DJ Stretch – Jungle Done Proper
Jamie links up with DJ Stretch, one of the original jungle veterans from the era of proper beats and bass to discuss his successful return to label management, why vinyl is still so important and the vibes at his events. Exclusive!
Before we go in on modern times, let’s go back to the days of Rinsin’ Records. Set up around 1995 it certainly had a promising start with the massively overlooked ‘Selector Jungle’ by yourself and DJ Ride. What’s the story with it’s short release life?
“No real story to it really. Originally it was a dub that that was working on the scene, especially Samantha’s on a Wednesday. DJs started asking for it and after a while I was eager to release it so started the label Rinsin’ Records. I had a lot of projects on the go and AKO Recordings started taking up more of my time so I aimed all my focus towards that.”
If my memory serves me correctly this came in a pink flecked sleeve? Was this to announce the label and to grab people’s attention?
“It was to stand out and get people’s attention, which I think was certainly achieved and sold better than I thought. It also got a couple of represses. I had the VIP planned for release but it just never happened, maybe it may see the light of day on AKO150 Arcade?”
AKO saw a huge relaunch in 2014 running a strictly limited vinyl pressing. Do you think limiting the amounts to small quantities is the way to go or does this limit the amount of people who can enjoy the labels music?
“Mainly because vinyl sales had decreased since the 90’s and I’m a product guy. So a limited amount of vinyl works for me and that’s how I want the label to be. We sell digitals of the catalogue via akobeatz.com so it’s available to all listeners. The sound isn’t limited and everybody can enjoy it.”
2014 was certainly a brave time to bring back a jungle label considering the resurgence of the original vibe wasn’t quite on the scale it is now. What made you do it?
“After attending a night called Rupture and being inspired in 2013 I knew I wanted to get back to doing what I’ve always loved but didn’t want to run a digital only label so I took a bit of time out planning the direction I wanted to go and making sure it felt right. After a few conversations with some influential people in my life, I decided to put all my energy into it and I’m so glad I did. The label and scene has gone from strength to strength.”
Moving forwards, it seems that a lot of people get hung up on what ‘proper jungle’ is these days. Do you think it’s an evolution of the sound we once knew or a drastic swing from what some expect? It could be a multitude of things to be fair – what’s your thoughts?
“I’ve had loads of conversation around this and what has become obvious is everyone has their own idea of what the sound is.
A lot of new school producers have even classed jump up as jungle!
I can confidentially say that isn’t jungle in my eyes and sticking a reggae vocal on a track or just adding the amen break doesn’t make it jungle either.
I believe that what we’re doing at AKO is an modern jungle sound where you are inspired by what was done in the 90’s and respectfully updating it to a modern feel. Labels such as Rupture, Repertoire, Function, Foundation X and Scientific Wax to name just a few are representing the sound properly but that’s just my opinion.”
Is there a restriction for producers sending music to your label in terms of what will fit? For example, if you had something in your inbox that really had that ‘97 sound, would you entertain it?
“I entertain and listen to everything that’s get sent to be to be consider on the label. I don’t play or put out jump up so I supposes that’s my main restriction. If you listen to the label catalogue you will hear a varied sound and get a good idea what works for us at AKO Beatz.”
Social media is a huge platform for people to follow activity on their favourite labels and AKO certainly doesn’t shy away from these opportunities. What do you predict for the future of likes, shares and reposts? How does a label maintain its relevancy in such a rapidly changing online word?
“Social Media is a big part of the scene and we always look at new ways of improving the way we get information to people that are interested in our label.
I think it is important that everyone supports labels pushing good music online, like and share activities so tracks can reach new audiences in a respectful way of course.
What I hope for is record shops to open again if vinyl sales continues to raise but I think it will become more independent and totally online based.”
As JME famously said “merchandise is back” and that really couldn’t be more accurate. It’s as if everyone ignored what once was in the 90’s for a solid amount of time then woke up and got back on it. If you could bring one item of collectable merchandise to the AKO offering what would it be and why? Obviously make it affordable, I don’t think a gold plated custom Technics 1210 would suit everyone’s budgets!
“I would like for all producers to have and use the Akai 950 and only have limited sampling time to create music. I think it would get everyone to think outside the box and become more creative like in the 90’s. If is needs to be an item, then the Atari 2600 is the one!”
Unknown Elements Volume 3 is tougher than tough, the producers on this have been gone to town with the ‘94 sound. It’s as if I’m playing a Dreamscape tape on the School bus! How do these guys do it? They must have lived and breathed jungle back then?
“I think the Unknown Elements Series gives artists a chance to get experimental. I like this volume as it definitely brings a modern take on the mid 90’s sound. You get a roller from Digital, Photek like programming from Ricky Force & Mecca and two dancefloor tracks from Jem One, Threshold and I.
It helps if you was around in the 90’s or have really studied the old school sound and it’s production.”
The ‘arcade’ series has been a very colorful, collectable series from AKO. I know you’re a fan of video games but if you had to break down your top 3 arcade games from the 80’s and 90’s what would they be and why?
“Donkey Kong was a very addictive game and brought hours of fun in my house growing up with my brothers and sisters.
Mario! I am a massive fan and the SNES was my favourite console. The game was very creative and had everything you would want – likeable characters, addictive, fun for everyone and stood the test of time.
Finally it’s got to be International Superstar Soccer. As a big football man I needed a game that was realistic and this was it. It was the game that got played all day every day at home. At Reinforced it brought fun arguments and banter – we even had a series of tournaments that had man dashing pads and walking out. That how deep this game was.”
Did you choose the artwork for the next ‘arcade’ release? I know you put the vote out to your fans on this one.
“I know the artwork to the next few but I do enjoy hearing about what people would like to see on the label as it’s become so collectible. It shows people are loving the series as it’s really got a good response.”
Twenty units left on the ‘Frogger’ vinyl? This must be an error, I thought they would vanish in a day!
“Well it did sell out in a day but after speaking to the record plant and ensuring I could have more at the same time we added more as a lot of people missed out surprisingly.”
What’s your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch? Is it going to last this time around considering the Wii U was such a short lived experience?
“I’m a big Nintendo fan and the Wii U never appealed to me so it not lasting the test of time wasn’t a shock. The Nintendo Switch however is perfect. Use it as a main console at home and then grab it and it becomes instantly portable. As long as games such as Mario Kart are made for it, it will be the console to have. I’m hoping for the Star Fox game to make an appearance. Its also great for my travels to gigs lol.”
Events wise, what makes a good venue for a jungle event? Are the small and intimate rooms the way to go to bring the vibes?
“It really depends on what you like as an individual. I enjoy smaller, intimate raves where the crowd are close enough to interact with the DJ and vice versa. That’s what we focus on with AKO events and it brings a vibe and atmosphere that is second to none.”
Your next event is at Bar 512, is this a regular place for you? What do you enjoy most about promoting these type of nights?
“Bar 512 is the current home for AKO events as it holds 200 to 250 people. I played at Launch and knew then after my set that AKO’s first London event would be there.
After the AKO Halloween event I was told it was one of the best parties last year which confirmed I had made the right choice.
The lead up to any event is stressful man! I came back into music to enjoy it and see people smile and enjoy themselves and life comes with enough stress.
I’ve now gone back to that reason and don’t stress any more and enjoy it. What will be will be as long as you give it your best effort. The best thing about doing it is the experience and peoples feedback during and after the events.”
What’s to come for the rest of the year? Any future event collaborations or big releases in the pipeline?
“The remainder of the year has a few more BIG releases and maybe even Arcade 5. The next release on AKO Beatz is by the talented Double O and we can’t wait for this release. A 3 track EP called ‘Dreamin’ will have something for everyone.
We have the next AKO jungle event on May 19th at Bar 512 with Tek 9, Spirit, Equinox, Dextrous, Stretch, Mantra, Double O, Verb, Handy, Blackeye, Major Ranks & Moose. We also have about 25 to 30 tickets left and very limited pay on the door. Facebook event page.
AKO Beatz Halloween Special Part 2 at Bar 512 October 28th. Also some collab events planned. Production wises some collaboration with Verb and Ricky Force and some new music from my alter ego The Guyver.”
“Would like to send a personal thank you and shout to all AKO and Reinforced supporters.
Marc Mac, Dego, Gus, Ian, Decoy, Goldie, Dominic, Storm, Randall, Digital, Spirit, Mantra & Double O, DJinn, Verb, Aries, Skitty, Tim Reaper, Serum, Ricky Force, Threshold, Jem One, Theory, Headgear, Demented Soul, FBD Project & Madcap, Mecca. Panka, Kenny Ken, Moose, Uncle Dugs, Future, Trace, Tara, Skyz, Fleck, Karen, Shadae, Renee, Woody & Debbie, Mat Unearthed, Shane, Equinox, Dub One, Andy, Malx, Zsa Zsa, Leon, Hitz & Jacob, Monitor Skeleton, Rupture, Repertoire, Wardance crew, Beautiful crafted Crew, RCFF, Vanessa, all the labels, DJs, radio, events, groups and online magazines pushing the music.
All my family and friends and also everyone I forgot. Thank you all producers and music lovers for supporting the labels it doesn’t happen without your continued support.”