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21 Years Deep: The Story Of US D&B Institution Respect

1090 parties strong and counting… LA drum & bass weekly Respect turns the grand age of 21 this week.

One of the most important outposts on the disparate but fiercely passionate North American  D&B landscape, Respect has been unapologetic in its jungle assault, pushing the genre in a challenging market forever dominated by house, techno and, in more recent years, EDM.

They began during drum & bass’s first big US explosion in the late 90s and they’ve not only championed the genre during every turbulent high and low, they’ve maintained and developed a community of artists and fans around it, too. They’ve been responsible for many prominent D&B act’s debut US debut shows and are regarded as an essential stop on any touring artist’s US schedule.

The crew responsible for LA’s longest-running D&B movement are the Junglist Platoon and their story runs much deeper than 21 years or 1090 parties. Comprising Machete, Clutch, No Face, Scooba, Drone, Arkho and MC Dre, Junglist Platoon remain as tight and inspired today as it was when some of the founding members met in school and began their raving explorations in the mid 90s. Already DJs long before Respect began in March 1999, it was a life-affirming trip to the drum & bass motherland that lit the spark on a fire that’s now been burning for 21 years.

Expect the fire to burn extra bright on Friday March 6 as they take over 1720 for an XL anniversary bash with an all-star US/UK line-up. Dillinja will be making his Respect debut alongside Craze, Crissy Criss, Armani Reign and of course members of the Junglist Platoon themselves. Last spotted on UKF On Air with this exceptional D&B mix from Mat Zo, here’s the full Respect story with key founder Rob Machete…

 

Let’s get your history. Pre-Respect…

Out of high school I started going to underground rave events and fell in love with the music right away. I already had an appreciation for DJs through hip-hop, but went to raves in 91, got into breakbeat and hardcore techno sound and just followed the evolution from there.

I feel it was more underground in the US because of dominance of house music?

Definitely. Most of the parties we went to that would play that style were more underground. Most the raves back then were house and what they called techno back then, but it was the breakbeat sound that caught my ear.

I have to ask what happened in 98/99… Respect, DNB Tuesday, Elements all launched within months of each other.

It’s interesting as far as the timing goes. I had no clue there was a DNB Tuesdays or Elements. We were all just doing our thing. There were lots of other great nights at the time but they haven’t lasted as long as any of us. There were already a few LA weeklies. Science was run by Raymond Roker who ran URB magazine. He was pushing the UK sounds of D&B super early from the mid 90s and did a lot to champion this sound. So he ran Science and there was also a weekly Tuesday thing but that fizzled out so we went with it and ran with it on our own. We started Respect as a Tuesday night and then, within a year, we moved to Thursdays which has been our thing ever since.

That first drum & bass peak in North America in the late 90s was huge wasn’t it?

It was. It was growing for a long time, Insomniac were hosting big events and really pushing it and they still do now obviously with events like EDC. I’d say from around 94 – 97 there were only a handful of guys doing events so anyone who was playing drum & bass played at most of those events. We’d played alongside Andy C and Goldie and Doc Scott when they came over and toured in 95/96. But things changed when our crew took a trip to London for the first time and celebrated New Year’s Eve 1997 at World Dance in Wembley, and went to a Metalheadz night during the same trip. We saw how things were being and got really inspired. From that trip we knew we needed to create a space to play this music and call it our own.

Communities grow that way don’t they?

Absolutely. That’s one of the things about drum & bass. It’s the reason I fell in love with it. Community, family vibe; we’re still the underground in the electronic world but we found our niche and have attracted a lot of like minded supporters. Not just in LA but people from out of town or internationally if they’re passing through.

Who was your first international DJ?

I took the reigns as talent booker at this time and I had no idea what I was doing but I thought I’d give it a try and the first international DJ I booked was Mampi Swift. He was coming off the back of the Kungfu Knowledge tour with KMag. I was on the same tour with Swift, DJ Craze, Rob Playford and some other Stateside guys. A month after we started Swift was the first guy we booked. He played, then our next was Teebee who was very early on his rise. But mainly we started by booking the local DJs and a handful of guys who were pushing the sound. We had a very small venue with an even smaller dancefloor and we’d have 50 people a night if we were lucky but it quickly grew. Because of our history in the scene prior to Respect, we had enough people involved and a big enough support system for it to work.

Does that support system still exist?

It’s still strong. Work schedules and families take people to different places but on our anniversary nights or special occasions it’ll bring the heads out of the woodwork. After 21 years we’ve seen a few new crowds coming in. There’s always a reason or catalyst for that. For example when dubstep blew up it highlighted bass-led electronic music which in turn led to people finding Respect.

Evolution keeps the night alive

Absolutely. And after 21 years you have to find different ways to keep yourself fresh and exciting and relevant. We’re interested in experimenting with fusing cultures and styles and recently had the legendary turntablist QBert here. He played a special D&B set and scratched over it and did his thing. You rarely see a full mix from him so that was incredible. It brought out different people from the scratch world and the D&B world who might not usually mix. That’s what it’s all about for me. That was really inspiring.

That’s great to remain inspired, having done it weekly for so long. It’s mad you’ve not missed a week!

There have been a few times in the early days when we didn’t have that solid support from the venues we’d miss a night. There was one instance when we were in between venues and did a few one-offs over a few weeks. But for the most part we’ve gone straight through with 52 shows a year. We hit our 1000th show last year and had Bukem over and the train keeps on running with no signs of stopping.

Do you have any really stand out peak memories that instantly spring to mind?

Any time we have Goldie play is a mad to say the least. He has a lot of friends who he considers family here and he usually play around his birthday and that’s always a big celebration. We’ve had many incredible nights with him. And many, many others. Over 21 years we’ve had so many good memories it wouldn’t be fair to pick one or two.

Now comes the 21st

Yeah. We’ve got Dillinja who’s actually playing Respect for the first time in our history.

Oh wow, I’d have thought he would have played Respect before!

No! We’ve wanted him to play since day one but before a year or two ago it was rare to book him over here. He’s started touring here more often so it’s been great to have him down with us. We’ve also got Craze who’s been a big supporter of us since very early on and Crissy Criss who we always love having over. We also have Armani Reign, Clutch, Junglist Platoon and MCs Dre and Questionmark.  We’re doing it downtown LA. Not our weekly venue, this is bigger and has more of a warehouse feel. We maxed it out last year and I hope we’ll do it again.

Tell me about the Junglist Platoon

That’s the heart of Respect. It’s the original crew who started raving together in the early 90s and stuck it out. We all came together with the sound and saw the evolution and became a part of that. Between me, Clutch, Scooba, No Face. We were the first to hold it down. We play on rotation so it’s the luck of the draw of who plays on which line-up. I do my best to keep our talent and line-up stacked every week and not just book big international acts but also support local talent, stateside producers or host local nights where we do a theme and just keep it interesting and different. In fact the entire month of February was all US headliners. Flite, AK1200, Faust & Shortee from Urban Assault and 6Blocc.

I love the fact your original crew are still together. This is the same group who came over to the UK in 1997, right?

Yeah, that’s us. A lot of us have been friends since school. There were 12 of us originally when we went on our first trip to Europe. We came to England and Amsterdam, did a lot of record shopping. I actually got to go to Boogie Times, which was great. We just tried to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as we could and still do and we still keep adding names along the way. MC Dre, for instance, has been with us for five years now and Arkho, who is a long-time friend and DJ from San Diego, was officially inducted into the crew a few years back. But yeah, it’s basically the same crew. I also have to give a special shout to my fiancé Andreea – aka Preying Mantas – she has been a huge help and supporter for many of those years. But yeah, it’s the same crew and this has been our lives forever. It’s everything that led up to Respect and it’s everything we’re about 21 years later.

Respect celebrate their 21st this Friday, March 6, at 1720 LA: Ticket details

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