As we sign-off a year punctuated by major drum & bass comebacks, one man is fittingly his 25th year in the game: Jason Cambridge AKA A Sides
Alongside the likes of Randall he rolled deep with De Underground crew (the label responsible for what many cite as the seed of drum & bass: Lennie De Ice’s We Are IE) A Sides’ sound morphed and mutated, like the genre itself from hardcore to jungle to drum & bass. Consistently releasing relevant tracks every single year since day one, he’s stealthily dealt it all from absolute rewind-primed DJ weapons such as Crazy and Big Request to silkier soul like Heat and Jupiter.
This range and relevance is reflected in his latest project Quart – a series of five EPs delivered every month since August and climaxing this week with the final EP. The full set comprises 25 tracks to mark his quarter of a century in the game. With no care for subgenre formalities he’s storms from tearing reese-laden jungle such as this…
to silky funk soul like this…
With such a wide range of sounds and the likes of Break, Serum, Spirit and Voltage all on-board for the finale EP, the whole project doesn’t just reflect A Sides’ scope but the genre’s too. The drip-feed deliver style of regular EPs is to ensure the music has time to breathe and you have time to properly imbibe it.
“Sometimes you get an album of 15 tracks and even if it’s amazing you think ‘ah fuck, I have to listen to all of this?’” he says. “People have a lot on – they’re busy and there’s so much out there that the turn around and speed of releases is crazy. Gradually releasing things gives people a bit more time to digest it all and the music doesn’t get lost in the matrix.”
Which is where our conversation begins…
Anyone ever asked you for your favourite b-sides?
Never. Favourite tunes? Too many times. But b-sides? Never.
25 years and no one has thought to ask A Sides for his favourite B-sides? FFS…
No! Lucky too… I never know which one is the A and which one is the B anyway. A lot of people do double-A releases. That’s what we’ve always done on my label. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever written a b-side in my life! For me a b-side sounds like it’s not as good as an a-side. I want every track to be equally as good. Double A all the way. Do you know how I got my name?
No, tell me…
There was a guy called Frank De Wulf. A Belgian techno guy on Music Man Records in the late 80s/early 90s. He made these EPs called the B-Sides with tracks like Compression, Magic Butterfly and The Tape. I loved them so much, they had a profound effect on me. So I named myself A Sides as a mark of respect.
We’re going right back to the hardcore days now
Oh yeah, 1990/1991. First I was making hardcore, then happy hardcore. Optical was doing kinda trippy acidy hardcore back then. A guy called Ham was doing it – he’s now Hamilton from Ram. A lot of us came through that background. More than you’d expect.
That was a melting pot time of ideas and sounds – from that every electronic music we know and love grew. Give me some defining moments.
I could be here all day but a few stand out. Going right back to the very start I used to work for a distribution company called Stage 1. We’d drive round all the record shops on Friday and Saturday selling records from shop to shop straight out of the back of a Mini Metro. We went to Ipswich’s Redeye Records where Spirit worked and he put on Goldie’s You & Me in the shop.
It was like ‘wow – this is stepping up’. You don’t forget feelings like that in your life. Ever. Obviously we had Terminator several years before which changed the game and showed us how dark the dark side could get. I also remember getting this cassette with a 21 minute version of Inner City Life. But You & Me? The musicality of it blew my mind. I’ll never forget Spirit putting the needle down and it filling the shop.
More of this please!
Hearing Swarm by Doc Scott at an all dayer in Finsbury Park. Headz had a tent there – Blue Note days, Kemi & Storm, Grooverider, Doc Scott… All those guys. When Swarm dropped and it knocked me off my feet. Another big memory.
But if we’re going back, like properly back… Then it has to be Lennie De Ice We Are IE. I was with Randall the first time he played that. The first time anyone played it as far as I know. We were part of the same crew – De Underground Records – and there was this big rave called Living Dream.
Randall was playing. Carl Cox had played before him. N-Joi before him. He drops We Are IE and, for me and probably everyone in the building, the music has never been the same. Total chaos – a lot of people didn’t even know how to comprehend it. Everything we love now dates back to moments like this. There have been millions massive changes over the years but these were where it all started.