“Are you ready for some Jungle Tekno?”
Pizza, spliffs and an aircraft hangar – The Story Of 2 Bad Mice
Written by Si Colebrooke
Sometimes people don’t put enough emphasis on chance meetings and events changing their lives – it is often forgotten about or later events tend to remain in the memory. That’s not the case with us. Most people who know a little bit of history about 2 Bad Mice, will often touch upon the first time myself and Sean met and found that we shared a common love for music. Don’t get me wrong, further events had a massive impact on both us and the scene we were helping to create but the moment that I heard Sean play Grand Piano by The Mixmaster was really the point when 2 Bad Mice were formed.
However it was not the first time that we had met! Some of my earliest memories of Sean were through the early BMX and skating scene – remember things like Skyways, Z-Rims, Powell Peralta and Variflex boards!!?? I remember riding to an “in progress” half pipe that Sean and his friends were building in a wood in Hertford, with bits of plywood under my arm whilst still trying to maintain control and a cool look (!) on my Diamond Back BMX. After that we met briefly at skate parks and around Hertford but it wasn’t until I bumped back into Sean while he was DJ’ing at a small club in Hertford called Stags that we galvanised our friendship and common interest in dance music.
I don’t know why I had gone to that club – which turned into the legendary Zero’s Nightclub, or even if I liked the music that was being played as I was very anal about my love for Hip Hop and Rap music. Nothing sticks in my memory with regards to what was played before Sean took to the decks but I do remember lot’s of smoke, a sweaty but good vibe and a small gathering of our friends amongst the other clubbers. I had a particular love for Rap and Hip Hop mega mixes by people like Double D and Steinski, Coldcut and Dynamix 2 and when Sean played Grand Piano, it instantly attracted my attention. We chatted briefly about it and once more when everyone had been chucked out of the club and were sitting around in Parliament Square (later to be the home of the much loved Parliament Music and spiritual home to Omni Trio).
From that point onwards Sean and myself began to explore early house, rave and techno even further. There was not a massive UK scene, so most music was imported from the States and Europe and artists like Frankie Bones, Tommy Mustoe, Joey Beltram and Frank De Wulf stand out in particular. UK music started to filter through and early pioneers like The Blapps Posse, Shut Up and Dance, Break the Limits and Shades of Rhythm were instrumental in forging the early hardcore sound. Their sounds also strengthened my love and enjoyment of the music as more Hip Hop influences started to make their way into the tracks – Shut Up and Dance were previously known as “Private Party” in an earlier Hip Hop guise. It was around this time that we heard of a guy making music in a bedroom studio called Rob Playford.
Another coincidence I suppose, but I knew Robs girlfriend at the time, so we asked her if she could hassle Rob into letting us into the studio. Nothing happened for a while, we met Rob on a few occasions and were mega impressed when he pulled up in his BMW with boxes of white labels of an EP he entitled The Orbital Project. It blew us away that Rob had created these heavily techno influenced tracks in a bedroom in a village called Watton at Stone, had them mastered, pressed and was actually selling them to people and shops like Blackmarket, Red Records and Music Power. Later we were to find out that Rob had read a book on how to start a record label – and he did just that! I don’t know exactly when Moving Shadow was formed but I do know the history of the name and the distinctive dancing man logo – Rob was at a rave when he saw people’s shadows fall onto a wall from the lights and it was that simple.
The first proper Moving Shadow release was by Earth Leakage Trip and this was at the time that we had finally convinced Rob to let us into the studio – which had been moved to Stevenage. Once again Rob managed to impress us by presenting the release with a full cover and printed label – he had a proper product! I remember the first session in the studio very clearly – we both went armed with a bag of records that we wanted to sample and ideas on what we wanted to do and create. It was a bit chaotic to begin with, but ideas and suggestions started to evolve into the basics of a track and with Rob’s engineering genius and love for the music too, it all started to gel pretty quickly and time flew by. The early recording sessions were done in the evenings after work for me and Rob and College for Sean. Take away Pizzas and the odd spliff served as fuel and inspiration for our sessions in the small bedroom studio and very quickly we had the materials and arrangements for 2 tracks. A random record in my bag was something that I had found at my mums house. It was an audible story album of Beatrix Potter stories – the sort that would be played to children on a record player in the days before tape, CD and MP3! Rob instantly liked the name 2 Bad Mice (as in The Tale of Two Bad Mice which featured on the album) and within minutes the now famous vocal had been sampled and started to find it’s way into the track. To be honest, I was not sure about the use of it as I thought it slightly cheesey but the anticipation of what could happen with the release made us so excited that it was soon forgotten. Sean knocked up the collage style cover, a test press and promo run were done and we were ready to unleash our first release.
We already knew that our group of friends (infamously called The Peoples Front of Hertford) would like the tunes as we had played them early and finished versions on cassette. Our friends had a massive influence on the music we made as we liked to know what parts of tracks people liked and what made them like certain tracks by other artists – this can be heard in most of our releases as we would develop other peoples ideas and mutate them into say a bass line, instead of a stab or riff. However, we didn’t know how the masses of ravers would take to the music until we went to an aircraft hangar just outside Norfolk. About 6 car loads of friends made the journey from Hertford via a meet with our friends in Ware to the T2 aircraft hangar in Thetford. The buzz in the place was amazing – immense venue, huge sound system, great lightshow and thousands of ravers pulling strange faces….and dance moves. Mickey Finn stepped up and part way into his set we started to hear the “Don’t you want me…” vocal from our track – To say that we were hit with a massive injection of euphoria was an understatement.
I knew then that we had set out what we meant to do and I would have been happy for it to end there but Sean was already thinking about what we could do next………………………….
Ecstacy excess and Semtex………..
I would be lying if I said that we did not get a little bit involved with the “recreational pharmaceutical” side of the rave scene. It actually provided a lot of inspiration in the early days! We already felt that 2BM had a sound but we wanted to experiment more with the music, so Kaotic Chemistry was born and we started work on some more material. The first EP gave us an opportunity to play with breaks a bit more but also to start historically listing some of our experiences with our friends. The Five in One Night EP was a nod to some of our friends beating personal bests to “drop 5 E’s” in a night around someone’s house and the track Strip Search was a reminder of a personal experience I had one night at Hertford Police Station. Once again, with the support from all the Pirate radio stations and the early DJ’s, the Five in One Night EP blew up but I am also sure that the cover (a hand, a credit card and a pile of dodgy looking white powder) maybe increased the sales.
Rob was busy working away with Southern Record Distributors and looking for new acts while myself and Sean started to play a more active role in helping out with the label – an element of trust from Rob that I think we sometimes think we over looked. Our roles would develop over the years with Sean becoming artistic Director (?) and myself A+R Director and the label started to become a “proper business” with a huge global fan base and following. We still put in all the hard work like going to events and giving test pressings to the likes of Fabio, Grooverider, Colin Dale etc and it was on one of these nights that we were once again inspired to name a track. We had been working on a 4 track EP and had put the final touches to a track called Hold It Down (a phrase coined by the MC’s on early pirate stations) when we found ourselves in a rather deserted part of London after a night out. We carried on walking only to be confronted by Police tape and a Copper telling us to get away from the area as quick as we could – apparently there was a bomb scare and we had wandered straight into the middle of it! A quick exit was made but while driving away it was decided that the track that Sean had dreamt up to be on the EP was to be titled Bombscare. We also included a remix of our first release – 2 Bad Mice and a track that was a tribute to the early warehouse pioneers like Frankie Valentine called Waremouse. The EP stumbled into the national chart just outside the top 40 (48) in February 1992 with Bombscare being the track loved by the “hands in the air posse” with the Grooverider championed Waremouse a close second. Amazingly the EP was mixed down on a Realistic 4 track mixer that had caught fire the previous week while Sean, Rob and Steve from Cosmo and Dibbs were DJ’ing at a pub in Hertford!
We enjoyed a manic time and highlights included trips to the USA (see the gallery) and various PA’s around the UK. The label started to grow with acts like Blame, Hyper on Experience, Tone Def and Mixrace joining us and taking on the world! Caroline Butler was soon to come on board as label manager and we made the move from our home in Stevenage to a studio and office just off of Wardour Street in central London. There is really too much to fit in with regards to the history of Moving Shadow (we will try and do it one day). The label and artist roster progressed rapidly with legendary acts like Omni Trio and Foul Play signing to us and we were also joined by who I can only describe as the Keith Moon of the raving world…..
Our Philosophy and media slag………..
Rhodesey worked at the label under the title of label assistant – though I run out of superlatives that describe his role at the label! One such incident involved Capital FM, Stefan Dennis (yes him off of Neighbours), Kym Mazelle and myself and Sean on the night that we had been employed by Rob to move the stock from Stevenage to the new London office. I will let you concoct possible storylines as if we included the real turn of events on this site, one of us (not me or Sean) would possibly be arrested. However Rhodesey was the life and soul of the label and he typified our view that we should always have a laugh while doing this music thing – It had got all serious with major label involvement, but if you got involved with 2BM you were guaranteed a messy time – even though it wasn’t in keeping with the cool persona that most people in the business would try and purvey. I am positive that Rob and Lady C sometimes pulled their hair out with what was going on around them but it is a philosophy that we still adhere to now when playing out and it also allowed us to keep a connection with the ravers and lovers of our music. We deliberately did not adopt a god like status like some people involved in the scene did and you would often find us (and still do) trolleyed on the dance floor or around someone’s house at the end of the night or in an A+E ward (not me or Sean).
Bombscare continued to be the labels most successful track and in 1994 Rhodesey alongside the genius of Rob Haigh (Omni Trio) remixed the track in a more house style under the name of the Parliament Squares. Media interest grew once again and with Rhodesey’s hunger to get in any magazine / any TV show / any radio station, we had the perfect man in place to move the project along and gain a new member to the crew! Rob Playford and Rhodesey commissioned more remixes by Graham Gold, Tall Paul and DJ Sneak and once again the track blew up and hit an even wider audience. Bombscare has been remixed on numerous occasions over the years and it still gets the hands in the air when played out.
We as a mass movement, that had not been seen since the 60’s should be proud of the music and scene created in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The music has stood the test of time and I feel the modern day Drum and Bass scene was born from the early raves that we drove half way across the country to attend. There is too many people to name check and thank that we have met along the way, so thanks to everyone for their love and support of our music.