We caught up with one of the pioneers of drum and bass and a legend in the genre just before he jetted off to Brazil, to talk about his latest project BUKEM IN SESSION and the story so far...
So tell us a bit about what you’re doing at the moment.
I’ve been busy! As you know Good Looking is releasing music again. DJ-wise last week was in Brazil, off to Dubai next week and Romania the day after, in a week Sweden, with a gig at the Kentish Town Forum in London day after.
I bet your sound goes down pretty well in Brazil?
Yeah there’s a lot of Good Looking heads over there, the gig is really good.
Okay, so would you say you’re working as hard as ever now?
Definitely! Mainly because of the travelling. When I first started DJing in the mid 80s, doing sounds in my basement it was all very UK based. I hadn’t even been abroad. Now you’ve got drum and bass all over the world so it’s just got busier and busier. Most weekends I end up being in another country. As well as that I’ve got commitments in England, like with Fabric I’ve got a Bukem in session monthly which has been going for 6 years. We had a little break for the last two months but its starting again in July and then its going to be every single month.
What would be the most obscure or strange place you’ve played?
Well you know I used to think that going down to Mexico and playing in a cave with bats flying around above you with about 3,000 people was strange, but I don’t anymore. There are parties in all corners of the world and all kinds of locations. It’s normal if it’s a cave in Mexico or a beach in Thailand. Music’s universal, it’s a universal language.
So you were quite young when you first started playing out, about 16 or 17 and you were doing parties right?
Exactly! It was all about the house parties and sound clashes in the 80’s. We’d just do house parties and sound clashes, me and a few boys would go out and knock up a sound system all on crates. We would play for about eight or nine hours, playing lots of different things like soul jams and mid 80s hip hop and reggae. It was good times!
So what does Nigel Crouch, mean to you?
Well he was the guy that really set me on my path to musical interest. I started learning piano with him when I was about nine or ten years old. He would do normal piano studies, you know scales and clefs and stuff and then at the end of a lesson he’d go what do you think of this? And he’d just play lots of different pieces and I’d go what’s this piddle I’ve been learning! He’d always come round with a Rhodes keyboard or something. He got me into jazz and lots of different things. He just got me into a whole different way of thinking about music. As a result of that I went out and bought records. He was definitely the catalyst for my interest in music.
You’ve been around for many special years, many special periods, are there any years you look back on as the “golden years”?
Well I mean it’s been three decades. Each decade had a special theme for me. The 80s were about the excitement of the early hip hop years and soul with people like Giles and Norman Jay. All those guys like Special Edition and the Rapattack. In one decade all this music just came from nowhere. It had just awoken and those days were so lively and so exciting in London. I was out every night of the week, it was very special for me because it was the start of my journey and I was discovering so much music from all genres. They were just really vibrant and exciting times. The 90s were all about starting a label. And getting into electronic music, house, hip hop, garage, drum and bass. And drum and bass is obviously the music that I went on to really do. That was a really unbelievably exciting time. Then the last ten years have really been about travelling and sharing the music that I love with people around the world. So I really think each decade has had its own thing. Each one is special in its own way. I mean in the early 2000s there was the massive change from CDs and vinyl to digital and the internet. And I think this is an equally exciting time, the label is adapting to new ways of doing things. I think each period had its own kind of speciality.
What are you most looking forward to now?
I’m just really excited for myself and my business partner for the label. We’re both working really hard to get the music out to the fans which I think is the most important thing. For a couple of years we had a little break with the label and now we’re going full steam ahead with it and we’ve got lots of releases and different ideas and bits and pieces. This is what I’m really looking forward to in the next period of my life and also working on another long player, you can check us out on beatport, iTunes, https://www.goodlookingstore.com/
Nice, how would you describe your music style if you were speaking to someone from another planet?
Oh my goodness! Well, I’d describe it as electronic music with a heavy beat influence, but its hard to describe it.
I would describe you as a pioneer of drum and bass, do you feel like a pioneer?
I think there were quite a few of us around at the time when this started. I think when you’re looking at pioneers you shouldn’t necessarily look at the people who went on to become great but maybe the influences that those people got their ideas from. There were a lot of things that were drum and bass “esque”, like house tunes that had a beat in the background - you’d call that a house beat. After the house beat, people would just do stuff with the beat. There was lots of early stuff that was beat orientated that got used heavily in drum and bass and I think those were the kind of pioneering stages. There were a few of us at the time, DJ’s, producers, promoters etc. Just a few of us who took the lantern and started projecting what we are as drum and bass or jungle. Obviously we all went on to do individual things with our music but I think we all influence each other and we got influences from people before us and I think there are quite a few people who are responsible for pioneering this whole thing.
And just speaking about Fabio did you feel something special at the time when you were working together?
Yeah, absolutely! We go way back and have that special connection. That was a really special time for us. Sometimes we’d go out and play the soul influenced music and it could be quite disappointing because it took a while for people to latch on to the idea, but then bam! You had Speed and then Ministry of Sound with Logical Progression back on in the mid 90s. It was just a real special time! Working on something you believed in, something worthwhile.
Now I heard you say once that your legacy is your music. You definitely made some timeless tunes. Do you think that you’ve already made the tune that you’d like to be remembered by?
I think as an artist, for every tune you make you’d like someone to remember you for it. I’m not throwaway with music, if I like it I love it and I’ll still love it in ten years time be it soul, jazz, hip hop, reggae or whatever. My music is like my own personal diary to life and I’d like to think that maybe some of that music has the same effect on other people. Hopefully I’ll be remembered for all my music.
So what is one piece of advice you have for someone making music?
Well as with most things in life try and get some belief in what you are doing, its easy to follow someone in any walk of life without actually having your own beliefs and opinions. To have your own beliefs is the first port of call for making music. If you are going to sit down and make something then make it something that you believe is one hundred percent you, and you’re giving a part of yourself. Sometimes it may not even work but you will at least have what you believe in out there. I believe in the music that I enjoy and love as much as anything else.
Can you remember any really good advice anyone has given you?
There’s one man in my life that has taught me a lot about loyalty, honour and respect. The world can be a very unforgiving place and those words are easily forgotten to people when convenient.
You have family in Uganda and Egypt, have you been to either country yet ?
I haven’t actually, even though my mum keeps saying to me that she wants to take me to Uganda to meet my family, my people. I’ve got loads of relatives all over the world who I haven’t met, I’ve just spent the past six years getting to know my mother, who I hadn’t known before. I’d like to meet all these people and find out about myself, my history and where I come from. I think that is one of the most important things that you can do as an individual.
You have Bukem In Session which is out now and is full of amazing artists, what can we expect from that?
It’s just carrying on from the Progression Session series where I mix and just really do what I do out every weekend. So I’m just letting people hear that, I want to get more of The Good Looking Sound out there being heard and online as well.
Really looking forward to that! Have a big time in Brazil. Maybe we could catch up with a filmed interview and catch you on the road and stuff!
That would be great.
Pleasure to finally catch up with you!
His new album Bukem In Session is out NOW!
Words by Oshi Okomilo