An Interview with Paul Ibiza on the Birth of Jungle

An Interview with Paul Ibiza on the Birth of Jungle

Paul Ibiza witnessed and shaped the birth of jungle music through his work as an event promoter, label boss and all round jungle ambassador. His label is credited with the first ever jungle release in 1991.

Paul took us through the pre-94 days of jungle, joining the dots between musical influences, the mechanics of setting up a label and the artists who helped shape the sound.

A lot of people think that jungle was born in 94

Naaaaaah! Jungle was born in 91. The first record that ever mentioned jungle was on Ibiza Records 8 with ‘Jungle Techno’ (by Noise Factory).

 

Tell us about the formative days of jungle then

Let’s go back to the early rave scene. In those days, the music was imported from America, Chicago specifically. There was a lot of electro and also music from your ends (he knows I’m a Northerner!) like the Hacienda in Manchester with artists like A Guy Called Gerald. There was also an influence from the Balearic beats in Ibiza. These were the type of tunes that were coming out around that time, I’m talking about 88 goin’ into 89, coz that’s the time that I started and fantastic Ibiza was born in 89 being a London outfit before the raves moved into the fields

All these warehouse parties were running in London. You had Sunrise, Energy, Genesis and you had Biology but this started to break down because the media reacted hysterically to kids taking ecstasy. The old bill began shutting the parties down.

It changed the game and the landscape in London. The parties moved to the countryside and that’s where the field raves started coming into play. Sunrise and Biology and Energy all took their raves to the field.

London was starving then because most of the raves had been taken away so people like myself (Fantastic Ibiza) and Joe (Joe Wieczorek) from Labyrinth in Dalston and a guy called Phil who ran Desire in London, we joined forces and became some of the only promoters putting on raves in London at that time (89).

So how were you able to do that?

We knew how to do it. I got the Black Women’s centre near Broadwater Farm, I knew the caretaker and it was a private hire so the police couldn’t shut it down. We found loopholes. We used to get a catering license, so the police couldn’t shut us down.

Joe then found the Four Aces Club (a well known reggae club started in 60s) he started Labyrinth from there and then the legal warehouses started springing up like Tasco Warehouse, Bagleys etc.

When I started getting shut down too, that’s when Ibiza records was formed. I thought, ‘I’m gonna go into plastic’. They can shut down the raves but they cannot shut down the vinyl!

So how did you get your vinyl operation up and running?

I started doing my homework I began asking questions as my dad had a sound called Billy The Clown alongside Fatman Sound in 62. I found JTS and Music House (mastering and dubplate studios). JTS is run by Keith who owns Jah Tubby’s World Sound System, a sound that started in 1971. Then you had Chris at Music House who had a band called Black Slate, he was doing dubs for all the reggae men.

When I found Music House, it was easy, I told Chris, ‘this is the new thing coming, it’s called hardcore’, (the term jungle was not used at that time). When he first heard it, he said ‘this is mad music man’. I said ‘Chris, this is the future’. He found it a bit mad because he was used to cutting reggae and this new hardcore stuff was a bit noisy for him but over time he got use to how I wanted the cut it loud as I was breaking musical rules.

The first person to get all my dubs was Top Buzz reason being Mad P is my older brother who worked with Mikey B and Jason Kaye. We started together in London. We said, ‘right, you lot run the DJ thing and I will pump you with the dubplates from Ibiza Records.’ That’s how Ibiza grew so quick and Top Buzz grew at the same time.

What influenced the sound?

A label called R & S Records in Germany had a tune by Joey Beltram called ‘My Sound’, that was the first time I heard a ragga sample in hardcore. I was like ‘look at that!’ I was in the Astoria with Top Buzz and that tune was on, everyone was going mad. That was around 89. Another key track was ‘Hooligan 69’ by The Ragga Twins on Shut Up and Dance. The ragga flavor started to creep into the music but it wasn’t called jungle, it was still hardcore.

Still 4/4 driven, with no breakbeats?

Yes, strictly hardcore, 4/4 beats all the way. As Ibiza records got into the hardcore thing, we started bringing our own influences into it, the ragga basslines and breakbeats. We love our bass! We went round to a few audio shops to buy equipment to build a studio and nobody knew what we were talking about. Until we found Turn Keys an audio shop based Charring Cross Road in Westend, the guy told us he knew what we were looking for. We bought a 950 (Akai Sampler), an Atari computer, a Spirit mixer and a DAT Recorder, and the music program Cubase. We had no idea how to put the studio together until James Stephens (Noise Factory) came along.

So who was in your crew?

It was myself and Neil (who later left and formed Redskin Records) who were trying to work out the studio. Then Neil said he knows someone and introduce me to James Stephens (Noise Factory), who use to make dubplates for Fatman Sound System at the time he helped to set up the studio. Later on we were joined by Terry T (also known as Knowledge & Wisdom). Also Chris Mcfarlane (also known as Potential Bad Boy) joined the crew.

James (Noise Factory) was with Ibiza Records up to our 12th release and at that point he went off to form 3Rd Party with Terry T and a guy called Kevin Mullqueen. James then later joined Kemet Records (all highly influential labels in their own right). If it wasn’t for him, there would be no jungle now!

We started hearing things in the studio. We we’re smashing beats together and we heard this sound creeping through our music. Whilst we were working on our 8th release there was an LP on the floor, a James Brown release called ‘In theJungle Groove’, 1975. So I said, ‘it must be a sign’. We agreed the track we were working on ,‘sounds jungly’, and this was when ‘jungle techno’ was born. We started to use the term jungle from then on. We weren’t the first to use the word jungle to describe new music.

(It’s worth mentioning that this particular James Brown LP features tracks from which beats were taken that formed many jungle tracks.)

The term Jungle was also used in America in the 1930s, aka Jungle Jazz. There is an area called Jungle in Kingston Jamaica that was linked to the political violence instability of the 70s. As a result of this reggae also uses the term jungle. (ie – Concrete Jungle by Bob Marley or Blackboard Jungle Dub by Lee Scratch Perry). Also The Jungle Brothers who were involved in Hip Hop in 1980s used the term and released a track called ‘I’ll house you – Straight out the Jungle’ 1988.

So it felt like that term fitted at the time

That’s right and as time went on things started to grow. Potential Bad Boy, he came up with our 9th release on Ibiza Records with a track called ‘Greetings’. That was his first jungle track on my label. He was one of the first artists to come in on the jungle vibes as opposed to hardcore.

Greetings By Potential Bad Boy, an excellent early example of jungle featuring a ragga bassline, looped breaks and jungly synths but retaining the 4/4 hardcore beat.

 

At this time it was my brother Mad P from Top Buzz who started saying ‘time to take jungle inna the fields’ (as sampled on Taktix – The Way). I was sampled saying ‘hardcore, hardcore, junglism, junglism’ from a Fantazia rave tape. These samples helped to shape the music.

Other DJs and companies were starting to phone me up and saying ‘I heard you’ve got this jungle’. They were asking for tunes and I realised, this thing is growing. My stuff was selling like hotcakes. I was doing 3k/4k per tune out of my house, distributed by myself.

We were the first to do Jungle raves like, ‘Ghetto Under the Sun’ in 1992 at the Turkish Centre Kingsland High road in Stoke Newington.

In 1993 we started to notice that the hardcore scene was dying off and that a racial undertone was happening. A lot of black kids weren’t getting into the raves and tracks like ‘The Bouncer‘ by Kicks Like a Mule saying, ‘Your names not down, your not coming in’ and ‘not tonight, your not on the list’, reflected what was happening.

I decided to do something about it because the black inner city kids were being left out so I started Jungle Splash at The Rocket Holloway Road in 1994. The black inner-city kids were welcome as was everyone regardless of colour etc. A lot of promotors told me not to do it but I felt it was my duty to give the inner-city something and Jungle Splash is still running today in 2016.

Back then I started to bring artists through I found UK Apache, Shy FX and many more. Jungle Splash wasn’t just a rave, it became more of an exhibition for the jungle music. I brought over Half Pint (an established reggae artist) into the game and I began working with Jet Star.

With Jet Star I created the legendary compilations. ‘Jungle Hits‘ (volume 1 & 2). Volume 1 went to No1 in the national compilations chart. I was working with their A&R man called Wayne from Jet Star. He gave me a blank cheque-book and told me to go and get the tunes licensed. He wasn’t bothered how much they cost. If they wanted £5k, then they got it.

 

Because of this release, Telstar (British mainstream record label) knocked on my door and we made the ‘Jungle Mania’ compilations. I got a gold disc for that, we sold 100,000 copies of Jungle Mania ’94.

 

You’ve mentioned Potential Badboy as being one of the early jungle ‘disciples’ who else was around at that time? 

From my perspective, I go by the labels. There was Ian who ran Reinforced Records, John Aymer from Reel II Reel and Shut Up & Dance.

A lot of other labels started making Jungle tunes as well. So you had Tom & Jerry, Joker, Formation, Philly Blunt, Suburban Base and Moving Shadow to mention a few

I’ll mention Goldie. In the early 90s he was going out with Kemistry who lived on my road. She was a DJ who loved the jungle techno sound. She said, ‘I’m gonna bring someone to meet you’ and she brought Golide to my house. I thought ‘Who’s this kid?’ he had spray can in his hand and no music to play me. He offered to spray some images on my record sleeves! I told him I’m not into hip hop and this is a British thing.

Tell us a bit about the duplate culture of the time

Music House was the capital for the dubplates in 94. Everyone went there. If you went on a Friday it was always jammed. Everybody under the sun was there, Grooverider, Hype, etc. Every producer, every DJ, everyone!

How many machines did they have?

They had 2 machines called Neuman VMS 70 back then

How long did people wait to get there dub cut?

Ahhhhhhh. They’d be there all day. People would come at 12 and wouldn’t leave until 7pm because the queue was so long. Fights would break out there! If anyone had beef with anybody it would always come out down there. ‘Oi you nicked my sample!’ Certain artists even stopped going because they had beef.

Eventually people didn’t want to go there anymore because they were meeting too many people. So people would use other studios like Porkies or Tape 2 Tape.

So how were the records distributed?

There was Martin at Dancefloor in Streatham he was my first distributor. Martin was the guy who was going to Germany on a Thursday and getting the imports in and distributed up and down the country independently. He believed in Ibiza Records from the start and I was getting my hand on the imports first. I would sit there waiting for the van and then sample what I needed to sample to get it before anyone else. He was taking my stuff and selling it to Germany. Mo’s Music and Direct Force were also distributors I also used they were based in east London.

There was a guy called Mr. Music Man from Germany, he started to see his sales dropping because all the hardcore stuff was starting to die. So he came over to see what was going on, so I said ‘Mr Music Man, it ain’t happening anymore, the whole rave scene is changing.’ The new British sound was taking over. So he did what I’d done before, he started sampling. He started nicking all the British stuff and repacking it and sending it back into England

It reminds me of Jamaica in the 50s when all the sound systems started by importing r’n’b from America and then had the lightbulb moment when they started making there own versions and injecting their own culture into the music.

That’s it. Very similar. I have a background in sound system through my dad, so I’m well connected to that scene.

What’s the links?

I’m connected to the early sound system pioneers such as Fatman International, Fonso, Sir Bigs, Rocky Sound System back then, as my granddad had a garage round the back of our house (in the60s) and would rent the garage out to all soundmen. My dad would also be there as he had his own sound called Billy The Clown, so all the soundmen would come there on the weekend and share each other’s boxes. ‘I’m playing down here tonight, can I borrow your box’. I used to watch all this as a kid in the 70s. They would fix amps, paint boxes, etc… I never thought I’d end up doing that myself.

Let’s make it explicitly clear what the link is between reggae and soundsystem culture with the birth of jungle

It’s connected in a big way. We nicked all their basslines and all the vocal samples were from sound tapes. The new toasters started to come out of Jamaica like Half Pint and Yellowman. Loads of artists were springing up in Jamaica but now known in the UK. The sound tapes used to be recorded in split stereo, one side would be the music and one side the vocal. We’d isolate the vocals and bring them into our tracks. That’s why all these jungle tracks are full of vocals from sound clashes.

It had a big influence, that’s why back in 94 black inner-city kids could relate to it. They jumped on it very, very quickly. That’s why it grew so rapid. 

What are you doing now?

I’ve run Jungle Splash from 1994 until now. When jungle died down a bit after 94 we kept it going. We kept it in the back room when the garage took over in the late 90s and still did jungle raves. Then in 2003 I came out with ‘MC Convention’ (run in collaboration with MC Shabba D who Paul also managed) and had jungle in the back room. Jungle never died for me as I knew in the back of my mind it will come back again and it did.

We run Jungle Splash at The Brixton Jamm and have done for the last 8 years and it’s doing really well. It’s a new audience now. Jungle is moving on and there’s new players on the block. I’m pleased to see what’s happened but it all started out of my flat!

Me, James (Noise Factory), Terry T (Knowledge & Wisdom) and Chris (Potential Bad Boy), we sit and talk about it all the time, and think ‘fuck me man’, look at what’s happened. I will never stop because I love jungle and because it’s something we started. All I can say to the newcomers is respect the people who have come before you. As I respect the people who came before me and always honour them.

We have this new thing called Jungle Dub and we’re not selling it. It’s not about that. We’ve gone back to the sound system. I bought a sound system and taking it back full circle to the sound system days. We’ve got new music, new structure and the new audience. So next year will be a very interesting year, I’m really excited about it. The new kids really want to know what’s going on. It’s all good.

To me DnB is a form of jungle I used to get upset about this and say it’s not the same but I have realised that it is from the same vein! I don’t get upset any more.

We’re also gonna do a new event called ‘Reggae Splash’ so watch out for that in the future!

Words by Alex Deadman

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