know? The dubplate culture was so big some people would have plates for six to nine months to even a year. By the time the record was released they’d moved on…

From a documenting point of view, that makes it all the more fascinating. Like little puzzles to solve…

Harmony: That’s the angle I’m coming from; archiving. I’ve been a collector consistently since day one, especially of records & dubs. You hear people saying tracks are lost but things don’t get lost. They don’t disappear in a DAT hole. They’re sitting somewhere in a draw or a box in a loft. It’s getting access into those draws or boxes that matters. That’s what my Dubplates-Vinyls page on Soundcloud was about. The success of that and interest in the culture is basically why we’ve developed Deep Jungle. This music should have been released. The reason it wasn’t was because everyone was working so hard on so many different projects and the tunes that labels didn’t sign just kinda stayed on dub because we were all constantly moving forward and making the next track.

There was so much stuff it was impossible to release it all…

J Majik: That’s what I was going to say. Some labels had schedules that went for a year and a half. We couldn’t wait that long. As a producer you don’t stop making music.

Harmony: The music also moved very quickly. If you made something in 94/95, for example, and it was still on dub by 96 there was no chance of releasing it because things had moved on musically. By then everyone was going in on the hip hop samples. We were edging into drum & bass. A label would be like ‘ah that’s a bit jungly now sorry’ So it stayed on dub. Until now…

I’m interested to know where you went, Lee. You were in the thick of it during that time but seemed to disappear…

Harmony: After Moving Shadow I became a dad and made a life choice; I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up. I had to put myself on hold and raise my kids. I never stopped collecting, I never stopped being friends with all the guys, I never stopped following it. I did disappear for a while, which was down to a kidney disease which came from a streptococcal throat infection attacking my immune system. It was a one in a million chance of it happening and I was very unlucky but also lucky to be alive now!

Shit! When was that?

Harmony: That was about 2003 and it knocked me for about six years. When I recovered I counted my blessings and focused on my family, my health and my dubplate collection which I was starting to catalogue and digitize to show the world they’ve not been lost. They still exist and I wanted to celebrate them with people who properly care about them. At the time there was no other channels dedicated to them at this level.

The label was the next logical step I guess?

Harmony: Yeah but I didn’t want to launch it with a Harmony track. Or even a J Majik track. That would be too easy. I wanted to start with a heavy hitter. This is how we’re going to come…

J Majik: And we wanted continuity too. We didn’t want to drop a Dillinja record then leave it six months. We wanted to have a lot all scheduled and locked in ready to go. What we found, talking to artists who are friends we wanted on the label, was that a few people had been hitting them up and asking to release their dubs, but they didn’t trust them to do it right or respect it. They know with us the dubs are in safe hands.

J, I read about your fabled silver briefcase full of dubs. Lee, how did you acquire your ‘lost’ DATs?

Harmony: We’ve all got silver briefcases mate! The trick is we looked at all the unreleased plates we had together and made a list of people we knew who would have DATS and would want to be involved. Then we rang them and asked for access to their lofts and draws they hadn’t looked in for 20 years. And we’ve been blessed that a lot of them have just gone ‘yeah here you go boys’ and given us boxes of them.

Wow. Christmas time!

J Majik: Exactly. I have to say, this is a proper passion project too. Lee and I go way back as mates but we’ve never worked on anything business wise until Deep Jungle and it was the love of the music and dubplate culture that this whole project is founded on.

Something Dom & Roland said to me when I covered his Dubs From The Dungeons series was how he really enjoyed taking a cheque around to Dillinja for music he’d made 20 years ago.

Harmony: Yeah that is a really nice feeling. Anyone who’s been in this game for all this time will have experienced the shittier end of the industry at one point. So to be able to say ‘yo, here’s money for this’ is rewarding. We pay up front, too. There’s no point waiting for the money after sales to split it and watch it disappear after all the hard work we’ve put into it.

J Majik: We’re being transparent. These artists know us for 25 years and we tell them exactly how many we press and how much we’re making. Oh, and we’ll never repress. We won’t do a remasters collection in 2031. This is about integrity and celebrating the culture.

Harmony: I’ve got to be honest, we are building a brand here, too. I want people see the name Deep Jungle and they know what they’re getting whether that’s a takeover at a night or festival or a new release or merch. We are building something here, but that progression is much more natural and organic.

J Majik: You should see some of the plates we’ve locked in the future. We’re scheduled up to 024/025 now and some of the names on there are just savage.

Tease us!

Harmony: We’ve just dropped DAT012 and DAT013, a series of joint releases with 8205 Recordings and DJ Nut Nut with two unreleased tunes; a 93 tune called You Can Do It and on the other side a 94 tune called Back In The Days. Next up is 014 which is Simon Bassline Smith. It’s two unreleased tunes and a tune called Midnight which was on Deejay Recordings. It’s a lovely tune and that’s what this is about. I think it’s important to show that full spectrum. People always ask about big amen bangers but there was a whole other side to the sound. Not every Deep Jungle release will be a big amen track or an anthem. It’s important to capture everything that was happening between 91 and 97 and represent what everyone was doing… And we’re gonna be here for a quite a while as we do that with more and more important artists of the time such as Pascal, Ruffkutt and many more…

Shouts to – Infrared Records, 8205 Recordings, Green Bay Wax, Scientific Wax, AKO Recordings, Reinforced Records, Rupture, Kemet Records, KVA, Seventh Storey Projects, Vinyl Fanatiks, and everyone else keeping the original vibes alive and on wax in 2019.

Amen. Follow Deep Jungle: Facebook / Bandcamp / Soundcloud

 

 

Drum&BassArena Editor: Dave Jenkins has documented beats for over 15 years working with the likes of UKF, Mixmag, DJ Mag, iDJ, Bandcamp, Resident Advisor, Radio 1 Xtra and many more.