Though the variety of sounds it supports has expanded significantly, Rinse FM started life as a jungle station. But even beyond that, jungle lies at the roots of each new music Rinse has championed since it first started broadcasting 18 years ago. UK garage through grime, dubstep, funky – none would have existed in the same form, were it not for jungle’s alchemical whirling together of rhythms from across time and space. So across Rinse:20’s hour-long runtime, Uncle Dugs, the station’s only dedicated old-skool DJ, takes listeners on a trip through the history of one of the most innovative musical forms on the planet.
“I’ve called it my ‘Story of Jungle mix’,” says Dugs. “It’s a story of jungle music until it changed to drum & bass.” Opening with Lennie De Ice’s ‘We Are I.E’ – widely accepted, but not by Lennie, to be one of the first jungle tracks – the album travels through an exhilarating chronology of the genre’s evolution through the 90s. “I’ve tried to do that in 21 tracks, which was challenging,” he laughs. “I could have done with 121. But it’s a history of music, mixed on vinyl, live, and I challenge anyone to go into the studio and do a better job!”
Dugs is well placed to take listeners through that history. He’s been involved in pirate radio for 20 years, having caught the rave bug as a teenager. He managed Rinse FM from 1999 to 2005, was helping to run the station’s operations when grime was first developing, and oversaw the arrival of dubstep – all of which he says was thrilling to be involved in. “In those days it was going up on the tower blocks and putting up aerials, looking after DJs,” he remembers. “I was there when the internet was first introduced, so I remember the very first web stream, the first website.” But even as London club music has evolved, he has always remained infatuated with its earliest forms.
“I’ve never found music that’s buzzed me like the hardcore, the acid house, the jungle stuff, from the mid/late 80s and the mid/late 90s,” he grins. “There’s nothing that’s ever done that to me again. I’ve never lost the buzz for it that I found the day I went to my first rave. The minute I found it, that was me, forever.”
Listening to Dugs’ mix, it’s easy to identify with that passion. What’s still so striking about jungle, even two decades down the line, is its experimental nature. Though always remaining locked to the stepper’s pulse of the dancefloor, jungle producers played tricks with time, turning rhythms inside out, stretching them to breaking point and shattering them into percussive shrapnel. These techniques drive the mix forward and outward, sending the listener hurtling through a mesh of tunes that represent important developments in the sound: the ragga bounce of Conquering Lion’s tracks; Alex Reece’s ethereal roller ‘Pulp Fiction’, Shy FX’s seminal ‘Bambaataa’, and finally, poignantly, Zinc’s anthemic and well-loved take on The Fugees’ ‘Ready Or Not’.
Having left Rinse FM in the middle of last decade, Dugs returned in 2011 to start a weekly show of jungle and hardcore on the station, which now finds him regularly inviting in legends of the scene to be interviewed on air. The response to the ‘Run Come Follow Friday’ has been astonishing. That’s the main reason why a mix like this, which recaptures the firey energy and swift evolution of a scene at the height of its creative power feels like an important statement. With the internet allowing younger listeners to re-engage with the genre, and with so much of the new music that Rinse champions so strongly connected to jungle, it remains crucial to remind people of the station’s roots, and how deep they truly run.