Slimzee's First Club: Sneaking Into the UK's Most Notorious Hardcore Raves
The grime godfather connects the pivotal 90s rave Labyrinth to his early pirate radio days.
My First Club takes us back to the beginning, transporting DJs and producers back into the depths of their memory, asking them to take us on a trip to those pivotal first nights in clubland. Following entries from the likes of Eats Everything, Herve, MK, Shadow Child, and Billon, we hit up Rinse FM founder and grime don Slimzee to hear about his virgin experience at the 90s hardcore mecca Labyrinth.
First club I ever went to was called Labyrinth or Four Aces on 12 Dalston Lane in Hackney. It was 1992 or 1993, and I was about 15 or 16. I remember a guy called Joe used to run it. There were a lot of hardcore raves going on. People were coming from up and down the country—not just London, but Cambridge, Stratford, and all these different places. The rave scene started around '88, and I got into it in '92. A few years later, it was drum and bass, jungle, garage, and grime.
My dad wouldn't let me go. I'd be like, "I want to go to raves!" And he'd be like, "No you're not." My dad was protective of me. He was a bit worried cause I was DJing and getting into the music—so I didn't tell him.
I was nervous. I wasn't sure what to do or what to expect. I was young, I loved the music so much, but I didn't realize what it was about. I wasn't sure if people were gonna put drugs in my drink. But I got in there with someone and that was it.
I think I was with my mate Geeneus. I was 15 when I started Rinse FM. This was just a little bit before. We started going about together. Labyrinth wasn't far from our houses, so we didn't have to go too far. I met a few mates there. The Prodigy—they're big now, millionaires. Rat Pack—they were big in the 90s. Back then they were just normal people in the raving scene.
Labyrinth was dark, with stars and purple lights, trippy things. It was the 90s so people used to have ponytails and stuff. It was an ecstasy club—hardcore people dressed up in dustbin jackets, taking pills, acid, listening to hardcore, tripping, really. They would play loads of hardcore. All the '92 DJs—Billy Bunter, Ellis Dee, Rat Pack, Lieutenant Stitch, Brockie... they're drum and bass DJs now but they started off playing hardcore.
That night, it was Billy Bunter playing. He's still around. I listen to him on Kool FM and he does his own rave now. We used to go to Paul's for Music in Bethnal Green. It was an old record shop that used to sell hardcore. It's shut down now. I used to go in and buy records for like six pounds each. It was quite a lot of money but I used to buy loads every week.
I would just go there, sit down, get a few drinks. Listening to the music, that's how I knew I wanted to be a DJ. You would hear your favorite song in the rave, and you would want it. The ones you liked, the ones that were good for the rave, the ones people go mad to. I'd go down to the record shop and buy those tunes the next day. You'd want them all so you could play it. I just wanted to make people happy and play tunes that no one had. I was into the dark stuff with instrumentals, so I could get MCs over it.
Over the years, Rinse FM has come quite a long way. Loads of MCs got big out of it, people like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Skepta—they all come from Rinse. Back in the 90s, on the radio, there weren't too many MCs. It was easy, there weren't too much lyrics going on. MCs could say anything, like "Billy Bunter on the 1s and 2s."
I would find out about these parties through looking at flyers. I would go during school break in the afternoon before dinner—I'd look at the flyers and go back to school. They'd be like, weird flyers—pictures of mad stuff, like Jesus and pills and animals. Trippy stuff, innit. You'd look on the back and see the DJs playing there. There was no Internet then, so there were some special raves, like boat parties or warehouses, where they would text you about an hour before, and tell you where the mystery rave is, 'cause they didn't want the police to shut it down.
Pirate radio stations had quite a lot to do with it as well. Kool FM started in 92, Weekend Rush in 92, Impact in '91, Touchdown, Flex—loads of stations I used to listen to before Rinse started would be promoting raves non-stop. Every two hours, there'd be adverts. Say you had a rave and wanted to promote it. You could pay the station 50 pounds for the weekend, and every two hours they'd play it. On Rinse, we used to charge 30 pounds. Every two hours they would record it and say, "yeah, come down to the club" and all that. The adverts would play for a half hour, all the raves, and you could pick which one you wanted to go to.
Labyrinth got shut down in '98. It was a mad, mad little club—a good club, really. I would still go down there if it was still open.
As told to Michelle Lhooq