After last week's enormous Danny Donnely interview, Gone To A Rave is taking it easy. So this week I’m just going to fling up a series of tracks from Grant Nelson, a producer who perfectly fits the Gone To A Rave remit, having started off making house and hardcore, moving on to dabble in happy hardcore and jungle, before finally becoming the widely acknowledged Godfather of UKG. I’m going to focus on a few releases from Nelson’s less well known hardcore output - for a period in the early 90s, he was producing high speed hardcore under the name Wishdokta, predominantly knocking out tracks for the Kicking Label, and occasionally veering into 4/4 edged happy hardcore territory. At the same time he started up a label called Naughty Naughty, dedicated to releasing cheeky bootlegs of foundational house tunes. He had a pretty simple formula – take the best riffs from established bangers, time compress them to round 150 bpm, chuck a frantic break underneath and then add in some hyper happy pianos. Naughty Naughty was about as functional as a label got, essentially a series of tools for DJs to continue a conversation house music started. Nowadays they stand as a handy primer on UK dance fundamentals – if Nelson was knocking it off, it’s because it was worth knocking off. You could easily trawl through the samples that make up the whole Naughty Naughty series (11 volumes that I know of) and have a pretty incredible set of early house classics.
Here’s an early Naughty Naughty 12”, volume 3, taking in ‘Sweet Harmony’ on one side and Xpansions ‘Move Your Body’ on the other – it illustrates how quickly the UK scene was moving at the time; Xpansions original of ‘Move Your Body’ had been massive in 1990, whilst Liquid’s ‘Sweet Harmony’ had been a hit in 1992 – now just a year on and it’s house tempo break was too slow for the proto jungle of 1993.
Next up and we’re skipping forward to Volume 10, primarily because that’s the next volume I managed to dig out from the record room. This time Nelson is digging further back, committing an act of gleeful sacrilege by grabbing ‘Voodoo Ray’ and giving it the proper mentalist hardcore junglist treatment. Is it better then the original? Hell no. But it is pretty fucking nuts, the kind of sugar rushing rave mayhem that horrified purists and delighted kids in equal measure.
The flip side takes the nagging riff from Mike Dunn’s hard Chicago acid attack Magic Feet, mixes it with the amazing bleeps of Steve ‘Lost’ Bicknell’s UK breakbeat classic ‘The Gonzo’ and – you’ve guessed it – turns everything up to lunatic.
I can't find Volume 5 in the record room right now, which is a bastard, because it's great - you'll have to settle for a Youtube link - copies on a discogs only go for a few quid, so you can grab a 12" pretty easily. The A Side was a rendition of Awesome 3s 'Don't Go' - seeing as the original is a masterpiece, Nelson's version isn't that essential. HOWEVER the flip has him turning 'Test4' - a piece of mighty bleep rave released on Warp Records in 1990 - into a darkside jungle classic. Those Test4 bleeps may sound familiar - they (or something very similar) also showed up in the Production House killer Exodus
Finally I’m posting Naughty Naughty Volume 11, released in 1994 and taking in two very different tracks – on one side the R&S Belgian banger from Mentasm, ‘Second Phase’, and on the other, the sleazy house ecstasy of ‘French Kiss’. The Mentasm track works perfectly – it was designed to be as ‘orrible a hoover menace as possible, so sticking a load of ramped up amens in the mix works wonders. It’s a shame that Nelson didn’t really have a crack at sticking the slow down and speed up in his version of French Kiss though, as it’s kinda the point of the track – although I guess ravers at, say Helter Skelter, were in no mood to slow down.
Nelson however must have been – before '94 was up he was producing house tracks under his own name, laying the foundations for UK Garage by aping the skip of American imports and giving them a Brit roughness – still with that magpie instinct though, as this early rendition of ‘You Got The Love’ shows…