And the award for one of the most long-awaited debut albums of all jungle time goes to… Double O and his outstanding body of work Firm Meditation. An album that’s effectively been incubation for over 30 years!
David Double O Henry has been a disciple of the bass bin and a student of breakbeats since his earliest days on the dancefloor during the burgeoning stages of Northern England’s hugely influential bleep movement. Eventually settling in London, his entire life has been based around systems, studios, subs and seminal events such as Rupture, one of the UK’s most unique jungle communities that he and his wife Mantra have run for 17 years.
While productions have been part of this journey since the beginning (controversially kicking off with a Reinforced release that someone else put their name to!) they’ve never been the driving force of Double O’s output or something he’s shouted loudly about.
Just like his consummate skills as a super warm and melodic MC, or his legendary status among heads as an absurdly sharp and savage selector, Double O does nothing for show. He’s happiest heads-down, no hyperbole, just embracing his pursuits and passions for their cathartic powers and strong freedom of expression.
The title Firm Meditation says it all. This isn’t about fame, fortune, pride or profile; this is so much deeper. This is about a man who finds peace, soul and consistency in life through music. Well over 30 years deep into the culture and still so open to music that his mind remains blown on a daily day basis, you can’t get truer to the craft than Double O. As a regular at Rupture for many years myself (and a frequently mind-blown recipient of his sets) it’s time we had a firm talk…
So I’ve developed this theory while dancing at Rupture that you’re basically doing this mad scientist stuff with the speakers and vibrations. You take it right down to the bass on the tune that’s playing and the tune you’re mixing in. Then I think you kinda use the rumble of the speakers and the venue walls to create these mad harmonics. Does that make sense?
Hahah. Well I love my bass innit, so if I know a tune has got a lot of bass then yeah I will use the filter to drop it right down as low as it can go. It’s because I know the tunes and I’ve always been a bass freak. My late brother was a soundsystem guy and back in the day it was about who had the best EQ and who had the best sound. I was brought up in that culture.
So yeah… I guess a simplified version of what you’re saying does happen. It don’t go quite as deep as harmonics or anything but I do love messing around with the bass. The way you put it makes it sounds a lot more eloquent but the reality is more like, ‘Yeah, whack that bass up!’
Haha. I’ve had some mind blowing times to your sets. More than a lot of other DJs. Who was the first DJ to ever blow your mind?
One of the first DJs I would say, if we’re talking electronic, has got to be Winston Hazel. He was one of the founders of Warp Records. I’m a northerner, Doncaster, and that Sheffield scene was big for me. Winston blew my mind many times.
Bleep era was huge for this music. Without that Sheffield movement and labels like Warp the sound wouldn’t be the way it is…
Yeah that’s right. There was guy before that at the local nightclub before I heard Winston, but I wouldn’t say my mind was proper blown by him. He was just good, you know? He was Gary Woods. You know those old nightclubs back in the day where you’d have the alternative room and the cheese Hitman & Her main room? He’d play in the cool room, a lot of soul, early acid and a little bit of hip hop. There was a tiny bit of techno in there so he was an influence but Winston was the guy. I’d be dancing all night to him and my mind was always blown.
I find it’s harder to have your mind blown the longer you are in the game. Do you still get your mind blown regularly?
Oh so many times! All the time! The music I get sent blows my mind every single day. It’s a constant ‘wow’. I’m jumping ahead a bit here, but the reason my album was delayed was because I was hearing so much good music. I was thinking, ‘Is mine good enough? It’s not good enough!’ The list of mind blowing music is growing all the time. Old producers, young producers. I know some people say modern music isn’t as good but I always say they’re just not digging hard enough for it. You’ve got to seek it.
Definitely! I agree too. I think it’s harder for a DJ to blow my mind but yeah music blows my mind all the time. It’s why I gave up learning to produce because the more technical I was getting, the more analytical I became which took away the fun. I made a choice. I love it when producers like yourself are still open minded enough to keep their minds blown.
You know what? You’re right man. I used to go to the club to dance. I’d dance the whole night, that was my only thing. Not pulling girls or getting off my face or anything like that. It was just dancing and loving the music on that level. Then when I started making music I found myself analysing it more instead of dancing. Maybe a little chin stroking, sometimes you know. It’s changed again now and I enjoy it but yeah I had that for a long time.
You came through the other side! A lot people won’t listen to a lot of current music when they’re in album mode. Did you shut music out?
No it wasn’t like that for me. At the end of the day we all inspire each other don’t we? For me it was my own personal inner critic speaking. Indi (Mantra) is my positive influence standing behind me like, ‘Come on! Let it go, get it out there, you’ve been sat on this for ages.’ She gave me the confidence to let it go and stop.
Do you do the same for her? There’s some mad output between you right now!
She thinks she’s not but she’s as bad as me! She’s got so much good music. She’ll be like, ‘Oh this tune is rubbish!’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?!’ I call it beats dysmorphia. We’re listening to the same tune but we’re hearing such different things. She’s just as bad as me!
When did Firm Mediation become a proper album? Was there a moment where it turned from a collection of tracks into an album?
There was a stage where I was constantly making music and Indi said, ‘Dubs you got so much music on, why don’t you think about an album?’ So we got all the tracks together and I made a couple of new ones to fit around them. I did want to put some techno on there but I ran out of time. But yeah I made a few extra bits and then worried about it not being good enough for ages.
My favourite track is Probe. I love the hardcore vibe.
That’s a weird one for me. I’ve loved that sample – it’s from the tune Probe on Warp. It’s a mad tune for me. It starts off mellow then it goes into the Probe bit and then it goes into a ragga bit. There’s so many different elements in there. If I was going to be a perfectionist I’d take out the ragga sample but I wanted to leave it in.
I like the progression and momentum. Riddim Yah is another one for me on that type of constant sense of energy. Just layers and layers of drums on drums!
Cheers. Tim Reaper wanted that one! It’s like an ongoing joke. Any time I play it he pops up like, ‘This one is for Future Retro, yeah?’ It’s funny, because I’m looking at potential remixes now and I wanted the parts for Riddim Yah and other tunes but I made the tune on an MPC and sold the MPC so I couldn’t get the parts for people. Then I bought an Akai Force because apparently you can load the files into an Akai Force. But it reads the data differently and it plays buggy.
Why did you sell your MPC?
I’ve got to this stage where I’m searching for different things. I’m always switching DAWs and getting different groove boxes, different work flows. It was quite a mad decision to make because I sold it and didn’t have access to the files. Eventually I had to buy another MPC just to get the files back.
Long! You’re a hands-on guy aren’t you?
All day long. All day! I love the tactile feel of making music that way.
Yeah it’s totally different process isn’t it? Which tune do you have the most complicated relationship with on the album? And which tune is a bit of a persy favourite?
The Firm Meditation track was very hard to mix down. I had a lot of battles with that. But my favourite? I like Corsica Groove because when I used to play it in Corsica Studios it would go crazy. Love Is is another favourite. The sample is a Barry Brown sample, he’s one of my favourite reggae artists. That one’s got a nice feel factor.
The final track Thankful is a great finale. The whole album arranged as an experience isn’t it? You’ve put a lot of thought into it.
Yeah definitely. It’s a bit like when we do our line-ups. We sit for hours thinking about who would go on best at which points. We’re really clinical with it and take it so seriously. We did that with the album too. So yeah I think it’s really important to have that flow and that musical journey.
I’m not surprised about the line-up science. If you wanna have people raving until 8am then you’ve got to have the right people on at the right time. Like putting Fracture on at 4.30am. That’s guaranteed to keep people on the floor!
That’s a good example yeah. He changed the energy and that was an amazing set. You’re right. And while we’re on it, I can’t underestimate the power of a good warm up DJ, too! Some people see it as a diss but it’s so important. You don’t want to bang out Amens from 10pm. You need to get into it and take it easy. It sets the tone nicely.
I’ve witnessed Quartz do a few incredible warm-ups for you guys as it goes.
Oh that guy! He could do warm up, he could play at any point and he knows what to play. He could do a score for a Blade Runner movie. His soundscapes and his level of technicality are next level. Actually he’s one of those people who consistently blows my mind. I hear a new tune from him and I feel like throwing my gear away. He’s such a don and he’s very forthcoming as well. He shares all of his information, he doesn’t keep his cards close to his chest.
He’s the man! Music is meditation for you… when did you realise it had that healing power for you?
For many years. Production wise? I realized I must have had some type of potential when my favourite label ever, Reinforced signed a tune of mine. It was bittersweet. I made the tune and it got ripped off by someone who then had it signed to Reinforced.
Yeah. That was when I realized I must have something. It did really well. Unfortunately I didn’t get credited for many years. People now know it’s me since things were rectified in recent years but yeah. That’s when I knew deep down I should probably pursue this more.
That’s mad though.
I don’t know many people from that time who weren’t ripped off in one way or another at some point. There are so many classic tunes who you think is a certain person but it isn’t.
Golden era wasn’t as always as golden, right? Skullduggery and non-paying was rife.
Oh there’s a lot about these times that’s so much better. I already said how much the music today blows my mind.
And events like Rupture, too. That’s got everything I loved from the 90s but with all the things I love about life now. It’s a public service. A night at Rupture sorts my head out.
We attract decent people! That’s our mission. When you break it down that’s what we want to see – nice people who are like us. We don’t deal in ego, we treat other with respect. Once you push that out, it comes back to you. What you stand for will always come back to you. We offered people cheaper tickets if they’re struggling. It’s a family affair. You know yourself, there is that feeling. You can’t engineer that, it’s the vibe.
I respect that cheaper ticket offer for people struggling. Did you have to ask for proof or anything like that?
Nah we took their word for it. We’re open with it. Because we’re so open, we get that type of respect back. It was real genuine people phoning up, they’re people who do come to Rupture and the other tickets sold. These ones were like emergency tickets for people who truly needed it. If someone wants to scam it that’s down to them.
Yeah right. That’s on their conscience isn’t it. I think your politics and socially-minded spirit is also reflected in the album. Tracks like Repatriation and Bad To Worse
Yeah that’s the time we were in. People arguing over this tha and the other, the internet people, the false things you see on Instagram. It’s just endless.
Tories man. Grubby as hell.
Yeah. It can really get you down. But we stay true to what we believe in. Firm Meditation says what you need to know. The speech I sample is what I stand for. Don’t put myself on a pedestal, treat everyone as equal human beings, have some spirituality about the music and try not to make it throwaway.
Amen! Actually takes us right back to the start of the interview. A lot of the sets you’ve blown my mind with have been routed in tunes made in the early 90s at the very beginning of the movement. That music definitely isn’t throwaway!
Yeah! And that’s down to how good the music was back then. Even now when you think you’ve heard everything from those couple of years, you find something else in a second-hand shop and it’s another, ‘Wow’ moment. It’s endless and I can’t see that changing.