Gone To A Rave #36: Dj Ron – A London Some’ting
DJ Ron is back in the game. Having spent the 80s and 90s establishing himself as one of the heaviest DJs in the jungle and hardcore scenes, including releasing a series of classics of his London Some'ting label – a label which kicked off with the timeless jungle of Worries In the Dance and later gave a home to Ron's own regularly rewound banger Crackman. From the mid noughties Ron had pretty much dropped out from music altogether, slowly letting London Some'ting fall into hiatus, and eventually focusing on his work in Rinse FM's TV division. That's about to change, and on July 10th, Ron's gonna return. He's bringing the London Some'ting brand back to the city, kicking off a new night in Dalston's Dance Tunnel, round 5 minutes from where he first started playing parties when he was barely a teenager some 30 years before. Check the line up and details on the facebook event over here.
It seemed the best time to catch up with a Hackney boy who can cast his roots deep, deep back into the scene. I met Ron in a pub on London Fields, round the corner from where it all began, as he was happy to tell me –
I was looking at the London Some'ting label sleeves before coming out, and it mentioned the office was at 100 Richmond Road, Hackney – it's all residential there now, what's the deal?
So, that was my mums house and to be honest with you, a lot of people have passed through 100 Richmond Road. That’s where I first ever started DJing. I went to secondary school at Hackney Free, which is now flats on Lansdowne Drive. My mum had a little room downstairs where the boiler and whatnot were, and that’s where I would DJ. I think my brother had lifted some of those Disco Decks, you know the belt drive with the knobs at the front..
Yeah, the all in one unit.
Yeah yeah! So they were my first decks.
So was your brother DJing as well?
Yeah. He ran a sound system back in the day called Romances Delight.
What a name!
Yeah, I know!
Were they playing lovers rock?
Lovers and soul and stuff like that. I played for him just round the corner from here actually at Ellingfort Road.
Just a house party?
Yeah. In those days you’d find an empty house and bring your own speakers and string them up. But you’d have two sound systems that would both bring their own, so you’d have stacks in each corner. I played there for him once and he was playing against this system called TNT, they were really well known and really popular and they asked me to join theirs.
And you did?
No actually, as I was with my brother and I was like, ‘no, this is my brothers sound.’ But then he said that I should go as it would improve my career. So I did that and then I was with TNT for a long time.
What year was this?
It must have been early 80’s, maybe around ’81.
So yeah, around that sort of time. I was a teenager then.
Where were you getting your records?
I was getting them from a shop up the road on Narrow Way called Wired for Sound. This guy Kenrick used to work in there. I used to get 80% of my records from there.
What sort of thing were you buying?
I was buying a mixture of what you’d probably now call disco and soul and early electronic music. Then moving into rap and hip-hop and stuff like that. I was into scratching and mixing and all that kind of stuff.
So what were you doing at the time to make enough money to buy tunes?
I was a plumber! I was plumbing from when I left school and it was fun, I loved it. So I was getting my records that way. I was getting a little bit of money from playing out and about with TNT, but at that time the whole scene was growing across the whole of London as well, so there were other sound systems from other areas. From West London you had Main Attraction and then Rap Attack was probably one of the biggest.
Rap Attack are still holding on strong now…
Yeah, Alistair was one of my biggest inspirations. Before I was DJing I used to be up by the decks and he was the first person with Technics decks, period. He was the first person in this country to have them and people didn’t even know what they were. I remember begging my mum to get me some decks for my birthday, and she did. That was my 21st.
She got you some Technics?
Yep, she got me some Technics on higher purchase.
You must have felt like a badman with Technics though!
I remember switching the lights on, setting up my little DJ bit with the Technics thing hanging over the crates or whatever. I leave them on all night to see the lights.
All the little circles going around…
Yeah! I was really made up. So yeah, you had Rap Attack and then from North London was Beat Freak and that was Mike West who actually eventually turned out to be Rebel MC.
Okay. Was he from around Tottenham?
Yeah, around there. Eventually that whole scene began to merge together and instead of it being house parties there were raves and all of those sounds would be at one event. They’d all play one after another or something like that.
Was this later ‘80s or mid-80s?
Do you remember any events in particular?
There were a couple in town halls, I remember Acton Town Hall. Rebel put one on up Stamford Hill in a community centre type place. I played there and Rap Attack were playing there too. Rap Attack were hands down the best at everything. Playing at that party really helped to raise my profile. We became good friends after that as well, Alistair and I, and we still are.
Do you remember what tunes you were dropping around that time?
There were like Tom Tom Kicks (Im guessing he means Tom Tom Club, but I'm gonna have to phone to confirm this..). I remember that I was definitely the first person in that scene to play Public Enemy, things like Sweetheart, Loose Ends… The one thing though, throughout my whole DJ career, is that I can never remember the name of records. I always knew them by their fingerprints and the colour of the label. It was personal. It wasn’t like I was a train spotter. It wasn’t that sort of thing for me and it never has been. Even now, people ask me what a certain tune was on a mix tape and I just have to say that I don’t know what they’re talking about. Often though, it was just a dubplate and on the labels I’d just write my own name and over the years I just forget who even gave them to me.
So who else was in TNT?
The DJ’s were me, DJ Frank, a guy called Vader – we called him that because he was so black – (laughs) or at least I think that's how he got the name – and then Danny who owned the sound system but he never really DJed. His brother Eugene used to MC and he had a really strong lisp. Somebody put out this seminal piece of vinyl for one of the events; I think it was the one at Acton Town Hall. We recorded it in the studio but we gave people the impression that it was the recording from the Town Hall and it’s called All Dayer of the Centuries.
Is it still out there?
Have you got a copy?
No I don’t. It would be interesting to see what came up if you Google’d it now though.
I’m going to hunt that down now.
I’m on there, Rebel’s on there. We were only in our 20’s.
So this wasn’t on at night, it was an all dayer?
That’s right. The all dayers were generally during the daytime but the house parties were at night. Some of the ones that Rebel had put on though were more in the evening, but not 2 or 3 in the morning. At that time though, it was a lot more lenient in terms of the licensing. It was all new so people didn’t know what their rights were in terms of shutting down the party next door.
But 100 Richmond Road man, I suppose it’s akin to Jammer’s basement at Lord of the Mics. Because friends of mine like Rodney P, MC Mellow, all of us, would be doing mixes at my mum’s house.
And you mum was cool with this?
Well, she was all right with it. But it was better to have us doing that than being on the streets – even though were still on the streets! She was kind of okay with it though, there was always a point where she’d tell us to turn the music down, but you know. It’s weird because now, after all these years, my mum has sold up now for a smaller place.
I imagine that place would have gone for a fair amount of money now too.
Yeah, she didn’t do too badly out of it.
And now, I’ve got my own flat on Richmond Road overlooking the park. It’s like full circle really.
Richmond Road is quite a different place now from the early ‘80s though.
Absolutely. I mean, the whole area has changed considerably. I count the friends on one hand that have a negative view about the changes. I’ve got nothing to say but positive things though. It’s whether you’re that type of person that’s able to network and get on with people.
It’s a bit hard when people can’t afford a house around here though when they grew up in the area.
Yeah, I suppose so. But you’ve got the other aspect of it which is the traders and the rates in terms of rent and whatever going up. But I suppose that’s the price of gentrification I suppose. I swim a lot in the pool and I find it easy to strike up conversation with people. There’s a guy in there that’s from Liverpool and he remembers that there used to be a time where you wouldn’t even think about walking through the park at a certain time of night, or there would be burnt out cars in the park and things like that. I’m not saying that that has changed because of the people that have moved into the area, but the council have got their finger out and the mayor is really proactive in terms of making the borough a better place to live in. I mean, if I couldn’t afford a place, would I be having this same conversation in this manner with you? Or if I had a shop and I had to move out, maybe my views would be different. I’m only going by my experience and the general experience of most of the people that I know that are from the area that do have homes. Most people that I know, including my mum and brother have bought their own places. If you were a teenager then, and you’ve grown up in this area as its changed, you probably wouldn’t be able to afford a house anywhere in London.
So, going back to TNT, did you move from playing the soul and hip hop into playing acid house in the late 80s?
Oh, acid house. So, like I’ve said before, all through this time I was plumbing at the same time as DJing and I remember the very early days of Rebel getting into a studio in the mid to late 80s. We’d go to the studio together and we did a tune called Micron. It was an Eastenders tune, he was rapping and I was scratching on it. He was rapping all about Eastenders… We did that in Anthony Brightlee’s studio, I had no concept of what a studio was at that time. Even when I was there I couldn’t really conceptualise what was happening and being recorded and all the rest of it.
So who was Anthony?
So Anthony’s brother was Peter Bouncer, the guy who sang Raving I'm Raving with Shut Up & Dance. Everyone was so interlinked in one way or another. Rebel had done a track with him as well and that was called I’m A Junglist.
That’s the anthem.
So yeah, we did that Eastenders tune and Rebel was getting more and more into making music. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t. But credit to him, he’d keep pulling me back into the studio. After that, we sort of lost touch with each other for a while and then my mum sad to me one day that she’d seen Rebel on the TV doing Double Trouble, so that was really late 80s. Then he came to me and was like, ‘I want you to come with me as you’re my DJ and we’re going to do a tour of the UK.’
So I said, ‘yeah sure’ but then didn’t turn up.
Why didn’t you turn up?
I was probably stoned somewhere. I was young – I didn’t care. So he went on tour and came back again and was like, ‘Listen man, you’re STILL my DJ. I’m doing a tour of Europe this time.’
Now, this time I actually went and we toured all of Europe and it was a good laugh.
What was it like? Where were you playing?
We were playing Holland, different parts of Germany; Hamburg and Berlin, but before the wall had come down.
What sorts of people were coming to see you then?
I can’t remember properly but it was still young people and no different to the people that I’m expecting to turn up to the party at Dance Tunnel – that sort of age group. It was great, we had a blast and we continued it for a bit. At that time, the rave scene was really starting to kick in. I wasn’t going, but my mates that used to kick around East London were and were heavily involved in it in many different aspects. Every Sunday they’d come to my mum’s house and be like, ‘yeah it was fucking buzzing out there, do you know what I mean.’ Then, I went to one party and I was hooked. I remember DJ Connee had been playing some acid house rave and he was telling me that I had to get into it. He gave me a stack of records, maybe about 30, so that I was able to understand what the music was like and how it worked and then I got hooked on that.
Was it American stuff that had come in?
Yeah, it was mostly American. The interesting thing about music at that time was that you didn’t know whether they were English or American. I assume they were American, but that just wasn’t enough. I was still getting these records from Wired For Sound.
So they’d obviously followed up on what was going in in the scene.
Yeah. It wasn’t just a simple transition though, what happened at one of the TNT parties that was in Mile End, it happened to be our first warehouse party and it was unfortunate because there was an incident there, it was just a fight I think. After that Danny, the owner of the sound, didn’t really have the confidence to go out into the public as often and although everyone was telling him that people want the sound out there and that people missed it, he had lost it and he cut out very early. So after that, unfortunately TNT weren’t playing out as regularly.
But the timing was interesting because as that was happening, the acid house scene was happening and so I was already looking in that direction. I can’t put a time or a date on when one finished and the other one started, but it never seemed like I wasn’t DJing. Then slowly I started getting into DJing at these parties in Leytonstone actually, and it was me, Tanzin, Rhythm Doctor, DJ Connee and they used to be downstairs in the hairdressers. It was proper seedy, acid house. It was great and these parties went on right through the day.
What was the hairdresser’s called? Is it still there?
I can’t remember you know. God knows if it’s still there. I could find out though, someone would remember.
One time we should do a tour of the ends and you point out where everything went on.
I could show you all of the little alleys and stuff where everything used to go on. We used to do parties all over Hackney. But from the parties in the hairdressers I started getting booked for other gigs that were acid house gigs and whatever. The people that were doing those parties were already engraved in the rave scene and the rave scene kind of grew from all over East London.
A lot of times when the story of house is told, a lot of people go on about clubs like Shoom and whatever right? But from my understanding, there was a lot going on before that.
That was the afterbirth of the real acid rave scene, as far as I’m concerned anyway. Well, not afterbirth as they throw that bit away…
The child then.
The sibling. So anyway, we were doing those parties and from that I was getting other bookings. Then there was another bunch of parties that was happening called Sunday Roast and they were happening down at Turnmills on a Sunday afternoon.
Is that what turned into Roast?
Yeah. So that was at Turnmills on a Sunday afternoon and my mate had said that if I brought my records along he’d be able to get me a spin on there. I took my records along and then he just fucked off into the crowd and I was just left there with my records… But it turned out that someone hadn’t turned up and they sent me on and then the DJ after that didn’t turn up either, so I ended up playing two sets and from that they made me a resident.
So essentially from there, it was the start of my DJ career in the rave industry as you know it, with the Telepathy's and what have you.
How were promoters in those days with paying you and the like?
Historically, promoters have "never made any money", well the ones that I know and have heard of anyway. Hustling was part and parcel of the game though. So in answer to your question, it was always a challenge to say the least. But the thing is, you’re still doing you’re something you enjoy and even if someone is making some money off the back of it and not sharing it out, then it wasn’t that much of an issue for me.
So you were still plumbing at this stage?
I’d actually stopped that just before I went on the European tour with Rebel. But the guys I worked for over in Leytonstone were great and I loved it there and they paid well. We had some great laughs and they loved it when they saw me on Top of the Pops.
So you were on Top of the Pops with Double Trouble?
Yeah! We were on there a few times. I think it was more with Rebel MC than Double Trouble though. But when I went on tour I told them that I needed to take some real time off because of what was going on with the music and they completely understood and said that my job was always going to be there for me. But after that point in never went back and I’ve been in the music business ever since. It’s been about 20 odd years.
So when you started playing Telepathy and what have you, did you just move with it naturally? Do you remember there being a period when you suddenly started playing hardcore ?
Yeah, I remember at Gass Club in the West End, my mate Andrew Grey, he was always at the raves. We named him Bart Simpson because he was basically yellow. Well, he was light skinned but you know, and he was always up to mischief. So I’d be playing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and especially at this time it would be more frequent that you’d have hour and a half sets than hour sets.
Were you still playing hip-hop?
No. By this time it was all just rave, if you want to call it that, but different strands of it. There might bit a bit of hardcore or some more ‘breaky’ hardcore, some Belgium stuff it was a complete mish-mash of everything. Even now, if I was to play a set like that, that is exactly what I’d play. I’d play a mixture of it all. There was never just one sort of music that I liked. But anyway, my mate Andrew Grey kept telling me that I needed to play all breaks that night, and I was saying that I couldn’t do that. But at the daytime thing at Gass Club I caved and went for it, and I just played break after break after break. From that moment, for me, that was when it changed and became more the start of when jungle became a thing and there were reggae samples, but before the term jungle had been coined. But that was the first time I’d always played a whole hour and half of breaks.
Was this the era of Sweet Harmony and things like that?
Yeah, maybe even a bit before that. I’m talking like 1991 here.
Renegade Soundwave? That sort of thing?
Yes! Babylon as well – that sort of time – I remember that track being pulled up like 15 times. The breaks were slower and the tempo was still down in the 130’s. But you could still pull out of that and go acid house if you wanted. I’m using the term acid house quite liberally, but it’s encompassing four to floor, euro, blah blah blah. Then it became more interesting though as it was good know that people were up for having breaks all night, but they hadn’t forgotten all the other stuff that they liked too, so you could just throw it in every now and then. It was a great time. Probably one of the best time that I really enjoyed playing a variety of music. I did a set with Zinc on Rinse recently and we were back to back, it was so nice going back and playing that music man. It’s fucking hard to mix, but it’s so nice to play. That day with Zinc in the studio was such a laugh.
So when did London Some'ting start then? Are we jumping forward a few years?
Yeah, that’s a jump by quite a few years. But by this point my mum had kicked me out, well not kicked me out, but I would have stayed there forever. One day she was just like, ‘You know I love you, but you’ve got to go. You can’t stay in this house forever.’ I ended up moving into a really nice place over on Old Street, right by the roundabout, and that became a new hangout. I remember these kids coming to me one day like, ‘DJ Ron, we’ve got this tune!’
Around this time, people were just starting up labels. Let’s say it’s about ’95. Every single seminal label that you could think of had just started putting out releases around that time. So then I got the releases bug and thought I’d start a label. So, then these kids came along with this track, and it was okay. But then it was about the commitment and I had to invest in the record – get it mastered, get it pressed up etc. Then I’ve also got to come out to the public that I’ve got a label. It was a big step. But I wasn’t committed… That was until the boys said that it got played at AWOL and rewound four times! Needless to say I signed it. That was Worries In The Dance.
So who was it that made that?
They were called New Blood at the time, and DJ Stretch was in it – he’s still around now. There was another guy called Aaron and I’ve forgotten the other kids name…
Were they from East as well?
No, they were from North West area.
So how did they get that to you? Did they just know you were a DJ?
My place was like an open flat. People would turn up there all the time and loads of people from the circuit would be round my flat. We’d all just hang out.
So by this point you’d already made Crackman hadn’t you?
Yeah, I made Crackman over by Welsh Street. You go down there and then take a right onto Shore Place and at the bottom of there is Welsh Street Studios. Wait, what am I talking about? No I didn’t. I made that in a studio in Birmingham because the original was made by members of the UB40 band.
The original Crackman?
So what it was was, Patrick, who was the saxophone player, and Earl who was the bass player of UB40, and DJ Swanny was friends with them. I can’t remember what happened, but maybe it was because of my jungle notoriety or whatever and my relationship with Swanny. Anyway, they asked me to remix it.
What was the original?
It was called Crackman as well, mine was a remix.
So what did that come out on?
The original came out on subsidiary of theirs that they’d made up. It had a pink label with just a stamp on it. Then my remix came out on my label.
And you did that up in Birmingham?
Did you go up there specifically to do that?
Was theirs just a reggae tune or whatever?
No, it was an acid house track!
So the guys from UB40 had made an acid house tune?
Yeah, just for a laugh! I ended up doing something else for them later on too, an official remix of something for them. I think it might have been King? So yeah, I did that up there and stayed at Earls house, that was a good laugh. It was African Chant that I did at Welsh Street.
Worries in the Dance was a pretty big start to the label-
Yeah, it was a good way to get the name out there. What I think the success of any project comes down too is the drive in it. For London Some'ting, although I had that drive, I was also out there. I was a socialite. The proof in what I’m saying is clear, what makes the other labels so successful, if you look at labels like V, Ram, Moving Shadow, Hospitality and then you look at some others like Prototype and a few others, you could see that some of them were not so prolific in their release schedule and ideas about releases. Some of them on the other hand, were like growing industries and the reason behind it was that there was somebody there out in the social environment and the fabric of the rave scene.
Kind of like a label manager.
Yeah. In absence of that, and I speak for myself in this and I think it was the same for a number of people, you can’t quite put that same focus and attention into it with one person as you can with two. Even so, with London Some'ting, we had a great period of time and I loved making music and then selling it as well.
Have you ever compiled the stuff from the label or made it available digitally?
Funnily enough, last year I went to 20 Years of Rinse and we had a pop-up shop. For some reason, I was out of London and I ended up at S.R.D. (Southern Records Distribution, one of the UKs biggest DnB distributors) and I saw Rico there and he was saying how we needed to make the music available again and what have you. Then literally two weeks ago, Jamie in the office was in touch with Rico about something else and he told Jamie to hit me up again about getting the music out there. So I’m not against the idea at all.
Have you got the masters?
Yeah. I’ve got a big box a DATs in there.
Much unreleased stuff?
Tonnes of it.
I’ve got this track that I started making with DJ Patife and it’s got all the MC’s on it, literally everybody on there. That was later on though. I had to almost literally tie some of the MC’s down though to get it done….
So, what I find interesting is that, unlike loads of people that I talk to in the old school scene have either religiously stuck with jungle or drum & bass, or they’ve quit completely, you’ve ended up working at Rinse which means you have a different context to this.
So at Rinse, I’m head of their TV department. It wasn’t a musically lead position that I had there. But I knew Sarah, who’s one of the owners there and we’ve been friends for years and years and I also had an office in the back as the main office was so noisy as I needed some peace time because I was building something up completely from scratch. But once I moved into the main office and I was able to see the hub of activity and I was able to see the different types of music and whatever, I started to recognise more.
But as well as that, this area in the last few years has changed dramatically, and seeing that change in the area and the sorts of music that are being played in the radio and the types of music that Rinse themselves release, for me, I wasn’t going allow myself to be pigeonholed into one type of music. I rarely listen to jungle sets when I’m at home. I don’t know if there is any DJ out there that sits at home and listens to their own genre of music. I’m not knocking them if they do, but there’s so much music out there! So I was being exposed to a number of different types of music, some of them I don’t understand and I’m not into, but I understand that I wasn’t there at the beginning and I didn’t see the graduation of it and so I’m coming in at a certain point and therefore won’t fully understand it. Being around the radio station has kind of just embedded it into me and now I have a wider understanding of electronic music in this country. I think that Rinse is a great place to witness that. I don’t listen to the others, so I can’t say that better or worse or anything like that, but I don’t think anyone could deny that Rinse isn’t up there in the forefront of that. It’s such a great learning ground for me.
Do you think that’s what inspired you to get out there and start a night again?
What made me start the night, I think, was more led by the fact that people are constantly asking me to DJ. But one of the guys from the office asked me to DJ for a guy called Sam in Leeds and after a bit of pestering I did. It was the first time I’ve got to a rave by train as well. It was great, I loved it and I’d definitely do it again. I had a hotel and everything, it was sweet!
So that was that, and this year I got a call from the same guy, and it turned out that he has something to do with Outlook festival and he asked if I minded playing for him at Outlook. I was still a bit unsure at this point though, but I ended up saying I’d do it as it was quite a big deal. But that was the first point where I’d considered DJing again professionally, in that conversation with him at that time. That was the little spark that started having me more open to DJing again. Maybe there were a couple of other things happening at the time as well, there was an interesting thing happening at Rinse actually; so my name is Ron Samuels and over the years people have just come in and said like, ‘Hey Ron, how’s it going?’ But then slowly people would be coming in again and they’d suddenly realise it was me, and they’d be like, ‘I didn’t realise you were that fucking Ron! I’ve got all your tunes!’
It was from that point that I realised what I was doing was wrong. I’d forgotten London Some'ting and put it to bed when there were people out there who still wanted it.
I think the name is very potent.
Probably because it’s just one of those names, you know? They even named a Channel 4 documentary after it.
My mate made that documentary and I made all the music for it.
I’ve written about it before, it’s heavy, really interesting.
So those thoughts about London Some'ting were resonating with me and then someone suggested that I did a party. Then that got me thinking and we started having a conversation about it, because I wanted to have some advice on it as I’m not really in the scene any more and I’m not in the circuit enough to be able to make decisions on what the best approach to certain things is. I got expert advice on logistical stuff, but I knew that I didn’t want to put a rave on that would be all jungle. You saying about the name London Some'ting being potent, it worked. I wanted London Some'ting inside that party. At the next one, I might have someone playing bashment in there, you know, and then I might have Mssigno play straight after them. The beauty of it, that’s really interesting actually, is that because all the people I want to play I was actually friends with at one point or another, even though I still have to go through agents or whatever, it’s still a little bit flexible. In this instance we can’t do it because we physically don’t have the time on the night, but certainly as we move forward with the next series of events, we’ll have a special guest who can’t be announced.
Do you think you’re going to get people from the jungle scene to play outside of jungle?
Well, that’s the idea. Even if it doesn’t start with them doing that, it might start with somebody who is not known for playing jungle, playing jungle. The idea is basically that it just becomes a house party. You turn up, and you’re guaranteed that the DJs in there are, in their own right, amazing, and you trust them because they are great at what they do and they have a following, no matter what they play.
What are you going to be doing? What’s a Ron set now?
Ummm, I mean, I might play acid house, there’s a little period of time between ’90 and ’92 where there are some obscure records and the guy at the time was only able to afford to press 300 copies, and I’ve collated a little set of that together.
Are you going to do any new stuff as well?
Yeah. I can’t remember where I was playing but I was ringing round people asking them for dubplates for it and I’ve ended up with loads of folders that I never went through. I’m not against playing new stuff or going right the way back to playing stuff from when I was in TNT.
That’d be quite hype if you did the TNT Roadshow show.
I want to do it.
You should get back together with them!
I’m going to do that soon. Let me tell you something.
Any chance of getting Rebel MC up on it as well?
I think he’d be up for that you know. He’s a very busy boy at the moment though…