We Grabbed Jungle Veteran Missing For A Chat About The 90s, Acid Jazz & His New EP
Posted by Adam on 24th July 2017
With over 20 years in the scene behind him, stretching back to before Drum & Bass was Drum & Bass, Missing knows his stuff and has plenty of stories to tell. Ahead of his return to Kemet Records with the Homecoming EP we had a chat with the man himself to talk about everything from the start of his musical journey to his return to Kemet.
Hi Sam, how are you mate?
Easy Adam, good to catch up with you..
You’ve got a very long and varied history in music, going all the way back to the roots of Drum & Bass/Jungle. Tell us about yourself and how the journey into music began.
I was obsessed with music from an early age and in 1990 age 14 me and a couple mates started making demos. We had a Yamaha keyboard with sampler built in and a 4 track tape deck. We would lay sampled breaks over pitched up old dub 45s and soul records nicked from parents record collections and MC over the top. We called ourselves “Youts on the Run”- a terrible name but was reference to life as a teenager in the grim parts of South London where we lived. Nothing came of the demos but gave me a taste for making music which I was determined to follow through. Forward to 1994, I managed to blag some time in a local recording studio and made my first few Jungle tracks. I was luckily enough to get some of the early productions signed to legendary Jungle label 3rd party/Kemet off the back of a demo tape sent to Mark X, the Kemet founder. The tracks were “Flex & Relax” and “Back to Consciousness” but I was best known for “The Box Reopens” which was a remix I did of a track by Human Being (The Box Opened) when was only 18. It was a bit of a jungle anthem and appeared on the Kemet Crew “Champion Jungle Sounds” LP which was signed to major label BMG. The BBC included “The Box Reopens” in their Top 100 History of Bass music couple years back – seems like one that has stood the test of time!
That period in the early 90s, as hard core was beginning to evolve into the foundations of what became Jungle & Drum & Bass, was a pivotal time for our scene. What are your memories of what was going on then and did people know or understand that they were on the cusp of starting something that would still be going strong 25+ years later?
It’s hard to describe just how amazing that time was…it was a uniquely British, inner city and multicultural youth movement with a sound and production approach that was so ahead of its time. Rules were broken, boundaries constantly pushed and the way the diverse influences collided into a mad but beautiful new sound is truly something special.
At the time I don’t think we were looking much further ahead than what new dub plate was being dropped that week. I think it surprised me at first when I saw how much the music translated to other countries and cultures, as it felt like such a UK thing, but that shows the power of this scene and music. I just feel so lucky to have played my small part in its foundation and to have lived through the genesis of the dnb movement.
You also signed to Acid Jazz. How did you end up working with them and what sort of music were you making during that period.
As well as my stuff for Kemet and Tearin Vinyl I had made some more experimental tracks for a label called Nine Bar who’s artists included Amon Tobin (who was then recording as Cujo) and State Logik who went on to create State of the Art and were real liquid funk pioneers. We were messing round with jazz samples, live drum loops and stuff and I was definitely moving production towards this sound post 95. Acid Jazz Records owned the Blue Note on Hoxton Sq and partly from the impact of Metalheadz Sunday Sessions they were interested in signing dnb artists. Coincidence my dad had a link to Eddie Pillar (Acid Jazz founder) from his Hackney connections and Ed agreed to meet. They liked the material and within a few months I had signed a two album deal with them. The advance meant I could focus on my music plus added advantage as an Acid Jazz artist was guestlist at the Blue Note – and anyone remembers will know the queue on Sundays was no joke! Hundreds turned away every week. So I was able to witness history in the making at Metalheadz every week which still feels like one of the most important moments in development of the scene.
I recorded the album but we had long delays due to budgets and 18 months trying to clear some big samples I had used on a single. Most of the stuff never came out and Acid Jazz returned to their band based roots. I took some time out and then got into the growing (Nu Skool) Breaks scene – working with my cousin Jon Guntrip as one half of C83, exploring the 130-140bpm range for most of the 2000’s. We had some well-known tracks such as “Back in the Day”, “Soul Path” and “Twisted Logic”.
What was it that then drew you back to Drum & Bass?
I never lost interest with the scene and continued to go to dnb nights religiously and buy the music. Even when I moved to New York in 2007 I planned trips back to the UK to coincide with Hospitality at Heaven every 3 months. The Hospital sound definitely made me think seriously about production again and when I came back to London from the US and the C83 project had run its course I started thinking about picking up dnb again. Life got in the way for a bit and I released a couple of House EPs under Missing in 2014, 2015. Then 2016 I went into studio to make dnb for first time since about 2000.
I made the first track with Hospital Records in mind – setting the bar high! It was a liquid, vocal track in the Hospital vein. I thought I better send two and had been messing with a house track that didn’t quite work at that tempo so I sped it up to 158bpm and added some breaks and a “jungle jungle” vocal. I sent both on spec and Tony from Hospital got in touch to say they liked the track and I naturally thought it was the liquid one but they were actually into the second track. Tony and Mullet signed the aptly titled “Back to Jungle” and it came out on Medschool LP New Blood 016 last year which was a proud moment for sure as a return to the scene.
And what’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between being a producer back then and being a producer now?
Many producers now may not realise the expense of the equipment and the constraints of the setup we used to use. There is probably a long article on that in itself! The thing that those constraints did give though was sometimes forcing work arounds that actually created innovative new sounds. Some of that rawness and invention created the palette that makes up dnb. I also actually liked the commitment to finishing a track. Once it was written up on the mixing desk you got it finished. But have to remember that while production approaches evolve there is nothing more important than the creative idea and capturing that vibe before you kill it – to me that never changes.
How about your studio? Is your setup similar to how it was in the 90s or have you had to modernise?
Definitely…the Breaks era moved me off the ST, Akai, and Cubase etc to Logic and more soft synths but kept the Mackie and outboard compressors. I sold my studio when I moved to the US and now I have my laptop where I lay down the ideas do additional production and mixing at good friend Glen Nicholls (Future Funk Squads) studio. He lives by the seaside in Bournemouth so it’s good to get out of London away from distractions and lock in time to finish the tracks. Then Dan Nu:Tone has been a mastering legend on the recent work.
You’re about to release a new EP and you’re back on Kemet Recordings, is the label back in full swing now?
Yes! If anyone has met Mark from Kemet then they will know he is not a man who does things by halves. The label is back in action and has a great slate of releases that include “jungle original skool” which is 160 bpm made with a traditional jungle vibes but modern production and then stuff like mine, Dramatic, Vital Link, Potential Bad Boy & Chatter B who are pushing a new dnb sound but with some nods to jungle roots. Many people may not realise how important Kemet was to the foundation of the scene and it’s an honour to be releasing an EP on the label as they return.
How would you describe the EP – what can we expect?
So the EP is called the Homecoming EP, back to the label where it all started for me. It’s forward looking music and production wise – but definitely has the jungle attitude and rudeboy swagger of early Missing productions. I like to think it has range- from the dark tear out of “Burn Down Babylon”, bass driven stepper “Dem Fi Know”, the restrained jump up (if that’s not a contradiction) of “Original Soldier” and lastly “Vibe Up Riddim” which is really 174pm bashment but hits hard like dnb. The EP just hit the road on promo and already getting some support from big names such as Mampi Swift, Drumsound and Rudimental. Am looking forward to the full Vinyl & Digital release in a month or so – exclusively on www.Junglefoundation.net and teaser videos of Original Soldier and Burn Down Babylon are out.
Is this a full return to music, can we expect more from you soon?
Definitely can expect more! I am lucky to be in a position where music doesn’t have to feed my family so I can take time to release the music I want on my own terms. Am really excited by the resurgent interest in the jungle sound and nights like Jungle Jam and Jungle Splash – with half the audience probably not born first time around raving alongside original junglists. As artist I am definitely feeling inspired to make dnb again. Not planning going missing again for a while…