You can’t say UKG veterans Oxide & Neutrino are back, because they never technically went away. But Oxide & Neutrino are most definitely back.
The signs were in place in 2014 with their stealth one-off track Marimba, their first track in over seven years. Then again in 2016 when they narrowly missed smashing the Redbull Soundclash and again last year when Neutrino featured on tracks with Fekky and Riddim Commission. More signs have been in place this summer with a string of key shows across London and Ibiza and a bubbling mix for Eastern Electrics. Even further signs soon come with a highly anticipated string of productions.
Unlike their blink-and-miss production return in 2014, however, this time they’ll be hitting hard with a slew of new. Lessons learnt from their previous rollout, this time they’re setting up their camp properly, not rushing into anything and taking full control… Just as they did when they first battled to the top, against the wishes of most of the garage scene at the time.
From topping the charts and playing an integral role in UKG darker mutations to the most caustic media backlash any scene had encountered since the notorious acid house explosion, Oxide & Neutrino have experienced the highest highs and lowest lows the industry can deal out. Now with years of experience behind them, and still armed with a driving passion for all things bass, they’re ready to tell their side of the story. Get to know:
Take us right back to the start…
Neutrino: For me it was pirate radio, Supreme FM. I hung around there jumping on drum & bass sets. Guess it would have been around 98.
Oxide: Pretty much the same here. I was playing a lot of drum & bass, collecting records, I went down to Supreme for a guest mix and we started to get taken seriously.
No one can underestimate the influence of the pirates at…
Neutrino: It was a really exciting movement and had a mystery to it as well. It went across the UK, too. It wasn’t a London thing. People still tell us about tapes being recorded and circulated around the country. It was how the sound spread.
Oxide: Things seem a lot more fragmented with music now. There are so many places to find new music. Back then you just had the FM dial. Pirate radio had so much influence back then, more than we realised at the time, maybe.
So you both came from drum & bass before UKG?
Neutrino: I was chatting to MC Det about this the other day. The type of garage we made, especially with MCs, came from D&B. The darker stuff. UKG was very soulful and quite poppy at the time but we were bringing in our favourite elements of drum & bass and jungle. Bar for bar MCs, big basslines and that energy.
Let’s talk about Bound For Da Reload. Your first big tune…
Neutrino: Our first tune full stop. We just made that as dub for the radio show and just pressed it up on white label and more and more people requested it. We ended up selling 20,000 which was mad for the time.
That was your first ever tune?
Neutrino: Yeah we just made it for the enjoyment. The success of that first record led to everything else. There was a lot of competition between crews on the station and they were making dubs to clash each other. A nice bit of healthy competition.
Amongst other garage crews?
Neutrino: Some garage crews. But the main garage scene didn’t take to us at all. We were darker, much darker, than the original garage sound which was very bubbly and vocal. We went against that. Not on purpose but that was the sound we wanted to pursue.
You went against the grain
Oxide: Yeah but not in a contrived way. We were just doing our thing and we’d hear about a lot of the original DJs not supporting our sound and having meetings about how to keep us down.
I thought that was all just urban myths?
Oxide: No, the majority of the garage scene was against us. In a big way.
Neutrino: That’s what our Up Middle Finger tune is about. It was a fuck you to those guys. We were doing our thing.
By this time you’d become part of the So Solid Crew, right?
Neutrino: Yeah. We didn’t have a lot of bookings because the scene was so one sided. That’s how we hooked up with So Solid. We were all in different crews. I was in Living Legends, Oxide was in a crew called EDF. We sat down with Megaman once and they were getting the same negative attention for the tracks they were doing so we put on our own raves. This was around 99 onwards, Garage Delight at the Collesium. Then we built up the events from there.
Oxide: Also because of the scale it was growing at, we also set up our own pirate station Delight FM. We were running that station and running all the adverts for our raves. It went for a good number of years.
So all of this was around the time you got signed to a major label forBound For Da Reload’s official release?
Neutrino: Yeah we wanted to sign it to a respected label like Locked On but they were scared to touch it because the older heads who also appeared on that label were against us. Our managers at the time saw us as an album act, which we’d never thought we were, so we worked on an album and they got a bit of a bidding war started.
You did two albums in the space of just over two years. That must have been quite intense?
Neutrino: The first album came together nicely, it was all the tunes we were already making grouped together. Our second album was made under more forced conditions. It wasn’t quite so natural. We were told to make that second album but the first one came together.
Oxide: We were in control of the first one and we were very adamant about where things came out, how things came out and everything. It still had to come from the streets and we wanted to release white labels and things like that. When it came to the second one it was less organic.
When did you feel stuff was beginning to pop uncontrollably in a commercial sense?
Neutrino: Right from Bound For Da Reload. We had no idea how much our tune was blowing up. So suddenly we had these bookings for massive parties at huge clubs. Lots of lights, big stages, people watching. The total opposite to the underground clubs we were playing in the weekends. We’d do school tours during the week and everything. The run up to it getting to number one was surreal.
Oxide: The maddest thing was that e never had any commercial support on the single. No playlists, no radio support. Only London Radio. So when DJs had to play it on commercial stations they were pretty pissed. Foxy from Capital FM played it and left this weird gap of silence. We got the vibe that people were pissed and didn’t see it coming.
The next single No Good 4 Me also hit the top 10 didn’t it?
Neutrino: Yeah it was Christmas week. Any other week that would have got to number one but it was up against some massive acts like Britney Spear. That was a good feeling though because after that we felt we weren’t being seen as a one hit wonder.
Did it start going international around this time or was it still a UK thing for you guys?
Oxide: No I think the summers of 2000 and 2001 we did a lot of big festivals, all over Europe. They were mad events that we’d never experienced before. We’d start with a fairly empty tent, but you start dropping that dark garage stuff and the tent would fill up within minutes. People were like what the hell is this music? We also did SXSW festival which was mental. The reaction we’d get from everyone was mad and not always friendly. People either got it or not.
Neutrino: Then we started to get more bookings in the UK for festivals. But the So Solid backlash started and they quickly dried up.
About the backlash. How bad did it get?
Neutrino: We couldn’t perform. We’d get booked, police would come to the venue and tell the promoters they’d take away the licence. People got afraid to run garage nights.
Oxide: Even when we came back around early 07 we’d go to certain venues and there’d be a heavy police presence. We were still on their radar from like five years ago.
That must have been so frustrating
Neutrino: We’d seen it growing up so many times. Kids do dumb things and everyone wants something easy to blame. When I grew up it was computer games. Then for the next generation it as Power Rangers because of fighting. The media wants to blame something easy instead of addressing what’s actually happening in the streets and what the police need to deal with.
How did you react to violence when you saw it?
Oxide: There’s nothing you can do. No matter how much security you have, if trouble’s going to happen, it will happen. Garage was so popular at the time that it attracted a lot of people. Some of those people don’t like each other, they might have an agenda in the streets and they’ll bring it to where they are. It could be McDonalds, or the library or their kid’s school. This shit happens everywhere.
The music and culture isn’t to blame
Oxide: it’s the same that’s happening with drill music now. Those MCs are saying what’s affecting them on the streets. They’re telling you what they’re seeing, this is their life, they’re not promoting it they’re reflecting on their environment.
Observation isn’t glamorisation
Neutrino: Exactly. It’s what we were doing in our music and with So Solid. People who misunderstood us weren’t listening to the lyrics, they were hearing ‘guns’ ‘knife’ and that was it. They didn’t think they needed to hear anything else. They just pointed the finger.
Oxide: I think a lot of this has been forgotten along the way and people think that it was that type of attitude that stopped garage. It wasn’t. It was scapegoated really badly.
Neutrino: But we’re in a new generation now. I meet people who are like 20, 21 at dances and I ask them how they got into it and it’s through their family, being brought up to the sounds of garage and really happy they’re able experience what their parents have.
Have you had any family of fans come to see you play?
Neutrino: We’ve had a few now. Mums and daughters or dads and sons and the dad will say ‘yeah I had my son’s car seat in the back of my souped up GTI with the bass bins booming. It’s mad!
So back to the backlash. What did you do when you couldn’t get bookings?
Neutrino: We hit the studio and kept a low profile. Then around 2007 we started to get booked to play dubstep raves and represent the garage sound on the night. People would go nuts because that’s where dubstep came from. So from that we’ve just worked solidly as a DJ and MC duo, rebuilding ourselves on the underground and, eventually, bigger festivals like Bestival, SW4, Wireless.
There’s got to be some productions? You dropped that Marimba track around 2014, right?
Neutrino: Yeah it was something we’d made that worked really well in our sets. We put it out at the time when house music was really buzzing but it had that garage edge to remind people where we came from. But we realised you can’t just drop one track and expect it to blow. You need to be consistent and have more. Things weren’t in place to do that.
Oxide: It’s getting used to how the scene is now as artists again. It was like we were testing the waters and seeing what we need to do. We needed a driving force behind us. We’re not record labels, we’re not PRs, we’re guys making music and you need more of a team to make an impact. Which we have in place now.
Neutrino: Yeah we’ve been making loads over the last few years and want a big body of work to drop in the near future. We’re going back in on the underground club sound. There won’t be any big ambitions for the charts.
Were there ever big ambitions for the charts?
Neutrino: No, not to begin with. But once you’ve set that benchmark and that’s what people expect it’s hard to retreat back to the roots.
Oxide: But there’s been enough time now. For the younger generation we’re an unknown entity. No one’s got expectations, it’s like being back at the roots again but now we know what we need to do and want to do.
Most importantly, the garage scene is healthy right now across the board.
Oxide: Yeah the bassline movement especially. That’s been really exciting with guys like DJ Q, Flava D, Preditah and so many more bringing back that garage sound. Grime has been really inspiring, too. Like garage it keeps on evolving and rising to the challenges. It’s an exciting time musically and it’s great to be part of that and see a whole new generation take part on the movement….
Join the movement: Follow Oxide & Neutrino