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Artist Profiles :: Ed Rush & Optical

Ed Rush & OpticalTogether 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. It’s twisted stuff, edgy, paranoid and, quite frankly, when played over the roughest sound system at Metalheadz or Movement in London, it’s simply terrifying.

Since 1996, and especially following 1998's Wormhole collaboration, the two names go hand in hand, though before they’d 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 people’s records; both recorded twelve inches for Goldie’s Metalheadz label and Grooverider’s Prototype imprint.

Ed Rush’s childhood soundtrack, courtesy of his dad’s 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, he’d also fallen under the spell of electro and rap, getting his own decks and creating his own hip hop sets, obsessing on the breakbeats he’d 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 pair’s intent to make jungle darker than dark jungle had ever been before, topped with its eerie ‘You’ve 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 Power’s ‘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 Bukem’s Good Looking stable for instance. This was the jungle equivalent of Joey Beltram’s ‘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 ‘Technology’and ‘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 Grooverider’s 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. That’s it.’

A string of producers weighed in with their own take on the new sound at the same time: check Trace’s ‘Mutant Revisited’ (Emotif) and ‘Amtrak’ (No U Turn), Doc Scott’s classic ‘Shadowboxing’ (under the Nasty Habits moniker) or Boymerang’s ‘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 other’s 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).

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