Together and separately, as DJs and producers, Ed Rush (aka Ben
Settle) and Optical (aka Matt Quinn) make and play jungle darker
and harder than anyone else. Its twisted stuff, edgy, paranoid
and, quite frankly, when played over the roughest sound system at
Metalheadz or Movement in London, its simply terrifying.
Since 1996, and especially following 1998's Wormhole collaboration,
the two names go hand in hand, though before theyd met, both
had headed along similar trajectories to get to the top of the drum
and bass tree. Both grew up in West London on a diet of electro,
hip hop and ultimately hardcore; both spent hard years honing their
engineering skills and contributing to other peoples records;
both recorded twelve inches for Goldies Metalheadz label and
Grooveriders Prototype imprint.
Ed Rushs childhood soundtrack, courtesy of his dads
maudlin music collection (featuring Tom Waits and Bob Dylan amongst
others) perhaps gives some hint of the twisted musical path that
he himself would pursue. But by his teenage years, hed also
fallen under the spell of electro and rap, getting his own decks
and creating his own hip hop sets, obsessing on the breakbeats hed
later wield to devastating effect.
It was during these years that he also started to hang out with
his neighbour, Nico Sykes, a studio engineer who founded the No
U Turn label in 1993. With him he would hone the productions skills
so respected today.
The first fruits of the partnership was the Bludclot Artattack
twelve-inch, a statement of the pairs intent to make jungle
darker than dark jungle had ever been before, topped with its eerie
Youve got a ticket to hell sample. The Ed Rush
name said it all - music that would make you dizzy and nauseous
with its bowel-churning bass and pummeling beats, as did the No
U Turn tag - no turning back, no drawing on past glories, no compromise.
The twelves that followed could bludgeon any crowd to death, including
Gangsta Hardstep and Guncheck. At the time
Ed Rush made no bones about what he wanted to achieve: I want
to hurt people with my beats, he once memorably declared.
It was through DJing at Don FM around this time that Ed Rush met
DJ Trace, which led to Trace and Nico joining forces for the Mutant
remix of T Powers Rollers Instinct - still cited
today as the blueprint for the techstep sound, a shorthand
term for an array of tunes with the dirtiest, noisiest production
values ever heard: abrasive, atonal, distorted sounds - the very
opposite of the slick, jazzual drum and bass emanating from LTJ
Bukems Good Looking stable for instance. This was the jungle
equivalent of Joey Beltrams Energy Flash and Mentasm,
the hoover-noise tunes that had shaken the foundations of the techno
world back in 91, full of an edgy, skunk-induced paranoia.
And Ed Rush embodied that techstep sound like no one else with
anthems like Technologyand Mothership -
both collected on 1997's No U Turn compilation Torque, with a second
CD featuring an Ed Rush mix of fourteen examples of the No U Turn
sound. Locust (with Fierce) swiftly followed on Grooveriders
Prototype label - to this day, in original and remixed form, an
all-time classic jungle anthem. Imagine an intense Old Testament
swarm of locusts, commented Ed Rush at the time of its release,
Growing in a room, spreading out over cities and forests wreaking
utter devastation. Thats it.
A string of producers weighed in with their own take on the new
sound at the same time: check Traces Mutant Revisited
(Emotif) and Amtrak (No U Turn), Doc Scotts classic
Shadowboxing (under the Nasty Habits moniker) or Boymerangs
Still (on Prototype) for prime examples, all of which
employ versions of the Reese bassline sound (the awesome
bass sound Detroit techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson had created in
1986, with his tune Just Another Chance).
It was during this period - early in 1996 - that Ed Rush and Optical
finally crossed paths, though both had heard and admired each others
work before then...
Optical too had a similar history, starting to produce tunes in
his late teens, setting up his own bedroom studio with his brother
Jamie (now better known as jungle producer Matrix, on whose Metro
label Optical has released The Shining and Serum
with DJ Fierce).