Slipmatt: The Ransom Note Mix
A rave titan graces us with a mixtape of old school sounds.
Where to begin with Slipmatt? A founding father of hardcore and rave in the UK he is arguably one of the most definitive figures in UK dance music having helped soundtrack some of the most iconic raves and parties this country has ever seen.
From Moondance to Fantasia, Helter Skelter to Raindance, Energy to Clockwork Orange. Slipmatt has played them all and is regarded as a figurehead of rave culture.
Very little which has come since would have happened if it were not for his commitment and boundary breaking approach to dance music in the 90’s.
Slipmatt is one of the masterminds behind legendary production outfit SL2 (along with Lime and MC Jay), the visionaries responsible for the chart smashing anthems ‘On A Ragga Tip’ & ‘Way In My Brain’ which helped to define popular rave culture in the UK. This year marks thirty years since the release of ‘On A Ragga Tip’ – a track which remains as relevant and renowned in the present as it did at its inception.
In the present he continues to DJ and remains as crucial as ever, remodelling his traditional sound within the house music community with his ‘Slip’s House’ radio show on Centreforce 88.3 DAB digital radio every Wednesday from 8pm.
This mixtape takes us back to the roots of his sound, focussing on the 91-92 era and we are delighted and humbled to be able to welcome him to the series.
So, it’s been 30 years since the release of ‘On A Ragga Tip’ – a track which went on to become a cult classic? At the time of writing did you ever imagine the track might find such a legacy?
Never in a million years. The original idea was for it to be the flipside of our next release after ‘DJs Take Control’, in fact a follow up to ‘Way In My Brain’ which was the previous flipside. ‘Way In My Brain’ was a big tune underground but was never really thought of as commercial. As big fans of 80s Reggae, we wanted to keep that vibe going and ‘On A Ragga Tip’ was the next creation in that vein. After we’d finished the track and had a few days to get our ears around it, Lime suggested maybe it could actually be the lead tune for the next EP. We discussed with Nick Halkes & Richard Russell at XL and we all agreed! Next thing we knew, we were on Top Of The Pops again and were riding high at No.2 in the Gallop chart and No.1 in the Network pop chart. And over the past 30 years it’s never really slowed down.
Your journey as a DJ has seen you evolve through a number of sounds and leanings, yet you remain rooted in hardcore and elements of old school, why do you feel this to be important?
I love all types of music, but I think with most things in life our preferences do tend to get cemented in our younger years. So, the Old Skool sound is always in my heart, but my roots have been deeply embedded in House Music since 1986 when it all really got going. I’ve chatted about this a few times lately and the Hardcore years were really only from 1991-1996. Thing is, that era was so massive that everyone who was around through that period will think of me as a Hardcore / Jungle / Old Skool DJ forever. I am raver at heart and of course do I still play that era of music sometimes when asked. I’ve also been involved with some huge Hardcore & Old Skool album projects over the years. The big 89/92 tracks will be huge forever, but from 1986-1990 and then 1996 till now I’ve always played House Music on a regular basis and as a main genre. I think the best way to put it is that “Rave” and that energy of Rave music has always run through my veins, and I don’t think that will ever change.
‘Rave Culture’ has pivoted and reinvented itself numerous times, what inspired you about it at the beginning and does this differ from what inspires you in the present? What do you miss about the parties from thirty years ago and what don’t you miss?
Kind of what I’ve said already really. That “Rave” energy has always flowed through me, so as House got more lively in the late 80s and early 90s and the culture evolved it really captured me. I think when it got to the Happy Hardcore sound it got a bit too hard and fast after a few years and eventually lost a lot of the original character, so by 96 I was back On A House Tip again and mixing it up with the earlier Rave stuff from 89-92.
I must admit, when I see some of the old video footage from the early warehouse parties and then later events like Helter Skelter at places like The Sanctury in MK it brings back some very happy memories – they were fantastic times. Raving back then was different from clubbing as it was more about the dancing and the music rather than booze and the opposite sex. It was somewhat naughty too 😉. There are so many fond memories of the early Rave days, but we have so many great festivals and Rave events these days that, if anything, we’ve got it even better. I remember being at Boomtown a few years ago and thinking to myself we’re so lucky to have these kinds of amazing events, and without all the hassle of blatantly breaking the law.
Musically, how do you retain focus given your longevity and legacy when it comes to production? What keeps things fresh and exciting for you?
I think musically, especially with dance music, it’s a great advantage being a DJ. I see myself as a DJ who also makes music rather than a producer who decided to have a go at DJing, and I feel it really helps with keeping current with what people really want to dance / listen to. There’s no better gauge than witnessing first hand what floats peoples’ boats, and having a decent crowd in front of you every weekend is a great help.
I’ve always tried to move with the times though. The journey has been House, Rave, Hardcore / Jungle, House, House & Trance, Rave-Breaks & Old Skool, Electro House, and for the past few years a mixture of Tech House and what we’re now calling Rave House (all mixed up with some classics… and breathe). As a dedicated DJ it’s always my mission to find the biggest and freshest new tracks, which always evolve into the next big sound.
A lot of DJ’s have come and gone, I wanted to reflect most poignantly on the recent passing of Stu Allan, do you feel it is important that younger generations are reminded of the roots and originators of the sound in the UK?
Stu was such a lovely fella and had been a dear friend for many years. My sincere condolences go out to his beautiful wife Alison and his family, friends and fans. For me Stu will always be known as Mr. Manchester. Without him the scene, right across the north, would never have been the same. He was at the heart of the dance scene in general for almost 40 years and was a huge part of our beloved Rave scene right the way through.
Yes, I do think we should know our roots, and it’s always a good life-lesson to see where we’ve come from, how we evolved, and to take lessons from legends like Stu Allan who was so successful in his career. We learn and grow from our predecessors, from their successes and their mistakes. It’s also good for the younger generation to know just how much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears have gone into creating what we have and where we are today so they can really value and appreciate what they have.
As a DJ has your approach to a set changed with time?
Not really to be honest. Right from the early days of playing out I’d always practice, make sure I knew what tracks mixed together nicely, and I’d always have my tunes in a certain order with some spare all-round bangers in case of emergency lol.
That’s pretty much what I do now, although the record box is now ‘Rekordbox’, the software version, and I can fit a lot more tunes in there. But it’s the same really – I have my playlists all sorted and tracks in order, not to play them in order, but just so I know where everything is. I’m very organised with my tunes, with cue points, loops and markers, and I still practice and prepare pretty much before every set.
It’s a bit like any career I suppose – If you want to make a success of it, you need to give it your best attention.
Catch Slipmatt in London at ‘This House Is For Rave House’ at LDN East on 15th Oct.