Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Unsung Heroes Of Breakbeat - an interview with Zak of Minds At Large

Although magazines such as Eternity, Blaze, and Atmosphere featured plenty of interviews, there were still many producers that received little or no media coverage back in the day. This was the case with Minds At Large, who were responsible for classic hardcore tunes such as Rough Justice and Spinechiller back in 1992/93 and continued in later years to release some quality drum & bass tunes. Nebkins/Nebbers has tracked down Zak of Minds At Large for this in-depth interview that sheds some light on their releases and musical background. Thanks to Zak and Nebkins for taking the time to do this interview.


Unsung Heroes Of Breakbeat - an interview with Zak of Minds At Large

A few months ago I spotted a record http://www.discogs.com/Minds-At-Large-Shit-Happens-Whats-It-All-About/release/1160826 on Discogs that looked interesting. It had a sound clip and upon listening my ears were filled with the sounds of African drums, lush atmospherics and upon the drop some absolutely tearing amens. The tune would not have sounded out of place on a vintage Bukem set from the mid 90’s.

The label was Choicest Music and the artist name was Minds At Large. This didn’t ring a bell with me but the tune was wicked and amongst the copies listed for sale was one from a seller called Zak111. A quick scan through the sellers other records for sale (a small list) alerted me to the fact that he had multiple copies of a couple of other rare and classic tunes I loved for sale; the Rough Justice / No Justice white label ZAK001, the then accredited Warrior Bass – Future World / Spinechiller release on Future Vinyl and the rare Feel The Vibe 12” on Deadly Disks.

All three were in my collection and firm favourites that I’d heard on mix tapes from Randall and Bukem to name a few. Alarm bells rang in my head. If a seller has multiple copies of records then they are either the artist, record label owner or a lucky person who has stumbled on old distributor stock (Great Asset etc etc). This together with the fact that the sellers name matched the catalogue number on the Rough Justice 12” got me thinking. Then came the updates on Discogs. In one fell swoop Unknown Artist on the ZAK001 and Deadly Disks and the Warrior Bass on the Future Vinyl 12” metamorphosized into Minds At Large. The updater? Zak111


I fired away an offer on the Choicest Music – MAL006 and sent my respect to Zak111 for being the producer of some classic hardcore tracks. I also looked at the catalogue numbers for Choicest Music. If there was a 006 where were 001-005 hiding? I found MAL001
http://www.discogs.com/Minds-At-Large-Untitled/release/522077 hiding on Discogs already accredited to Not On Label and MAL004 http://www.discogs.com/Minds-At-Large-Set-Me-Free/release/2034324 on Rolldabeats which I quickly copied across. So where were MAL002, MAL003 and MAL005?

Several emails went back and forth between me and Zak111 on Discogs and he managed to locate copies of MAL002
http://www.discogs.com/Minds-At-Large-Euphoria/release/2061519 and MAL005 http://www.discogs.com/Minds-At-Large-Elevate-Your-Mind-Abstractions/release/2057108 and I was fortunate to purchase these along with MAL001 and MAL004. Unfortunately only one copy of MAL003 (Eastern Elements EP) surfaced in Zak111’s digging but he also dug up some copies of another track he made with the cat number BEL001.

With this back catalogue of classic tracks I asked Zak111 if he was happy to answer some questions about his involvement in the scene and here are the fruits of that labour:


Nebbers: Please introduce yourself to everyone.
Zak:
I’m known as Zak. Age 38. I grew up in Watford and now live in close by Bushey.

1980’s

Nebbers:
Can you tell us about your musical experience in the 1980’s. Were you a hip hop, soul or house man?
Zak:
All 3. I started with electro/hip hop/funk breaks from about 82. I was bboying (break dancing) from 83-86. I then also got into soul/jazz funk and rare groove and then house/hip-house etc.

Nebbers: Were you a raver and if so what raves did you go to?
Zak: My first big rave was in 89, Biology in Elstree, just up the road from me. I think it was one of the first on a truly grand scale and for me one of the best.

Nebbers:
When did you start DJ’ing and did you play out anywhere?
Zak:
I had DJ friends in the mid 80’s when I was into hip hop and used to buy records from Groove records in Soho. Got my decks in 1987. Played at local jams and house parties mostly, a couple of jams in Old Street and I had a one off spot at Bagleys around 1993/4, with Hoj who was part of MAL.

Nebbers: What artists / tracks influenced you in the 80’s?
Zak:
Too many to mention from that era. For house it was probably Fingers Inc – Can You Feel It. Hip hop artists like Demon Boyz, Ultra Magnetic MC’s. Jazz Funk - Lonnie Liston Smith – Expansions etc, Roy Ayers, Loose Ends and many many more.

Nebbers:
What DJ’s influenced you in the early years?
Zak:
When I was about 10/11 I was fed up with all the pop music etc and then thank god electro & hip-hop came along. I used to tune into Dave Allen on Radio1 and also Tim Westwood on LWR, I was hooked. A few other DJ’s on LWR used to mix hip-hop with soul. Other DJ’s were DJ Pogo, DJ Supreme from Hijack, DJ Fingers and many others.

1990’s


Nebbers: Were you an initial fan of the emerging breakbeat scene or did it take time to adjust to this radical new music?
Zak: For me it was a natural progression, I was always into beats and breaks and around the underground music scene. I kinda grew with it.

Nebbers:
When did you get into music production? Was it a home set up or more professional studio? Zak: It was around 1991 and I was itching to make tracks. I did have a couple of drum machines but no decent equipment like a sampler and couldn’t afford it so I just phoned around for weeks to find a studio cheap enough. Eventually I found Jumbo Studios in Dollis Hill where a guy called Hamish had one of the studios, he was also the engineer. That was when I made my first proper track Rough Justice / No Justice. We had Reinforced records upstairs, Goldie used pop in now & then and often bigged up our tracks.

Nebbers:
What scene people / DJ's did you know personally?
Zak:
LTJ Bukem. I knew him quite well since years before he established himself he lived a stones throw away from me. Also knew Tayla and Conrad and a few other local heads. I eventually met people like Peshay, Randall, Nicky Blackmarket, Dr S Gachet, DJ Trace, Swan E etc.

Nebbers: Were there any tracks made before ZAK001 (Rough Justice/No Justice)?
Zak: None that were released. There were mess about tracks on my drum machine and Amiga and the feedback I had was good so I continued to try and make better music. Actually there was one track that me and my drummer mate Danny and a soul singer called Joe. It was probably around 1988. Joe was much older than us, he made his own tracks in studios and was a backing vocalist. I used to hassle him to get us in a studio and one day he did. We were in studio on a ship on the river Thames. In one day we came out with soul funk track without any sequencing. We just laid the tracks down one by one onto tape and mixed down. Wasn’t that bad a result either.

Nebbers:
What tracks / labels / raves / DJ’s influenced you for the first record you released ZAK001 (Rough Justice/No Justice)?
Zak:
Now you’re asking.... I was close to what Bukem was doing as I knew him, his first track, and his mixes were definitely an influence. Also other artists early on like Foul Play and Omni Trio. Security by the Beat Club was a dark but fat tune and gave me lots of ideas. I also had been listening to other genres of music, some Santana, Ozric Tentacles, and Ravi Shankar. I guess I drew influence from these, hip hop and all the house & jungle that was around.

ROUGH JUSTICE / NO JUSTICE – ZAK001





Nebbers: From Discogs I see that this record is attributed to Minds At Large but this was only to group together your releases as Minds At Large came later in 1993. Who were the producers of the record?
Zak:
Me and a mate called Ejaz. No Justice was just me.

Nebbers:
What equipment did you use to make the record? Where did you get the samples from (breakbeats and other sounds)?
Zak:
In Jumbo Studios with Hamish with an Akai S1000 and a synth that I can’t remember. I’d collected tons of breaks. The main break we used in Rough Justice was eventually used by Prodigy in Firestarter. We also used a snippet from Hard Times by Pablo Gad and even some tabla drums that I used in No Justice. We used drum machine patterns from an RX7.

Nebbers:
When was your ZAK released and how many copies did you press up?
Zak: It was around 1991/2 I think (Editor: Mid 1992 fits in with when it first started appearing on mixtapes). 1000 copies.

Nebbers:
Did you use a distributor or sell yourself? Who stuck on the stickers haha!?
Zak:
Distributed & did the stickers myself. I soon bumped into a distributor, a guy called Paul of Symphony Sound from Norbury South London.

Nebbers: Did any DJ’s get a Dubplate?
Zak:
Only Bukem had this one on dub.

Nebbers: What was your recollection of the reaction of the record – from a DJ or clubbers?
Zak:
It did really well, the shops sold out. We went out to AWOL and Mickey Finn dropped it. People were loving it. Also heard it on pirate radio and a few other raves we went to.

Nebbers:
Why such a high BPM?
Zak:
It sounded good at the time lol.

Nebbers:
What DJ’s did you get to know on the scene and what input did they give to you?
Zak:
I remember I was in a record shop in Forest Gate (Editor: Most likely De Underground Records) to give them another box of records. Randall was next to me and I didn’t know. When he realised it was my track he bigged me up and took my number for future dubplates.

Nebbers: Where were you clubbing during the 1992 period?
Zak:
AWOL in Angel was a regular haunt; the Ministry AWOL sessions were heavy. Big raves like Sunrise, Energy and Universe. Not sure which year to be honest. I also went along with Bukem when he used to play out, and drop my dubplates.

Nebbers:
Where were you buying records during the 1992 period?
Zak: From Black Market, hip-hop & other stuff from Vinyl Solution in Portebello Road.


FUTURE WORLD / SPINECHILLER – FUTURE01




Nebbers: How did you hook up and have the debut release on the Future Vinyl label? Was it your label?
Zak:
I was unaware of the well known label Future Vinyl and had no affiliation with it, not sure if they came along after me. FUTURE 01 was based on the track name Future World. I didn’t see it as starting a label at the time. When I was mastering and the engineer would ask for a cat # so I just made it up from the track name. (Editor: From this information it is pretty obvious that FUTURE 01 was not the first release on Future Vinyl but instead just a one off release).

Nebbers:
I first heard Bukem playing this on his Yaman 9 studio tape and it stood out on the tape as being way ahead of its time. What influenced you to make what is basically a piece of proto drum and bass?
Zak:
I did this 12” on my own. I think it was Security by the Beat Club that influenced the dark eerie feel of the track. I had drum patterns on my drum machine and some other samples that I was keen to use. I wanted the deepest bass line and experimented a lot to make it sound different.

Nebbers: What equipment did you use to make the record? Where did you get the samples from (breakbeats and other sounds)?
Zak:
At Jumbo studios again with the Akai S1000, my SR16 drum machine and the unknown synth. Hamish had got used to working with me so we got shit down quicker and the production got cleaner. We argued when I went against the “this is how it’s meant to be done” rules lol.

Nebbers: When was this made / released? And how many copies were pressed up?
Zak: I can’t remember for sure, 1992 maybe. 1000 copies

Nebbers: What was your recollection of the reaction of the record – from a DJ or clubbers?
Zak:
The best response I had for this one was by a guy behind the counter at Black Market, not Nicky or Ray Keith but he was another DJ. When I told him “I made that track” he just beat the left side of his chest and shook my hand and told me he how deep & heavy it was lol. Had a good response from Bukem and other DJ’s too.

Nebbers:
Where were you clubbing during the early 1993 period?
Zak:
As above, and Astoria, Heaven, Milky Bar, the one at Vauxhall Arches too, various other raves. The Warehouse one in Luton/Dunstable, phone up job. Can’t remember what it was called, urrgh!

Nebbers:
What was your next release? MAL001 or the Deadly Disks 12”?
Zak:
Deadly Disks.

Nebbers:
How did you come up with Minds At Large name?
Zak:
Where I worked around 1993 there was this guy, he used to read books a lot and told me about Aldous Huxley’s books. He lent me Brave New World which I read. He told me about Doors of Perception and the mind at large. Never read the book but I liked it and used it.

FEEL THE VIBE – DEADLY DISKS – DEADLY01

DEADLY01 -A - Feel The Vibe (Deadly Drum Mix) by ethereal94

DEADLY01 -B1 - Feel The Vibe (Rude Mix) by ethereal94

DEADLY01 -B2 - Feel The Vibe (Excursion) by ethereal94


Nebbers: Again I heard this on a Bukem Yaman tape and it had a sound of its own. Who were the producers on this record?
Zak:
I did the 45rpm side with a mate called Clarky. I had gathered all the samples and had rough outline for the track. I did the other 2 mixes on my own.

Nebbers: This was the only record of yours I have that had a full picture label? Was there any reason for this? Who designed it?
Zak:
Not great I know but I setup a PC and a crap printer and used a program called Pageplus to come up with it.

Nebbers:
What equipment did you use to make the record? Where did you get the samples from (breakbeats and other sounds)?
Zak: Jumbo again. The big synth sound I sampled from another tune and layered it over itself. The stab riff over the slower beats was played in on the keyboard.

Nebbers:
When was this made / released?
Zak:
Approx 1992/1993.

Nebbers: How many copies were pressed up? How was it distributed?
Zak:
1000. Self distribution on this one as Paul had gone missing.

Nebbers:
What was your recollection of the reaction of the record – from a DJ or clubbers?
Zak:
DJ Trace really bigged me up for this track when I was at Lucky Spin. He told me how well it went down in the US and he was smashing everywhere. He went down on my dubplate list. He always hooked me up with free vinyl after that, under the counter stuff. He became an influence, his tracks Babylon remixes/Coffee etc are killer tracks.


ALLSORTS EP – MAL001










Nebbers: You’ve mentioned to me before that DJ Trace played this on a dubplate. Who else was playing this as it seems hard to get hold of?
Zak:
Bukem got the DAT to cut a dub but I’m not sure if he did and was hard to get hold of. Bumped into DJ Trace at the mastering place in Holloway Road, he cut his dubs and cut one of mine too.

Nebbers: When was this made / released?
Zak:
Must have been 1993/4.

Nebbers:
What equipment did you use to make the record? Where did you get the samples from (breakbeats and other sounds)?
Zak:
These were the first tracks made with my own setup; I had Cubase on PC, an Akai S950 and a Korg Wavestation SR module. I made 2 of the tracks and had hooked up with Hoj who made the other 2. He had Atari Creator, Akai S2000 and Korg M1. We did a side each and became MAL.

Nebbers: How many copies were pressed up? How was it distributed?
Zak: I think we only did 500 of this and we had a mate do the distribution. I don’t think he did it well so we didn’t press any more.

Nebbers: What was your recollection of the rapidly evolving evolution of hardcore to darkcore to drum and bass/jungle from 1992 to late 1993?
Zak:
Hardcore was noisy and had the white glove crowd image, the majority never appealed to me. For me it was the tracks with fat or complicated breaks and heavy basses forming that raw sound; and the more musical tracks (intelligent D&B?) that you could listen to without being on an E. Tracks like Demons Theme - dark tune. Source Direct came through with that crisp clean sound. Photek too. When Bukem put out Earth Volume 1 I think it opened minds for this style of music.


MAL002-006 and BEL001


MAL002A - Minds At Large - Euphoria by ethereal94

MAL002AA1 - Minds At Large - Kali Weed by ethereal94

MAL002AA2 - Minds At Large - Step To Dis by ethereal94

MAL004A - Minds At Large - Set Me Free by ethereal94

MAL004A2 - Minds At Large - Spinechiller (Part II) by ethereal94

MAL004AA - Minds At Large - Wild & Free by ethereal94

MAL005A - Minds At Large - Elevate Your Mind by ethereal94

MAL005AA - Minds At Large - Abstractions by ethereal94

MAL006A - Minds At Large - What's It All About by ethereal94




Nebbers: These records are all white labels as far as I know stretching from 1993 to 1997. Any reason for this?
Zak:
Yeah we never hit it off with labels or major distributors so just continued to knock up test presses.

Nebbers:
Can you fill in the details on what you were doing between 1993-1997?
Zak: MAL continued making tracks, we bought better equipment and put out MAL002-MAL006. BEL001 was a couple of tracks I had made and wanted to get the test presses. Hoj didn’t have his tracks ready so I went ahead. I now had an Akai S3000 and a Roland JV2080. I had less time to distribute and concentrated on making the tracks. We did hook up with a distributor/media company, Vikas and Rachel got our stuff out to some shops and DJ’s. I think it lacked the personal touch of doing it yourself.

Nebbers:
Were you raving 1994 onwards?
Zak:
Yeah, maybe not quite as much.


OTHER QUESTIONS



Nebbers:
When did you stop making / releasing music? And why?
Zak:
By 1997 I got married. Hoj got married just before me. We kind of cut down on music and when my twins came along it was game over lol.

Nebbers:
What are you doing now?
Zak:
The family thang, working and bringing up kids. Got back into break dancing 6 years ago and run a training session & we compete and do shows. This has taken me back to my love of hip hop and funk breaks. Except this time round we have diggers, break DJ’s digging out some of illest breaks I ever heard. DJ Leacy (RIP) was a legendary breaks DJ and there are others that put out sick mixtapes. Recently I played out at a mates birthday jam after donkey’s years.

Nebbers: What are you opinions of the current music scene (Drum and Bass / Other styles)?
Zak:
I still love the tunes from back in the day and have all my records. The stuff these days doesn’t turn me on. I do tune into some of the pirate stations and the best bits are the old school ones. It’s possible that I just haven’t heard the right stuff, willing to check it out though.

Nebbers:
What record of yours do you rate the most? And why?
Zak:
There’s a couple that I haven’t released but to me are killer tracks. I’ve got quite few really good unreleased tracks and want to release them. Of the pressed up ones my personal faves are MAL006 - both tracks, Elevate Your Mind on MAL005, Spinechiller 1 & 2, Feel the Vibe, Future World, MAL001 both on my side (Track 1 - amen track with the vocal “I’ll be around”), Feel So High on MAL003? - This was used on a movie called Respect. MAL004 - love all 3.

Nebbers:
What record did you wished you had made?
Zak:
Rings Around Saturn - Photek or Horizons – LTJ Bukem or So Long – Seba & Lotek, there’s many others.

Nebbers:
Did you have any pseudonyms / make any other tracks that we might know off? Where there any tracks you made that might have only made it onto dubplate?
Zak:
Not really, I do have at least 5 tracks that were not released that I think are dope. I want to release them and re-release all the previous ones after remixing, boosting the levels and EQ’ing them.

Nebbers: Top 5 hardcore/drum and bass tunes?
Zak:
Seba Lotek – So Long. Bukem – Horizons / Demons Theme. CIA - Unknown. DJ Trace – Babylon Remixes (Both Sides) / Coffee. Chameleon – Close Your Eyes And Listen.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Dr S Gachet - Quest 'London Meets Midlands' - 20th March 1993



DJ Crystl - The Dark Crystl (Unreleased Mix) [Unreleased]
Jim Polo & Neil Vass - Rolling Energy [Dark Horse]
Johnny Jungle - Johnny (Bad Influence Mix) [Dee Jay]
Noise Factory - Breakage #4 [3rd Party]
Dr. S. Gachet - EXDK Remix [Labello Blanco]
The Whitehouse Crew - Where The Sun Don't Shine [Subliminal]
Mole The Dipper - Elaborate [Bear Necessities]
Dr. S. Gachet & Audio Maze - The Full Monty Boyz Remix [Labello Blanco]
Wots My Code - Dubplate [XLR8]
Bizzy B & Peshay – All Crew Hold Tight [Brain] 
Studio II - Dirty Games [Not On Label - ST 001]
Neuromancer - Pennywise (P.A. Mix) [Unreleased]
Tom And Jerry - Cat Got Your Tongue [Tom & Jerry]
Chaos & Julia Set - Atmosphere (Sub Base Field Mix) [Recoil]
Smooth But Hazzardous - We Are The Creator [Sound Entity]
Desire D.J's - Exstatic [2000 AD]
S.M.F. - Twisted Bungle [Rugged Vinyl]
Ash-A-Tack - Mother 2 Lousey [Dubwise]

Ellis Dee & Ratty - Pure X 'Roadblock 94 Part 2' - 19th February 1994

Ellis Dee

Side 1 - DOWNLOAD
Side 2 - DOWNLOAD

Ratty

Side 1 - DOWNLOAD
Side 2 - DOWNLOAD

Monday, 15 March 2010

Roy H & Wingnut - Cyndicut 100.4 FM - 10th March 1994

DOWNLOAD

Tracklisting:

Omni Trio - Renegade Snares (Foul Play remix) [Moving Shadow]
Boogie Times Tribe - The Dark Stranger (Origin Unknown Re-remix) [Suburban Base]
MA1 - Motion [Formation - MA 01]
Drum & Bass - Lowdown & Funky [Formation]
Eze G - Hurt Me [Unatural Light]
International Rude Boyz - Drum Programme (remix) [Formation]
N-Zo & DJ Invincible - Trippin' On Sunshine [Just Another Label]
DJ Rap & Aston - Get Rushed [Suburban Base]

Mad Ragga Jon & Stetly - Side B [Mad House] 
Desired State - Beyond Bass [Ram]
DJ Crystl - Inna Year 4000 [Freakout]
DJ Crystl - Warp Drive [Dee Jay]
DJ Mayhem - Inesse (Ray Keith remix) [Face]
Sleepwalker - Age Of Aquarius (L.D. Mix) [Hardtimes]
Engineers Without Fears - Spiritual Aura [Dee Jay]
Studio Pressure - Jump MK II [Certificate 18]
DJ Krome & Mr Time - The Slammer [Suburban Base]

Tayla - Bang The Drums [Good Looking]
Swift & Zinc - Brightness [Brain Progression]
JMJ & Richie - Hall Of Mirrors [Moving Shadow]
Q Project - Champion Sound (Alliance remix) [Legend]
Drum & Bass - That Ruff Track [Formation]
Tekniq - Forbidden Reality [Formation]
Engineers Without Fears - Rhythm [Dee Jay]
Deep Blue - The Helicopter Tune (2 Bad Mice remix) [Moving Shadow]
DJ Rap & Aston - Get Rushed [Suburban Base]

Friday, 12 March 2010

Mad B & Skeme - Format 93.2 FM - 24th October 1992

Download link:

DOWNLOAD

Top Buzz & Grooverider - Dance Planet Double Pack - Early 1993




Thanks to Nebkins for ripping and uploading this double pack.
Grooverider - Dance Planet 'The Detonator' - 19th March 1993

Side A - DOWNLOAD
Side B - DOWNLOAD

Top Buzz - Dance Planet 'The Pleasure Zone' - 15th January 1993

Side A - DOWNLOAD
Side B - DOWNLOAD

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

LTJ Bukem & Fabio - The Edge (B4 Series Double Pack) - June 1993




Thanks to Nebkins for ripping and uploading these sets.

LTJ Bukem - 5th June 1993

Side A - DOWNLOAD
Side B - DOWNLOAD

Fabio - 12th June 1993

Side A - DOWNLOAD
Side B - DOWNLOAD

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dance Paradise 'The Ultimate Dance Experience Volume 7' 8 Pack - 12th November 1994




Side 1 (Fat Controller) DOWNLOAD
Side 2 (Fat Controller & Grooverider) DOWNLOAD
Side 3 (Grooverider & Dougal) DOWNLOAD
Side 4 (Dougal, Billy Whizz & Slipmatt) DOWNLOAD
Side 5 (Slipmatt & Druid) DOWNLOAD
Side 6 (Druid) DOWNLOAD
Side 7 (RSR Recordings PA & Ramos) DOWNLOAD
Side 8 (Ramos & DJ Sy) DOWNLOAD
Side 9 (Kenny Ken) DOWNLOAD
Side 10 (Kenny Ken & Pilgrim) DOWNLOAD
Side 11 (Pilgrim & LTJ Bukem) DOWNLOAD
Side 12 (LTJ Bukem) DOWNLOAD
Side 13 (Dr S Gachet) DOWNLOAD
Side 14 (Dr S Gachet & Food Junky B2B DJ Unity) DOWNLOAD
Side 15 (Food Junky B2B DJ Unity & G.E. Real) DOWNLOAD
Side 16 (G.E. Real) DOWNLOAD

Kenny Ken - Black Heart Clothing Studio Mix - November 1992



An obscure Kenny Ken studio mix released by Black Heart Clothing. November 1992 is the date on the tape, but based on the tunes played this was probably recorded around September 1992.

Side 1 - DOWNLOAD
Side 2 - DOWNLOAD