It's hard to keep track of UK 2-step garage's countless permutations. New terms seem to crop up every few months - future garage, nu-garage, post-garage, post-dubstep - and all this change is making us want to re-rewind back to the good old days of classic 2-step. Of course, there's no turning back the clock, so we've satisfied our craving for outdated beats by looking to the handful of UK producers who have drawn inspiration for their contemporary sketches from the genre's origins.
These guys conjure the same feeling of joy we used to get from DJ EZ's Pure Garage compilations, but they also incorporate fresh elements into their productions, like deeper baselines and new-school vocal chops. We caught up with some of the artists who champion the 2-step sound of the late '90s and early 2000s in their contemporary productions, and are blazing a trail for UK garage 2.0.
Location: Huddersfield, UK
"I first came across garage music way back when speed garage was kicking around stuff like Armand van Helden's remixes - that was around '96 or '97. I was hooked instantly; it was slightly different to the stuff I had previously heard. I was young, so my exposure to garage was through CDs, vinyl, and tape packs."
"My style of garage is a blend of everything that has influenced me during the many years I've appreciated the genre. I like to think my garage tracks have the full package: heavy baselines, swinging beats, melodies, and sick vocal chops—something you can't help but bop your head to. If I'm making a track and I'm not bopping my head while making it, then I know it's no good. The bass influences come from Wookie, and my beats are influenced by Steve Gurley. The way I chop vocals, I'd say that's heavily influenced by people like Todd Edwards and Dem 2."
"To be honest, I'm not sure about the future of garage music—it all depends on how the music gets labeled in the media. Quite a lot of garage tracks have broken into the mainstream over the last 18 months, but it never gets labeled as garage, for some reason. For me, garage is still as strong as ever. There's a few exciting producers who all bring their unique twist to the sound, so it'll be interesting."
Location: Southampton, UK
"I first came across garage music probably through my brother and his cassette tape packs. I always heard him listening to them in his bedroom, and, after hearing them for the first time, I just loved the vibe and was excited to seek out more. I remember every other day carefully stealing and replacing one tape at a time, taking them to school and listening to them on my Walkman. I didn't know who the DJs or MCs were, or who the tunes were by—but I knew I was listening to something I couldn't turn on the TV and see."
"Garage gives me the means to experiment with whatever I want. It depends on the vibe: If I'm feeling soulful, I'll drop some Rhodes on the track and just jazz things up. Or, if I'm looking to make something to smash down a rave, I'll be looking at a whole different palette of sounds to orchestrate it. That's why I enjoy making it; the groove always acts like a bed for any emotion I really want to get out on the track, and I can still make it work and call it garage. I just want people to feel what I felt like back then, listening to these tracks for the first time."
"I would really love to take more garage to the USA and across the world. I feel like England is spoiled for choice, at times. I think garage will always be talked about and routed as one of the most important genres in the last 20 years, and I will never fall out of love with it and will continue making it. You can't hold back the sound."
Location: London, UK
"When I was little, a friend's brother had a tape pack that my friends and I got ahold of and used to listen to." -Joe
"I used to steal Joe's SideWinder tape packs when I was about 12." -Adam
"We've had some quite melodic tracks, like our our first track, 'Respect.' If we're doing remixes, sometimes the original track leads us—our recent remix of the Cuban Brothers carries on the original's feel-good melody. But there are also some more bass-y, hard-hitting tracks that lean more toward grime, like 'Wanted Man.'" -Adam
"I think garage will continue to inspire other productions and be morphed and molded into new genres. There are people like DJ Q and Conducta who are making almost throwback '90s garage, with a little twist. Then there's also the growing movement of Jersey Club; I see a bit of garage influence in that as well. Producers nowadays are always merging old influences into new stuff—people like Falcons from the USA and the Soulection movement definitely excite me." -Adam
Location: Bristol, UK
"My earliest encounters with garage music were as a child, scrolling through the various music channels—The Box, Kiss, etc.—and seeing videos like Craig David's 'Rewind' and '21 Seconds' from So Solid Crew on MTV Base. Then, I remember my god brother driving me round listening to DJ EZ CDs, and there, the foundation was laid."
"I always try to make my productions melodic, punchy, and bassy. Those three elements make the project well-rounded. Each element is as important as each other. With the melodic element, it enables me to be creative with all kinds of bass, whether it's punchy, bass-heavy, or sub-orientated and subtle. Emphasis on percussion also enhances the production value of a tune, and attention to detail can make all the difference to whether you're making a song for the raves or song for the iPod."
"It's evident that there has been a renaissance in the garage scene recently, which has been great, and I believe the future looks good. Nevertheless, I think there's still a large misconception that UK garage is just for Bank Holidays or that 'Flowers' and Craig David define the genre. Up-and-coming producers like Moony D and DJ D are pushing boundaries, as are established names like Star One, Spooky, Flava D, and Royal T, so the future looks bright. The support and appreciation from legends like DJ EZ and Groove Chronicles is encouraging too. They're really supporting us producers in sets and subsequently revitalizing the scene. All of this can eventually lead to eradicating the bias towards 'old school' garage and will allow music listeners to embrace the current state of the scene."
Flava D is on that "I don't do interviews" grind, but we ain't mad. The first lady of the British underground label Butterz has built a reputation on the strength of her thumping, bass-heavy garage productions, which are laced with '90s R&B samples. Later this month, she's set to turn in On My Mind, a collaborative EP she made with label mate Royal-T. All hail.