Boss of Digital Soundboy and bass music star Andre Williams becomes a junior junglist
As the boss of Digital Soundboy, Andre Williams remains one of the most important people in British bass music today. His furious productions as Shy FX are some of the most powerful in the history of jungle. From the wile-out ragga and mind-shattering breakbeat edits of early tracks like “Gangsta Kid” and “Original Nuttah” to the rolling congas of “Bambaataa”, he has never failed to demolish the dance. But back in '93, all this was still ahead of him…
“I was a kid, man, I was still at school – for me there was no scene, no parties, it was about listening to pirates and tape packs and trying to understand what was going on. The energy of it was mad. At that time ragga was what was popping off for the people around me, and a bit of hip hop; we knew about hardcore but it was a bit too piano, a bit too happy. What we were into was a bit darker. Hearing the basslines and the energy of this new stuff was something else. It was hearing the MCs spitting over it that got me, I'd never heard anything like it – before that people would be toasting in a reggae accent, or (apart from one or two people like London Posse) trying to rap like they were American. This was different, it felt like a movement, not something imported. It felt like us.
I got known as one of the people making the fastest tunes because I was making music based on what I listened to on the tape packs. I didn't realise all the DJs on those were playing the tunes sped right up on the decks!
I didn't know anything about anything! I didn't know who the MCs were, I didn't know who made these tunes or how they did it, and to be honest right now I'm envious of my younger self in that way. Now I know ‘OK this tune is so-and-so, in this style, made by that person,’ back then all you knew was, ‘I like this!’ And that's part of the reason it changed and moved so fast. Jungle got faster and faster in tempo, and I got known as one of the people making the fastest tunes – but the reason for that was purely because I was making music based on what I listened to on the tape packs. I didn't realise all the DJs on those were playing the tunes sped right up on the decks!
I remember being outside places like Bass Box and Roller Express – I wasn't allowed in, but you could hear the music and the bass from outside the club and that in itself would inspire me to go home and make the music. It's really odd to think that was my influence, but I guess that gave me an idea of how big the bass was, and that linked back to the ragga thing again. I'd start to hear producers who captured that like Potential Bad Boy and the Kemet guys, who didn't just drop a ragga sample on breaks but did something clever with it, completely owned it. It was only later on when I met people like T Power that I started understanding the production side, but in ‘93 I just heard what I liked and tried to make the sound in my own way, and that was real inspiration.”