“Things were very smoky back then” Rennie Pilgrem tells me as we get stuck into our chat. “We would down tools if we were likely to run low. Everything would stop until we managed to get some more weed. We didn’t work without it! The more we all smoked, the louder the bass would get. ‘Check Out The Bass Bass’ was the most extreme one we did. We mixed that one down while heavily stoned, adding more and more bass the more we smoked. To top it off we then went to Jah Tubby’s Studios to get it mastered and cut, where even more bass was added! That one was a bass overload!”
Rhythm Section were one of my favourite groups from the early 1990’s. They made tunes that I loved. Heavy, catchy, rave infested anthems. I remember in 1999 we as Aquasky were asked to play the opening night of Fabric and before we went on, the DJ before us was Rennie Pilgrem. We were all very excited to meet him and I think I may have bent his ear a bit too much about his rave days as I suddenly reverted to my 17 year old self, watching them from the crowd, in awe. Our paths crossed often during the heady days of the breakbeat scene in the early noughties. We even got to remix Rhythm Section under our Black Noise moniker and in turn Rennie remixed one of our tunes that we did with the Ragga Twins.
The Vinyl Touch night at Electrowerks where myself and Ellis Dee first met.
Back in November 2003 I had been booked to play a rave called Vinyl Touch at Electrowerks and the DJ before me was Ellis Dee! Again, I was super excited to meet another of my teenage heroes. Ellis Dee, alongside DJ Ratty were my all-time favourite DJs from the rave era and I use to have their mixtapes on in my car all the time as well as booming out of my bedroom in a small village in the New Forest, much to my parents dismay and bafflement! Myself and Ellis Dee have worked together releasing his anthems from back in the day on Vinyl Fanatiks for the past year, so when Roy asked me if I would be interested in releasing any Rhythm Section records I didn’t even need to contemplate it. I bit his hand off! YES!!!!!!!!!
Rennie continues the conversation “In 2019 Roy (Ellis Dee) was telling us that he had been repressing his early music and that there was a market for unreleased music as well. So we thought ‘Let’s check our DAT tapes and see what we can find’. We all travelled down to Nick’s studio in Brighton and went through them, finding the unreleased version of ‘Perfect Love’ as well as samples and the vocal to one of the last tunes we ever did together; ‘Rhythm Takes Control’. We thought it would be nice to revisit that track and make a version of it which was more like the traditional Rhythm Section releases. When we wrote that track originally in 1993 all of us had become disinterested in the scene. At this time we weren’t sure as a band what we were into. We were experimenting with house. We didn’t like where the tempo was going in the rave scene, anything above 140BPM felt wrong. It was the end of the rave era and we never got to make a rave version of it back then. So for us to come together again after all these years and make a refix of it in a traditional 1991 Rhythm Section style was great fun”.
Ellis Dee and Nick Scott on tour – 1995.
Nick Scott continues the story “I remember that the vocals were recorded at my studio known as ‘The Sound Of Stockwell’. We all had our own studios so we took the samples and all did our own versions. At this point I was moving into the garage sound, so I did the house mix. This was just before I left the group as I wanted to make garage. I remember a mate of mine took me to Ministry Of Sound and he said to me ‘You have been making tunes for the boys; it’s time to start making tunes for the girls’. I just remember there were loads of women around at Ministry and I just went for it and started doing tunes under the name of Diesel and Ether alongside David Telford”.
Angie Giles performed the vocals on ‘Rhythm Takes Control’ and I was curious how they found her and what she had done before as she sounded awesome. Rennie fills in the gaps – “My wife use to be a music manager who looked after a singer called Julia Fordham (signed at the time to Universal Music). Angie was Julia’s backing singer and also a friend of my wife. I once heard her singing and thought she sounded great. To be honest, I don’t think our tune does her voice justice. She was clearly very good and very under-rated”.
“Our distro said ‘This is really good’ when we gave them ‘Rhythm Takes Control’” Roy adds “But for some reason it didn’t sell very well. I think it was because the scene was changing and our core audience changed with it. But to keep our original fans happy we did the track ‘Chainsaw’ on the flipside. We wanted to keep to our roots, no sped up vocals. We always had proper vocalists and not sped up samples. But it was with this release that it felt the time was right to disband Rhythm Section rather than change what the band was about. So when we found the parts to this tune again it felt right to make a version that sounds like an original 1991 Rhythm Section tune. Logistically it was tricky to make this refix as we all live in different places, so we decided a trip to Brighton was best to see Nick. We have always stayed in touch since those days. We have one of those relationships that will always be there forever”.
The Rhythm Section Kings – Ellis Dee, Rennie Pilgrem, Nick Scott & Ritchie T.
I have to say, as a fan of the band, that really warms my heart. So many groups split up for various reasons, usually money or some other disagreement, and their friendships vanish. But in chatting to Roy, Rennie and Nick I can just sense the love they have for each other, it really does feel like a family. As one of the original rave bands, they have seen and been through a lot. But they all speak so warmly about their time together in the studio and on the road and of each other. I am so proud that Vinyl Fanatiks are involved in their return to the studio. But with one track in the bag, a flipside was required. Nick, as Rennie told me, is the one that’s organised and likes to have things backed up and catalogued. During their time in Brighton they worked their way through some of the DAT tapes and came across an unreleased version of ‘Perfect Love’. This version is the original version that all the other versions (released and unreleased) stemmed from. The prototype you may say. Rennie shares his memories of that day “We were all in the studio and we all had ideas. And we all wanted to be on the keyboard making riffs. It’s like what we are going through now with social distancing, we would all be lined up, smoking and waiting for our turn, not wanting to infringe upon the others time and space, but impatiently waiting for our go. We would be allowed 5 minutes each for riffs, 5 minutes for basslines. There were many arguments and everyone wanted their riff in the tune. It’s like there are 80 riffs in that tune and over time we whittled it down to 40. I’m joking, but that’s how we made that tune. We were lucky as Roy was out all the time DJing and road testing the versions on dubplate”.
“I was the only person who was out there playing these Rhythm Section tunes” Roy adds “No one else had them, only me! It was my job to see what worked and what didn’t and feed that back to the guys and from that we would make changes to the tunes. With this version I instantly knew from the crowd reactions what needed to be done and what had to be chopped out. We then had to all travel up to Ritchie’s studio and get the changes done and make sure everyone was happy with them. The others were more experienced with music but I could play the piano, so doing one finger chord riffs, I was pretty alright with those”.
‘The Sound Of Stockwell’ Studios – Where some of the Rhythm Section tracks were made – 1991/1992.
Nick shares with me his memories of the early ‘Perfect Love’ sessions “The original version was recorded at mine. There were 4 of us, so it was kind of chaotic. We all did riffs and ended up having to take bits out. Back then you had to do one tune at a time, as you would have everything set up on the desk, all the EQs and effects in place. Back then I was dreaming about total recall and laptops, the thought of being able to just bring back all your settings at a touch of a button. Now 30 years later it’s how we all make tunes. My ‘Sound Of Stockwell’ studio had an Ensoniq EPS sampler with its 13 seconds of sample time as well as a couple of Akais. There was a Korg M3, loads of quadrabverbs and kit like that. I had an Allen & Heath 32 channel desk and a Solid State recorder which was a kind of hard drive where we could sequence vocals or live instruments. It had 1 gig of memory which was the maximum you could get and it looked like a block of flats! I think at this time I was running Logic. I would say though that one of the main advantages we had as a band was that Roy was a DJ and was out there all the time. It was very handy as he could find out what was working for the crowd. For us, it was always about quality control”.
Chatting about the studio process Rennie passes on his thoughts on that era “I recall that the BPM was going up around 5BPM every few months during 1992. Our ‘Midsummer Madness’ EP was well supported in the scene but it was played at +8 which we thought was a bit sad as that wasn’t how we wanted it to be heard. People just wanted stuff faster. It was down to the E’s being cut with speed around this time which affected the music. The crowd wanted it faster as well as the DJ’s who were on it as well. There was this weird thought back then that faster meant better. I remember when we first heard this version of ‘Perfect Love’ for the first time last year, none of us had heard it for years. But straight away we could tell who wrote which riff. At the end of the day, with four of us, it was strength in numbers!”
Doing this interview was quite fun but also involved a lot of double checking the facts as all of this happened so long ago now that different band members recall different things and had a slightly different memory of what happened. But I had to address the elephant in the room with Rennie, as I had spent 3 evenings chatting to each member of the band individually, I wanted to know where the fourth member of the band was, the infamous Ritchie T. Rennie explains “Ritchie T is a man of mystery. Not too much is known about him and that’s just the way he likes it. I remember when we use to play at some of the early raves before we were known. Ritchie was pretty big and hard-looking and he’d get fed-up with ravers hiding their stash and stop rolling spliffs when he walked into the toilet at a rave. Often he would say ‘I’m not security I’m part of Rhythm Section for fuck sake!’ He is an accomplished musician and guitarist as well as possessing a clever entrepreneur’s brain. We all like funk, dub and electro but Ritchie was the techno influence in the band”.
Ritchie T and Rennie Pilgrem at Universe, Tribal Gathering – Warminster, Wiltshire – 1993.
The guys are still going through their DAT tapes, they are sure there is more stuff. But they felt that the original version of ‘Perfect Love’ was the first mix that should be released. I am hoping the next time the band get back together I’ll be getting a phone call about more unreleased music, mixes of tunes that were taken out on the road by Roy to be road tested. I feel it is part of this countries dance legacy that needs to be shared with the loyal fans of the scene. I am like a dog with a bone, I won’t let go until I know I have exhausted all avenues, so guys, if you are reading this, it may be time to start blocking my number!
To round up this fantastic insight I will leave the final words to Roy “I remember ‘Perfect Love’ in all its forms going down really well back then. I was always buzzing to play a new Rhythm Section dubplate. And this version of ‘Perfect Love’ is the version that just keeps on giving. There is always talk of us doing new Rhythm Section music but if it actually happens will remain to be seen. But I just want to add that we all wish to thank everyone out there who has supported us over the years. We hope that this release is something that you all want in your collection”.
The Kings Are Back – Rhythm Section 1991 – 2020 and beyond!