This article has been Google-translated from the original by Tony D’Onghia – apologies for any weirdness in the wording.
Glyn “Bigga” Bush was, with his project Rockers Hi-Fi, one of the protagonists of that musical era that for most of the 90s saw, starting from the United Kingdom, a flourishing of producers and musical formations appropriating the hip hop styles to provide a revised and corrected version, more jazzy now, heavily influenced by dub reggae in other cases or genetically modified through electronic or pop grafts. Call it trip-hop, if you want. From then on Bigga Bush has signed countless other jobs for labels such as Stereo Deluxe and Lion Head, or by publishing under a pseudonym in some cases – Lightning Head, Dandelion Set, Magic Drum Orchestra – but always drawing from their musical roots and giving them homage. The recent release of his intriguing album Sunken Foal Stories, as well as the imminence of a new release for his side-project Magic Drum Orchestra, have prompted us to contact him to learn something more. Here’s what Glyn told us.
Surely some of our readers will remember you for your experience in Rockers Hi-fi. Would you tell us something about your beginnings, about your love for reggae and dub and how your adventure started in that band?
To talk about my beginnings you have to go back to the early 70s, when I discovered my love for records … I remember that the first record that had a big impact on me was a 45 laps of The Who, probably The Ox or Pinball Wizard. I remember perfectly what I felt while I stared hypnotized that piece of vinyl that turned on a Dansette – a typical turntable of that era, mono, with an automatic loading system for which you could put one on top of the other discs that you he wanted to listen in sequence – and how, while I was listening to that rough sound coming out of the speaker, I found myself thinking, “I want more of this stuff!” Later in the decade I learned how to play guitar and I started listening to John Peel’s programs on the radio, and that’s where I came to discover reggae and dub for the first time. More generally, the broad spectrum of musical genres that Peel included in his programs – especially bands like Faust and Henry Cow, but also the more conventionally rock ones – represented the beginning of my musical education, up to 1976, year in which I formed my first band together with some classmates.
In 1978 I moved to Birmingham, immediately getting excited for the local post-punk scene, starting to compose compact and angular songs and playing with other non-musicians in the band The DeGoTees. Throughout the 80s I continued to found and play in local bands, and in about 1988 I started working on sampling and MIDI. After a while I started working as a DJ in the local scene, and that’s where I met DJ Dick and, after having chatted about music, I started making music with the Original Rockers moniker – a name taken from an album of Augustus Pablo. At the beginning trying to produce house music, trying to simply copy stuff that we heard around. At one point, however, it occurred to us to sample dub discs, for the incredible sounds they had and for the parts that were well suited to be ricliclate. Push Push was the second song we made, in that production all our influences were put in the foreground, especially through the vocal champion Johnny Osbourne we had taken from Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires. That was a great club success and led us to sign a contract with Island Records, and at that point our name changed to Rockers Hi Fi, at the request of Augustus Pablo himself.
Manufacturers like Kruder & Dorfmeister and Thievery Corporation were great fans of Rockers Hi-Fi. Songs like Push Push and What a Life have become hits. What memories do you have of that period, right in the middle of the so-called trip hop era?
That success turned out to be a kind of double-edged sword. Island Records evidently had an interest in contracting only one trip hop artist, and that was Tricky, so he downloaded us only a year later. But of that period I have a special memory, just the first time I listened to Kruder & Dorfmeister, during my first trip to the United States in 1994, at a club in San Francisco. Original Bedroom Rockers … that piece completely kidnapped me. I am convinced that that EP, entitled G Stoned, is still unmatched.
The mix signed by Rockers Hi-Fi for the DJ-Kicks series is still considered one of the best of that period, combining dub, downtempo and drum & bass. Would you tell us something about that experience?
I remember well those sessions. At that time we had a studio above a musical instrument store in Birmingham and we used to start working in the evening, after opening some Red Stripe and entering the night mood. Dick had put the set together, Farda P was at the microphone and I was responsible for the dubs and the mixing. Everything went spontaneously, it seems to me that the version that was published was the second one we recorded. But that was how we used to play live – as we said at the time “Decks n FX” – so we used to practice that kind of session.
Looking back to things in retrospect, do not you think that after three excellent albums, the Hi-Fi Rockers deserved better luck and the same level of success that other artists of that period have achieved? Perhaps coming from Birmingham rather than the celebrated Bristol did not help you …
All in all, it did not go too badly at the European level, and especially in Germany, even if it was a shame not to be able to make us better known in the United Kingdom. I do not know if it was some sort of prejudice against us in Birmingham, or if things would have been different if we had come rather from London … that was how things were then.
Among your records as a soloist made since the late 90s, what is the one you are most fond of?
I am proud of every one, even though I think my best work is what I will produce in the future.
You recently released an album called Sunken Foal Stories. For this work you have almost completely abandoned the beats based approach, typical of your music, to focus on the atmospheres and textures created by the samples you have chosen and reassembled. Would you tell us something about it?
I’ve always been on the lookout for interesting records and over time I’ve put together a decent collection with the intent of doing something, one day … easy listening album, stereo system test, strange folk records obviously bought by someone during the holidays in Greece or Turkey, after falling in love with the places visited. Disks bought as souvenirs by people who then forgot them and left somewhere to take dust. It is also noted by the fact that many of these albums are still in perfect condition, ie never been played.
Can you tell us about the process of creating and recording this particular album and the way you chose the samples to loop and overlap?
Over the course of a couple of months I worked intensively on the new album of my project Magic Drum Orchestra, titled The DNA of Rhythm and released by Tru Thoughts, so for all this time in my ears I had only beats, beats and more beats , everyday. I felt the natural need to compose some more quiet music, to make the ears and the brain rest a bit, and I spontaneously came up with the idea of pulling out two or three records and finding something quite random. to be sampled quickly. Something that, once extracted from the original context and looped, could sound intriguing. A particular change in tone, an instrumental passage that is not very successful. So starting from two or three samples, in about twenty minutes I had a song ready, simply following the inspiration of the moment and what the chosen sounds pointed to me. I continued to work with this method until I had thirty minutes of music, according to my intention divided into fifteen minutes for each side of a vinyl album. Some traces could be more properly defined edits, where only one original sample was cut at different points and reassembled. In others I have combined samples taken from different sources and looped one superimposed on the other. All this by trusting only my ears, in a spontaneous and natural way. This process has taught me to keep my ears open and accept a certain degree of randomness in the production of my music, rather than purposely seek the elements that can “work” in combination with each other. And this also applies to the material I’m composing at the moment, more based on rhythm. You can listen to something about this creative process here:
Speaking of the more beats oriented aspect of your music. As you have already mentioned, you have also returned to your project Magic Drum Orchestra, with an album from which it was taken as a single a particular version of the classic of the jungle Original Nuttah …
Yes, I always enjoyed trying to cover the most different songs. The first was Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, which has always been a great success every time we performed it live. Nuttah is a classic song that seems to have been created to be reinterpreted. I like to put something original and unexpected in the covers, hence the decision to give the vocalist Bundy a feminine perspective to the text. The next step was to reconstruct the bass line and the rhythm with the instruments used by the Magic Drum Orchestra. The original song is very Spartan, it is not a typical jungle piece, since it is only made up of a beat, without particular edits or cuts – which is what I generally prefer – and then a bass line, voice and that particular and distinctive sound that I recreated thanks to a Tibetan cup.
To conclude, would you tell us something about your plans for the rest of 2018?
I’m working on a version of Sunken Foal Stories, which also includes beats, extending the life of the originals, developing them more musically. Trying to bring them back to the essence of dub. I am also producing electro pieces under the pseudonym Elektrassassin. In the meantime I’m always looking for old and new music for my weekly podcast, which you can listen to on his Soundcloud. And I’m trying to play the guitar more!
6th July 2018 by Tony D’Onghia