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29th Nov 2018

DJ Spoony: “The demise of UK garage wasn’t down to just one thing”

Will Lavin

Who doesn’t love garage?

A few people, apparently. Hence why the once dominating sound of the UK disappeared in what felt like a quick flicker.

Emerging in the nineties as a new and exciting sound that combined various different styles of music – house being one of the main ingredients – it owned the clubs, birthed stars like Craig David, Ms. Dynamite, Wiley and Kano, and proved very successful commercially. But what happened to it?

Sure, there are still artists making quality garage tracks today but the genre is nowhere near as commercially visible as it once was when the likes of DJ Luck & MC Neat, Wookie, Artful Dodger, So Solid Crew, Oxide & Neutrino, Shanks & Bigfoot and many more were knocking out dubplates and turning them into Top 10 hits.

According to UKG pioneer DJ Spoony, the demise of garage in the commercial market wasn’t solely down to just one thing.

“I think there were a few factors that contributed to it,” he begins, talking to us ahead of his Garage Classical show that sees him collaborate with composer and conductor Katie Chatburn to bring to life 20 UKG classics with an orchestra backing.

“I think if we were fighting them on one front we might have been able to withstand, but when you’re fighting them front, back, left and right it’s very difficult to keep everything at bay.”

Being a little more specific, Spoony continued:

“I think there were some social and economical situations going on at the time. There was street violence – like there is now – and some of it spilled into the clubs so a few people got cold feet.

“I think some members of the establishment weren’t sure about this new street sound that just suddenly came in and started taking over. So because of that – even though you had some major labels come in and support it – there were a few road blocks in some areas.

“Also, if we’re going to take responsibility ourselves, there were a few people who probably didn’t behave as professional as perhaps they should have considering where they were and what they were on the verge of achieving. But yeah, it wasn’t just one thing.”

Instead of dwelling on the negatives, Spoony then steers the conversation in a direction that celebrates the much loved genre, reminding us of all the amazing things garage achieved.

“Considering it was a scene that starting bubbling properly around 1996/1997, within three years it had its own daytime show on Radio 1. Then we started seeing record after record enter the Top 10,” he explains. “And I’m not talking entering the Top 10 selling six or seven thousand records in week one, we were selling 50 or 60 thousand, sometimes 80,000 records, week one. I think you can only look at that as a massive success.

“We didn’t have an infrastructure. There were no big garage labels putting these records out there. We didn’t have any big names championing what we did but yet we were competing with tracks that were having hundreds and thousands of pounds spent on music videos and promo campaigns. We were winning with records that six months prior had been on a dubplate. It was all very organic.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s a testament to the amount of quality music that was made during that time. Look at us, it’s 22 years later and we’re still able to do things like Garage Classical, which sold out the Barbican in a single weekend.”

DJ Spoony brings his huge new Garage Classical show to London’s Eventim Hammersmith Apollo on Friday December 14th. Tickets are on sale now and available from here.