Bryan G of V Recordings
Howard Johnson’s, Boston– 1 hour before Bryan G’s set starts, I call up to his room, a nervous kid, not wanting to stress a man out. “Yeah, man, come on up” the voice on the phone says. I find the room, knock on the door, wait. Hear shuffling inside, imagine how I look through the fisheye peephole. The door opens a crack, and a dazed dreadlocked face and a thick cloud of sweet smoke peer out at me. I wonder for a second what I’m supposed to do, stammer out an introduction, and the face registers a glimmer of recognition. It’s the man himself, Bryan G.
He lets me in. We sit down, sip on Snapple, and talk about Bryan G’s first American tour.
I ask him how the tour is going, how he feels about the scene we have in the US, and his face immediately lights up, the dazed look created by two weeks of rapid-fire touring and a freshly roasted spliff replaced by the clear vision of the man who started some of the Drum ‘n Bass scene’s most consistent and respected labels. “People say jungle’s bigger in the states than it is in England” he tells me. This claim has been partly supported on this tour.
“The enthusiasm is there, people really know the music.” The Vancouver massive, he tells me, created an especially high-quality vibe.
Bryan was impressed by the extent to which his work was known stateside. “Everybody knows about the album” (the V classics album, currently only available on import, but scheduled for domestic release soon.) “When I played in LA, one guy kept on looking at me. He came up to me and said he had something to show me. He turned around and he had a “V” tattooed on the back of his neck.” (big up to that dedicated punter!)
Bryan was obviously enthusiastic about the appreciation shown by stateside junglists. I asked him if he thought we had the potential to come up with the goods production-wise. His words were encouraging. “I heard some real good tracks [during the US tour].” Since the US is so spread out, however, he added, “it will take time before things really get going .” The important thing to remember, Bryan echoed a common sentiment of the UK drum ‘n bass scene, is that “we want something different.” In other words, American producers will only get noticed if they can come up with their own sound.
The utopian ideals at the heart of the early rave scene which helped spawn Jungle seem alive and well in the heart of Bryan G. “This music brings people together. It’s got the hip-hop vibe, the jazz vibe, the hardstep vibe. It breaks down the racial thing. When I was young, I hung out with only black people; [but because of this music,] now I’m around all different kinds of people.” With a grand statement, the British hero, clocking in at two weeks on American soil, summed up our situation “America needs Jungle. It needs it to bring everything together.” Amen to that, brother!
The beginnings of V records are somewhat legendary. Bryan G, working in London for Outer Rhythm records, helping put out releases by the likes of LFO and Nightmares on Wax, was listening to demos sent to him by an aspiring producer named Roni Size. He liked what he heard, and suggested to his bosses that they release some of Roni’s tunes. At the time, breakbeat, an early incarnation of jungle, was truly underground “White labels only”, Bryan recalls. The heads of Outer Rhythm weren’t interested in releasing Roni’s music. They went bust anyway.
Bryan G, then active as a DJ, was still excited about the sounds being sent from Bristol, and wanted to get them pressed on dub plate (for all the newbie junglists reading this: dub plate = a single record cut directly from DAT. A fast and cheap way to see if a tune works on the dancefloor.) “I wanted to link with Roni and Krust, so I went up to Bristol. We got a vibe, had a smoke and a drink, and they played me loads of tracks they’d been working on.”
To hear Bryan tell it, everything just clicked, the vibe was strong, strong enough to start a label with. “They gave us the material, and at the time, Dillinja was just a kid down the street, so between [Roni, Krust and Dillinja], the label just started to roll.” Soon Jumpin Jack Frost was added to the crew, and helped set up V’s sister label, Philly Blunt. “V was more experimental, Philly Blunt released a lot of Ragga jungle, and was more for the masses.” With tracks like Krust’s “Jazz Note” and Roni Size’s “Timestretch” on V, and Leviticus’s “The Burial” and Roni Size’s “The Warning” on Philly Blunt, the labels quickly established their place at the forefront of Drum ‘n Bass production.
I asked Bryan about the trend towards Drum ‘n Bass labels releasing albums on CD, rather than strictly vinyl 12″s and whether the producers who have shaped the drum ‘n bass sound might tailor some of their tracks toward home listening rather than being played in a club. “Producers aren’t thinking of that when they make a tune” was his reply, “they’re just making what they want to hear.” “At the same time, though,” he added, “we have access to much better equipment now,” which presumably makes the music more inviting to non-dancing audiences. Bryan made it clear that he didn’t see CD sales as a danger to the music “its going to stay with the club sounds”, he maintained.
What’s Bryan G’s vision for the future of V recordings? “We take it one step at a time. We don’t schedule releases, and we’re not out to just release tunes. We wait for the vibe. When there’s a tune that’s right, we put it out.”
Judging by V’s last few releases, that vibe is going as strong as ever, and we can expect many more a tune that’s right to come out of the V stables.