An ambassador for Jungle since its conception, Randall is held in the highest esteem across the genre as one of the finest DJ’s to ever rinse out an Amen break. A resident at two of the most legendary parties of the 90′s in AWOL (A Way Of Life) and Metalheadz’s Sunday Session at Hoxton’s Blue Note, Randall became famous for his dark, rolling style, going on to become one of the biggest DJ’s in the scene. Primarily known for his mixing talents, Randall is also an underrated producer with credits on classics such as his and Andy C’s ‘Sound Control’, and the head of label Mac2 Recordings alongside long time friend Cool Hand Flex.
Asides from recording a banger laden mix for us earlier in the week, we took the opportunity to speak to Randall who was effusive about his enduring enthusiasm for the music which he’s made his life, as well as discussing changes within Drum & Bass, fond memories and his respect for David Rodigan (with whom he plays at Fabric tonight).
Alright Randall, thanks for talking to Hyponik. Where are we speaking to you from today?
I’m speaking from the West Country at the moment in Bristol. Today I’ve just been working on some tracks for the label, various bits and bobs that I’m just trying to polish off. Just trying to get back in the mode of arranging music basically.
Speaking on your production then I guess, you’ve made some bangers here and there, but its always been relatively sporadic from you. Is that a case of focussing more on your DJ’ing?
Basically I’m mainly a DJ really, but a lot of the guys that I’ve worked with over time on labels that used to make tunes when I was back in East London on Underground Records and Oddball Records. People like Kool N Flex and Uncle 22 used to make a lot of tunes and that so I didn’t really need to get on the studio flex at that certain point. Nowadays I set up me own label since ’96, Mac2 Recordings, and I’ve started to get back on the writing side of things. People like Kool N Flex I usually make tunes with, but at the moment I’m trying to do it myself, although I still got a bit of help from a few people giving me a few tricks and learning a few things.
So can we expect some new material from you pretty soon?
Yeah basically I’ve got a couple things in the pipeline, I don’t want to say what labels they’re on at the moment. I’ve got a couple of remixes that I’ve done for Kool N Flex that I’m putting out on Mac2. So yeah I’ve got a few things coming, I mean I was working on something just now before I started talking to you. I’m working on that one with this guy called Modular who does websites for us up in Brighton and whatnot, so we’ve been bouncing together making tunes. I usually just get the stems and crack on with the arrangement in me own time at home.
Obviously Jungle never went away, but it is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in popularity at the minute. As someone who’s stuck with it through thin and thin, were there ever any times when it was hard to back?
Music goes through different phases you know? Not every tune I’m into but at the same time there’s certain tunes I’m loving at the minute. Music always changes so everyone has their preference, but I’ve never fallen out of Jungle or Drum n Bass or whatever you wanna call it. We have moments where we might take a little breather and listen to something else, which in my case is Hip-Hop and whatnot, but I’ve always listened to Drum n Bass from day dot and I always will.
I guess what I was talking about in terms of a resurgence in popularity, was the guys out there, I’m not sure if you would’ve heard this stuff, making crossover stuff-like Techno styled beats with the Amen Break. Are you aware of this kind of stuff and what do you think about it?
I’ve heard a few guys dabbling in that tempo, usually around the 160bpm you know what I mean? I can’t reel off all the guys that I’ve heard – I’ve heard a lot of guys that have moved on to that flex. Its always the way, our music is like a melting pot of different styles and you can’t pigeonhole our style. That’s why a lot of people bounce into Drum n Bass, because its got so much diversity that you can always play around with our sound and come out with something.
And that’s why its lasted so long do you think?
Of course that’s why its lasted for so long. Because its got a longevity and because its so diverse. There’s so many different styles of music at the moment that are classed with DnB and Jungle. That’s why its hard to pigeonhole what type of set I do. I’m a versatile DJ, I can play any set I want because I like all different types of music – within reason.
If you were trying school someone about Jungle, what tunes do you draw for and how would you explain its attraction?
Well first of all I’d tell him to go back and listen to the early, early sound of Jungle in the early 90’s and then listen to what certain artists are doing right now like your Hazard’s, your S.P.Y’s, your Vapour’s, your Rennie La Vice, your Jubei… we could go on for days! Marcus Intalex… Everybody’s got a diverse sound and everybody’s got a different way of drawing music. If you wanna go deep you can check out your d-Bridge and your Loxy and that. If you’re not really on to that little flex you’re more of a bouncier jump-up kind of style, you’ve got your people like your Hazard’s-but Hazard can still switch it and go on a deep one, like on ‘Air Guitar’, you must’ve heard ‘Air Guitar’?
I would just tell a guy to go back to it’s original source and then go forward to understand it fully.
Nowadays the energy in the raves is obviously very different but there used to be a lot of aggro there…
Back in the day in the Rave scene it was completely different. For instance when I used to play Rocket Club, Orange, that was around 1990/1991. I used to play with Hype, Grooverider, Fabio, Dr. S Gachet, Lost Groover, Cool Hand Flex. Back then we didn’t even really have an MC. An MC used to come on every hour and introduce us so our music had to do the talking i.e. there was a lot of vocals in our tunes. Nowadays we’ve got MC’s to compere, so its a different format to what it was back then. Its always changing and there’s always gonna be change.
At Blue Note you used to get people like Cleveland Watkiss, Fats, GQ and Justyce. Those were the four guys that used to work the club and they would compliment the set, not overpower it. So we’ve been blessed with certain MC’s and certain DJ’s in Blue Note and you’ve gotta take your hat off to Goldie for putting that together. Because we always wanted a place to play our music and we found the right spot. It was a place on a Sunday that only went to about 12 o’ clock – we could push it to about 1 o’ clock, but it was the place to be for a certain period of time. Just like AWOL was the place to be before that, when it used to be AWOL every Saturday from 10 til 10. Once a month it would go to 1 o’clock and loads of people would actually go to the 1 o’clock but turn up at 8 o’clock in the morning. ‘Cos they’re still getting a good 5 or 6 hours worth of music. It’s just a progression of a way of listening to music in a different area. Obviously I’d class AWOL as more of a ‘raving but listening’ thing and then Blue Note came on and that was deeper and it was more about producers and people that were really into the deeper, experimental side of Drum n’ Bass.
So I wasn’t fortunate enough to make it down but you did History Sessions with Metalheadz the other day, but how was that?
You missed out my friend. You can listen to the podcasts on Rinse though. That was a wicked party. To see a lot of people I ain’t seen in a while and everyone playing tunes from back in the day. It was an honour to be on that line-up.
When you started working with ‘Headz 20 years ago, did you ever think you’d still be doing it today?
At the time when we first got into music, we didn’t really think it would go that far, we just thought about it day-by-day that we were blessed to be able to DJ to thousands of people all over the world. If I was in a normal 9-to-5 job, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity, cos the amount of times we were going away every week – or every month really. So to be here 20 years it shows you how strong the scene is.
Talking about Jungle for a second… although your label is obviously releasing tunes and you are personally as well, there’s only a finite amount of Jungle tunes out there. How often does it happen that you find a tune and you’ve just never heard it before?
(laughs) You know what, funnily enough I was doing a show with Doc Scott for Rinse as part of Metalheadz History Sessions, and we both said we’d look in our archives to get tunes so we could play back to back for 2 hours. We just played 5 records each so we didn’t get bored. Throughout the set he played tunes that I hadn’t heard, or must’ve just slipped my mind and I played some tunes that he hadn’t heard either.
It just goes to show that there was enough music out there that you couldn’t have everything. I think if you had everything you’d be bored to be honest with you. It’s nice to be inspired and hear something that you hadn’t heard before, and that’s what happened when me and Scotty played on Rinse.
Do you still go record shopping to look for tunes?
Nah we’ve got the internet, we don’t have to go in record shops! (laughs) You can just go on iTunes for a little scope out innit really to be fair! (laughs) Nah I do go in record shops, but not as much as I used when it was just vinyl. You had to travel up and down the country looking for tunes back in those days. I was a proper little record junkie in my early teens, I used to find a lot of obscure tunes. Nowadays you can just look online, I know its a cheap way of doing it, but I’m on Serato at the moment so its easier for me to find WAV’s and MP3’s and just import it into my iTunes via my Serato.
It sounds like it was a lot of work being a DJ back then. It gets romanticised sometimes, but I’ve heard from a lot of DJ’s that they like the convenience of things these days…
It is easier to track down tunes. Tunes that you might’ve had on vinyl that you need to convert. A lot of us play on Serato, CD’s or USB sticks. It’s not the ‘the way’, its just the way the clubs are at the minute. It’s how they’re treating their decks. There’s only a few places where you know the decks are strong and you can play on them. The majority of the places its CD’s.
Tell us a bit about your website that you’ve got in the pipeline?
Its mac2records.co.uk and it should be launching in about 3 weeks. I’m just uploading content and music so people can buy it and the merchandise as well. It’s a slow process but I just want it to be right. My mate Cool Hand Flex has done a 2 hour ‘Past, Present, Future’ mix of tunes that we put out, tunes we’ve got coming, and tunes we never released. It will be worth the wait, its been in the pipeline for about 3 years, but my pal who’s been doing it has done a really good job and I’m pretty chuffed its gonna be online soon.
The weather is finally picking up and its time to think about summer. What kind of plans have you got for that?
Well I’ve been blessed enough to get a lot of work through ‘RamJam’ Rodigan, he’s got us at Parklife Festival, and I’m doing Outlook with Metalheadz. Obviously the events around London, Fabric and Jungle Mania. Pure Science up in Kent as well has me and Goldie b2b, S.P.Y, Brockie, Sigma and Majistrate in Folkestone.
You mention Rodigan, how much of an influence has he been on you?
I’ve known him for a while. In the late 90’s we were all on KISS FM together and he’d do his show on pre-record before us. Likewise I used to see him down at Music House where we used to get our dubs cut and we would chat briefly. Its only in the last year, around November that he approached me to do some dates and I was honoured. Me and my brother used to listen to him every Saturday on the radio, so to actually play with him is an absolute honour and I’m kind’ve starstruck in a certain way! He is the man really isn’t he? He’s been doing it from since when I was a kid so that just shows you his longevity and how popular he is. He’s got so much energy, I wish at his age I would be like him.
Randall plays Fabric Room 1 tonight alongside David ‘RamJam’ Rodigan, Shy FX, Zinc and more. More info here.