THE EVOLUTION OF THE JUNGLIST BY DAVID SULLIVAN
Micky Finn and Uncle Dugs on the Evolution of the Junglist
Jungle, as pioneering DJ Micky Finn describes it, “the bastard child of dance music.” The underground movement born in Hackney, destined to take over the world. The love child of London’s sound system culture, and the late 80s wide eyed infatuation with hardcore and Euro techno rave. It produced an inclusive sound that enchanted estates, cities, counties and countries among every race throughout the early 90s. Brought together in ultimate ecstasy and destroyed by cocaine and champagne.
We speak to two resounding figureheads within the genre to explore jungle’s rapid rise, and its ultimate demise. We have the ground-breaking jungle ‘Badass’ and innovative rave forefather Micky Finn, and Uncle Dugs – established into jungle as a raver, who now continues to champion the sound throughout Rinse FM airwaves and relentless Ribena raves.
“I think it was a natural progression from the music that we were all playing at that time,” Micky Finn explains the birth of jungle. From starting a DJ career in 1988, Finn worked throughout the acid house movement and the hardcore scene. “A few people started using ragga samples, bottom end basslines and breakbeats. All of a sudden, because that worked really well in the hardcore scene, it became huge and people loved it. You just had a jungle scene born out of that.”
While Finn was creating this movement behind the decks, Uncle Dugs was experiencing it on the dance floor. “My main thing where it all started for me was Tasco Warehouse and I would go to Desire, Telepathy, Life In Utopia and those sort of parties. Even though in between all of these you would have Billy Daniel Bunter playing his piano stuff and a lot of reggae based hardcore, which was the first stuff where you really heard all of that.”
As the newly concocted sound progressed through raves held at warehouses, aircraft hangers and eventually into clubland, the music was taking a strangle hold on London – and as Dugs professes, completely provoked by the pirate airwaves. “Kool FM were the ones that were pushing it through, and Weekend Rush as well.” 1991 spawned Kool FM, the pirate – now turned digital – radio that pushed the sound system and rave culture into a champion sound. “They were a massive influence, and they were willing to take risks. As East Man’s a reggae man, and he had people around him from a similar background, they embraced that sound and pushed it as much as they could, probably without even realising it at the time.”
It didn’t take long before jungle started hopping boroughs and jumping time zones. The same year that Kool launched, Micky Finn was introducing Japan and beyond to the sound. “I was thrown in at the deep end, I was in Japan in 1991 and I suppose when you only had a small selection of DJs to choose from – let’s call it the premier league – there was a certain amount of premier league DJs out there and we got to go everywhere.” Among the starting 11 were the likes of Hype, Rebel MC, Congo Natty, X Project, Lennie D Ice, Paul Ibiza and Billy Daniel Bunter. “We went to Australia quite early and I toured Asia in 1995. It wasn’t just a London thing, because jungle was huge worldwide.”
A sound understood and embraced throughout every language, but yet undeniably equalised through the use of drugs. “Drugs went hand in hand with making rave big,” Dugs admits. “Drugs and drug culture – ecstasy – whether you want to fucking deny it or admit it, rave culture goes hand in hand with drug culture. I think it helped to give people something else as well as the music and the vibes.”
While the majority of ravers were gleefully gurning away on MDMA, by the tail end of 95/96 the vibe at a jungle party had shifted, gaining gang affiliation notoriety and as Dugs explains, “You normally find wherever the girls go, the fucking idiot blokes follow, and jungle had that.”
Jungle had become a victim of its own success. In its early 90s virginity it was a smaller crowd, with only pirate radios pushing it through airwaves. By 95, it was backed by Radio 1 and saw Goldie release his Timeless album through major label hands. The genre had become popular, and ultimately fashionable, delivering a result that Dugs remembers, “For a little while there was a troublesome side to jungle, which wasn’t really people into the music. It was people that went there because it was a fashion, where you could get dressed up in your Moschino and Versace and go stand with a bottle of champagne in the rave and give it the fucking big’un and show off. They spoilt it.”
“You would get authorities turning up at clubs,” Finn explains. “Which is no good for a club, and no good for a scene of music when the blue lights have to be called out to venues. It was only in England though, it still had a very vibrant scene in other countries because they didn’t seem to have the aggy attitude that came with some of the parties in the UK.”
With a clear view of their scene slowly disintegrating in front of their eyes, the DJs reworked their sound and transformed it into a new entity, drum & bass. By removing the reggae sound system prominence in jungle – that essentially made it easy on the ears for part time jungle clubbers – and drawing on an industrial drum heavy breakbeat, the DJs transformed and reinvented the sound that removed its inclusive vibes and focused on the hardest edge of rave. As a result jungle lost a lot of it’s following to garage, it took influence from the jungle explosion and housed sounds that the jungle ravers recognised. Both Micky Finn and Uncle Dugs agree that they didn’t like what happened.
“I wasn’t really into it at first.” Finn confesses, “I didn’t do the transition straight away, I carried on. It was a bit mechanical for me. I came from a hip hop and reggae background so I was all over the jungle. When drum & bass first came, the noises were a bit on the dark side to the uplifting side of where I was used to coming from, after the breaking of the acid house and hardcore scene when it was all about the feel good factor. It was more about the euphoric thing that I loved, when it got a bit mechanical and more analogue with programmed beats I wasn’t really into it in the beginning, it wasn’t really a bit of me. It started getting a bit funkier and then that’s when I thought I was a bit more into it.”
When quizzed about whether jungle would ever return to its peaked form, reactions are mixed. Finn is optimistic, “I think slowly but surely it kind of has, maybe it’s had its day but I still think it’s got legs because I still go out and do jungle sets and I look at the age group in the crowd and see that they were not around 12 or 15 years ago. The reaction to it is sometimes superior to the new stuff.” Whereas Dugs feels more reserved, “I don’t think it will. You’re always going to have a crowd of people that are willing to go and enjoy it, but as for it making a comeback I don’t know. I don’t even think I would want it to, I’m quite happy with the fact that it’s quite niche and the people that come to these things come because they like it, not because its flavour of the month, which once again ends up bringing its own problems.” Regardless of its current stance, both DJs continue to push jungle both old and new. They house parties for the true junglists, in tiny sweat boxes for Dugs’ Ribena Jungle raves, or ultimate jungle and drum & bass holidays with Finn’s curated Ibizan Sunbeatz that keeps the ‘bastard child’ of dance music truly alive and skanking.
Written by David Sullivan