Last year we spoke to a selection of DJs and artists on North America’s complicated but developing relationship with drum & bass. This year that relationship seems to be stronger again with Ownglow flying the flag for home talent and Hospital recently releasing The Future Sound Of America EP.
Let’s not get it twisted, though: As well as Germany and Holland, America was one of the earliest countries beyond the UK to really get drum & bass culture, attitude and vision. It’s spawned stacks of talented, hugely respected artists from Random Movement to Dieselboy by way of Hive, Gridlok, Bachelors Of Science, Evol Intent and many many more.
At the turn of the century, drum & bass was huge Stateside (search for old Ultra line-ups and you’ll see what we mean) and it’s always boasted thriving little pockets of crews since day one. However, unlike other countries where it’s grown from strength to strength, America and D&B seem to fall in and out of favour like some hotblooded couple who only seem really happy when they’re arguing.
So is America and D&B the picture perfect happy couple right now? It seems this way from the UK, but closer to home maybe not…
“I’m shocked to hear there’s so much attention on us right now,” laughs Gigantor one third of Evol Intent, an act who have played a key role in American drum & bass since the early 2000s. “But obviously pleased at the same time. I’m stoked at Hospital’s Future Sound EP and seeing labels like Ram picking up guys like Legion & Logam. But you don’t see it getting programmed at festivals in the way it used to be. EDC are one of the only festivals that really schedules it respectfully. A lot of it gets lost in the bass and dubstep styles. That said, drum & bass refuses to die over here. I’m confident it never will… Especially if we have something to do with it.”
Case in point: Evol Intent – Revolt EP.
Hot off the back of their appearance on Hospital’s Future Sound Of America and Drum&BassArena 2016, Revolt landed last week. Complete with a free download of the bone-crushing halftime title track and featuring fellow US stalwarts Gein and Gridlok, it’s a great reflection of the raw, gritty, turbo-charged tech-addled D&B that America has always been best known for.
We called up Gigantor for his take on US D&B, some of his personal favourites and some of his country’s most influential tracks of all time. He didn’t hold back. Time to get a schooling of supersized proportions….
Dom & Roland – Moulin Rouge Featuring Kemal (Dieselboy, KAOS & Karl K Remix) (Moving Shadow, 2004)
We wouldn’t play a set without this for years. I know every other American DJ at the time was the same. The original was killer and the guys smashed it. Dieselboy has done so much for American drum & bass and is an awesome DJ. He’s a must-see DJ… Like an American Andy C.
Cleveland Lounge – Drowning (AK1200 remix) (Moonshine, 2000)
AK1200’s remix was so successful that a lot of people are mistaken in thinking it’s AK1200’s song. It ended up being a minor radio hit on radio stations over here which was unreal. I was in Miami at the time and it would blow my mind to hear drum & bass on the radio. In 2000 it was rare to hear anything like this and it helped to give drum & bass more attention over here.
Demo & Cease – Ladies Night (Human Imprint, 2007)
This was huge! It was such a shame when Demo had his accident as they were on the forefront of something massive. You couldn’t go anywhere in 2007 without hearing this. So much fun to play and it crushed it every time. It’s great to hear Demo is back in the game!
Hive – Neo (Violence Recordings, 2003)
This won’t die! Especially with Audio’s remix. Hive has had so many huge tunes over here, this is one of many. I played this constantly and still draw for it now. Easily one of the most important American drum & bass tunes of all time.
Gridlok – Hard As Fuck (Violence Recordings, 2006)
Obviously when you’re talking Hive the next logical step is Gridlok. It was a toss-up with this, Fifth Dimension and Bottom Feeder if I’m honest. All massive tunes… Gridlok has had many! Hard As Fuck is a personal favourite, it worked the crowd in a crazy way. Gridlok was one of the most established producers who gave us feedback and helped us out when we first started, he’s a true legend.
Noisia & Mayhem feat. KRS ONE – Exodus (Vision, 2007)
So it’s Mayhem’s presence on this track which made me pick this as an American drum & bass track. I still remember to this day when Anthony (Mayhem) played it to me. It fucking floored me! I couldn’t believe what they’d done. I was blown away. Funny side story; I tracked KRS One’s vocals for this in my studio. He came and hung out for a bit, ran the track and I sent them to Mayhem and Noisia. Such a massive tune!
Ewun – Screw Up (Lifted, 2006)
My buddy Jake! His Kill The Noise remix of Porter Robinson’s Spitfire was also huge but this really does kick ass. Before it came out it was getting played on dub all the time by the few of us who had it. We would play it at this night called Transit in Atlanta, Mayhem would play it and a few other DJs did too. Then Ludacris came through at the same time with Grew Up A Screw Up which has the same sample. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe someone related to the project heard this at the club and got inspired! Anyway, this was massive. Another constant player for all of us here, it takes me back to our time in Atlanta.
Dieselboy & Kaos – Barrier Break (Infiltrata & Hochi Remix) (Human Imprint, 2006)
This became a classic through a Dieselboy’s Human Resource mix album. Such a cool track. Infiltrata is 12th Planet, obviously, and Hochi is just an incredible engineer. Their productions would blow my mind every time. 12th Planet was so good at drum & bass, I would love to see an Infiltrata comeback. I’m working with him, La Castle Vania and Lumberjvck on a track. Its working title is Collabageddon. Hopefully it will see the light of day soonish….
Terravita – And The Beat Goes On (Rottun, 2011)
This is awesome for several reasons but let’s face it; that Macho Man Randy Savage sample is killer! Technically this is drumstep but these guys have made some incredible straight-up drum & bass too. What’s really interesting about Terravita is that they were responsible for a lot of our vinyl addictions through their record shop in Boston called Trainspotters. It filled the void when Breaking Science shut down. These guys were on their shit, they had the very best drum & bass and made sure we got our fix. And yeah this was a really big tune.
Pish Posh – Corrupt Cops (Evol Intent remix) (Barcode, 2004)
I know it’s a bit lame for me to pick one of our tunes but a lot of people have told me how much it’s influenced them and how it represented US D&B at the time. It brings back special memories for me, too. Back then I was still living in Birmingham, Alabama. I was working in a music store during the day and music all night. I remember spending a full week on the mixdown and walking into work like a zombie hours late every morning after. We had a bunch of tunes ready at the time but we all went in on this super hard. The same with the flip Seven Angels. Biggup to Barcode for representing this!
Canadian Bonus Tracks
Rene La Vice – Headlock (Ram Records, 2011)
We have to represent Canada here, there are a whole stack of acts killing it up there and Rene’s right at the forefront. I played a show in Atlanta a while back but didn’t know he was playing after me… And I’d played four of his tunes before him! This was the first track that really made people pay attention to him and it went huge. His LP is killer. I love the punk rock and new wave elements to it.
Ben Sage feat. Savvy – Sleepless VIP (Evol Intent, 2004)
Another old school influential guy. He really crushed that melodic, trancy sound. We put this out on our own label because we loved the VIP so much. It was so massive that Excision pays homage to it with his own track Sleepless featuring the original vocalist Savvy.