Some people might call what I do drum ‘n’ bass. But I’m not going to narrow it down to what the music industry thinks is commercially viable. I’m not really into narrow thinking. Making this music is like poker. You begin with five cards. You don’t play poker with two cards. That’s just the rule of the game. Once you learn how to play you can bend the rules.
I’ve been in this game for as long as I can remember, seeking out bits of punk rock, pop and reggae when I was still a kid in Walsall. When slap bass days arrived in the mid eighties I started to get into Loose Ends, Change and Maze travelling for funk all-dayers. I even gave Rastafarianism a shot earning myself the nickname Goldielocks, but then the hip-hop scene blew up and you can’t spin on your head if you’ve got locks. So I said see you later to that!
Hip hop allowed me to express myself artistically for the first time. Doing graffiti art made me learn how to make something out of nothing, and it got me involved in the music scene. I spent time in New York exhibiting my work and appeared in Africa Bambatta’s feature film ‘Bombing’ as one of Britain’s top graffers. That rocked. In ’86 I moved out to Miami and started a business selling engraved gold teeth. By 1990 I was on the move again, to London, where something very special was about to kick off…
The club was Rage at Heaven. Everyone was just going for it. The adrenaline was pumping around the place. I heard DJs playing a weird hybrid sound, there was still the late rave stuff but here was a new sound, a mad fusion of the old and new. I’d always been the sort of kid who wanted to belong and felt like I’d found a home. In ’92 I produced my first track as Ajax Project while I was doing some design and A&R work for 4Heros’s Reinforced label. My next tunes Killermuffin and Menance were put out under my early moniker Rufige Kru1 on the Metalheadz label. But at first I was just this deranged kid at Rage with gold teeth shining, this nutter talking a million miles an hour. I remember clutching the cage, watching Fabio or Grooverider take the record I’d made out of the box and put it on the deck and thinking “Fuck, fuck”!
By late ’92 a darker sound was taking over. By ’93, recording as Metalheadz, I had released my darkcore anthem Terminator, lifting the buzz saw synth riff from Joey Beltram’s Mentasm alongside the mutating breakbeats that began to characterise darkcore. It was just like rebelling with the music. The darkness was Britain’s new urban blues. Dark to me was just a representation of the way people were feeling at the time, there was a recession and the country was in decline. But forward ever backward never, I was in the studio again creating something fresh.
My ’93 release Angel was one of the first tracks to push what the industry referred to as drum ‘n’ bass in a more musical direction, with Urban Cookie Collective’s Diane Charlemagne providing jazzy vocals. Rage shut down this year with AWOL quickly stepping in to fill the void that it left behind. Meanwhile I was working on my debut album Timeless. For me Timeless was the ultimate statement of drum ‘n’ bass’s technical sophistication and manipulation. Back then I was the first of the drum ‘n’ bass crew to sign to a major label; London records. To me this made no odds, I didn’t care if music was underground or overground; I knew where it came from!
Timeless shot straight into the album charts at number seven, which was a first for a drum ‘n’ bass record. But I don’t even know if I’d call it a drum ‘n’ bass record. I’d prefer to call it inner city ghetto music, because I’m not going to come up with stuff just to match people’s perceptions of drum ‘n’ bass. Inner City Life, one of the albums vocal tracks, became a signature tune at LTJ Bukem’s club Speed in 1994. But my style was now far removed from the bark of the Jungle music that I was putting out in my Rage days.
By ’95 the Metalheadz label was well up and running. Then came the Metalheadz Sunday Sessions at the Blue Note. The atmosphere was just unreal and drum ‘n’ bass was the music of the moment. In ’96 and ’97 I collected awards for Timeless, my DJing, the Metalheadz label and my compilation album Platinum Breakz. It was fair to say I’d arrived, but I was by no means burnt out and I was looking for new ways to challenge myself as an artist. In my second album Saturnz Returns the tones and tempos were more varied, the experiments bolder and the tracks definitely more personal. No one could sing about my own misfortunes more than myself. I just wanted to be sincere in my work.
Sometimes I think back to when I was a kid staring out of the window going “fucking hell I’m really depressed, I really want to make it”. To go from that to now is to go from real extremes and it’s quite unbelievable to me. In ’99 I played a bad guy in James Bond film ‘The World is Not Enough’ and also in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Snatch’. In 2001 I had a part in Eastenders as a Gangster called Angel. It’s surreal. But now my focus is getting back on the music while keeping the acting thing going strong.
After a two year break the Metalheadz Sunday Sessions has a new home at The Limelight, Shaftsbury Avenue. I’m currently in the studio with Jamie Matrix and J Majik recording my third album Sonic Terrorism. Meanwhile I’ve got a release out under my old moniker Rufige Kru called Stormtrooper VIP / The Beach on Metalheadz. The stuff I’m putting out as Rufige Kru is more dancefloor than my new album which is more like my older experimental stuff. The new Metalheadz album Platinum Breakz 3 has also just been released.
So, Metalheadz has been away for a while, but it isn’t dead. We don’t need to put out releases every five seconds to prove ourselves. The label is still one of the most respected on the scene. After a decade of doing music it’s still all good for me.