Renegade Snares: The Resistance And Resilience Of Drum & Bass

Renegade Snares: The Resistance And Resilience Of Drum & Bass Volume copyright © 2021

Author in the category "Miscellaneous"
  1. Ben Murphy
  2. Carl Loben
Renegade Snares

Renegade Snares is the definitive book on drum & bass music. Pieced together using original interviews conducted with all the scene’s main players, it traces the history of jungle/drum & bass from its early roots in sound system culture and rave music right through to the present day.

With its hyper-speed breakbeats, warping bass pressure, and vast spectrum of sounds, drum & bass quick spawned a whole new movement in youth culture. What began as an outlaw street reverberation from the inner cities of Britain developed into a Mercury-winning, chart-topping, world-conquering genre in just a few short years. The frontier-breaking sorcery that emanated from its foundational producers and DJs pushed new levels of sonic science into the music world, and it has influenced all other electronic music genres in assorted ways.

From the shock of the new to a global phenomenon, drum & bass has morphed from frowned-upon marginalisation to establishment approval—and back again. A multicultural triumph, it is a story of resistance and resilience that takes in pioneers such as Goldie, Roni Size, Kemistry & Storm, Photek, Fabio & Grooverider, and many more renegade mavericks—even, at one point, David Bowie.

With vivid descriptions of key tracks and a detailed lineage of the scene’s development, Renegade Snares traces the genre’s gestation while also examining its musical twists and turns, worldwide spread, and enduring popularity. And, ultimately, it asks: surely a genre of music with such a significant grounding in black music culture, developed by so many black pioneers in its formative years, could never be ‘whitewashed’ . . . could it?


It’s July 2015. The buzz of the South Bank in London is a long way from the South Bronx in New York, where a quarter of a century previously, one Clifford Price was hanging with the TATS CRU of graffiti writers. Graffiti still adorns the skatepark underneath the concrete gables just along from the National Film Theatre, but Goldie’s work today is taking place in rather more salubrious surroundings: the prestigious Royal Festival Hall.

It’s the ultimate endgame for a style of music that Goldie played such a big part in shaping. In 1995, his Timeless album catapulted jungle/drum & bass into the mainstream, and Goldie with it. An aural masterwork that still stands up decades later, it’s now being revisited by Goldie in a new form.

We’re here for the second show of Goldie’s full orchestral interpretation of Timeless with The Heritage Orchestra. It’s the most powerful refutation imaginable for the haters who said drum & bass was too fast, ain’t gonna last. ‘Vindication,’ Goldie would call it later. Drum & bass has been derided and overlooked, written off and ridiculed, but has grown from underground roots to now be perceived as high culture. It never needed this kind of affirmation, but it’s still, finally, been embraced by the establishment. It’s in the Royal-fucking-Festival Hall. It’s transcended functionality.

Inside the venue, with its boxes up the walls straight out of a 70s sci-fi movie, there’s a breathless expectation about the crowd. Despite the odd junglism T-shirt, many don’t look like old ravers. It’s a mixture of theatregoers and classical concert fans, mingling with a fair share of headz.

There’s loads of kit onstage, and when The Heritage Orchestra emerge from the shadows, all wearing Timeless T-shirts with a twisted Metalheadz skull design on the front, clutching violins, cellos, and other instruments, they’re greeted warmly. Goldie stands nonchalantly at the side of the stage before emerging right on cue.

There aren’t many musicians in popular music who have the chutzpah to harness the immense power of a full orchestra and simultaneously rock the joint to its foundations like a sweaty rave. But Goldie is that man, and just one of the key players in the formation and evolution of modern music’s last completely new language. This live performance tonight is elegant, fierce, explosive, reflective; exquisitely organised chaos, the paradoxical balance that defines jungle.

The crowd are on their feet; the two drummers smack the skins for all they’re worth; the horn section conjures the vengeful spirit of darkcore rave synths. In the quieter moments, the musicality of Timeless unfurls through the massed string section. It’s a stunning spectacle, and, in the eye of the storm, Goldie vacillates between meditative reflection and crazed concert conductor, egging on the players to ever-greater feats. His faith in the power of drum & bass is infectious. And, today, the influence of that genre is the most powerful it’s been in many years.
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