In Conversation With Tim Reaper

Chest-rattling drum breaks, thunderous sub-bass explosions and deep, textual atmospheres: The early 90s rave scene was dominated by the raw, uncompromising sounds of jungle. Emerging from a rich black music foundation and soundsystem culture, turbo-charged by the fragments that were left behind by the hardcore revelation, the music attracted a new wave of talented but sonically homeless artists, who brought fresh and innovative ideas and a DIY attitude to explore the potentials of a breakbeat.

As rave culture expanded and grew in popularity, producers came and took the sound into new directions, as the clean, sterile mixdowns of intelligent drum and bass started to replace the ruggedness of jungle. However, over the last 10 years, jungle has been making a very welcome return, inspired by an exciting, new generation.

There’s been a healthy increase in the number of labels who have dedicated themselves solely to showcasing the very best in both old and new school jungle. Samurai, Ako Beatz, Green Bay Wax, 7th Storey Records, Meditator Music and the acclaimed Rupture are just some of the labels who have been flying the flag for jungle. A tight scene that is always happy to support and nurture new artists, we’ve continually seen an influx of producers being drawn to the savage sounds of breakbeat debauchery. Whether it’s artists who paved the way for future generations like Djinn, Paradox and Loxy, or next generation pioneers like Coco Bryce, Sully, Mantra and Forest Drive West, the current scene is as strong as it’s ever been. Perhaps one of the best exponents of the modern jungle scene is Tim Reaper.

After catching the breakbeat bug in his teenage years, he has gone on to carve himself a formidable reputation for pushing the classic rave sound into new directions. Consistently churning out a string of incredibly good releases across a host of labels, his futuristic interpretations that fuse elements of both hardcore and techno have drawn him support from both the old and new school scenes.

Despite the madness that’s been going on around the world this year, 2020 may be one of the most important years in his musical journey so far. As well as returning to Repertoire for his much-anticipated More Lanterns EP following the success of his previous venture on the label back in 2016, he has also just dropped a jungle EP on leftfield techno label Lobster Theremin and started his own label, Future Retro.

Originally intended as a club night that was set to debut during the Covid pandemic, he decided he had everything in place to start a unique, collaborative series of releases, teaming up with artists from all across the world. The project, which is called Meeting Of The Minds, has already garnered acclaim for its part in showcasing the global reach of the sound. We were lucky to speak to Tim and get his thoughts on the past, present and future of jungle music….

How did you first come to find drum & bass and jungle?

 So I was doing GCSE Media Studies and for my coursework I had to compare two music magazines, one of which was Mixmag. Usually they have house and techno on the cover CDs but for this edition they had Andy C. Hearing drum and bass mixed was new to me so I checked out the CD and was just blown away by the energy! After that I found the forum on the Drum&BassArena website and learned all about it from there.

So when did that transfer over to digging for jungle? 

Within about a year I’d say. There was another mix CD from DJ Hype and around the same time there was also a fake Hype Myspace page that had loads of uploads on it like Super Sharp Shooter by Zinc and Dred Bass by Dead Dred on Moving Shadow. After checking them out I was like ‘these are better than anything else I’d heard before.’ For me they just had more energy and character than drum & bass and I was completely taken by it. After that I just had to find out everything I could about jungle music.

What’s so refreshing about your music is how you incorporate elements of hardcore and techno like in those early days when it was just breakbeat before it was officially coined jungle. What drew you to this fusion instead of the ragga jungle and darker sound that came later? 

I’ve dabbled a little bit in all of them but, over time, the early music was what always stuck with me and it was also what I preferred making. With the ragga jungle I was quite into it in my early days because it’s the kind of stuff you’re first drawn towards as it’s a bit more rowdy, but then I found the deeper stuff that hooked me in a bit more.

Production-wise, how do you find crafting these beats? Back in the early 90s, the sound was so raw and uncompromising because of the strictly hardware productions. How do you go about tackling them in 2020? 

That’s a good question. I know quite a few people that have recreated those hardware setups but personally I’ve never really managed with them. What I tend to do is back-trace to all the original samples that they were using back in the day. You try and keep it clean but not to the point where it sounds outdated to what it would have originally been like. For example if you find an original funk breakbeat or a hip-hop tune breakbeat that you want to sample, you process it but not to the point where it sounds completely sterile.

With your releases, I think the first tune I remember hearing of yours was Lanterns. Did that feel a bit of a breakthrough tune for you?

 Yeah out on Repertoire! It sort of did feel like a breakthrough, it was my first solo EP on the label after featuring on a V/A EP before. Everyone seemed to really like it and it caught the attention from people who didn’t really know who I was before.

Another defining series of releases has been your Globex Corp project. Tell us a little about that. 

I was working with a label called 7th Storey Projects run by this guy called Simon and he was doing a VA EP called Dark Arts that he wanted a tune for. He came back to me a little later saying he really liked the track and asked if I had another one he could use as someone else who he had asked hadn’t finished theirs. The EP was pretty successful, so he mentioned potentially working on a solo EP that could feature on the label. Around the same time a good friend of mine, Dwarde, had moved down to Turnpike Lane in London and had a setup there so we started working on tunes in person after previously only having done everything online. I told him about the potential EP and he said that he was the guy that didn’t finish the tune beforehand, so I thought it would be cool to maybe do something together.

Around the same time, the guy who runs Repertoire, Ricky Law, had messaged me saying he had an idea for a white label called Globex Corp. He basically let us run with the idea as we’re all big Simpsons fans so that’s where the name and the artwork comes from. We did the first EP and it went down really well! Both Dwarde and I are pretty fast workers; we can normally get something wrapped up within a few weeks, so we just kept making volume after volume until we got to volume 10 which is the last one to come out so far.

You seem to have a really good working relationship with Dwarde. 

Yeah we have similar styles and workflow. We also have the same taste in jungle, and both of us don’t like to take ages on a tune. I think if you revisit a tune it’s sometimes hard to recapture the same vibe, so if you finish the tune there and then you can always go back and tweak the little bits later. When we’re working together, we always get the bare bones of the track done within a few hours instead of changing stuff as we go which always just makes it all drag on.

We’ve spoken about your relationship with a few labels. It seems as an outsider looking in that there’s a big sense of community in this jungle renaissance. There’s no infighting or anything like that, everyone’s happy to share ideas and work together. 

It’s a really welcoming community, everyone’s just up for supporting the next man! At the end of the day it’s a collective, we all have a shared passion for jungle and making our own little twists on the sound, while showing appreciation for everyone else doing theirs. I love the scene man, I’ve never found any problems about people wanting to work with me, there’s no divas, everyone is just agreeable!

How important has Rupture been for this continued redevelopment of jungle? I’ve seen people refer to it as the Blue Note of our generation. 

Ah man, Rupture is a massive, massive, massive part of the scene. In terms of raving to jungle in London, in the past few years there’s only been Rupture, Jungle Syndicate and Chris Inperspective’s Technicality nights where you can hear both the old and new school played together. Rupture’s so good because it has such a great ecosystem of welcoming people in; it has the label, the radio show and the club night, like an all-encompassing way of presenting the music. They’ve also done a really good job of reaching outwards and becoming known outside our small scene; they’re known in the house and techno and general electronic music scenes.

You mention the lack of nights in London, was that one of the reasons for starting your Future Retro event? 

Yeah man, for sure! The way Rupture do their nights is they have room one for drum and bass that still retains that breaky influence and then room two for the more old school stuff where people like me and Coco Bryce play our 90s hybrids. I didn’t think there was a night in London dedicated specifically to the new jungle revival so I thought there was a bit of a gap in the market. Our new sound right now is lacking in a physical space so I thought having a night where me and all the other guys who make the same stuff could showcase all our tunes made sense!

You’ve also now started the label with the Meeting Of The Minds collab series. Who have you got involved with it? 

So because of the Covid pandemic, I pushed back my night from April to June before cancelling it when it was clear there wouldn’t be any nights for quite a while. I decided that for the time being I was going to keep the club night idea on hold for a bit. I was staying with my girlfriend and I had this weird idea of a collab series or album but didn’t know which label to approach where it would make sense for me. After thinking more into it, I realised I had this brand all ready to go because of the potential night, so I could just make it into a label and put out the series myself.

For the first release I’ve got Dev/Null from America who I do a show called ‘Blog to the Oldskool’ on JungleTrain with every couple of weeks. Then I’ve got Dwarde there as well, this guy from Australia called Kloke who I found out about after he had a release on Coco Bryce’s Myor label and then Msymiakos from Norway who I think is really cool.

With volume two I have FFF from The Netherlands who I’ve known for years but never actually made any music with, and Worldwide Epidemic who I worked on that Dark Arts EP for 7th Storey Projects with. He’s from New Zealand and normally does stompy jungle techno but for this we just went full on jungle!  Another is a producer called Mr Sensi who is one of my favourite producers, but the problem with him is he never finishes his tunes so all of his releases are collabs as people think what he’s done is sick and then have to come and finish them! And then lastly, I have Jahganaut from Leeds, who I met last year who has some really cool beats. He was actually the quickest to get back to me about working on the project. They were the first two releases and I put them out on one of Bandcamp’s fee-free Fridays and they sold out really quickly which was mad! I’ve just got back the masters for the third and fourth series so if you’ve been listening to my mixes you might know who’s involved.

Just from the artists you’ve named above, it really shows how global the reach of jungle is! 

Yeah man for sure, it’s crazy! I don’t think you could really pin down one spot right now and say this is specifically where jungle is going down! This project has also given me the chance to work with producers that I wouldn’t normally, as before I didn’t have a reason to be reaching out to them for tunes. Everyone was really quick coming back to me as well, maybe because of the lockdown and people being at home more so I suppose in that sense it was a good time to get the project going!

What do you have planned for the future? Have you got an idea when you might try a club night again?

I’ve seen these outdoor seated events happening and as much as I don’t mind these, I feel what I want to do can’t be watered down, it has to happen in a regular way. I think I’ll just wait for when I can do a night at full capacity without masks or social distancing in place. I feel it would be a letdown to do it half-heartedly, I need the energy and atmosphere of a normal night for it to work, so for now I’m just focusing on releases.

Apart from my own label, I have just released an EP on Lobster Theremin which was a cool link-up because they predominantly release techno. Then I have more stuff with Dwarde on a label called Magic 3 which is dedicated to three track releases which is a strange but interesting concept. I’ve just done a remix for Workforce who has some mad tunes so I’m really excited about that, and then I’m working on a release for Blu Mar Ten as well. Lots of other bits are in the pipeline as well which haven’t been finalised just yet, but loads more forthcoming!

Finishing on a trickier question! What do you see for the future of jungle? Where can it go as a genre from here? 

The future of jungle is us breaking out of our shell! I feel a lot of jungle producers for the time-being are solely focused on catering to their own markets. Artists like Sully and Coco Bryce have proved you can reach outwards without watering down your music. We need to make sure that people, no matter if they’re into house, techno, garage, dubstep or whatever, can find our music. If we start getting our music into places where it normally isn’t, we can expand out and let more people decide if they like it or not. For me, the future means reaching out to the wider electronic music scene and showing everyone what we can do!

See what Tim Reaper can do: Soundcloud / Future Retro / Globex Corp

Tim Reaper – Cityscapes EP is out now on Lobster Theremin