JMJ & Richie released a series of singles on Moving Shadow between 1993-1998. The duo were well respected in the “intelligent” drum and bass scene largely due to their euphoric breakdowns and rhythmic amens. Championed by the likes of LTJ Bukem and Fabio they mesmerised listeners with their mystical style personified on tracks like “Universal Horn” and the Lonnie Liston Smith inspired “Free La Funk”.
The duo have recently returned to production with new material and remixes of their classic tracks due for release in 2018. We caught up with Richie to discuss both the past and the future…
Can you explain how you started producing?
Well, I started DJ’ing back in 1987 and messed about a couple of times in the years that followed with stuff, but it wasn’t until the back end of 1992 that I started to take it seriously. It was while I was on tour with the Prodigy for their “Experience” tour that Liam Howlett (the man himself) said that when we finish the tour I should get into the studio to see what I could come up with.
Hang on a minute, Liam Howlett said you should get in the studio?? That’s quite a statement! What was he like and did you play him any of your material?
Yeah, Liam was a cool guy. He loved different types of music and really knew his stuff, he was classically trained as a pianist when he was young so knew his way around a keyboard, hence all that great music he made. We met through our manager Mike Champion, but the story really starts at the Caister Soul Weekender in 1990.
Mike was manager of N-Joi at the time and they were one of the acts performing, they saw me play, liked what I was playing and asked to meet me. Shortly after they asked me to be their support DJ. The idea was that they wanted to get an agency up and running with several acts and DJ’s on their books and I was the first. I got to play some amazing events with N-Joi including playing Ibiza in August 1991.
The next act Mike Champion took on was a band from Braintree call The Prodigy and that’s how we met and I became a support DJ for them as well. That’s why Liam said I should get myself in the studio to see what I could come up with when we finished their Experience tour.
I did play all the boys our early stuff and from what I can remember they all thought it was interesting, the direction we were taking the breakbeat sound.
So in the Summer of 1993 “Case Closed” and “Hall Of Mirrors” were both heavily championed by LTJ Bukem. How were these debut tracks picked up by Danny and signed to Moving Shadow?
I knew a friend of mine called John Williams (half of Tekniq on Formation records) had some equipment in his bedroom so arranged to go round his to see what I could come up with. I told Jay (JMJ) what I was doing and he asked to come along with me which I thought was a great idea and that was how JMJ and Richie was born. Three months later we gave birth to “Hall of Mirrors” and “Case Closed”.
It was signed to Moving Shadow early 1993 as good friends of ours Alex and Danny (Hyper on Experience) were already signed to them. We sent the tracks to Rob Playford first to see what would happen, he loved them and signed us up straight away and the rest is history.
At the time I was a resident DJ at Richards Parties in Great Yarmouth where we regularly got 1200 ravers each month, we used to have a main guest each night that included Carl Cox, Fabio… (you get the idea) and this is how we became friends with Danny (LTJ Bukem). We gave him both tracks and he loved them, cut dubplates then played them till they wore out.
Can you remember what equipment John had in that bedroom studio?
From what we can remember (after having a conversation with John) the equipment we used in those early days was:
16 Track Mixing Desk (can’t remember the make)
Roland JV 1080 Vintage Synth Module
Yamaha SY 55 Keyboard
Sony DAT Machine
Atari ST Running Cubase
The complexity of drum edits and the powerful euphoric breakdowns in both “Case Closed” and “Hall Of Mirrors” soon became your trademark. Can you tell us about the production process, from collating samples through to arrangement?
Both Jay and myself have huge record collections so before we went to John’s we spent time looking for samples to use, going through Jazz, Rare Groove, Soul, Disco… basically, everything we had. That’s how we got a lot of the breakdowns in our tunes, you have to remember though that the sampler we were using was an Akai S950 which only had 8 seconds of sample time to use per track. Unbelievable with today’s equipment but that’s what we had to work with.
The production process, because it was our first real effort, was pretty much throw it up in the air and see where it lands. Both myself and Jay were DJ’ing constantly at that time so we had a good idea as to how a track should be constructed. From the lead in… to the first breakdown… then the main part of the track that finishes with the big breakdown… then the lead out so you could mix the next track in.
It’s hard to capture in words what that era was like. It was literally a new kind of music, unlike anything that people had heard before. What was it like being part of Moving Shadow in the golden days of 1993/94?
Well looking back it was incredibly exciting, the rave scene had started to fracture into separate sounds such as techno, house, happy hardcore and of course the breakbeat style where as before a little bit of everything was played during a DJ set.
I think we moved into the breakbeat sound that led to Drum and Bass due to our love of Hip Hop and Rare Groove which is all about breaks. We also loved hearing Danny (LTJ Bukem) play as he championed that sound, like you say it was like nothing anybody had heard before and to me it was a modern form of Punk, a rebellious sound just for us that no one else would understand. My Dad thought it was music made from an East German panel beating factory, haha…
You were DJ’ing on Coastal Radio at that time playing this futuristic side of drum and bass, how did being involved with Moving Shadow and Bukem influence the music you had access to and what you played?
Coastal Radio originally started as a pirate radio station called Bass FM that myself and a couple of friends used to do. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) tried to shut us down but it was so popular that the Government finally granted a broadcasting licence for the area and Coastal Radio was born.
It was a normal station that played pop music by day but something different in the evenings. That was my chance to bring the Drum and Bass sound to the community in general, not just to the the regular ravers. I was not only buying but being sent tracks that no one else had as well as the dubplates I was cutting so it was exciting for me to share this new sound.
Do you still have your record collection from back then? Any unreleased dubs we would get excited about?
I still have all my vinyl collection which consists of over 10,000 records, Jazz, Rare Groove, Soul, Disco, Techno, Hip Hop, House, Balearic, New Beat and of course Drum and Bass, the list just goes on. The trouble with having such a collection is where to store them all, but I would never part with any of them, it’s who I am!
I’m sure there are tracks that we done that haven’t been released but back then we mastered down to a DAT tape and over time some have got lost or have been corrupted, so that’s a difficult question to answer to be honest.
Speaking of dubs, I spoke to you recently about an unreleased track Bukem played which has picked up the name “Mystical Flute”. You confirmed it wasn’t you but you owned a dub of it that is now sadly unplayable. Can you remember anything about it?? Who were you cutting plates with at that time? What’s on the B Side? Does it have any markings on the label…?
Sorry mate, as far as I can remember Danny Bukem gave me a copy that he had been playing as he re-cut a new dubplate, it’s so long ago it’s just guess work really. All I can tell you is that it has a black label on both sides with no writing on so dead end from me mate.
Back to Moving Shadow and after a couple more releases you dropped “Free-La-Funk” and “Universal Horn”. These were again widely championed by the likes of Bukem and Fabio. All your tracks had a real strong sense of character that is most notably depicted in “Universal Horn”, can you tell us a bit about it and once again, samples and the production process?
With “Free la Funk” and “Universal Horn” it was a simple case of coming across a set of samples that came from our love of Soul and Rare Groove. Free la Funk has that great Rhodes piano hook and a beautiful soul vocal over the top that brings it all together… who can’t forget the remix that Mike (PFM) done that took it to another level, I play his remix in my DJ sets now as it’s still a huge crowd pleaser.
“Universal Horn” has a much more haunting sound to it which is all based around that main sample, I guess it was just luck that we found the right vocals to go with that horn. I think that’s what was so special about the Drum and Bass scene at the time, it was very experimental, trying random samples and creating a track around them.
We are currently remixing “Universal Horn” for a 2018 release that keeps to the true essence of the original but giving it a current day sound.
When you say “current day sound” who is inspiring you right now?
I think inspiration on the modern sound for me still comes from the DJ’s that play the music, not any individual acts. It’s about the way tracks are blended together to create a new sound, I still love listening to Danny and Fabio play, that’s just my type of sound.
You revisited “Universal Horn” in 1996 on an often overlooked remix featured on the “Freezone 3” compilation. Do you wish this had received a wider release?
I remember Rob saying that SSR Records from Belgium wanted to put one of our tracks on the “Freezone 3” compilation they were working on, so rather than giving them new material (which can take weeks to make a track) we decided to remix “Universal Horn” which only took a day in the studio to rearrange.
As far as I can remember it sold well in Europe, better than it did in the UK, so the payday was alright. Not bad for a day’s work in the studio. It was an interesting compilation as it had a variety of styles such as Drum and Bass, Trip Hop, Deep House, Techno etc…..
What are your thoughts on the “Universal Horn” bootlegs that have been made? Once again I think this depicts the strength of character your tracks had…
Well I find it fascinating that people would go through all the time and effort to bootleg our tracks as they didn’t get the original samples from us. That means that they must of sampled straight from our tracks which isn’t easy as none of the sounds are clean, so I can only say I feel very flattered and humbled that they would go through all that trouble.
You also worked with JMJ on Parallel Worlds for Good Looking, can you tell us how you came up with that distinctive intro on “Tear It Out”?
The intro comes from an old Hip Hop track I have called “Magic Mike”, it’s a straight sample that we stretched into time then put some effects on it to fatten up the sound.
It’s all about finding those rare samples and with a huge record collection it does help in finding them.
Any reason it didn’t go out under JMJ & Richie?
Danny (LTJ Bukem) asked us to do some tracks for his Good Looking Records, and as the name JMJ and Richie was signed to Moving Shadow we had to come up with another name, so we called ourselves Parallel World which we thought was rather apt.
How does “Tear It Out” relate to “Deep Bass 9” on the Moving Shadow Two On One release? Was it an early version, remix or something?
“Deep Bass 9” and “Tear Into It” are two totally different tracks, the only similarity is the bass sample sound right at the beginning so no… it wasn’t an earlier version.
Are there any VIP versions or remixes of these tracks you have tucked away somewhere? Any unreleased music from the 1990’s?
Quite possibly but back then we mastered down onto DAT tape which for the younger generation who may not know is a digital audio tape. Over the years they can get stretched or damaged, I know John kept all the DAT’s as well as Jay and myself having copies but whether they play now I have no idea.
You told me you have recently returned to the studio with JMJ, what have you been working on and what plans do you have for it?
Yeah thats right, Jay and myself have returned to the studio after taking a few years off, sometimes you just need a break and do something else so you can recapture that enthusiasm for making tracks again.
We are currently working on remixing some of our back catalogue on Moving Shadow, the first of which is “Universal Horn”. I can say that we won’t be touching “Free La Funk” as we both feel that we wouldn’t be able to do it justice so we are leaving that well alone.
We also have some new stuff that we are working on. I have a solo project as well but that is a Tech House track that has a nod to the late 80’s, it has a Trax/Transmit Records feel to it. Its nice to try something different to keep those creative juices flowing.
How does the equipment you use now compare to those old days!?
The difference is huge, back then you had to spend thousands of pounds on equipment so you had to be very dedicated to your passion of making music. Also, when you got a new piece of equipment you had to stumble around in the dark learning how it worked, trying things out and failing a lot of the time. Nowadays all you need is a decent laptop such as a Mac running music software and headphones, then go on Youtube to get all the tutorials showing you how everything works, it’s so much easier these days to make music.
What are you using now?
We currently use a MacBook Pro running Logic Pro X (the plug-ins are incredible) with a mother keyboard and Yamaha HS8 studio monitors, that’s pretty much all you need now.
What plans do you have for this new music and when can we expect to hear it?
Well hopefully we should have stuff out next year, “Universal Horn” just needs a mix down and we’re starting on new material as we speak. We are still hunting down all the original samples for some of our other tracks to remix so next year is looking very exciting. We’re still looking at how they are going to be released IE which label etc.
We are talking to various people at the moment so watch this space…