In today’s Bleepography article, Matt Anniss discusses one of the few credited productions from two of the most overlooked and important Bleep & Bass producers, Leeds’ DJ Martin and DJ Homes: a killer remix of Man Machine’s ‘Animal’
When I sat down and tried to come up with a track list for the Join The Future compilation, one of the first things I scribbled down was DJ Martin and DJ Homes ‘Primordial Jungle’ mix of Man Machine’s ‘Animal’. This was partly because it’s a personal favourite, but mostly because I thought it important to represent the contribution made to the Bleep & Bass story by Homer Harriott (DJ Homes) and Martin Williams (DJ Martin).
Both feature prominently in the book, specifically in a pair of concurrent chapters that focus on the music made in and around Chapeltown, the then notorious Leeds neighbourhood they lived in. They were pivotal figures, between them connecting, assisting or inspiring a core group of local DJs and producers that included Ital Rockers, Juno, Ability II, hip-hop act Breaking The Illusion, one-off Warp artist Tomas and, most notably of all, LFO.
Some of their remarkable story, and specifically that of Martin Williams (with contributions from Homer Harriott), was first told in an article I wrote a couple of years back for Red Bull Music Academy Daily. I’d advise reading that to learn the basics, and there is of course far more on both of them in the book.
Just to give you a brief summary, Martin was a popular, tech-savvy DJ in Chapeltown who ended up playing quite regularly at the Warehouse, then one of Leeds most popular clubs. A self-proclaimed ‘soul-boy’ at heart, he fell in love with house music when it landed in the UK. He was more computer literate than most, and bought himself an Atari ST and some second-hand electronic instruments in order to set up a studio in the attic of his back-to-back terraced house on Bayswater Mount. Martin was naturally encouraging to local DJs, dancers and others who wanted to make music, and often invited them to head to his house and make tracks in his attic studio.
Many took up his offer, including Mark Bell and Gez Varley of LFO, who he met at Sidestep, a local education centre where he tought computer skills to unemployed teenagers. Another was his friend Homer Harriott, a reggae musician who fell in love with house and was inspired by Martin to set up a studio. Homer was friends with Mark Ital of Ital Rockers, and used his home studio set up to produce/co-produce ‘dubplate specials’ for Mark’s DJ sets.
Martin was instrumental in the making of many early LFO tunes, including “LFO”, before Varley and Bell decided to go it alone. By that point Martin was working part-time as the dance import buyer at city centre record store Crash. He and Homer went to Crash records’ owners in late 1989/early 1990 and suggested setting up of a studio and label to rival Warp – who by now had signed a number of Leeds-based acts – to be called BASSIC. Crash funded it, with the pair acting as the in-house engineers and producers.
The studio was based above the Kickflip record shop (now a taxi office) round the corner from the ‘Merrion Suite’, which included a restaurant and a club called Ricky’s, which a couple of years earlier had played host to the Downbeat night at which Nightmares on Wax were residents. Between them, Martin and Homer played a big role in the creation of some key tunes – Ital Rockers’ ‘Ital’s Anthem’, Ability II’s ‘Pressure’ and Juno’s ‘Soul Thunder’ included – though they never asked for sleeve or label credits for their work. It’s for this reason that they remained largely unknown until the publication of my RBMA article and the subsequent book.
Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with both and speak regularly. I find them hugely inspiring, in part because they were never driven by a desire for success; both wanted to make underground music and help others do that. To this day they’re not fussed whether people know of their contribution to the development of Bleep & Bass, though I am – hence bigging up their efforts as often as I can.
BASSIC Records enjoyed some success, but for reasons best left unwritten (it’s complicated) the label and studio collapsed in late 1990/early ‘91. By that point Outer Rhythm had licensed one of the label’s most potent cuts, Ability II’s ‘Pressure/Pressure Dub’ for re-release, and asked Martin and Homer – as DJ Martin and DJ Homes – to remix a new single by producer Man Machine (real name Ed Stretton). I’ll go into more detail about Ed Stretton and Man Machine at a later date, because in this article I want to focus purely on Martin and Homer’s remix (which, for the record, was released on a separate 12″).
By this point in late 1990, early ’91, Martin and Homer regularly worked together in their home studios. The photo above was sent over by Homer earlier in the week and shows him (left) and Martin (right) in the studio he’d set up in the spare room of his mum’s house. He says they worked on the ‘Animal’ remix here, using just one or two small samples from the original Man Machine track – a snatch of ‘jungle noises’ they liked the sound of, a few tribal style percussion hits and possibly a vocal snippet here and there (though the main female voice that appears in their ‘Primordial Jungle’ mix was taken from the sessions for ‘Pressure’ by Ability II, which they’d have had the parts to).
As a result, Martin and Homer’s remix is a total overhaul, effectively a brand-new track that has very little resemblance to Ed Stretton’s original. For comparison, here’s the “Primal Interface” version that’s effectively the official club mix. There’s a lot to like about it – a booming sub-bass part, tribal drums, drifting vocal snippets and a faintly foreboding vibe – but as you’ll hear it’s a completely different track.
Now compare that to Martin and Homer’s ‘Primordial Jungle’ mix at the top of the page. Although similarly intoxicating, mysterious and humid, their revision uses a completely different, speaker-shaking sub bassline, ghostly chords, the previously mentioned vocal sample, a few outer-space synth sounds, jungle noises and, most importantly of all, a ridiculously heavyweight Afro-futurist rhythm that sits somewhere between the polyrhythmic grooves of Black Smoke’s ‘Koro-Koro’ and steppers reggae.
In my opinion it’s an inspired rework that sounds as great today as it did in 1991. It feels ghostly, weighty and creepy, but also fresh and exciting. Every time I’ve played my copy in a club the reaction has been tremendous. Its’ significance for me though has always been the men behind the remix, and the fact that it was pretty much the only credit they received for any of their pioneering work during the period. It appears to have been the last ‘released’ record they worked on, too; although they continued making music together for a year or two afterwards, none of it has ever seen the light of day. Maybe one of these days it will.
To purchase a physical or digital copy of Matt Anniss’s book Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music, head to the Velocity Press website. To pre-order vinyl or digital copies of the Join The Future: UK Bleep & Bass 1988-91 compilation, head to Bandcamp or Bleep.com