Profile of a bass-head
Saturday 27 June 1998
Most responses tell of admiration for another DJ or detail a love for music, but when I ask drum'n'bass legend Grooverider, his response is as unconventional as his music.
"I started because I wanted to get into nightclubs for free," he says, without a hint of sarcasm. This wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill interview.
Grooverider (he won't reveal his real name, but my bet's on something dull like Fred) grew up in south London, and, by his own admission, has been blagging his way past club doormen since he was 15 years old.
When he did take up DJing, it was hip hop and rare groove that caught his ear, until acid house crossed the Atlantic 10 years ago.
"I've always been into dance music, the more progressive the better," he says. "When acid house came out, a lot of people couldn't get it. I got the gist of it straight away. At that stage it was considered to be gay music, and I'm the most heterosexual person in the world, but I just got straight into it."
His willingness to embrace new music stood him in good stead when jungle burst out of the UK's urban metropolises. As an integral part of the original Metalheadz collective, he was at the cutting edge of a new musical revolution.
"Goldie is my best friend really, and I've known him for around seven years. When he did his first album, he decided to open a club on the back of it, and asked me if I wanted to come in with him. We hooked it up and banged it out, but it was just a little fun thing for the boys.
"We weren't doing it for the money, so we didn't really give a toss. We used to go there for a drink, and then more and more people came through the door.
"It was just an avenue to explore new music and hang out together. Nobody expected it to blow up, but when it did we tried to make the most of it, and we've been working hard to keep the thing going ever since."
Drum'n'bass is now an integral part of the British music scene. For a long time the UK imported its dance music from the US, but now the roles have been reversed. People aren't always sure how to classify it (in the US it's put into the same grouping as The Prodigy under "electronica"), but it's definitely global in appeal.
As one of drum'n'bass's leading lights, Grooverider has been gracing Technics across the UK and the world, but I wouldn't say that it has all gone to his head.
"It makes me feel proud to be at the forefront of music that is so popular around the year, but it's no big deal," he says matter-of-factly.
"I'm just a guy playing music; I don't believe I have power over people. I haven't always been paid for doing this. It's nice, and it's probably the best thing that has happened to me, so I respect it and work hard at it. As long as people are having a good time, I don't really care. I'm not really a crowd-pleaser, because you can't please everybody. I play for myself, and if you're into it, then great."
Meeting Grooverider, it becomes difficult to think of anything, with regard to his success, that he does care about. Turning up an hour late for the interview, I'd wouldn't bet that journalists are high on his list, but it's hard not to admire his approach to his work. Despite his enduring appeal in clubland, his "no bullshit" attitude means that this is one DJ whose feet are firmly on the ground.
"I'm not a pop star and I don't pretend to be one. I don't hang around with people I've just met on the scene; I hang around with real people. I've got a lot of friends, but I'm tight with the same people from back in the day."
Like the powerful music he plays - he's true to his roots.
See Metalheadz review, opposite
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