A quarter of a century ago, a record slipped out on Rumour Records that would change the course of UK dance music history. Created by a Sheffield-based trio of DJs and producers called High Jinx a year before its release in 1997, ‘California Dreaming’ was a bouncy, organ-heavy house cover of The Mamas & The Papas song of the same name. It featured, on its flipside, a dub that would prove hugely inspirational to DJs and dancers in the North of England.
The dub, crafted by a DJ called Shaun Banger Scott and his production partner Jonathan Collings, was weightier and more driving, peppered with Korg M-1 organ stabs and a warped and wild, speed garage style bassline. It had been created with the dancefloor of one club in mind: Niche, on Sidney Street in Sheffield; an infamous after-hours spot that boasted a committed, energetic and up-for-it crowd.
Within 12 months of Scott and Collings’ dub appearing in stores, bassline house — or as it was sometimes called in honour of the club that spawned it, ‘Niche music’, or simply ‘Niche’ — had spread to other after-hours venues in the North. Over the years and decades that followed, bassline’s popularity would swell in the Midlands and, eventually, elsewhere across the UK, all the while evolving to become an integral part of wider UK dance music culture.
“The attitude towards it has definitely changed since I started DJing,” says Local Action/2 B Real artist and NTS resident Finn. “I think because it was 4/4 and fast, many people used to lump bassline in with things like happy hardcore, donk and scouse house. Because of that, it wasn’t given credit for being as arresting, innovative and sonically brutal as it is. It should be viewed as an important step in the hardcore continuum that’s as important as dubstep or grime.”