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Retrospective: Blame & Justice - "Nightvision"

blame justice nocturnal

Once again we fire up the DeLorean for a trip back in time to drum & bass yesteryear. Hold tight as we draw for the classics.

Release Info:
Artist: Blame & Justice
Track: “Nightvision”
Label: Moving Shadow – SHADOW 54
Format: Vinyl, 12", 33 ⅓ RPM
Country: UK
Released: 1994
Genre: Electronic
Style: Drum & Bass, Jungle

Studio Gear Used:
Casio FZ-1 Sampler
Soundcraft Mixing Desk
Emu Proteus
Juno 106
Cubase on Atari ST
Lots of floppy disks!

Welcome time travelers! In this edition we are transported to 1994. Somewhere in Luton, England, two producers are at the beginning of their careers writing intelligent drum & bass, in particular the track “Nightvision”… The two producers in question are Conrad Shafie and Tony Bowes, more familiarly known as Blame & Justice. We had better have a word!

"Nightvision" was made and released in the era that drum & bass was forming into the carnation we know today. In a time of producers finding news ways of doing, some techniques have disappeared while others have endured. Listening to "Nightvision" today, the first thing to strike you is the drum delays. How did that come about? Was it a technique anyone else was employing at the time?

Blame: Yeah, a few artists were using these drum delays as fx in certain areas of their tracks, listening back I think we just went a bit crazy and created the whole drum break out of these delays! They were pretty easy to make, you just re-trigger the snare in a 16 or 32 pattern and add some delays and filters.

Justice: I think we were definitely in the whole mind set of making our breaks stand out and be different from what everyone else was doing. We had started to use a lot of rolls and edits on our beats and it was an extension of that. We were all about putting our stamp on the music.

The female vocal sample appears in a few other tracks from the era, where did it originally come from? There are lots of records from this era that use the same samples, was this a problem or more like friendly competition to see who could do what with the same source material?

Blame: I don't think it was friendly competition, I think a lot of times everyone was using the same samples because we were pretty much restricted to a handful of accapella albums for vocal hooks. Back in those days not many of us had the experience or vocalist contacts needed to record brand new quality vocals. Also there were no sample CDs available. I can’t even remember where of what that vocal came from, its going back a few years now!

Justice: As Blame says, source material was scarce in the vocal realms. We never tried to use a vocal that we had heard in another track and sometimes it felt like a race to get a track out with a fresh sample before someone else dug it up or used it.

"Listening back I think we just went a bit crazy and created the whole drum break out of these delays!"

Back in the day, who did what in the studio? Do you remember how long the track took to make and how the session went?

Blame: I think the track took a few hours to write, it takes a lot longer now! I can't remember the session in detail, but we hired the studio along with an engineer, so Tony and I were both free to input ideas or jam on the keyboard. We both brought samples to the session and just let whatever happened happen.

Justice: We always worked in the studio with an engineer, this left us free to sift through and samples off of the vinyl we had bought with us. Some samples would work, some wouldn't and the track would take shape from the break upwards. We would bounce ideas off each other and play in synth and bass lines and let it all happen really quite organically.

Modern accounts would state that in 1994 popular jungle drum & bass was laced with ragga samples and influences, and dominant at the time. Is this necessarily true? Did you ever feel like you were the resistance?

Blame: I didn't really feel like I was the resistance, I was just doing what I wanted, and to be honest didn't really listen to, play or go to the parties where the ragga sound was big. So I guess I didn't even feel like I was in the same game as that style of music. For me the influence was a fusion of hip hop break beats and house/ techno sounds. That was the beauty of drum & bass, it was all about whatever influences you wanted to incorporate.

Justice: To be fair we were just involved in what we were doing. That whole side of things was never on our radar and wasn't a concern for us. We knew the sound we liked and what we wanted to make and focused on that. Our influences were hip hop, electro via early house and Detroit techno and these coloured our output.

"A lot of great stuff was happening all around us."

Working out of the home counties you were both part of a larger group outside London including Nookie, Deep Blue, Pulse, Alex Reece and Photek writing some of the more progressive tracks at the time. Did jungle's London centric attitude ever feel misplaced?

Blame: I don't think it felt misplaced at the time. We all knew that the biggest artists were all based in the home counties outside London. But London was the melting pot for the clubs and that’s where all our music was really broken to the masses.

Justice: London was the focus for sure, we were always in and out of London, that's where it all ended up was played and exposed, but it was all starting in the satellite towns in and around the capital. A lot of great stuff was happening all around us and we knew guys in these different towns just down the road writing extraordinary music. I think being so close to London had it benefits, but we could escape the city as well.

What were you wearing in 1994?

Blame: Wow, im sure there was a big puffa jacket involved!
Justice: Probably a lot of Ralph Lauren shirts!