Two soldiers of UKG swap stories and look to the future.
Blessed with a sharp wit and a rapid fire delivery, Kevin Christie aka. Majestic was destined to MC. Performing at venues around North London from the age of fifteen, he soon became a fixture spitting over Garage on pirate radio and eventually at raves alongside some of the scene’s leading DJ’s. He’d go on to feature at venues around the world, with his larger than life personality eventually being captured on record in the form of cheeky anthems like ‘Let’s Go Back’ and ‘In The VIP’. Now hosting Kiss FM’s long running Garage Show as the official successor to his pal DJ EZ, Majestic is more secure than ever in his position as the voice of modern Garage.
A man of many, many aliases, Grant Nelson‘s sonic finger prints have been all over British club culture since the 90’s. Although he never restricted himself to one style Grant was particularly influential in the world of UKG – with his seminal Nice n’ Ripe label responsible for many of the scene’s most enduring bangers. He’s continued to toggle styles and flirt with both the underground and the mainstream ever since, as part of a prolific run that hasn’t let up for a second.
Paired up when Grant supplied the remix to the Majestic-produced club smash in waiting, ‘Creeping In The Dark’, we though it would be good to get the two to grill each other for the latest ‘Vs’. There was plenty of nostalgia, but with both artists being firmly involved in the musical present there was also a lot of talk about recent times and the future…
Majestic: People are saying that Garage is back now. What are your feelings of where it went in the last 10 years?
Grant Nelson: It just got too naughty bruv. Personally I loved the Garage scene – when it kicked off in ’97 it was exciting and then by the late 90’s it was amazing! The vibes, the people, it was absolutely wicked. You could do anything musically and people were enjoying it. Then it all just got a bit fucking dark. You had – I was gonna say a couple of bits of trouble, but it was quite a lot of trouble! By like 2003: Boom! It had died overnight. I don’t know if I should say this, but a good friend of mine was DJ’ing in a club where someone got their brains blown out in front of the DJ booth. That was one of the main things that put the final nail in the coffin – I think a lot of other clubs looked at things like that and thought, “fuck it – we’re not having that in our clubs anymore”.
M: It was banned for years.
G: Exactly. A lot of people just weren’t interested or didn’t wanna know. I know people blame the crews, but I don’t necessarily think it was that. I just think it got a bit out of control – people got a bit overexcited and it kind of lost its way. Before it used to be about partying and having a proper rave up then things all just got a bit stoosh and moody and that turned the girls off. When they were gone, the guys were just left to fight each other and that’s pretty much what happened. What do you think happened? What’s your take on it?
M: I’m completely with that. The other thing was that when there’s no club and you can’t have that experience live, there isn’t a scene. You can’t go out and hear those tunes loud and get the vibe – there was a lot of good productions going on from about ’03 to ’08, Qualified was putting out some big bits, Jeremy Sylvester was doing some good things. It was like a bit of geeky 4/4 scene and those tunes didn’t really work in a club, so that was the problem. Now there’s tunes that actually work in clubs, like Preditah is killing it. It did go all down and people went away from it though.
Older times when I was just being an MC, people didn’t want MC’s anywhere near clubs. It had such a stigma, people just didn’t wanna hear it.
G: The word MC just got kind of lumbered in with the Garage thing.
M: Massively. Then the whole Hed Kandi thing and Funky House just blew up. It was a party thing and the girls came back in. You could dress up nicely and go out to a rave and it was full of nice people and it was just nice music. Once that blew up, there was no way in. You’d try and put a Garage party on and no one would want it.
G: Luckily I didn’t really DJ that kind of Garage stuff, I was a House DJ. Even though I was making all the ‘Bump And Flex’ stuff, I wasn’t really playing it out. I did a couple of gigs with Norris, as the N’n’G stuff – but those were the only times I really played 2-Step, so I didn’t see it full on. All my mates though, MJ Cole and everyone, were out on the scene, so I was getting all the stories. Plus I was going out to parties as well, but I never caught the proper raw end of it. Norris told me some horrific stories…
M: I saw someone’s face getting blown off at Scala. It was horrible…
G: Its not good. Even at some of the Garage revival parties, way after the fact, there’s been trouble. Its like, ‘no, this ain’t the part we wanted to revive’, know what I mean? (laughs)
M: You Grant, a lot of the newer bits you’ve done have gone back to the like bump and basslines thing – its all come together again. Its interesting that you’d make that type of music again, because like I said I’m a massive fan of when you were doing the Housier stuff – ‘Seasons of Jack’ is one of my all time favourite dance records. What’s inspired you to go back to making the groovier, bassline stuff?
G: When I originally started producing music, it was like Hardcore, Jungle – so I’ve always been a bit of a basshead. I’m not a snob about what I make, I know what I like and I don’t jump on bandwagons. When I feel bored, I’ll do something else. Plus a lot of the time, when you look at the early 90’s I was making Hardcore stuff, the Nice N’ Ripe stuff and the Happy Hardcore stuff with DJ Vibes. In a week at the studio, I’d be knocking up a Hardcore Jungle track, a Happy Hardcore track and what was going to become an underground UKG track – all in the same week. I just like music man.
The change up with the basslines is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but the crowd hasn’t been ready for it. When I put up the Stylo G mix I did, there were a couple of people that were blatantly scared of what I’d done to it.
M: You can add the Bump N’ Flex Dancehall Dub of Cleptomaniacs to that! (both laugh) I think EZ owes you PRS for that surely! That breakdown has made a career for the man.
G: Oh god bless him…To be honest EZ carried the flame for Garage. In this whole time where it went dark and no one was really interested, mans was still out there smashing it, so you’ve gotta give him props for that.
M: Of course. People are saying there’s a Garage revival now, but is it a hype? Obvious EZ’s bigger than he’s ever been, internationally and at home. The thing with the UK Garage scene, is that it was always a London thing. It went out of London a little bit, but imagine back then if we had the internet? Garage would have exploded – everyone would be on about 100 grand a booking!
G: Oh mate, it would be crazy. Its a different game now, its a totally different game. Some people don’t like that, but the exposure and the potential exposure is so much more. Like you say EZ is smashing it now in the States. Is it a hype? No I don’t think it is, I think just more people are getting to hear it. Lets face it, America has never been a great place for clubbing full stop. The Americans invented House music, but they were probably the last country on the planet to embrace it genuinely.
M: As Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) said, “they invented it, we took it and sold it back to them”.
G: (laughs) Totally! That’s the truth man.
M: Speaking of America, it’s ironic. I played at Utra Music Festival in Miami last summer when I did a tune with Laidback Luke. Me and my pals, we’ve been raving ten years or whatever – we walked into Ultra and these kids are dressed like they’re going to Moondance! They’ve got the rave boots on, dummies in their mouths, they were raving like it was ’92, they’ve just found ecstasy and dance music.
G: (laughs) Exactly! They’re kind of 20 years behind the rest of the planet when it comes to that stuff, but you know what: God bless ’em, because at least they’ve got it now.
M: That’s it. Its gone from Champagne table service and Hip-Hop to people actually having it. From what I heard, when EZ went over to New York he proper smashed it up.
G: That’s wicked man.
M: I randomly was talking to some girls in Amsterdam when I was there on a stag do the other week, about music in America, and they were telling me about how big Disclosure are getting over there. Music is always reactionary, after all this EDM that they’re hearing, once they hear about of bump and groove, they’re going to latch on to it.
Here’s a question for you then: I remember this exact moment, I was a kid and I was walking in Enfield Town with my headphones in and some tramp – he was a famous tramp called Lenny, he asked me what I was listening to and I said, “House and Garage. I think we need to bring back the term, ‘House and Garage’. It would make for a much bigger scene, it would appeal to a much bigger audience and you could put on much bigger raves.
G: I agree with you completely. One of the things that’s got very confused in recent years is the ‘Deep House’ term.
M: Oh yeah.
G: It doesn’t mean anything. Originally Deep House was nothing like what it is now. You define it for me…
M: For me it would be like what Kerri Chandler was playing in the mid 90’s.
G: I agree, but nowadays what would you call Deep House?
M: Well I mean people are calling Gorgon City Deep House!
G: Exactly you’ve got from that stretch, right up until…I don’t wanna slag anyone off but there’s a lot of shit on the Beatport Charts. Its not that its not decent House music, it sounds like fucking elevator music! Just like old guitar riffs from cheesy 80’s records at 119BPM!
M: Mmmm its very boring…
G: You’re right though, ‘House and Garage’ that’s what it should be called.
M: It would encompass everything. I was trying to explain this to a promoter the other night who runs a very big Garage brand and he was like, ‘oh I don’t think I should have House in my rave’. I’m like, ‘mate if someone’s playing an Industry Standard Record from the 90’s, they’re playing House in your Rave. If someone’s playing Tuff Jam, they’re playing House in your rave.’ It doesn’t matter that its labelled Garage. The irony is that when EZ started caning ‘Azido Da Bass’ is that its by Timo Mass – a Techno producer! My rule is that if it sounds good and it fits within the BPM range – play it.
G: Totally. For me, Garage is more of an attitude. It ain’t got nothing to do with the beats and it ain’t got nothing to do with the vocals even. You can’t put it into words.
‘Creeping In The Dark’ is out January 18th. You can pre-order it here.