Rascall Soundzone talks UK Garage

Ever since I started getting into uk garage which wasn’t until 1996 I saw it progress and evolve rapidly over a very short time span. The views I am expressing here are totally of my personal opinion from my time djing, producing, working in and owning a record shop. The music industry was my main career for 10 years but I do not pretend to know it all as most of the ukg artists I looked up to and still do have been around a lot longer than I have and were the founders and pioneers of the uk side of garage. In my views that I am expressing I won’t be touching on where the sound originally evolved from over in the states as we could keep going back forever. This is solely about the UK aspects of the sound.

Why do people say that UK garage is dead? Well that could be for a number of reasons. I’m just going to touch on a couple of points and key issues which I believe did not and do not help.

The social and public relations decline:
First and foremost is the way and speed that the sound changed from mainly vocal uplifting tracks to the darker side of things in which we saw crews and heavily based mc tracks and nights being created. Now I do not believe for one minute that any one of these crews or artists are to blame and I really believe that they was just trying to move a genre forward to what they were feeling at the time. I personally pinpoint the changes in which the way the djs and mcs presented themselves started at the heartless crew. They were very good in what they did and how they brought a different aspect to the scene. It worked very well and people had a great time and they did the job perfectly. I'll be honest, their style was not really my thing but I can see why it worked. The main problem here was that they were so good at what they did that there was bound to be other acts trying to do the same thing but in their own way that seemed to end up attracting the wrong crowd of people. By now there was also a change in punters choice of, how can I put this, stimulants. Champagne and other bits I believe changed the attitude of the clubbers inside to which it brought a different attitude. There are so many aspects of why a scene dies out, you cannot blame the music alone. During late 2000 to 2002 a lot of promotions and clubs took a few bad hits with gun violence and knife crime and associating it with the nights themselves. It’s a shame, a few bad eggs ruined the nights in which people really loved. Once the media had tarred the UK Garage brand with associating it to the crimes it was very hard to get any major club to let a company put an event on. Also the councils and police got involved quite heavily at one point and were getting nights stopped before they even had a chance. I believe in the end that the major brands just gave up as they were losing too much money each time.

This is a major factor. This might sound strange when I say that the decline in record sales dramatically damaged a scene. You have to remember that the UK garage market is and was actually very small globally. With introduction of pioneer cdjs it was getting harder to shift vinyl units. A lot of the main producers that were churning out the main hits were indeed producers of other genres where their bread and butter lay. Why waste your time when it’s your main career writing tracks to shift 500 units which hardly breaks you even when you can sell 10,000 units globally of the main genre your known for. These guys dominated the sales during major years of UK garage and when they jacked it in the selection of quality garage quickly thinned out. This left a lot of the sets sounding the same and becoming boring.

With it becoming harder to get a set anywhere playing uk garage, because a lot of clubs were shutting their doors to it, a lot of up and comers that just wanted to get bookings, and who can blame them, found other genres in which they were interested in. Again this kills the sales like I stated in the previous paragraph and moves producers to concentrate on what is going to be the next genre in fashion.

There are quite a few artist or label owners that continued and some still continue to carry on producing and releasing something they love such as Mj Cole, Sunship, DnD, Karl Brown, Matt Jam, Wideboys, Charma, Domino, Robbie T, Duncan Powell to name a few. Even our own label Final Cutt Records which Jabz founded didn’t start until 2003. But even some of these guys slowly disappeared for one reason or another be it personal or music related.

People these days that use to be into UK garage think it is dead or do not wish to listen to any new stuff or give it a chance because they cannot move on from the bad associations it once had. The sound has changed a lot over the last 5 years or more and it is slowly becoming the sound it once was. Not everything is going to be liked by everyone but that would have still been the case nearly 20 years when it first began but because people hear a couple of tracks on an album they believe that it is the only sound of UK garage around and just dismiss it. I find it hard to believe that it is completely dead when I’m constantly hearing it on pirates and podcasts still. What makes me really laugh is that for example Sunship remixes a track, Kiss fm playlist it and then people really love it but have no real idea what genre it is.

There is another issue with UK garage and why I believe it is not moving anywhere fast is due to the fact that there has been no real evolution in the sound since 2002. Nearly every 2 step track I hear seems to have the same old elements. I would like to hear a lot more different sounds being used apart from the same old strings, stabs, bass sounds etc. I know it is hard to just come up with these things but I’m not really hearing much attempt to do so. I might sound a bit harsh and maybe my wording could be better but hopefully you can understand where I am coming from.

On ways to change how people perceive UK garage I think there needs to be a bit more quality control on what goes out on major cd albums. This is a main point of advertising to the general public and through this media a lot of views could be changed. I also believe that someone with the love and time should look at putting on a regular night again where old skool and dark and grime based garage is barred. I’m not saying anything is wrong with grime but it is a far cry from UK garage. I’m not talking about headlining a Saturday night at a big club where you’re never going to fill it, I’m talking about having a small bar somewhere where if there is no massive dance floor people don’t feel like they have to dance if they don’t want to and it won’t feel like a dead night because of this. This way people are getting to hear new music and it is being filtered back in again. Look at how it started in the first place. Everything comes back around again in the end but it’s the way you try and bring it back in which is the make or break of it having the chance to evolve. Too many promoters just try and put on the same old big nights which end up being dry. Yes there are exceptions but it’s generally the rule.

I’m sure there are hundreds of people that would disagree with me but like I said this is only my personal opinion.

Think positive. Be happy. x