This veteran of the UKG scene is bringing back one of his most popular aliases: Club Asylum.
Jeremy Sylvester dropped by to grace us with a guest mix and take part in an in-depth interview about his background in the scene, upcoming projects, and the state of the genre today.
Hi Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to speak with us and sharing this mix.
What approach did you take to this one – can you tell us something about the mix? Any hidden gems you can tell us about?
With this mix I decided to take you on a little journey through the genre, because as you know, UKG has a large spectrum that can take many forms. The same goes for my own productions. So in this mix, you will hear some old-school 2-step garage classics, bumpy 4×4, and bassline influenced nuggets alongside a couple of unreleased tracks.
I started out with my own personal dubplate special for DJ sets only which always goes down a treat each and every time I play it out. It’s a mash-up of Shola Ama’s ‘Imagine’ and Twisted Future’s ‘4 Deep Connextion’. This mix has everything in there, from my own productions on Nice ‘n Ripe records including Deep Cover Inc., Club Asylum, Sly, Strickly Dubz to Steve Gurley, Sunship, Grant Nelson, MJ Cole, Jodeci and Tuff Jam and more. I guess you could say it’s a 60-minute UKG montage mix, capturing many elements of the sound from the early ’90s to this day. I hope you enjoy it!
“It’s a 60-minute UKG montage mix, capturing many elements of the sound from the early ’90s to this day.”
Tell us about what you’ve been up to in 2019 – have you been working on any new music or focusing on playing out?
2019 has been a very busy year so far. My company ‘Urban Dubz Music’ has gone from strength to strength with our weekly Facebook live streaming from our HQ in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. To date we have had almost 400 shows from our in-house team, which includes local female Garage talent DJ MJ, veteran DJ Blenda, and Broken Beat Maestro Lord Bryon (Slipmode), who all have regular weekly slots, alongside numerous guest DJs and performers including Dem 2, CKP, Colonel Red, Joe Olindo, Martin Depp (Pogo House) and many more.
Urban Dubz the label has had a plethora of releases from myself and also amazing new talent from Concinnity, Lombard Street, Gorilla Culture, Robin Wylie, True2life, Jadey Leigh, Troy Denari, Slipmode, Kayleigh Gibson, Joe Olindo, Sampladelic, and more.
This year has seen multiple DJ performances with gigs up and down the UK including London, South East, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow at events such as Acetate (Leeds), Jum Jum (London), Mass X (South-End), Headset (Glasgow), and 20 Years of Ghost Recordings (London). Whether it’s been a strictly vinyl UK Garage set or USB, the crowds have responded extremely enthusiastically to my performances. I have some very tasty gigs lined up for the rest of the year, including two major festivals already confirmed: Spreadlove Festival and the mighty Red Bull Music Festival in London later in the year, headlining with some major acts which I’m very excited about.
“It’s been really crazy at the moment with the re-launch of Club Asylum, which is my biggest alias and one of the biggest names in garage production out there.”
Production wise, it’s been really crazy at the moment with the re-launch of Club Asylum, which is probably my biggest alias and one of the biggest names in garage production out there, with huge Top 20 remixes and tracks under my belt including Shola Ama – ‘Imagine’, KC & Jojo – ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, Kristine Blonde ‘Love Shy’ and much more. Expect brand new music in the pipeline: I’m remixing some of the biggest names in the industry currently alongside my own original productions featuring talented singers and MCs.
I’ve also recently launched Urban Dubz club events, with our first taking place jointly with another local promoter ‘The Only Way is Garage’ in Birmingham. We launched our very own club event and debut in the heart of Shoreditch, London on the 12th July at The Lighthouse Bar & Club with a huge line-up that included the legendary Norris Da Boss Windross, Ray Hurley and a whole host of others. Check out Urban Dubz on Resident Advisor or our Urban Dubz Facebook page for more details.
What was your best show of the last year – where was it and what made it special?
That’s a tough one as there has been a fair few, and everywhere I’ve played has been absolutely wicked. If you had to twist my arm, I would say the 20 Years of Ghost Recordings party alongside EL-B & Benny Ill in London was my best show so far this year. The crowd was a nice mix of people from all over who came down and proper had a good party. It was great to be able to bring my vinyl down to spin as it’s very rare I do that these days, although I’m getting more demand for it. I had the chance to pull out some of my more underground bits, which is always great to do, and it was a pleasure to hear the crowd responding to it. There were a good few fans and garage addicts in the crowd, going nuts to some of the most rare underground biscuits I was playing, so I really enjoyed that night. The sound system and the whole vibe in there was on point.
“I would say the 20 Years of Ghost Recordings party alongside EL-B & Benny Ill in London was my best show so far this year.”
We hear you’re playing a Red Bull event celebrating the history of UKG in September – how did that come about?
This is probably the gig I’ve been most looking forward to for a long time, and a chance to play alongside some huge garage acts and DJ/producers that I rate such as Todd Edwards and Mike Millrain. Going B2B with Mike once again will be a pleasure – this will be the second time we have played together. I was asked a couple of months ago by Red Bull Music if I would like to be involved in the event, so of course I immediately said yes. It’s a great honour for me to play for them and they have been fans of my music for long time.
I’m really looking forward to playing The Sunday Club at London’s Union Car Park on the 8th September alongside So Solid Crew, Todd Edwards, Mike Milrain, Lisa Mafia, Romeo, DJQ, Riz La Teef, Anz, A-Bee, Asher D, Oxide & Neutrino, Creed, PSG, and Megaman.
You’re a musician, a producer and a DJ, but which came first? Tell us about how you discovered electronic music.
I started off producing music in the early ’90s, making jungle and DnB tracks under the alias of Dubtronix. Me and my dad worked out of a studio based in Birmingham’s Custard Factory called Cream Recordings, where we ran a couple of independent record labels: S.A.S Recordings, Club X and Cream Recordings.
I’ve always had a house background, but my first releases were early jungle and DnB. Our most successful record at the time was a track called ‘Screwface’ that I did with the late GE Real. This became a huge track on the scene – I gave it to Grooverider on dubplate for about 12 months exclusively, and then it became a massive club anthem. It was the first ever jungle/DnB track sample from a film, and in this case it was Steven Seagal’s film Marked for Death: we sampled the famous line ‘Screwface kill me a thousand deaths worse than you. Go find him your fucking self!’. We sold over 25,000 copies on vinyl, which was amazing for that time. The DJing came later on in the mid ’00s, as I started playing across the UK and Europe alongside my production work.
As a DJ and producer with decades of experience in the industry, you must have some fantastic memories.
What would you say are the defining moments of your career – high points that will stick with you forever?
As a young hungry producer, meeting my musical heroes was one thing, but actually becoming friends with some of them and working with them was a big deal for me. To me that confirmed in my head that I must be good enough at what I’m doing. I’ve always been and still am a very humble person and a perfectionist. I’m never happy with anything I do, which has kept me pushing forward with my music, always looking for the next ‘thing’ and constantly fine-tuning and evolving my sound.
“A high moment for me was playing in Poland to the biggest crowd I’ve ever performed in front of, with many of them chanting my name in a massive arena of over 15,000 people.”
Probably one of the defining moments production-wise was when our Club Asylum remixes were hitting Top 10 and Top 20 chart positions with Shola Ama, KC & Jojo and Kristine Blonde. This was a great time for me and all the hard work paid off big time. This gave momentum for me to continue making good quality underground music while still staying true to myself.
I would say another high moment for me was playing in Poland a few years back, to the biggest crowd I’ve ever performed in front of, with many of them chanting my name in a massive arena of over 15,000 people. That was crazy and a moment I will never forget.
Do you feel like UK club culture is different now than when you started out?
If so, how has the scene changed?
To be honest, I don’t feel it has changed massively, apart from the music becoming broader and the fashion. If anything the music has become more fragmented and there are much more ‘niche scenes’ than before in my opinion. Social media has a lot to do with this. As far as UK club culture is concerned, I feel it will always be there and there will always be an appetite for it in this country. I just feel we are so deeply embedded in underground music in the UK, it’s become a part of our fabric. There seems to be more smaller clubs closing down than ever before, but also there is an appetite for larger festivals around the country.
“As far as UK club culture is concerned, I feel it will always be there and there will always be an appetite for it in this country. We are so deeply embedded in underground music here in the UK, it’s become a part of our fabric.”
I think in the earlier days of UK garage, there were pockets of violence around the clubs in certain parts of the country which very nearly killed off the scene, but you don’t see much of that nowadays, or at least I don’t see it. It feels like it’s gone back to how it used to be, or at least should have been, which was all about the music. The new generation is largely to credit with that, having grown up with their older brothers, sisters or even mums and dads raving to it back in the day.
This can only be a good thing for the scene in keeping it alive and thriving. When I play at a garage rave now, it amazes me how some of the crowd know the old tunes from back in the day: they weren’t even around back then and they are going crazy to same kind of tunes that we used to go crazy to back in the day. That shows how knowledgeable kids are nowadays. Then again, ‘good music, is good music’ at the end of the day.. people know it when they hear it.
We heard that you’re reviving your Club Asylum alias this year and working on an alias called Slipmode – could you tell us all about that?
What makes these projects different to your usual productions?
After a long break from producing tracks as Club Asylum, it felt like a great time to revive it in this current climate. To me, garage was never dead, it’s always been there and will always be there. It’s an established genre much like hip-hop, house, reggae, grime or anything else – you can hear it’s influence everywhere you go.
I wanted to bring back that feel-good garage vibe we had with Club Asylum, working with great songs, toplines, serious recording artists with strong quality production behind it. I think that’s what’s been missing on the scene for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great garage tracks out there currently which smash dancefloors all over the place, but I’m not hearing anything that really stands out to me. Seems to be ‘hot’ one minute, then ‘out’ the following week.
Good songs stand the test of time and that is evident in tracks we’ve produced as Club Asylum. Songs by Shola Ama ‘Imagine’, Kristine Blonde ‘Love Shy’, and KC & Jojo ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, are still played now to this day. I believe Kiss FM still has them on their playlist after all these years. The amount of major label compilations out there, from the likes of Ministry of Sound to Sony, are still sending requests to licence my old tracks year after year.
“To me, garage was never dead, it’s always been there and will always be there.”
Club Asylum is back in the studio working with various singers and MCs. We’re currently finalising a project with UK female vocalist Kayleigh Gibson and the legendary MC veteran Onyx Stone – look out for this in the near future. As well as the production outfit, I will be DJing as Club Asylum, mixing old-school garage classics with the most upfront new garage music, sprinkled with dubplate specials and personal mash-ups.
As a producer and DJ you’ve always been associated closely with garage – what is it about UKG that draws you in as opposed to house or techno?
I love most dance music styles and have always been a house head from day one. To me, garage is particularly special because of its uniquely British sound and raw edge to it. It can take many forms. I love the energy of garage, whether it’s a straight 4×4 vibe, 2-step, soulful, funky, bumpy or deep. I just can’t get enough of it. I don’t think that’s ever going to go away anytime soon. Whether it’s a full vocal track or a chopped-up, stripped down dub, it immediately gets me going. I love music with energy, I love to dance when raving and I love to dance while DJing or making music. If it makes my head nod or shoulder pop, then I’m in. Garage just puts a smile on my face when I hear it or produce it. I think the crowd respond differently to Garage than any other form of dance music, it just gets people moving.
Old-school garage has remained popular since the ‘90s, but many producers are still developing the genre today with creative new perspectives on the sound.
Which contemporary producers do you feel are best representing UKG?
I’m loving the new generation of UKG right now with producers like Perception, Conducta, Mind of a Dragon making great music too. Of course people like myself from back in the day still making it along with others like DJ Fen, Ray Hurley, Chris Bass, El-B, Groove Chronicles, Matt Jam Lamont, MJ Cole, and Sunship and still keeping it alive with a new vigour. It’s great to see some of the originators inspiring the new generation of producers and continuing to push things forward.
I’m also really feeling the new garage-house movement at the moment which is basically the sound I’ve been creating since the early ’90s on Nice ‘n Ripe Records alongside producers such as Grant Nelson, Mike Millrain, Dave Dellar etc. Right now we have people like Marc Cotterell and Pogo House Records pushing the sound to a new audience and we’re seeing another string of new producers coming through like Concinnity, Joe Olindo, and Le Smooth who have all had releases on my label. I like to think I’ve inspired and helped to get their names out there.
What are you working on currently?
Are there any upcoming projects in 2019 that you can tell us about?
Right now I’m in the studio with Kayleigh and Onyx Stone, with projects lined up as Club Asylum with Sweet Female Attitude. I’ve been producing more underground nuggets with the likes of Slipmode, who take it to another dimension with a fusion of garage, house and broken beat. It’s very exciting times at the moment and there’s no sign of me slowing down, in fact it’s getting even more busy… I like to keep busy, it keeps me sane!
Expect more signings on my Urban Dubz label with brand new talent. We recently released a track from new signing True2life – ‘Dancing The High’ came out on the 5th July on all digital platforms. I will be releasing another garage-house EP from myself soon, then we have forthcoming releases from Concinnity, Slipmode and a whole bunch more throughout the rest of the year.
Finally, could you give us two tunes: one all-time classic track, and something mind-blowing that you’ve recently discovered?
This is a tough one as I have so many… my all-time classic is Sprinkler – Don’t Wanna Work No More (Tuff & Jam’s Dub). Something more recent would have to be Perception – The Way Forward.