Bailey’s career in drum & bass has spanned from its early days, and over this period he has played an integral part in the genres development. Continually supporting upcoming artists and underground factions of the music, Bailey is one of drum and bass’ primary tastemakers. And whilst most well known as a DJ and presenter, there have been many different chapters to Bailey’s involvement in the genre.[dropcap]N[/dropcap]eedless to say, we’ve been keen to interview Bailey for quite some time, and with his long awaited remix of Zero T & Script’s ‘Guessing Games’ (Dispatch Recordings, 23.06.14) just about to drop, we were lucky enough to have a chat with him…
First things first, what has kept Bailey in love with the genre for so long?
“To be really simple about it; the bass lines. I love a good bass line – low end – and with all the filtering stuff that’s going on these days, there’s plenty enough to keep me interested, just like in the earlier days when I was into techno, experimental house and all sorts of music like that.”
There’s certainly romanticism around the early days of drum and bass’ conception, Bailey gave us an insight to his feelings towards that period.
“Part of the whole experience was that it was new, you didn’t know which way it was going to go but you knew you were going to get something that would make you think ‘wow’! That’s because there weren’t any rules to it, the parameters of what you could do in drum and bass in the early days were limitless.”
Inta Natty Crew
Something that has always fascinated me is the prominence of crews in the earlier years of drum and bass. Bailey detailed what the Inta Natty Crew represented, and how he came to be involved.
“Grooverider was one of the biggest DJs in the earlier days, and he had a handful of friends that used to travel up and down the motorway with him, enjoying the big raves. Most of them had dread locks, and most of them were into football. In the area they were from in the 80’s, there was a football hooligan firm called the Inter City Firm. Now, those guys weren’t hooligans but they were into football and when they travelled as a mob to gigs, like those old football hooligan firms who were up and down the country on the motorway, they felt they had a comrad’ery and that they were a crew. Someone once made a flippant comment because they all had dreads (the slang for it being natty) and what they did is call themselves the Inta Natty Crew.”
“I didn’t actually get involved with them until much later, maybe about 94’. A friend of mine introduced me to Flux, he had a gig on locally above some pub in Thornton Heath and he asked me to come and play. Once he’d heard me play he said ‘why don’t you come out with us’ and that’s how it grew.”
“I’ve never ever been ashamed to say that at one stage, maybe for about 5 years, I was carrying Grooverider’s records. I was his box boy and I learnt a lot from it – particularly with the way he DJs. In regards to that crew, they’re my boys, they really gave me an insight and a bring in to where I am now. That’s why I’ve maintained the ‘Inta’ thing, it’s like homage to those guys.”
It’s been said that rave culture played a part in contributing to the downfall of football hooliganism…
“Rave music… It’s crazy how the whole thing happened, because in the earlier days even when I was at school everything was separate, there were even separate clubs. When the rave scene came along all these people that were into different music’s came together because everything was being sampled into this music, and it was hip-hop influenced which was the biggest thing in the UK in the early 80’s. It was a melting pot, and then you’ve got the drugs, everybody just got on. And yeh, that wasn’t football hooliganism dead, but it certainly calmed things down… they were there for the music, they weren’t there to knife each other or anything like that.”
Bailey is a highly regarded DJ; as times have changed and as the DJ/producer has become more prominent, only a handful of persons within the genre have remained in high regard principally for the art of DJing. Bailey is without a doubt one of these persons, and the brilliant diversity of his sets is certainly a factor in this.
“I can do any set because I love all of the music; I can play the liquid smooth stuff, I can do a pure jungle set, I can do an old-school set. That’s another lesson learnt being on the road with Grooverider back in the day, he could play all different kinds of events and do it well.”
“I enjoy playing any set where people are happy to listen to a number of different styles. I enjoy doing old school Metalheadz sets also because I was brought up through Metalheadz in 95’ at The Blue Note. I know that kind of set inside out so I can pull tunes that people have forgotten about completely. That’s something I did at the Dispatch night at Plan B a couple of weekends ago, I had the middle set, I only played old school and it completely went off because there were so many tunes that got overlooked in 95’ and 98’ – so much good stuff came out in that period and I really enjoyed pulling those out again.”
Bailey has previously highlighted that back in the days of AWOL, DJs were playing to DJs so very much ‘had to pull out bullets’ – is this kind of positive competitiveness still prominent amongst DJs?
“I’m not really sure anymore, I think the agenda is different. Everyone has their own vision for what they want to do; they’re more looking at making their own mark in the industry. Where as back in the day at Metalheadz Blue Note Sessions, every producer would go down there because it was at the cutting edge of the music. All producers were interested in was making a tune the following week, to smash the tune that they’d heard smash it in the club that week.”
“Now aspirations are different; to people now, the competition is getting play listed on Radio 1. Before it was more about what was personal to you, you made something for yourself, you would feed it to your favourite DJs, they’d play it out and if it got a reaction, that’s great, but it’s different these days. In terms of friendly competition, I don’t really feel it anymore, everyone has their own thing – especially DJ producers, they’ve got their own tracks and they’re out to make their marks as individuals.”
“Everything has pros and cons, I can’t really look at this far enough to say whether it’s a bad thing because I’m right in the middle of it.”
“I envisaged a few years ago that what would happen with the decline of record sales is that producers would start making tracks just to play out in their own DJ sets. They wouldn’t give these tracks to anybody and you can see that sort of lockdown happening now. Community amongst the DJs has somewhat dried up. There’s no interaction and excitement about hearing someone else’s tune and then going to make another tune to compete with it. Everyone’s doing their thing and it all seems a bit segregated. In terms of community, I feel it’s a little bit more cut up than it used to be.”
A number of factors influence the culture of DJing…
“The cost of living has gone way up, and to be honest there’s a lot of DJs that definitely aren’t making the money they used to. You’re going to see a lot of fallouts in the next few years. DJing in the early days as an occupation was like ‘are you mad?’ people didn’t know you could do it as a job. Where as now It seems we’re going back to a phase where by it’s likely that to be a DJ you probably will have to have a job, because that alone is not going to pay your rent, unless you’re real high-end. Times are changing man.”
Bailey was recently chosen amongst a number of other pioneering artists to be a part of the Serato Icon Series; he gave us a bit more detail about the series, and how he feels to have been chosen.
“They’ve selected all the DJ’s they want now, so whoever is there, is there. They wanted to pick out DJs who share the Serato ethos, so people that are passionate and that DJ because they love music, rather than doing it to get girls or money or anything along those lines.”
“Have you seen the people on the line-up for that? Just Blaze, Peanut Butter Wolf, The Gaslamp Killer, Erykah Badu, Fatboy Slim, Jazzy Jeff… It’s a serious thing to be involved with. For me it’s not really about winning awards, but for a company that’s so important in the world of DJing to come and pick me out, and to be the only drum and bass DJ on there, it means a lot and I couldn’t be happier.”
Bailey has a long-standing history with Radio and has experienced working on each different side of this part of the industry. Having originally played on pirates, he then moved to 1xtra, and Bailey now hosts a show on Ministry of Sound Radio – he talked us through the differences.
“There are vast differences. First of all, with pirate radio you’re left to your own devices, there’s no structure; you can mix for an hour or two (or however long the show is), you can talk over the music, you can have an MC come in… It’s complete freedom to say and do whatever you like – within reason of course.”
“The BBC was at a completely opposite end of the scale; there are agendas, pie charts, and targets that need to be reached. The target audience at the time was 18-25 (although I think they’re looking at a younger audience now), so you have to play music that appeals to that demographic. If I’m going to go on there and start playing dark, crunchy, technical stuff, or if I play a lot of liquid funk the youngers are not going to be into it… you have to play the more synthesised stuff. And that’s when it becomes a job, you’re paid to do a certain task and that’s what it is.”
“Now with Ministry of Sound Radio, I have full editorial which basically means I can do what the hell I want (within reason). That’s music to my ears, it helps me be honest about the music I’m playing, and it enables me speak honestly and passionately about what I’ve heard and seen. I’m able to do what I like as opposed to being boxed in and having to pander to a certain audience.”
“My whole mission with the radio show is to showcase the music and point out to people that there’s this, and there’s jungle, and there’s liquid. It’s good now because there’s so much going on, and I like showing people different things because there’s a certain type of view if you say drum and bass sometimes.”
On leaving 1xtra, Hospital Records contacted Bailey about joining Ministry, the culmination of which was a weekly show on the station. Bailey highlights “when I first went over there, there wasn’t enough happening and I thought to myself I’d like to bring more people on”. Bailey and Chef have since been responsible for making Drum & Bass much more prominent at the station.
“Fabio & Grooverider made the move to Ministry having seen me go, then me and Chef called Drumsound and Bassline Smith, DJ Marky, Ant TC1 and now the line-up looks stronger. If things work out we might be adding somebody else to this line-up and that would be a very big look! This is an example of rather than moaning about a station that isn’t right for you, why not create an environment that is right? It doesn’t always work out, but if somebody offers me an opportunity I try to make the most of it.”
The commercialisation of Drum & Bass
In a previous interview Bailey has highlighted that Drum & Bass doesn’t have the full support of the media, is this something that has changed?
“Definitely; one week we had Sigma, Subfocus and Chase & Status all within the top 40, so they definitely recognise it now, but me being the miserable sod I am, I’ve now got a problem with that haha.”
“People are seeing money and they’re just reaching for it, they don’t give a shit about making quality stuff. People are making stuff just to get on commercial radio station playlists, they’re not interested in making something deep and having it last forever, they just think that’s not going to make money, not interested, and it’s becoming really fucked up. Whilst in the mean time, there’s no in between, it’s just making a nice turnover of cash, or you’ve got people at the lower end who are making stuff that’s personal to them and aren’t making any money; so the vibe in the middle is getting lost a bit.
“The majors have now really seen the money in it. A few years ago, somebody said to me ‘drum & bass is the only pure dance music genre that hasn’t been touched by the majors’ – they touched it a little bit in 94’ with a few compilations, but now the major record labels fully crowd in and they’re going to suck the life out of it.”
“A few years ago, somebody said to me ‘drum & bass is the only pure dance music genre that hasn’t been touched by the majors’”
“The usual suspects are still making great tracks; Total Science, SPY, Break… And newer names that are coming through that don’t have any boundaries, but there needs to be more of it. In the earlier days there was just so much of it you couldn’t keep an eye on it all. I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and I can see major differences. There’s a hell of a lot of greed going on, and certain people just take the money and chip.”
Bailey detailed his thoughts on the possible consequences of this level of commercialisation.
“Looking at pop culture, and forget about just drum and bass, but I’ve never understood how really awful music can make so much money. I think it’s probably because the machine behind it, the power of advertising and the influence that the major labels have.”
“Having thought about what I’ve just said, there’s lobbying presidencies in America, so why can’t it happen in music? Give someone a bit of change and you get your tune played on the right show. People are in each others pockets and it’s just getting out of control, but in the mean time, people that want something real dig deeper.”
It’s not only media and major labels that have a hand in negatively impacting the music…
“There’s so much to this, and it goes very deep. Take agencies for example, back in the earlier days the agents, they were into the music and you’d see them at the clubs. Nowadays, the agents don’t go out, and there are agents at the higher end, if I want to book a certain headline DJ they’ll turn round and say ‘you can have him, but his name has to be at the top of the bill above everybody else, and if you book him, you have to book this guy as well.’ It’s fucking shit up and I don’t think the DJs even realise that it’s happening, but why should they care if they can touch good money?”
“Like I said people are all in each others pockets and with a lot of these big agents, festival promoters, and the people that do the big events it’s a case of ‘if you book my guy over here, I’ll get your guy booked over here’ – it’s an absolute mess, and it does the music itself no good at all.”
“These agencies, they’re as brutal as the major record labels; if you’re not selling anymore, they’ll just drop you. They don’t give a shit, they’re all over you if you’ve got some good tunes and if they don’t even need to call out to get you bookings, but as soon as you need a bit of help, they’re not there for you. It’s not right, there’s a lot of greedy people and it’s becoming a money thing over music and that’s what disturbs me.”
Does Bailey feel there will be positive shift in the future?
“Everything swings in roundabouts, when the majors and the press decide there’s cooler music, as they do, then you’re going to see a turn around, but until then it’s just going to be the way it is.”
“Having said all of this though, I’m still very proud of this music and how far it’s come. It’s done a lot and when the majors come and go, we’ll still be here like we were in 94’ when they came and went. I’ve got no worries about that. We’ve had garage; that didn’t last long, we’ve had dubstep; that lasted longer but it sort of fizzled out. The staying power of drum and bass and jungle is incredible, and globally it’s taking over a lot of places, it’s everywhere… drum and bass is truly infectious!”
Its infectiousness perhaps indicated also through the fact dubstep and garage are perceived by some as a subtle hybrids of drum and bass…
“When those scenes came along many people in them were originally making jungle or drum and bass, a lot of them are sons of that movement. Take for example Skream’s older brother Hijack; I used to work with him at Apple Records in Croydon. That place gave birth to dubstep, it was born right there in that shop. Hijack was a drum and bass DJ and Skream was his little brother. Skream then started doing his own thing, his own twist to the garage sound, and that’s how dubstep was born. So it’s like I was saying, all of these people are sons of drum and bass and jungle.”
Bailey began producing back in 2003, despite this he highlights: “I don’t make tunes very often. I’ve got loads of loops, but unless there’s a purpose to something, I can’t get anything finished.”
Bailey’s remix of Zero T & Script’s ‘Guessing Games’ will be released this Monday (26.05.14); what was the purpose behind this rework? And how does Bailey feel about his debut on the renowned Dispatch Recordings?
“Zero T gave me the opportunity – with no pressure – to remix this track that was originally supposed to come out on his label. I’ve known him for years and I was one of the first guys to play his music so I wanted to show him that I could do a really good job here, for him, because he’s my mate.”
“The reason the tune isn’t on Zero T’s label is because unfortunately he got caught up with other things in his life. However, I played it at a festival – I think it was in Estonia – and Ant TC1 heard me playing it. I was just testing it out, but when someone recognises the track that you’ve made, it really makes the effort worth it. He asked what it was and where it was being released, then as soon as he found out Zero T wasn’t going to put it out, he was interested. For Ant to make it an A-side on Dispatch, which is a great label, full of incredibly talented, creative and technical producers, it’s an honour.”
“For me personally it was also an accomplishment as I wanted to show people that I’m a man of different styles. I wanted to show that I could make something dark; alongside the track I made for MC Fats’ album, which is completely liquid. I don’t have much faith in my own stuff sometimes, I’m a bit too critical of my own work, and I’m really, really happy with how the remix came out.”
Soul in Motion
Having recently started up – alongside Need For Mirrors – a monthly event in the basement of Edition Hotel, Bailey gave us an insight to what the night is all about.
“The difference with us is that we’re not a label; there are record labels throwing nights and at those events you’re going to hear their DJs, from their label, playing their tunes off the label. With Soul in Motion we want to bring together legendary cats alongside new names, we want to blend it together and run an event where there is no real music policy. It’s a matter of whatever you feel is good and the music you really want people to hear; if people want to go in deep and experiment then you’ve got the right to do that. We don’t get much money out of this, but we do it because we want to give people somewhere to listen to challenging music, something alternative.”
“I’ve had people come to me and say ‘oh, what’s Wednesday, is it a Swerve night?’ or ‘is it a blue note night?’ and I’m saying it’s none of those things, I refuse to let this night be boxed in by any type of stereotype sound. It’s going to be what it’s going to be, and I want it to grow organically into something that people can cherish and say ‘this is the place where I saw this thing happening and growing’ – that’s my outlook for it personally.”
Sun & Bass
Bailey has been involved with Sun & Bass all ten years of its existence, and he will be hosting a night at the festival this summer. This will be my first year at Sun & Bass, and I was curious as to what should be expected.
“You’re going? Well listen, I’m not going to hype it up haha.”
“Sun & Bass is hard to describe because it isn’t some festival where people just go nuts on the music, it’s a really personal experience. DJs will go there, try and get as deep as they can, and pull something that really drives peoples emotions. Whenever I go I’ll always play Calibre’s ‘Second Sun’, that’s been out for a long time but it’s such a great tune and it sums up what Sun & Bass is about for me.”
“I’ve been to a lot of festivals and without the drug influence, I’ve never seen people get so emotional. I’m not saying you’re definitely going to see it, but there are men I know that I’ve invited, and when they have eventually come along some have gotten teary when it’s time to come home. It’s because everybody is so nice, so pleasant, and it’s a really relaxed environment. You couldn’t even imagine in this kind of world where everybody is desperate for a bit of fame that a place like this exists. There’s a real honesty about the whole festival, and people get really connected with it.”
“This is a hard one to answer because right now, what am I not doing? I’m producing, I’m remixing, I’ve got a live stream, I’m doing radio, I’m curating at festivals, I’ve got a club night… So maybe the main thing in the future is to get the label going. I’m thinking about it, but there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be put in place before I actually expose it to the world. There are talks and meetings and contracts happening right now, but really, it will be a couple of years before I’m ready to go as I want to get a body of work behind me before I launch.”
“I would like to make more tracks also; I want to get comfortable and confident enough to make tunes for me, and if anybody else likes them then that’s a bonus.”
“Another thing in the pipe-line is a bit of curating with Ministry of Sound, there’s negotiations going on and I don’t want to blow the cover on it before it really starts happening but they might be doing a little drum and bass tour… watch this space, that’s something I’ve been pushing for!”
Pre-order ‘Guessing Games (Bailey Remix) / Spectre’ – Zero T, Script & Scar (Dispatch Recordings):