Bklava, Locked On And New Possibilities For UK Garage

Bklava, Locked On And New Possibilities For UK Garage

The vital UK label is part of a fresh wave of innovation...

Head to Pure Groove Records now and you won’t find a record store anymore. It’s now the kind of place you would go to fix your iPhone screen after a lairy night out, but in the 90s something special was brewing there, something that would go on to define British dance music for the next three decades.

Beginning as a compilation series (the first coming from Todd Edwards) at Pure Groove, Locked On began documenting the pirate radio sound that was spreading like wildfire through London. Founded by Tarik Nashnush in 1996, it’s influence spreads so far and wide that even if you’re a casual music listener and haven’t heard of the label, you have almost definitely heard something they have released.

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Working alongside XL Recordings, Locked On have released seminal cuts from Zed Bias, Artful Dodger and Danny J, but it was the signing of The Streets in 2002 that truly cemented the imprint as the iconic garage label we know today. Mike Skinner recorded 'Original Pirate Material' in South London, telling stories of UK working class life and it still finds itself in many fans' and critics ‘best albums of all time’ lists nineteen years later.

Locked On have always had one eye on the past and another on the future, so it makes sense that - as the label celebrates twenty five years - they look to the new school of garage for a series of remixes and releases that breathe new life into those stone cold classics that set the pirate radio airwaves alight.

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First up, an icon and an emerging artist belonging to the NUKG movement remix the track that arguably birthed 2-step as we know it today; Antonio’s 'Hyperfunk' has been given the Steve Gurley and Bklava treatment.

“I was really nervous to work on this track because the original is such a classic and I wanted to do the remix justice”, says Rinse FM resident Bklava. “So the way I wanted to do that was to still keep the remix sounding familiar by connecting to the original drums but putting my own spin with the bassline, chords and my own vocals. I love the stripped back element of the original and this meant I had room to add more layers and make it my own.”

Very much the roots of Bklava’s sound, the singer and producer cites Nu Birth’s Anytime as “possibly” the first Locked On record she heard.

“When I started DJing, I began burning my favourite tracks onto CDs to practice with and I know that quite a few of Locked On records were on it”, she tells me. “Before this I’d been listening to a lot of house and dubstep and then came across the era of garage house/ukg and that kinda pushed me to start practising and take djing more seriously because I was desperate to play these tracks out and let other people hear what was so exciting to me at that time!”

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The birth of the NUKG movement seems like a logical step for any genre that seeks to evolve and push its boundaries, but it wasn’t met with excitement from everyone. When Conducta was titled the ‘Prince of UKG’ in DJ Mag it was met with some hostility from older heads taking ownership over what they felt was theirs. So what exactly does NUKG bring to the table that old school garage does not?

“NUKG artists/producers don’t just make garage”, says Bklava. “You can hear blends of dubstep, breaks, acid/rave , house and more and because of this, you hear a more varied sound. With producers like Conducta, Oppidan, Higgo and Sharda, they have their own sounds and it’s all really clean and leaning towards a 4x4 movement but then you also have Yosh, Interplanetary Criminal and Bailey Ibbs bringing dark garage - more 2-step inspired - with breaks/acid/club/dub elements, and on another wave you have Salute, Gemi and Royal- T all bringing back speed garage with their own sound to it.”

“No one is trying to copy anything that’s already been done, everyone is trying to create a new sound and that’s definitely helping push the new wave and making this long awaited revival actually happen! I’m not sure if revival would even be the right word because this is new, and that’s what’s so exciting about it.”

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Bklava & Steve Gurley’s remixes of Antonio’s 'Hyperfunk' are out now on Locked On.

Stay in touch with Locked On HERE.

Words: Andrew Moore

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