Interview with Tobie Scopes – Serial Killaz
Leading the inception of the vocal led dutty reggae jungle since their formation in 2005, Tobie Scopes and his Serial Killaz partner Graham Warnock have relentlessly worked to develop today’s jungle scene into a fruitful and diverse international movement. Developing their own jungle sound that sees Serial Killaz pumping positive vibes into raves every weekend, while nurturing new producers through their premier imprint Serial Killaz Recordings, the pair keep the original foundations of the scene alive while forever looking forward to the future.
With a history that starts well before the birth of jungle, and an understanding of music as a whole that has led to his influence into the industry for well over 20 years, Serial Killaz’ Tobie Scopes speaks to Junglist Network and discusses his time within the development of jungle and his work current work with Serial Killaz and the scene today.
- Reggae and soundsystem clearly is a huge influence into your production. How do you feel today’s reggae soundsystem influences jungle?
I think jungle in general is more influenced by the old school reggae sound, the actual music. I’ve been a big fan of reggae for well over 20 years and the music has changed a lot, like it does in all genres. It went for me very simply from reggae, to ragga in the mid-80s to early 90s, to then dancehall. The dancehall nowadays is so far removed from anything we know as ragga or jungle, and it doesn’t influence us almost at all. They were both at their peak back in the mid-90s, now if we are influenced by any kind of reggae it’s certainly the earlier stuff to a point. As far as the soundsystem culture, it’s kind of the same as it has always been. You’ve still got your ‘clash going on, and everything has got bigger as well. Soundclash competitions are still really big and I think dancehall and reggae are as big as they have ever been. You see it really creeping into other types of music, with dubstep, and more than anything, bass music. Diplo, Toddla T, Major Lazer, they are more influenced by the new dancehall stuff, you can hear it.
- Do you think they are influenced by jungle?
I do, I think they’re more influenced by jungle than people realise. I know Toddla T was a massive jungle fan before he started doing what he does. We know him, we remix for him, and I know that Diplo have a couple of drum & bass guys signed to their label. Everyone is influenced by drum & bass and jungle whether they know it or not.
- What was your involvement with dance music before jungle?
I was going to clubs like AWOL at Paradise Club in Islington and seeing the DJs there, Kenny, Micky, Darren, Randall and Hype as well. I remember the day very well, Micky was playing his usual set and he played two tracks back to back and because I was such a chicken back then I got my girlfriend to go up to the decks and ask Micky what that tune was. The first one was ‘Code Red’ by Congo Natty and the second one that he mixed into it which really blew me away was DJ Tactix ‘The Way’ VIP – it was created for the DJs and was never getting released. I went away that night and I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t get hold of it and I obsessed over it for 24 hours. When I got home I pulled out a Back 2 Basics record with a phone number on the back, rang them on the Monday explained I was a DJ and I needed to get hold of that tune and they said I had to cut it on a dubplate but I had to go to Birmingham to do it, so that’s what I did. I hung around with them and over the next few months they invited me into the studio and I went in and made a tune called ‘Deeper Life’ under the name Chimera and just by accident it went fucking massive and it’s probably bigger than any tune we have done as Serial Killaz.
- Since the development of Serial Killaz, have you seen the jungle scene change in any way?
I’ve been into it way before it was even called jungle, from the hardcore, rave and acid house days. I’ve been in it since the late 80s, its progressed loads. I think we’ve had waves, you had the original jungle scene which was from late 92 to 97, then after that you had the Bukem and Metalheadz sound dominating it more than anything, the ragga jungle scene was almost kicked out a little bit due to violence and we had this new wave of Bukem and Goldie making fantastic music and taking the music even bigger. Jungle was kind of ignored for quite a few years, apart for a few people on the fringes or the very underground doing it. Around 2002 people started having enough of the techy sound that had come through in the past few years and it needed something new to come in. The second wave of jungle came from Calibre, Redeyez, Alix Perez and they were all doing a liquid rolling style that they had always done, but sampled dub records and reggae records. Then at the same sort of time Benny Page popped up and he had Marcus Visionary, and even people like Hazard started having a ragga feel. It just seemed to all come together again and we were just starting to make tunes at that time. Now you’ve had us come through, Benny Page has got even bigger and you’ve had people like Aries and Jacky Murda and people from all over the world that had been making jungle and it has just gone massive, jungle is bigger than it has ever been. That’s proven by us DJing all over the world every weekend, we are in two or three different countries every weekend. They all love the reggae jungle sound.
- Do you notice a different vibe and sound in different areas?
I think you do notice it in different countries, when you are playing in Italy you can tell you’re playing in Italy, when you are playing in Miami you can tell you are playing in Miami, there and different crowds and different styles. At the end of the day it all has that underlying sound of jungle. Now with the internet and YouTube and everybody being able to spread their sound a lot more and a lot quicker it’s now one melting pot. I think this new jungle sound we had a big hand in making, what Benny, Aries, Marcus and Jacky Murda are making now, we had a big hand in that, we invented that sound. Putting 64 bars of a reggae tune right in the middle of it, the horns and that soundclash feeling put on to vinyl which is what I’ve always wanted. I grew up listening to soundclash tapes and I loved the energy, with guys speaking this almost alien language because it was so fast in such thick Jamaican accents. When I started making jungle I wanted to get that kind of intensity onto vinyl.
- You are great supporters of new jungle through Serial Killaz Recording, what advice do you give to new producers attempting to carve a sound in jungle?
I’ve done A&R at various record companies for 20 years and I have always had to give people advice. We’ve got two labels and we have just signed a load of artists. It’s funny, because people that make tracks for our label – I want to sign them because I like their tunes and I like their originality – they try to do tracks that sound exactly like ours. That’s not what I want, because we do that, I want them to do their sound. I think originality is definitely the key but with any kind of dance music you can’t be too original, drum & bass especially. There is a narrow line that you must kind of follow until you have made a big name for yourself. It’s not like you can experiment that wildly. It kind of has to have a certain sound, if you are making a jump up tune it kind of has to sound like Sub Zero or Original Sin. People are familiar with that sound, they like that sound and that’s what they buy into.
- Who are you working with at the moment?
The Jam Thieves who are from Brazil and making fantastic music, Upgrade from Norwich who is a fantastic young producer who is making great music, FLeCK from Greece who is fantastic and DJ Kane from Canada who has given us a load of wonderful music to put out. One of the people we work with and who we were very much influenced by is Congo Natty, Rebel MC and his Congo Natty crew. We do tracks for him quite a lot and we remix a lot of his tracks. The people that really influenced us back in the day was Shut Up And Dance, the Ragga Twins and Rebel MC. Those three especially were very influential. They pretty much made that jungle sound when it wasn’t even called jungle. When they made it was hip hop breaks sped up to quite a fast speed with reggae basslines and little reggae bleeps with MCing over the top.
- What else have you got coming up?
Loads, it’s the most exciting time for us as a label. We have got a new website being launched and for the first time we are actually signing artists and bringing them to our label. We’ve got the next 15 releases and we have probably got too much if anything which will all becoming over the next few months. It’s a new phase of our Serial Killaz label, and we’ve also got a label called Street Life which I started a few years ago to originally put out Top Cat’s album which progressed onto other things. So those will be the two main labels, but you’ve also got Grahams V2E label as well. There is going to be music coming on all those labels by us and other artists.
- Where do you see jungle in the next 20 years?
It’s been going for over 20 now, if you had said to me back in the 90s “Do you think jungle would still be going in 20 years?” I would have probably said no. If you said “Do you think you will be involved in jungle in 20 years?” I would have probably said I doubt it, everyone gets older, has kids and moves on. Jungle has kept me in a job from the age of 18 and I’m really lucky, for me it has been my life. Where will jungle be in 20 years I don’t know, but as long as I’m involved in it I don’t care. I hope it will be a strong as ever, as vibrant as ever and I want to still be right at the top of the pile with Serial Killaz still being the best jungle artists, with a whole crew of artists that we have brought through those 20 years. If we had a little jungle empire and crew, that would make me very happy.