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Interview – Undercover Agent From Juice / Splash Recordings

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Last week saw the release of an all encompassing complication from jungle legend Undercover Agent. Under various alias’ (M.T.S, Splash & DAZ) he recorded and released on his own Juice Records & Splash Recordings labels. He was also the driving force behind pirate radio station Cyndicut FM which was the sound of the jungle music for much of Essex & Kent back in the 90’s.

We spoke to DAZ / Undercover Agent to find out more about his history & the story behind these 2 iconic jungle labels…

Juice & Splash Recordings

How did you discover rave music? You were in it from early, listening to you on the radio was part of what got me into the scene

My first introduction to it was at a club called The Gold Mine in Canvey Island. 

We were B-boys. We was all into hiphop. Then some of my graffiti artist friends started going raving. I was like, fuck that, I’m a hip hop man. But one day they took me up there and, you know, it’s all history after that. I couldn’t believe it, the music was just so tight!

I literally went to The Gold Mine on a Friday night, Saturday morning I went to Brickhouse Records in Grays (Essex) and bought about a hundred pounds worth of acid house!!

Everything changed overnight?

Yeah, literally overnight.

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I was listening to pirate radio stations such as Centre Force, Sunrise and Dance FM, Fantasy FM and decided I wanted to that. DJ Vibes had a radio station in Stanford Le Hope called Elite FM. I went and played on there, I used to do night shifts.

Well, that station got busted & taken off air.

When that happened, I asked DJ Vibes, who made his transmitters? He said, some guy called Jim. So I asked, can you introduce me to him? And he did. That’s how Cyndicut FM was born.

So literally you went from, you hadn’t even played on another station except a few graveyard slots to running a radio station?

Yeah, I’d have stayed on Elite if they carried on broadcasting. Apparently their signal was interfering with Southend Airport so the DTI (now known as Ofcom) came & shut them down, and shut them down good!

I really liked playing on the radio so I was like no more Elite FM, I’m not gonna get on Centre Force, I’ll try and do my own station.

Love that attitude!

You had an amazing amount of DJ talent on Cyndicut FM. Do you think there’s something in the water around Essex that sort of made jungle resonate in the area?

Yeah, our biggest claim to frame is Andy C, he used to play Sunday afternoons. DJ Destruction, the hip hop DJ, They’ve both done really well.

Majistrate, Ego Trippin’, & yourself, all came up through Cyndicut as well.

How did you get into making music? Where you making music before you started doing radio or did that come through doing radio?

That come from Fellowship, Darren Hickey, he was who I used to run Juice Records with. Well, before that he used to, he used to make House Music.

We used to go to college together. He was in the studio doing house music and I was telling him about this scene, this new sound called jungle. 

He said “Yeah. I’ve heard about it…Blah blah”. I asked if I could come and have a little play in the studio. I didn’t know nothing about studio equipment so basically he engineered everything, I just went up with my samples.

We finished the tune, went to JTS to get it cut onto dub plate… And then to be honest with you I went to prison after that!

While I was in there I was speaking to the Governor and I asked “Why’ve you not got a recording studio in here?” Apparently they’d never had anyone interested enough to set one up. I said “I’ll set one up”.

So I contacted Darren Hickey. Darren came up to the prison to have a meeting with the Governor. I think he gave him about £15,000 so we went down to Music Village and bought a studio!! The studio got installed into the education department in Highpoint Prison.

I was in there every day just learning it, teaching myself… Until there was a riot!

All the cells got smashed up, and we all got moved out to other prisons. I got moved from Highpoint to Pentonville, so no more studio.

So your time in prison was used constructively learning something new?

Yeah. I made a business plan as well for a record label while I was in there.

Prison was a bad thing, but it did do something positive. I just flipped the script and Splash Recordings was basically ready to go when I got out.

So what was your first release?

My first release was Rougher, on Splash.

The dub plate I made before I went to prison was Rougher. But back then it was more of a hardcore track. When I was in Pentonville I was listening to Weekend Rush FM, and was thinking I needed to put some break beats in the track. When I got out I added the breaks & released it on Splash.

That’s a good story. So where did the name Splash come from?

Reggae Sun Splash. It’s black influenced music, some people were calling it jungle, some people were calling it breakbeat. I just thought I’m hearing a lot of reggae vocals… So Reggae Sun Splash… Splash.

And what about Juice Records?

Juice is cause of, the Juice Crew, like MC Shannon and the Juice Crew…. Hip hop. Me and Darren where both into hip hop and basically I just said to him how about Juice? He loved it. It was literally just that, there was no big discussion over what to call it.

What was the idea behind having two labels?

Basically Splash was a leap frog for the Cyndicut FM DJ’s, like Majistrate, Embee, M.A.T.T. To push them to a wider audience.

Juice was more professional. It had a bit more tech to it, a bit of sparkle. Splash was the underground label. We wanted to focus on making the Juice releases a bit more special.

And it worked! You had a lot of attention back in the day from all the main players

So I made a track called Babylon, that’s what go us noticed. Justin from DeeJay Recordings signed that. Darren saw what an opportunity that was so told me to make something else like that. That’s when I made Oh Gosh!

I was going to release Babylon on Splash Recordings as Undercover Agent. Now Justin is a business man, he saw that Dead Dread had put out a track as Back 2 Basics to promote his label, he said why don’t you do the same? Put the track out on DeeJay Recordings but call yourself Splash to promote your label?

So that’s why you only ever did the one track as the name Splash?

Yeah.

I heard a rumour Metalheadz wanted Babylon, is that true?

I never ever spoke to Goldie about it so that’s just a rumour. I can confirm that Grooverider did want it for Prototype. He couldn’t get in contact with me, Justin did get in contact & gave me the check before Grooverider got to me.

Knowing how Groove worked back then you’d still be waiting for it to come out now!!

Ha ha… Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Justin was a go getter. At the time I wasn’t too financially good. So I was like show the money and he did.

Well, it all worked out.

Tell us a bit, little about the new album. It’s basically an Undercover Agent greatest hits isn’t it?

I’m not the sort of person to big myself up, I always tried to stay under the radar, hence the name Undercover Agent. I mean I never even used to go to Music House to get dubs cut, I’d send Agent K & Majistrate to go cut my dubs and promote my music. I had agents out there selling it for me.

People seem to like the music I made, tracks like Hard Disk, Oh Gosh, Five Tones, Dub Plate Circles which was featured in 187, the Samuel L Jackson film. We also found some unreleased alternative versions on old DAT tapes to make the album more special, some cuts that I made just for me to play back in the day.

‘Brothers & Sisters’ seems to be going for crazy money on Discogs, so we’ve remastered that so people can get it for a decent price.

Danny Donnelly has always had my back, so we made sure to add the 2 tracks I released on Suburban Base back in the day ‘World Mash Up’ & ‘Jah Works’.

The Foundation Collection from Juice Records / Splash Recordings is available now from suburbanbaserecords.com

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