Depth Charge

Rob Deacon, Volume Three, 1992

SUMMER 1989 - the kids were smart and Manchester was the happening place to be. But walk passed London's King's Cross Station, Clapham Common, or Notting Hill tube in the early hours and you could find crowds of 1,000-plus people standing, shuffling, dancing, or just waiting. Waiting, strangely enough, for the phone to ring. When it did, there'd be a mass of activity, a traffic jam and convoys that would later meet up at a disused warehouse in Essex, Surrey, Middlesex, Sussex; anywhere the call would take them.

It was a game played out between the crowds, who wanted to reach the venue and party all night, and the police, who didn't want any of it, oddly enough. If the crowds got there first, in large enough numbers, they'd win the game. And in the summer of '89, when it was still a phenomenon on which the papers couldn't get a grip, they were winning quite a few.

Keeping it active and underground were a few pirate radio shows - Sunrise, Fantasy and the ICF-controlled Centreforce - and, with the advent of mobile phones and the 0898 number, British Telecom.

You could live it, 24 hour style. When you weren't at the rave, you could lock into Centreforce and have the rave in your front room, in the car, the park...

The music was changing rapidly. Balearic beats had moulded into Italian house and were heading for Euro new beat. Li'l Louis, A Guy Called Gerald, A Split Second and 808 State were enjoying the big time, while the DJs, mixing Renegade Soundwave, Frankie Bones, Unique 3 and Depth Charge, were shaping the future.

While Renegade Soundwave stumbled onto the perfect rhythm with their 'Space Gladiator' EP and Unique 3 discovered minimalism with their 'Theme', the debut, eponymous Depth Charge single, hurled J Saul Kane head first into the sonar blip.

"'Depth Charge' was based entirely on that sonar blip. The name, the sound, the whole thing was just based on the idea of the blip combined with dub reggae and a heavy, slow rhythm."

Released through Vinyl Solution, 'Depth Charge' was cut and labelled at 33 rpm, a slow and heady dub track featuring the sonar blip that sucked at your insides.

"The reason that first one did so well was because everyone was playing it at the wrong speed. The first time I heard it at 45, it was coming out of this car and I thought, What the fuck's this? I know those samples... I thought someone had sampled my record at first, then I realised it was my track being played at the wrong speed. At 45 you could mix it in with most of the tracks that were around at that time, so the sonar blip ended up being a backing noise for a lot of the DJs and then got sampled on a ton of records that came after it."

Kane had shipped his Technics decks into dry dock well before the 12-inch was released. A DJ since '82, his roots were firmly planted in the UK hip hop scene. His scratching skills were in demand and along with frequent guest DJ spots, he held a regular slot at the Mud club from '84. He was also a prim mover of 'tube crashing': where a group of 50-plus would take over the last carriage on the tube with a beat box and a few cans of spray paint. In those days the game was to skip tubes and take over a new carriage before the police arrived. But with the rise of acid in '88, watching his peers Mark Moore and Tim Simenon moving into music-making, he felt it was time to slip off his a DJ mat.

"I just decided not to be a DJ anymore. I love acid House but I couldn't take all the crap that went with it. That whole big love thing became really false and all that tripped out hippy crap... plus, I couldn't just stick to 120 bpm all night. It used to be really mixed, different styles and fast rotation. But Mark Moore and Colin Favour, who were DJ-ing at the Pyramind (At Heaven) started playing 120 bpm all night.

"At the time there was a real reaction against it. Colin Dale used to play straight hip hop, he really hated house music and now he's like a real rave DJ. Fabio's another one - I used to know them in '84, and they were like, Oh God, I hate this House shit, it drives me mad - you know - and now they're like up to 130, 140 bpm. They must be going totally crazy. But I wasn't into that vibe at all - I like things a bit more laid back. Depth Charge was a direct result of that. A bit of rebellion."

His first track, released in '88, was a collage made up purely of samples and scratching. It went under the name of Grim Death and led him to the steps of his local record shop, Vinyl Solution.

"In those days Vinyl Solution were releasing rock and punk tracks and I just came in with the demo and said, Do you want to do a dance record? They liked it, it went OK and then I bought Eon in and he did another track. Then I started bringing other people in and the dance side of the label built like that, just by me bringing along friends of mine."

Since those far-off days, Kane's released a slow but steady flow of tracks, including Depth Charge's 'Bounty Killers', the white label only 'Octagon Man', plus a whole crop he's either co-written or produced with, among others, Eon, Midi Rain, Block Inc, Statik, Cash Crew, Gunshot, S-Express, and Mr Selfish. He's also done mixes for Tim Simenon on both Bomb The Bass albums.

"I'm doing a track with Tim at the moment. It's like an ongoing thing - we never manage to get it finished. It's a kind of Kung Fu-related Buddhist monk thing, but it never gets done. We've started it and I keep meaning to go back, but it's like he's doing Interference and Bomb The Bass and I'm doing various things with Midi Rain, Eon and a whole load of my own stuff. So it just doesn't get finished."

He's also got back into DJ-ing. His reputation has spread and recently both himself and Eon were invited to play in Japan.

"They invited us over to go and DJ, but I thought we should do more than that. So I asked them to get a computer and a sampler and a few extra bits, and it sounds good, actually. It sounds like a rave record that lasts for an hour and a half, changing all the time - all automated by computers. It's amazing how easy it is. I don't know anything about music, I'm not a musician. People say to me, What do yo play? And I say, Well, everything and nothing. It's just an idea to me - if you can take an idea from A to B, that's what makes a record good."

With the rave scene engulfed by an overflow of hardcore techno, J Saul Kane is contemplating his future. And with another new idea - "usually the lowest possible denominator" - taken from A to B and straight into the Top 40 every week, his thoughts are veering away from the 12-inch and turning to an album.

"At the moment I'm debating how to do it. It could be an album of single type things, but I don't really want to do that. If you put on an old Pablo album or an old Lee Perry album they're very sparse, very dubby and musical and, if you play the whole album it sounds cool, it really works.

"An album of upfront dance tracks just sounds shite. It may be good to start with, but ten versions on an album doesn't really work. I think the idea of the concept album has to come into the dance field in a big way, purely to create more interest."

The track: Daughters Of Darkness. Specially recorded for Volume. Produced and mixed by J Saul Kane at Delphin Studios, London.

Copyright © 1992 Volume.



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