Born Randall McNei on the 2nd of April 1970. He began attending raves whilst working as a messenger in the World Trade Centre in London. His first bookings, after sending out tape demos, was at Delirium in London, playing Thursdays and Saturdays He then began his own show on Centreforce FM and became Resident DJ at A.W.O.L., Orange, Innersense and Together As 1 and also had shows on Rave FM and Pressure FM. He also co-owned the De Underground record shop in Forest Gate.
Try having a conversation about the rave scene, breakbeat culture or Jungle/D&B and not mention the name Randall. Impossible. The DJs DJ, most if not all in the industry will claim Randall as one of their major inspirations. The truth is, Randall IS Drum & Bass. Nearly 25 years in the game and his selection is as impeccable as ever, still mixing as faultlessly on two turntables as he ever did, in an age where technology (Sync Buttons) evolved to a standard that lets us all mix just like him. Here is a brief history of the godfather of breakbeat…
Having been introduced to DJ’ing at the early age of 17 by a college friend, Randall’s head was turned by Acid House for the first time at 1987’s Notting Hill Carnival. From there on he was hooked, spending his money on vinyl and listening to the likes of Rhythm Doctor, Rob Atkinson, Lindon C and Mr C, all members of the legendary ‘Hypnosis’ crew. Randall found that mixing came naturally to him, learning the basics in only a week, he then pushed himself to hone his unique unmistakable style, refining these skills by making weekly mix-tapes. One of those tapes did the rounds, resulting in a chance to play at the ‘Delirium’ crew’s warehouse parties in Stratford, London. He quickly became noticed, leading to a spot on the legendary East London pirate radio station, Centreforce in ’89.
Not content with just playing across the London airwaves and illegal raves, and with his reputation steadily growing the big break came with a gig at ‘Living Dream’, a huge 10,000 capacity event in London where, thanks to another DJ not showing up, Randall got to play an extended three-hour set which had everyone talking! Things spiraled from there, picking up a Saturday night residency at ‘Orange’ at the Rocket Club in London, playing alongside the likes of DJ Hype, Grooverider, Fabio and Rap. He also secured another major regular slot for AWOL/World Dance at the Paradise Club with Mickey Finn, Kenny Ken, Darren Jay and MC GQ. The rest they say is history.
Over the years, his reputation has helped him forge close links with a number of major record labels and artists, especially Reinforced and Goldie’s Metalheadz, ensuring that he was one of the first DJ’s to gain access to their highly-prized dubplates for testing the crowds. His move into production, whilst only occasional, have certainly been memorable, providing the classic ‘The R’ for the Reinforced Enforcers series, also linking up with Andy C for ‘Sound Control’ on Ram Records. He is also no stranger to the business side of running a record label, holding the reins at Mac II Recordings and Stepback Sessions, the latter in particular exhibiting the respect he has garnered within the scene compiling brand new remixes of legendary tracks from the likes of 4 Hero, Omni Trio & Doc Scott too name a few.
It’s as a DJ that he is best known. Aside from his live performances Randall has been commissioned by Mixmag, Drum & Bass Arena, Dreamscape, Ministry of Sound/AWOL and many others for studio mixes. With his fluid style and a career that has taken him all over the globe from the UK throughout Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Asia. Randall’s ability to move with the times and reflect what is going on around him has ensured that his talents continue to be heavily in demand today. A term all too loosely bandied about, after 25 years at the top, Randall is the true definition of a legendary DJ, loved by the public & the industry alike!
DJ Randall: The Man Who Influenced Andy C
Ask Andy C or Friction who their most influential DJ was back when they first got into drum & bass and we guarantee Randall will be top of the list.
Selecting and pioneering electronic music since the 1989’s infamous ‘summer of love’, Randall was a mainstay on the London pirate stations and the many illegal raves surrounding the movement. Alongside Fabio and Grooverider, Randall was one of the main DJs who’d navigated through the rapidly morphing and developing genres from acid house to hardcore techno to jungle techno to jungle to become one of the earliest DJs to really coin the early jungle sound.
Technically he was just as ahead of the curve, too as he’s one of the first DJs to really sharpen the double drop and utilise that particular characteristic of jungle and drum & bass’s arrangement. His 8am sets at A.W.O.L during the genre’s most essential foundation years are the stuff of legend and it’s there where the likes of Andy C would get inspired….
Eventually their paths crossed and one of Randall’s earliest productions was with Andy C and released on Ram in 1994: Sound Control.
Now deep into his career and Randall’s still leading from the front as a selector, producer and a director at the helm of Mac 2 record. A breeding ground for next-generation talent and old school masters, current and future releases include EPs from Trex and DJ Vapour and a full album project Heavyweight Soundz later this summer.
But first, some history…
Let’s go back to Sound Control…
It was a mad era mate! We could chuck things at a wall and see what would stick. Everyone was throwing anything they could into the mix and seeing what people wanted and what was working. Ant was a mentor but me and Andy were like kids trying anything out! All tunes need a hook and on Sound Control that hook was the time-stretched amen. Once that was in place it all came together, it took a couple of days and sessions to come together but when it did we knew we had something unique. I mean it was a pretty experimental tune to be fair! It freaks me out hearing it people play it now.
Yeah man, I’m one of those guys who don’t play his own tunes much but hearing people play it makes me want to play it! Some guy was playing after me at Fabric, can’t remember who, but he drew it in and it sounded fat as fuck. I was thinking ‘what’s this?’ then realise it was our tune!
How did the Andy hook-up come about? Just general junglist stuff?
Kinda. We supported the same team, had the same star sign, Aries. So whenever we met we vibed a lot. I invited him over to the agency I’d started with. A lot of us were with them at the time. Ed Rush, Roni and all that. I remember him coming out to AWOL and I remember telling him how I’d scope out tunes and how I’d count the bars and the maths of double drops. Basically knowing your tunes inside out. He knew it already and just took it another level. I merely showed him the blueprints.
He’s told me stories of seeing you at AWOL. You’d coming into the club with Goldie hyping the crowd up… The whole club knew they’d be hearing a whole new level of future.
Ha! Those days! Yeah we were probably on our way back from a bunch of gigs up north and we’d be doing the 6am or 8am one. Goldie’s already hyped, he’s given me tunes specifically for that set. Not just that night but that set. So he’s prepping every one. We all know what he’s like… When he had those dubs ready to give to me everyone in the building knew things were going to kick off. No one in that room the night we debuted Terminator will ever forget it. Everyone was there to hear the tunes and knew the tunes and the mixes. It was a moment.
Zinc called that jungle’s JFK tune… Everyone knows where they were the first time they heard it.
It fucking was mate. I remember the day Goldie called me and told me to come over and hear it. I was on my way back from a rave, he was like ‘mate, I made this tune you gotta hear it’ I told him I needed to sleep for bit and he was like ‘no mate, come over now’ He’d been in the studio for five days and he said ‘sit down and listen to this’. It blew me away. I was like ‘this is a fucking gamechanger, pure and simple’. It fucked me up! White coat business – mad scientist stuff. I went to Music House and told people about it how there was this time stretching thing but the tempo stayed the same. They couldn’t get it. No one could… Until you heard it. And for the first six months only me, Fabio and Grooverider were able to do that. Don’t get dubs like that any more do you?
It was mad tight back then. Almost too tight?
I get what you’re saying but artists would send tracks to a particular DJ or very small amount of DJs to showcase their music. The whole thing was making people want that tune. So that DJ, who knew they had something special, would bash the arse out of the tune and make people want it. The idea was to cause hype and interest for the tune. But every DJ and artist got their own vibe and their own people to send tunes to before anyone else. I’m blessed to be top of a lot of lists still. Very blessed.
You must have your own vibe and technique? Who do you send tunes to first?
All the top boys I’ve worked with over the years. Andy, Hype, Friction, Goldie, Jaybee, Cool Hand Flex, Kenny Ken, Fabio, to name but a few. Not forgetting some of the pirate guys. I trust them to play it and feedback honestly.
But you don’t play it yourself…
Hahah, nah I’ve got over myself on that. It’s like ‘put it on Randall for fuck’s sake!’ But I still prefer hearing other DJs play my shit… Then you can see the reaction from your own eyes. I love being in the club and seeing the reaction right in the middle of the dance. People beside me don’t even know it’s my tune, it’s just a moment I’m physically in the middle of and part of. Another good place to hear my tunes is the back of the room, by the bar with the brandy and coke. If it cuts through there then I know it’s working. That’s a lot harder to achieve with digital production; to get that weight and punch and warmth. I do miss those old days sometimes… I know a lot of people bang on about it but the sound and feeling of vinyl can’t be beaten.
Bad backs can…
Ha! I’m blessed mate, never had a bad back from carrying vinyl. I’d have two bags and balance them either side. Losing them would kill me. Or getting them off flights and having to pay hundreds to put crates on the plane. That’s why I switched to Serato. It was only a matter of time; you can’t fight technology!
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