Journey through the history of British bass in MJ Cole’s exclusive mix

MJ Cole takes it back to his roots in a blinding mix full of hyper garage, bass-heavy jungle and all manner of UK bass.

The history of British bass music is a big one, and its roots run deep. From garage to jungle, from grime to drum and bass, every step on the journey that club music in the UK has taken is a vital part of the strength of the UK’s scene today. Because of the decades that evolution has spanned and how overlooked much of it has been over that time, it’s easy to forget just how far back the origins of British bass culture go and with new trends emerging on the daily, it’s even harder to hear it in the clubs.


Enter MJ Cole, the veteran producer and DJ, best known for helping to pioneer UK garage. A staple of the British club scene since the later 90s he’s picked up a Mercury nomination, collaborated with the likes of Wiley, AJ Tracey and Mary J Blige and in recent years transformed into one of the music industry’s most in-demand producers, remixers and composers. As such there are few artists better place to take us back to the glory days of British bass than Cole and in his exclusive Groundwork mix for Notion that’s exactly what he’s done. A blistering tour of high energy jungle, speed garage, drum n bass and everything in between, Cole’s Groundwork mix will take you back to the sweaty basement clubs and packed house parties of the early 2000s; even if you were never there in the first place. Give it a spin below and see what he had to say about it after the jump.

Take us through your mix – who have you included in it and why?
I wanted to go back to the time I was first excited about music. Back to the vinyl bought from Black Market or City Sounds with a pinched fiver from my dad’s wallet. The mix is built from the tracks which really popped out to me from that early 90’s selection.


First up we have Metalheads – “Terminator” – an iconic record. Goldie discovered the real-time pitch change on the the Eventide Harmonizer and the rest is history.


Bodysnatch – “Euphony” with the “just for you London” sample follows and takes me back to teenage holidays in Antiparos Greece around GCSE time. Cassettes were the medium of choice then.


Omni Trio – “Feel Better” (Foul Play Remix) – some magic in my bedroom DJ collection. Steve Gurley involved in this one.


Subnation – “Scotties Sub” – takes me back to a cassette-driven road trip to France with the lads c. 1991. There’s an etching on the fireplace somewhere.


FDB Project – “The Core” pure Amen mix magic.


Jim Polo and Neil Vass – “Rolling Energy” – big track at Lazerdrome in Peckham in 1991. If you know, you know.


Acen – “The Life and Crimes of a Ruffneck” – such a tune. Aspired to making music with this level of feels.


Babylon Timewarp – “Durban Poison” (Little Mats Remix) – first track I was ever involved with that got a release. Matt Optical invited me into his studio at Great Asset distribution in Grays Inn Road. Night session. Proud moment. Thanks Matt 😉


DJ Phantasy and DJ Gemini “Never Try the Hippodrome” (remix) – a favourite at Matt Buckley’s house in Ealing.


Cool Hand Flex – “Mars” – pure ruffneck DJ tool. Seeing the label gives me goosebumps even now.


Hopa and Nay-B-Kane – “Hoppa” – 10/10 breaks business.


Acen – “Trip II The Moon (The Darkside) – pre Robbie 😉


LTJ Bukem – “Music” – if anyone ever loves any of my music the way I love this I have achieved what I set out to do.


Thanks to Oli for providing the vinyl rips of tracks I have stashed away in a dusty attic somewhere. He is a true vinyl warrior.


When did you first start listening to this kind of music?
This music was the soundtrack to my teens and early 20s. It was the beginning of dance music as I know it now. A mish-mash of genres when genres didn’t exist. 44 kik drums, techno, breaks, rap, house, jungle. We witnessed the beginning.


When did you start making music? What kind of music was it?
I first started making music in my bedroom on an Amiga computer. I was messing around with James Brown samples at the beginning. This developed into attempting to make the music I was hearing out and about. Took me a few years to realise people were using samplers. I’d been trying to make jungle with a drum machine.


How have the artists you’ve included in this mix shaped your music?
Combined with my hardcore classical training this music is the foundation of my musical productions. All my earliest inspirations came from this era.


Who’s your favourite artist in this mix? Why?
Has to be Acen as he gets two slots!


Which is your favourite track? Why?
Must be LTJ Bukem “Music”. Such magic in this creation. I can’t begin to tell you…


MJ Cole plays:
28th September – The Shipyard, Liverpool
6th October – Deco, Hertford
26th October – The Bowlers, Manchester
27th October – Bugged Out, Margate
16th November – The Bullingdon, Oxford