Simply put “Rave Diaries & Tower Block Tales” is the story of a man with rave music running in his veins. If you grew up outside of London you might be forgiven for not knowing the name “Uncle Dugs” until more recent years, but don’t be fooled… Through his work on pirate radio, particularly Conflict, Rinse, and Kool, Dugs played a pivotal role in the foundations of the early jungle scene before championing the emerging sounds of garage, grime and dubstep. Dugs’ story is one of passion and determination for both pirate radio and the music he loves. At one point he says there are only two types of music – “stuff I like and stuff I don’t” – and while this statement was intended to cut through the bullshit of musical snobbery so prevalent at the birth of hardcore, it’s also indicative of Dugs’ straight-talking, no-nonsense narrative style.
The book begins by covering Dugs’ school years (think the Bash Street Kids but with more weed) and goes into great detail describing the transition from punter to DJ. His description of discovering the rave scene will be familiar to so many who grew up in the 90’s. Like many of us Dugs was just that bit too young when the acid house scene kicked off and it was the early warehouse/breakbeat sound that grabbed his attention. Many people can relate to the young lad that went “flyer shopping” on the weekends and also believed the common misconception that acid house parties were so-called because everyone was off it on LSD. In 1991, at the age of 16, Dugs attended his first rave – Raindance at Jenkins Lane. From there, having witnessed Slipmatt commanding the gathered crowd, Dugs fell in love with the music and developed a desire to get behind the decks.
From that point forth the book really starts to gather momentum, charting the ups and downs of a life dedicated to music and pirate radio, including numerous stories that will leave you in no doubt as to the commitment of it’s author. Why else would somebody put them-self through the grim ordeal of treading water in a roof-top water tank just to avoid dead-air?! Stories of riding inside lift shafts, hanging upside down in ventilation chutes and climbing out of top storey windows sound like madness but surely stand as testament to the passion that the music and community inspired in people.
Over the years Dugs has performed many roles with regards to pirate radio, working up from DJ to station manager at Rinse, and has established a reputation for being pragmatic and dependable. It’s this reputation that has inspired the glowing contributions from such figureheads of the scene as Goldie, Phantasy, Jumpin Jack Frost and Zinc. Littered throughout the book, these sections serve to bolster and affirm Dugs’ account of various events, as well as offer personal tributes to a man that has consistently worked to better the scene for 25 years.
A nice touch are the frequent top tens – “Top 10 tunes of 1991”, “Top 10 UKG tunes”, etc… I don’t imagine I’m the only one to pause at these points and do a quick refresher on YouTube. Someone’s personal taste in music can really give you a feel for that person but if nothing else these lists really ground you in that particular chapter.
By the time the book comes to a close Dugs has come full circle and returned to Rinse with his hugely successful weekly radio show “Run Come Follow Fridays” – the only dedicated Old Skool and Jungle show on a legal station. Since the show started Dugs has met and interviewed many legends of the scene and is quick to point out that ten years previously he’d not known any of them. At one point in the book Slipmatt says that the Old Skool and Jungle scene is “tough to break into if you weren’t a name back in the late eighties/early nineties, but Dugs’ show on Rinse was so good it pushed him to the forefront”.
I really enjoyed this book and it opened my eyes to a world I knew very little about (pirate radio hadn’t reached my neck of the woods when I was a kid). Dugs’ story is equal parts entertaining and inspiring, and goes to show that with passion, determination and a heap-load of grafting it’s possible to reach your goals and achieve your dreams. In his own words he “won’t be happy until I’m playing jungle on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury”.
Amen to that (pun intended).
You can catch Uncle Dugs every Friday on his Run Come Follow Friday radio show on Rinse FM (11am to 2pm).
Uncle Dugs’ “Rave Diaries & Tower Block Tales” can be bought from Music Mondays.