“I played that record out in Twice As Nice on a Sunday,” recalls DJ Noodles, aka Groove Chronicles, real name Steven Jude, recalling the moment he test-drove this month’s game changer for the first time in a club. “When I put it on, the whole club stood there and stared at me. I was the only one rocking in the DJ box, no one else was, and when the bassline actually dropped, that's when the whole crowd went a bit loopy for it. I did the same thing in Cookies and Cream.
” It’s not surprising heads weren’t ready. In 2007 when two-step garage tune ‘Stone Cold’ dropped on an unsuspecting public, there was very little out there like it. Two-step, a UK-centric mutation of the skippy American garage that had a cult following in England, was relatively new.
It deviated from the typical 4/4 drum kick pattern of house music towards a more broken, syncopated flavour, so created a different kind of sound, a new way of dancing, and a whole host of fresh signature components that made it stand out from its brasher Stateside cousin. Still, the melodies and feel of two-step necessarily borrowed from house: most of it was soulful, bright, ebullient. In that climate, ‘Stone Cold’ was a future shock.
Beginning with a fresh, bump ‘n’ flexing rhythm, all clipped, breathy femme vox exhortations of ‘desire’ and jazzy sampled sax figures, its second segment submerged the groove in darkness. The soulfulness is sapped out and from the depths emerges a rumble of onyx bass; supremely moody, paranoid, like a flashback to darkside hardcore and jungle, flipped into a new context.
The marriage of libidinous bump with the danger and aggression of d&b was a new thrill that sent tremors through dance music. The key element is that Reese bassline, its murky, disturbing frequencies sending worries through the dance and excitement levels racing. Originally a bass sound from Detroit techno don Kevin Saunderson’s Reese tune, ‘Just Want Another Chance’, it became a key sound in drum & bass tunes by the likes of Dillinja and hundreds of others, instantly injecting an edge of intimidating funk.
When Noodles harnessed the flavour of that bassline in ‘Stone Cold’, he set off a wave of imitations and other dark garage tunes and dubs, tunes that would eventually evolve into a nascent form of dubstep. Back then, his motivation to combine the sounds came from his work in a record shop, wanting to combine that variety of sounds he heard on a daily basis into one hybrid entity.
“I was working at [London record store] Unity Records, managing the shop, and we had three sections in the store,” Noodles remembers. “There was a certain point in the store, if you stood in that corner, you could hear everything. I used to stand in that corner, and hear drum & bass records playing, with an R&B tune, with a house thing. So basically, I took from the shop and brought it to the studio.
The essence behind 'Stone Cold' was a hybrid thing.” Having been a dance music fan since the mid '80s, when as a teenager he got into electro, then rare groove and funk, before succumbing to the joys of hardcore and drum & bass, Noodles was already quite familiar with dance history and the passage of micro dance revolutions when he was making garage, and ‘Stone Cold’. He sees its evolution and the direction two-step took as simply a natural progression. “
“I think it was a natural progression to where it had to go. Considering the UK 4/4 stuff came from US and Euro house, two-step was UK born, so the marriage of all that stuff gave us our daughter, our son, our own being. Most of us just listened to each other. Dem 2, Ramsey & Fen, MJ Cole, Zed Bias, and obviously as the sound progressed, it got better. The people who were able to sample hardcore, drum & bass, they put it in.”
It took Noodles just a week to construct the tune, and was typical of the way he worked back then. “Most of the tunes I was doing took a week. Monday was the skeleton day, samples and bits and bobs put together. Tuesday was the rough arrangement, Wednesday, listen back to it, it sounds better. By the weekend, the material is actually finished.” Noodles refutes the idea that he was the first to bring the darker edge to the genre, though, pointing at examples of dark house emanating from the US and more austere, moody UK dubs on the flipsides of tunes (often thought of as the most important catalyst for later musical mutations like dubstep).
“There were a lot of tunes out there that were dark anyway, all you had to do was turn them over. The b-sides. In the beginning there was a lot of stuff being mixed up like you said, the whole US bouncy stuff, like Eddie Perez, Roger Sanchez, but there was dark 4/4 American stuff as well. The darker stuff has always been there. All the happy, girly stuff popped up because it got popular. You're trying to bring the best sound out there for people to get into, then you'll play the nasty stuff after that.”
Still, Noodles hybrid vibe brought the darker flavour to the forefront, and laid the foundations for bass music as we know it today. Still a key tune for the dubstep contingent, it was revived and rinsed all over again when garage and bassier grooves came back to the forefront in the last few years.
Noodles, whose label DPR continues to rep innovative, fresh beats, is just getting back into the studio for the first time in a while, having just moved to Oxford. Collaborating with long-time cohorts Zed Bias and Jeremy Sylvester, we'll hear the new tunes soon enough. But how does Noodles feel about his tune being such an inspiration for so many heads today? “If my productions make people want to make good music... at the end of the day if that's the case then it's brilliant man, it's excellent. I've had things that have made me who I am today and I've always been respectful to it. It's all good, I'm happy with that.”