DJ Ron is about to release his first record in 20 years
The jungle pioneer returns to the controls
DJ Ron, one of the most respected authorities in jungle culture since the earliest days, is about to drop his first official production since 2003.
As revealed in an extensive UKF interview, the track in question is a remix of Max Cyrus’s Mirrors. Originally released on Max’s MCM label in April 2022 as part of his Uprise EP, Mirrors is a powerful and positive hip-hop piece fronted by K Triggz and UK soul legend Omar Lye-Fook.
“I felt it needed that classic jungle, cultural remix so I reached out to Ron,” explains Max.
A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer and producer – among many other roles – Max’s musical roots dig deep, far and wide, dating back to the mid 90s when he was taught engineering by none other than Future Forces, dBridge and Maldini’s earliest act pre-Bad Company who released on Renegade Hardware and Trouble On Vinyl.
“Even though I’d been involved in drum & bass before, I’d not had the opportunity to meet Ron in person back then. We actually became friends in the last few years,” says Max. A fan of Ron since he was in his teens, Max reached out to him via Instagram with the remix request.
“When I saw the message I thought to myself, ‘This brother has made a mistake – I haven’t made a record in 20 years!’” Ron laughs. “I said, ‘Are you sure you got the right Ron?’ He explained things and I told him that I appreciated where he was coming from, but I don’t do things like that anymore.”
Max Cyrus was already on Ron’s radar through his political and humanitarian operations, notably his work on the short film Never Forget Stephen Lawrence, his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, his celebration of the life, legacy and deep influence of Jamal Edwards, his poetry for peace at the GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2021 and his score compositions on Idris Elba’s BBC series Fight School.
“I knew he was in that world and I liked that, but I wasn’t ready to commit to any type of production or release at the time,” says Ron whose fingerprints are all over the original jungle blueprints as a resident at the seminal jungle event Roast, one of the earliest and most consistent voices on the iconic pirate station Kool FM and owner of multiple labels throughout the 90s such as London Some’ting Records, No Frills, DNA Recordings, Pimp and G-MM Beat-Cloning. He departed the jungle drum & bass scene in the early 2000s as the sound had mutated and the culture had lost its strong sense of diversity that had originally inspired him.
Having established himself in the world of film and documentaries during his departure from the scene, Ron tentatively returned to drum & bass in 2017/2018 through his work at Rinse FM. He’s the first to admit it took a few years to find his place within the music and that Max’s request ended up becoming a pivotal turning point during this journey.
“I recalled watching something on TV or reading something and it made me think, ‘Why are you saying no? What’s the real reason?” Ron reflects. “I think there was some part in the ‘no’ that was to do with the fact I hadn’t done it for such a long time. I mean, I’m busy. But I could fit it into what I’m doing and break the mould so to speak. So I took the opportunity to do that… And the rest is history.”
Timing is everything: Ron explains how he’d been toying with Logic on the side and when he finally agreed to take on the remix the main groove came together in a 4-5 hour session. “I tweaked and tweaked it until what’s there now, but that’s really how it all rolled out,” he smiles. “Max was lucky! When I came back into things the music in the scene was in a very different place from what I knew. I was reacting to that. I was a bit all over the place. But by the time I did agree to this I was like, ‘I don’t give a shit, I’m doing my thing.’”
The first ever drum & bass remix of UK soul trailblazer Omar (who most will recognise from the famous evergreen cut There’s Nothing Like This), Ron’s remix was exactly as Max had hoped. A deep appreciator of Ron’s most seminal records such as Dangerous and Mo Musik (African Chant), the original Sarsaparilla-flavoured ‘I don’t give a shit’ vibe was the ultimate goal for this remix.
“For me this was about the culture. Everything that drew me into the scene at the age of 17 was the same reasons I asked Ron for a remix to this day,” says Max.
“I stepped away from drum & bass when it got very noisy and fast. It felt like we’d moved too far away from what originally got me into this. Ron epitomises everything you get from rap, hip-hop, soul, reggae and jungle. Those elements for me are sometimes missing from drum & bass but Ron’s music always touched me and stayed true to the music’s black roots.”
Max isn’t the only man touched by the results of Ron’s Mirrors remix. At time of writing only two people outside of Ron and Max have the track; Grooverider and Kenny Ken.
“I was a bit tentative about giving it out to people, I can’t lie,” Ron laughs. “But a couple of man I sent it to… Groove and Kenny. Both of them approved. They called me back immediately. Kenny especially was ranting and raving about it. That was encouraging.”
The masters land this week, the digital release is pencilled in for June/July and a vinyl campaign is also in motion (which will raise money for sarcoma cancer research on Max’s behalf). In fact the track is so fresh that the only clips available to hear right now are the ones on Ron and Max’s socials… And in classic dubplate tradition, the track has attracted a lot of interest.
“The amount of people in my inbox asking for this remix! People are stepping up man, it’s nice!” smiles Max. Ron adds that Rinse FM founder Geeneus rated the track so much offered to buy the tune off him outright.
“I said, ‘I can’t sell you man’s tune!’” Ron laughs. “But for me that was a marker that the tune is resonating with people.”
“What Ron is saying is that it’s a badboy tune,” Max interjects. “He’s too humble!”
Humble, heavyweight and hopefully here to stay: Ron’s stance on modern day jungle drum & bass is as secure and driven by passion and positive intention as it was back in the late 90s. The big question is this… Will his remix of Mirrors lead to more releases in the future?
“A release, to me, is the end of a project,” Ron reflects. “‘Am I going to make more music?’ 100% I want to. 150% I want to! But it’s having the time…”
“With everything else I have going on it seems very challenging to find that time. But daily I’m listening to Kool. I’m listening to the music. I know what I’ve got in my box. I’m inspired. I haven’t felt like that for over 20 years. I’m speaking more and more with my peers about how I’m inspired. So yes there’ll be more music but god knows when it will come out. It’s a case of stick around and watch the ride…”
Watching Max Cyrus’s ride is highly recommended, too. The original Uprise EP that Mirrors came from is set for a second part in the near future and will feature two very well-known US rappers. In the meantime, watch Max and Ron’s socials for official details on the Mirrors remix which will also include a remix from rising new-generation talent DJ Lally who has previously released on the likes of Soulvent, Hospital and Archway.
“This culture should transcend generations and ages,” states Max. “Like the Superbowl. You got Dre almost in his 60s. You got Kendrick in his 30s. You can be 17, 18, in your 30s, 40s, 50s whatever. It doesn’t matter how old you are, this music and artistic form should always break down ages and generations. That was the whole point of Mirrors and these remixes. Everything I’m doing now was done before me in the jungle scene, before that it was done in hip-hop, before that it was done in jazz. We’re just keeping the culture going. And that’s what unites the generations.”