Kmag touches down with the Drunken Master himself to chat up everything from the resurgence of jungle to providing an early platform for heads like Hazard, G Dub and Benny Page to make a name for themselves. Having just unleashed the monster single “Time for Change” the original jump up jungle bad boy was also kind enough to bless us with a high-energy guest mix jam-packed with that signature Dope Ammo sound. Look out!
First off, introduce yourself to the heads, where you’re hailing from, your role at the label, your DJ/production monikers …
My real name is Anil Shah but everyone knows me as ‘Coco’. I was called this by my sister from a very young age as I use to drink a lot of cocoa or something and it kinda just stuck! Haha…. I’m a DJ/producer who works under the names Dope Ammoand The Drunken Masters and I’m also CEO of Dope Ammo Recordings. We are based in Banbury, in Oxfordshire, UK.
For those that don’t know, what kind of sound/vibe does Dope Ammo represent?
The Dope Ammo sound is really a fusion of reggae, jump up and jungle, although we do release anything that works well on the dance-floor and has good energy and groove to it.
Jungle seems to be having a bit of a resurgence in the States this past year – have you noticed an increased interest on your end as well?
Absolutely; producers like Serum, Bladerunner, Serial Killaz and Aries have taken the jungle vibe from ’95, updated it and people are loving it again! We are mixing this with jump up so it works well in DJ sets and can been played alongside some of the harder stuff from the likes of Levela, Macky Gee, Andy C, Tantrum Desire.
Talk a bit about the unspoken divide between the hard-amen-driven ragga jungle and the Dope Ammo brand of jump up influenced jungle – are they two different crowds or do you find them appealing to different audiences?
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the tearing amen stuff! I know this kinda stuff goes down well with the free party crowd in the UK though! I don’t think there is a big divide between these two styles in the UK as much as there is in the States. The crowd in the UK seem to be pretty cool these days as they are exposed to so many different styles through radio so you can really mix it up, even switching between different bpm and genres. For instance, I know everyone loves the old skool rave sound in the UK and as I was bought up on this sound, so occasionally, I love dropping a few tracks like this in the middle of my dnb sets. However, if you do this abroad people just don’t know the tunes so the response is never that great.
What’s the difference between your Dope Ammo and Drunken Masters monikers?
Basically the story is that originally there was four of us aka The Drunken Masters and we used to produce together but over time and due to family commitments the others kinda had to do their own thing and so it was just left to me so I started producing under the name Dope Ammo and hence, here I am today. However, the great news is that one of The Drunken Masters has come back to the game, so we hope to do a few projects together again as The Drunken Masters and play a few shows on the way too!
Talk a bit about the history of Dope Ammo – from what I understand, originally it was formed as a series of club nights, is that right? How did things progress from there?
Yeah there was a healthy dance music scene in the mid-nineties in Oxfordshire and we had a great regular venue called Hobson’s Choice where we began promoting events. We had the likes of DJ Swan-e, Ellis Dee, SL2, Nicky Blackmarket and Kosheen as some of our headliners through those years. At the same time I was learning to produce and in about 1998 we set up Dope Ammo Records as an outlet for our own produced music.
It’s hard to believe that Uprising was released almost 12 years ago! Looking back on that time, how important was that album to the development of yourself as an artist and the label itself?
Yeah Uprising was like a turning point for us really. It was when the dnb scene took notice and to be honest, we started to understand production better i.e. sub bass, drums patterns, mixdowns, etc. etc. It was after this album that we produced some of our best material to date – “Kill Bill,” “Roots & Culture” and “Better Believe”… So I guess Uprising was a bit of a learning experience for us and the label.
Hazard’s single off this LP helped launch him into the stratosphere, wouldn’t you agree?
Yeah, totally man, I remember Hazard used to call me up quite a bit and its mental how big he’s got now but he totally deserves it man, as I know even back then he used to put in a lot of hard work and time in the studio. He actually called me up and said can I remix this track… I was like yeah man of course and sent him the parts. At the time we had a lot of London connections with TOV, Pyrotechnic Radio and Kool FM and did a great job on marketing his remix and everyone loved it and supported the track. Pretty soon he was hot property and was snapped up by DJ Hype and the rest is history!
Since then Dope Ammo has helped launch a grip of familiar names like G Dub and Benny Page. Talk a bit about that legacy as well as any future superstars that you have your eyes and ears on.
As for G Dub they were pretty much on their way anyway and we were lucky enough to grab a remix for them around the time they signed to Playaz. As for Benny I was a big fan of his music and just hit him up and we became good friends and we still work together now on projects.
It’s great for me to look back on the label and see some of the biggest guys now in the scene who kick-started their careers at DA Recs and we are already working with the stars of the future too. For me, these are the likes of Levela, Turno, Macky Gee, and Dossa.
Looking back, it’s amazing how much the technology has changed things. I know you were a vinyl purist for years, what do you use when you play out these days?
I use Tracktor Vinyl because I love vinyl and scratching and it’s the nearest thing for me which is up to date with technology but still kinda keeps things old skool. To be honest it’s taken me a while to get the digital sound right so it works as big as the analogue sound on vinyl. For me the vinyl still has amazing warmth and bass just sounds too good and powerful. Digital is getting there but still lacks the impact you get from analogue vinyl on the dancefloor!
In terms of production, the learning curve never ends – what sort of hardware/software rig are you using these days and what, if anything, has impacted your workflow the most? Any specific plug-ins that you can’t live without? Advice for up-and-coming producers?
I don’t really use that much hardware anymore although I love the sound of it. I’m more software-based now and run Cubase with a massive selection of plug-ins (too many to mention!). I have, however, kept the best bits of my hardware and these are the Akai Sampler, Novation Drum & Bass Station, Tascam DAT and the Micro Korg.
Plugins I can’t live without would have to be Ambience Reverb, CamelPhat, NI Massive, Dub Station Delay, Effectrix and Ozone. Advice for up & coming producers is to just to keep at it and be patient….good production takes time and understanding and I’m still learning even now.
You’re also wrapping up your 2nd Loopmasters sample pack – talk a bit about how you approached the construction of it and what kind of goodies we can expect to find on there.
Yes, the Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain sample pack is due to be released 27th November! We designed it to showcase the Dope Ammo sound which again is a unique fusion of jump up, reggae and jungle. Collaborating with Marvellous Cain on this pack was essential as he brought the reggae dancehall vibe as well as his jungle roots to really take things to the next level. As an extra bonus we’ve added vocal hooks from the combined record labels of Dope Ammo and Yardrock throwing Shaddy MC & Gigante into the mix.
Before we get into the guest mix you’ve put together for us, I would be remiss if we didn’t mention this massive release that’s just hit the streets. Talk a bit about the lead tune, teaming up with Yemi Bolatiwa and Gigante MC, and how you see this paving the way for the LP you are rumored to have lined up for later this year.
“Time for Change” is the next big release on the label which features Yemi Bolatiwa and Gigante on vocals! It’s kinda got a ska reggae vibe to it and was brought to me by one of the up & coming artists we have on the label called Resinate. He bought me a loop and I kinda heard a tune in my head so we went in on the track in the studio and were really happy with what we had. After that I approached Yemi who had already done a tune for us and she completely smashed the vocals! We bought Gigante in on it later on to put the icing on the cake.
All these tunes that have been dropping over the past year are all building up to the 15 years of DA album which will be released next year. The album will have some of the biggest releases to date plus remixes, VIP mixes and a selection of tracks which have been made as a result of my own musical influences over the years.
Any final shouts before we get into the mix?
Just wanna give a massive thanks to everyone who has supported the label over the years and most of all the people who have bought and downloaded our music as we would not still be doing what we love doing without you lot!….. ONE LOVE people.
Tracklist: Dope Ammo featuring Shaddy MC Track Listing
1 – Shaddy MC Intro
2 – Dope Ammo Intro
3 – RaggaMuffin Business (Dope Ammo VIP) – Brukout Foundation
4 – Get Down Massive Ft Shaddy MC – Dope Ammo
5 – Dangerous (Levela VIP) – Benny Page
6 – Your Flex – Sub Zero
7 – Crossfire (Dope Ammo Dub Moods VIP) – Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain
8 – My Style – Levela & Dub Zero
9 – Day One VIP – Hydroponics
10 – Bad Ass (Dope Ammo VIP) – Mickey Finn & Aphrodite
11 – Everyday Jump Up – Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain
12 – At Last Ft Amiah & Gigante MC – Marvellous Cain & Dope Ammo
13 – Dibby Dibby Sound (Sigma Rmx) – DJ Fresh
14 – Running Man – Original Sin & Koo
15 – L.I.T Ft Amiah – Dope Ammo
16 – Crap Rinse Out (Serum Rmx) – Twisted Individual
17 – Time For Change Ft Yemi Bolatiwa & Gigante MC
18 – Hypnotic Ft Lady Saw (Dope Ammo & Sloss VIP) – Wicked Squad
19 – Dem No No Ft Ragga Twins (Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain Rmx) – BreakBeat’s Son
20 – Blessed (Benny Page Rmx) – Sizzla
21 – Poon – Sub Zero
22 – Marijuana – Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain
23 – Im Living (Ed Solo Rmx) – Sizzla
24 – Let Me Down Easy (Dope Ammo Rmx) – Paulo Nuttini
25 – Top Ranking (Dope Ammo & Run Tingz Cru Rmx) – Dossa Ft Deliman