“I’m very straight-talking, and some people can’t get along with that,” says Scottish drum & bass legend DJ Kid down the phone from his home in Edinburgh. He’s not joking, either – in a scene overpopulated with people prepared to slap on a false smile and repeat the mantra that “it’s all good” for the sake of a quiet life, the opinionated, bullshit-free Kid sticks out like a welcome sore thumb.
His breath-of-fresh-air directness is, of course, a result of his being so fiercely, fiercely passionate about drum & bass. And it’s a damn good job he is too because it’s otherwise quite likely that he’d have thrown in the towel some time ago, such are the obstacles he’s had to face to achieve the status he enjoys today. Drum & bass is a fickle, slippery game at the best of times, but operating out of Scotland has thrown a whole extra set of pressures and problems into the mix for DJ Kid.
“I always felt like I was pretty much out on my own; I still feel like that today, in fact. Because although we’ve got a variety of drum & bass clubs in Scotland now, and although Manga [monthly night at which Kid is a resident] is hitting its ninth birthday this month, one of the things that has made the music successful has been the huge influx of English students to Edinburgh university. Without those students coming up here, it’s debatable whether drum & bass would have ever taken off in Scotland. I’m not saying there aren’t a fair few Scottish drum & bass supporters, but the music has never quite broken through the walls here.”
The lack of support in Scotland for drum & bass back in the early days made it extremely difficult for DJ Kid to get bookings in his native country. “Promoters never wanted to take a risk. They were always like, ‘Oh, not that jungle stuff, no.’” Happy hardcore and gabba were the sounds ruling Scottish raves – the nutty, bug-eyed vibe of such events being entirely incompatible with the cool an’ deadly sound of early jungle. Undeterred, Kid took to regularly making 1,200-mile journeys at weekends to ply his trade around the UK, bagging himself a residency at legendary Wolverhampton night Quest, and guest spots at Roast, Jungle Fever, One Nation, World Dance and Pandemonium.
He also wasn’t going to let a little thing like living in Edinburgh prevent him from getting hold of the latest dubs and DAT tapes. His natural sociability resulted in him clocking up a vast amount of contacts along his travels – contacts who’d supply him with the kind of tracks fresh enough to allow him to hold his own in the fearsomely competitive DJing game.
“From about ‘93 to about ‘96 it was a steady progression of me making more and more contacts. And not just meeting somebody once and then expecting to get a package full of DATs falling through my letterbox, but actually building relationships with people. So it’s never been a major problem getting hold of the new tunes because people could see that I was doing something within the scene; the problem I had was getting the money to actually cut the tunes, ‘cause it’s fuckin’ expensive to get a load of dubplates made. I remember spending 400 quid getting ‘plates made to play at just one event!”
Making contacts is something DJ Kid holds to be one of the key elements required to make it in the jungle game. He’s no time for the wannabe DJ who sits about on their blim-burnt sofa wondering why Bryan Gee isn’t knocking at the door to offer them that Movement residency. Getting out there and making yourself impossible to ignore is the way to go in his book.
“One of the things that I’ve always had confidence in myself with is my ability to make contacts. Without contacts, it’s very, very difficult to get yourself anywhere. People think that they’re gonna make it on the strength of putting out one big tune, and then that’s gonna be it. Now, that happens sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t, and then there’s also another hundred or so people in line coming along with their big tunes. So you’ve got to have contacts, and not only that but keep in touch with them as well, online or by phone or whatever.”
Dedication, as Roy Castle would have had it, is the other key ingredient to making it big time. “If you’re going to make it then you’re going to have to learn to say ‘no’ to your mates when they try and get you to go and get hammered on a Friday night. Get yourself up the shop, get six beers and just stay home in your studio and work on your shit. I remember reading an interview with Source Direct years ago, and one of them said that they’d basically had to drop all of their friends and spend all of their free time in the studio to get where they were. That’s the level of dedication that you’re looking at if you’re wanting to make it.”
As you’d expect, DJ Kid has also tried his hand at production, setting up Invade (a label name loaded with meaning if ever there was one) as an outlet for his own material. His punishing DJ schedule has meant that so far just one of his tracks has been immortalised on plastic, although this situation should hopefully be rectified soon.
“The Invade label is just gonna be for DJ Kid’s music,” he states. “Style-wise, it’s gonna be across the board. It’s like when promoters ask me what sort of drum & bass I play, and I’m not really just into one specific sound, y’know? And that’s what makes sitting in the studio more exciting, ‘cause I’m not just churning out the same kind of beats all the time. There are enough producers in the industry already – and I don’t need to name names – who are basically just making the same sort of beats over and over again. I want to people, when they hear my stuff, to go, ‘Yeah, that guy’s been in the scene for a while. That’s not just a carbon copy of what else is going on.’ I want to have, if not my own style, then at least something different enough for people to take notice of what I’m doing. I’ve got ideas, samples-wise and so on, that I know for a fact that people have never used before.”
For the moment, though, the bulk of his energies are focussed on Restless Natives, his multi-artist imprint that’s rapidly building a commanding name for itself. “I’d always had the name Restless Natives in my head as a label that would be separate from Invade,” he explains. “It all kicked off when I got this twelve and the B-side of it was a thing by DJ Kryptik which I thought was really, really good, definitely one of the best things I’d heard for a while. I heard from someone that he was an English student studying at Edinburgh University. And I was thinking, ‘Well, I wonder if he’s got anything else?’” Not one to sit and wonder “what if?” Kid tracked Kryptik down and got him to hand over a CD with eight more unreleased tracks on it, one of which – the storming, ‘Donnie Darko’-sampling ‘28 Days’ – ended up as the first Restless Natives release, garnering instant positive attention for both label and artist. Through Kryptik Kid met DJ Samurai, another inductee to the Restless Natives camp.
DJ Kid’s more than willing to let any artist on his roster move on to more high-profile labels should the opportunity arise. His unshakeable, cool-headed determination is so infectious, however, that Kryptik chose to stick with him over bigger names, even as his career was just starting out. “With the second Restless Natives twelve – DJ Kryptik’s ‘Going Down’ – Bryan Gee wanted it off me, SS wanted it off me, but we decided to put it out ourselves. The reason being that they wanted the track for their subsidiary labels, and I discussed it with Kryptik and put it to him that those subsidiaries were not of the calibre required to help get his name up the ladder a bit more.”
Sure enough, the Restless Natives roster’s belief in Kid’s long-game planning is starting to pay off. “Kryptik came to me and said, ‘You told us when you first met me and Samurai that you’d make things happen for us, and you have’.” The evidence? One of DJ Samurai’s tunes – ‘Be Mine’ – has just been signed to Andy C’s Frequency label, one of the most respected platforms for new talent around.
Despite all of his achievements, though, DJ Kid still seems restless. He’s a man with big plans – and not only that but a man who actually sees those plans through – and one thing he’d love to help engineer is getting more of his fellow countrymen to take drum & bass to their hearts in the same way that he has. His hopes are not, however, all that high. “I’d like to see a whole load more Scottish people getting into the music and actually becoming involved with it,” he sighs, “but knowing the history of the music scene here and the way things work, I think that that’s very unlikely to happen, unfortunately. A lot of people have already decided, ‘Oh, that’s not for us.’ So it’s left up to me and very few others in Scotland to go banging on people’s doors and go, ‘Come and have a listen, come down to the club, just give it a go’.”
“A lot of people here have maybe heard a drum & bass tape on a car stereo when they’ve been off their head or whatever, and thought, ‘Naah, that’s not for me’. They’ve never even been to a drum & bass club, and I’ll say to them, ‘Look, just come and check it out, see what you think.’ And 99 per cent of those people who come to the club leave saying that they love it, and the other one per cent will say that they’re still not into it, but that now they’ve seen how the crowd reacts they understand why people are.”
There you go then, Scotland: an open invitation from DJ Kid to come and see what you’re missing. He’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse…
DJ KID GUIDES US THROUGH THIS ISSUE’S RESTLESS NATIVES COVER CD
DJ SAMURAI FEATURING CHARLOTTE – DAYZ VIP
“DJ Samurai gives his debut release for the label the VIP treatment.”
2. DJ KRYPTIK – GOING DOWN (SAPPO REMIX)
“After a few attempts by a number of producers to do the damage on this one, 1Xtra’s bad boy gets busy on DJ Kryptik’s massive ‘Going Down’ tune.”
3. DJ KRYPTIK – GOING DOWN
“This tune received a huge response from many of the scene’s main players, including Grooverider.”
4. DJ KRYPTIK – SUNDOWN
“One of the biggest tunes in my box in 2004. I dropped this for the first time at Manga’s eight birthday, and boy did it smash the place apart.”
5. DC BREAKS – QUE SERA
“The first tune from the DC Breaks crew, who I’ve recently signed up to the label. Already this has been getting plenty of dubplate action from the likes of Bryan Gee.”
6. DJ KRYPTIK – DO YOU BELIEVE
“DJ Kryptik has a big future in the scene as far as I’m concerned and proves his worth with this one, which is by far his best tune to date for me.”
7. DJ SAMURAI FEAT. CHARLOTTE – I WANNA TELL YOU (MACE REMIX)
“Newlywed Mr Mace is one of the scene’s most refreshing talents, and gets int”o the groove expertly here remixing DJ Samurai and Charlotte’s second twelve on the label.”
8. DJ SAMURAI FEAT. CHARLOTTE – I WANNA TELL YOU
“A firm favourite in the record box of the man like Nookie.”
9. DC BREAKS – NOIZE DUB
“This dub-fuelled roller will be the follow-up to ‘Que Sera’ for the DC Breaks crew.”
10. DJ KRYPTIK – TRUST ME
“I was instantly hooked to this one the first time I heard it – it has a real early 90s drum & bass feel to it.”
11. DJ SAMURAI FEAT. CHARLOTTE – DAYZ (PESHAY REMIX)
“Peshay brought the label and artists more recognition when he got on the remix duties for this one – he liked it that much he put it as the first track on his recent album project ‘Jammin’.”
12. DJ KRYPTIK – TAKE MY LOVE
“Kryptik gets soulful here with the vox and sweet strings before ∏leaping into some serious jump-up business. This should be forthcoming in 2005.”
13. DJ SAMURAI – BIZNESS
“Connoisseur of fine wines DJ Samurai shows a different side to his sword with a rolled-out jazz jam.”
14. DC BREAKS – LEAVE ME
“I’ve been playing this one for about four months now, and it’s fast becoming a Manga anthem here in Scotland.”
15. DC BREAKS – VIRUS – 2005
“In line with what’s been about in the scene over the last year or so, and boy can the DC chaps do the do when it comes to this style of drum & bass.”
16. DJ KRYPTIK – NEW ENCOUNTERS (REMIX)
“The B-side to the first release on my label got a very good reaction from DJs around the world, so Kryptik’s gone back in ˜on this one and given it a good little workout for the new year.”
17. DJ SAMURAI FEAT. CHARLOTTE – DAYZ
“Out of the three twelves I released last year this sold the fastest, with 1,000 copies going in under two weeks – which for a new independent record label is very good. Although Peshay remixed this one on the flip, the original mix was by far the most popular of the two, and was hammered across the globe.”
18. DJ KRYPTIK – 28 DAYS
“I felt this dark destroyer was a good track to start the label off with. And before anybody tries to say different, this was the first drum & bass tune to sample speech from the cult movie ‘Donnie Darko’…”