Two Step | the UK Garage Sound As Told From Those Who Helped Create It

In the late 1990s, the sound of the UK was Four to the Floor. The 4/4 time signature, where the bass drum accompanied every beat, dominated the cutting edge garage scene. Behind the scenes, producers like Graham Jules, who founded the Blam! Records Label, were discovering the next generation’s newest vocalists and creating a new sound called two-step.

The already trendsetting UK garage scene was about to get its next big thing.

Jules and Blam!

Jules bootstrapped Blam! Studios and filled it with synthesizers and leading sound production equipment. He began dabbling in synthesized sound and sampling that was only just reaching fringe popularity. Blam! Studios gave space for artists like Trans-Global Underground to set the tone for the coming era. Its notable clients would grow to include Graham Gold (Kiss Fm), Ras Kwame (Baby  Shack Recordings), Mike “Ruff Cut” Lloyd.

The success of that studio, and the collaboration with so many hit artists, led Graham to found Blam! Records. 2-step was gaining prominence around this time, with Blam! Records turning experimentation into hits that grew out of American house stylings.

“There was a bit of resistance to the wave of 2-step in the underground scene, and many UK Garage ‘purists’ saw 2-step as a major threat to the UK Garage sound that had been developing underground for many years.  Blam! Records had always been an eclectic UK Garage label and I saw the more up-tempo 2-step as an obvious progression to the American influenced, much more laid back 4 to the floor sound. It was after all based on what we had been producing for many years; Swung- jittery hi-hats, beats and basslines with vocals”

2-step was an offshoot of the UK 4 to the floor, Jungle and Drum and Bass scenes. Played primarily by garage-based pirate radio stations in London, such as London Underground, Rinse FM and Freek FM. 2- step was gaining lots of traction with DJs, including DJ Spoony who played on London Underground, Kiss 100FM “The Dream Team”, and then BBC Radio 1. His love of the sound helped Graham’s early work go mainstream.

Blam! Records quickly turned experimentation into hits. Jules began mashing four to the floor with a new kind of sound dubbed two-step. These two genres led to limited edition releases like Big Loud and Massive (Work It Hard- 1998), Big Loud and Massive (Garage Flava – 1998) and Mista Jules Feat X-Plode! And Big Loud And Massive (Various – 2000).

Big Loud and Massive (Garage Flava -1998) – The “Blue Version” featured the spliced and cut vocals of Lyn Eden showcasing both “Two-Step” and “Speed Garage” mixes.

Lyn’s vocals had initially been debuted many years previously on the Blam! Records track “Good Inside” on Club Essentials Volume 1 (BLAMEP13) – 1994. Jules discovery of Lyn Eden in a Central London music shop a year prior would lead to her release of the 1996 hit “Dreams” – a prime example of the best of UK garage from Smoking Beats Records.

Smoking Beats Records also utilized another Blam! Records vocalist,  Conroy, the mysterious echoing voice from “Hold Your Head Up High” – (BLAMSG17) – 1996. He would make an appearance on their 2004 house track, “Times Are A Changin”.

Today, Big Loud and Massive (Garage Flava -1998) – The “Blue Version” version exchanges hands on Discogs for more than £299. Big Loud and Massive (Garage Flava – 1998) – The “Red Version”  also featured the sound known as “Speed Garage”  a ‘Ragga’ inspired bassline with vinyl spin backs.

Mista Jules Feat X-Plode! And Big Loud And Massive (Various – 2000) again experimented with the 2- step genre. The tracks featured the vocals of girl group X-plode! an underground garage act that Jules had put together. The tracks were played by Mike Ruff Cut Lloyd and DJ Matt Jam Lamont on Kiss 100 FM.

The Future of Dance.

History shows the garage purists may have been right. Following the huge commercial success of 2-step tracks garage such as Craig David’s “Re-Rewind” – 2000 , DJ Pied Piper & The MC’s- “Do You Really Like It” – 2001, and So Solid Crew “21 Seconds” – 2001, 2-step declined in popularity, but the sound grew into other forms of music.

It’s one of the founding principles of the modern sounds behind both dubstep and grime. 2-step may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. As recently as 2016, The Weeknd paid homage to this historic movement in music.

Timeline of UK Garage Music.

1978-1987 – Paradise Garage – New York, USA

1991 – 1994 Early 90s US Influenced House

1992 – Formation of Blam! Records – UK Garage Label – London

1993 – Blam! Records first release “Desire”- Feat Annetta Gordon – BLAMSG1

1993 – Formation of Nice N Ripe – UK Garage Label

1994 -1996 – Early UK Garage takes off

1994  – Formation of Smoking Beats Garage Label

1996-1998 – Speed Garage

1997 – Artful Dodger first release – “The Revenge of Popeye”

1997 – “Dreams” feat Lyn Eden – Smoking Beats

1998 – Blam! Records – Big Loud and Massive – “Garage Flava – Blue Version” – 2 step

1998 – Blam! Records – Big Loud and Massive – “Garage Flava – Red Version” – Speed Garage

1999 – 2001  2-step, Craig David & Artful Dodger – “Re-Rewind”, So Solid Crew- “21 Seconds”,  major chart success.

2001 – Grime – The demise of 2-step.