Alex Banks has been a part of this thing from day one. His involvement with Hyper on Experience took Hardcore Break beat through to Jungle and From Jungle through to Drum and Bass/Liquid. As a member of Hyper on Experience with Danny Flytronix, Alex was responsible for such massive tunes as “Imajika”, “Thunder Grip”, “Lil Ruffion” and my personal favorite “Lord of the Null Lines” a.k.a. Voodoo Magic.
He then was part of one of the first crossover acts in Dnb/Jungle. EZ Rollers. Starting with the Storm from the East LP on Classic Jungle/DnB label Moving Shadow, EZ rollers set the pace for an entirely new sound, Fusing Jazzy vibes, with rough Beats and original vocals. Best known for “Walk This Land” as heard on the “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” soundtrack. Setting the pace for an entire generation of producer to explore the deeper sound, EZ Rollers became one of the biggest acts of the Late 20th and early 21st century. We got the chance to speak with Alex about his history, influences and story.
You have been a part of Break beat Hard Core since the 90s. Hyper on Experience’s “Family” Ep’s were game changers. What triggered that “H.O.E.” sound, how did you get your start?
The Hyper-On sound was an experiment and learning curve extending out from the UK underground dance scene. I was already into making music (mostly Hip-Hop), but I needed more advanced equipment to make the next step. I asked Danny Flytronix if he would like to get involved and he agreed! He purchased an Akai S1000 sampler to compliment the setup I had and Hyper-On was born.
How did you meet and start working with Danny Flytronix?
I knew Danny from school here in Beccles. We would often go to Soul Weekends and club nights together with a good group of friends. As the UK dace scene moved into the Acid House era (and then on into Jungle Techno) we started going to Raves.
What was it like to be a part of the Moving Shadow label at that time? How did you link with Shadow?
It was actually a friend who sent Rob at Moving Shadow a tape of the tunes we had done at the time. This led quickly to a meeting with Rob at his house in Stevenage where we had a good chat about our music and the tracks Shadow were releasing. I fail to remember exactly if there was a general feeling about being signed to Shadow (they were a new label don’t forget!), but having my 1st release gave me an enormous feeling of pride! I remember a very specific moment when I was walking from the Shed where we made music, to the house where I was lodging. It struck me that we had achieved something, and I had an overwhelming rush of self esteem! My back straightened and my chest sat a little proud as my stride increased.
I remember reading, “Hyper on Experience only ever appears live” on the back of jackets. Any memorable live shows, what was it like doing a truly live PA in the days before DAT?
There was talk about people miming to DAT, but we performed live as in all was sequenced, and parts played, on stage. Nowadays we might consider this a challenge, but it was in fact the only way to do it in the studio, so taking that on stage wasn’t that much of a challenge! We just had to remember the setting on the synths and a few patch changes.
I remember one show where we were playing Lords of the Null Lines for the 1st time. The track built up to the part where everything drops but nothing happened! The Akai S1000 program data for that particular bit hadn’t loaded! Nothing happened for about 45 seconds, and then the bridge came in! Nightmare!!!
Arguably “Lord of the Null Lines” was one of the biggest H.O.E. releases. Filled with predator samples, that classic piano intro and tons of edits. What was the story behind the production on that one?
It was out first step into the faster BPM of 160. It was kind of a threshold, and we debated long and hard as to whether we should make music that fast. It was a lot of fun to do. Especially the drum edits in the intro, and we use a lot of sounds that I very much enjoyed hearing.
The Storm from the East LP was the first of its kind. Showing off the talents of producers from the east of the UK. How did that LP come about? What was it like being that far from the London jungle Scene?
It was just fine being far from the London Jungle scene! Jungle Drum and Bass happened everywhere in England at the same time, there was not a central location. London, being the biggest city had in proportion more of it happening, but all of England was involved in shaping the sound of the underground.
The EP came from a discussion with a friend who said we could do an album with just artists from around our area. We pitched it to Rob Playford and he agreed instantly! I think from agreeing to do the album to starting it was about 5 minutes!
What brought Hyper on Experience’s time to a close? What caused the birth of the EZ Rollers?
Hyper-On had run its course. The happy Jungle Techno experimentation was starting to settle into Drum and Bass and what was working was a more rolled out style. I had known the other EZ Rollers since school also, and we had previously made music together. When Rob heard Rolled in One and Believe, he asked us to do an album so there was no time to do Hyper-On tracks.
EZ Rollers was born from the other EZ Rollers turning up with a bunch of samples and asking me to put them together into a tune. Simple!
Was it difficult making the transition from the Hardcore Jungle of Hyper on Experience to the Smooth proto liquid vibes of EZ Rollers?
No, I just experimented with different sounds, but this time from musicians!
“Walk this Land” was arguably the Biggest release from the Project. What was the story behind that one? What was it like when you were featured in Lock Stock and Two Smoking barrels?
WTL was put together for the Storm from the East project. I had a load of programming knocking about and we had just met Kelly. I just wrote a bassline and the track rolled out quite nicely!
“Tough at the Top” is to this day an anthem around the world. What was the idea behind that tune? Was it just a logical follow up to “Walk this land”?
Not a follow up. We were experimenting with live bassline (upright bass) and this came out of it! WTL had not been a hit before Tough was made! There was a style at the time that had upright bass and we were trying it on for size!
Eventually you grew out of the Shadow Camp, and Started Intercom. Why did you leave shadow? What was it like running your own label and having that type of control?
Leaving Shadow was easy, all thing are transient! Running Intercom was a pain in the arse! We seemed to stop making music and started running a label. I didn’t like it so much.