“The whole vibe was dark, the DJs were just trying to out-do each other with darker and darker tunes and it just didn’t seem like people were really enjoying themselves. So I stopped going to raves after that night” – That was pretty much where we left Nathan Ova Doce during our last interview. For Nathan, the raves were about the uplifting rushes, the parties with the happy, smiley people. Those bouncy tunes with the uplifting melodies and sped up vocals. When the darkside came, Nathan lost his enthusiasm and moved into other scenes. But he never lost his faith in the culture. “I carried on borrowing the Amiga off my mate Jez, just making tunes for fun. I would make about a C90’s worth of tunes every year. That wasn’t 90 minutes of new tunes, I may start a tune, revisit it, make another bounce and have a load of differing versions by the end of the year. The scene and the music was advancing constantly and so rapidly back then. I carried on doing my radio show on the pirate station but the station had changed from FMBR to Magic FM, but surprisingly, it was still being broadcast from the same location, the farm! But after the raid, the DTI had taken the turntables and all the records, so all we could use were cassette players and tapes, so I would often play my experiments as they were all recorded onto cassette”. Nathan still has recordings of these shows, very hissy recordings that have lasted 30 years. And on some of these recordings are various tracks that appear on this EP as well as his previous EP for Vinyl Fanatiks. I recently shared one of these recordings on the labels Facebook page, and someone commented that they too also use to play on Magic FM in Walsall after the station left the farmhouse and moved into the city high rises, around 1994. Through comments left by replies made by Nathan, it became apparent that the owner of the station went on to be quite a face in the pirate circles as well as being the first person in the UK to be given an injunction to stop him ‘causing a nuisance’ as this article that reported on the case in the Birmingham Post clarifies:
‘In the first case of its kind, the Commercial Radio Companies Association has been granted a permanent injunction against Paul Hutchings, the man behind ‘Magic FM’ in Walsall. Mr Hutchings had twice been convicted by Walsall Magistrates Court of being involved in the running of an unlicensed pirate radio station. The convictions had been obtained by the Radiocommunications Agency. In October last year, Mr Hutchings was fined £600 and ordered to pay pounds £400 costs by Walsall magistrates. They also ordered he should forfeit his equipment. ‘He appeared to have taken the view that it was cheaper and easier to run the risk of criminal convictions and fines than to apply and pay for a licence from the Radio Authority, as legal radio broadcasters are obliged to do,’ said the CRCA. ‘Because criminal sanctions had failed to deter Mr Hutchings, the CRCA brought a civil action against him for public nuisance.’ It therefore granted a permanent injunction against Mr Hutchings, meaning that if he is involved in pirate radio broadcasting in the future he will be in contempt of court, and run the risk of going to prison’.
A young Ova Doce taking a selfie, 1993 – Greece.
The station started to move away from its rave roots during the later part of 1993 and Nathan decided it was time for him to depart. His attention had been caught by a scene he hadn’t engaged with before, as he explains “I use to chat to a girl in my local newsagent in Lichfield. She started to tell me about house music. I was surprised as I thought it had died out and was replaced by hardcore, but apparently not, it was still thriving. She invited me to The Institute Club in Birmingham to check out the vibe and I was amazed by the energy. I had started to see that energy decrease at the raves I was attending, being replaced by those darker vibes. So it was nice to be back in an environment that was a little similar to the raves I loved. From my visits to clubs like The Institute I started to get influenced by the music and started to dabble myself. I would make a house tune, then I would do a hardcore version of it as this was my first passion”.
I was curious as to what Nathan was doing with himself at this time, was he working, at college or on the dole? “By 1994 I was selling IT equipment” Nathan explains “And I was quite good at it. Where I worked they ran a scheme to incentivise you to sell more equipment. The weekly prize would be travel vouchers to the person who sold the most printers or whatever. And I was constantly winning. So I would have all these vouchers to use up. I would save them up and go away to France on weekend trips, like nearly every weekend and I would start to go out to the French clubs. Sometimes with mates, sometimes just by myself as my mates couldn’t always come with me. I would take the ferry from Portsmouth to Oustreham and pitch up a tent and then just go into town. The clubs weren’t on that UK rave tip, they would play Europop, hip hop and house like The Nightcrawlers and Bucketheads. I stopped borrowing the Amiga by this point as I was either working or away travelling, so the music dried up. By 1995 I had decided to move to France as I loved it so much and was working in Montpellier down in the south as a waiter in a hotel. It wasn’t great money, something like £25 a week, YTS wages really. I would mostly just go to bars as I didn’t have much money, saving what little I had to visit a club once every 6 weeks or so”.
On the road – Nathan making a toothbrush stop – 1995, near Biarritz
By 1996 Nathan had left Montpellier and had now moved to Sete, which was a 40 minute drive away. By chance, whilst in the UK in 1995, he had remixed a classic French song by Stephen Eicher called ‘Dejeuner En Paix’. “I did like a Bucketheads type mix, an electro version and another mix of it which I can’t remember what it was like! I decided to send it in to a local radio station and to my surprise they invited me in with a copy on cassette tape and played it while I was there. After that I ended up going back to the station every week. After about five weeks of visiting, one of the presenters was poached by a national radio station, so they asked me to step in and do his show. I was playing house, techno and hardcore, but they didn’t really understand the hardcore and it never really took off. I remember one time I managed to play one of my tracks ‘Last Chance’ (this appears on Nathans previous EP on Vinyl Fanatiks – Rediscoverd #01) and I ran a competition where people had to guess the vocal sample that I used in the tune. Surprisingly a few people actually guessed it! I announced afterwards it was one of my tunes and thought it would be a good idea for people to send me their tunes with a view of possibly playing them, but no one ever did!”
Nathan at RTS radio station in Sete, France – 1996
We carry on chatting about Nathans desire to convert the French listeners around Sete to the sound of UK hardcore, which didn’t always go to plan “Someone phoned in and complained once about me playing Acen’s ‘Trip II The Moon’, saying it was far too fast for the radio!!! The boss of the radio station who was there at the time agreed and made me fade it out early. I lasted on that station for 3 months and I like to think I did something to promote our sound to the public of the south of France. It wasn’t long after that when I decided to return back to the UK. This would have been around late 1996. I got back into making tunes when I got home as I managed to borrow an Amiga off someone else. It was around this time I discovered LTJ Bukem’s ‘Logical Progression’ series. Though I doubt anyone else discovered them the way I did! I use to have a BSB satellite dish and the only thing you could get on it were German TV channels, so I would search these channels and that’s when I discovered the liquid sounds of drum and bass. I really liked it, it contained the element of rave that I loved but with deep chords and melodies and I was really into what they were doing with their drums. The tune that stood out to me was PFM’s ‘One & Only’. At the time I didn’t know what it was called, I had only heard it. So I went into a record shop in Birmingham and got chatting to a customer in there. I did my best to describe the track and thankfully he knew what I was going on about. It was just after this that I bought myself a Roland Groovebox and started to make D&B”.
So how did you find this new way of working Nathan, was it easier than the Amiga? “I found it so much easier on the Amiga using Octomed to arrange tunes. Groove box had no screen and you worked with this weird 16 bar set up, so it was a real pain to arrange a tune. My tracks ended up being way too long! So I then got myself the Acid Music Maker program, which meant I could make tunes again using a PC this time. Around 2001 I got the buzz to make hardcore again and found that the Groovebox was great to make chords on, it had lovely pad sounds, which I could sample into the PC and finish the tunes using Acid”.
Ova Docing on 3D specs – Actually his mates Nan’s incredibly short sighted specs! Wales – 1993
It was around this time that Nathan started to check online to see if there was anything about his white label release that he put out in 1992 as he was curious if anyone would know of it. It was then, around 2010, that he found Discogs and could see that copies were changing hands for £40 a go. So he dug around and found six copies that he had left over from all those years ago and sold all bar one. He was skint and needed the money but he doesn’t regret the decision. He still has one copy left for himself, plus two of the tracks from that original EP appear on his Rediscovered series on Vinyl Fanatiks, a testament to a guy for whom hardcore never died.
So as we conclude this interview I wanted to know how Nathan felt about all this new interest in his hardcore tracks. What’s it like to be out there again, producing his first love and sharing that rave vibe that’s such a huge part of his life? “I am really happy. Its amazing that people can hear this music, music that’s lived on floppy disks in a plastic bag in my cupboard for over 25 years! I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who supported the first EP. I feel this second EP is a better representation of what I am about and I feel like this is my way of thanking those who supported the first EP. I am very much back at it again”.
Nathan signing sleeves – Walsall, 2020
And this is the truth as Nathan has just completed another EP of brand new music for Vinyl Fanatiks sister label, Amen Brother. A project entitled ‘It’s The Wax’ EP. If you love your rave, your sped up vocals and joyous, uplifting melodies, then this one is for you. The Walsall rave king is here to take you back to the future.