Bay B Kane has been making Jungle and Drum & Bass since it’s origin, being in the music game for three decades. It’s fair to say the industry has changed a lot in that time but his commitment to the scene hasn’t. Still making beats and releasing music he has plans stretching into 2018 on both digital and vinyl formats. We recently discussed his early releases and pivotal tracks from the nineties including “Hello Darkness” and “Quarter To Doom”. Other topics include studio equipment, cutting dubs and a fascinating insight into how he met Peshay and his work on the “Protege EP”.
You are without a doubt one of the original pioneers of drum and bass. Can you explain to us how you first got involved in music and how you started producing?
First of all, I think it is important to mention that I started out on my musical journey as a hip hop MC in 1987. My MC name was Double T (which meant Turkish Terrorist) along with my then DJ partner Mr E and together we were called Eastside Chapter.
We were signed to a small independent label called TUF Records from Forest Gate and eventually released a double A-sided twelve “Sucka / Not My Style” in 1989. We had worked really hard during those two years with TUF but were getting nowhere, we realised we needed a new sound and, more importantly, we wanted to do everything ourselves so that we could have complete control over the music which we would release in the future so we parted company with them.
One night in 1989 I was at Dougies Night Club in Clapton, East London, and heard a tune called “Depth Charge” by J Saul Kane and everything fell into place…
Right there and then I knew this was the direction I wanted to go musically. We got straight down to business putting ideas together picking out samples of breaks and other different sounds and within a few weeks Break The Limits was born!
Right at the start of 1990, we released a 6 track EP called “Break The Limits Part 1” which was an immediate underground smash and went on to sell somewhere around 5.000 copies. Over the next two years, we had nine more releases on BTL. In March 1992 we released 500 white label promos of an EP called “Fragmental” and within a couple of weeks, we were approached by XL Recordings who wanted to sign us. I would not allow them to sign us under the name Break The Limits as I wanted to keep that for us as I fully intended to continue the BTL journey, it was our identity and something I was very proud of and did not want XL having a say in what we did with it. So, after much back and forth we signed a deal with XL for a large amount of money but under the name Nu-Matic and the “Fragmental EP” by BTL became the “Hard Times EP” by Nu-Matic.
Almost immediately XL wanted us to go on a live PA tour covering much of the UK promoting the “Hard Times EP”. While preparing to start this tour a friend of mine put me in touch with a young up and coming MC called Morris (Maurice) who turned out to be pretty exceptional, he had way above average skills plus charisma so became part of our live shows along with longtime friends Satin Storm (Travis & Donna) who also joined us as our dancers on stage…
At this point (I’m quite proud to say) I pretty much discovered and gave the young MC Morris his first major break and in later years he became one of the best known and most loved Jungle / Drum And Bass MC’s of all time…. MCMC!
So without going into too much more detail, I’ll just say that shortly after returning from the live PA tour myself and Mr E decided to part company… This marked the end of an era as it was also the end of Break The Limits as I left him to continue as Nu-Matic on XL and did not feel it fair to continue BTL with one of us missing. It also marked the beginning of a brand new era for me as now I would embark on the rest of my journey in music solo… it was kind of scary but exciting at the same time (as stepping into the unknown often is) and I had a lot to do but I was focused and ready.
Your first solo release was the “Ruff Guidance EP” that contains the classic hardcore track “Theme Spirit”. This was championed by the likes of LTJ Bukem and DJ Hype, were you surprised by how well it was received? What did you think when you first heard it being played at the clubs and on the pirate stations?
The “Ruff Guidance EP” was the introduction to what would become my own label and was my first solo release. The track “Theme Spirit” was my personal take on “The Theme” which was a track on the “Hard Times EP” on XL so in a way it was me giving XL the middle finger openly and a way for me to have closure on that whole situation… I had to come out swinging and felt like this track would make the necessary impact, which it did. Having said that I can’t say I was surprised at how well it was received but I can say that I was hugely relieved to be off to a flying start and it is always great to hear your own tunes being played on the radio.
Where and when did you produce that EP? Can you remember what equipment was used for it?
At the time when I produced the “Ruff Guidance EP” Mr E and I still hadn’t yet parted company completely as we still co-owned the studio which we had built together as BTL. We had an agreement to use the studio two weeks on then two weeks off so that we could both get work done without stepping on each other’s toes and it worked for a short period.
When I recorded that EP I was using an Atari 1040 STFM running Pro 24 midi sequencing software. The studio also had an Akai S950, Juno1, Kawai K1, Alesis Quadraverb, Seck 24/4/2 Mixing Console and Tannoy DC200 Monitors
Did that studio situation last long or did you find somewhere else to record?
As far as I can recall I think it lasted about 3 months and by then it was clear that we needed to resolve the issue of the studio and go our separate ways for real. Sticking to the two weeks on two weeks off rule just wasn’t working any more. We sat down and went through everything that needed to be divided fairly and I ended up with the studio within that deal which I then moved to a new location which was a unit within a property owned by Chris Energy of Hit N Run Records. This was only short term as I knew this would not be the permanent base that I was looking for.
You often hear stories of techniques people used in the studio to try and maximise the equipment back then. How did you find the technology those days, any tips or tricks you can give people as there seems to be a hardware revival at the minute as well as vinyl?
For instance, the Akai S950 was an amazing machine but very much lacking in sufficient amount of memory. Sometimes I would set up and edit certain samples, run them through the mixing desk with full EQ treatment plus other effects then re-sample the output at a lower rate. This meant I could save valuable memory for more elements and it also gave certain samples (especially drums/breaks) a unique sound and texture.
Sometimes I would also use a technique called “time compress” which is the exact opposite of “time stretch”, the result is rather hit and miss and does not necessarily work with everything but when it did work you could get great results and it would also save some sampling memory.
Yes, vinyl has made quite a comeback in the last couple of years which is great. I have been reissuing some of my older tracks as current Discogs prices for sought after titles are nothing short of ridiculous! It gives me great pleasure to be able to offer some of my back catalogue (which is extensive, to say the least) at a reasonable, affordable price plus at the highest possible quality. I am now partnered with Music Preservation Society which is run by a good friend of mine, Robin Allinson.
As far as your label you followed up “Theme Spirit” with the “Bay B Kane EP”, to me this really started to define your sound. Hip hop and ragga samples, classic breaks, rave stabs and those distinctive large bass lines. With the exception of “Sax In The Jungle” it’s quite a distinctive shift from RGR 001. What led to that and can you tell us a bit about this period?
RGR 002 (“The Bay B Kane EP”) was where I felt I was ready to start putting myself out as a brand. Developing a sound as an artist was equally as important and needed to be in tune with the underground music movement. My style drew from all different elements that appealed to me such as hip hop, reggae, dub, lovers rock, soul, funk and ska. Black music in general was and still is, where I draw most of my inspiration from as its what I grew up listening to. To this day one of the most exciting things for me is taking a sample and using it in a completely different setting than it was originally intended and creating something brand new with it.
By the way “RGR 001 / 002 /003 / 004” as well as “The Mystro EP” on Jack In The Box and “The Grey Matter EP” on Kikman were all produced within the time period of roughly three months before we finalised the split and I moved the studio to a new location! That should give you some idea as to how busy and focused I was during that time and determined to build a solid foundation.
You made all those in three months?? That’s mad! Everything you’ve just said brings me on to what is personally for me one of the all-time best hardcore EPs of all time. The Return Of Bay B Kane! All four tracks are undisputed anthems, did you realise those tracks where special when you made them and what was the reaction from the first few people who heard them?
Thank you, I appreciate your words! “Hello Darkness” is a very special track to me personally and if I am totally honest then I’d say I expected it to have a big impact as the “Dark” theme was just beginning to creep in on the scene here and there and I wanted this EP to take that to the next level. The best and most positive reaction I can remember was from Micky Finn who went absolutely mad about “Hello Darkness” which I had cut for him on dub. He was the driving force behind me making two further remixes later on but pretty much everyone who heard it was into it almost instantly.
That EP features “Quarter To Doom” which was co-produced with Peshay, can you tell us a bit about that session and how you guys hooked up?
I had printed my home phone number on the label of “The Bay B Kane EP” (RGR 002) and my first encounter with Peshay was when he dialled those digits. He started talking to me about how much he liked the EP and how he was a DJ trying to catch a break into the scene and how he had so many ideas for tunes… He went on and on so enthusiastically for what seemed like hours, hahaha…
I was impressed by his enthusiasm and positivity, plus the fact that he had a lot of front just phoning me out the blue and was able to keep me on the line without me getting annoyed.
I told him I would look into making some time available and having him come through the studio but I couldn’t say when and that I’d have to get back to him and to hold tight till then…
Well, he rang me daily from that day forward for about a week, sometimes several times a day, so in the end, I gave in and arranged for him to come to the studio.
One Wednesday in August 1992 Peshay came to my studio with two large cases of records and enough hyperactive positive energy to last for days! He was seventeen years old and more eager to get stuck in and learn to create than anyone else I had ever met before (or since)… Mind you at this point I had no idea how good he was as a DJ either which would come later. That day we spent about twelve hours in my studio and created what would later become the track known as “Quarter To Doom”.
What was a typical recording session like for you? Based on what you’ve said you seemed to go at it pretty hard.
Back then I would start most days around midday and work eight-ten hours typically and it wasn’t unusual for me to write and complete one track per session. Maybe even put down the basics of another track to continue with the next day. I generally won’t start a new track while I have one on the go unless I’m just messing about with ideas. Once I moved the studio to another location my work hours and patterns changed due to the fact that I had 24-hour access and found I could work much better during the night.
You mentioned a lot of your 1992 releases were all made around the same time. The “Grey Matter EP” seems to have slipped me by completely. Checking it on Discogs I see that it was the first release on Kikman but never seemed to get past the promo stage. It’s also widely different than the other tracks you were making at the time. It’s almost house and garage in places and there’s one track which has a strong Euro Techno feel to it. Can you tell us the story behind that EP?
“The Grey Matter EP” was an experimental project which I had no immediate plans to release, in fact, I held on to it for about a year until one day I played it to Noah Charlery (the owner of Kikman) who absolutely loved it and wanted to release it. It was very different in comparison to the usual output on the label so we decided to start a sub-label under Kikman called UFO Recordings. That’s why it has the cat number KIK / UFO 001, only 300 white label promo copies were ever pressed. It may have been too ahead of its time or just simply bad timing but whatever it was this EP just didn’t catch on like the other stuff I was releasing on Kikman and RGR so we decided to not go ahead with a full release. Today second-hand copies sell for at least £50 and that’s if you can find one for sale.
You continued to release stuff in 1993 for your own label, Kikman and then White House which has some seminal classics in its discography, how do you view this period of your production and experience in the music scene?
My deal with White House in early 1993 was one of the absolute highlights of my career in music as it gave me the freedom to really expand my brand of Jungle / Drum and Bass on a bigger platform without having the restrictions placed upon artists when they are signed to a label. My deal with them was a production deal where I granted White House license through my label Ruff Guidance to release my music. All rights remained with me and it was the only way that I would ever agree to a release on White House and all praise is due to the label manager Andy Bailey who was by far the best label exec I ever worked with. He is the one person who helped me more than anyone in the music business during the 1990s.
You are probably aware of what’s going on with producing vinyl at the minute, Robin and others are all having issues.
I am aware of the current problems in releasing vinyl due to unreliable pressing plants, a substandard product having to be re-pressed multiple times, the ridiculous waiting times involved and the fact that there were no pressing plants left in the UK until very recently. The arrival of a brand new state of the art pressing facility in Portsmouth running under the expertise of the man like Phil East “Vinyl Presents” is now leading the way to a brighter future in vinyl production.
What was it like running a label and pressing records in 1992/93?
Running my label was really not very hard as I had been doing this since 1990 and had built a great working relationship with all involved in the various stages of production.
I used JTS in Hackney for mastering and metalwork then Vinyl Cut which later became Tell Tales for my pressings who were in Stratford. Looking back I can honestly say that I never had a problem, worth mentioning in all the years that I used their services which is pretty amazing… Big shout out to Keith (Jah Tubby) and Joseph (Abashanti) of JTS Limited and Terry & Darren of Tell Tales wherever they may be today.
Whilst we are on the subject of vinyl and JTS, where did you used to get your dubs cut and do you have any unreleased material from that era?
Lets first clear something up… I am not a DJ and never have been, I’m strictly an artist/producer and have produced under many aliases. I have cut countless amount of dubs over the years for many different DJ’s and in that case, it was always the DJ’s choice as to where we cut them. I used to spend many hours cutting dubs at either JTS or Music House although left up to me it would have always been JTS but DJ’s used to favour Music House as they were cheaper and when you’re Micky Finn or Kenny Ken and you have 20 dubs to cut in one session every bit of saving is a blessing!
I have a whole bunch of unreleased material, especially from 96-97, some of which I have released exclusively to my Bandcamp, specifically Unreleased Jungle gems Volume One and Two.
I have also released one or two bits on vinyl in recent years and will release more next year.
You recently repressed the classic 1994 “Thunder”, what’s the secret behind that monster bass line?
The bass on Thunder is an 808 kick drum with full decay which I then distorted through the mixing desk (analogue distortion sweet spot). I then added a mixture of effects through the Alesis Quadraverb.
I’ll take this opportunity to say that by the time Thunder was created, in fact, quite sometime before summer 1993, I moved my studio from the unit in Chris Energy’s building to what became known as The Fridge.
It was a purpose built detached building which was originally a cold storage facility for meat products at the back of a shop front that used to be an old butcher shop but was now a kebab house. The cold store was there unused so I made a deal with the owner and leased the cold store from him. I built my own entrance to it through the alleyway next to the kebab shop then had all the electrics rewired and made it into a studio.
It was a unique and amazing place that had an otherworldly atmosphere inside, no windows, two feet thick insulated walls and a door that I can only compare to an airlock.
Pretty much all of my White House releases were written in The Fridge and by then the hardware in my studio had grown twice as much if not more. I still had the Atari 1040 STFM computer now running Cubase V3. I also had a Seck 24/4/2 Mixing Desk, a Roland Juno1, Yamaha DX7 Mk II, Roland SH101, Roland TB303, Korg M1 Rack module, two Akai S950’s, an Alesis Midiverb II, Marantz Solid State Reference Class Amp and Tannoy Berkeley 15 inch Super Gold Dual Concentric Studio Monitors.
Later I added an Akai S1100 and remained in The Fridge until the end of 1996.
The “Thunder EP” saw a return to working with Peshay. How was it for you seeing how he developed and what are your feelings about that EP in general?
I actually never stopped working with Peshay from 1992 through to around 1995 and the fact that he did a remix of “Thunder” for me at my request was simply because I co-produced and engineered three out of the four tracks on his Reinforced Records debut “The Protege EP”. A remix of “Thunder” and full credit on the “Protege EP” was all that I asked for in return but only got the remix, zero credit on his debut EP on Reinforced but that’s a whole other story on its own which I don’t think is appropriate to go into here.
By the way, The Rood Project “Thunder” 2017 repressing did very well.
I also repressed “The Return Of Bay B Kane” and the double vinyl 8 track “Survival Techniques EP”.
That’s a real shame about not getting credit for the production on the Peshay tracks. Especially considering it’s one of the most highly regarded early drum and bass releases. You did get a mention on the Chris Energy EP for the track Around also on Reinforced, you made an excellent amen VIP of that track which never came out that you’ve now self-released. What can you tell about this track and it’s VIP mix?
I don’t want to say too much more on the Peshay “Protege EP” except that I put a whole lot of time and energy into making these tracks what they are and making sure that his debut release, on such a respected label, would have maximum impact. I wanted very little in return (nothing financial) only because of who Peshay was in terms of my friendship with him and he has always maintained that he had no part in me not getting credit for the part I played and that it was others behind the scenes. Whether I believe him or not is irrelevant now, although at the time I was mad as hell and felt totally betrayed by him which led to us not speaking for 10 years but we reconnected in 2005 and got past all that.
Chris Energy was, of course, a long time friend in the music game stretching back before the rave scene. Here is a fun fact, Chris is the person who got me my first deal with TUF Records!!!
When I did the “Around” remix for Chris there was no Reinforced deal in existence but later when they approached him I was happy for him and at least he made sure I was credited on the label for my work.
I put the VIP version together as I felt it would give him leverage for a second release but for whatever reason he didn’t want to know and dismissed it so I kept it in the archives for many years.
Lastly, looking forward, what’s next..?
Next up is something big that has been in the works for a long time which is the re-release of the entire Break The Limits back catalogue on Mental Groove Records out of Switzerland.
This is a big deal to me as it will mean that the BTL legacy will finally be preserved and safe from extinction and future generations will be able to access and hear this music which was right at the beginning of the explosion point of the underground rave culture…
Big ups to Robin Allinson for pushing me to get this done and his help with cleaning up the original audio files, also a massive shout out to Olivier Ducret of Mental Groove Records for working with me to ensure a good deal was agreed upon and his belief and passion for the music.
There will be more re-pressings of classic Bay B Kane music next year as well as new music on vinyl. Digitally, I will continue to push the sounds that we all love. Ruff Guidance has a whole bunch of new releases lined up by various artists. I will also continue to release music on Boomsha Recordings and there is a new Bay B Kane solo album in the works which will be my seventh solo album when it lands.
Thanks for having me and peace be upon you all.