Drum and bass grows to new heights. ‘My streaming figures are skyrocketing’

In Lommel’s Kristalpark, Rampage Open Air, “one of the largest drum and bass festivals in the world”, will receive more than 30,000 visitors this weekend. “At the start in 2010, there were still 1,000”, says organizer Hans Machiels, aka DJ Murdock. “We’ve come a long way to get to the point where we can fill Sports Palaces.”

Rampage is the cradle of the breakbeats, a haven for ravers whose apostles are Aphrodite, Shy FX and Netsky. In the 1990s jungle morphed organically into drum and bass, with producers like Blue Mar Ten and Roni Size being the genre’s draft horses. “Drum and bass seems to emerge every ten years”, Machiels finds out. “A lot of ink was spilled at the first big boom, after which journalists chatted and the genre disappeared into the underground again.”

Around 2010, drum and bass stormed the charts again with Netsky, DJ Fresh and Chase & Status on the front lines, with acts such as Rudimental and Sigma also achieving commercial success in the following years. Will there be another revival now? Hans Machiels thinks so. “I recognize the same signals as in 2009, just before Netsky’s big breakthrough. The popularity of the genre on TikTok is a good measure, but it is especially telling that it is once again bon ton to play drum and bass at scout parties and youth festivals.”

To flirt

TikTok is the catalyst in the spread of the bacteria among Gen Zers. ‘Soft Spot’ by Piri & Tommy Villers appears in more than 100,000 videos on the app, although PinkPantheress’ influence on Zoomers is even greater. The twenty-second snippet of ‘Just for Me’, in which the British producer sniffs drum and bass, has since been used 1.8 million times on TikTok. ‘Pain’ and ‘Break It Off’ by PinkPantheress are also interpretations of two classics in the genre: ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude and ‘Circles’ by Adam F.

PinkPantheress, Nia Archives, Piri & Tommy Villers, Take Van: the list of contemporary pop producers who openly flirt with drum and bass, jungle and UK garage is growing. “The popularity of drum and bass and jungle on TikTok is not the cause of the revival, but rather a symptom,” Machiels thinks. It is no coincidence, he says, that the genre’s new flag bearers were teenagers at a time when Netsky, DJ Fresh and Sigma were scoring mainstream hits.

“You can hear from PinkPantheress’ tracks that the music she grew up with has crept into her subconscious. She is now expressing that,” says Machiels. In a rare interview with NPR told PinkPantheress that her mother played drum and bass and garage in the car, which led her to meet Craig David, 3 Of A Kind and Sweet Female Attitude. Later, thanks to GoldLink and Kaytranada, she would discover that you can use drum and bass as an underlay for pop songs.

TMF

The drum and bass that Jo Eelen, aka DJ Used, makes today can also be traced back to his youth. What PinkPantheress, Nia Archives and Take Van can be to the next generation of producers, Netsky was to the Kempenaar: “At one point I saw the clip of Netsky’s ‘Iron Heart’ on TV channel TMF. That was my entrance to drum and bass. From there I deepened my knowledge of the genre on YouTube and iTunes. It could later turn out that TikTok is the TMF of today.”

Used has been through Netsky’s peak, “and my goal has always been to get drum and bass back to that level,” he says. “Since corona – thanks in part to TikTok – music has become relevant again.” Used sees in everything that drum and bass has been given a huge boost. “’Down Under’ by Luude (a reworking of Men At Works song of the same name, ELV) was in the top 10 in several countries, fueling a renewed interest in drum and bass.”

“My streaming figures also skyrocketed during the lockdowns,” says Used. Just like a compatriot like Andromedik, he has more monthly listeners on Spotify than, say, Zwangere Guy and Bazart. His remix of ‘Go Acid!’, the collaboration between youtuber Acid and Dutch pop phenomenon Joost, is streamed more than the original version. “I have the impression that the remix is ​​constantly played at Flemish parties,” says Used. “Many young people who don’t necessarily know what drum and bass is, come into contact with it that way.”

Take That

Not only TikTok, but also the energy drink effect of the music has contributed to the revival, thinks Used. Drum and bass was the stimulant that propelled Zoomers through the pandemic. And with TikTok and Instagram, the youth have virtual megaphones that convey their message. For example, drum and bass has one foot in the mainstream again.

The popular evolution of the genre has been patronized in the past. When Netsky experimented with a more commercial sound, he came under criticism from purists. The collaboration between Sigma and Take That was also received with laughter. However, Machiels thinks it is positive that this generation of drum and bass is also merging with other genres. “I think that’s a healthy evolution. The notion of what drum and bass is is expanding. That provides a breath of fresh air, so that new people get to know drum and bass.”

Rampage Open Air, from 1 to 3 July in Lommel.