This is big. We don’t need to establish how much of an impact and an impression Darren Lewis and Tunde Babalola’s Future Cut productions made on drum & bass during the late 90s. From the moment their stripped-back sub-soaked stepper Fresh Step and the rolling funk of The Chase landed on Renegade in 98 right through to hazy jazzy ripples of Prophecy on V towards the end of their D&B tenure in 2005, Future Cut releases had buy-on-sight status.
By the mid 2000s Darren and Tunde had developed an equally respected position in the world of pop production selling over 30 million releases and scoring multiple number one hits. But that original jungle spark never left them. As we revealed in their comeback interview earlier this year the bug never left them. And, to celebrate their 20th year working together, they’re about to drop a whole new slew.
It starts here with the Ulterior Motive x Future Cut EP on Ulterior Motive’s rapidly developing Guidance Music imprint. Three collaborative cuts, they mark the start of what we hope to be a steady flow of new Future Cut futurism. What’s more, the grizzled flared-nostril charge of Flash Mob, the tightly coiled spring funk of Bagleys and the sun-splashed soul jazz of Second Nature reveal a clear resonance between the two acts. Almost 10 years may exist between their entry points into the game, but both Ulterior Motive and Future Cut come from a shared vantage point and have kindred ethos that could well lead to more collaborations in the future. Here’s where we’re at so far…
This goes back to the Obsession remix, right?
Tunde: Yeah I think Goldie hit us up and brought us together. That was one of our favourite tracks we made and was such a proud moment to release on Metalheadz, a label that had inspired us from the beginning. When the guys came back with the remix we were like ‘fuck this is amazing! Who are these guys?’ So we did a couple more mixes for each other.
Greg: We didn’t keep in touch as much as we wanted because you guys got mega mega busy again and we went into album mode. We periodically kept in contact. I remember we asked you about vocalists for the album and you hooked us up, but this recent collaboration session came about through you guys doing a remix of I Adore You which we made with Goldie. So we suggested hooking up. It happened so quickly and we rattled out three tracks in two days.
All sounds very natural!
Greg: Totally. Our styles are quite similar. Very raw and rugged. Not like spending six days EQing a hi-hat. It’s vibe and roughness. It’s like ‘let’s capture a vibe’. That’s it. You guys have always had a vibe over everything. That’s why they’ve stood the test of time.
The original spirit of jungle – capturing a vibe!
Tunde: It’s the original spirit of punk too. The equivalent of getting a guitar and learning three chords for us was like ‘buy a sampler, learn the fuck out of it and make music’. For me it’s the raw aggression, the essence of who I am at that tempo. It’s got to hit me in my chest and soul.
Greg: Your face when we were making Flash Mob was a picture. Like ‘urgghhhh’. Make it harder, make it grittier, make it heavier. Good tune that. I enjoyed making it.
Greg I’m assuming Future Cut were a massive influence Ulterior Motive?
Greg: When our remix of Obsession came out I remember putting something on Facebook like ‘had you told when I bought the original I’d be remixing it 10 years later I’d have told you to fuck off!’ Massive inspiration. I don’t think there are many artists who came through around the time we did would tell you any different. They made anthems. So different to what everyone else was doing. Especially the stuff on Hardware. No one was anywhere close to what they did on Hardware. And I don’t think there’s another tune like Obsession out there now.
Tunde: I’ll put that tenner in your bank mate!
I like the idea of you all egging each other on to make Flash Mob heavier and hdeavier. That track, and Obsession in a different way, capture the sound of Headz
Greg: It’s the sound of drum & bass. Not just headz. It is what it is. Drums, bass, attitude – they’re the three elements you need for tracks like that.
Take us to Bagleys.
Darren: I spent a lot of my untamed youth in Bagleys. It was more jungle and hardcore when I started going. Certainly tunes like Champion Sound were being blasted. It was the pureness of young people enjoying a movement and a music unimpaired by trends or what was cool or whatever. Just raw enjoyment at its base level. That was the inspiration for us. Trying to recreate an era that was fundamental for British music as a whole. The area where it was has all been redeveloped and gentrified and whatever now. But back then it was just a warehouse with ravers inside and drug addicts and prostitutes outside.
Greg: I never got to go. Me and James were based in Bournemouth so our access to London was based through tapepacks and stuff like that. When I left school I worked at Dreamscape, packing tapes. I was aware of Bagleys through the tapes we were devouring at the time.
Adds a whole new layer to the tune Tape Pack
Greg: To a degree, yeah. My personal journey into music began as a kid listening to my brother’s acid house tapes and Obsession tapes. There was no music in my house besides my brothers so I skipped all the Britpop era stuff and just grew up on rave. That was a very long time ago now…
We move to Second Nature. A flip to Flash Mob, it shows the deeper soul sounds both your acts have always shown. Sounds like you were having fun making it.
Greg: It was a lot of fun, yeah. Darren whipped out a bass guitar and it all started with a bass riff.
Darren: Yeah we were exploring what we all enjoy. Putting things in a melting pot and seeing what comes out.
How does it work with all four of you fizzing in the studio? Was it chaos or did you fall into a natural order?
Greg: After the introductory ‘hello, nice to finally meet in real life’ thing we just fell into a groove and all took turns when the energy took over.
Tunde: We got a two man set-up anyway. All keyboards are linked to the computer so you can have two playing at the same time. We got a beat pad as well so there’s way to get stuck in and jam. There’s enough for everyone to be doing something ands bring things together before we get it all laid down.
All hands on, like a proper band jamming
Greg: That two keyboard thing blew my mind. Me and James had never done that before. It definitely helped with the workflow.
Darren: We’ve done that out of laziness more than anything – rather wheeling around each other we can just turn around and the keyboard is just there. It makes a difference when there’s more then two of us because of the flexibility of the room and how hands on people can get.
Sounds like there could be more stuff coming from the four of you…
Greg: I’d love to, it would be great. It was so easy and the outcome is amazing.
What did you all learn from each other?
Greg: It was really interesting for me and James to work with another duo. We’d never done that before. So to observe that, and watch them work, I learnt a lot. They had a lot of trust in each other and let each other lead. And also not be afraid to pull each other up and say ‘nah mate that’s not working’ I learnt a lot from that in terms of my own approach to writing music with James.
That’s interesting. I’ve always thought when you’re in a collaboration you start to know how each other will react and predict each other’s thoughts on things.
Greg: Yeah and you can get complacent with that. Because there’s so much trust there you’re almost assuming you know what he thinks so you don’t say it. And if you don’t say it you haven’t had that input. So what I learnt form them was turning around saying ‘no that’s a shit idea’ is good to do.
Tunde, Darren – did you guys learn anything?
Darren: Getting the confidence of being part of an idea again. It’s been a very long time since we wrote music like this. We threw stuff at them and saying ‘is this good? Is this too nuts?’ We’ve been out of the scene for a long time and we were quite wary of that. But with any collaboration you pick up techniques and sounds and ideas you weren’t aware of. We’ve robbed a few of them and hopefully we’ve translated things to them. That’s the joy of collaboration – pushing and developing techniques.
So what comes next? We need more new Future Cut stuff!
Tunde: We’re trying to make it happen!
Greg: It is happening. What’s that ‘turn it up!’ tune?
Greg: That’s a bad tune!
When can we hear it?
Greg: Only time will tell. But there’s a great event on June 2 at Pickle Factory, London where you can hear all these tunes and plenty more…