After a long period of speculation by journalists, producers and DJs alike that bassline was on a verge of a revival, it would seem that 2017 is the year in which the genre can confidently stake the claim of having made such a return. The mellifluously acrimonious 'Up North' offspring of UK Garage which, together with its siblings dubstep and UK Funky, came to shape the trajectory of the UK's urban music scene throughout the mid-to-late noughties, has managed to cement itself nationwide as the defining sound of big nights out for a generation of ravers coming of age in the Barratt Home cul-de-sacs of the country's provincial towns. Brexit and bassline are apparently walking hand in hand, into the bewildering future of May's Britain.
This has all come after a near half-decade long recuperation, a trajectory that began with what was lamentably named "Jackin House" mutating into something darker. The return was accelerated by the establishment of Bassline Festival in 2015 (renamed for this year's incarnations to Bassfest), and concluded with the emergence of a new wave of producers peddling an amplified mutation of the four-to-the-floor, sub-bass driven sound. This new mutation builds on the signifying foundations of 90s speed garage and 00s bassline—warping, screeching basslines, spaced out breakdowns, ragga and R&B samples—and, with the aid of the latest music production software, accelerates them, giving birth in the process to a wholly original incarnation.
The widespread popularity of this new sound has been demonstrated by the chart success of a recently released compilation Pure Bassline, mixed by two of the scene's veterans: DJ Q—an individual who needs no introduction—and Jamie Duggan, the personality perhaps most strongly associated with both bassline's initial regional affiliation with the North of England, and its subsequent spread into the mainstream later in the decade through his involvement with Ministry of Sound on the highly revered The Sound of Bassline compilations.
Duggan's entry into the world of underground dance music came at the age of 15 when he first started sneaking into the original Niche nightclub on Sydney Street in Sheffield. By 17 he was a resident DJ at the club, having submitted a promo mix to the venue's then bookings manager, Les Skelton, who allowed him to play warm up sets. That residency provided Duggan the foundations upon which he's built his reputation as a DJ, producer, and promoter.
We had a very brief catch-up with one of the scene's hardest workers to try and trace exactly how and why bassline has come back again.
THUMP: You've just released a new compilation 'Pure Bassline', mixed alongside DJ Q—whose idea was the project?
Jamie Duggan: We were approached by New State to do the album, we discussed the way it was going to go and how we saw things, and it all went from there.
What was the process in selecting the tracks you both wanted on the album?
That's the tough part because it's hard to license or fit on every track you would like to. But
we both wanted to keep it true to what was getting played in our sets at the time of putting the tracklist together.
The establishment of Bassline Festival in 2015 seems to be a turning point in the subsequent revival of the genre. From your perspective, how important was the festival in bringing the scene back together?
Very important, probably one of the most important things, and a lot of people don't give it enough credit for that. It kick started everything back off.
The current composition of the scene is interesting in that it is made up of individuals who have been involved since the sound's infancy; producers and DJs such as Q, TRC and Mr Virgo who initially came to prominence in the genre's heyday; and younger producers who, twelve months ago, were practically unknown away from their SoundCloud pages. In what way has this diversity of generations aided the scene's current vitality?
It definitely gives it a good balance, there are a lot more sub-genres to the bass scene now. There's the vocally bass stuff or the crazy hyper stuff or the somewhere in-between stuff! The original producers and new producers both bounce off each other's sounds but then still keep their own style of production.
Who are the new producers people should be keeping an eye on?
Plenty going around at the minute: Skepsis, Darkzy, Notion, Holy Goof, Shaun Dean, Jack Junior, JG—sorry if I forgot anyone!
You played your first ever set in the original Niche in Sheffield at the age of 17. What are your favourite "snipers" from this era?
Wow, that's a tough one! Way too many to keep this a short interview section! In terms of 'sniper' as you call them I'd go with Paul Caveri's Orange Groove EP or "Give it Up" by Da Homies.
What are your plans going forward in 2017?
To keep pushing with my music, promotions and events, and hopefully tick a few more boxes off the nightclub and festival list around the world!
Pure Bassline is out now - buy it here .