When Sam Gordon was 7 years old he fell in love with vinyl. He can recall the very first time he went into a record shop at that age “I really loved Herbie Hancock’s tune ‘Rockit’ which was released when I was 7 and I have this vivid memory of my mum taking me into Our Price in Bromley and as I was so small, she had to lift me up at the counter so I could ask the shop assistant for it” It was this shopping trip that got a young Sam hooked on music and those electro beats of Herbie Hancock stuck in his head throughout his formative years. By the time he was 15 he first started producing – “Me and my mates were messing about with the UK hip hop and early house sound we were inspired by, just sampling loads and rapping over fast hip hop beats and hardcore sounds. This would have been 1991. I had a keyboard with 3 seconds of sample time on it, which meant you could only sample one element at a time, loop it and bounce our ideas down onto a 4-track. Our little crew was called ‘Youts On The Run’ which was a reference to the experiences we had growing up in 80’s and 90’s South East London where we were constantly looking over our shoulder. Our lyrics spoke about these experiences and the music drew on the melting pot of influences that were starting to converge into the UK hardcore/early jungle scene. The Group consisted of me as MC Firefly, a mate Lee who went by DJ Frontline and handled the musical side with me and two others; Kevin “Mad X” and Dene “Iron I”. Firefly was a short lived alias as I soon changed my name to DJ Shocker, leaving the mic behind and getting on the decks instead. And then not long after that I became Missing. These name changes all happened within a two year period!”. It wasn’t long before ‘Youts on The Run’ sent off a few demos and had a phone call from one label, Gangster Records, who released tracks by a UK hip hop group Dominant Force. The label boss liked their ideas and spoke about getting them in the studio but nothing came of it and the other band members lost interest but Sam definitely had the bug!
Iron I and Mad X from ‘Youts on da Run’ in Iron I’s teenage bedroom – “He lived at top of a block of flats so had the best signal to pick up the pirates in North London”.
Sam continues –“By the time I was 17 I was really keen to get into a proper studio but back then it wasn’t easy to make music like it is today where practically anyone could access a DAW; and this was pre- internet so definitely no YouTube tutorials on how to chop an amen! These were the days of analogue studios and they weren’t cheap to rent. I was at Orpington College in Kent studying for A levels and a fellow student Ian, DJ Kingsize who was a DJ on Defection FM at the time, told me about a studio he had used for a demo track in Mottingham (also in South East London), run by a guy called Martin. He was in his 50’s and a chain-smoking Yorkshireman who liked his pints. He knew nothing about jungle but he charged a reasonable fee for a day’s session, about £100, and was a nice bloke and mostly a patient engineer when being asked to try all kinds of mad edits! He had a fairly basic set up with a Roland JV1080, a Mackie 24 channel desk, an Akai S1000 that was upgraded, so had about a minutes sample time, an Atari ST running the same cracked copy of Cubase everyone seemed to have and a few sample CDs. So when it came to my 18th Birthday and my parents asked me what I wanted, I asked for a day’s studio session”. His parents kindly agreed to his request, as they could see how much enthusiasm their son had for music, and a day’s studio hire was secured.
“I had a clear vision in my head for a tune and arrived on the day with lots of ideas and samples. The end result was an early version of ‘Stitch In Time’ which I was happy with at the time, so I sent it to a few labels including the Symphony Sounds label, run by Paul Symphony aka Neuromancer, famous for track ‘Pennywise’, who also ran a distribution company. Paul called me and said he liked some of the ideas in the demo and asked me to come in for a chat – luckily he was also based nearby, down the road on the outskirts of Croydon. So I went round there and I’ll never forget that day, as there sitting on Paul’s sofa was “his mate Gavin” aka Nookie! I played my tune to both of them and we had a 20 minute chat about it, which is one of the most valuable conversations I could have had back then. They said the track wasn’t ready but Nookie gave me some amazing coaching. He told me that I should cut out half the samples and just focus on one vibe. For the early demo I wanted to try and have a dark track with a second half a lighter uplifting vibe. Nookie told me to focus on just one direction for the track. He also told me to keep drum edits interesting with changes every 8 bars and pointed me to a better amen break to use, one from a Peshay tune. So afterwards I ditched all the moody vibe samples and kept the tune more uplifting, focusing on the Wally Jump Jnr vocal sample that is the main hook of the track. But I could only afford one more day in the studio, so to save time I worked out all my amen edits first. I drew the amen beat by beat on graph paper, pre-planning what should happen where and when. It was the only way I could get it all done in one day!” Sam shares with me. This way of doing things, using a visual representation of how drums should be programmed is an unusual method as I mentioned in the X-Plode interview, as this was the way Lee X-Plode also worked. As a producer myself I find it hard to fathom how this was done as it isn’t something I have ever seen before, but luckily Sam still has that sheet of paper which shows his methodology and workings.
The original graph paper of Sam’s amen edits for the ‘A Stitch In Time’ track.
“So I sent the new version over to Paul Symphony and he really liked it. Not only that but he said that his mate Micky Finn might be up for remixing it. I got a DAT of all the samples sent over to Mickey but then all went quiet, Paul’s distro company slowed down, so I decided I should strike out by myself. But I needed a B-side so I had to save all my money to get back into the studio with Martin again. When not at college I was working in Iceland in Penge stacking shelves for about £3.50 an hour, trying to scrape together what I could to make it happen. Eventually, about 3 months later, I saved up enough to go back but this time I remember that there were a few disagreements in the studio as I wanted to turn up the bass and not polish up the beats, which wasn’t how Martin thought it should be, as he was a more traditional engineer. But the session went well and resulted in “Distant Echoes”. The track contains a sample from Alien ‘You could be floating out there forever’, a break from a Hardcore Rhythm Team track which is the break I took the fat snare from. There is also a cheeky sample of a sound from ‘Voodoo Ray’ right at the start but it is time stretched 400% – another discussion with Martin who thought that was a ridiculous setting to try! The squelchy acid line in this tune was from a multi-sampled Roland 303 which he had on floppy disc. Most 80’s music lovers will spot the big vocal sample. As Martin only had two effects units, delay and reverb, loads of the delays had to be done live while we were mixing the tune down. Martin would take some of the channels and I would take the others and have a list of where to turn up the effects send in the track”.
During the early 90’s vinyl sales were huge, so it was never too hard to find a distro that would take on a new artist and label as Sam explains “If you had a decent tune, it was never too hard to find a P&D (pressing & distribution) deal. My dad worked for Hackney Council property department and of course knew the Labyrinth Club – although he wasn’t a raver! He had heard about the burgeoning jungle scene which had many artists and DJ’s in the Hackney borough and my mum coincidentally worked with thesister of one of the Labyrinth promoters and both could see how much this record and being part of this scene meant to me, so they agreed to let me use some inheritance money that was left to me when my grandad died. It was meant to be used for me to help pay for college, but we made an agreement that I would pay it back with the money I hopefully made from the record. It was just enough to cover the pressing costs. So I spoke with three different distribution companies, SRD, Vinyl Distribution and Mo’s Music. SRD passed as they wanted more established labels but Vinyl and Mo’s agreed to take 400 each and I took the rest for promos and to sell to friends and family. The record was manufactured by Key Productions, a company Martin recommended to me. The record was cut by Simon at The Exchange. I was aware of Simon already as I had seen his name etched into the run out grooves of many records I owned. It was amazing to attend that first cut and see the master at work”.
The original artwork proof from Key Productions for the original Nu-Wave Recordings release in 1994, including all the shout outs.
So now Sam had everything in place to get the record cut, pressed and distributed but he just needed a label name for the project to come out on. I wanted to know more about Nu-Wave and how it came about – “The name Nu-Wave, there was no real significance to that. I was looking for an image first for the label and I came across the recycling logo, the sign with the arrows in a circle. So I sketched that out. I kind of thought that it was like me recycling old records and making something new! I decided on Nu-Wave as I thought that Jungle was the new sound coming through, the new wave. So I gave the manufacturers my hand drawn sketch and they immediately rejected it, saying it wasn’t good enough to use. I didn’t know any better and how things should be done. I thought that would have been good enough for them to use! So I had to come up with another idea fast. At this time my bedroom was covered in rave flyers, so I was sat in my room wondering what to do and I saw a flyer that had a baby wearing headphones which I thought could work for the artwork that I needed, so I took the flyer down and sent it to the manufacturers who used it as my logo. I can’t remember what rave that flyer was from though, so if anyone reading this does know, I would love to find out.”
I am always curious when I do these interviews as to how the record was received by the scene and how well it sold. As Sam had done everything himself and was so young, did the record do as well as he had hoped for it to do? “I released it early August 1994, which probably wasn’t the best time to release it in hindsight as everyone goes on holiday around then, but it did OK, I only had 50 returns. I was paid without a problem by both distro’s and I made the money back and a little extra on top, so I was more than happy. The whole experience made me want to set my sights on bigger labels to grow my profile. 1994 was a great time to be making music, there were lots of vibes to work with; Jungle, Hardcore as well as the more musical ‘intelligent’ side of the scene that emerging around this time. I remember I gave some records to my mate Phaze 3 who was a DJ on Kool FM (coincidently Phaze 3 also did a remix for Underdog Recordings back in the day that I did the artwork for). I wrote on each record who they were for (e.g. Brockie, Trace) and he took them to the studio and left them there for the DJ’s to pick up.That was pretty much my promotion strategy plus of course white labels given first to the distributor. The very first play the record got was the day Phaze had his show and was dropping off the records. He had a show that he jokingly called the ‘Rice & Peas Selection’ or ‘The Pat Butcher Hour’ which was named that as it was on a Sunday afternoon at the same time people were eating Sunday Rice & Peas and the Eastenders omnibus was on TV. He dropped the tune, the phone lines went off and it got an instant rewind. Paul (Phaze) used to say “31 seconds for the rewind”, a cheeky reference to ‘Valley of the Shadows’ so I remember thinking ‘Shit i hope it doesn’t go past the time limit’. I had a tape of this first play somewhere but it went on a skip with all my DATs and old discs and even the old ‘Youts on the Run’ demo tapes- but that’s another story!”
Sam Missing in his teenage bedroom in Penge, South East London – late 1995/early 1996.
“How come there was never a Volume Two?” I asked Sam – “I had promised my parents that I would put the money back that I had borrowed from my inheritance. So the little extra money that I did make went back into living expenses and a bit of studio time. The outcome of that studio time paid for by ‘Volume One’ royalties was my 3rd Party release ‘Flex & Relax/Back To Consciousness’. My intention was to get onto an established label and this self-funded release made it possible so I am very proud of this release. It was my foundation, the foundation to my musical career”.