Destination Hungry Hill… We link with an OG jungle pioneer
Few names can be traced back to the foundations of jungle as clearly or succinctly as Chris Mcfarlane.
Under a variety of aliases such as CMC and Primitive he was one of the most prolific and consistent contributors to that exciting primordial hardcore, jungle and breakbeat fusion that erupted in 1991 and has been frothing over since.
With fingers in all kinds of musical pies – from a lead role in the UKG movement to a much more discrete role behind the scenes as an engineer and producer for many big names back in the day – his most prolific output has always been under the name Potential Badboy.
A driving force on seminal labels such as Ibiza Records and Playaz, plus his own imprints Third Eye and Jekyll & Hyde, Chris has always been famed for his ability to create powerful weight behind subtle soulful musicianship. His deep knowledge and great ear for samples allowed him to sculpt his own jungle blueprint that still resonates in everything he does today. Everything like this new remix of last year’s single Bring Back The Love.
Featuring vocals from Troublesome and complete with a remix from Crate Classics, Bring Back The Love comes our way on his new label Hungry Hill, a label that’s named in tribute to one of his dearest and oldest friends, the inimitable singer and MC Yush who sadly passed away a year ago.
A lot more is set to follow as Chris has spent the last few years prioritizing his mental health, his family and his quest to remove himself entirely from the DJ world and focus strictly on his studio craft and songwriting. He’s now armed with a stack of exciting new music that will continue to cement his position in jungle culture’s deepest core. There’s a reason why the likes of Shy FX, Ray Keith and DJ Phantasy have all publicly cited Potential Badboy as a key influence and inspiration…
Hey Chris. We last spoke when I was working with Ray Keith on his book and there was something you said in that interview with Ray that really stuck with me… “If you want the music to be successful, you need to have a vision.”
100%! That’s the whole point of me coming away from the scene for a while. Covid displaced a lot of things. Before then I was suffering anxiety anyway. I had done for years. Then when the break happened I just gave up DJing.
Yeah we spoke about that before in an interview years ago. You wanted to get away from the DJ merry-go-round.
I have for a long time. I realized I was playing less and less of my own music. I was always worried DJ sets were taking away my focus from what I wanted to do with music because I was so concentrated on DJing.
So many artists I’ve spoken to end up making harder tunes to fit their set times. So they’re not necessarily making what they want deep down artistically…
That’s right. 100%. Now I’m looking from the outside of the scene, my vision isn’t so cloudy or murky and that’s really important.
To tell the truth, it’s good to have a break from the music. I was out of touch with things for a long time but now I’m in a position to see the wider picture and take it all in. There’s some really inspiring music being made!
Yes! Especially the new generation. You’re closely connected with Crate Classics, they’re a great example.
That’s exactly it. We’re working together on a lot of things and they usually send over or highlight any new voices. They’ve been doing that for years but like I said about my vision, I’d be exposed to these talents but I wouldn’t have a clear vision about what I wanted to do. Or I’d be so removed from what’s happening I’d make something artistic which doesn’t actually working for DJs.
It’s such a fine line! You want to stay true to your artistic vision but you also want to stay relevant to what’s going on.
You’re right. And actually now it’s different again because things are always changing and developing with technology and different platforms. So now you can be more artistic and write a song that’s more suited to Spotify and not made for DJs and their dancefloors.
That’s a really good point. How do you feel about the influence things like Spotify has had on tune length?
I’m blessed. As you know, Shy FX and I go a long long way back. He told me about this years ago. He already knew and he told me about the change in audio quality and how the length would get shorter and shorter. Tell you the truth? I quite like the shorter length of tune. A lot of songs get stretched out too long and it feels like it’s going on forever because there’s not enough artistic weight within the song. So a shorter tune cuts out the waste, you know what I mean?
Absolutely. It’s your job to condense the artistical weight into that short space of time. In this way things are made more for the listener than the DJ or the raver…
And the artist too, you know? It goes 50/50 though because I’ve done a song with my daughter now and I had to wait a while for her to know what she wants to do and find her own vision. With her I’m an artist and a listener!
I love these generational fusions! Should I be aware of your daughter’s music?
No Havana is fresh. She’s only 20 and she’s just starting on her journey you know? She started a few years ago and put out a few songs during covid. She asked me if I could remix one of her songs so I said ‘alright no problem’ so I introduced her to some other alternative styles and ways of doing things. It’s been amazing to work with my own daughter on an artistic level.
Wow. What a treat. My daughter’s 11 and I took her to her first concert lately. That was emotional enough. Actually making music together is a few levels on. That’s beautiful.
100% and I’ve made it organic. I never forced her into it. We played around on the keyboard when she was a baby. 11 is the best age. Havanna got her first piano at that age.
This multi-generation stuff is so inspiring. Eksman with J Mulla. DJ Craze with his daughter Orchid. This was never contemplated 30 years ago!
100%! And 30 years ago it was just like, ‘Do anything, try anything’. Now we have those years of experience to pass on. We’ve become worthy of passing on this information and helping the next generation.
Yeah it’s a responsibility to do that isn’t it? Helping people avoid certain traps and create a firmer future.
That’s right. It’s a different world today and parents are definitely important in their children’s life no matter what age.
Was there a point when Havana realized her dad was a legend?
Yeah every weekend I was flying out. My missus would get my stuff together and I’d fly out and always come back with something. It was a proper joy. She is so proud of her dad. Her friends have told me she speaks highly of me.
Aww. I got goosebumps!
Let me tell you, I’ve been so humbled by my daughter and seeing her become this confident and talented adult. It’s helped me enjoy become more of a senior, you know? I embrace every moment. We’ve lost a lot of friends haven’t we?
Too many. Since we last spoke Yush has passed.
Fats too. Rest In Peace. The pair of them. Many others beyond the scene, too. Family members. Friends. It makes me look at everything completely different. I mentioned anxiety before, I’ve had it really badly over the years and experienced deep depression but I still feel it’s worth it because when you come you of the other side you’re solid. That’s what a lot of people need. You need a little break and a recharge.
One of the beauties of modern life is that we can talk about things with no stigma at all. But one of the hardest things about modern life that we’re always expected to be on it all the time and putting out things all the time to stay relevant.
Yeah and you get lost. If you’re DJing you’re putting time into your sets, your weekend starts Thursday and ends Sunday. You recover for a few days, try to get back into the studio and build a little something and then you’re back on the road. Often your own music is the first thing to be compromised, which is crazy when it’s the music that you make that people want to hear! So you play more and more of other people’s music because you haven’t got time to make your own. It goes on and on.
Shame we’ve lost the system where DJs could DJ and producers could produce. It’s a necessity for producers to DJ now because of the lack of money in music. But both roles are very different head spaces aren’t they?
That’s right, they are. I think egos came into as well. I think producers felt like DJs and MCs was getting all the glory so they were like, ‘Okay I’ll get involved as well, there’s big money there.’ It changed the culture from that.
It’s hard to get out of that. How do you personally keep that balance?
I’ll be straight up. I haven’t worried about finances since covid, it’s only since the start of the year where I’ve thought about money. It’s felt like a blessing until now but it’s a shock to the system when you relax too much and the bills come in.
You can rest on your laurels and expect things to be okay, but you need the hunger don’t you? You can’t sit down and expect things to come to you. Sometimes you get into a cycle of things being comfortable. Next thing you know you’ve been left behind and you’re in the wildness not knowing what’s going on.
Totally. All the best creativity comes from hunger too…
It does you know. And I’m a grandparent now. Every time my son calls I worry he’s going to ask for anything so I always want to be able to provide that.
Amen. So what’s coming out next?
I’m re-releasing the Jekyll and Hyde releases so that’s a big project. There are also some things that were finished under Playaz so I’m in touch with Pascal and Hype about what can happen with any of that. The focus, though, is Hungry Hill which is my label.
Yeah tell us about the label!
The idea came about through a garage album that was a project between me and Yush. He was part of Anthill Mob and all the music used to come from Hungry Hill. When we put the music together we were going to call the album Hungry Hill but when he passed I thought I’d call the label that instead so he’s always part of me and I always remember where I came from.
I’m so sorry to hear. You went right the way back didn’t you?
I knew him from when I was 9 years old. I did my earliest music with him. He was there since the very beginning for me.
So sad. What comes out next?
I’ve got Ja Ja , I’ve got a Demolition Man tune coming out, Havana has got a tune out with my production, I’ve got some remixes with Crate Classics. And on Hungry Hill I’m looking to get to an album state next year but in the meantime I’ve got a stack of music ready to drop.
That vision is fully intact then!
Yeah 100%. I’ve been given some very talented voice to work with and that’s helped the vision. They’re young and talented artists with visions themselves. We’re all vibing off each other in that way. Troublesome and Uncle Nuts will be leading the artists and we’re building up the Hungry Hill family. It’s exciting times.