If you want to know where UK garage is at in 2019, 'Get Right Inside' would be a good place to start
Those in search of some UKG flava, 2019-style, could do a lot, lot worse than picking up a copy of Get Right Inside, the new mix album from Los Angeles-based DJ/producer Kastle, which is out now on Birmingham bass music label Four40 Records.
The city Kastle calls home may be a long, long way from the south London club scene that nurtured UKG's birth, but that certainly hasn't hindered his understanding of the music in any way. Don't get it twisted, though: this is no mere homage to the glory days of the late 90s. Instead, packing in 19 tracks from the likes of Roska & Jammz, Mind Of A Dragon, Witchdoctor and Tuff Culture (as well, of course, as several tracks from Kastle himself), the album blends classic-style speed garage and two-step influences with hints of grime, dubstep, bassline and what was briefly known (for about six months in 2010!) as "future garage" to present a pleasingly varied, yet musically coherent picture of where the style's at in the here and now, and where it might go next.
Get Right Inside impressed a great deal at iDJ Towers – yet we knew virtually nothing about the man himself. And there's only ever one way to rectify that…
Here's everything we know so far: your real name's Barrett Richards, you're from LA, and you've been making bass music since the mid-90s. So fill us in!
"I grew up in a really small town just north of Pittsburgh, PA in the States and there was absolutely no scene there. I came across electronic music thanks to the internet in 1994, and I was still too young to go down to the city to a rave. But after years of learning production I played my first rave when I was 17.
"I did live performances for a couple years, until I realised DJing was a bit easier. Back then, I was excited to explore and produce all kinds of genres – jungle, garage, hardcore and even a bit of trance. 1998 trance, that is, before it went super-soft and all hands-in-the-air! So much has happened from then until now, and it’s a bit wild to think that still, from those early days, I wake up and have the same focus towards music as I always have.
"The drive to create is something else. From my first US tour in a minivan as a hardcore DJ, to touring the world as a bass producer. Funny thing is, as a kid I always knew it would happen and was what I was meant to do."
How did you come to hook up with the Four40 crew?
"I was sending out some promos early last year and they hit me back! I think they'd been keen to pick up some more garage, so it worked out really well. We put out the R U 4 REAL EP with some remixes to follow, and now this album."
Listening to the album, there's a wide range of garage/bass styles: two-step, 4/4, grime and dubstep (sort of) and so on. Did you deliberately set out to represent as much of the spectrum as possible, or is that just how the mix came about organically?
"Well, I do always prefer diverse and dynamic mixes – I generally don’t like to hear more of the same for an entire set. But yeah, that sort of thing does just sort of happen organically for me – it's just in my nature."
In the late 90s/early 00s, garage (and then bassline) never really spread much beyond the UK and a few isolated pockets overseas. With the recent resurgence of the sound, though, I'm hearing great UKG from producers from LA to Moscow. So what's changed?
"The internet! Everyone has access to all corners of the world now, which includes all of the subcultures imaginable. Like I said, that is how I found early rave, jungle, and I remember the birth of UKG/speed garage, thanks to my London friends online via IRC chat."
To me, the UKG scene seems stronger than it's been for years right now. Would you agree? And do you see any new developments, sonically or stylistically, that you think are particularly noteworthy?
"Lately I’ve been getting a lot of messages from friends saying things like “UKG is really making a comeback!”, but to be honest I hear this cycle every few years. The thing I love about UKG is that its roots are so solid. It’s got a solid foundation like house music, but I think it’ll never be as popular because it has that swing and can sometimes be unpredictable – the very thing that makes certain people absolutely love it.
"But there are certainly a lot of young, fresh producers right now who are really doing the sound justice. I also feel like there’s been a nice crossover with UK funky and grime sounds that make it easy to blend them all together. Perhaps the Beatport category ‘Garage / Bassline / Grime’ imported some unconscious idea into the whole bass spectrum, but they all really do play well together and I think it helps each scene."
You have your own Symbols label – tell us a bit about that? Your Facebook page says "At Symbols, avant garde releases aren’t the exception but the rule"…
"I launched Symbols in 2012 to support new artists and to release new sounds. It’s for conceptual EPs and albums, and I always encourage artists to go wild and be as creative as they want. I used to always say “the feeling is the genre,” but if I had to label it, I’d just call it leftfield electronic/club.
"We also have a sub-label, DISPLAY, which releases long-form ambient/experimental tracks via cassette and digital."
Finally, apart from the Four40 comp, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about? Any plans to visit the UK any time soon?
"I’m working on a couple bootlegs for a fun little 12-inch white label project, plus some remixes for Panta Ray and Limita, and a collaboration with Leda Stray, who's releasing some tracks via Symbols. Last year I did a UKG sample pack with Splice so I'm currently working on Volume 2, and I'm starting to consider starting work on album #3.
"I've also been putting out feelers to head over to the UK this spring or summer. Promoters, hit me up!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Get Right Inside is out now on Four40 Records