UK Garage has seen a decline in the last few years, with the rise of UK funky replacing its once prominent place. However, understanding the importance of UK Garage is relevant in grasping how the UK’s underground music was evolving. In the 90’s, around the same time that the US was doling out a soulful yet garage vibe, the UK was creating something a little faster, a little tougher.
The soaring prices of imports from the US meant getting your hands on records was increasingly difficult, UK producers started to fill the void themselves by making their own. Grant Nelson and others contributed to a sound that had a particularly ‘British’ flavour and emulated the current feelings in some of the urban areas of larger cities. Originating from early jungle and rave scenes around London, the sound of garage met a need for something a little less dark than Jungle had become. Todd Edwards, making the move from across the pond to the UK, is often hailed at the ‘Godfather’ of UKG and is known for his visionary style of vocal. It is also said that women were the first to respond to garage, and where the women went, a lot of men followed.
As UKG began to grown it would morph and weave its way into what we know of garage today. MC’s became a huge part of the scene as they took up at the mic at many parties and clubs themselves were inspiring a new generation of artists. Talent like Artful Dodger, Ms Dynamite, The Streets and Mis-Teeq emerged; Mike Skinner of The Streets was creating honest, real music and ‘Original Pirate Material’ crossed over into mainstream charts.
Dizzee Racal ▶ Dylan Mills has been making music since the early 2000's and his blend of grime, garage, bassline and British hiphop has been extremely successful.
Grant Nelson ▶ Known to many as the 'Godfather' of Uk garage due to the many hits on his Nice 'N' Ripe label. He has DJed and producer under names like Wisdokta, Bump & Flex & N'n'G.
Jeremy Sylvester ▶ A huge part of the UK dance scene since the 90's, he's had 3 top 20 singles and has sold over 4 million records worldwide.
Mike Millrain ▶ Mike Millrain has been a huge part of Garage since the 90's and is the main artist behind the label Nice 'N' Ripe. He is also known for his work with Mike Skinner of The Streets.
MJ Cole ▶ Matthew James Coleman is a name synonymous with UK Garage. Making music since the 1990's and was nominated for the Mercury Music Price in 2000 for his debut album 'Sincere'.
Ms. Dynamite ▶ Niomi McLean-Daley is a very well known Garage, and R&B artist. She is the recipient of the Mercury Prize, Brit Awards, and MOBO awards.
Sunship ▶ The prolific UK garage crew of Ceri Evans, Chunky and James Dowbekin are well known in the dance circuit and there remixes of Craig David's 'Fill Me In' and others are still played out in clubs today.
Burial ▶ Burial, aka Will Bevan, falls under a number of genres. He is well known for his anonymity as well as his two incredible studio albums.
DJ Zinc ▶ Ben Pettit is known for his 1995's 'Super Sharp Shooter'. He stopped making Drum & Bass in 2007 due to 'detachment from the scene' but is still thought of as part of it's history.
Jeremy Sylvester (Interviewed by HTPS)
I started in the early 90's producing Jungle/Dnb under the name Dubtronix in Birmingham where I grew up. As the UK garage scene was emerging, I moved to London and signed to nice n Ripe Records (who were the pioneering UK Garage label at the time) where I released under various names including Club Asylum, G.O.D Limited, Strickly Dubz, Groove Connection2, Miles Fontaine, Sly, Deep Cover Inc and many other releases including white label bootlegs.
My move to London is where I fell in love with the music, constantly listening to underground pirate radio, Kiss Fm, with DJs/producers such as Tuff Jam, Todd Edwards, Smack Productions, Eddie Perez, Grant Nelson, DJ EZ, Armand Van Heldon & Roger Sanchez. Eventually venturing into clubland with nights such as Twice & Nice, Cookies & Cream and others.
There were many stand-out tracks for me and it’s very hard to pick out just one, but I would say Tuff jam ‘Track no Name’ and Grant Nelson’s ‘Together’ were definitely up there for me. In terms of my favourite UKG artists, there are so many, I could spend all day here writing about it. I would say UK based producers such as Tuff Jam, Grant Nelson, MJ Cole, Sunship, Industry Standards Clayton Mitchel & Dave Dellar, Omar from RIP productions and many others. USA producers such as Todd Edwards, Early Masters at Work, Roger Sanchez and Eric Morillio, Armand Van Heldon, Eddie Perez, Smack Productions and whole load more.
Grant Nelson (Interviewed by HTPS)
I love Garage's scope and creativity. It’s a genre where anything goes. It’s not tied to a 4x4 house beat and musically it takes influence from everywhere. Also vocal / song wise pretty much anything can work. It’s a very creative genre to produce and a lot of fun to do it. In it’s essence, Garage, much like Detroit Techno, was born from a desire to say and do something that meant something. It gave anybody with the desire to do it a platform to express themselves musically and lyrically and it created it’s own lifestyle and culture in doing so. Music has sadly become more of a background thing these days for a lot of people, as opposed to a way of life for which it certainly was for anybody involved in the Garage scene back in the late 90’s. Everybody from the producers to the DJs, promoters and of course the fans and clubbers lived and breathed this thing, and above all, it was ours and we were proud of it! If just a tiny slice of that feeling comes back with the new garage scene you are in for one hell of a ride!
A memory that stands out is the first time I heard the Bump and Flex remix of Dee-tah in a club. I wasn't very happy with it when it was finished, didn't feel like it was complete and certainly didn't expect it to get the reaction that it got. I was in The Colosseum in London and I think it was Ramsey & Fen that dropped it. The place went mental. That taught me a good lesson that you never really know what is going to work until it’s out there! I guess another highlight was getting to perform on Top Of The Pops as N’n’G with Norris Windross and Kallaghan with our “Right Before My Eyes” single. That was pretty cool and a bit of a childhood dream come true!
There is a big revival swell out there right now with a lot of young DJ’s discovering the original garage and 2 step records and pushing them hard, but there is also a wealth of talented new producers bringing their own version of garage to the party. I have no doubt that garage is about to have it’s second coming and that it will possibly be bigger and brighter than it was before. It was a very special moment in musical history first time around, for many reasons, and I think the scene is set for it’s next incarnation. One thing is for sure, it will be massive!