I first got into rave music in 1992. I was too young to go raving, but everyone at school was sharing rave tapes from events including Fantazia, Sterns and Obsession. My first tape was DJ Easygroove from Fantazia – The Second Sight, which I copied from a school friend called Andy, who I still chat to about rave music to this day. He had a wicked collection of flyers and tapes, and a SNES with Street Fighter II, which made him the coolest kid I knew in 1992!
I grew up in Poole, near Bournemouth, and went to my first ‘rave’ in the summer of 1993, which was a weekly under 18s event called Wonderland. I went to many of their events at various venues including Poole Arts Centre, Ice Trax and The Showbar (now Aruba) throughout 1993 and 1994, watching both local and headline DJs including Dream, Dance, Donovan ‘Bad Boy’ Smith and Slipmatt to name a few that I remember. I loved the music, but at this point had no interest in DJing or producing, I didn’t understand how the music was made or even what DJs were doing behind the decks!
Like many people I followed the rave scene through its golden years of 1992-1995, mainly through tapes, flyers and magazines due to my age. My favourite DJs during those early years were Ellis Dee, Carl Cox, Ratpack and Easygroove. It would be hard to pick one favourite DJ set from that era, but this mix by Carl Cox from The Edge in ’93 had a big impression on me. My mum bought it for me for Christmas in 1993 (along with a new stereo to play it on) and it sounded like the future – the tempo was noticeably faster than my older tapes, and there was a hard techno edge to many of the tracks.
Some of the stand-out tracks on this set were Obsession by DJ Vibes, Fall Down On Me by Force & Evolution, Living In Darkness by Top Buzz, 20 Hurts by Jack Smooth, and SMD #1 by Slipmatt. I still find it hard to believe that 30 years later, I have worked with all of these legendary artists in one way or another, through vinyl releases, remixing, promoting, or playing alongside them at events.
In the summer of 1996, I saw the film Juice. I was already listening to Rap and Hip-Hop music, but this was the first time I saw mixing and scratching. Around this time I also started listening to DJ Hype sets and was blown away by his scratching, so I wanted to try it out. I was 15 years old and didn’t have enough money to buy a DJ setup myself, so I asked my parents to buy me a second-hand Soundlap DLP-1 for my birthday, which I hooked up to my Dad’s Vestax 4 track recorder that he used for his guitars, and his Hi-Fi record player. With this primitive setup I only had one deck with pitch control and no cross fader, but it was enough to give it a try. I went to the nearest record shop, Spira in Poole, and bought a handful of Drum & Bass and House records, and spent those first few months making very bad mixtapes – one of which I still have, and might pluck up the courage to upload one day!
I soon discovered Atmospheric Records in Bournemouth (later called Destiny) which is where I first met Olly, owner of the Underdog, Stormtrooper and Burning Bush record labels, and the Destiny events (who I ended up working with 20 years later, full story here.) I started hanging out in the shop every weekend, getting to know the tunes, the local DJs, and the scene. I was buying upfront Drum & Bass and Hardcore, but also the earlier ‘old skool’ Hardcore and Jungle I had grown up listening to from the second hand section (it wasn’t sought after back then.) Over the next year I practiced, bought more records, and eventually got a second Gemini deck with pitch control and a Made 2 Fade mixer with a cross fader.
Through my quest to learn the names of all the old rave records I wanted to track down, I found the Back To The Old Skool website, run by Matt Clarke. This was the biggest and best old skool website for many years, and alongside an invaluable archive of golden era tracks in Real Audio format, it also had a popular forum, which is where I met many of the people I now know in this scene. My first ever online mix was posted on the “In The Mix” section of the website in 1998.
Around this time I found out that an old school friend of mine, Alex, also had decks, so we started hanging out and mixing together. We were playing Drum & Bass back to back at a friends party, and two local promoters called Chris and Tony happened to be there. They liked our set and asked us to DJ at a few of their events. The first one was at The Old Firestation in Bournemouth – I remember this well because we were only 16 and the club weren’t happy about us playing at an over 18s event, so we had to be escorted in, play our set, and then leave! They put on another event at The Country Club near Dorchester, and then started a weekly Drum & Bass event at a club called Eden in Poole, making us the resident DJs. We played there every weekend throughout the second half of 1998 as Jedi & Kuttz.
1998 was also the year I was finally old enough to start going to raves. My first event was Destiny at The Manor near Bournemouth, I managed to get in by going on the coach organised by the Destiny record shop which arrived at the venue before the doors opened, so I didn’t have to worry about being turned away in the queue by the bouncers for looking about 12 years old! Here’s a photo of me in the blue shirt raving to Ratpack at Destiny in December 1998, the first time I ever saw them play.
We went raving there every month, and eventually managed to convince Olly to let us do warm up sets in the third room, playing old skool. At the June 1999 event, DJ Brockie was running late, and I was asked to step in and play in the Drum & Bass arena until he arrived. Although I only got to play for half an hour it is still one of my favourite memories, I was 17 and warming up for Brockie at my favourite rave!
Up until then we had only played at local events around the south coast. Our ‘break’ came in 1999 when I sent a demo tape to Raindance. Having sent lots of tapes to various other rave promoters which mostly went ignored, I decided to include a letter with this demo explaining why I thought we could do a better job than some of the big DJs who all played the same 20 tunes. This seemed to go down well with Richard Raindance, and he invited us to play at Yabba Dabba Doo at Labrynth in Tottenham. Richard then offered us a set at his next Raindance event in December 1999, this time at a new London venue called The Drome. Richard didn’t like Alex’s DJ name Kuttz and asked if we would play as Jedi & Yoda instead. As there was already a DJ Yoda we went back to him with the suggestion of Jedi & Stormtrooper, and it stuck!
We were very lucky to be made residents at Raindance, and this opened the doors to us playing at many other events including Future Dance, Best Of British and Resonance. At this time Bournemouth was a clubbing hotspot, so as well as regularly playing around the country, we had a weekly residency at the Millennium Nightclub in Bournemouth. I have many happy memories from those years playing to big crowds at legendary venues including Brixton Academy, Bagleys, Minstry Of Sound, Air, and Alexandra Palace to name a few. I also have some not-so-great memories like breaking down on motorways, crashing on the way home from Raindance, not being paid, and even having to carry my pair of Technics 1210 turntables home at 3am because we couldn’t afford a taxi. But it was all good experience!
In 2001 we wanted to start producing. Trance was massive at the time, and some rave bootlegs were doing the rounds – ‘Foundacafe’ by Alieneye which Ratpack were playing, and Whizzkick covered ‘Sandstorm’ which I had seen go down well at Raindance events. So I had the idea of remixing another popular Trance track, ‘Operation Blade.’ We didn’t have a studio, so we produced it with a friend Alex met at college called Dave Spinout who had a bedroom studio in Weymouth. The track came out well, and I helped start the Back To The Old Skool (B2VOS) label with other producers from the forum. DJ Sy started playing it, and it got reviewed in Wax Magazine, so we bought some basic studio gear and setup a small studio in Alex’s bedroom to make more tunes, which resulted in tracks on two more B2VOS EPs.
Alongside our ‘old skool’ style tracks we made a few Hardcore tracks with DJ D-Lyte, who we met at Destiny, and this led us to start our own label called JSD Recordings (Jedi, Stormtrooper, D-Lyte.) We pressed the first release and sent copies out to some of the major Hardcore DJs, and to our surprise it was played by DJ Sy and DJ Kaos. We were at Slammin’ Vinyl at The Sanctuary in Milton Keynes on New Years Eve 2001 and DJ Sy played it, which was a real ‘bucket list’ moment to have our track played by one of the leading DJs at the biggest and best rave in the UK at the time.
Despite DJ support at events, we only sold about 200 copies of the record, the rest are still in my parents loft to this day! We made two more tracks for JSD 02, but couldn’t afford to press it so they remain unreleased.
Stormtrooper decided he wanted to focus on producing and playing upfront Hardcore, but my passion was early 90s rave music, so after 5 years we decided to go our separate ways. He went on to become successful releasing tracks on Robbie Long’s Thin & Crispy label amongst others. I continued playing old skool sets, and after some brief experience co-promoting a small event called Friction with DJ Moody, I co-founded a larger event, Oblivion in Bournemouth. Destiny had always been the biggest rave in town, but since The Manor closed was focusing more on Drum & Bass, so myself and Destiny’s resident Hardcore DJ Nexus thought Bournemouth needed a Hardcore event again. We put on a series of successful events at The Showbar throughout 2002, which I then carried on at various other venues for a few more years after.
In 2004 I got the urge to make some breakbeat hardcore again, but as Alex engineered our tracks I didn’t know how to produce or have a studio, so I had to learn from scratch. I bought a copy of Cubase SE for my Mac, and starting with sampling made a few very basic tracks which were really just bootlegs or mash-ups. For the next few years I played these tracks in my DJ sets, but didn’t think they were good enough to release on vinyl.
Then In 2011 I got talking to Charlie from Fantazia, and managed to persuade him to let me press a series of Fantazia EPs with tracks from their albums. These were very small runs on a not-for-profit basis, just to get the tunes out there. I wish I had kept some, they sell for a small fortune on Discogs now! This gave me a taste of running a label again, so I decided to take the plunge and press those tracks I had made a few years earlier. I wasn’t intending to start a record label, so released a white label simply called “Jedi EP #1.”
While the Fantazia records had sold quickly for obvious reasons (they were good!) my record wasn’t so popular, and I only sold about 40 of the 100 copies. They slowly trickled out on Discogs, but as it was a flop I had no desire to make any more music or release more records.
A few years later, I was playing the video game Earthbound on the SNES. I thought one of the tracks would make a good darkcore remix, but I hadn’t made a track for several years and didn’t even have Cubase any more, so I would be starting from scratch for a second time. I tried using Ableton, but couldn’t get on with it, so switched to Logic Pro which was much more similar to Cubase. Because I still had no real musical theory knowledge I made the remix mostly out of samples. A couple of years earlier I had commissioned Sy & Unknown to remix one of the JSD Project tracks, but never released it, so I decided that having a big name remixer on the record might help sell more copies and put out the two tracks on vinyl. Again at this point there was no intention to start a label, it was just my second release, so called it Jedi #2.
By now the vinyl market was starting to pick up again, so I teamed up with Seventh Storey Projects, a successful label and online record store, which helped this record sell out quickly. They also managed to sell the leftover copies of Jedi #1 that had been sitting in a cupboard for three years! This gave me the motivation to continue learning to produce, and over the next couple of years I released more of my own tracks, plus a few remixes and reissues of classic Hardcore tracks.
In 2016 I asked Luna-C, owner of legendary label Kniteforce Records, to remix one of my tracks, and as he was very nice to deal with I floated the idea of repressing some of his old Kniteforce releases. At this time Kniteforce wasn’t releasing vinyl, so Chris was open to the idea, especially as he was living in the USA so selling records to a predominantly European market was not feasible. We agreed to start an offshoot label called “Kniteforce Remastered” and these proved to be pretty popular. After five or six JKF releases Chris had seen the potential and decided to revive Kniteforce Records, continuing from where the label left off in the 90s with release #64. Kniteforce has now passed well over 200 releases and is arguably bigger than it was back in the 90’s releasing dozens of records each year, and I feel lucky to have played a small part in their revival.
After 25 releases on Jedi Recordings and 12 on Kniteforce Remastered, I decided to start a new label called Cantina Cuts. There’s a longer blog post about that decision here if you’re interested, but in summary it made no sense to run a label called Jedi Recordings when I didn’t produce most of the releases myself any more, plus the potential legal implications of the name. So Cantina Cuts was born, with the same ethos of releasing authentic sounding 91-94 style hardcore and jungle by both well-known artists and fresh talent. Between the various labels I have now released over 50 vinyl records.
So after over 25 years in the game, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who has bought my records, watched me DJ at raves, listened to my mixes, and supported the labels over the years!