Interview: Fabio and Grooverider’s Extra-Long XOYO Residency Gives a Lesson in the Genesis and Evolution of D&B

When it comes to drum and bass, one struggles to come up with two names more OG than Fabio and Grooverider. Two DJ/producers with more skin in the game for possibly the longest out of anyone, they’ve been credited with laying down some of the first jungle beats and morphing house into hardcore into jungle. No need to belabour the point here, however: if you’re reading an article about these two veteran legends in KMag, you already know.

With their five-week XOYO residency curated by the Weird Science promotions family kicked off 3rd June and an absolutely dizzying tour schedule coming up this summer, the inseparable duo sat down with the Mag just before the gig to reflect on their history being highlighted by said gigs. Being the progenitors of the beloved 174 breakbeat as it is today, Fab & Groove’s history is, of course, also all of our history, so one would be pressed to get a more accurate of that history than from these two, so its time to listen up.

The 3rd May gig was all about the genesis of drum and bass as we know it, with the lineup packed full of the best artists of the modern era: Watch the Ride, Bailey, Total Science, Meraki, MC GQ, Illmatika and Voice MC all rocked the basement along with the illustrious hosts Fab and Groove. The dance also took over in the Green Room, where Grooverider surprised with a special tech house set, supported by Sense and Sooney. From this format, fans could likely tell this wouldn’t be an ordinary D&B residency, and the second week 10th May, which just passed in a pyroclastic flow of explosive old school house energy, proved it. ‘The club came to us with the idea, and we decided to split it over five weeks with different styles and things that represent Fabio and Grooverider,’ Fabio said about the format, ‘so we were really honoured they asked us and we’ve taken it with both hands.’

With the idea of making the residency about the history of Fabio and Grooverider, the lineup was the key to that history lesson. ‘We wanted the people who represent and who were part of our journey,’ Fabio explained whilst expounding on the choices they made for each night. ‘We’re doing one night where we play all night ourselves, we’ve got the house night (this week on 10th May) with Mr. C, Ratpack, Shades of Rhythm…guys we’ve known for years. And then we’ve got the jungle night with all the jungle giants; SS, Ray Keith, Micky Finn and guys like that. It’s all DJs who meant something to us in our journey and are still part of our journey. We’re happy to have them all on board.’

‘I just want to go and play music,’ Grooverider chimes in, ‘that’s what I really love doing, so what I’m excited about is the five different weeks so it’s exciting because I get to open up my box a little bit and play things most people aren’t used to hearing from me, like doing the tech house set upstairs. We can see a lot of friends and there’s going to be a lot of people we haven’t seen in a while, so it’s something nice to do with the next five weeks. I’m not sure people have noticed, but we haven’t done a residency since Rage. This is the first one we’ve done in 15 years. That’s why I’m looking forward to it as well. People take it for granted since we see each other all the time, but we haven’t done a proper residency since we left Rage.’

‘Yeah, there have been a lot of residencies at XOYO,’ Groove points out, ‘but none that were like this, with all the different music genres with someone like us hosting it. Nobody’s done that, but it’s natural to us (with our history), so that’s why I’m looking forward to it because we can open up and show who we are musically.

What’s resulted is a timeline of not only Fab and Groove’s journey, but of the evolution of drum and bass. With so many years under them as DJs and producers, fans might think they have strong opinions about that evolution and where the culture is now, but Fabio’s thoughts on that concept are much more expansive. ‘It really is just an evolution and you’ve got to go with the times, and part of that is learning to work with new equipment. I’ve got no real affection for playing on decks. Vinyl was great and I liked playing on vinyl but I like playing on USBs as well. There’s no sense in arguing about it because it’s not around anymore.’

Time moves on and the trick to longevity is moving with it. You can’t just sit in your box and whine about how it was. It’s never going to be like how it was so if you want to keep working in this culture, you’ve just got to keep with the times and keep functioning in today’s world.

It may come as a surprise that Fab doesn’t miss the old days, given the retrospective that the XOYO residency has become. ‘I’m not a nostalgia freak,’ he says. ‘I mean I like the smell of acetate and that but it cost a lot of money (then) and acetate wears out and I can’t play them anymore. Playing on decks versus digital…I’m just not bothered. It’s about the music and it’s your music choice and your music selection that matter to me.’

This perspective extends to music production and the sound of D&B these days as well. ‘It’s great nowadays! I mean, as long as I’ve got a set and I can find tunes to play, which I can always find tunes to play, I’m good. I’m not political about whether today’s music is better than yesterdays or the other way ’round. It doesn’t bother me; I’ve got enough tunes now that I can play a five or six hour set if I need to.’

‘You have to remember, we’ve been doing this for 30 years, so the expanse we have,’ Groove points out, ‘we’ve got a huge, vast amount of music to get through, always.’

‘We’re not even touching the sides,’ Fabio agrees.

‘You know, there’s no point in analysing drum and bass ever,’ Fabio says, returning to the point about new versus old and genre versus genre, ‘because drum and bass is always just going to do what it does. There’s no point in going “oh, jungle is better than D&B” or whatever. The bottom line is that drum and bass is its own thing and it does its own thing and it always has. It goes wherever it wants to go and if you want to go with it, you go with it and if you don’t, you go to old school gigs. Drum and bass doesn’t care! It doesn’t give a shit. Drum and bass is always going to move on and it’s always going to sound different than it did six months ago.’

‘It does affect how you listen to things,’ Groove adds, ‘you know, we’re not doing marathon running (where your body gets worse over time). This is music and we use our ears, so the older you get, the more tuned in your ears are. You can tell me about how all these new people work, but have they got culture and history? What era did you come from? If you came through listening to Pendulum, you’ve got different ears. I came through listening to RAM, so we’re hearing things differently, even though we’ve all come to the same spot.’

Both can agree then, that D&B ear is ever-changing. ‘Drum and bass will always be like that,’ says Fabio, ‘and that’s why it’s still here, because it doesn’t get stuck in itself. Other genres have not moved on with technology and the times, and it’s driven by youth. So if you’re getting too old and you don’t like today’s music, there’s loads of old school gigs you can go to and you can dance your arse off to music from 2001, 2010, the 90s…but if you’ve got a youthful spirit, you can go and hear some new shit.’

As originators of this music, the ongoing love for drum and bass for these two is more about seeing it grow up before their eyes and seeing it go in all different directions. ‘Drum and bass is our baby,’ Fabio says, ‘so it’s just like trying to tell your kid, “don’t do this and don’t do that.” At the end of the say, sometimes you’ve got to give your kid a bit of credit. You can try to tell them what’s best or guide them and you kind of have a set idea of what you want it to be, but it’s ultimately up to them. That’s kind of like how drum and bass has been. To me, drum and bass have never stepped out of my reach in all this time. I’ve never got to the stage of thinking “ooh, it’s gone too far down that road,” like a kid loosing themselves. I can always find something within drum and bass that I’m happy with.’ So there you have it. If Fab says leave it alone and let it do its thing, That’s exactly what we as a scene should do.

It seems that Fabio and Groovrider are happy for both the original styles and the fresh directions D&B is privy to taking. As for just how they stay fresh and energetic themselves, both Fabio and Grooverider point to taking care of their health. ‘This lifestyle is a lot more difficult than is seems looking from the outside in,’ Fab states. It’s a sentiment that many artists have been expressing lately, and it’s likely something most punters don’t think about often. ‘there’s a lot of mental strain…travelling gets more difficult over time, you’re driving for hours and hours and you’re not even eating properly. You’ve got to make sure your health is as good as it can be, because unfortunately we are losing a lot of people. I’ve known eight people in the last three weeks who have died. That’s no exaggeration; I’ve been to two funerals in the last three weeks, of relatively young people.*(see editor’s note below)

Grooverider’s perspective is a variation on that theme: ‘I’ve always been fucked in the head anyway, so nothing’s going to change that,’ he says with a laugh, ‘but getting to a certain age, you do always have to keep that in the back of your mind, you know. What you’re eating, how much sleep you’re getting, all these things are important, especially when you’re going on tour. You have to be strong, mentally and physically. (With working out), it’s never really been an issue to me, because it’s something I enjoy doing anyway, but it is still really important.’

‘Groove is a real afficionado. He’s been going (to the gym)  religiously for 30 years and he doesn’t drink, so that’s how deep he takes it. I don’t do drugs; it’s never been my bag. I don’t think I could have lasted this long taking class A drugs. You’ve got to be really sharp mentally to do this job. There’s lots of looking into yourself on nights that aren’t great, and you’ve got to really know how to brush that off. Your powers of recovery have gotta be really good,’ Fabio warns. It’s not just the older generation, either. ‘I’ve seen young kids who are taking a break, and they’re 22, getting burnt out because this job is just that hard.’

That may be the biggest misconception between the fans and the artists, that the DJs are partying the whole time whilst in reality, Fabio says backstage is not the party fantasy many think it is. ‘It’s six DJs sitting down looking at their phones. There’s no wild orgies going on; not that I’ve seen. We’re all on to the next thing as well; no one has time.’

With all that travel, late nights and stress. one can begin to see why a residency where they get to stay in London for a month would appeal to so many artists. For Fab and Groove, though, it’s all about the featured music and seeing old friends. ‘I’m really looking forward to the house night,’ Fabio confesses. ‘You know, house is really where we started. People have got this misconception that we were playing hardcore in 1988. We weren’t; we were playing house. Hardcore didn’t exist. People don’t understand because house is this separate entity now, but if it weren’t for house, we would be dancing to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s new album at some shitty nightclub on a Saturday night. House music is the reason why we’re here. It’s the reason I got into the whole game, and it’s the reason for my career.’

‘People forget: the first jungle tunes came from house. What I think of as the first jungle tune is “We Are iE” by Lenny De Ice, which has got a four to the floor house beat with an amen break on it. House is the root, whether people like to think so or not, so we had to pay homage to house on one of the nights and to be honest with you, it’s one of the nights that’s selling the most out of all of them.’


What’s next after the five-week hometown run? ‘We’ve got a really busy summer and we’ve got the (Outlook) Orchestra again, we’re going to Bali…and then it’s festival season right after the residency. I’m looking forward to that,’ or mostly, Fabio points out. ‘I’m hoping the weather and the sound systems are good. There’s a misconception that people think all festivals are great, and I’m not totally on board with that. There’s times you go to a festival and the sound is awful. Because festivals are outdoors and during the day, you often get noise restrictions so it’s very rare you go to a festival and the sound is good, and the sound is so important. It’s something that gets so overlooked. It doesn’t matter what kind of crowd you have; if the sound system is not up to scratch, that party is not going to be great.’

The thing that really shines through when talking to Fabio and Grooverider and indeed it extends to their relationship with the fans and the scene, is just how much they support each other. When asked which artist they were most looking forward to seeing at the residency, Groove immediately said, ‘Fabio. If we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else is going to do it. Whenever we do an interview and people ask who we rate musically, I always say “us two.” Like what do you mean? We’ve got that culture and history with each other.’

After over 30 years working, playing and making music together, Fab and Groove are still each other’s own cheering section and still championing drum and bass as much as in the days of Rage. The XOYO residency is thus a another plot point in the D&B canon, written by two artists who started the book. It’s a legendary gig procured by legends and a must not miss.

Tickets for Fabio & Grooverider: The Residency are almost sold out for most of the nights, taking place each Friday in May. What’s left can be purchased on the Resident Advisor website, the Dice app and other major platforms.

*Editor’s note: at the time this interview was conducted, the news had not yet hit the drum and bass community that MC Conrad had passed, so these comments from Fabio are not about him. It was shared the next day, 1st May, that Conrad had passed and Fabio and Grooverider released the below statement on their Instagram account. KMag reached out for comment, but the artists understandably did not respond. Our thoughts and love go out to all Conrad’s family and loved ones. Nothing but love and gratitude for all the beautiful music and vibes he provided over the years.