TF Archives

LTJ Bukem: Drum & Bass Straight Edge Don

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Saturday, March 19, 2005
"I passionately love mixing music. I can't express it enough to you, how much I love just putting two tunes on and mixing them together. So why do it if you don't know what you are doing- That just seemed to me a really obvious thing back then. If I really love mixing and I want to do it, I don't want to be standing there and totally fuck up, just because I've had like three Es or something and I can't deal with that."

15 years after he first established himself as one of the key pioneers of drum & bass, LTJ Bukem remains as fiercely committed as ever to both drum & bass and DJing, reflecting the focus that prevented him from dabbling in drugs despite the best intentions of his friends.

"I've never been able to drink, either and years ago, all my friends always used to try to get me to drink when we'd be watching Soul 11 Soul at the Africa Centre or Gillles (Peterson) at Dingwalls," he recalls.

"They'd always gave me bottles of alcohol and I used to pretend to drink them and give them back to them. I just can't handle it. I wanted to listen to the music and find out what tunes are being played instead," he laughs. "I'm a sad geezer. I used to go out with a pen and paper, and write down tunes, then I would go to a record fair on Sunday morning and buy them all with my only bit of wages that I had."

When he wasn't watching DJs spinning, he was watching some of them succumbing to the temptations that have always accompanied nightlife

"I think you've got two choices that come when you realize that all these things are available from the job your doing and I think you make your decision subconsciously," he continues.

"I'd be out at all these gigs seeing DJs chewing the wrong end of a cigarette because they are so out of their heads and others doing really mad things and a lot of my friends at that time were all doing the same things as well. But I was the one that had to drive them all home. I'd be playing the music whilst they were doing their thing. While they were off my heads, I'd want my faculties to be there, to stay intact," he adds.

In the intervening years he's conscientiously built a drum & bass empire via his independent label Good Looking Records releasing over 5,000 titles from various artists though now he feels it's time to concentrate more on himself.

"For now, for me, and how it is at the moment, I really want to do what I started out to do in 1991, which is to make a lot of music and have an input into this scene that I am now a part of," he says. "Up until now I've been so busy with the label and everything that comes with it that my own musical and artist career hasn't developed- I should be writing albums every two years, not one album in ten years."

"Obviously I will still keep doing Good Lookin', but I'm just basically going to do what more or less everyone else does - putting out a few albums, a few twelves and concentratinfg on my own stuff, I want to add to the scene," he repeats.

"I don't want to become a guy behind a desk, at a computer. That wasn't my role in my life and in this scene."

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Speaking to Time Out in December you said "the music scene is unrecognisable today, that drum and bass has lasted, we're still here. What do you make of club culture and the effect of downloading, for example-

L T J Bukem: "Downloading for starters. There is no point talking about it, and saying it's bad and it affects this or that, because it isn't going to stop tomorrow. That is how it is, so I don't really have an opinion on that strongly. However, I remember when I first started DJing drum & bass 15 years ago, how I started and how I was earning no money. I was more or less having to pay to get myself to most of my gigs to play to 10 000 people. Then the promoter would tape your set, then sell 30 000 copies, and you didn't see a penny from it. It's a similar feeling, I suppose, when that first kicked in, but then you have to weigh it all up: OK you