It's a London ting - Chatting UKG with Garage Legend Marc Cotterell
Garage is back. And in a big way. We were lucky enough to sit down with Plastik People Recordings head honcho and industry legend Marc Cotterell to delve into the history of the genre and it’s resurgence and to celebrate his new Deeper D-Vine release ‘Them Garage Days’.
Hey Marc! Thanks for chatting to us today, where in the world are you right now?
Currently I living in Albuquerque NM, not for sure how long but here for now! moved here around 6 years ago, the sun shines all year round and its a pretty easy city to live in.
You’re a UK head that moved over to the states.. When and why did you move? What’s the US Garage scene like?
I moved over to states in & around 2009, I was touring the county for a few years previously & over time I fell in love with the place. As for the garage scene, it’s pretty much non existent these days. Despite the U.S creating the whole garage sound, people never really seemed to embraced the British take on it with the UKG vibes. When artists play here, people see garage and 90’s house billed, they automatically assume you’re a classic house DJ, which I’m not, there is smaller collectives scattered across the states that throw great parties but those are far and few between unfortunately, most of the original garage heads jumped across the pond to UK & Europe where the scene was thriving and money could be made.
You’re kicking off the new D-Vine Sounds imprint Deeper Dvine with an EP entitled ‘Them Garage Days’ – tell us a little bit about the release and the influences behind it.
Firstly, I’m super excited, honored, and proud to be part of D-vine. The fact that I’m the opening artist on such a fantastic brand is very special to me & for that I thank you. musically my roots have been firmly wedged between house & garage, I try to embrace this in my production work. “Dem Garage Days” is a variation of both styles of house & garage, “What You Say” is very much out of Nice N Ripe bag, focusing on snappy chords with tough skippy drums and a cut up vocal hook very Grant Nelson. “See The Light” has much more of a U.S vibe, more soulful elements, deeper drums set alongside classic 90’s horn, track relies heavily on a KOT (Kings Of Tomorrow) & Eddie Perez influence.
Happy Days’, ‘The Sunday Scene’ etc, you’ve been through and seen it all first-hand. So let’s talk about Dem actual Garage days.. UKG is the sound that really defined London’s underground scene in the mid ’90s. Give us a little history lesson here, from the pub next to Ministry, to sped-up MAW dubs to Tuff Jam and DJ EZ.. – UKG.. How did it all start?
‘Garage’ as a term had already been used in the U.S house scene to differentiate the smooth, soulful songs flowing from New York and New Jersey from the more energetic, uplifting deep house out of Chicago with artists like Jazz N Groove, Kerri Chandler, MAW flying the flag and doing it incredibly well. Meanwhile over in the UK, around the early 90’s artists such as Todd Edwards, Tuff Jam, DJ EZ, & Grant Nelson who were already playing the U.S sound, decided to take it in a different direction. They took influences from garage & Deep House along with Jungle, and Old school RnB, among other genres & created what we know today as UKG. The UK garage sound is much more distinctive using syncopated 4/4 percussive rhythm with ‘shuffling’ hi-hats and beat-skipping kick drums, chopped up chords and time shifted or pitched vocals all doused with soul. In the late 90s, Garage was growing strong in the underground scene in London, particularly in clubs and on pirate radio, Garage became increasingly popular and new sub-genres were spawned such as 4×4, 2-Step, Speed Garage, by this time a whole generation were hooked on the U.K Garage sound.
London still holds firmly on to its Garage roots, with the philosophy behind the beginning of the so-called ‘Sunday Scene’ (i.e. not wanting to call it a day) is actually very much still apparent in London club culture, some of the cities favourite nights being Sunday parties, new bass genres emerging from UKG inc. Grime, Dubstep etc, the likes of MJ Cole, Matt Jam Lamont and EZ are still held in high regard and the ‘new East London sound’ a term coined by EZ to cover the likes of Jamie xx, Mosca etc is extremely popular both in the underground and the mainstream and draws heavy influence from the genre.. UKG is in our blood, so what actually happened to the Garage scene??
Honestly… I don’t really know, but one could probably say that the mainstream media destroyed it by picking up the cheesy & catchy garage tracks and rinsing them across every radio station and into the commercial clubs, I lost touch around the start of 2000 due to falling back into the US house sound, touring and being out of the country.
Have you got any favourite records from the golden era of UKG?
I have, too many haha! love all the early MJ Cole cuts, that guy was a pure legend with his remixes such as Gass – Dark & all his V.I.P releases. I’ve actually been lucky enough to repress one of them on my Plastik People Collections Series which is out now on vinyl & will be out on Traxsource. Other records I love: loads of Grant Nelson tracks, one that stands out is a track called ‘In My Soul’ but all the Nice N Ripe were hugely influential. you can actually grab a lot of them digitally on Traxsource. Bootyfool 3 was a rare white label, loads of dub plates & acetates that I don’t own any longer Jeremy Sylvester & his Miles Fontaine moniker with a track called ‘Do it baby’ Tuff Jam Experience with the infamous “Experience” (classic Anthem mix).
And finally, Garage is having a renaissance in the capital but is it well and truly back? The real heads are back in the game spinning classic sets out and about but it takes a new wave of fresh young talent to inject some life into a genre. Who, in your opinion, is making and spinning the good stuff now?
If we truly want a resurgence playing classics aint going to cut it, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with playing an odd classic & defiantly nothing wrong with playing some early 90’s rare and unreleased garage, but we don’t need a whole night with the same 20 tracks on repea, that just doesn’t make any sense to me.
I’ve started putting rarities out on my Plastik People Collections label with some represses of 90’s garage and speed garage EP’s and since then I’ve seem a rise of new producers coming out the woodwork with some fantastic new music, one in particular who I also have forthcoming on my own Plastik People label is a guy who produces under the name ‘Herb Rhythm’ he very much has recreated the sound of 90’s house & UKG, another label owner, Owain Bellis who runs 124 is working with Deep City Soul to produce some new UKG though I think that’s just vinyl but defiantly worth picking that up. I started a new project working along side a good friend Dominic Balchin under our ‘Tuff Vibes’ moniker which is all UK garage on that Nice N Ripe vibe, we’ve already had a few releases out that have done very well on Traxsource and some top 20 placement & more to come, Alex Agore is always on point with his productions, Groove Assassins is another along Johan Strandkvist (Johan S) who did a killer remix on Kieth Sibley’s “Stand By Me” that hit number 7 on the soulful 100 and lastly we cant forget Jeremy Sylvester, after all this time he’s still putting out fantastic music and leading the way for all of us who love the UKG sound. I would say its certainly around, maybe not so much at the fore front of the music output but for that to happen we need to start giving these artists a good platform to release music but also to able play it out in clubs, on the radio, online mix shows and festivals. we continue to see a round about of the same few artists playing everywhere in the USA while the younger, more hungry and very talented producers and djs simply don’t have the opportunity or are given the platform for them to succeed, we need this if we want growth and education.