The dancefloor isn’t the only place to find inspiration as a producer, but it’s arguably one of the best if your intention is to make dancefloor music… How else are you going to tickle the ravers’ souls and hit them hard in the guts with your music if you’ve never raved yourself?
These thoughts are shared by Birmingham-based K Jah who celebrates his roots on his debut album Ravers Delight. Tapping into over 25 years of raving (and almost 30 years as a dedicated follower of electronic music) his album – released on Natty Dub – has been a long, long, long time coming and brings everyone up to speed on where he’s at and the type of jungle he vibes off and loves to craft himself.
Featuring collaborations with the likes of Diligent Fingers, Natty D and Vytol, Ravers Delight pays homage to the Bristol sound, labels like Frontline and Playaz and artists like Zinc, all the while retaining full future focus and heavy 2021 weight… Even though it was written in 2019 and was scheduled to come out pretty much as lockdown was kicking off. We did say it was a long time coming.
Now as the UK continues to reach for more lasers than our forefathers did way back in 1988/89 we pulled him away from the dance and asked him some questions about life, the album and the major influence the midlands had on rave and jungle culture…
Raver’s Delight… You come from the dancefloor, don’t you?
Spot on. I have been since 1995. I was into the music from 1990, though. My big regret in life is not being old enough to have been there right at the start and gone to some of those real game changing raves like the original Bagleys, Astoria or Fantazia.
All these legendary places. Especially in the Midlands. Birmingham played a huge role in the development of jungle!
Oh massively! DJ SS and Formation Records, Simon Bassline Smith and Absolute 2, MC Bassman, MC Lenny, Dead Dred, Doc Scott… The list goes on. A lot of people forget the Midlands’ influence on the hardcore scene, it gets a bit glossed over. Jungle started in London – without a doubt – but it was places like Eclipse, Shelleys and Quest that were the first raves to really push it further up the country
Amnesia House too. I know Micky Finn played so much up there he was often mistaken for a northerner or a Brummy!
Exactly man. And those raves went down in legend, too. Like I said, I’m deeply gutted I’m not four or five years older.
Take me back to your first rave, though. The first time you knew this would be your life…
Well I knew the music anyway. I’d been buying compilations at Our Price and Woolworths and I remember buying Altern8’s Masked Hysteria LP on my 12th birthday. I was also trying to catch all the pirates. We had Exile FM and Fantasy FM. So by the time I was old enough to go raving, I knew what the music was and was just mega excited to go. It was at The Institute which ran Club Junglist every Friday night. It wasn’t that busy, but it didn’t matter – Micky Finn, Top Buzz, DJ SS and Ascend – who was one half of Dead Dred – were there and it was brilliant. It was everything I wanted it to be and I never looked back.
Next stop – decks?
Yeah I got my first ones in 96 and spent hours and hours every day wearing out my copies of DJ Die’s Special Treat and DJ Krust’s Last Day. I still got the battered old copies to this day. A lot of which is Bristol stuff. I’d say that sound is my biggest influence by far.
Yeah I’ve noticed that. And how you’ve come through labels like Ruffneck Ting and Natty Dub. The album feels like a love letter to that classic Bristol sound?
I agree. It’s kind of a love letter to different aspects of the scene and sound, but it’s mainly Bristol because that’s the sound and culture that I fell in love with. But there are other homages: The Ravers Delight tune was a tribute to Wax Doctor on Basement Records. That’s my tribute to him and his tune New Direction. He had that jungle techno sound and that’s why there’s that four to the floor on the intro. It’s a nod to him and Basement Records in general.
Very influential label!
Totally. They really pushed the format and arrangement for mixing, they had such great engineering so the records always sounded great and it was only ever one tune per side. You could mix it, it was nice and loud. It was the prototype for how you should make electronic bass music.
Beyond the label, the owner Basement Phil created the prototype for a lot of artists to launch their own labels, too. So how about other homages or important messages you wanted the album to make?
Foxy Cleopatra is a homage to DJ Zinc in the mid 90s when he was doing 6 Million Ways To Die, so there’s a lot of hip-hop influence in that. I know a lot of people just assume jungle is reggae or ragga influenced, but it’s much more than that – it’s soul, it’s funk, it’s hip-hop. For me the master of making hip-hop influenced jungle was Zinc. The stuff on Ganja Records and Frontline. He was the absolute don. But they’ve also got a Dope Dragon type of vibe as well, which of course is Bristol. The tune Different Things is a bit of a nod to Zinc, too, with the way the flute sample rolls and rolls. Then there’s other tunes which are just ideas and not homages at all. Like Aria, which is an opera sample. I had this really bass sound and married with the vocal sample and it worked a lot better than I expected. It’s quite experimental.
Weirdly I wrote Zinc down in my notes in relation to that track because it reminds me of a Carmen sample in a tune he used to play in his UKG days
Ha, there we go. The sample’s off an old hip-hop record. A lot of the samples are from obscure hip-hop records actually.
I seem to talking to more and more artists about samples. There was a time when they were really badly frowned on but they’re the lifeblood of this music aren’t they?
It’s what jungle culture is made from. I think people did lay off the samples in the mid 2000s because no one wants to be sued do they? But I think if you sample from really obscure things then the labels might not exist or the publishers might not exist. And if they do, is it worth their time and effort to chase you up? This is drum & bass so probably not. But I have had to shelve stuff because of hot samples so I always expect these things to come up.
True. So, the album… Written over lockdown?
No it was all written before. It was going to come out in April 2020 and we thought we’d put it on ice because they’re dancefloor tunes so would be crazy not to release them when no dancefloors were open. So we kept it on hold until earlier this year when we dropped the samplers.
Ah cool. So all road-tested prior to shutdown. Were you worried the lockdown might date them or lose their potency?
Completely. I just had to accept the situation. I’d kept the album very close to myself and two or three other people so it wasn’t like everyone was rinsing the tunes and yeah now they’re ready to unleash and they’re still fresh to everyone.
Have you had any good gigs post lockdown?
Yeah quite a few now. I played Audiofarm Festival. Really nice vibe there, very friendly. I warmed up for Bryan Gee there, which is always a pleasure. I seem to be playing either before or after him at a lot of shows lately, because I also did a gig with the legendary Suv in Bristol harbour which was a cracking gig playing with Bryan, Donovan and Suv.
Bristol vibes once again!
Yeah my favourite place to play. That said, everywhere is a vibe at the moment. I played in Stoke recently and had a bit of trepidation on the way up there. Stoke’s not known for D&B and the last time I played there I got a call when I was half way up saying it was cancelled. So I wasn’t sure what this would be like but it was sick. Shouts going out to Rejected. It was a proper underground night there with a real community that’s building up around the night. Loved it.
Nice! Actually, looping back to what we were chatting about. We’re here for this new birth. These are historic times and things are very vibey!
Yeah that’s true. Everyone’s glad to be out and raving aren’t they? People are really happy. Covid’s not gone away, let’s be honest, but the vibe has been amazing. It’s been so long that we’re all really appreciating it. Plus I think there’s a sense or a worry we might go into another lockdown later this year so people are getting their fun in while they can.
What fun can we expect from you after the album drops?
Well I’m working towards an EP on Dread Recordings, which is great. My own label South Central has been on hiatus so I want to get back on that and refresh it a bit. I’ve got more bits on Natty Dub, some bits with Suv and then the world’s my oyster really. I want to rebuild the studio, learn some new techniques and try new things. I want to do more collabs and there’s some remixes of the album being planned for the future too, which I’m really excited by. So yeah, loads going on.
Wicked. Any shouts?
Yeah! Shouts to Sam Malachi, Aries, Dazee, Jinx, Vytol, Coda, T>I, Saxxon, Suv, Sappo, all the Kool FM Midlands crew and my influences – Randall, Zinc, Roni Size, DJ Die, Danny Breaks, Dillinja and everyone who’s supported my music. Big up!