Although a relatively short lived chapter in the history of house music, UK Garage has left behind an iconic legacy. The distinctive 2-step drum pattern associated with the style seems to have cropped up everywhere, and has managed to find its way far outside of the British club scene from whence it came (see also Disclosure). YouTuber GarageVybez98 shares his experience in the ’90s British club scene and his favorite UK Garage cuts from the era.
Starting in the mid-2000s, as a result of changing tastes among electronic music fans, UK Garage began to slowly disappear. While numeroussamples of these tracks can still be found in well-known songs today, there seems to be little recognition for the original productions upon which they are based.
British YouTuber, GarageVybez98 aims to fill this void by meticulously uploading his favorite selections from the era. With a record collection in the thousands and numerous contributions made to the Discogs database, he has made a noticeable impact on the music community through archiving this distinctive period in music history.
As a frequent Discogs customer myself, GarageVybez98 has been directly responsible for a number of my most recent purchases, many of which are records I would have never known about if it weren’t for him. And the best part of all this? They’re usually pretty cheap to buy! Depending on their rarity, you can snag these for less than $5: a small price to pay for such massive tunes.
Let’s see what he has to say:
When did you first start collecting records?
I really got into collecting vinyl in 1996 after having a go of my friends belt-drive turntables and becoming hooked. I soon purchased my own pair then began to spend most of my spare cash on vinyl from that day onwards. Before then I’d only made the odd HMV/Our Price record purchase in the early 90s such as Prodigy‘s releases and an embarrassing Vanilla Ice 7″.
How many records do you currently have in your collection?
I’d say there was roughly 9,000 records, possibly more. I haven’t added all genres to my Discogs collection yet so the exact figure is still a bit of a mystery.
Do you have any especially prized records that you consider the “crown jewels” of your collection?
The Totolee Dubs white label double pack is one of the most treasured in my collection. I managed to hunt a copy down online as it’s not listed on Discogs and doesn’t appear to have ever had a full release. Some of the tracks on it are top notch, a real snapshot of the quality house music that was made in the mid 90s which still sounds so fresh today. Danny J Lewis was unable to find his original DATs which makes it even more collectable as a repress looks unlikely.
What about UK Garage drew you to the genre initially?
I first experienced UK Garage when going to clubs and bars in the first half of 1997. In between the commercial house and piano tracks the DJs would drop tunes from Industry Standard, Tuff Jam, RIP Productions, 187 Lockdown etc. The bass heavy 4/4 beats sounded so good on a big system and appealed to me straight away. On Monday, I’d head straight down to the various record stores in Essex, UK to try and buy the tracks I’d heard over the weekend. Over the years you grow an appreciation for the other styles that cross over such as US House and Deep House.
Aside from this particular brand of electronic music, what other types of music do you collect and listen to?
Due to lack of space, I’ve had to limit my vinyl collecting to mainly 90s UK Garage/US House, but in the last 20 years I’ve amassed quite an eclectic range of dance music. My purchasing usually followed what I was dancing to in clubs at that time. From 1999-2002 I’d got into the London hard dance clubbing scene going to places like Peach at Camden Palace, Strawberry Sundae at Cloud 9 Vauxhall and Freedom at Bagleys.
Bagley’s in the 1990s – Credit: Vice Media
As a result, I’ve got about 1500 hard house and trance records – some of which I’m selling but others I could never part with as they hold too many memories. 2003 to 2006 was funky house and electro of which I collected another 1500 or so. Again these are mostly resigned to the “sell to make space” boxes along with some R&B/Hip Hop and UK Funky. I also have about 500 Jungle and Hardcore classics, I was a bit too young to hear them in clubs from 1992 – 1995 but i still enjoy buying the occasional tune that I used to hear on Dreamscape and World Dance tapepacks when I was at school.
What compels you to share uploads of your collection over YouTube?
The main aim when I set the channel up in 2010 was to share good garage music. I had a fairly decent collection and was subscribed to other garage channels at the time so thought I’d put mine to use. From the comments made you can tell people appreciate the music whether it’s something that’s new to them or one they haven’t heard in years. If it sounds good to my ears then it’s good enough for the channel. Still plenty more to come!
Based on what I’ve seen with your channel, it appears that you have a methodical system for digitizing tracks and taking photos. How do you stay organized?
I have a box specifically for tracks I want to upload. If I buy a new batch of records and I feel that one will be good for the channel, then it goes in the box and the rest get put away. Likewise, if I suddenly remember a track I’ve got that I know my subscribers will appreciate I pull it out and stick it in the box. Then when I get a chance I’ll digitize 10-15 of them, a mixture of UK Garage, US House and Deep House, and I’ll use them as content for the next month.
Have you made any new database entries to Discogs? If so, how often do you find yourself doing this?
I’ve contributed 310 entries so far. It can become a bit of an obsession and you find yourself buying a particular version of a record so you can add it as a unique entry to Discogs. I also enjoy correcting and updating information/photos on existing user submissions (some of them really need it!)
The breadth of your collection seems to indicate that you were/are a DJ in some capacity. Is this something you still do?
Sadly due to a self inflicted ear injury, my DJing these days is limited to indoors with the volume turned down low. When I was younger I bought the loudest pair of Sennheisers I could afford and used to practise for hours at high volumes. The result of that now is tinnitus and hearing loss in my right ear (standing next to the speakers all night at Camden Palace probably didn’t help either). I do worry about my good ear failing as well so have to be extra careful these days. I could live without having to hear people moan all day but a life without music … doesn’t bear thinking about!
What, in your opinion, was the reason for the demise of UK Garage in the mid-2000s; and what do you think has been the impetus for its return to popularity in recent years?
As it evolved from 4/4 to 2-step to Grime and Bassline/4×4 the quality fell considerably. Grime had its own problems with violence but 2-step had become commercial and saturated and the 4×4 tracks sounded cheap and nasty like something that was knocked up on a Playstation in 5 minutes. It had lost all the soulful and US elements that made it sound so good in the first place. I think that’s why there is a resurgence in recent years, a lot of the big producers from back in the day are returning to that original sound. Music tends to go in cycles anyway, something will come back into fashion after 15-20 years, an example being the speed garage elements you hear in a lot of bassline house tracks these days.
How do you feel about the current state of electronic music?
There is a lot of generic, instantly forgettable music being made these days. Literally anyone can download music production software to their computer and give it a go so its inevitable really. Saying that, not everything made back in the day was gold. From personal experience of searching old skool tracks, for every 90s gem I come across, there are 10 more terrible tracks in its place. I’ve got boxes of absolute junk to prove it!
I do wonder though if in 20 years time we will be able to look back at music from now with as much fondness as we look back at the vinyl classics from the 80s and 90s. But with plenty of labels like MLIU pressing vinyl and pushing that quality sound, I think the future looks more promising than it did 10 years ago.