‘Renegade Snares’ is a brand new book on our favourite subject… Drum & Bass music!
Pieced together using original interviews conducted with all the D&B scenes main players, the book traces the history of jungle / drum & bass from its early roots in soundsystem culture and rave music right through to the present day.
We caught up with the authors Ben Murphy & Carl Loben, guys behind the ‘Renegade Snares‘ book, to find out how it came together…
Firstly, where did the idea to write a book about drum & bass come from?
Carl: We were sat there one day wondering why there hasn’t been an up to date, definitive book written on drum & bass. And then we thought that there were few people better placed to write it than ourselves, as we’ve both followed its various twists and turns since its inception really.
Ben: We reckoned that the existing books on the subject (like All Crews and State Of Bass) were really excellent, but that there were lots of other things that could be explored about the music, especially its developments in the last 20 years.
Where To Start
Where do you even start with a project like this? How long does the process take from concept to completion?
Carl: It has taken a while, for sure. At first we went down the self-financing route via Unbound Publishing, but found that we were both a bit shy about persistently asking for pledges from people — despite getting a lot of initial support going down that route. So we scored a traditional publishing deal for it with Jawbone Press — and they’ve been amazing.
Ben: The process took a few years certainly. We had a detailed chapter outline, but as we began putting it together, interviewing loads of people, we began to see how it could fit together as a narrative, so we needed to revise the chapter order and content a little. We wanted it to be chronological, although there are a few moments where we divert to talk about specific subjects, like pirate radio and dubplates or MCs.
Following on from that, how do you know when to stop writing? It’s not like the D&B scene stops moving!
Carl: Our cut-off point was the end of 2020, pretty much.
Ben: Yeah, we wanted to bring it up to date, but you have to stop somewhere! There’s stuff in retrospect we would have liked to include, but you have to make it coherent and tell the story.
Resistance And Resilience Of Drum & Bass
The subheading for the book is ‘The Resistance And Resilience Of Drum & Bass’. Can you expand on where you see the resistance & resilience?
Ben: Jungle/drum & bass has been an underground movement from day one, and though it’s had brushes with the mainstream, it belongs to the DJs, producers, MCs, club promoters and fans. Major labels, newspapers and the press (generally) have never understood it, and it’s been looked down on consistently, and met with hostility from the authorities who targeted raves and pirate radio particularly. Also, as a form of music significantly innovated by black musicians in the UK, it’s met with racism and whitewashing. Nonetheless, it’s maintained its core ethos in the underground – resisting – and thrived despite the odds, proving resilient.
The title Renegade Shares is of course lifted from the classic track on Moving Shadow. If you had to select 1 favourite D&B track each what would that be and why?
Carl: Yeah, the title of that classic Omni Trio track works on several levels, as Rob Haigh from Omni Trio says in the book — and those keys in the tune, especially on the Foul Play remix of Renegade Snares, get me every time. But there’s so many amazing tracks in jungle/drum & bass it’s impossible for me to pick out just one fave.
Ben: That question is very difficult! I’m gonna pick two archetypal ones – Splash ‘Babylon’ as one of the toughest jungle tracks imaginable, and PFM ‘One And Only’, cos it’s a sublime ambient track with a bassline that could level city blocks.
What are your backgrounds? How did you get into writing?
Carl: I’ve been a music journalist since the early 90s, inspired initially by the rave scene. I liked music and I liked writing, so I just went for it.
Ben: I read the music press avidly as a teenager, from NME, Melody Maker and Select to dance mags like Muzik, Jockey Slut and DJ. I wanted to be a music journalist, got the chance to do some writing, and never looked back.
And how did you first discover drum & bass music? It must have really struck a chord for you to want to write a book on the subject
Carl: When jungle came along I was blown away, and started writing about it in Melody Maker and Generator magazine, amongst others. And DJing it out too. By the mid-90s I was immersed in the London scene, an evangelistic convert seduced by the futurism, multi-cultural nature and unadulterated funk of the sound. I interviewed many of the main players around that time, and have followed the scene ever since.
Ben: A few mates used to listen to pirate radio and taped some Mickey Finn sets. I was into hip-hop then, and didn’t connect with it to start with. Then I heard some records on Good Looking (LTJ Bukem, Aquarius & Tayla) and loved them, bought a 12” of Photek ‘Seven Samurai’ and that was it, I was obsessed.
Did your first experience of the scene resonate with the stories you uncovered while writing the book? I know a ravers experience & and artists experience can differ greatly.
Ben: I think everyone has their own unique experience. Drum & bass incorporates so many different elements of music, people come to it in their own way.
Did you uncover any stories that made you think ‘WOW! I never knew that’?
Carl: Oh yes, quite a few things, which is what made writing the book even more super-enjoyable.
Ben: Most definitely, there were some really interesting connections and anecdotes that made the process of writing it really fun.
Are you planning your follow up book yet?
Ben: No! I have some ideas but need to chill for a while.
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