SCOTT BROWN, EVOLUTION RECORDS AND THE INFLUENCE OF EARLY 90’S RAVE CULTURE
Like most youngsters that grew up in the North East of England through the early 90’s, I was exposed to rave culture pretty early on in life. The first time I heard ‘proper’ rave music was around 1991 when my older brother Andy, who was a mobile disc jockey at the time, had started replacing his Jive Bunny collection with early anthems from Altern 8, The Prodigy, and 808 State. The first live recordings I heard back in those those days showcased rave music as an all-encompassing banner, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear breakbeat, house, garage, and early hardcore, all played together in a set by a single DJ. The artists of the time, and the ravers alike, started to develop a taste for the sounds that got their beaks wet, and it wasn’t long before each genre began to slip off in its own direction.
In 1993, at a ripe 13 years old, I already had a preference for the edgier styles of dance. Some local shows were supporting the underground sounds that I liked, and I was snagging tape recordings from as many of them as I could, but as traction was rapidly building around a new event North of the border; the mighty Rezerection, I quickly shifted my attention to a brand new and exciting genre coming out of Scotland… Bouncy Techno.
Bass X’s ‘Hardcore Disco’ was the first piece of 12″ vinyl that I ever purchased, and I had zero reluctance stumping up the readies for it: a full weeks wages from my paper round! Not only is it one of my favourite tracks of all time, it is also a definition of one of the most influential eras of music in my life so far.
We were witnessing a Scottish invasion as the popularity of ‘tartan techno’ was on a meteoric rise, and now even reaching international levels. Record shops were filled with releases from newly formed groups like Ultrasonic, and The Rhythmic State, with The Time Frequency even making a contribution to the cutting edge sound, but one artist in particular was leading the dance; Scott Brown.
Scott Brown is one of the world’s most important producers. He has single-handedly changed the sound of hardcore and now people everywhere are copying his sound.
– Lenny Dee, February 1995
In the beginning, Scott enjoyed instant success with Q-Tex, a band formed by Gordon Anderson, Alan Todd, Rodger Hughes, and Mr. Brown himself, playing their first live set in Glasgow in March 1991. Known best for their iconic vocal anthem, ‘The Power of Love’ and the popular ‘Equazion’ series, the group quickly earned their accolades in a scene that was exploding with a demand for new music that few artists could keep up with. On his quest to explore the boundaries of hardcore, ‘The Scotchman’ stepped up to the challenge, working on solo projects that would run alongside his arrangement with Q-Tex, as well as teaming up with his brother Stewart to form the legendary, Bass X.
With a slew of record labels vying for his signature, both in the UK, and in Europe, Scott’s earlier work was snapped up by the likes of ’23rd Precinct Records’, ‘Shoop!’, ‘Kore’, and ‘Bass Generator Records’, followed by his Dutch connections, with ‘Babyboom’, ‘Dwarf’, ‘Rotterdam Records’, and ‘Mokum’, all claiming shares in the stock of the rising star.
There was no denying that Scott Brown had become a hot commodity, but despite his record sales competing with, and even outperforming those of his peers, he soon came face-to-face with the shady side of the music business. After several distribution deals and contracts left him without his well deserved financial rewards, compensating him instead with disappointment and frustration, the artist made a bid to have more control of his finances and musical direction, with his next move being one that would change the face of hardcore forever.
In 1994, Evolution Records was born, and Mr. Brown came out of the gates swinging! The label had no less than ten releases in that first year, with Scott joining new collaborators, and assuming various aliases on most of the records, such as ‘Interstate’, ‘Kinetic Pleasure’, ‘Renegade & Static’, ‘Sub Source’, and ‘Analogue’. Little did he know that his new creation would ultimately become the UK’s longest standing hardcore label!
To this writer in particular, Evolution and its spin-off labels, like Twisted Vinyl, and Screwdriver, were like beacons of light, guiding me through my youth. When I take a retrospective look at my own life prior to a having a real musical influence, it’s difficult to differentiate between hazy years that have in many ways, blurred themselves together. However, since my discovery of hardcore, it has consistently provided me with a firm, constant timeline of events, organized in my mind like a file structure on a computer, and accessed by the music I love. For example, whenever I listen to Scott Brown’s mix of Rezerection’s ‘The Awakening of ’95’, the album as a whole is like a time machine, with each individual track taking me back to different places in my past, enabling me to trigger specific memories, and in many cases, the emotions I was feeling at the time.
Hardcore has endured a continual change from the time of its inception to the present day, with earlier examples of the genre being almost unrecognisable to the ears of newer listeners. As one of the only artists on the planet that has remained active from day one, Scott Brown has never lost his ‘core, and his own evolution is well documented.
If his preceding years are viewed as his introduction, 1995 is arguably when Scott Brown became a household name. His remix of Ultimate Buzz’s ‘Check Da Bass’, and his collaboration with Rab S for ‘Now Is The Time’, were some of the biggest anthems of the year… so big, that even years later they still receive semi-regular remixes, allowing contemporary DJ’s to include them in a modern set.
As music has progressed over time, the ‘Hardcore Hustler’ has continued to deliver anthem, after anthem, with ‘Elysium’, ‘Pilgrim’, ‘Turn Up The Music’, ‘Rock you Softly’, and the legendary, ‘Boomstick’, being a few of his more notable works in a discography so extensive that it would even cause the world’s largest record box to bust at the seams.
Since beginning his musical journey over three decades ago, the former physics student, has cemented himself into history as one of the greatest producers of hardcore… EVER!
More recently, as global nightlife culture as a whole was brought to a screaming halt in the Spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists have been forced to trade their performances on the main stages of the biggest raves for a more reserved experience, streaming their sets online from the comfort of their own homes. While this is a good fit for some, it’s not a solution to all, and with Scott Brown standing with those who opt to live life outside of the internet, it has been a relatively quiet year for fans of the Evolution boss.
Ahead of a projected date to reopen nightclubs and events by June 21st, I managed to catch up with Scott to talk about his long-awaited return to duty, and what he’s been up to since we saw him last:
Scott, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. How has lockdown been treating you over the last year or so? Restrictions in the UK have been terrible. Pubs, clubs, concerts… everything got closed immediately! It’s been tough.
Besides the obvious lack of events and gigs, has your daily life suffered much of a change since the ‘Rona surfaced? At first I took it as a nice break, but after a few months I started getting ants in my pants and dying to get out again.
Has it all been doom and gloom, or have you found any positive ways to benefit from the (hopefully) temporary changes to your lifestyle? I’ve found that finding a ‘normal’ life and discovering things around my home which I didn’t know about previously has been a good head clearer.
What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you during lockdown? Not a great deal to be honest. We’ve had promise after promise of the lockdown ending. Many DJ’s have taken to live streams but I decided not to be a part of it. Purely for personal reasons.
Prior to the pandemic, did you even know what a quiet weekend felt like? I had no idea what a quiet weekend was like. It was my life, being out every weekend, entertaining, and being part of the nightlife.
Have you acquired any guilty pleasures over the last year? Like everyone, Netflix!
With the limited options that have been available for dining out, what have you been doing to feed yourself… have you been doing any cooking? Mate, I’m an expert eater and I’ve expanded my abilities to cook the kinda meats and veg that I never thought possible. The BBQ has become my best friend!
What’s keeping you moving forward from one week to the next, and what are you most excited for in the future? It’s a tough one because I live from one news report to the next. I have a lot of bookings coming up and I hope that everything goes ahead.
How do you feel about the upcoming lift on restrictions, speculated for June 21st? We’re almost there! Things are going to plan, and I can only cross my fingers.
Are you most excited to be out DJ’ing again, or are there other things you’ve been deprived of that you’re just as amped for? I’m most excited to see my family again, then get out and entertain people. Things are looking good and everyone is praying that the road map goes to plan.
How are you feeling about City’s season so far? I read somewhere recently that Sergio Aguero is the best striker to ever play for the club. Agree, or nah? City have been good in not taking fees, but offering us ballots to see the last few games of the season instead. It’s a real pity that we can’t attend the Champions League final. Sergio has been the talisman, but all good things come to an end. Foden is the star of the future.
As we’re on the way out of lockdown, where can your fans catch you playing your first gigs? Will you be letting the tiger out of the cage? Tough one. I have a lot of social distanced things in the North East of England at the end of May, then June. I’m ready to rock… the people better be!
What else can we look forward to from you this year? So many bookings it’s ridiculous. Probably more bookings post pandemic than pre. Prepare yourselves!
How about the label… have you been working on any new surprises for us? With a lot of new DJ’s and producers appearing through various streaming platforms like Twitch, has any talent caught your eye, or have you gotten any interesting demos from anyone that we might see representing the banner of Evolution Records anytime soon? I’ve been quiet on the label side unfortunately, and to be honest, I’ve not been watching live sets, purely because I have a life outside the internet. I know a few who have been brilliant but I’m not prepared to comment just yet.
And now for an important question. Imagine you’ve just been endowed with the authority to punch any living person in the face. Who’s getting banged out first, and why!? Gammer, just for shits and giggles, plus we’d get a lot of likes!
Scott, as always, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to seeing you back in action again soon. Do you have any final words for your fans? I’m dying to get back into action and see my friends, the old faces. I’m terrified of what I’ll do wrong but I know I’ll do my hardest to entertain everyone as hard as I can. I can’t wait!
If it wasn’t clear before, it should be crystal at this point that Scott Brown has been a huge influence to me in life, and like many of his fans, I am excited to see what he has up his sleeve as we turn the page on COVID-19, starting a new, post-pandemic chapter.If you can’t wait until then, you can catch Mr. Brown on Scotland’s Beat 106 every Friday night, for the all-new, Bonkers Beats, alongside co-stars, Hixxy, Sharkey, and Dougal.
Finally, just in case it’s rude to end without sharing some music, this is probably my favourite set from Scott Brown, which also features MC Whizzkid alongside, live from HTID 4.
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Thanks for reading!