O N _ V E R S A T I O N S
dego, part 1 (1994)
dego, part 2 (1994)
carl craig (1994)
jeff mills (1995)
dan bell (1994)
H I N K
tracing the histories of electronic
and experimental music
S A I D & D I D
an online archive featuring
historical documents on electronic
and experimental music history
Dego McFarlane is best known as an original member of 4 Hero, founder
of the Reinforced Records
label, and a primary force behind the form of music we now know as
drum'n'bass. His numerous projects include work as 4 Hero,
Tek 9, Jacob's Optical Stairway, Nu Era, Tom & Jerry, and other
aliases; often working closely with the other half of 4 Hero, Mark
This conversation took place on the phone while Dego was at Josh Wink's
studio in Philadelphia. They were working on the material for a techno
release on Ovum Records.
Pleas note that this was my very first interview, and should be read
as an amateur, if honest, attempt to penetrate the pioneering musical
world of Reinforced Records.
here's a nosy question: you guys workin' on somethin'? You &
e-what kind of stuff is it?
e-is he the one who does the house remixes for you guys?
d-some of them, yea...some of the 4 Hero.
e-what about that "Better Place"?
d-yah, he's the one on that. Him & King (Britt).
e-OK. We're big fans of those. How long have you guys known
each other? You & Josh...
d-uh, 3 of 4 years. I dunno. Yah, about 3 or 4 years.
e-where'd you guys meet?
e-was it one of those accidental things, er-
d-nah, he just popped by the studio, that's why.
e-heh. So he's a fan, too, huh?
d-(long pause)...I dunno about that! (laughs).
e-heh. Then why the heck would he go to your studio?
d-(still laughing) I've no idea about that either!
e-alright. Do you guys have a date for the first Reinforced?
d-first what, ever released?
d-uh, late '89. "Rising Sun"? I can't remember.
e-right. Close enough. OK...give me some indications of the
scene at the time.
d-acid was ruling the waves, and harder German and Berlin would
come out as well.
d-right after the "Summer of Love," idn't it, just a year before
that, so, you know? Comin' off that.
e-OK. How does the Prodigy fit into all of this?
d-eh? Who? Prodigy?
d-yeah. They uh (laughing at person with him), what are you
lookin' at me like that for? Ha ha! ...yah they had some kind
of piano kind of tune, that "Your Love." That was the first
Prodigy record wadn't it? "Charlie" was the first Prodigy, that
or "Your Love." Was it? I can't remember.
e-how influential were they? As far as...were they kinda
riding the scene, or were they kind of-
d-they were in the scene at that point.
e-yeah. Were they actually doin' innovative stuff on their
d-yea yea yea. They were.
e-I should say HE, I guess... (Liam Howlett)
d-yeah, he was doin' some stuff, know wat I mean? I mean like
"Charlie," you could call that a pop tune at the time as well.
They did cross over but it was gettin' buffed by everybody...the
way it got in the charts...
e-so who were the first innovators of hardcore around that
time, and at what point did Reinforced get in on that?
d-first was Shut Up and Dance. First time people really noticed
us was "Mr. Kirk's Nightmare."
e-what about DJ Hype?
d-yeah, well he was kind of part of it as well, you know...
e-yeah. Renegade Soundwave?
d-yeah they have some good stuff in their early days. And this
label Tamtam...For the Money and all the shit like that was
bad. For the Money...that's a group. There was a lot of groups
like that on Tamtam.
e-were they doin' like hip house, er-
d-nah nah nah, they weren't...just instrumental stuff. Hardcore.
e-oh, so they were among the initiators, then?
d-that label was around at the beginning as well, but it's still...they
SAY they were there at the beginning, so like, y'get wot i'm
d-they had some good stuff. yeah.
e-how about Meat Beat Manifesto?
d-oh yeah, yeah.
e-uh, apparently "Babylon" is seen as one of the most influential
tracks. Do you agree with that?
d-yeah. I agree with that.
e-what about the scene today?
d-oh, shit, don't ask me that!
d-don't ask me that cuz I don't really go out.
e-that's educational in and of itself. So did you personally
feel any kind of avant-garde inclination, or what do you think
led to the speeding up of hip house into becoming hardcore?
Cuttin' up beats and all.
d-the djs, man. That's totally on their part, I reckon. Cuz
you play your records at plus-8 all the time an shit, but...I
don't know what's up with that.
e-so that didn't have as much to do with you guys?
d-no, nuttin' to do wid me, really. We were getting fast as
well, but they were just gettin' faster before us.
e-right. But what do you think were the reasons for that?
Just general acceleration or was it a drug thing, er...
d-I couldn't tell, you know. I 'aven't got a clue. I used to
wonder "what's goin on?"
d-I mean, it's like...inna way I understand. Maybe some of the
stuff does sound, you know what I mean, some of dem ol' fings
do sound much better faster. I can understand that.
e-so just suited the time, maybe?
d-yea, uh, quite.
e-it was a necessary process or something. How do you feel
about drugs, and e and all that stuff; it bein' in the scene?
I know you distance yourself from the scene, but...
d-yeah, um...what do I think about it?
e-yeah, like, do you think it plays a strong part in the
formation of hardcore songs, or...
d-I dunno. I mean...some people do it, some people (heh) don't.
No matter what scene people is takin' somethin', you know what
I mean, like acid, no matter what. Kind of in there...even if
it's deep tribal houuuuuuse (laughs) they probably takin' some
shit, know what I mean? No matter what scene you're from there's
always gonna be those that wanna fuckin', you know...get the
drugs goin' and all that...but I hear stories about how records
do somethin' to people sometimes when they hear them on drugs,
so...maybe it has got influence on what's goin' on.
e-yeh. Kinda back and forth.
y-yea, I mean I don't know cuz I ain't done it, but (heh) that's
what I hear, you know what I mean?
e-you're clean, huh (heh). Gotta keep thinkin' straight.
Goin' back to acid jazz...how does that fit into all of this,
as far as your own stuff?
d-oh, I do some stuff with some other guys...that kinda stuff.
e-so is this a side project, er-
d-which I keep doin', yeah.
e-is that what you started doing first?
d-hip hop's what I was into first, maybe it's goin' back to
e-so would you say acid jazz was an influence on hardcore?
d-on hardcore? No.
e-not even in terms of application? Because in a way it's
very similar...you're using beats--you're not cutting them up
or speeding them up, but...you know what I'm saying?
d-yea, I understand what you mean, but...then you might as well
say that it's the old records that are the influence--sampling
the old records.
e-what's the name of your acid jazz thing?
d-the group's P.D. 3.
e-how does "Points Proven" fit into all of this?
d-that's part of that.
e-is that you, or...
d-that's me and another guy.
e-who's the other guy?
d-Billy and another guy called Kevin as well.
e-have you released a lot of stuff?
d-yea yea, got an album comin' out now...I think it's out now.
e-cuz we don't get that stuff over here. So you were saying
old records...what kinda jazz are you into, at all? Like the
e-like (Ornette) Coleman, or-
d-no, no. I'm not a 60s man. Although I like some of the Cadet
stuff in the 60s. I'm not really too good on the 60s--the early
60s and late 50s stuff, you know what I mean? I'm more of a
e-I see, like-
e-(Miles Davis') "Bitches' Brew"...
d-yeah...um, Rushing and shit...
d-yeah. Funk and jazz, yea. More jazz than funk.
e-name some names.
d-arright, hold on...(long pause while he grabs records)...
Hello? Yea right. Like I just had to look at some of my records
I got here, uh, like John Clerma (?)...W. Irving...Rotary Connection,
um...Donald Byrd, Voices of East Harlem, some Stanley Turrentine
stuff, um, some Cannonball Adderly, Josh Wink...
e-heh. So kinda like, experimental stuff and funk stuff?
e-I'm just trying to figure out where you're getting your
experimental side, cuz you guys are always pushin' boundaries.
d-that's from jazz, man. Like Mad Mike said in Detroit, "Jazz
is the Teacher." Thank you very much.
e-heh. Alright, let me move into the early 80s...what does
"electro" mean to you?
d-what d'it mean?
e-yeah, like how much of an influence and whatnot.
d-it was like...when we first heard some of them records it
was like WOW, you know what I mean? Never heard nothin' like
it before, know what I mean?
d-serious, bloke--that stuff was phat.
d-some certain things you hear that just impact like "Fuckin..."
you know you're there...it was literally like "Fuckin' 'ell,
man!" Some of that early stuff, man...like the first time I
ever heard "Planet Rock" an' shit, you know? And "Knights of
the Round Turntable" and fings like that...first time you hear
things like that it's like SHIT!
e-so that was a big influence...
d-we used to live with all that shit in the 80s, yea. That was
the "boom" as they say.
e-so when did you start getting into it, pretty much when
it started coming out, or--
d-I liked listening to it, an' shit...and popping and all of
that crap to it...weren't thinkin' of no records of nothin'
at that time. Didn't think of makin' records for a long long
time after that. Years and years.
e-it takes a while to sink in, huh?
d-in fact, I got into that accidentally anyways. I never thought
I'd be makin' a record ever.
e-Hm. Is electro essentially dead?
d-I dunno, maybe electro's is what you call techno now. Like
how techno's 909-based, kinda, and electro was 808, but I dunno,
maybe techno's taken over. The electro's in there, in techno
I reckon. Or you could say electro could be Miami as well, but...I'm
not so sure about that Miami Bass shit.
e-ha ha ha.
d-it don't make too much sense to me.
e-well, see I would almost go further than that and say that
hardcore is the logical descendant of electro. There's a lot
of connection. Cuz it's not like hip hop, but it uses hip hop
type of aesthetic, same as electro did.
e-what's the difference between electro and hip hop to you?
d-electro and hip hop? electro was played an' shit, innit? Wasn't
all this sampling kinda stuff. Um, it's a bit more experimental,
it's different, you know? They used the maddest sounds and all
of that, so...
e-because back then they were pretty much the same--
d-yea yea, it was the same fing, back them days, but now...
e-they split off.
d-they split off...I dunno when they split off, maybe when samplers
came in they broke off. I dunno. It's very hard to say.
e-I understand there are different kinds of clubs for blacks
and for whites...you don't go out much, but--
d-I mean, it's still mixed, but nowadays, like in the last year
or so, you can say that more of the reggae crowd's come in an'
shit. So you will get clubs where there's more black people
there and you will get clubs with the happier side of things
where there's more whites and stuff, but it's still fairly mixed
from what I can see--I can't really talk on the scene...cuz
I'm just never there.
e-right. Along those lines, is class a factor? You said it
was a lower-class...
d-yea, it's usually working-class people. Mostly, you know what
e-so do you think it's filtered up to the middle classes,
d-yea, you get some rich kids that's into it as well, but most
people are just normal, everyday folk.
e-how would you classify yourself?
d-normal everyday folk!
e-so you're not going to wear the lower-class banner on your
sleeve or something...
d-who, me? Lower-class band on my sleeve?
e-like Suburban Base, "Sound of the Suburbs": they're proud
of the fact that they're from the suburbs, for example.
d-well, I'm proud of the fact that I'm from the inner city.
e-OK, that ties in nicely with what I'm gonna ask...what's
it like being black in Britain? How much different than the
way you're treated in the US?
d-for me to really comment properly on something like that I'd
have to be here for a long time, cuz I ain't come across anything
e-but you're lucky in that you have friends and everything...
d-yea yea yea...I know a lot of people that're cool already,
so...but a lot of things are pretty much the same anyway, in
e-do you get a sense that you're not wanted in England, or...I'm
talking in terms of not so much the scene but just your normal
d-ah yeah, you get that, yeah. You get shit like that all the
e-like what kinda stuff? Gimme your worst case.
d-you know, the normal fucking shit. Like, that's why I hate
going out of London, cuz that's where you get all the rowdy
e-like the hooligan-types?
d-yeah...them kinda types an' all that shit, so...you get that,
but London's fairly cool...you get parts in London that are
a bit riotous as well.
e-what about politically, do you get a sense that the government
is looking the other way, or--
d-looking the other way from everybody unless you got money.
e-cuz I understand there's legislation affecting immigration...
d-oh, yeah yeah, they're stoppin' all that shit, they don't
want any more in! Heh heh.
e-too late now.
d-too late now, yeh. We were invited. That's what I have to
say to that. Well my mum and dad was, anyway.
e-I guess this is a good time to ask...what's your descent?
e-what generation, second?
d-I'm second generation in England.
e-so how much has Jamaica as a concept, has that been influential
d-oh yea yea. That's how I grew up. Eat, drink that.
e-it's amazing to me that you've managed to preserve that,
because I understand that a lot of people lose it. Is that because
of your parents, or--
d-because of my parents and where I live. If you're out in the
sticks an' shit, an you ain't surrounded by many people of your
own...you know, then obviously you might lose it. But that's
not the case living in London where I am.
e-what about the music?
d-yea yea, I like a lot of it, but I don't buy it, though. Heh
e-Along these lines also, what can you say about Detroit?
How much has that influenced you? Do you see it as a "Black
Metropolis?" Some kind of inspiration?
d-uh, yeah...it is inspiration...I like the way they went about
everything, doin' it themselves. There's a lot of things I can
draw the same lines how we started up...delivering records around
ourselves and all that shit. We didn't have a distribution deal
first...and that's the same that happened with all them guys
out there...what they used to do, and how they fought the majors'
attitudes and all that shit. Innovative...a lot of the things
they did they done it first. That's why I hold a lot of respect
e-how did you get to hear that stuff?
e-I live three hours away from Detroit and it's barely trickled
here, so I wonder how difficult it would be for you to hear
it over there.
d-oh no, it's fairly easy, to tell you the truth. To hear it
is easy, but to get them is another thing, cuz once it comes
in the shop you best be there the day it came in cuz it's gone.
That's the problem with that stuff.
e-do you buy a lot of Detroit records, when you get the chance?
e-what kind of stuff do you buy?
d-Underground Resistance, Carl Craig shit.
e-say something about Carl Craig...has he influenced you,
or is he just someone you appreciate?
d-yea, someone I appreciate. Mad Mike (of UR) is someone I could
say has influenced me.
e-yea? What about Jeff Mills?
d-yea, him as well.
e-have you ever had any contact with any of these guys?
d-(laughing at person with him) sorry, he's making me laugh
now! (laughs hard, Josh in background reading to him)
e-Josh goofin' around back there?
d-...readin' some interview I done in "DJ," that's why.
e-aw, that thing is awful.
d-(laughs) What were you sayin' again?
e-heh...have you met any of those guys?
d-Kevin Saunderson brought us out there a couple of years ago.
I got big respect for him. He looks out for everyone, you know
what I mean?
e-yeah. So pretty much anything out of Detroit's been influential
on you, to some degree.
d-yea, I like that whole scene.
e-how do you feel about it bein so...grungy...dj'you get
to drive around and stuff?
d-yea yea yea I seen.
d-such is, man.
e-my theory is that that's one of the reasons why--
d-they come out soundin' the way they are and the attitude they've
got. I know.
d-s'good that they're doing something like what they're doing.
d-all the records and shit. Cuz that place could turn you real
e-nothin' else to do, either.
d-yah, you know what I mean?
e-what non-musical stuff has influenced you? Like movies
or literature, bullshit like that.
d-cartoons...Japanese animation and shit like that.
e-yeah-what's the deal with AK-O, anyway? Is that what we
think it is?
d-yea it's that film, yeah.
e-where did the name 4 Hero come from?
d-Mark made it up.
e-Oh, really? Where do you think he got it?
d-I don't know, man.
e-because there seems to be some kind of aesthetic going
on there...all your names have the same ring to them somehow.
d-oh, yeah? I dunno why he done that. Even when I heard it first
I was like, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" We just
go with it...we don't worry about that stuff, we just put down
whatever we'd feel like puttin' down, and that's it.
[ part two ]