A champion of the cassette tape with a fascination for most things audio and visual, Ruf Dug is man with fingers in many pies. Part mad scientist, part a real-life manifestation of Tom Hanks in coming-of-age classic Big, his events often feature video booths equipped with antiquated gaming systems – Ruffy’s Lab at Gottwood was a highlight of the festival – and when he isn’t travelling as a DJ, he’s probably busy working on some new AV concept. But while those endeavours are often steeped in nostalgia, the Mancunian always manages to keep his productions sounding remarkably fresh, releasing music on Banoffee Pies, Cosmic Pint Glass and his own Ruf Kutz imprint, among others.
One thing Ruf Dug probably isn’t known for though is his love of early ’90s jungle. Unless you caught last year’s Berlin Community Radio special or witnessed one of the rare occasions he’s been handed the opportunity to reach for something in excess of 170 BPM in a club, the newly released 12″ with Luca Lozano might seem completely out of the blue. It’s no figment of your imagination though. Taking the control of the B-side with 2 killer tracks, we got in touch with the man they call Ruffy to discuss ‘outsider jungle’, the power of the web, the wider hardcore continuum and how, at the end of the day, it’s all just jazz.
Massive 1 is out now on Luca Lozano’s Klasse Recordings – buy the vinyl here.
First off, how this did split 12” with Luca Lozano come to be? Who contacted who?
Luca and I were introduced by a mutual friend and we played together in Berlin a year ago, all night long just jungle and breakbeat/rave music. I played a few jungle tunes I’d made and Luca was like “let’s put these out”… That’s it.
Your first introduction to jungle came at a night in Manchester called Spellbound. Can you tell us a bit about it?
I’d been listening to the music for a while but the first time I ventured out to listen to drum & bass was at Spellbound at Planet K (nowadays the Mint Lounge). It was really great, there were people from loads of the different Manc tribes – inner city people, suburban folk, students, locals it was really mixed which is not something you massively find in Manchester nowadays and the vibe was always really tight.
One of your tracks on the release with Luca features live saxophone. Was your choice to incorporate live instrumentation inspired by those experiences at Spellbound?
I think probably – at Spellbound when I went there’d sometimes be live instrumentalists there – drummers, double bass players etc over the top of the DJ and MC, it really added to the vibe. I was heavily into jazz at the time so tipping up to a dance party and there being some sick double bass playing going on really hit the spot for me!
Goldie once described drum & bass as modern day jazz, adding “it can be entrenched in complexity or it can revel in genius simplicity.” Going to Spellbound for the first time, do you think that aspect of the genre resonated to you in particular being more of a jazz head?
Yeah defo. It’s all jazz though isn’t it? Everything.
Were there any elements of the culture that you didn’t understand or appreciate at first?
I had absolutely zero idea how the music was made. It bewildered me as somebody coming from a background of classical music training and knowing a bit about electronic production but nothing about chopping beats or anything like that. It sounded like music from another dimension to me, it completely confused me. I liked that immensely, that I couldn’t understand its structure but could just FEEL it.
Have you ever indulged in any other branches of the hardcore continuum?
Yeah my record collection checks in at most of the stops on that particular train line! I spent a lot of time knocking around with squat party gangs in Australia and you know that scene has lots of devotees of the various flavours, even crackhead basement breakcore (not too bad).
It’s fair to say the majority of the tracks you release are considerably slower than these two. Have you experimented with high BPMs much in the past?
Oh man well u know one man’s 170bpm is another’s 85… I enjoy playing jungle at the wrong speed, a 45 down to 33 goes at about 120 which is great for freaking out house music fans and of course it’s great to flit between half-time reggae / cosmic / weird stuff and then shift gear and go full throttle 180 chopped breakage!
Was making this record a spontaneous decision or something you had on your bucket list for some time?
Half and half… I’d been playing with jungle breaks for ages and when Jack the sax player came over for a session we recorded a few bits – a jazzy thing, a balearic sunset emotional thing and then I was like come on let’s make a jungle track for a laugh. SO yes, a bit of spontaneity but the foundations were there beforehand…
There are moments when ‘Night Train’ doesn’t sound too far away from the early Tom & Jerry releases when Dennis McFarlane and Marc Clair were still experimenting with hardcore but began to flirt with jungle. Are there any periods or moments in the evolution of the genre that you particularly enjoy?
Oh you know I’m pretty obvious – ’94 or bust right???
Following your jungle-focused show on Berlin Community Radio last December, would enjoy being booked to play that sort of set on the odd occasion?
It would be great! I really enjoy playing these sets but I think it could be a bit gimmicky – I’m a DJ who loves jungle rather than a jungle DJ. Fuck I would love to be a jungle DJ though. It would be fuckin’ sick.
As with most things in music, there are cycles and jungle definitely appears to be back in vogue, but do you think there’s any particular reason people from outside of the UK (especially Australia, France and Canada) are currently being drawn to the sound?
The internet. This time round everyone’s connected so when the sound comes back in vogue all the people hearing it for the first time can immediately get on youtube and hear all the ’94 stuff straight away and every tape and every pirate show and all that… Used to be you had to go to the right parties or the right record shops or be in the right part of London to receive whatever pirate station. Now it’s all on YouTube right there for the entire world (I think this is a great thing).
We don’t like the term ‘outsider house’, but seeing as the current jungle resurgence is happening away from its point of origin, ‘outsider jungle’ does seem quite fitting. Do you think that sort of terminology devalues music being released by the so-called ‘outsiders’?
Yeah the outsiders are the ones, isn’t jungle the original ‘outsider house’ anyway? I don’t know about the terminology devaluing the music; labels on the whole can get in the way if you aren’t conscious of the power of signifiers and all that but I think this is true anywhere in life. Like i said before, IT’S ALL JAZZ ANYWAY. ? ? ?
The current resurgence definitely owes a lot to the internet. Bringing people from around the world closer together is ultimately a good thing, but we feel that the surrounding culture that goes hand-in-hand can often be diluted as a result. Maybe we’re being too romantic, but do you have any thoughts or feelings on the matter?
I get what you’re saying about the culture being diluted but I think this isn’t quite so true; I do think that still there’s a small core of mega nutters who are passionate and sincere and authentic and all that, and probably it’s the same number of people as it always has been. It’s just these days that lots of parts of the culture that us old people love and remember and get a bit weirdly nostalgic about have been co-opted by the mainstream, by the machine, to serve its purposes but there’s still that little root of beauty, of genuineness, it’s still there and it’s in communities and people and friends and music. It’s a fuckin’ million miles away from Resident Advisor or YouTube or any of that though. Hardcore will never die!
With producers around the globe trying their hand at a bit of jungle, it will inevitably to spark some conversation about legitimacy or ownership. What’s your opinion?
Fuck ownership! We don’t have ideas, *they* have us. End of argument.
Can you pick three jungle cuts that have made a serious impression over the years?
And finally, was this a one-off, or do you have anything similar in the pipeline?
The pipeline is empty right now but I have loads of breaks in my sample library, it only takes a slow afternoon you know…