Celebrating Old Skool Music, Culture and Legacy
In the early 1990’s the rave compilation was a staple of the rave scene; a means for record labels and ravers to connect and help share new music. Now, with the breakbeat hardcore scene more alive than ever, one independent record label seeks to keep the tradition alive…
Brighton-based record label Rave Radio Records (RRR) specialises in breakbeat dance music and is managed by Sammy Purcell – one third of breakbeat hardcore production team TRY UNITY. Over the past 12 months RRR has released four separate EPs on 12” vinyl, accompanied by digital downloads, featuring new music from TRY UNITY and remixes from other well established artists in the breakbeat hardcore scene.
But Sammy Purcell’s passion for breakbeat hardcore doesn’t end there… Aside from his commitments as head of RRR and production duties with TRY UNITY, Sammy is also the organiser of Brighton-based club-night “Calling The Hardcore” (CTH), an audio-visual celebration of both old skool and contemporary music.
Aligning both projects, Sammy Purcell’s Rave Radio Records will this month be releasing its very first compilation record under the Calling The Hardcore banner. Titled “Calling The Hardcore: Volume 1” the compilation will be a twelve track album on DJ-friendly vinyl featuring previously unreleased music by upcoming artists and pillars of the scene alike (including Ellis Dee and Ron Wells). The vinyl album will also include a free copy made available for digital download. You can previews each of the tracks included on the album at the end of the article.
Staying true to the scene’s legacy the album’s cover is even designed by Junior Tomlin – an artist whose instantly recognisable and iconic imagery graced many, many flyers and album covers in the early nineties.
We caught up with Sammy Purcell to get the lowdown on “Calling The Hardcore: Volume 1″…
The new album is named after your Brighton-based club nights. What can you tell us about the CTH events so far?
At the start of 2017 myself and Ed Grant founded CTH with a view to launch an underground main-room ’91-93 hardcore event in Brighton. We both live in the city and wanted to put a night on that was only underground hardcore in the main room. I wanted CTH to be an audio/visual rave experience so I suggested we used my multi-video projector A/V rig and collaborate with live VJ’s. Our first event attracted over 450 ravers throughout the night – the club capacity was only 300! The south-coast raving family really came together with lots of people from other parts of the UK. From the great response to the first event it was a no-brainer to do another. At that stage, due to other commitments, Ed took a step back from promotion so I ran with events 002, 003 and the forthcoming 004.
All the artists who’ve played CTH have relished the specification of going underground and not playing the top 50 anthems. That’s a very important ethos to the night – we look to explore the lesser-played music from the ‘golden’ era of hardcore rave music and nu-era breakbeat hardcore production.
Our focus to date has been quite simple: provide an 8-9 hour underground hardcore audio/visual experience in the main room while pushing new breakbeat hardcore and jungle techno in the 2nd room. CTH to me isn’t an oldskool event, it’s a hardcore event. For me it’s as important to promote new breakbeat hardcore and jungle techno music alongside the oracle of original hardcore music.
What’s the new breakbeat hardcore scene like in Brighton?
Small and very niche! Production-wise I personally know only a few breakbeat hardcore producers based in Brighton releasing vinyl, such as DJ Jedi and Keezee alongside myself in TRY UNITY. The music certainly goes down well at raves just like an unheard, or rarely played, ’91-93 breakbeat hardcore track does. For example, when Hyper-On Experience featuring Ella Sopp performed their 2018 anthem “Lift Me Up” back in July the crowd clearly loved it and went mental. Good breakbeat hardcore music goes down well on the dance floor whether it’s original or new.
There’s great support from local legendary record shop RK Bass who stock what’s hot in breakbeat hardcore/jungle techno. They stock 12″ vinyl from labels like Kniteforce Records and 7th Story Records so people are certainly buying it. But I think the new breakbeat hardcore scene has a lot of catching up to do with the likes of new jungle that continues to explode in both small-run vinyl sales and specialist events.
Why do you think there’s a resurgence in this sound?
This question gets asked quite a lot at the moment! I’m in the camp that feels that it hasn’t really gone away. The sound’s always been here in different mediums with lots of different artists jumping in and out at different times with digital/vinyl releases, radio shows, labels and events. At a grass roots level there are loads of what I call “nu-era artists” (too many to mention in this question) that weren’t producing back in ’92-93 but have really been guardians of the new breakbeat hardcore production resurgence over the last few years. Take Jedi Recordings for example, over the last 4 years there have been 20 different 12” vinyl releases from the label showcasing new breakbeat hardcore, jungle and jungle techno style music. Then there’s artists that made anthems back in the day like Liquid and DJ Luna C that have gone back into the studio making ’91-93 inspired breakbeat hardcore. That’s inspiring! In my opinion a scene needs people, inspiration and collaboration to bubble and resurge.
Finally I quite simply feel the rave sounds produced from legacy synthesisers, speeded-up breakbeats, FX’s and samples are tried and tested… they just work! People are drawn to that sound when it’s mixed down creatively and well, in a familiar arrangement that they recognise. It re-ignites endorphins that the seasoned hardcore listener has experienced all too well and can attach to and enjoy.
I’ve been buying breakbeat hardcore for the last 17 years and it feels that more new rave projects are being progressed from artists old and new which is exciting.
Tell us about Rave Radio Records – what’s the vision for the label?
Rave Radio Records (RRR) was established in July 2017 as an enabler for myself, Francesca Purcell and James Ewins to release new breakbeat hardcore under the alias TRY UNITY. There are a total of 4 official vinyl releases on the label with “Calling The Hardcore: Volume 1” scheduled to be the 5th. The 4th release was a special remixes project that included 3 other artists, as well as TRY UNITY, to press a 4 track collaboration EP.
The vision for the label is to continue to be used as our Try Unity platform and to play host for the CTH events. Getting this next CTH album project out the door is really important to help gauge if there’s an appetite for similar projects, so watch this space!
RRR’s 4 releases to date have been traditional EP’s so to release a triple-vinyl album is quite a big step. What was the motivation for the project?
During the spring I was working from home quite a bit so I had some time to think about future projects in-between the events and music production. I’d felt really honoured to have made lots of new friends in the scene over the last 18 months through vinyl releases, sales, events, artists and ravers. I felt inspired to put on another line-up – but not in the form of an event because that was already happening – so the idea of a DJ friendly breakbeat hardcore album came to fruition. I “ummed and ahhed” about the album idea for about 2-3 weeks, thinking about the process and procedure it would take then the motivation clicked after one conversation with Ed (Jedi). One half of CTH events is about pushing new breakbeat hardcore/jungle techno music so it felt perfect to align this with a vinyl release and involve 11 other music producers to create a triple disc 12” album. I’m passionate about collaborating with semi-controlled experiments! I had no idea what people would produce/submit for the album, or the reaction of pre-sales and audio clips. That motivates me. Although having either at least heard their music, supported their releases, or worked with the selected artists on the album before, I had a gut feeling it would all come good. Well… it has so far to the approved test-press milestone! There could only be one title – “Calling the Hardcore – Volume 1”.
It must have been incredibly exciting to get Ellis Dee and Ron Wells on board! How did that come about?
Indeed, it was a real pleasure to work with both of these legends in the rave scene. In November 2017 I was looking at the line-up balance for the 2nd CTH event in the following year. I wanted to start getting headline artists involved who would dare to play more underground ’91-93 hardcore music. Roy (Ellis Dee) was someone I wanted to get involved in the 2nd event. My Friend Mark (DJ Spider) put us in touch and after chatting more about the rave scene and vinyl industry our friendship and connection has gone forward from there. Roy mentioned he wanted to do a fresh new breakbeat hardcore 2018 remix of his 1994 track “Give it To Me Baby”. And wow what a remix it is too! It sets the pace for the album on disc 1.
While I was coordinating the artists for the album, Ron Wells sent me a message on social media to chat about the Calling The Hardcore events. That’s how our dialogue opened up so later I approached Ron to ask if he had an unreleased track he’d like to submit for the album. I really liked his track “Everything I need”. It’s his signature jungle techno style beats but with a softer flowing sequence that would contrast nicely with the other big breaking, major-piano-chord structured tracks featured on the album.
All your releases have so far been vinyl-based. Why do you see vinyl as being key to the label’s success?
As we know, early ’90’s rave music for DJ’s was produced for vinyl. For me, and many others, that nostalgia and love of vinyl has never been lost and only continues to grow. I feel there’s something quite special about the creative process of having the idea of writing a track to then playing that track on a record player either to yourself, on radio or at a club. Vinyl, for me, creates special connections. Firstly, DJs physically support a vinyl product and artist so there’s minimal piracy unlike with digital formats. Secondly, by physically holding a copy of a track I’ve bought creates excitement as it does for other people – isn’t that a nice feeling to share?
Even with music formats and technology evolving and advancing, there’s something really raw and humbling knowing that there are like-minded passionate people that share the same love of the vinyl format and turntables. As a result, artists will continue to make small pressing runs from as little as 100 units.
For these reasons, I decided to follow my heart for the label and promote and endorse vinyl first, ahead of digital formats. However, the digital formats are always available for vinyl supporters too. I’m unsure on the ‘success criteria’ for such a small niche label but will always feel if the label continues to make rave music then vinyl will be it’s number one format. That said, I have considered doing a CD release for the album and that might be something to support vinyl releases in the future. We’ll see…
How did Junior Tomlin become involved with the project?
Junior is a friend of mine who I met face to face in 2016 at the Rave Story conference in London. I’ve been a huge fan of his work and in 2017 I finally bought a screen print of one of his pieces titled ‘Eva Reborn’… We met up for a coffee and I mentioned that I was really keen to get him involved to do an art piece/flyer insert for the album vinyl release. Junior was really keen and sent me the draft design of the flyer. I loved it so much I said “we have to use it for the record sleeve as well”. He agreed! The original record cover design idea was only going to use the Calling The Hardcore logo and branding but this just made sense after his amazing record insert creation.
“Volume 1” would suggest that there’s more to come… Have you given any thought to “Volume 2”?
Haha – I’m just a bit OCD about naming conventions… CTH001, CTH002, Volume 1, etc..!
To answer your question, yes I’ve had a small thought about a Volume 2 but then forgotten the idea for now! I want to make sure Volume 1 gets out to the world safe and sound first, and the financial return on investment needs to stack up too on sales. But watch this space…
The 12” black vinyl pressing is limited to only 300 copies and is sure to sell-out quickly – there will be no re-press.
Preview all 12 tracks:
“Calling The Hardcore: Volume 1” is available for pre-order here.