Before we begin, have you ever wondered what a Null Line is? Let Alex from Hyper On Experience explain…
“It’s from the theory of special relativity. A null line is the path of a massless object travelling at light speed. Because at that speed you don’t experience time, all points in the universe will appear no distance away.”
Like any good scientific theory, Hyper On Experience productions were also complex and intricate in approach but when Alex and Danny sat down to produce Lord of the Null Lines it’s safe to say neither of them could have imagined the effect it would have on the drum and bass scene. The often overlooked original spawned a series of remixes which make it one of the most iconic pieces of nineties electronic music. It has been reinterpreted by some of the most respected names in drum and bass including Photek, Total Science, Aquasky and most notably Foul Play (including a second mix alongside DJ Randall).
Using a variety of sources for inspiration it’s perhaps most known for its liberal use of Predator 2 samples. Whilst these help to add character its the way they are integrated with the tracks other elements that give Null Lines its own unique identity.
We caught up with John from Foul Play to discuss their remixes of the track.
The original Lord of the Null-Lines was created using a wealth of sample sources, what elements did you have to craft your remix?
We were given a DAT containing all the samples from the original version…… and there were a lot! This was our first ever remix for another artist, previously we had only ever remixed our own tracks. Hyper On songs were always brimming with ideas and samples coming at you at an amazing pace and Null-Lines was no exception. We basically just sat there and listened through all the samples and went yes, no, yes, no until we had the ingredients we wanted for our version.
How does your remix differ from the original?
Well, our take on Null-Lines is a stripped back version in the truest sense. We took out all the ravier elements from the original and delivered a mix with a darker feel. We focused on the Predator 2 samples and a couple of catchy basslines.
Who worked on it and where was it produced?
We produced it at the Foul Play studio which was at Steve Gurley’s house in Milton Keynes. At that time there were three of us in the group and we worked on it together, Steve Gurley, Brad (Steve Bradshaw) and myself.
What equipment did you use?
Pretty sure this was before we had a hardware sampler so it would all have been done with the Amiga using OctaMED. Not sure what we were using at the time for mixing and monitoring but it would have been cheap.
What was the reaction to it?
I think this was one of those rare occasions where something was universally loved from the outset. Even from the test press stage, I think Moving Shadow realised they had a hit. I can remember being at the Sanctuary in Milton Keynes just after the 20 or so test presses had been sent out to the top DJ boys and hearing everyone on the lineup playing it. At the beginning of the night, nobody had heard it and before the end of the night the crowd were going crazy for it, and this was even before the main promo mailout. Then when they had gone out all the pirates started playing it, after that it just took off, I remember everyone being excited about its release.
Can you explain the track’s arrangement and the theory behind its structure?
Well as I said before it was our first remix so we didn’t really have a process as such, we just went with our gut. The main thing I remember was the speed we did it, probably about 3 hours from start to finish, arranged, mixed and recorded to DAT in one afternoon. I remember Brad playing the intro 808 bassline and we decided to start the track with it, unusual I know but it seemed the right thing to do. An interesting fact which Sean Deep Blue told me is the 808 bass sound in the Helicopter tune was sampled from the Null Lines intro.
I think Steve Gurley may have played the second bassline, I certainly remember him playing the two melodies that come in over the top of it. I don’t remember us pondering over anything through the rest of the track too much, we just went with the first ideas we had and it all just went right on the day, sometimes it just goes like that (especially when you’ve got a genius like Steve Gurley at the controls anyway).
Are there any other versions that remain unheard?
Not by us but I do remember somebody doing a bootleg version of it with a few changes. A few well known DJ’s had started playing it and the guy had cheekily pressed it up but Rob Playford got wind of it, found out where it was being pressed and put a stop to it. As I recall, the guy in question was pretty unhappy and a few threats were thrown about but nothing ever came of it, it really was a little bit Wild West back then.
I assume the cover for the second remix was a reference to that?
I think the title must have been a dig at the bootlegger yeah.
How did the re-remix with DJ Randall come about?
We were in a club one night where Randall was playing, Brad had disappeared for a while and when he finally showed up he said “I’ve been chatting backstage with Randall, he’s coming to the studio on Monday” it was as simple as that. He came to the studio and we did it in a day. I’m not sure if it was originally meant for release or just as a special for him to play but I know Rob Playford was really happy when he heard about it as Randall didn’t appear on wax very often and it eventually got a release.
With all these versions do you have a favourite?
My favourite mix is the first one we did.
I always wondered what the answering machine message left by Ray Keith for Rob Playford said on a rare test press release for your remix, can you enlighten us?
I don’t have a copy of the answerphone message version, until this moment in time I had no idea it existed!
The story goes Ray had his car broken into and had his records stolen, DAT’s taken everything. He left that message on the Shadow answer phone explaining this in relation to something he should have done for the label but now couldn’t. The answer phone message was added to the test press but was not kept on DAT… I’ve reached out to someone who has the vinyl so if I can get a recording I’ll send your way! Alex doesn’t have it either…
Notes from Alex Banks on the original version of Lords Of The Null Lines
This was a big deal for Danny and me. It was the first time we did a tune at 160 beats per minute. There was much debate in the shed as to whether we should make a tune that fast. In fact, on the floppy disk, the working title was just “160BPM”.
The melancholy intro was done on a Korg M1. I had programmed it so that some of the notes weren’t in time. Rob Playford asked if I had played it in live? I said “Yes”, but I lied…
The “We’re gonna rock ya!” sample came from my sister’s friend’s daughter. One afternoon we were sitting in the small courtyard that separated the shed from my sister’s house. Harriet was about 5 years old and I was demonstrating my dictaphone while getting her to say cool shit!
The bass note was from a sample CD. I remember sweeping the midrange eq ‘till I hit the sweet spot. The effect was a preset for a Zoom FX unit at Purple Rain.
Breaks are from Norman Cook – Skip To My Loops and the synth sound came from the A to D Sample CD.
The bell sound that comes in at the end was a late addition. Danny said, “I think it needs an extra sound at the end there.” I said “Nah mate, there’s enough in there already”
We have this argument about this bell sound and eventually put it in. Now it’s my favourite part of the tune! In Poland when I played Lords everyone in the crowd sung along to the bell sound! When Foul Play remixed it they asked for this sound, but I had lost the M1 card it came from. I was gutted!
Thanks to John and Alex for their help in putting this post together. John will represent Foul Play at the AKO Beatz Halloween Jungle Special on Saturday 28th October at Bar 512 London.