UK garage emerged as a genre in the ‘90s. The unique sound migrated from the NewYork club scene to the backstreets of South London. It was adapted and experimented with before finding itself as the established sound of UK urban/rave culture of the era. Over the past 30 years what started as an underground subculture has morphed into a profound and internationally recognised music genre that has transcended across UK borders into clubs and festivals worldwide.
Ceri Evans, also known as Sunship, is one of the echelons of the UK garage music. Some of his best known tunes include ‘Flowers Remix’, ‘Try me Out’ and ‘Bump n grind’. In todays’ interview Ceri describes why he thinks listeners are still drawn to garage, UK garage’s delayed recognition and shares his passion for music.
When UK Garage started to get more recognition and the Sunday Scene faded did you miss the kind of exclusivity that the Sunday scene had or were you excited for growth?
"I’ve never followed any scene (even though my music has been involved in a few), I just follow the music I like. I am always excited about the music of past, present and future. UKG was too good to remain underground!!"
What were the early years of garage like?
"Because the music was spontaneous, fresh, and not intellectualised. Nobody was ‘trying’, it was in the air at the time."
The pioneers of UKG started creating with a “just a bit of fun” mentality, so the raw, loose beats were different to the RnB, House and Pop tunes that were playing on mainstream radio and in clubs during prime time. After years of being underground the scene started making mainstream light; EP’s were created, producers got involved and mainstream Radio stations picked up the sound.
What was it like having the movement go from underground to being played on Kiss FM/mainstream radio? Sense of community/excitement
"It’s an amazing feeling having your music played on different pirate stations at the same time, and to hear your music blaring from cars zipping by or on radios in shops, but nothing lasts, and sure enough, by 2006 UKG was a dirty word and absolutely nobody was interested in it until 10-12 years later, so it’s like a drug - what goes, up....must come down!!!!"
Why do you think younger generations are still drawn to Garage - do you ever feel like there will be a scene that mirrors the vibe that the garage scene had? Like a 'NewWave' of Garage inspired DJ's.
"Now people ‘try’ to make a garage track, they think it’s about using the right sounds or using a garage beat. As much as I love garage, it’s definitely a dated sound, however, there will always be innovators to flip the script, maybe people will have to go back to learning how to play instruments again before there’s a ‘New wave. Everyone is a Dj or producer now, and nobody is a musician, and today’s dance music certainly reflects that."
As popularity grew in the late 90s, more and more people wanted to get involved with UKG, 2step beats emerged and the Dance media had to get involved with the rapidly growing fanbase giving it commercial potential. Kiss FM, Radio1, MTV as well as other smaller stations showed support and by the early 2000s there were UK garage beats in all UK cities and of course Aiya Napa.
The late 2000s saw UK garage irrupting into the lucrative club scene with a new voice. A new generation wanted to share their stories started to make their way into a new style of garage and MCing. Although aggression and violence were never a message the artists intended to put out, the idea of UK garage culture was still fairly unknown and as we all know, the unknown breeds fear in mass media driven societies. As Sunship said, Garage became a dirty word; no clubs wanted anything to do with it, if it was on a poster you were gonna run into trouble. However, this didn’t stop it from being a catalyst of inspiration for future music creators. Although there will never be a movement like garage, artists like Dizzie Rascal, Kaytranada, Kurupt FM and Preditah repeatedly topped the charts with UK garage undertones.
Due to the easy access to social and real time media the current ‘innovators to flip the script’ will never have the intimate and private relationship that the early UK garage scene had between the crowd and the DJ. The pressure of putting out EP’s straight onto Spotify or Soundcloud before seeing how a crowd vibe to them is what the new generation of artists are working with. What that means is, it’s different to going to a gig to see your favourite artists’ new track, today, you stream it before you experience it. It’s as Ceri said, “There will never be a movement like garage again”.
Which one of your early gigs stands out to you?
"I enjoyed touring mostly, I’ve been fortunate that music has taken me all over the world. Japan was amazing."
What was your favourite London venue to perform at and how do you think the scene in London differs from now and then?
"No favourites, anywhere the audience loved music as much as I do, was and still is the best, as it was then, and still is now."
How have you been connecting with your listeners during lockdown?
"I can only try to connect via music, so I’ve been very active in the studio"
As a creative did you feel pressured to use your time during lockdown to create? If not how have you been spending your time?
"I live and breathe music, lockdown isn’t much different for true studio heads !!!"
Was it frustrating not being able to see the actual reactions to 'Lovin you ain't easy'? Even though you got a great virtual reaction on your socials.
"I have an amazing label manager called Hani, she connects on socials while I am the hermit recluse".
There’s no denying that a demand for UK garage has re-surfaced and it’s great to see Old Skool artists bring back the loved sound. Big thanks to Sunship for taking the time to be a part of this interview, his new EP ‘Lovin You Ain’t Easy’ ft Natalie Good is out now listen here. Don't forget to keep up with Sunship's latest sounds on his socials; Soundcloud, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube.
Also check out the list of tunes below to see how the UKG sound changed over the years and give Style Cartel's other culture pieces a read.
“Night crawlers - Push The Feeling On (The Dub of Doom)” (1992)
Baby D – Let me Be Your Fantasy (Original 1992)
Tina Moore - Never Gonna Let You Go (Original 1996 In 1997, the UKG remix of the song byKelly G was released and became a top 10 hit in the UK Tuff Jam / Bump n Go and later Artful Dodger)
“Indo - R U Sleeping (Bump & Flex Remix)” (1998)
“Kristine Blond -Love Shy (Tuff Jam Vocal Mix)” (1998)
“Todd Edwards -Never Far From You (Todd's original)” (1998)
“Sunship featuring Anita Kelsey - Try me out ” (1999)
“Zed Bias - Neighbourhood (Steve Gurley Remix)” (1999)
“Dj Luck & Mc Neat - With A LittleBit Of Luck”(1999)
Sweet FemaleAttitude - Flowers (Sunship Remixes) (2000)
“Jammin (DJ Zinc)- Kinda Funky (Wookie remix)” (2001)
“The Streets - Has It Come to This”(2001)
“Deekline - I Don't Smoke (Original Mix)” (2001)
“T2 ft. Jodie - Heartbroken” (Baseline but UK garage undertones2003)
“DJ Q -Tropical Oh” (2012)