On the eve of his Australian shows LTJ Bukem reflects on thirty years as a DJ/producer and discusses the art and evolution of drum ’n’ bass music with Chris Familton.
Twenty five years ago a new strain of electronic music emerged from rave music and the dub treatments that sprung out of Jamaican reggae. Drum ’n’ bass quickly blew up on UK dance floors as a darker alternative to house and a more organic feel than techno. One of the leading lights of the scene was LTJ Bukem (Danny Williamson) who established a style that encompassed jazz and cosmic futurism. As with all genres drum ’n’ bass had a short-lived commercial peak in its original form before retreating to the underground; a move that Bukem sees as a long-term benefit for the sound.
“In the mid-90s when a lot of major record labels starting signing DnB acts I think this was a positive good thing for the music at that time. It basically got our sound out there, got our sound heard. It did go back underground but then if you look around today a lot of the top DnB acts are now totally immersed in the pop world so I think to a certain extent it’s bigger now than it was then.”
There can either be an arc or stall to a rock musicians career but DJs have fewer options with which to refresh their live mixes and maintain their level of satisfaction and enjoyment. For Bukem though that issue has yet to arise over his long career behind the decks.
“I started DJ’ing 30 years ago and yes I absolutely get the same things that I got from it then as I do now. I love sharing what I believe is good music with people, I love the art of the mix, its imperfections, the quest for perfection. I still get a massive buzz hearing my favourite tunes on a loud sound system and watching people come together through music is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have. How could this ever become boring!”
The evolution of a musical style, without forgoing its roots, is what keeps it alive and Bukem has witnessed changes both stylistic and technological.
“I guess it’s an obvious thing to say but has to be said – since I started the speed of the music has got 40 / 50 BPM faster, in some cases more! Tracks have become shorter with more emphasis on drops as opposed to music. I think essentially though I’m still into the same thing, I love a good groove, I love a piece of musicality, and also I love a bit of rough with the smooth. I personally switched from vinyl and dub-plates to Traktor around four years ago, so I’m using computer and time coded vinyl although 2 weeks ago I arrived at a venue and they had no turntables so I had to use the CD players which proved very interesting, something I guess I should learn how to do.”
As the historical timeline of electronic music extends, the irresistible temptation for nostalgia continues to permeate the genre and drum ’n’ bass is no exception.
“There has been a rise over the last few years with old school events, a lot of the early raves like Raindance, Fantazia, Dreamscape etc have all been making comebacks. It’s always important to remember where you come from.”
this interview was first published in The Music