Justice & Mercy – Concrete Jungle EP

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Justice & Mercy ‘Concrete Jungle’ EP – Originally released on Rudebwoy Records, 1992.

It was a wet Tuesday night in October when I called up my old mate from the Moving Shadow days, Tony Justice. There are some people, no matter how much time passes, you just pick things up from where you last left them. As we both come from an 80s hip hop background, there has always been an affinity between us. So, after a bit of a catch up, I got down to business, asking Tony how the whole EP came together:

 “I went to a night at Milwaukees (a key venue on the UK rave map), it was a Thursday night, which was the way back then for the rave scene, you wanted the weekend to start as early as possible. After the club closed I ended up round at a guy called Nick Fallon’s house. Nick was recording on the label Chill Records at this time under the name of Terra Incognita, alongside two guys, Andrew Wright and Christian Hartup”. Tony explains. “So through now knowing Nick I was introduced to Andrew. There wasn’t much equipment around at that time so you inevitably ended up doing stuff with someone who had it. And that’s how I ended up at Andrew’s studio”.

“I had an Ensoniq EPS 16+ sampler workstation keyboard” Andrew adds. “This 16 bit beast was a big step up from the Amiga’s 8 bit sampler, so the sound got a lot cleaner and less grainy, even though it could still only sample in mono. Damon at Chill organized for both me and Neil Rumney (NRG) to get one at the same time, using an advance on royalties. I remember being really excited waiting for the thing to get delivered”

Tony, who had already had a release on Chill Records with Blame (Murderin MC/Death Row) tells me that they day he went over to work on some tunes with Andrew, he just grabbed a handful of records from his collection and turned up brimming with ideas. “It was quite sampled based, I had a lot of hip hop and just started to collect the original breakbeats”. Andrew was already an accomplished producer, releasing quality techno on Chill Records and it’s sister label Up-Roar under the names Rotor, Campher & Menthol, and the aforementioned Terra Incognita. He recalls “Tony had a great collection of hip hop vinyl, so we had a ton of great samples to hand. Our “Concrete Jungle EP” as Justice & Mercy was a huge hit. We took some pretty big liberties with sampling other work, but everyone was doing it. The sampler was king. Rather than hook up MIDI equipment, I would just borrow synths and drum machines off friends, and sample the sounds I liked. It wasn’t as flexible as having the real equipment, but it was a lot less hassle. I’d do anything to avoid having a tangled mess of cables everywhere. I can’t remember exactly what I’d sampled, but there was definitely a Roland SH-101 in there somewhere”.

Andrew's bedroom studio in Dunstable

Andrew’s bedroom studio in Dunstable around 1992.

The main sample in ‘Sooth My Soul’ was ‘My Love’ by Collapse which Tony bought in Soul Sense Records in Luton back in 1991, and he was just itching to flip it into a jungle tune. The vocal in SMS was from ‘Shelter Me’ by Circuit. “The whole tune just came together. All the samples just worked and we did it in one session, though Andrew would of had to work on the mix afterwards to get it right” Tony muses. Andrew continues “I initially had mixed feelings about Soothe My Soul. It’s a great track, one of my all time favourites, but it was very sampled loop heavy, which is something I’d usually tried to avoid. It was all written on the EPS, and it really came around because Tony found the amazing synth and vocal break and adding the “Soothe My Soul” sample just finished it off nicely! It still sends tingles down my spine 27 years later, and I consider it the best track Tony and I did together. It was one of those tracks that just fell into place. It’s always nice when that happens! One of the interesting things in the track is that a bug in the EPS sequencer timing produced an interesting side effect. The bug affected the duration of notes randomly, as the EPS was not very precise. The lead instrument had a bit of noise after it, that should have been truncated off, but on some of the notes, it played a fraction of the noise, creating what sounds like another deliberately played instrument behind the lead sound”.

With Andrew’s techno history and his comprehensive studio knowledge the next tune they did together was just as easy to complete. ‘Fake Lobsters’ has always intrigued me because of the odd name and the even more bonkers vocal loop. I asked Tony what made him decide upon that sample, as it was so unusual compared to what was being sampled back in 1992. “I had this Tall, Dark & Handsome tune called ‘The Bronx Is Back’ which had this great vocal at the start of it. So we looped it up and found the line that we used – All fake mobsters, crabsters and lobsters – worked best, so we just ran with it. I remember thinking ‘Wow, what’s he saying???’ but it was quite ambiguous and for years to come know one knew what it said” Tony tells me with a laugh, adding “It was instantly recognisable. It was a gimmick, there were a lot of gimmicks in the scene back then, but this was far cooler than that”. The tune only took a couple of sessions to complete as Andrew already had lots of loops and samples to hand, which sped the process up. Before long, they had the EP finished and both mused ‘What are we going to do with these?’. “They weren’t really Chill’s sort of thing” Tone informs me, “So we decided to do our own label and got it mastered and manufactured by by Keith at JTS. I remember taking a day out of Dunstable College to go up and get it done. It was at this college that I met Blame”.

Unknown, Tony Justice, Mark Thornicroft

In The Mix L-R: Unknown, Tony Justice, Mark Thornicroft, 1992.

I was curious to know why they just went with a white label after having previous releases with full colour labels and how the name for the EP and the label came about to which Tony explained “I was always one for a good name. At this time Jungle was becoming a popular term, so it kinda felt right to call the EP ‘Concrete Jungle’, it felt right for the music we had done. White labels were everywhere in 1992, so we just decided to stick with that for this release. The name Rudebwoy Records was just a name that we came up with, Im not sure how come, it just sounded right”.

I had a couple of other questions about the EP that I needed to get Tony to answer. Firstly, why was the ‘Experience Remix’ so short and why was the ‘Experience Remix’ released before the original (the original came out on the Whitehouse release ‘Mixed Concrete’)? “I remember DJ SS came to Milwaukees once and I was behind the decks and he played this tune from his first release on Formation Records. He started his set with it and it said “SS”. I loved it that he had a tune he could play with his name in it. I wanted to make one as well and had the MC Duke sample saying ‘There ain’t no law, there’s only justice’, so it just was supposed to be a skit on the EP, just so I had something to open my sets with” Tony remembers fondly. “Then we started to send the first copies of ‘Concrete Jungle’ out on promo and it started to get really big. It was funny as we sent the tunes to lots of labels and DJs before we released it and no one would sign it. Then Carl Cox picked up on the white label and was dropping it in all his sets, using the intro of ‘Sooth My Soul’ as a bit of a DJ Tool, dropping in the intro before playing the tune…”

(as can be heard here on a clip of Carl Cox doing exactly that at Amnesia House ‘Book Of Love’ event in June 1992:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlKACF_1oKQ

“…and now all the same people wanted to sign the EP!!! By this point we had already asked Mo’s Music Machine to distribute it and due to the interest they could see in the EP, they asked if myself and Andrew would do some music for them, which we started on straight away. That’s when we decided to develop Experience into a longer tune as the feedback was to extend it as it’s a great tune. We were both into Battlestar Galactica and we were both aware of the Justice sample in it. But it said ‘Justice & Mercy’ so I looked at Andrew and said ‘Looks like you are going to have to be Mercy then’ and that’s how he got his name, from that sample. So both EPs were made before the first one had an official release and that is why ‘Experience Remix’ came out first as we saved the full length for Whitehouse.”

A flyer from a rave that Tony Justice use to play at in Oxford and how he got linked in with the Spinback and Gwange, 1992.

The EP went on to become a huge release at the time and cemented the names of Justice & Mercy into the heart of the emerging jungle scene. Both EPs were caned at all the biggest raves across the UK through the summer of 1992, appearing on mixtapes from all the big players and energising ravers the length and breadth of the country, as Andrew fondly recalls; “My favourite ever event was Fantazia: One Step Beyond in Donnington, back in 1992. I think there were more than 25,000 people dancing in a field, and this one was actually legally organised. The atmosphere was electric, and to top it off, the second from last tune of the night played was one of ours, “Soothe My Soul” by Justice & Mercy. I was right at the back, on a small hill, watching 25,000+ people going crazy to one of my tunes. You can’t beat that!”

Agreed, you can’t beat that!

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