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by Don Crispy

Dego

“When we started making this music it was nameless.

Drum ‘n' bass, the music that arose in the early '90s out of hip-hop, the electronic beats of rave and the subterranean reggae bass lines of the UK's Caribbean immigrant community, has been declared both the next big thing, and, more recently, dead in the water.

But, like much dance music that has been forced into ever-smaller pigeonholes, drum ‘n' bass was always a broader music than many gave it credit for. The career of one of its innovators, and a producer who has been accused of betraying the movement, the movement he helped create, illustrate this point.

Dego Macfarlane, as part of 4 Hero and through his Reinforced Records label, was one of the architects of the emerging sound, known in its early '90s form as jungle. But when he and partner Mark Clair released the jazz-inflected, crossover success Two Pages in 1998, many fans cried foul.

“We were the showpieces of drum ‘n' bass, so to change that much was disappointing for the hardcore drum ‘n' bass community,” Dego said in an interview held during a Tokyo visit at the time of last year's World Cup. “But it's ridiculous now with all these different segmented styles—when we started making this music it was nameless.”

Two Pages may have lost 4 Hero a few diehards, but it gained them a far more diverse spectrum of listeners, including many Japanese who began to see more of Dego at Drum and Bass Sessions parties and his own 2000 Black events held at Liquid Room in recent years.

“It was tricky for me in that people associate me with drum ‘n' bass,” the rabid football fan said, sporting a broken leg earned playing with his local team. “So it's been good for getting the message across that I am more eclectic. People in Japan have open ears, which has allowed me to be able to experiment with different things, whereas in some places they want to pigeonhole me.”

2001's popular Creating Patterns and a series of 2000 Black compilations—some featuring Japanese producers—have cemented Dego's ties to Japan's electronica community. And, like many DJs, the man himself clearly enjoys being here and the chance to stock up on new vinyl at Shibuya's DJ specialist shops.

“The record shops in Tokyo are much better than in London, and the staff more helpful,” he enthused. “I'm waiting till just before I go home because I don't want to carry too much vinyl.”

In contrast to previous bills that have paired Dego with local drum ‘n' bass and club jazz DJs, the upcoming event sees him taking on the challenge of Liquid Room's demanding 7hours series. The DJ should have plenty of time to stretch out and look at the full spectrum of music that has informed drum ‘n' bass: from jazz to soul, reggae, hip-hop and techno, to the hybrids that have grown out of it, like breakbeats and future jazz.

Dego 7hours Special@Liquid Room, 2/8, 11:30pm, ¥3,000 (adv), ¥3,500 (door). Tel: 3200-6831. www.liquidroom.net

credit: Liquid Room