Back in the day, UK Garage (UKG) was a pretty big deal as photographer Ewen Spencer’s book Brandy & Coke discusses, this was a scene characterized by newspaper print trousers, YSL button downs and as much Moschino as you could wear at once. With the rave scene of the ‘90s slowly fading, clubs in London were taking on a new identity; Spencer notes ‘suited’ men dancing together – simultaneously ostentatious and underground, a subculture that was altogether joyous, celebratory and non-threatening, “there was a lot of posing and a slightly moody attitude from some people“, but mostly this was a scene about escapism – working class men and women drinking champagne by the bottle on the weekend dressed head-to-toe in current labels.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and it seems not a lot has changed, while some people argue that UKG never died (see Zed Bias, DJ EZ, Disclosure) others are of the opinion that it’s currently enjoying a revival albeit in a slightly different incarnation. House music is getting a lot of love at the moment, whether you’re at one of the hundreds of one word club nights like ‘Intake’, ‘Detonate’ or ‘Pulse’ rammed with students up and down the country or at one of the innumerable ‘warehouse raves’ that are equally popular at the moment, you won’t have missed this happening. You’ll know your Friend Within’s from your Gorgon City’s and between the sharing culture of things like SoundCloud and the seemingly endless momentum of festival season, you will have heard more remixes, club mixes and VIP mixes than you can realistically shake your arse at all at once.
The thing is though, the thing that makes this not so different to the 90’s/00’s UKG scene are the garage inspired house tracks that are also being dropped in clubs up and down the country; the clothes may have improved (depending on your perspective); the button downs have become slightly less obnoxious and no longer is it about how much Moschino you can wear all at once, instead BOY London is as prominent as it was in the ‘70’s and lots of people still think 6” heels are a good idea on the dancefloor. The Met police may have become more militant in their desire to shut down any and all places where young people are congregating in large numbers to shake said bottoms (see Matter, SE1) but the music, remains as celebratory as ever, although the clubs seem to have taken on an obligatory ‘quirky’ element to be worth the trouble.
Two producers who embody this garage inspired house music revival in its most current state are Serg and Kieron ‘the two greatest producers you’ve not heard of yet’ – My Digital Enemy; these guys have been working together on various projects for more than 10 years. With commercial successes including two tracks entering the UK Charts; one of which reached the number 3 spot in 2005, this has lead to them being regularly asked to remix the world’s biggest artists including Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Ke$ha, Britney Spears, Usher, Lady Gaga and Groove Armada.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
I think it’s my Porsche Boxter” – Kieron
The most expensive thing I ever bought was probably my wife! – Serg
My Digital Enemy have already had a great start to 2014 with Pete Tong & Danny Howard both supporting their new track “Shamen” on their respective BBC Radio One shows. In 2013 they managed to notch up an impressive five Beatport House top ten tracks. Three of those in the top three spot. Their original track “Wrong” hit number one and stayed up there for six weeks. Their remix of Crazibiza’s “My Lips” went on to be the sixth top selling house track on Beatport for the whole of the year. 2012 was no different with massive chart success for their remix of Alter Ego’s “Rocker” which was #1 on both The DMC Buzz Chart and The Beatport Tech House chart.
The guys’ label Zulu Records was also skyrocketed to the forefront of the house scene with the success of their collaboration with Jason Chance titled “Got To Be Strong” which held firm for 8 weeks at #2 on the Beatport House chart. They seem to have hit a winning formula which has gained support from industry heavy-weights Fedde Le Grand, Fatboy Slim, Chuckie, Roger Sanchez, Steve Angello, Bob Sinclar, Mark Knight, Cedric Gervais, Axwell, AN21, Max Vangeli and a whole host of other leading EDM stars.
They have been flooding the scene with their very own brand of percussion led house music – these are ones and two’s of high calibre, identifiable through their initial tribal tech-house sound on their Vudu label, this is a partnership that has a clear identity in a landscape still trying to distance itself from the near fatal ‘EDM’ tag. Skankers and ravers are shuffling off in that special stealth way that’s your first point of call when there’s a sexual predator on the dancefloor, licking lips and thrusting hips – thankfully, the warm welcoming tribal vocal chops and tough synth leads of My Digital Enemy are just the thing to get you over that ‘EDM’ nightmare.
What would be your superpower of choice?
Invisibility – Kieron
Nah, Has to be flying! – Serg
Fresh from Miami and its renowned music conference playing to thousands over a 10 day spectrum and emerging with a track titled “Self Inflicted”, My Digital Enemy were in London Town at Proud in Camden’s old Stables (‘course it was) spinning tunes for those beautiful boys and girls in heels and button downs. Kicking off the set with “Bassline” by GotSome and The Getalong Gang, the celebrations could begin. “Shamen” was up next, progressive, uplifting and self-styled by Serg and Kieron as their very own brand of ‘Conga House’, the shapes thrown by the crowd evidence of the effect of their complex arrangements, percussive melodies and industrial strength bass.
With track names like “Self inflicted” (See those 10 days in Miami), “Desire Life”, “Change” and this year’s “Wasted”, I think its pretty obvious to see why these badman sounds are resonating with so many, having featured as a soundtrack on MTV’s The Real World and with their tracks being dropped by the likes of Tiesto (we know he’s a tit but he’s also very popular) and Pete Tong (not a tit – I asked), it comes as no surprise that they have their eyes on 2014 being the year for a cross over track to cement their place.
Which animal would you bring back from the dead?
Erm, a Dodo – Kieron
I’ll go with a Wolly Mammoth – Serg
Sounds like these coming back to the fore not only reinforce the cyclical nature of being – the circle of life, for all you Lion King Lovers – but I believe (and I think you’ll agree) it’s evidence that tribalism or a resonance with it isn’t simply reserved for uptight Tories, nor is it only for Masai Warriors and militant Tottenham Hotspur fans: identifying with sounds like these speak to something elemental in all of us because so long as you have a heartbeat, you’re already in possession of the most primal type of percussion – it’s literally in your blood. If you’re not feeling that as an explanation then maybe its because those uplifting beats being produced by happy normal guys like Serg and Kieron are the perfect accompaniment for batting away all those Romanian immigrants and benefit scroungers we’re constantly told are coming our way.
Words by Akua Ofei