All week on FACT, we’re celebrating #RaveWeek. Following a FACT mix from pioneering Detroit techno producer Kevin Saunderson, the inside scoop on ‘Big Fun’ and the long-awaited sequel to Joe Muggs’ Rubbish Raver memoir comes an interview with Jerome Hill, an artist keeping rave alive in 2014.
If there’s one man who embodies rave spirit in modern dance music it’s Jerome Hill.
He’s best known for his involvement in the “wonky techno” scene (indeed he coined the term for a section in the Dragon Discs record shop where he worked in the mid-90s) – the punky but secretly rather sophisticated warehouse sound of people like Neil Landstrumm, Dave Tarrida, Cristian Vogel and co. His sets are some of the very finest you could ever hear in this style, full of cutting and scratching and demonstrations of precisely how much funk it’s possible for raw and uncompromising electronics to have.
But Hill has always flown the flag for other rough and rugged UK underground sounds, notably UK hip hop, breakbeat rave and old school Yorkshire-style bleep’n’bass – and he continues to represent all of these in his sets, promotions, releases on his labels and the ‘Roots of Rave’ show on Kool FM. His ability to join the historical dots, and keep alive the voracious enthusiasm for the music and the party that he and so many first people felt back in 1990, makes him a perfect fit for Rave Week, so when he offered us a track from his brand new Super Rhythm Trax label, we grabbed a few minutes of his time too.
Can you give me a rundown of all your current activities?
Quite a bit, mate. Over the summer I cut eight records, two on my mostly techno label Don’t. Don’t no. 25 is a various artists EP with some particularly boisterous techno from Cursor Miner and Joe Farr among others, then #26 is a four-track EP of untamed acid tracks from a known artist who will remain a surprise for now. There’s two 12″s on the new label Super Rhythm Trax, which is pretty much all acid, plus I have some tracks of my own coming out on a couple of my favourite labels, but I don’t think I’m allowed to mention those yet.
My third label is Fat Hop, which pretty much focusses on rough uptempo hip hop and b-boy breaks, and that has four records that I’m drip feeding out there over the next couple of months – namely, a 12” retrospective by rave pioneers The Blapps Posse; a 7” of hardcore influenced b-boy hip hop styles with a twist by myself under the name Itsu Uno and my Kool FM compadre DJ Warlock as Han Do Jin; plus two more 12”s coming soon from Dookie Squad, an early 90’s UK crew that are still consantly on fire – search YouTube for ‘6 Feet Under’ if you want a taste.
Then also on Fat Hop there’s also a mini album from an under-the-radar 1992 crew that never had an official release but thankfully still had their old demo tape. It’s kind of a cross between Demon Boys, London Posse and Cypress Hill: mind blowingly rough, six tracks, three of which I only just found out were engineered by a young Roots Manuva! I’m particularly excited by this release as to me it’s like an artefact, time stamped from that era, that’s been frozen for 22 years and now can be unleashed as a testament to what could have been and now will be… an immensely wicked record.
As far as DJing goes, I present a weekly show on London’s Kool FM every wednesday 11am-1pm where I dig pretty deep into acid house, bleep, hardcore, techno, electro and loads of other stuff, mainly concentrating on the 1986-1991 era. I’m also now into the third year of running my bi-monthly techno night Don’t at an intimate venue in Kingsland road where we can bring in a nice sound system, lasers and smoke and book people from the label and similarly, umm, “un-like minded” DJs and live sets.
The sort of people we’ve had include Paul Birken, who’s coming back for our Halloween party, Neil Landstrumm, Subhead, Si Begg, Truss, Bintus, Ben Pest, TSR, Matt Whitehead, Luke’s Anger, Mike Dred – you get the idea! I’m just now getting set to play at Bestival this weekend, and had my first mix CD released a couple of weeks ago, which was myself and Mark Archer from Nexus 21 / Altern8 picking and remixing classics and brand new stuff.. It’s called ‘1 Night in 88’. ANYWAY… sorry if anyone got bored and fell asleep during that… err… If you’re still awake – next question?
What vintage of raver are you? Where did you get your first rave experiences?
I would class my first rave experience as becoming completely addicted to the London pirate stations as a teenager in 1990. It was mainly Fantasy FM, and I listened religiously, fell in love with that music and sought out those records. Goldhawk road Music and Video Exchange with its 20p basement was my second home, and being pre-internet there was pure gold to be found in that place as there was no way for them to know if a record was sought after or not.
The whole thing was so fresh that the music hadn’t yet had a chance to mature and attain any sort of value, so everything just went out there for a couple of quid, or indeed in many cases 20 pence! If, say, you bought the fifth release on a label, there was no way of finding out what the previous four had been or any info about the artists, unless you were “in the loop” or happened to have a knowledgable record shop guy – which was pretty much the equivalent of the internet back then [laughs].
I think my actual first experience of being amongst a bigger group of people all locked on and feeling the same vibe, was either at the Wag club in Wardour street, which was also the first place I DJed out, or at a place in Ealing called the Top Hat club. Mainly though, in those early days it was about bringing our records to house parties or just hanging out at each others houses and mixing it up, or even just sitting around listening to the pirate stations.
Can you sum up your life in rave between then and now in short?
Well, musically, beginning 1990, I kind of started off with bleepy techno, acid and house, the rougher breakbeat stuff that crossed over into hip hop like Blapps Posse, Shut Up & Dance & Genaside II – and also straight up Big Daddy Kane style RAW hip hop. From that of course it was natural to go into hardcore as it was being born in 1991 through to 92. Round about 1993 or 4 I sadly went down a musical dead-end and started buying some quite dodgy mid nineties housey stuff, which at the time I thought was great, but was actually clearly a product of ecstasy mind clouding… [shudders]
Thankfully I was swiftly rescued once again by techno, care of the Final Frontier parties every friday at Club UK, and from there, some time in 1994 I fell into the London illicit warehouse party scene and in particular Jiba sound system who I played with every weekend in the mid to late 90’s in some amazing reclaimed venues. This is where I kind of found my place, my sound and tightened up my mixing and scratching – I’d always try and get away with dropping something totally random but floor rocking in the middle of sets, be it ‘Surfin’ Bird’, ‘King Of The Beats’ or ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’
Then I got a job managing a record shop in Camden – Dragon Disc – and although we were predominantly a techno specialist, I had access to so much different music and ended up being the confused but happy muddle of all the different genres I love and play today. I started Don’t in 2000 and began to DJ more abroad, then Fat Hop in about 2009. I’ve met and worked with so many great people who’s music I love, some of them are absolute legends to me, but everyone has been a joy to work with. I have one rule, which is only releasing music by people who aren’t cunts – and so far nobody’s let me down. I’m thankful for each track I’ve been able to put out, I’ve loved bouncing back and forth between the two labels and having outlets for both styles of music – and now there’s Super Rhythm Trax too!
You seem really comfortable at the intersection of so many genres, including garage and bassline on top of those you’ve mentioned. Do you still feel they’re connected as they were in the early rave days?
I think there’s a definite rave spirit, yes. All the genres we’ve discussed are linked in some way and although I’d probably get further if i stuck to just DJing one style of music, I just can’t do it. I’ve gotta have the Yin with my Yang, peaks with the troughs – it balances me out. I know it probably confuses people if, say, I have a techno gig and someone who may have enjoyed it goes to my Soundcloud and the top set is all radio shows of old skool hip hop and proto-hardcore – people like to be able to file DJs in boxes after all… [checks self] I should probably say at this point: promoters don’t worry – I won’t turn up at your techno party and play hip hop or vice versa… although that used to be a fun trick in the early 2000s! But back to the question, rave is about good music and good people and as long as I have access to both of those things, then it doesn’t matter if it’s Babe Ruth ‘The Mexican’ or Jamie Lidell’s ‘Freely Freekin’ blasting out the speaker.
What do you think of the current generation of clubbers. and what sort of reactions do you get from younger listeners for your retro sets?
I think the younger generation are pretty open minded and generally can get down with the old stuff as there’s so many new producers and big names that take influences from it anyway. I don’t think it’s that much of a foreign sound for them, plus there’s the internet where anyone if they’re interested can trace stuff back to it’s origins and recognise the threads running through it all. It’s funny that word “retro”. I never use it really, as the music from that era, turned over and morphed so quickly into its current incarnations – late eighties house and electro morphing into 1990 breaks, bleeps and bass, moving in to hardcore, and then in about 1994 into drum’n’bass and jungle, which are still both going strong today.
Like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, it’s easy to forget that hardcore, or “old skool” as its often called now only lasted three years, if that, before completely evolving into something else, and that original form is not made any more. I can understand “retro” being applied to old rock n roll music, but hardcore? It’s not retro: it’s just hardcore. It’s like Latin is an extinct language that influenced our language – it’s an extinct music that still has relevance today. UK heritage! In the end, though, in the club a tune’s a tune, which makes it irrelevant when it’s made. I love it most if you can give an old track context or introduce it in a way so people don’t twig until they’re already in the groove.
Do you prefer to play new, old or mixed sets now and why?
Like I said before, I’m all about Yin and Yang, peaks and troughs. I’m lucky to be able to get the techno out of my system one night, then the next night play a straight up b-boy scratchy hip hop set. And of course I love playing longer sets where it can and often does go all over the place. I think I’m safe in saying that I’m the only person to have played The Andrews Sisters, Spanky Wilson and Earth Leakage Trip in the same set on Kool FM.
What’s the thinking behind the new label? Do we really need more acid tunes?
Yes! Of course we do! [laughs] The Mike Ash tracks have serious arrangements which seem to be lacking these days from lots of productions – people generally just make a decent loop and tweak it very slightly over 7 minutes, maybe add in a hi-hat after 3 minutes. Mike’s tracks are in the old style where things actually switch up more often and keep things moving like balancing out the various elements a couple at a time, rather than having everything in all the time. It’s about keeping people locked in. Future releases are signed already from other ends of the spectrum, but the main aim is for them to be tracks that you could play amongst old 1988 sets of acid, house and electro as well as with new stuff. It’s not meant to be rocket science, anyway: just good honest dance floor tackle.
What unappreciated corner of rave history do you most think needs reviving still, and what rave relics should be left resting where they are?
I like this question, I think new beat definitely should have a revival. The Sound Of Belgium film threatened to cause a revival and i thought it was going to, but it never happened..I also put out a 12” with two of my favourites on Don’t a few years ago. I love that sound. It’s wonderfully dated but yet still manages to sound completely mystical. Acid house and hardcore have been enjoying an extended revival now for some time, and that’s all still good. As for what should be bagged up and dumped over a bridge never to return, I guess prog house, and horrible piano rave froth like Rozalla and Cola Boy ‘7 ways to love’!
More Rave Week!
– FACT mix 458: Kevin Saunderson
– Inner City and the inside story of ‘Big Fun’
– Joe Muggs is a Rubbish Raver
– Terry Farley on the history of house
– Mella Dee’s Top 10 Rave Tapes
– Makina: the scene keeping the hardcore flame burning
– The 20 best Happy Hardcore records of all time
– The 20 best rave videos on YouTube
– The A-Z of Rave