LTJ Bukem feature – Published in ATM Magazine, 2005
“I’m into music that can be played in ten years’ time, and the Speed reunion proved that. It proved to me that [dnb] is as fresh as it was ten years ago. I listen to stuff that is 30 years old, and knowing that dnb is becoming like that is wicked” exclaims Bukem as we speak about the recent Speed reunion at The End nightclub in London. It’s hard not to agree with him when you consider the giant leaps and progressions this music has made over the last 10 years. Conducting this interview over the phone on a gloomy winter afternoon whilst driving to the airport, it’s hard to not get contaminated by Bukem’s enthusiasm, vibrancy and energy even though I’m not even standing in front of him. The man who has pioneered new sounds and styles for the last decade is still as barmy about this music as he was when he discovered it as a teenager. “I’ve been doing plenty of touring, seems like I’ve been on a life long tour for the last ten years. Loving the DJing as always. Still on my decks when I can, busting mixes, calling Conrad to tell him ‘check this mix!!’ like it was 15 years ago. Enjoying the music, all the new artists coming through, the guys at Hospital as well as the old heads like Renegade and all that.”
It’s been a good year for the Good Looking Organisation with popular releases such as the recent ‘Golden Girl’, proving its efficiency on dancefloors around the globe, Progression Sessions volume 10 (Live in Germany) and Earth volume 7 DVD which features Surround Sound 5.1, something which Bukem readily admits “has mad potential and is such a great leap, even though I haven’t had the time to check it out properly yet.” All this action was rounded off with the aforementioned Back to Speed reunion at The End, which brought back a decade of dnb vibes under one roof with the likes of Bukem, Fabio, Doc Scott, Ink & Loxy at the helm. Speed started ten years ago at the Mars Bar on Charing Cross road and fast became a night of reference for the growing dnb scene spearheaded by Bukem and Fabio who would bring out new sounds and styles week in, week out. The reunion proved to be as enjoyable as the original parties as an over-enthusiastic Bukem explains: “It was emotional man, proper roadblock. Best gig I’ve done for a long, long time. The togetherness of people there was just great. We dropped all the old school tracks and it was rammed all night, people queuing round the corner till 4am. We also had Jazzy B in there, with the Africa Center Sound System. That was also great because it’s a part of my youth, and what I used to do when I was coming up. I’d go there on Sundays after being out all weekend. And just to have him come through and do his thing with us was the perfect way to complete the night. The Africa Center parties were like a church for me. They were the originators in a way of the jungle and dnb parties. I look up to these guys and having them there was just great.”
Far from resting on his laurels, Bukem and GLO are gearing themselves for even more action next year with a whole slew of LPs coming our way from many of the camps’ artists. These include Mokoto, Future Engineers, Nookie and maybe even Conrad, who Bukem says might be convinced to sit down and do some more work in the studio following the glowing success of ‘Golden Girl’. “We’ve also got a new Sessions CD, new Earth DVD. We’ll just keep the whole thing rolling really and probably surprise a few people along the way. We’ve got a UK tour at the moment too. It started a while back and it’s going great, good vibes everywhere. Reception has been dope; Birmingham was rammed, with people queuing outside in freezing weather all night. We’ve got loads of new kids coming up with amazing productions. They’ve got jobs but still bang out tracks in their spare time, stuff that’s really great. There’s great talent in dnb at the moment as far as I’m concerned it’s a great time.”
Bukem and GLO have also been busy with an important and unusual campaign alongside ACS and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf entitled ‘Don’t Lose the Music’. Together they are working to promote awareness of the damage loud music and sound systems can cause to your hearing over time. Something that is often spoken about but rarely acted upon by the public until it’s too late (DJs are all too aware of the problems caused by powerful systems and prolonged ear abuse). The campaign is gaining momentum and Bukem’s involvement stems from his long partnership with ACS (Advanced Communication Solutions) who have in the past created custom molded hearing protectors for him and other DJs as well as F1 drivers and RAF pilots. Recently though Bukem has been working with ACS on a new type of In Ear Monitoring system designed specifically for DJs and aimed at revolutionising the way DJs use monitoring systems such as headphones or booth speakers. “I’ve been working with them for 6 years now. I got earplugs done back then, which filter the music at different levels. It’s really helped me over the years though it takes time to get used to them, especially in clubs. But it’s worth it all the way. They came to us to develop a new system and I was only too happy to help them with it. This In-Ear System allows me to monitor at a much lower volume, which protects my hearing and lets me achieve clearer signal reproduction than with conventional headphones. It’s a real breakthrough and something I would urge all DJs who value their hearing to consider. Even when I play The End, which has one of the loudest systems in Europe, I can have the headphone on 1 and hear perfectly what I’m doing.”
They hope to reach more members of the public with this new campaign fronting it with many a top DJ in an attempt to really awaken audiences to the dangers of prolonged ear abuse. “We’re getting a whole range of hearing protection done and pushing that to the public it will include all styles of hearing aids to make it appealing for everyone, even clubbers! We’ll campaign and promote it. These filters are great, they don’t ruin the music and they filter in a way that makes it possible to have an enjoyable night. They don’t fuck the music. We’ve got loads of good guys on board, Roger Sanchez, Eric Morillo, Goldie, Fabio, Laurent Garnier, and we’re gonna have a launch party with everyone there using it. I’m excited about it. It’ll help keep away the wrong sounds in today’s clubs that really damage your ears. Not because every club is bad, but it’s the way the systems are today that cause this damage and these can help a lot.” So from pioneer, to mainstay of the scene, Bukem is now taking on the role of educator and promoter by helping to keep the music alive so that we all may enjoy it for years to come.
As with the other figure heads who have helped bring through new talent from across the world in recent years, Bukem is also a massive fan of dnb’s global expansion and is responsible for bringing through Japanese wonder Makoto over the last year. Being constantly on the road and having a worldwide fan base has meant that Bukem has tasted this global expansion first hand, and by the looks of it can hardly contain himself when I asked what he thinks of it. “You go to some places like Hungary or Estonia and it’s like your Michael Jackson or some shit! Shops signings, people bringing all their CDs and stuff, it’s crazy! It’s fantastic to see the music get to such places and having such an impact on people. It’s so good also because it shows that it’s not what the media and others made of it back in the early, mid 90s. It’s there to stay more then ever. It’s a genre like any other and people realise that when they go abroad and see the impact it has on audiences around the globe. As DJs today we travel more then ever and I’m always looking for people, I’m an addict for music, always been.”