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Ask anyone in drum’n’bass what first inspired them to make music and Grooverider’ name is sure to crop up. Not only has he notched up an incredible twelve years behind the decks, DJing everywhere from dingy illegal warehouse parties to huge outdoor festivals, but his legendary radio shows with longtime companion Fabio (first for Kiss FM and now Radio One FM) helped spread the gospel of drum’n’bass further and further afield. As resident at seminal London night Rage throughout its four year stint at Heaven, he personally oversaw dance music’ evolution from acid house to techno and finally drum’n’bass.
“Everyone who’ about on the scene now was there,” he recalls, “it was like school for a lot of people. That club’ got something special about it – when you play in that DJ booth way above the dancefloor, you really feel like an overlord. You’re in the throne. You’ve got to perform. I used to go there years before and watch Paul Oakenfold playing and think ‘yeah, I wouldn’t mind being up there myself.”
It was also here that ‘Rider, a born and bred South Londoner, first encountered a budding young producer called Goldie. “Somebody gave me one of his records on an acetate,” he remembers, "and I was playing out one night when suddenly I see some geezer banging on the door of the DJ booth. "I thought ’who on earth is this fucking nutter?’ He was shouting ‘this is my fucking tune. Let me in!’ So I let him in and congratulated him and it all went from there. We just kinda hit it off straight away."
These days he organises Goldie’ Metalheadz club nights usually topping bills that invariably read like a who’ who of drum’n’bass. “Everybody wants to play for us,” he announces proudly, "we do good parties then people want to play at them. All a far cry from the days in the mid ‘80s when Groove first ventured behind a pair of Technics at Brixton pirate radio station Phase One. Back then, way before acid house turned the music business on its head, he’d play anything from soul, funk and rap to raw early electro, R&B and even punk. “Year” he laughs now. “I used to love all that skinhead music too, I loved the Jam and the Clash. X Ray Spex were my group! I couldn’t mix or nothing when I started at the station, but it didn’t matter, because its not about how well you mix, it’ about what music you play. A lot of people have forgotten that over the years.”
An all-encompassing attitude that’ served him well on his journey from unknown pirate spinner – he gave up as soon as he discovered the DTI could seize his record collection – to one of the biggest and most respected names in dance music today. One he kept close to his heart when he embarked on ‘Mysteries Of Funk’ for Sony offshoot Higher Ground. “I was frightened when I started out,” he admits, " its a frightening thing to do. I’d never done a tune under my own name before. I’d always used aliases. When I started my label Prototype I made all the tunes myself because I had a few bits of gear and I was just practising, testing thingsout, just fucking about basically. Although initially suspicious when approached by the major – “I thought, do they want me to start making pop music or something ?” – ‘Rider now applauds Higher Ground for giving him the time and freedom to experiment and push his music beyond the strict confines of the dancefloor. "They’ve been really patient with me. "he states, “Because it’ two years since I signed with Sony. But they’ve not put me under any pressure at all and now – finally – I’ve produced an album for them.”
Some 15 tracks long, ‘Mysteries Of Funk’ is an unashamedly ambitious project that only someone with Grooverider’ experience and diverse musical background could possibly hope to pull off. Ranging from the sheer hardcore rush of ‘Where Is Jack The Ripper’ to the floating vocal magic of ‘Rainbows Of Colour’ (sung by former Archive chanteuse Roya Arab) and the lost-in-space sampladelia of ‘Starbase 23’, it’ an effortlessly wide ranging collection with one connecting thread -funk.
‘It’ a funk album," Groove says, “It’ not a soul album. Funk is something that’ a bit harder than soul, know what I’m saying? People will say ‘how can this be funk?’ and I guess that the mystery! Funk is what it’ all about. That’ where I come from. That’ the music that got to me when I was young – and now I’m doing my form of funk. Not what everybody else perceives as funk, but what I perceive as funk. In another five years maybe I won’t be on this funk tip but this is what I’m doing right now and that’ all you can do, dig deep into yourself and say this is me, this is what’ going on in my head right now. As well as representing all the different influences I’ve taken in over the years from jazz music, hip hop, techno. Even punk rock influences it in a certain way. But it’ just about me, basically.”
Yet Grooverider still willingly pays tribute to his right hand man in the studio Matt Quinn, who engineered ‘Mysteries…’ and whose savage dancefloor productions as Optical (for,among many others,Groove’ own label Prototype) are fast earning him a place in drum’n’bass’ Premier division. “Matt’ putt a hell of a lot of work into this album too” he says, before adding sheepishly. “He’ll make me finish something – I’ve got a lot of tunes that I do by myself but don’t finish them. He’ll make me see it to the end.”
And even with the album in the can, Grooverider refuses to halt his prolific output or his hectic DJ schedule. “I’ve got a stack of remixes to get stuck into now,” he grins, "I like to remix everybody I can. As long as there’ something in there I can use I’ll mix and do the best I can do, because it’ my responsibility to simply do the best I can do. Not for other people but myself. I’m really critical of myself so I’m always trying to chase myself, better myself.
“I’ve got really into Beck recently – I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of his stuff. A lot of people overlook that rock shit, but they shouldn’t because some of it is banging! And drum’n’bass can really compliment rock if it’ done right. And I’m really looking forward to doing ‘Fools Gold’ (seminal Stone Roses funk marathon) Now that’ an original breakbeat tune if ever I heard one, man. That is a drum’n’bass tune all over, as far as I’m concerned. Just at a different tempo. Now, when I get hold of that….”.