Carl Loben & Ben Murphy: ‘Renegade Snares’

Attack Mag talks to the authors of the new jungle book/drum and bass “Renegade Snares”.

Ben Murphy is a freelance music writer, former editor-in-chief of DJ Mag, and has written for music publications for twenty years, often covering outdoor and techno areas such as woodland, drum and bass, and broken percussion. Carl Loben is the current editor-in-chief at DJ Mag and has been writing about music professionally since the early 1990s, taking stints at Melody Maker and Billboard before starting on DJ Mag over twenty years ago.

The pair have been in love with woods, drums, and bass since the early 1990s and turned this three-decade-old obsession into their book “Renegade Snares,” the history of woods/drum and bass from its beginnings to the present day. It features interviews with a lot of major players and together it cuts the whole story of the genre.

We sat down on Zoom with the couple to talk about the importance of documenting the club’s culture and the influences and motivations that created the woods/drum and bass.

Ben Murphy and Karl Lubin

Attack Magazine: Why did you write “Renegade Snares”?

The son of: We felt that woodland/drum and bass were under-represented and under-appreciated in terms of their importance to the cultural history of the UK. There have been many excellent books on the subject before but we felt there was a lot more to say, especially after 97 years after drums and bass lost their luck a bit and UKG took over. There was a lot that happened after that and a lot of other dates seem to have lost interest in that last period

Why do you think drums and bass are underappreciated?

The son of: I think it was seen as something less house and techno complex, less driven by music and also in part because of its working-class and black roots. It was considered ‘inappropriate’ art, and it was derided and apart from that period in the mid ’90s when the more ‘musical’ thing in the surrounding woods like LTJ Bukem that could be presented to a middle class audience was popular, I think then It has not been hacked. Especially in the early years, it was ridiculed by a lot of music headlines, and the tabloids did not understand it or its cultural influence and importance.

The club’s culture has bridged the gap between race, class and gender. It has been a vital transformative force, a force for good, for progress in society

Ben Murphy

Carl: Even during the breakout woods/drum and bass moment in 96-97 when Ronnie Saez won the Mercury Prize and hit the mainstream, even at that time there was still prejudice from sections of the dance music community. She’s one of the bastard sons of dance music that was almost frowned upon and there was definitely an element of discriminatory thinking in those opinions.

People were like “It’s full of blacks and guns and cracks” which was a ridiculous stereotype. But I remember things like that even in London in the ’90s: It was almost impossible to have a black music night in central London until the mid-90s when you had midweek stuff like Speed ​​and Movement and Metalheadz. Until then, there were very few black music front spots for dance music in central London and that was due to discrimination.


So presumably you both think documenting club culture is worthwhile; Can you tell us why?

The son of: It’s a vital aspect of our culture, something if you look at how the club culture is presented through – I won’t name names here but I will say broad papers etc – they seem to not understand club culture at all. But for many people, it has been such a big part of their lives, and it has that cohesion effect on the community, so many people have bought together.

Certainly, rave culture in particular and then some aspects of club culture, you have successfully bridged the gap between race, class and gender. It was a vital transformative force, a force for good, for progress in society. So ignoring that and putting it under the rug is stupid.

Carl: definitely. A great deal of creativity has sprung from the club’s culture, infiltrated the art world, the media, television, and every kind of cultural field, and they’ve all been influenced in one way or another by club culture and rave culture. And a lot of creativity comes from the club’s culture, too.

For many young people in particular, this is the most important thing in their lives. People spend a lot of time making art in the form of electronic music, creating events and making those events have as “cool factor” as possible, seeing some people as just the burden of dancing to repetitive beats. Really far from reality.

A man named Gerald in the studio, Hammersmith, 1994. Phtoto by Lady Miss Keir.

Turning to the book, you said in the introduction that woods/drum and bass was “the last entirely new language of modern music” – do you think innovation within electronic music slowed or stopped after drum and bass?

Carl: Well, things like dubstep have been around ever since but at the time in the early ’90s it looked very futuristic, and it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. While I was at Melody Maker, all those journalists were hanging around Travis and Empress and those boring Bret-Bob bands repeating other indie white boy guitar bands from the previous era, but the woods sounded like nothing at all. heard before. Percussionists creating futuristic sounds, it was so exciting, they experimented, pushed the envelope.

And Ben, would you say that drum and bass is the last type of innovative electronic music?

The son of: You could say this is an exaggeration but I personally think it’s true. Obviously there have been things like dubstep and other genres and subgenres that have created subcultures and their own things since then, and we don’t deny those vibrant forms of music. But I would say that in terms of something really different, which went on to influence the genres that came after, I would say yes. Because you didn’t just have the speed of the music – no one else had done anything like this before – you used the sounds as texture, in a very different way through the medium of the sampler, which no one had ever done before. .

It just felt like a whole new language and I think the things that have appeared since then in terms of broken rhythm music are influenced by that and branch out from that. For me this is still true.

The multicultural nature of most of the major English cities was very important in the development of the forest/drum and bass

Karl Lubin

Metalheads at Blue Note, London, 1995. Photo by Daniel Newman.

If you had to summarize the basic elements that went into creating the drum and bass, what would they be?

The son of: I would say sampling is vital and being able to compose music in a DIY sense on home computers, certainly as the ’90s progressed anyway.

I would also say that piracy radio was very vital in spreading music, and getting it to the public in a discreet way, before the internet even existed. Hacking was also a way for people to keep in touch, you could give shouts, spread messages that people might hear, so you had a state of mind. Then you also had the dubplate culture which was lively as well, being able to bring out the music and audition for it – another continuation of the reggae/sound system culture that obviously had a huge impact on the woods/drum and bass.

Carl: The multicultural nature of most major English towns was very important in the development of the woods/drum and bass and the fact that they were a mixture of black and white from the start. My first indie musical love was Two Tone which was a black/white scene circa 1980’81 and I loved the fact that the woods/drum and bass was a mixed scene as well.

We trace it at the beginning of the book to the Windrush generation of people from the West Indies living in the United Kingdom at the invitation of the British government to help rebuild the country after World War II.

Fabio, Groverdeer, Ronnie Saez, etc. They are all children of the Windrush generation. The scene was a reflection of the way black and white children played in schools in inner cities, playing together and hanging out together and such was the case with DJs, producer crews, party promoters, and crew.

Finally, if you had to name one track that sums up the soul of drum and bass, what would it be?

Carl: I’m going to say a Foul Play remix of “Renegade Snares” by Omni Trio because it has a little bit of everything and also gave its name to the title of our book.

The son of: Splash “Babel” because to me it is like the perfect expression of the forest, the bottom line. It has it all, it has chopped amen breaks, pit-barking bulls, they have an amazing bass line, reggae samples and it’s done in such a way that it’s just pure excitement and pure joy every time you listen to it.

Renegade Snares for Ben Murphy and Carl Loben is now available.

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