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Zero T: Top 10 Dubs

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Dubplates… Talk to any drum & bass artist who came through in the 90s right up to the mid 2000s and, if they had the means to travel to London, they’re guaranteed to have a quality inside story from Music House: London’s infamous Holloway cutting house where every future classic you can imagine would run off the lathe on the regs.

A hub of (literally) cutting edge tomorrow-music, a lot of the music cut there wouldn’t see an official release for a year or two (or ever). A place where, as myths would have it, at any given time on any given day, some of the most prominent names in drum & bass would visit DAT-packed and prepared to invest hours waiting to cut their own productions or tracks they’ve been trusted with due to their position and profile. And while they waited? They’d spend the hours they spent queuing sharing tips, ideas and thoughts on the music, unwittingly creating a tangible community which gave the genre its deep foundations for it to exist today.

Zero T would regularly make the pilgrimage from Dublin to Music House from the late 90s right through to the digital switch 10 years ago. Naturally he’s got a tale or two and boasts a fine collection of dubs from the era.

He’s still got a few percy dubs of his own, too. Two of which are released next Friday October 14: The Ladders and Enemy Of Reason. Two killer collaborations with Alix Perez from 2009, while they weren’t cut on dubplate physically, they did remain unreleased. Until now. We tapped him up to find out why… And get an essential dubplate schooling in the process.

Seven years on dub… That’s a long time even by jungle standards. How come we’ve had to wait so long?

Alix was in the middle of writing his debut LP for Shogun, which we had already done a track for. These two came about whilst we were living in the same house (Ladders) and then when he moved to the next street over (Enemy of Reason). There is no big story or reason why they were never released at the time, thats just how it pans out sometimes.

2009 was the final chapter of proper dubplate culture really, by then a lot of guys had switched formats… Did these originally get cut at Music House?

I started cutting at Music House in 99 all the way up to maybe 2006/7. By the time these two were written it was firmly in the CDJ era, so now is the first time they’ve been pressed in any form. By 2009 there were very few people still cutting regularly. Paying £30 for two tunes does is make you extremely selective. You want to be sure you are going to play it.

Every DJ who ever cut dubs has a wicked Music House story… Got one for us?

As great as the internet has been for opening the whole thing up, something has been lost in my opinion. The first point of contact with other D&B lovers used to be the record shop. That’s how I met everyone involved in the Dublin scene, it led to pirate radio, clubs, socialising and so on.

Music House was the ultimate form of that kind of situation. Being a baby faced Irish lad I stuck out like a sore thumb but for me it was a Mecca-like experience: the ultimate pilgrimage! That was where I met people like Randall and Loxy for the first time. Everyone can hear what each other is cutting so you get exposed to all the latest stuff as its made. I remember travelling over during summer 2000 to cut 13 plates of Calibre tunes (most of Musique Concrete)

There were strict rules at Music House: first come, first served. No queue jumping, no matter who you are. I made sure I was there first thing Saturday morning, first in line – before Leon had even opened up. I knew I would be taking up one of the two cutting rooms for the whole day, so when conversations in the queue turned to “how many you cutting?” I braced myself.

All the way down the line it’s “one plate, both sides” “two plates” etc. Me: “13 plates, both sides”. Not a popular statement… at all. Later on in the day one of the staff came to me and said if anyone got shitty about it, they would sort them out. I loved that. “You were first in line… You can cut until your money runs out”.

Fast forward a few hours later and Paul (the boss) had been doing my cuts all day when he ducked out for a few minutes. As soon as he is gone, Bryan Gee rocks up. He has a taxi waiting outside – meter running, one side to cut (a Calibre tune) and asks to jump in. I’ve never met him before and obviously let him go ahead – I had hours to go still. Whats another 20 minutes? And this is Bryan fucking Gee!

One of the other cutters started on his plate and, just as Paul walked back in, the needle on the lathe blew. They are savagely expensive and time-consuming to replace!. Paul proceeded to cus out heavily, certain that it has blown because “the rules” were broken. He then had to change the needle and recut his plate. Awkward!

It was surreal, but amazing for me to be behind this mystical curtain that had seemed so impenetrable from over the water. I loved every minute I ever spent at Music House. When I have time (not often these days) I still pop over to shoot the shit with Leon and take a whiff of the place. That’s another thing you don’t get with MP3s… Duplate Smell!

Have you got any more dubs like this tucked away for future release?

I have a little EP of solo tracks from around the same period coming on Horizons next month, leading with a lost Steo vocalled track that I forgot existed! That’s it for the vaults tunes for the time being…. I’m putting the final touches on my new solo LP for Dispatch right now and have a slate of new remixes coming in the next few months. Looking forward to 2017.

Zero T’s Top 10 Dubplates

Rachid – Charade (Grooverider Remix)

This tune is absolute perfection. It’s the track I play to non-believers to convert them. Rachid (son of Kool and The Gang’s Ronald Bell) on vocals, Optical on the boards and at the peak of his powers. Epic, incredible arrangement. Undeniably funky Think breaks, sounding huge…  And then the dirtiest of bass switches about four minutes in. Ambitious and drenched in soul, it combines all the elements I want in one song.

Optical – Split Personality

As far as I know, this was one of many Optical tunes slated for Prototype in 97/98. An off-snare mutant bongo funk workout with an impossibly simple and twisted bassline and mental percussion. Still sounds as alien and tribal today as it did back then. I would’ve had What’s The Difference on this list, but I see he has just put it on his 20 year retrospective – what a tune that is!

Dillinja – Unknown 3 Drops Version

I’ve only heard this once off an old Goldie Essential Mix from 1999.It has some of the same samples as 3 Drops (which came on Chronic years later) but all the other sounds, bass and beats, sound like Cybotron-era Dillinja. Has to be the most heinous drum groove I’ve ever heard. I’ve interrogated the man himself when visiting Valve a few years back and, heart-breakingly, he had no recollection of it… The curse of making so many tunes over the years I guess. The quest continues.

Photek – Tuesday

From his golden period circa 1997 – colder than a witch’s tit! Razor sharp, minimal breaks and pounding 808 subs, with perfectly chosen and placed samples and sound FX. It has that incredible clarity which so much of his work from that period had. Pure black science, straight from the dojo!

Calibre – Xtra Dangerous

Calibre goes Valve-ish. Way back when 1Xtra was launched they commissioned a jingle by Rodney P, Roots Manuva and Beverly Knight (think it was her anyway) and had several remix skits done in various genres. Calibre’s one was heavy as fuck – he simply had to make it a full length tune. Still rolls out!

Optical – Fibre Optic

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Another from his unfathomably productive late 90s period. Has all the elements you want from him at that time: funky beats, dark jazzy samples, horrid stabs and an irresistibly grooving bline. A big favourite of Andy’s at the time as I recall… It manages to be both tearing and subtle all at once. Lovely!

Break – Bongo Fire

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Late 2000s Break: You know that means pure gold! Large-as-fuck bongo breaks, the odd dubbed out sample and a cavernous lo-passed Reese bassline.I love how he took the bass production style of 90s Virus and blended it with a more organic, junglist sensibility.
I’ll never stop playing this… Ever!

Calibre – Hold Back (Jah) The Funk Mix

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A gem even he forgot all about! Hold Back (Jah) was on his seminal Creative Source EP, along with Just Fine, Train Version and Rejack. I found this on a dubs CD he gave me many moons ago… Pure Swerve slinkiness. Super simple but with a funky bassline (hence the title), he’s created a totally different vibe from the original. I called him and mentioned it to him at the time… His response: “Is it any use?” Lol.

dBridge vs Dwele – Hold On

I’ll never forget the first CD of dBridge dubs Darren gave me in 2005 – every tune is just impeccable (the Monochrome EP, Twilight, Something to Hide, Providence etc).It was such a breath of fresh air. He managed to merge the depth and soul of Calibre but keep an edge of his BC days in the low end. His bootleg of my favorite neo-soul vocalist Dwele is the kind of tune that exemplifies why this music can be great sometimes!

Zero T + Beta 2 – Secada (Commix remix)

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Made around the same era as Call To Mind, the lads made a mean bassline roller out of our original. They never got around to finishing it unfortunately, but it’s still got enough going on to drop it in the mix.

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