For iconic UK DJ legend Judge Jules the adage to never judge (pardon the pun) a book by its cover rings true. Known for spoiling the listeners of his radio shows with the most upfront house tunes and continually devastating dance floors all over the world since the ’90s, we found out that he’s a huge fan of drum ‘n’ bass and loves indie imprint Hospital Records. One of the Hospital acts closest to Judge’s heart is London Elektricity, so we decided to pair the two up for a chat. In this exclusive interview, Judge talks to the label’s co-founder Tony Colman about his London Elektricity project, the d’n’b scene, the secret of Hospital’s success and what he really thinks of dubstep and the term “bass music.”
Judge Jules: Hi Tony, how are you?
Tony Colman: Hello, Jules. Long time! I’m in snowy Cardiff getting ready for a three-hour vinyl set tonight at The Welsh Club. Hope you’re well young man.
As the founder of Hospital records and one half of London Elektricity you have been instrumental in shaping the drum ‘n’ bass scene. What is it that makes it unique from other dance music genres?
Fan loyalty is a big thing. For some reason, jungle and d’n’b has retained a huge number of loyal fans as well as attracting various fly-by-night fans over the years. The music is, of course, different and I think the tempo is unique in as much as d’n’b can work at full tempo (ie: 174 bpm) and half tempo (87 bpm) in the same DJ set, or in the same tune – and tempos are great to dance and listen to. this gives it so much flexibility for producers and listeners.
Hospital has brought through many acts who have gone on to great things for the scene such as Logisitcs, NU:Tone and of course High Contrast. Was this the ethos behind the label:to break new talent? Or was it more that these producers happened to fit the sound you wanted to push?
The original ethos was to only release our own music. When Chris Goss and I set up the label after the demise of our acid jazz label Tongue and Groove, we simply wanted a home for the music we were producing under the names Peter Nice Trio, Dwarf Electro and London Elektricity. That held true for about a year, then we started getting irresistible demos from the likes of Danny Byrd and High Contrast and the rest is history.
“To help bring something totally new into the world that is pure and beautiful. A musical midwife if you like!”
More recently you have been supporting acts such as Netsky whose second album came out on Hospital in June do you still get a thrill releasing new music?
Releasing new music is the thrill. For example I woke up singing the hook for “Love You Like This” by Danny Byrd which is out now. It’s a classic piece of soulful disco inspired d’n’b and it’s totally stuck in my head. I love being in love with beautiful music. That’s what drives me. To help bring something totally new into the world that is pure and beautiful. A musical midwife if you like!
For me personally, I have always considered the releases on Hospital to be more thoughtful, considered and emotive than other labels in the scene. Some refer to it as liquid d’n’b, was this a conscious move on your part or simply a natural evolution?
This was simply a result of Chris and my music tastes when we started making d&b. It wasn’t really d’n’b, it was loungecore — it was soft easy listening at d’n’b tempo! we were freaks in the scene for many years, but very gradually our tastes have been accepted.
How do you find time to listen to the music you are sent and select what you want to release? Are there key elements you are looking for in production which makes you think this is a Hospital record?
The only key thing I look for is 1. to be surprised (in a nice way) 2. to feel the producer is right at the start of their career and 3. even though I like it (and I do have weird taste), will we be in with a shout of turning our following onto it? If the music satisfies these three requirements then we want to dig deeper and get to know the producer more.
Which producers are you currently listening to, can you recommend some artists to watch out for particularly those who, you feel, are being innovative in the genre?
The most innovative for me at the moment is Royalston, who comes from Sydney. He makes music unlike anyone else. Also Stray, who has a nuts 12″ out on Blu Mar Ten’s label soon. Most able to innovate and cross over? I would say Metrik, and the gruesome twosome Fred V & Grafix.
Tough question, but is there a favorite Hospital record of yours?
There is. It’s a 7″ we released ages ago called “Panda Style” by L.A.O.S. We did a limited pressing on white vinyl and it makes me smile every time I play it. It’s also my two sons’ favorite Hospital release as well.
What did you make of dubstep when it came through? Were you an early supporter or was it something that didn’t appeal to you?
I really enjoyed it when it was, well, dubstep. Artists like Horsepower, early Skream, etc. Now, there is very little dubby about dubstep. It’s become a generic American rock kid thing called (puke) EDM or (shudder) ‘bass music’ — it’s yet another version of electro-pop.
“The term ‘bass music’ makes me want to set fire to my underpants while I’m still wearing them.”
And what do you make of its explosion in America? Are you a fan of the sound which has developed as a result?
LOL. See above. And don’t event get me started on the demise of hip-hop!
In the U.K. recently we have seen bass music take hold of the underground scene. It seems to be a loose categorization of anything around 130 bpm or quicker that vaguely touches on garage, dubstep and d’n’b with a bit of house music thrown in for good measure. Is this amalgamation of genres and blending of production styles something which interests you?
Even though the term ‘bass music’ makes me want to set fire to my underpants while I’m still wearing them, the one thing I’m enjoying at the moment is the renaissance of UK Garage which I think is brilliant. I would very happily live in a world of d’n’b and garage with no dubstep and no Euro-pop trance masquerading as ‘urban’ music.
How would you gauge the current strength of the d’n’b scene?
8.5 on the Richter scale.
Have you seen a change in the crowd over the years?
Very much. There is a much younger crowd at big events such as Hospitality, RAM, UKF, etc., but also there are very healthy older crowds who demand deeper longer sets at more intimate venues. I love the fact that both can co-exist happily.
What in your opinion makes a good DJ?
Someone who does actually DJ! ie: play discs, preferably proper records. Someone who never goes near the sync button, who doesn’t have pre-planned set lists, someone who is able to hold a crowd for three hours or more.
As someone who would have played countless shows, is there one that stands out as a career highlight?
There are so many. That’s boring I know. Our first Hospitality at Matter was amazing, and the fact the club closed after one year makes it even more special. Matter was the best club in the world, still not bettered, and Hospitality was buzzing then — it was a fantastic combination.
What else is there you want to archive in the music industry?
I’d love to release a music book for schools — basically to keep my oldest son quiet as he is a Netsky fan and it may make him practice the piano for once!
What’s next for Hospital and yourself?
I’ve just finished making my first new tune in ages, and I’m buzzing about it! Last year I spent most of my studio time working on vocal writing and production for my artists, and this year I’m dedicating my studio time to London Elek again. Feels great! Hospital is mental in 2013: rename us Mental Hospital by all means. We have brand new releases from almost all of our artists this year: Danny Byrd, High Contrast, Netsky, Fred V & Grafix, Metrik, Nu:logic, S.P.Y, Camo & Krooked.