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Brandy & Coke: UKG - Channel 4 @ 12.05am

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Booooo: Mike Skinner on the glory days of UK garage

 

The Patrick Cox loafers, the mad Moschino shirts and the jean suits … Ewen Spencer's photographs bring back London's garage scene in all its innocence – before the MCs took over

 

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We are surrounded by the revival of UK garage. Young 'uns all over are repurposing the trademark shuffle in clubs and other places they go out to, or stay in at. The old faces have returned to play in new venues, or the old venues with new names. But it's different this time. It's either part of the house scene or mixed in with bass culture. The first time around it was its own world, as these incredible photos by Ewen show. It was a means to an end for a specific set of people: folks wanting a club that didn't get shut down by police. Folks who were bored with drum'n'bass. Then folks who wanted it more like drum'n'bass. And then folks who got the clubs shut down by police.

"Speed garage" was first coined by the American DJ Todd Terry who, at the Gas Club, heard our clattery paced-up version of a US vocal sound. I thought it was supposed to be a sexy version of house, and a sweaty version of R&B, but it was more complicated than that. My experience of garage was that – apart from ganja, of which there was loads – it wasn't really a drug scene in the way house was. It was first called "the Sunday scene" because people said they couldn't get licences on Saturdays. But I later learned it also had its roots in people wanting to do something after Saturday night at Ministry. Those early pioneers must have been on something to make it to Monday.

 

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Anyway, fast forward to Twice As Nice, the evolution from the Gas Club, which had clearly shed the caning culture and was developing a taste for champagne and the finer things in rave. This was a good thing. Middle-class grime journalists always talked about how champagne-lifestyle lyrics were silly and unrealistic, but this is exactly why the crowds were there. Who wants to dance along to the struggle and the shit on a weekend? The first lot of people who got into garage were there to escape all the arguments over money and looking at people the wrong way. Just dancing and drawing girls.

Which brings us to the clothes. The Patrick Cox loafers, the mad Moschino shirts and the jean suits. The belt buckles, the fades and fresh cornrows, and the Versace caps most clubs wouldn't allow. I have no memory of what the girls were wearing – I wasn't at the stage where I noticed their clothes – but I do know they did the butterfly dance, and that it was really hard. I have this image in my head of a jean suit in cream with a London Underground map printed all over it, head to toe. Thick velvet jeans with shiny metal tags at the back, and chunky sunglasses with gold Versace gilding on the arms. Happy people bogling with a bottle in their hand and a spliff held low down and out of sight. This was in the pre-smoking-ban days, when fags made your eyes sore, but through it came the occasional sniff of skunk, like a fresh whiff of something organic.

 

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Gradually, the sorts of guys who'd open the fire exit for their mates to get in free started sneaking in noises from drum'n'bass. By the time the Tina Moore-inspired broken beat of two-step came along, the word "speed" and all innocence was gone forever. If you wandered too far to the edge of a club, the smell became the burning plastic smell of crack, a hand turning you by the shoulders back towards the dancefloor. But it was the most exciting thing going on in the musical world.

Ewen's photographs start when the scene was moving at its fastest, and go right up to Moving Too Fast. The first thing I wondered when I saw them was how he didn't get beaten up for snapping such intimate moments of some pretty certified-looking badmen. But my second, more lasting impression was how much more rich in detail they were than my fading typecast memory. I saw none of the things I thought were standard, not one outfit of the London Underground map in double denim. The sunglasses weren't as chunky as they'd become in my mind, and the shoes weren't as shop-new or Gucci-like.

 

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Any self-respecting youth culture should become so popular as to be reduced to a few sounds, items of fashion and lingo: the stabs of R U Sleeping?, the mad Moschino and "BOOOO". But the important and exciting thing about Ewen's photos are that they take you back to the real thing, and make sure you don't forget that it was just a roomful of people having a night out, trying to go home with someone – all young people have ever done.

I am a guilty part of the second wave that thought the MCs were more interesting than the DJs, and I feel bad about that now. The problem with MCs is they tend to bring their mates down when they MC, and their mates are always worse than them. Then people do silly stuff. The harmless ritual of Formula One-style champagne emptying turns into the more sinister ritual of shooting a little 2.2 in the air. If you were a music-loving guy who'd spent 10 years DJing every innovative tune, then a load of children come down to fight with each other, you'd get angry when the police decided to ban it all. It was a tragedy, really. All but the very top garage DJs disappeared overnight.

 

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I don't know of any other music scene that was actually banned by the police, but it's really nice to see them back out again, being appreciated for how important they've been to music.

And nearly all the rest is beautifully preserved in Ewen's book, so that olders like me can remember it properly and young 'uns can see what they should be ordering on eBay to emulate the look.

Which only leaves the whiff of ganja and the burning plastic smell of crack, turning you by the shoulders back towards the dancefloor.

 

Ewen Spencer's UKG is published by GOST - http://www.gostbooks.com/books/37/ukg

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Dinky do you feature in this?

 

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Limited Edition of 1,000 copies
210 x 280mm
96 pages printed full colour and duotone
Hardback with foil deboss
Introduction by Mike Skinner and Essay by Jason Evans
ISBN 978-0-9574272-5-9

Ewen began making this series of pictures around the UK Garage scene in 1998 frequenting Twice as Nice at the Colosseum and various other events around what was then known as the Sunday Scene. He bears witness to a burgeoning underground being in the right place at the right time to capture a classic British Sub Culture.

The pictures take us from the dance floors of South London to illegal Garage Raves and eventually the success of the Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa’s hedonistic holidaying party crowd at the turn of the century. Never an underdressed moment the Garage scene epitomises the clean living under difficult circumstances aesthetic realised by many British youth since the late 1950s.

“Ewen’s photographs start when the scene was moving at it’s fastest and go right up to ‘moving too fast’. The first thing i wondered when i saw them was how he didn’t get beaten up for snapping such intimate moments of some pretty certified looking badmen..”

Mike Skinner, Brandy & Coke introduction

 

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Garage photographer and author Ewen Spencer rewinds to the golden days of UKG style-- and how it all fell apart.

 

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Good watch but too short.

 

 

deffo need a feature length version

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Camden Palace back in the day was the one, loved that place

 

Do what you want in there and the best events, Bobby and Steve events >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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point man to these docs

 

that channel 4 rewind one was the best/only one ive seen

 

and where r these books

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I find it quite interesting this Ewen Spencer guy has been around the London 'urban' scene for so long.

 

Guys' from Newcastle, has said he doesn't even like the music and yet look at his work

 

before this release, he released open mic

 

Musta been in 03-04 times

 

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Romford youth centre :lol:

 

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Some really interesting pictures, just don't understand why. Can't have made him too much money...

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ima check out all this guys shit stil

 

im of the opinion that our underground music is some of the most vital and under appreciated about and really needs as many time capsules as it can get for posterities sake.

 

that goes for garage grime dubstep n all that came before it although i suppose hardcore n all that rave stuff has been done to death

 

so ye mainly just the ghetto music.

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With great pride I would like to announce that Brandy & Coke is to be broadcast on Channel 4 this Wednesday 2nd April at 12:05am. Ewen has extended the 8min feature, for Dazed online which your can see here, to a 30min documentary featuring interviews the key figures in UK Garage such as: Scott Garcia, Sticky, Wookie, Kano and many more.


 


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Tonight at 00.05


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CHANNEL 4 TO AIR FIVE-PART SERIES ON UK GARAGE, BRISTOL BASS, JUNGLE, HARDCORE PUNK AND BALEARIC

 

Music Nation looks back at the best of the UK underground.

 

After the success of the UK garage mini-documentary Brandy & Coke, Dazed has teamed up with Channel 4 to produce a five-part series exploring the most vital underground scenes from Britain’s recent musical history – UK garage, Bristol bass, jungle, hardcore punk and Balearic.

Mixing personal stories with archive footage, each half-hour documentary in will take in the key players, fashions and music of the scenes and explore their impact on British youth culture.

 

Music Nation arrive on Channel 4 next month, kicking off with a full-length version of garage author and photographer Ewen Spencer’s Brandy & Coke on April 2.

Following that, Berkshire Goes Balearic recounts Ibiza-style hedonism in the home counties, while Bristol Bass Oddity looks at the West Country culture clash that unexpectedly steered the direction of electronic music around the world.

 

The UK’s late ’80s hardcore punk scene and DIY culture is examined in Soap The Stamps, and the series finishes up with Jungle Fever, a look at jungle’s journey to mainstream dominance from its humble beginnings in Hackney.

In the meantime, watch the original Brandy & Coke over at Dazed.

 

 

 

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in europe they are tryna bring back garage, play quite a few tracks in cert clubs

 

hate how ppl call it "garaahj" because they pronounce the word properly tho

 

has to be pronounced garidge

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in europe they are tryna bring back garage, play quite a few tracks in cert clubs

hate how ppl call it "garaahj" because they pronounce the word properly tho

has to be pronounced garidge

You are so cool

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It's true though.

 

Should said how Wiley does on Wot Do U Call It

 

/

Looking forward to the jungle one.

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Make it in the studio and not in the garage

 

good doc still, pirate bit with Heny.g and the mandem on the roof was good.

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