Shock C was one of the main players in the Midlands jungle scene during the 90s. He's travelled far and wide, playing all over the UK and parts of Europe for most of the big rave promoters at some time or another. Currently hosting one of the best old skool nights out there over in Leamington Spa, Shock took the time to share his views on the old skool scene, both current and retrospectively.
Tell us a little bit about your history, what were your early musical influences?
Where do I start? I think I was influenced by music even before I started to take notice of labels and artists, growing up in my home you couldn't get away from music if you wanted to!
Music was always being played in our house, my dad had a mobile disco which he ran for years and had a huge collection and I mean huge! It spanned all styles, from rock 'n' roll to motown, reggae to disco. I was lucky enough to grow up hearing so many different influences. I know this was the beginning of my musical journey and it still influences the way I think about and play music to this day.
At what age did you start getting into your own thing?
I think I was about 13/14 before I really start to show more interest. This would have been about 1983 when artists began to stand out to me. Before I could afford records it was all about the mixtapes that circulated round the school. I had good friends that loved the early hip hop and electro sound so tapes were lent out, copied then passed back, then they were lent out to others to copy and so on. Of course, you always wanted the first copy!
One of the first records I bought was Kraftwerk's Tour de France, a groundbreaking track, with its early electronic based groove and catchy synth sound. The originality really excited me.
Also tracks like Captain Rock's The Return of Captain Rock, Breakdance / Electric Boogie by the West Street Mob and the early Electro Street Sounds compilations. Release Yourself by Aleem, Hip Hop-Be Bop by Man Parrish - all big tunes that really started it all for me.
Later on it would have to be artists like Paul Hardcastle, Mantronix. Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy... the list goes on.
And how about raving, when did all that begin for you?
I would say it all began at the Amnesia House parties in 89/90. Some of those first warehouse parties in Coventry set the pace and brought party people from all over the UK to the city. Coventry had been firmly put on the map as a place for quality raves.
The Amnesia House name is legendary within the early rave scene and still talked about today. They opened up a whole new world for me and many people. It brought different types of people together in a big way and changed the course of our lives forever.
It's hard to pick out any particular party or set but looking back I was just glad to have been involved in it and to be able to say I was there.
What were the first events you attended?
As I say it was all about the Amnesia House events for me. I think whatever rave you attended, we were all sharing the same vibes and music really, just in different places around the UK. It was a special era.
I remember going to an Amnesia House party back in the day, walking up to the entrance of this big warehouse with a rope light round the door. Once I got in DJ Sasha, now legendary globe trotting house DJ, was on the decks. He had two copies of the track Casanova by the Brothers Grim and he kept the crowd guessing by repeating the intro, back and forth, from one deck to the other.
I looked around the warehouse and the whole crowd was at his command, under his spell almost. He had them eating out of his hand and it's a moment I'll never forget. I stood there in the middle of all these ravers, mesmerized by the hold he had over them.
When the tune finally dropped in the whole crowd and the vibe was absolutely electric. I was amazed by what could be achieved with some records and a pair of decks. It just reinforced my commitment to steppin' up my game. Good times for sure.
It's usually DJs that inspire other DJs to start playing music. Who were your early influences and why?
Apart from my dad I listened to a DJ called the Rhythm Doctor. He used to do a six minute mix on a local radio station once a week. I was fascinated by the way he'd put his mixes together and how he applied his ideas to come up with something fresh and unique. I remember recording his mixes every week on to tape and trying to work out how he'd created certain parts of the mix. Exciting times.
DJs like Cutmaster Swift, DJ Cheese and Fabio & Grooverider were inspiring for me too. Their ideas were fresh and they had a style that stood out from the rest, but locally it was Man Parris and a guy called Nasah. They helped start an exciting new chapter in dance music in Coventry, my birth place, and within the Midlands. They were a huge inspiration for me.
Once I'd started to head into Coventry town centre for nights out their music and vibe really caught my attention and their following grew and grew. They just had that aura, like a natural presence and an individuality that I liked. I feel you don't just copy other DJs, you learn from them and you take little bits that you like, sometimes unaware that you've done it and then you do your own thing. Originality is the key.
What styles were you playing at the beginning, and what time period would this have been?
It was a mixture really, growing up in a house full of music of numerous styles, this sort of shaped where I was, and am now musically. Acid, hip hop, house, funk and soul - anything with a good groove really, this would have been around the late eighties.
What about your early bookings? What events did you play at?
My early booking were mainly local to the Midlands, places like Reflections, Tick Tock, Chalkies and Tally Ho in Coventry, Club Rage in Leicester, Quest in Wolverhampton, Shelleys in Stoke, but as the years progressed I got to play further afield.
And as things progressed, what changes did you make to your style?
We all remember when the split in scene began to happen, different styles started to head off into different venues, when breakbeat morphed its way into jungle, jungle was the root I choose, but still tried to add all types of influences into my set.
It's easy to put a label on certain DJs for what style they play, but I feel I could always adapt and work with the crowd I was playing to. I would always try to stand-out, working on new ideas and techniques at home first, then taking it onto the big stage.
I've always enjoyed blending tracks together to create a new feel, almost like live remixing. You've got to be original, middle of the road is not for me, I always strive to improve and be unique when I'm playing out.
Which events did you enjoy playing at most?
Dance trance and Desire at the legendary Sanctuary in Milton Keynes, great nights, great memories. Pure X in Northampton, Pandemonium at the Institute in Birmingham, Flashback at the Que club in Birmingham, Dance Planet at the Hummingbird in Birmingham. Any Amnesia House events, all memorable times for myself.
What sort of radius were you doing from home at this time, and where there any international bookings?
I covered a lot of miles at my busiest period, it's hard work, some may think it's an easy life, but it's far from it, not that I'm complaining! I loved it, I use to drive myself the majority of the time, back and forth along the motorways: Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bristol, London... I don't think there's a major city in the UK I've not played at some point. As far as international bookings Germany was the main place I travelled to. All great experiences for me, linking up with the likes of Kenny Ken, Doc Scott and Jumping Jack Frost.
How does it make you feel when you can log onto a whole heap of old skool sites and see your sets available to download ?
Proud! Full stop! You know, it's cool to be remembered, to leave a little something around, my contribution to the old skool family that clearly exists on forums and blogs all over the net. It may not be a major part but a few bricks in the wall of our scene. Someone somewhere could be listenin' to one of my sets at home or on a iPod right now as you read this. I maybe unaware but it's heart warming to think that I'm spreadin' some joy, we all wanna do that don't we?
Were there ever any forays into the studio?
I released two or three bits on vinyl back in late 90s, one on the midlands based Back2Basics label, a collaboration with Birmingham DJ Ellis The Menace and a 12” I worked on at Bizzy B's Brain studio in London. Both did really well, I use to spend a lot of time putting tracks together and then thought they weren't up to releasing, so they sat on DAT tapes never leaving the studio or became personal dubplates.
As far as new bits are concerned, I've had a one or two offers for studio time recently but I'm in no rush as I've got other projects on the go at the minute, but I'd never rule out me putting some ideas down in the studio at some point in the future.
Talk to us about MCs, did you have a regular MC and who did/do you rate and for what reason?
I didn't really have a regular MC, you just hoped a half decent one was there when you turned up at a venue. I did try to find one to travel with me but the good ones were busy enough already. I rate MCs like GQ, Ranski, Dynamite, Everson Allen, Warren G, Fearless, Ribbz, Man Parris and Five 'O' because they compliment the music, they know where to come in, dropping bits in at the right time, working in tandem with the DJ that's playing. I also admire MCs like Skibadee and Patrick of Top Buzz for their lyrical content. Those boys can tell you stories while your ravin', clever stuff.
You know there's a lot of importance to the MC, as they can shape the night and/or control the vibe in the dance. They have to be clear, so many times I've been in clubs and the mics are just not set right. Good MCs work with the sound engineer and ask them to maybe adjust the bass or turn it up/down to get the balance right. Sometimes the sound systems are not set up quite right to be fair and this can hamper the way the MC sounds. The best MCs and party organizers know the score.
Tell us a bit about what you're up to these days...
I organize my own night called Blast From The Past, it's a free old skool event based in Warwickshire. We put them on about every three month and it's going pretty well. We've gone back to bringing different styles together, you know how back in the day it was all under the banner of rave, before the splits in the scene.
I play four and a half hour sets and take the crowd through all styles, flickin' in newer bits too, because it's about a certain vibe rather a just an era at the Blast events, and even the younger ones are appreciating the older tracks.
The Blast nights are working well and people are feelin' what we're doin or trying to do, young and old sharing the same dancefloor and the fact that it's free, I feel I'm givin' back something to the scene and providing a happy and varied night to those who have shown me support over the years.
You can also catch me on the odd flyer or two, but I'm more choosy where I play these days, and try to leave gaps in-between bookings, as the Blast nights take up a lot of my spare time and my family time is very important to me, but I try to keep up to date on what's happening in the scene and up-and-coming events.
What do you see as your role now? This blog is all about recording the history of our scene. Are you laying it down for the oldies or the newbies?
I've always seen myself as a bit of an ambassador for the Midlands scene, always conducted myself as a professional, and I feel I can pass on valuable experience to others with my actions or those that ask a question. I've linked up with one or two younger DJs recently that remind me of myself when I was growing up and playing out regularly. I admire their enthusiasm and zest for the music and where they wanna get to, if I can pass on a bit of inspiration, anything really, that will take them a step forward, then it's all good.
I'm also learning things from them too it must be said, they make me look further into the way the scene is today, and give me other points of view on how the music is progressing. My contribution is there in the scene's history and no one can take that away and whatever I do from here on in is a bonus, who knows what's round the corner but I'll always try and cater musically for the majority, young and old alike. I'll never discriminate in that respect, it may not be for everyone but it's my way.
Are you still playing old skool and jungle out and about?
Yeah, here and there, over the last couple of years I've appeared at Raveology, Cloud 9, Amnesia, Starlite, Mish Mash, Pandemonium and Gamma Funkula and hopefully you should see me on one or two things over the summer. I'll just see what comes along..
And what is your take on the current scene? Any particular DJs or producers that are floating your boat?
There's some good parties around, but then again there's some not so good. I think the line-ups are compromised at times, a minority of promoters can look after their mates and pockets rather than looking after the punters. If you can sort the raver out with the line-up they deserve for the right price and help a mate then that's fine but you gotta give value for money, most ravers can weigh up an event by the flyer, line-up and admission price. It's about quality not quantity most times, I think you ask an older head about the scene and you'll get a different view from a younger raver, but I got a good feeling for the summer so we'll see.
As far as DJs go, I love DJs that take a chance with their sets but also keep in tune with the crowd, I heard Chase & Status not too long ago and thought the were top notch, love their productions too. The Nextmen are very original, Sub Focus, Scratch Perverts, Nicky Blackmarket, Andy C and Fabio are still rockin' it.
Any last words or shouts?
Big love to my partner Tracy and my son Ellis first and foremost and all my family they are everything to me. My main man Joe Whitehead, Noizee B, Spenser Taffs, DJ Scottie, Man Parris, all the Blast From The Past family that help me get the night on and all who turn up, without them we wouldn't have a night!
Parksey, Stu at Seismic Records, Khriz Hawkes, Adam Timeless, Glenn Aston, Gershwin and anyone that knows me really. Big thanks to you Daniel for this opportunity and remember people, old skool or new skool, it's about the music. Stay true to yourself and don't be afraid of the past or the future, embrace all good vibes, peace! To book me email firstname.lastname@example.org
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