With our documentary Jungle Fever airing tonight, Dazed spoke to one half of the genre's pioneers Flinty Badman
Jungle Fever is the fifth and final documentary in our Music Nation series. Directed by Ollie Evans and produced by Friend London, it celebrates one of the UK’s most vibrant and vital genres, tracing jungle’s journey from humble beginnings in Hackney to the heights of the mainstream. The doc premieres tonight at 12.05am on Channel 4, and to mark the occasion, we’re celebrating all things jungle – from the style to playlists.
Viewed as one of the pioneers of jungle, Flinty Badman is one half of the Ragga Twins. Along with his brother Deman Rockers, and their friends on record label Shut Up and Dance, the pair put out some of the earliest tracks that would go down in jungle history. As well as bringing their reggae roots to the hardcore genre in the form of rewinds and lines they’d perfected from their sound system days, the siblings also helped the jungle scene to grow and become one of the most influential music trends in living memory. The pair are now part of the genre's revival, and have even collaborated with likes of Skrillex on the producer's latest album. Dazed spoke to Flinty about his reggae roots, breaking away for acid house, and the open air concert that changed it all.
How did you first get into reggae sound systems?
Flinty Badman: I built my own soundsystem at first when I was at school. It was a little Sancorsa crew, me and my mates. I was 15 and we built the sound system in woodwork. My uncle had a house just round the corner from my school and he let us put the sound in his basement. Every weekend we would go there and charge people to come in and play. At lunchtime, we would go round there and practice.
Why did you break away from reggae?
Flinty Badman: The sound system we were on, Unity, had a record label and there was a few things we didn’t like. We weren’t getting in the studio enough to record. A lot of the sound system DJs, they were recording and they were having tunes in the charts and everything and what’s going on. There was a big hype around me and Deman at the time. Deman done a big tune called Iron Lady, for a documentary on Channel 4 about Margaret Thatcher. We decided to leave the sound system and thought ‘let’s take a break from this sound system thing and see what happens.’
Were there any other factors?
Flinty Badman: We knew a lot of people going to these raves and thought ‘it must be good if a lot of people are going.’ But at the time, even when we’d put out the first single, we still wasn’t going. We were going to a reggae dance and one of my mates would be coming from one of them dances to the reggae dances and be like ‘yo, man your tunes is mashing up the place in them acid house raves.’ We still wasn’t going until one day we did a show at an outdoor event with a PA in Chelmsford. It was a sunny day, and there was like 25-30,000 people there. We headlined it with The Prodigy. We mashed up the place and we just thought ‘let’s just stay here and see what’s going on.’ It wasn’t a club it was outdoors.
“We jammed it and we stayed there and we just got into the music. The whole vibe just took us and it was from that day on, that’s when we started going to the raves. The music actually took us over”
We jammed it and we stayed there and we just got into the music. The whole vibe just took us and it was from that day on, that’s when we started going to the raves. The music actually took us over. Doing the stuff with Shut Up and Dance, and doing the PA’s and enjoying it and everything. We enjoyed doing our stuff but we wasn’t listening to any other stuff. But when we stayed at that place, we started enjoying all types of music, even if it didn’t have the reggae influence. We just took it all in that day. It was like wow.
Would you agree that you and your brother were the pioneers of jungle with Shut Up and Dance?
Flinty Badman: Yeah, I would agree with that, because when we moved over to Shut Up and Dance, there wasn’t no reggae people doing none of that music over there. To make a scene, you need the people. With us coming over there, people from the reggae industry were like ‘wow, if Deman and Flinty is over there, something must be good over there.’ So they start coming, and when they started coming the more people would put more reggae influence into the music, which started to fill up and was eventually jungle. We never made the word jungle. As far as i’m concerned, I think the first person that used the word jungle on his record label was Paul Ibiza. We were just calling it ragga hardcore, ragga breaks.
Your track Ragga Trip took aim at drugs in acid house, but in a light hearted tone. Is that another reggae trait in your music?
Flinty Badman: Deman actually done that tune on his own. It was about the drug and it sent a message, but it was it wasn’t hard hitting. It gave you a light hearted story, which you can listen to the message and also laugh at the story.
I’ve also seen that you brought the rewind over from reggae to dance music?
Flinty Badman: We was in Sunday Roast, and we was standing up near the DJs because we knew them. The DJ dropped a wicked tune, and in them times DJs just played songs. We all went up and went ‘pull up that tune!’ The DJ was looking at us like ‘what?’. He didn’t understand, but in the end he played it again. When he pulled up the tune, everybody stopped and was wondering what’s going on. He put it back on and everyone started dancing again. From there, the rewind thing started to come in. Obviously that’s what we do from reggae.
Could you tell someone who was into jungle by what they wore or the clubs they went to?
Flinty Badman: Yeah you can say by what clubs they went to. You can even say by what they wore. But people would come dressed anyhow. We used to wear camouflage. There was a phase when that was in. It suited the jungle.
What was your best jungle memory?
Flinty Badman: It has to be Kool FMs, now known as koollondon.com, third birthday. When we pulled up at that dance, i’d never seen so many people outside the Astoria.
“It was actually the first time i’d seen a road block. People were in the streets, buses couldn’t pass, cars couldn’t pass. I actually had to swim through the crowd to get to the front door”
It was actually the first time i’d seen a road block. People were in the streets, buses couldn’t pass, cars couldn’t pass. I actually had to swim through the crowd to get to the front door. People had tickets that were out there and they couldn’t get in. People were waving money, they were saying ‘look, I’ll pay £100, let me in.’ I got to the door and the security said ‘no boy ain’t coming in.’ I had to go round the back because that was the only way I was getting in. They weren’t going to open that front door, because otherwise people would have rushed it. And when you got inside it was packed to the rafters. The vibe was electric. Kool FM played a massive part in branching out the music to people who couldn’t hear it. So that rave there goes down in the history books.
Going onto more recent times, you’ve featured on two new tracks on Skrillex’s album. Was he a fan of your stuff?
Flinty Badman: Well he did say he was a fan when we got to the studio and done the track. We put out a sample pack, and he to use them. Instead of using them, he wanted to get us in the studio and do it, so we did and gave him so extra vocals too.